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Eleven Years Later

Chapter Text

Velma Dinkley stared at the partially typed manuscript, the blinking cursor mocking her. She sighed, rubbing her eyes and pushing her glasses up in the process. Writer’s block was a bitch.

Velma leaned back in her chair, which creaked precariously at the motion, as if it were giving her a stern warning not to lean much further. Her eyes drifted over the small apartment she lived in — it was far from grand, but the bookshelf of academic texts (interspersed with the occasional book on some cryptid or conspiracy theory that she liked to keep around to debunk), posters of old monster movies, and a small, heavily blanketed bed made it feel cozy enough. Plus, it was all she could afford working at a library while she wrote her debut novel.

It was a nonfiction piece, about a group of teenagers solving mysteries as “Mystery Incorporated.” She and her friends in high school. She’d always thought that the situations they got into would make for a good read — after all who wouldn’t be interested in hearing about four kids and a great dane unmasking supposed monsters and ghosts as nothing more than phonies? But thinking about writing a book and actually doing it were two very different things, especially now that she only had memories and old investigative notes to go off of. Everyone had gone their separate ways when they graduated, and while it wasn’t like Velma had expected anything different part of her wished it had never ended. There was something so… magical about those days, driving around in Fred’s hippy van (Fred had a particular affection for the aesthetics of the seventies that Velma found fascinating and endearing) coming across places with people terrorized by some alleged supernatural presence — all of which turned out to be nothing but trickery in the end. But they had to grow up sometime, had to go on with their lives and enter the real world. Though if Velma was honest with herself, she hadn’t truly felt like she was living since then.

She’d kept up with the others, of course, calling them every once in a while. Fred was out in Hollywood, surprisingly working in special effects even though she was sure most that met him would’ve pegged him as the type to be in front of the camera, rather than behind it. He was charismatic, handsome, and one of the most friendly people you could ever meet — even Velma could confidently say he was attractive, even if it were a mere objective observation in her case considering that his status as a man meant he was distinctly in the “not her type” category.

But the job made perfect sense to Velma. While Fred sure looked and sounded the leading man at first blush, he was also kind of odd. He was near obsessed with solving things, it’s why he loved mysteries and making traps to catch the bad guy of the week — it was an opportunity for him to, well, solve something. And now he was out there, devising contraptions to make movie magic. Velma couldn’t imagine a place he’d be happier.

Shaggy, on the other hand, Velma found herself worrying about often. He’d always been a bit of an odd duck, and it was hard to imagine him finding his niche. She knew he’d kept Scooby with him, but it seemed that every time she checked in Shaggy was working some new crappy job. Velma felt like it was maybe a little cruel to say, but Norville Rogers just wasn’t the type of person that could make things work on his own.

And then, of course, there was Daphne Blake. The beauty, the charm, the confidence — Velma figured that of any of them, Daphne would be the one to really be successful. She did many things these days — modeling, fashion design, she’d even recently begun to branch out into the art world with painting. She had an art show coming around to Sunset City, not more than a half-hour away from the smaller town Velma resided in, and she was already making plans for the trip. It had been four years since they’d seen each other in person, since Daphne paid for a plane ticket so Velma could come visit. She’d wanted to visit again of course, but it was so expensive and even if Daphne could afford it Velma still felt guilty flying on Daphne’s dime. There was also that other, unacknowledged reason that Velma wanted to avoid those meetings.

Velma shook the reminiscing out of her head, standing up from her desk and stretching out her back. She walked over to a full-length mirror, examining herself within it. She was wearing some fluffy pajama pants and an oversized sleeveless shirt on her wider frame. Her skin was a lightish brown, her brunette hair cut into a short bob. She always dressed comfy when she wrote. 

Velma padded over to her calendar, looking at the next day — where she had written down the first day of Daphne’s art exhibition. She then moved to the closet, flipping through the articles of clothing on their hangers, looking for an appropriate outfit for the coming day. Velma was never the socialite that Daphne was, and she struggled with trying not to be too underdressed or overdressed for any given occasion. She’d never been to an art exhibition either, and didn’t have much of an idea as to what was considered the appropriate style of dress. She pulled out an orange turtleneck — a regular staple for her — as well as a nice vest to wear over it, and a red pencil skirt. Casual but nice, generally reliable in these kinds of situations where Velma wasn’t sure how fancy she needed to be. 

With that settled, Velma made her way to her bed, looking out of the window next to it and at that starry night sky. Daphne was up there somewhere right now, she figured, probably about to land. Velma ignored the way her heart jumped at the thought, and then laid down in her bed, taking her glasses off and turning out the light.

Chapter Text

Daphne Blake stared down from the plane window at the lights of civilization beneath her. The plane was set to arrive in about twenty minutes, and she was eager to get off and stretch her legs. She was also excited to be catching up with old friends — it had been far too long since Velma visited. Daphne had never tried to push things given that Velma did like her space, but still she’d wished she’d found the time to see her again. To see any of them really.

She was sure to the rest of the world it looked as if she had everything she wanted. She was successful in multiple pursuits, beautiful and beloved. But most didn’t see the facade for what it was. The magazines called her striking out into new areas of interest as ambition — the reality was she was desperately clambering for something, anything , that would make her feel content. That would make her feel like she did back when she was a reckless teenager getting into trouble with her friends… her family.

Maybe it was selfish to wish they could go back to those days, to want the others to put their lives on hold for her own contentment. She’d give away everything she’d built in a heartbeat if it meant piling back into that garish van Fred loved so much and solving mysteries again. To hear Fred rattle off some new ridiculous plan to catch the bad guy, to hear Velma lose herself in the minutiae of scientific reasoning and using logic to explain whatever strange thing they saw, or Shaggy and Scooby once again getting into a wacky situation thinking with their stomachs and not their brains. A wistful smile crossed Daphne’s lips. God, she missed those days.

The intercom clicked on, informing the passengers that they’d be landing shortly, and thanking them for flying with them. Reality beckoned, indifferent to the nostalgic musings of Daphne Blake.

 

As soon as Daphne entered the airport, she spotted her assistant Maryline. She had sharp features, and her chestnut hair was tied back into a bun. “Miss Blake?” She called out.

Daphne walked over, and asked, “Have preparations been going alright?”

Maryline nodded. “Everything is right on schedule for tomorrow.”

Daphne smiled. “Good, good.”

Maryline handed Daphne a sheet of paper. “I know you’ve already looked at the earlier drafts, but here’s the finalized itinerary for tomorrow. It should be mostly the same, so I wouldn’t worry too much.”

Daphne took the paper and was about to thank Maryline when she caught something moving from the corner of her eye. It was only for a split-second, but it almost looked like someone wearing… bell-bottom jeans? They were gone before she could tell for certain.

“Fred?” Daphne whispered.

“Ma’am?” Maryline said, raising an eyebrow.

“Oh, sorry,” Daphne said, flashing an apologetic smile. “Thought I saw someone I recognized for a second.” In hindsight, it was rather a ridiculous assumption to make. Even if it was someone in bell-bottom jeans, it wasn’t like Fred was the only person to ever wear them. Of course, there couldn’t be that many these days, but the likelihood of him happening to be here was far too low to consider it seriously.

Maryline looked at her watch. “The car should be pulling up out front now, we can go over more on the way to the hotel.”

Daphne nodded and began to follow Maryline, only briefly pausing to look back behind her into the crowd once again. She knew it was just the inherent chaos of a large group of people and nostalgia that had made her think she’d seen Fred… but she hoped that she might be wrong.

 

~~~~

 

Fred Jones blew out a sigh of relief as he disappeared back into the crowd. He almost hadn’t noticed Daphne until he walked right into her, but it looked like he got away before she could spot him. The surprise would remain intact -- or at least it would as long as he could find where Shaggy and Scooby had gotten off to. He looked up at the signs around the airport, and as soon as they fell upon the printed white letters “Food Court” he rolled his eyes and chided himself that he didn’t look there right away.

When Fred got to the food court, he didn’t need to search for long -- all he had to do was find the first table he could see with an offensive amount of food on it and a great dane waiting eagerly to take a bite out of it to find them. Once he got closer, Fred could see both of them clearly -- a large dog, brown-furred with black spots, and a teal-blue collar around his neck, sitting on all fours in a chair, oblivious to the confused looks pointed in his direction. Across from him was a wiry man with a scruffy patch of dirty blonde hair on his chin, and a shaggy mop of the same color hair on his head where his nickname derived from, wearing a short-sleeved green flannel button-up, and maroon pants. “Shaggy!” Fred called out.

Shaggy looked up, spotted Fred, and waved with a dopey smile on his face. Scooby looked over his shoulder, smiling as much as any dog could. Fred couldn’t help but return an endeared smile to Shaggy -- the man had a passion for food that simply could never be controlled.

“Hey, Freddie!” Shaggy said as Fred sat down. “I was just like, starvin’ after that plane ride man.”

Scooby nodded, vocalizing a sound that could probably be understood as agreement.

“Well keep an eye out, I almost walked right into Daphne back there,” Fred said, leaning low on the table as if someone would care enough to eavesdrop. “I think she’s leaving but we can’t be too careful.”

“Like, ‘Careful’ is my middle name,” Shaggy said, before taking a bite out of one of his five separate burgers. “Did she see you?”

Fred shook his head. “No, I don’t think so. We should be in the clear to surprise her for tomorrow.”

Shaggy chuckled to himself. “It feels like we’re setting one of those traps we used to like, set for the bad guys.”

Fred smiled warmly. “It does, doesn’t it? Bet you never thought we’d be setting one for Daph and Velma did you?”

Shaggy shook his head, mouth full of more food. Scooby was busily snacking away at some cheese-drizzled chili fries, and Fred felt a pang of sorrow for whatever poor vet was tasked with handling Scooby-Doo’s check-ups. Having swallowed his food, Shaggy spoke up again. “Finally gettin’ us all together, after like what? Ten years?”

“Eleven,” Fred said. “Can’t believe it took us this long.”

Shaggy nodded. “Me either man. We were so close back then.”

Fred frowned a little, staring down at the table. “Yeah… we really were huh? Guess that’s just how life is sometimes.” Fred considered snagging a fry, but would rather not risk losing his hand to Scooby or Shaggy. He wasn’t that hungry -- or stupid. “Everyone’s just… too busy these days.”

“Guess so,” Shaggy said, sounding a little sorrowful himself. “But like, it couldn’t last forever, right?”

Fred smiled wistfully. “No… no it probably couldn’t. I wonder sometimes though… what if we had kept going?” Fred shook his head rapidly. “Nah, no point in wondering that is there?”

In a rare move for Shaggy, he was too distracted by his own thoughts to continue eating. Even Scooby took pause for a moment, before snagging one of Shaggy’s burgers while he wasn’t paying attention. “Isn’t there?” Shaggy said. “I don’t know about you Fred, but… like I feel like that was… I don’t know man, like it was what we were always meant to do.”

Fred chuckled. “When did you become a philosopher?”

Shaggy ignored the friendly jab, and continued. “No, I mean… you’ve gotta feel it too right? Like these last eleven years… they’ve just felt like a haze -- not that kind of haze,” Shaggy said when he saw Fred’s smirk and raised an eyebrow. “Like… I don’t think we were done yet.”

Fred raised his eyebrow again, this time less playful, and more genuinely intrigued. “You mean you think there was something else we were supposed to do?” Fred laughed, hollowly. “Shaggy, we -- we were a bunch of kids chasing down crooks in Halloween masks. Not exactly some kind of grand destiny there. And didn’t you used to hate that stuff? You were scared half to death all the time.”

“Yeah, I guess that’s what like, makes it so weird that I’m feeling it.” Shaggy looked down at himself with a sigh. “I don’t know man, I just… haven’t been able to shake the feeling like we’re just putting off something inevitable.” His eyes looked up into Fred’s. “Like, do you really feel happy where you are?”

Now even Scooby was looking intently at Fred, as if he were also waiting for an answer. Fred tried to smile it off… but it quickly faded. “No… no I don’t think I am, Shag. Not really, anyway.”

“Maybe that’s why we’re all here now,” Shaggy said. “Maybe… maybe now it’s finally time for Mystery Incorporated to like, get reincorporated!”

Fred scoffed. “Oh come on, that’s just wishful thinking. Velma and Daphne have their own lives too, I mean -- look at everything Daphne has! You really think she’d just drop all that to go back to driving around in a van all the time and exploring abandoned buildings? Chasing some guy with a rubber mask he got from a Halloween store?”

Shaggy shrugged. “Maybe.” Just at that moment, Shaggy finally noticed as Scooby chomped up the last bit of food on the table. “Scoob!” Shaggy exclaimed with frustration. Scooby did the closest approximation of a laugh a dog could manage, as Fred chuckled.

Chapter Text

Velma approached the art gallery in the late afternoon — early, as the exhibition wouldn’t technically be open for another few hours, but Daphne had arranged for Velma to be put on the VIP list. Velma certainly didn’t feel like a VIP looking at the other people entering the building wearing clothes much more fashionable than her own, but all she had to do was give the security guard her name and she was let through.

Inside a handful of the well-dressed were milling about, standing clustered around paintings and at least pretending like they were discussing them deeply. Velma shoved her hands in her vest pockets, feeling very out of place.

Daphne’s work was placed against blank white walls and pillars, some very abstract bursts of color with little form, while others seemed to flow together and form recognizable shapes in Velma’s eyes. She drifted over to one in particular, where the brushstrokes of greens of different shades and a spot of reddish-brown and two yellow pinpricks came together into the rough shape of a man with two arms raised above his head, fingers posed to clasp on whatever walked in front of it.

“Look familiar?” A voice said behind Velma.

“The Creeper -- or, more accurately, a Mr. Carswell. He dressed up as the monster called the Creeper in order to cover up his bank robberies and…” Velma trailed off in the middle of her infodump as recognition overtook her, and she realized who the voice belonged to. She turned around slowly to see a taller woman with fair skin and a tumble of red hair, wearing a purple suit jacket over a green shirt and a purple skirt.

“I know the story,” Daphne Blake said, not breaking from her show-stopping smile for even a moment. “I was there after all, remember Velm?”

Velma smiled, only worrying briefly that the expression probably looked a little more dopey than she would’ve liked.

Daphne wrapped Velma up into a tight hug, cheek pressed against cheek, Velma nearly losing herself in the intoxicating scent of Daphne’s flowery perfume. “I haven’t seen you in forever!” Daphne exclaimed, either oblivious or indifferent to the attention she was drawing.

Velma awkwardly returned the hug. “Y-- yeah, it’s been a while.”

Daphne released the hug but kept her hands on Velma’s shoulders. The look on her face was practically radiant. “ Too long a while if you ask me. How’ve you been?”

“Oh y’know, doing alright,” Velma said, shrugging one shoulder. “Still working on that book.”

“I’m glad to hear that!” Daphne said, before leaning in and whispering into Velma’s ear with a sly smile and a giggle. “You are gonna make sure I look good in it, right? Can’t have you ruining my public image now.”

Velma laughed. “You have my solemn promise that only the best of Daphne Blake will be on display. I’ll just skip over all the times you stumbled into a trap door or got lost. I’ve got enough of that material from Shaggy and Scooby anyway.”

Daphne laughed, a genuine, heartfelt laugh that made Velma’s heart soar. She never got tired of hearing it.

“That’s enough about me though, after all this is your exhibit,” Velma said, hands returning to her pockets, albeit more casually now. “Modelling, fashion lines, art? What’s next on the docket for the renaissance woman?”

“Well I have been taking some guitar lessons when I can find the time,” Daphne said. “Maybe soon you’ll be getting a chance to hear the debut album of Daphne Blake. I did bring my guitar with me, so maybe I can give you a little sneak-preview concert before I leave.”

“You really keep busy, huh?” Velma said, a little bit of concern unintentionally seeping into her voice.

“Don’t worry, I still make time for myself,” Daphne said, clearly picking up on the unstated question of Velma’s. “It’s like how sharks die if they stop moving -- I always need to be shooting for the next thing.”

“Well I envy that -- I can’t even finish one book.”

Daphne put a hand on Velma’s shoulder. “Don’t talk yourself down like that. You have to work at the pace that works for you!”

Velma smiled apologetically. “Maybe you’re right.”

“I know I’m right,” Daphne said, just as another woman with a chestnut-colored bun came up to Daphne and whispered something into her ear. “Shit, I’ve gotta run Velm, still some things I need to do before tonight. Catch up soon?”

Velma did what she could to ignore the way her heart sank hearing those words. “Yeah, of course,” she said with a forced cheer she hoped wasn’t noticeable. “I’ll be around.”

Daphne pulled her into another hug. “See you soon,” she said quietly to Velma, before letting go and following the assistant into a back room.

Velma sighed, looking down at her feet. “Yep. See you soon.”

 

~~~~

 

The sun had fallen beneath the horizon, and Daphne was giving her speech for the official opening of the exhibition, a long-winded and -- in her opinion at least -- somewhat narcissistic deluge of words about her career and her inspirations and all the other stuff another writer had prepared for her to say. She’d wanted to write the speech herself of course but was rather sternly told that she would be better off getting a professional to ghostwrite one for her. So she spat out pallid sentences and empty, meaningless crap that she’d memorized so well she didn’t even need to think about what she was saying. Her mind was elsewhere, anyway.

Her eyes drifted back over to Velma, an anchor to her old life. There was something comforting in the way Velma looked at her -- everyone else looked at her with a kind of awe, or like she was an opportunity for their own advancement. They saw Daphne Blake the manufactured icon, the Daphne on the glossy magazine covers with a factory-produced smile, the Daphne that had managed to juggle her multiple career paths with surprising deftness. But that was not the Daphne Velma was looking at. Velma was looking at Daphne Blake the person -- danger-prone Daphne who had a knack for getting herself into trouble, the Daphne that would talk to Velma about some stupid teen boy trouble in a bed in the middle of a creepy old haunted mansion like it was the most normal thing in the world.

At least someone out there remembered Daphne the person.

 

When Daphne finally gritted her teeth through the rest of the self-aggrandizing speech to a chorus of uncaring applause, she tried to not look too eager to step off from the small podium. She maneuvered her way through the crowd towards where she had seen Velma standing, making nice with the people she passed by and playing the part of the charismatic host introducing herself to her guests until she finally reached Velma.

Velma was standing there with her round freckled face and square, thick-rimmed glasses.

“That was--”

“I didn’t write it,” Daphne said a little too frantically.

“Well… I was gonna say good, but--”

“Sorry, sorry,” Daphne said with an embarrassed smile. “I just felt like it was a little… egotistical.”

Velma shook her head with a laugh. “Daphne, you’ve done a lot. If anyone’s earned the right to be a little egotistical, it’s you.”

Daphne stopped just short of saying “but it’s not what I want people to know me for.” Instead, she simply said, “Maybe.”

Both women stood in an awkward silence, neither one really certain of what to say to continue the conversation. Before either one could, they heard a distinctive noise coming from the entrance to the gallery.

“Was that—“ Velma started.

“Dog barks?” Daphne finished.

They exchanged confused looks until another bark cut through the chatter and made it clear that they weren’t just hearing things.

Daphne made her way towards the entrance to investigate. As she got closer, she could see the back of the security guard. He was holding a hand out in front of him, apparently blocking someone coming in. Daphne wouldn’t have thought much of it, if it hadn’t been for the glance she caught of a large dog, brown-furred and spotted with black.

She pushed forward through the people gathered at the entrance, putting a hand on the security guard’s shoulder to get his attention.

“Ah— sorry Miss Blake, I was just informing these… gentlemen that they can’t bring a dog into the gallery.”

Daphne wasn’t even remotely listening to the guard anymore as soon as she saw who was on the other side of him. “Scooby? Shag? Fred?

Chapter Text

Shaggy let out a nervous laugh, seeing Daphne standing there well-dressed, made-up, and jaw practically hitting the floor. Seeing her really made it set in how underdressed he was for the occasion — the only reason he was even wearing a dark suit jacket over one of his green t-shirts was that Fred “happened” to have packed an extra one. Fred himself was nicely dressed, albeit for the wrong decade. His own jacket was a blueish color, and the dress shirt under it was partially unbuttoned, the collar up. And of course… beige bell-bottom pants.

Scooby’s tail was a blur of excitement and glee, and Shaggy could tell he was ready to pounce on Daphne and lick her face, though the hand Shaggy kept on his collar was enough for him to know not to try it.

“Heya Daph,” Fred said with a genuine smile. “We were kinda hoping to surprise you inside but… well, guess the cat’s out of the bag now.”

Daphne’s face was still locked in an expression of pure shock. She stayed that way for a few moments longer before blinking her eyes and shaking her head clear. “I’m sorry, I just… I can’t believe you’re all here.”

“Well,” Fred continued. “Since you told me you were gonna be doing an exhibition near Velma and all—“

“We figured, hey!” Shaggy picked up. “Why not have a like, surprise Mystery Incorporated reunion!”

Scooby barked, making sure no one forgot his numerous contributions to the plan.

There was an exasperated smile on Daphne’s face, and if Shaggy looked close enough he could see them shimmering with a hint of tears. “This is— this is amazing you guys, that means so much to me. Oh shit, Velma! You have to come in and say hi!” Daphne tapped the guard on the shoulder. “Go ahead and let them in.”

“B— but ma’am, the building owner said dogs weren’t allowed on the—“

Daphne rolled her eyes. “If he damages anything, I’ll take responsibility and pay for it.”

The guard sighed, shoulders slumping and stepped aside to let the tall blonde and lanky kid through, their dog padding along happily along with his tongue lolling out of his mouth, looking at the guard with a sense of righteous indignation.

 

Velma’s reaction to seeing the gang again was not dissimilar to Daphne’s — jaw dropped, eyes wide, too stunned for words. It quickly dissipated into a storm of long-awaited hugs and chatter, catching up and reminiscing.

“And— and then,” Daphne gasped out through laughter. “A bedsheet fell on Scoob—“ she stopped again to take a breath, struggling through it. “And Shaggy thought he was a ghost! Oh my god the look on your face, I would’ve thought someone was coming at you with a knife!”

The group shared a laugh, even Shaggy despite his embarrassment. There were a few odd glances towards them, particularly at the Great Dane sitting at their feet, but upon seeing Daphne standing there with them no one raised an issue.

“Don’t forget the time you slipped into that trap wall Daph,” Fred said, wiping a joyful tear away, a near inaudible "which one" from Velma that only Shaggy heard and chuckled at. “I’m over by the desk looking for clues, and… god I don’t even remember what you were saying anymore, I just remember hearing a yelp behind me in the middle of a sentence and I turn around and Daphne’s just gone.

There was a chorus of chuckles.

Daphne smirked. “Nice to know you were so concerned about me, Fred.”

“I was!” Fred said in friendly defense. “I mean, at the time anyway. After I found out that you tripped on a book on the floor and fell into a secret passage — and got stuck there until Velma walked by and heard you — I mean you gotta admit, it’s pretty funny in hindsight.”

“Okay, okay, maybe it was,” Daphne said with good nature behind it. She sighed. “God. It feels so good seeing you all again, it’s been forever.”

Shaggy nodded his agreement. “I almost miss getting scared out of my mind these days.”

Scooby chuffed, apparently finding solidarity with Shaggy’s statement.

“I can’t believe we’ve really gone over a decade since we were all in the same room together,” Velma said, sounding a little regretful. “Didn’t even realize how much I missed you guys until now.”

“Yeah,” Fred said. “Wish we’d done this sooner.”

A solemn quiet fell over the group, and in the absence of banter they overheard a nearby conversation.

“... hear about that condemned asylum, down on West 1st?”

“No, what happened?”

“Well, it was set to be torn down, but apparently the workers won’t go near the place anymore.”

“What? Why not?”

“They claim it’s haunted, some ghost getting aggressive with them. They’re too scared to go back, even left some of their equipment behind and haven’t gone back for it…”

Fred turned to the rest of the group. “Sounds like a real mystery there.”

“Can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that from you before,” Velma said. “Usually preceding us doing something stupid and reckless.”

Fred laughed. “I’m not suggesting we go investigate if that’s what you’re insinuating.”

“Why not?”

All heads turned to Daphne. There was a shared look of disbelief on each face looking at her. “Wh— what?” Was all Shaggy could stammer out.

“Why not go investigate?” Daphne continued, arms folded and shrugging her shoulders.

“I— I mean, we aren’t kids anymore Daph,” Velma said. “We should let the authorities handle it.”

Daphne scoffed, less at Velma herself and more at the notion of what she had said. “Velm, we all know that they’ll just write it off as superstition and sit on their hands.”

“Maybe Daphne has a point,” Shaggy said. “Like, we’re all here together anyway — is it really a Mystery Incorporated reunion if we don’t solve a mystery?”

“I never thought I’d hear you advocate for wandering around an abandoned, supposedly haunted asylum,” Velma said, arching her brow.

“Well, you know what they say about absence making the heart grow fonder,” was all Shaggy offered for an explanation.

“Bet you’ll be singing a different tune once we’re inside,” Daphne said.

“So we’re… we’re actually going to do this?” Velma said.

“If everyone wants to, and judging by the expressions on everyone’s faces…” Fred said, scanning over the three other people and one dog. “One last case, for old time’s sake.”

“We’re not going tonight are we?” Velma said with a bit of alarm, not sure what answer to expect considering how quickly this had all been decided on.

“Oh no no,” Daphne giggled out. “Can’t really be disappearing from my own art show this early. How does tomorrow night sound?”

There was a round of agreements.

“Cool!” Daphne clapped her hands together. “Let’s meet at the old asylum at… eight o’clock? I’ll see what I can do about getting us some equipment too.”

“Equipment?” Shaggy questioned, Scooby’s head tilting with equal confusion. “Like, we didn’t have much of that before.”

“We were also teenagers that didn’t have that much disposable income,” Daphne said. “I’m sure we would’ve if we could afford it before, so why not make up for lost time now?”

“I can definitely get behind that,” Velma said. “It only makes sense anyway, technology hasn’t stopped advancing the last eleven years and whatever crook is pretending to be a ghost is bound to be using stuff we didn’t encounter before.”

“Keeping up with the competition,” Fred said, rubbing his chin. “I like it! Mind if I help out with that Daph?”

“Not at all!” Daphne looked around at the crowd, then down at her watch, grimacing at its face. “Oooh shit, I should… probably stop neglecting my other guests, I really lost track of the time. Um, you guys have fun! Go ahead and mingle, I’ll see you all tomorrow!”

Daphne quickly headed off, almost immediately vanishing within a sea of people. Scooby whimpered a little after she left, and Shaggy gave him a scratch behind the ear. “Don’t worry Scoob, we’ll see her soon.”

Chapter Text

Velma used the break in conversations to better appreciate the art that was on display. A few people shared brief small talk with her, and she was proud of herself for sounding at least somewhat polite -- she’d been told before she could come across a little abrasive without really meaning to. But, no one seemed too put off by her words tonight, which she chalked up to her good mood and the combined charisma of Daphne and Fred rubbing off on her.

Still, it was getting late, and Velma was hoping that there would be a socially acceptable moment for her to leave soon. Then, she felt a hand on her shoulder.

She turned around, seeing Daphne again. “Hey Velm,” she said. “Everything okay?”

“Uh… yeah, yeah everything’s fine. Why?”

Daphne shrugged. “Just looked like you were a little out of it.”

Velma ran the end of a strand of her hair between her fingers. “Guess I am getting a little tired. Lot of people here.”

Daphne nodded. “Yeah, no kidding. My throat is getting sore from all the meet-and-greets.” Daphne looked around for a second, then stood next to Velma and put an arm over her shoulder, speaking into Velma’s ear with a hushed voice. “Wanna ditch?”

Velma looked at Daphne, confused. “Ditch your own art show?”

Daphne shrugged as if this were a needless question. “Yeah? The art’s not going anywhere, and I've made enough of an appearance that I don't think anyone will care if I dip out early.”

“And… where exactly would we go?”

“Well,” Daphne said, leaning a little further away now, apparently confident that they weren’t going to be overheard anymore. “I’ve never actually seen the abode of Velma Dinkely -- maybe you could give me a little house tour?”

Velma fought off the flush in her cheeks, only barely succeeding against the combined assault of Daphne’s words and the gentle hand that still lingered on Velma’s shoulder. “I— I mean it’s really not much to look at.”

“So?” Daphne said, with that expression on her face that was like an unvocalized dare. “I mean we don’t have to if you don’t want to, but I’m genuinely interested in seeing it.”

“W— well… okay, sure.”

“Are you sure you’re sure? I don’t want to make you feel pressured into it.”

Velma shook her head and gave Daphne a reassuring smile. “No, it’s fine. I don’t have enough people over anyway, might be nice to have a guest for once. Especially one I already know, means you probably won't think too much less of me when you see the place.”

“Awesome,” Daphne said, her smile so radiant that Velma had to look away like she’d looked right into the sun. “I’m gonna change into something a little less… business casual in the bathroom, meet you outside?”

Velma gave her a nod. “Sure.”

 

Velma stepped outside, the cool night air refreshing her, especially after having been in a hot, stuffy gallery for so long. She closed her eyes, leaning her back against the building next to the entrance, taking a big breath of air in through her nose. She blew carbon dioxide out of her mouth, and opened her eyes again, looking around. She hadn’t noticed at first, but Shaggy and Scooby were outside, Shag’s back to her, explaining why he hadn’t noticed her either.

“Enjoying the… well, relatively fresh air?” Velma said in his direction.

Shaggy startled, and Velma could’ve sworn that even his hair jumped straight up for a second. Scooby did that sort of laughing-esque sound he was fond of, and Shaggy turned around. “V-- Velma! I didn’t know you came out, you like, spooked me.”

“Sorry,” Velma said, not actually sounding all that sorry but a socially appropriate and borderline acceptable amount of sorry.

“Eh, Scoob was just gettin’ a little stir crazy in there,” Shaggy finally answered. “Think we’ll head back to the hotel as soon as Fred is done in there.”

Velma nodded. “Me and Daph had the same idea -- I guess she wanted to see my apartment too.” Catching a look in Shaggy’s eye, Velma quickly added. “I don’t have a lot of space, so I’d prefer to keep it to one guest for tonight.”

“Gotcha,” Shaggy said. “Maybe another time before we fly back home then?”

“Maybe.”

Shaggy whistled, trying to disrupt an awkward pause that was slowly becoming an uncomfortable silence. “Y’know we haven’t really talked much since…”

“Shaggy.”

“Sorry, sorry,” Shaggy said. “It’s just…it seemed relevant considering… well, you know.” He scratched the back of his neck with a pathetically awkward attempt at a casual smile.

Velma rubbed the bridge of her nose. “Look, Shag, I… I’ll tell the others on my own time, okay? ”

Shaggy chewed the inside of his cheek. “It just feels like you’re almost… mad at me for knowing.”

“Why would I be mad at you,” Velma said, the lack of a question mark not doing much to convince that she wasn’t. “I was the one that--”

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” Shaggy said. Sitting at his feet, Scooby whimpered, either because of the tension in the air, that no one was paying attention to him, or both. “But… ever since then you’ve just… kinda pushed things away, like… is… you know you’ll have to talk about it eventually, right?”

Velma sighed, crossing her arms and looking down at the ground. “I don’t know. Maybe. Not tonight, in any case.” She rolled her tongue around in her mouth. “But, I want you to know that I would never be mad at you for this. I’m glad you know, hell I’m glad someone I can even talk to about this, I just….” She sighed again, rubbing one of her eyes. “Look, we can talk about it later and I can maybe explain myself a little better, but for right now I really just don’t want you to feel guilty keeping this—“

“Who’s feeling guilty?” The worst possible voice to be overhearing this conversation asked.

Velma looked behind her to see Daphne, now dressed down to a dark purple hoodie and jeans, her hair tied back into a ponytail. If the situation wasn’t what it was Velma would’ve laughed that Daphne could make even such a simple, casual outfit look like designer clothing. “Oh nothing,” Velma said, trying to keep her voice even. “Just more old memories, right Shag?”

“R--Right? Oh-- yeah, yes mhm.”

Velma turned away from Daphne to look at Shaggy with her best “are you fucking serious” face. She quickly realized it was a mistake as soon as Shaggy answered with a “look I’m trying okay” expression of his own, one that was in plain view of Daphne.

“Anyway,” Velma said, turning back to Daphne. “We should go, don’t want to wait too long -- it’s a bitch getting a cab when all the partiers are trying to get home.”

“Hey, does Shaggy wanna come?” Daphne asked.

“He and Fred already have plans,” Velma said, stopping just short of physically pushing Daphne away from the atmosphere that was growing more and more embarrassing by the second. “Just us girls tonight.”

“Okay,” Daphne said, a small grin growing on her face like a flower blooming in the spring. “A girls' night… just like the good ol’ days, huh?”

“Yeah,” Velma said. “Just like the good ol’ days.”

Chapter Text

The two had left Shaggy outside, still waiting for Fred, with a polite and cordial goodbye from Daphne, and a goodbye from Velma with a forewarning intensity that went unnoticed by Daphne. Around thirty minutes later -- traffic had picked up after all, but not too badly -- Velma was leading Daphne up the stairs of her apartment building, warning her of the third to last step on the second-floor staircase as it was a little uneven, and people tended to lose their balance when they didn’t know about it. Velma took out a ring of keys, cycling through ones she didn’t need and decorative charms until she found her apartment key, and unlocked her door as soon as they’d reached it.

Velma flipped the light switch on and walked inside, Daphne following inside and looking around at the room like a zoo animal being introduced to a new environment. Velma walked over to the center of the room, tossed her keys onto her bed, and raised her arms from her sides as if she were presenting the small studio apartment like the newest circus attraction. “Welcome to my humble abode,” Velma said. “Make yourself at home.”

Velma’s bed was in the far right corner of the room, a small nightstand next to it, and next to that Velma’s writing desk, an old, beat-up laptop sitting proudly upon its IKEA throne.

A few feet from the foot of the bed was a divider, cordoning off the little kitchenette area of the apartment.

Daphne’s vision focused mostly on the short bookshelves, and the decorations on the walls -- then, her eyes focused on one thing in particular. “Oh no way,” she said, in complete disbelief. She walked over to a spot on the wall, where a rubber werewolf mask was framed in a glass display and hung up. “You have the wolfman mask?”

“Oh, uh… yeah, they didn’t need it for evidence and they let me take it home, and I’ve just sorta… kept it.”

Daphne’s fingers hovered millimeters from the glass. She scoffed. “Can you believe we were afraid of this guy? This looks so fake now."

Velma walked up next to her, looking up at the mask. “Well, in defense of our teenage selves, it was dark. And, maybe a little less threatening hanging up on my wall than when it was chasing us around a creepy castle.”

“You do have a point,” Daphne said. “Hm.”

“Hm?”

“Oh, just-- surprised you didn’t hang your diploma up. I mean you were always the one to love all that brainy stuff, I thought you’d be eager to show that off.”

“Oh right, uh… must’ve just misplaced it moving in, forgot to look for it later.”

“Well, maybe we should find it!” Daphne suggested.

“No, no, that’s okay,” Velma said. “I mean, don’t think I’d be a good hostess if I made you look through all my old junk.”

“Alright, alright,” Daphne relented. She looked around the room again, really letting herself see it as a cohesive whole. “This place… it really feels like you.”

Velma smirked. “Ouch, harsh.”

Daphne rolled her eyes with a begrudging smile. “I meant that as a compliment and you know it.” Daphne turned on her heel to face Velma. “And I mean it too. It feels… comfortable. Maybe unassuming at first, but… there’s a lot here when you really look.”

Velma blushed, flustered by the flattery. “Aw, c’mon Daph.”

Daphne walked over to Velma’s bed, looked at Velma for permission, and sat down on it, taking a deep, satisfied breath. “God, I didn’t even realize how much I missed this.”

Velma walked over, sitting next to Daphne, making sure to leave at least two hands worth of space between them. “Missed… what? Apartments?”

“Well… no, not that.” Daphne’s face scrunched up as she searched for the right words. “It’s more like… this feeling. Just… warmth, friendship. Someone knowing me… me knowing them.”

Velma looked concerned. “You… you don’t have that?”

Daphne took another deep breath, this one not satisfied but… tired. “No. No, not really. Everyone I know now… they always want something out of me. It’s hard to make friends when everyone you meet looks at you like they’re looking at a cow for their cuts of meat.”

“Morbid analogy, I like it.”

Daphne bumped an elbow into Velma with a playfully annoyed smile. “See? That’s what I mean. No one says stuff like that to me anymore, no one’s… fuck, no one feels real. They’re all just putting on a nice face while they try and figure out how they can profit off you.”

“Jinkies,” Velma said, grimly. “I had no idea that was what it’s like.”

“...Did you just say ‘jinkies?’”

“...Yeah?”

Daphne smirked. “You still say jinkies?”

“Yes,” Velma said, defensive. “I still say jinkies. I like jinkies.”

Daphne giggled.

“Oh like you still don’t say ‘jeepers.’”

Daphne laughed a little louder. “You can’t prove anything, Miss Dinkely.”

Velma raised her eyebrows. “Oh yeah? I don’t know if you forgot, Miss Blake, but I happen to be a pretty good detective.”

“Oh noooo,” Daphne said, dramatically falling back onto the bed. “You’ve revealed that I sometimes still say ‘jeepers’ to the world, you have destroyed my career and credibility.”

Velma let out a chuckle and laid back next to Daphne. “Sorry ma’am, just doing my duty to uphold honesty in this world.”

Daphne turned her head to look at Velma, and Velma matched her. Daphne gazed with vibrant, captivating green eyes, her red wavy hair falling about her face, framing it perfectly like it always did no matter the situation. At that moment, the rest of the world fell away. All there was in the entirety of existence was that bed, and Velma and Daphne on top of it.

The was a calm, serene smile on Daphne’s face. “God I really, really missed this.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. Velma, you know what I always appreciated about you?”

“What’s that?”

“I’ve never felt like I have to be anyone but myself around you. You’ve always been so… so…” Daphne gestured, struggling to find a word that suited her needs. “I guess… I don’t know, earnest.”

“Earnest?”

“Yeah,” Daphne said. “You’re just… you’re always very you and you don’t let people tell you to be something else.”

“Well, I don’t know about that—“

Daphne sat up. “No, really! You’re never afraid to just— just be yourself! Unapologetically!”

Velma felt something inside her shrivel and die at the dramatic timing of this conversation, happening at this specific moment, and happening after her prior specific conversation with Shaggy. If there was such a thing as fate apparently it had decided it was the right time to start pushing some character development along. Velma actively decided to not take the hint, mostly out of spite for the unseen forces that she didn’t believe in aside from when she needed to blame something other than herself or simple bad luck. “I don't know if I really believe that," was the answer her mind settled for.

“Well, you don’t have to believe it cause I’ll believe it for you.”

Velma let herself smile at that, even if the guilt was squirming in her gut like food poisoning. She managed to convince herself that sitting next to a childhood best friend on her bed, in her apartment, with just the two of them, was maybe not the best time to tell her that Velma was a lesbian. A little too implication-y, she thought, and she wanted this night to be about catching up with her friend and nothing more. Velma took in a breath to speak. “How far is your hotel from here?”

“Hm?” Daphne turned her head to the side again, having returned to staring at the ceiling before during the interim in the conversation. “Like….” Her face scrunched up. “Actually, I don’t know.”

Velma sat up, and Daphne followed the same movement. “I was just thinking that it’s getting pretty late, you might want to head back soon.”

Daphne didn’t speak for a second. When she did, she did so with a grimace. “God, I’m sorry, I just… I had a thought about just asking to sleep here tonight, but that’s really imposing.”

“Uh… n-- no, no not all,” Velma said, a sudden panic about how to deal with this unforeseen predicament.

“No, it is,” Daphne said. “I just got so caught up in the nostalgia, I think I was just… remembering all those times we would bunk up together and kinda got lost in that.”

“Well,” Velma said, her heart dictating her words as her brain screamed expletives at her. “For old time’s sake?”

Daphne looked genuinely surprised. “You mean it?”

“Yes,” Velma said, at the same moment that her brain was sternly telling her “no.” “It’s just for one night anyway, and if we’re going to be investigating that old asylum tomorrow… why not go for the whole experience, right?”

Daphne smiled. “Yeah, sounds good.” She waited for a moment, before continuing. “And if I’m being honest, I really don’t want to ride all the way back to my hotel on my own.”

Velma and Daphne conversed more into the night, Velma regaling Daphne with sordid tales of her time at college. Daphne talked about her work -- a lot of which involved griping about her acquaintances -- until both pairs of eyes were starting to droop, and the energy began to dissipate from their words.

Daphne stretched her arms up with a yawn. “We should probably get some sleep, huh? Big day tomorrow.”

“Yeah…” Velma said. “You and Fred were going to do some equipment shopping tomorrow, right?”

Daphne nodded once. “You wanna come with?”

“Ah, no, I appreciate the offer though,” Velma quickly declined. Even though she was glad to be spending time with her friends again, being the third wheel to Daphne and Fred was less than appealing. Given, she didn’t actually know that there was anything between the two, especially now after so much time and distance, but in this case, she considered ignorance preferable to the ordeal of knowing for certain. “I wanted to do some research on the asylum, so I’ll be busy with that,” Velma said, which wasn’t a total lie.

“Maybe you should ask Shaggy to go with you, keep him out of trouble,” Daphne suggested.

“Yeah, I’ll ask him.”

Daphne nodded. “Good. Alright, I think that’s it for me tonight, time for bed.”

Daphne unzipped her hoodie, revealing that she was still wearing the green dress shirt she’d had on earlier. Mercifully for Velma, she seemed intent on keeping that on, though she held onto the hoodie awkwardly.

“Just toss it anywhere,” Velma said, picking up on the reason for Daphne’s hesitation.

Daphne did just so, tossing the garment onto the floor. Velma got up to change out into something a little more comfortable to sleep in -- a pair of decently clean pajama bottoms, and a tank top would do. She caught a glimpse of Daphne removing her pants out of the corner of her eye, the barest flash of a pale leg before it disappeared under Velma’s bedsheets. Velma walked back over to the bed. “I can take the inside,” Velma said. “Wait, I showed you where the bathroom outside is, right?”

“Yeah,” Daphne said.

“Cool,” Velma said, clambering over Daphne to reach the inner edge of the bed. Once they were both settled in, Daphne reached out to the bedside lamp, switching off the light.
Velma felt the small vibrations of Daphne moving next to her before she settled in. Velma made sure that no part of her was in contact with Daphne, scooting a leg forward that felt just a bit too close.

“Velma,” Daphne said, fatigue thick on her voice.

“Yeah?” Velma replied, softly.

“I missed you.”

Velma let the words sit for a moment. “I missed you too.”

Daphne wriggled a little under the sheets. “Do you think….”

Velma waited for the conclusion to that statement. It never arrived. “Daphne?”

“Mm?”

“Thought you might’ve fallen asleep.”

“No,” Daphne grumbled into the pillow Velma gave her. “Just… never mind, too tired.”

Velma fought the urge to question further, fighting back her curiosity. “Alright,” she said. “Get some rest Daph, we can talk in the morning.”

There was no response, and Velma assumed that her words had been heeded before they even exited her mouth. She made herself comfortable, calmed her heart, and did her best to drift off to sleep.

Chapter Text

The next morning, Daphne and Velma made the trip over to the hotel that Fred, Shaggy, and Scooby were staying in, meeting the boys outside. Good mornings and casual conversations were shared, before Fred and Daphne split off to shop for equipment, while Velma, Shaggy, and Scooby headed to the hall of records.

The building was nondescript, and the trio would’ve easily walked past it had they not seen the sign out front. They went inside, spoke to the receptionist, and gained permission to enter.

It was organized in a way not dissimilar to a library, though much smaller. There was also a computer kiosk, though Velma noted that it looked just a tad bit outdated. Still, it would be easier to start there and search for any digitized records before taking to the physical shelves.

She sat down at the desk, typing away. She’d looked up the name of the asylum before — Marchand Asylum, named for its founder Jean Marchand, who died in 1954 at the age of seventy-three. Records on the computer were sparse, and Velma guessed they were still in the process of adding to the database for posterity. What she was able to determine was that the asylum had completed construction in 1933, and closed its doors in 1964.

Velma looked into Jean Marchand as well — he was a French immigrant from a wealthy background, apparently an outspoken advocate for “correcting wayward souls.” Velma rolled her eyes at that and got up from the computer.

“Anything?” Shaggy said, who had occupied himself by standing around and being bored while trying to ignore the growling of his stomach. 

The way Velma’s eyebrow shot up made it evident the sound had not gone unnoticed by her. “Not much,” Velma said, noticing the way that Shaggy’s eyes look saddened by the implication that they would not yet be leaving. “I know when it was constructed and closed down, the asshole that built it, but not much else. We’re gonna have to look through the physical records too.”

Shaggy frowned, and Scooby whimpered at the unfortunate news.

 

It took about an hour and a half of digging before Velma thought she had everything she needed to look through out on a table. She handed a file to Shaggy. “You check this one out, when you’re done with it we’re going to start a pile here,” she said, pointing to a blank spot on the metal table. “That way we can keep track of what we’ve already been through. Do you have something you can take notes on?”

Shaggy pulled out his phone, tapping on the screen and then turning it around so Velma could see the notation app he was using. “But like, can’t we eat something first? It’s hard to read on an empty stomach.”

Velma stared right back at him with glazed, unsympathetic eyes.

“Alright, after it is then,” Shaggy sound, voice a little shaky. Velma felt a sense of pride at the fact that she could still be intimidating when she wanted to be.

Velma took out a small pad of paper and a pen. She enjoyed the amenities of the modern world as much as the next person, but when it came to working a case she always preferred to go analog -- it simply felt right. 

Over the next hour, the two went through record after record, Velma scribbling notes in her messy handwriting, Shaggy typing away at his phone, and Scooby whimpering for attention every couple of minutes, wanting someone to remember that he was there -- and that he was hungry.

Finally, Velma set the last file down on the pile and looked proudly at the blank table before them.

“Alright,” she said. “Let’s go over what we noted down. I’ll start,” Velma said, flipping back a couple of pages on her notepad. “Let’s start with the construction of Marchand Asylum, specifically how it was paid for. Now, Jean Marchand was from a wealthy background -- however, not wealthy enough to fund the construction on his own. So even though his name was on the gate and the deed, it was technically funded by a conglomerate of other wealthy businessmen, who unfortunately were not recorded on any official documentation, so we can’t follow up on that angle.”

Shaggy waited for a moment, thinking that Velma would continue. It took him a further few moments to realize that this was his cue to jump in. “O--oh, uh… so the Asylum opens in 1933, but ends up overcrowded by the end of the year. Marchand announces that they like, have plans to build an extension to account for the surplus of people.”

“But,” Velma cut in. “Construction of the extension was not completed for another five years . It kept being delayed by the original building’s structural issues, which needed to be fixed before they could build anything new.”

“In the meantime,” Shaggy said, looking at his next note with a grimace. “Rumors of mistreatment of the Asylum’s patients were getting around, to the point that there were papers claiming that some patients were being ‘disappeared’ in order to deal with the capacity problem.”

“There are also rumors of Jean Marchand beginning to act strangely around this time,” Velma continued. “His secretary filed a police report in June of 1935, claiming that he had become increasingly paranoid, installing extreme security measures for his office, and treating his staff with suspicion. The report was filed after the secretary, Mrs. Holly Willahmet, caught Jean Marchand’s car following her home after work. There are statements from other employees that worked close to Marchand corroborating this, and that he was also stalking others, but no further investigation was done.” Velma sighed. “Typical,” she said under her breath.

“At the same time, staff in the Asylum were starting to complain too,” Shaggy said. “Like, I guess they said that there were strange things going on, people who they didn’t recognize coming in ‘on business,’ and reports of strange, inexplicable noises at night.” Shaggy shuddered. “Man I really wish they were more specific about that one.”

“Eventually, a body of a patient is discovered in the river,” Velma said, voice dropping to a somber tone. “Knife wounds were the cause of death, specifically one directly in the heart. Foul play is suspected and cast at the Asylum as they never reported them missing in the first place. However, due to a lack of evidence the case goes cold, and… is mostly forgotten about,” Velma said, a hint of disgust in her voice. “After that, the extension is eventually completed, and most strange accounts after that point stop, all the way to the asylum’s closure in 1964. Jean Marchand stepped down in 1949, leaving the operation of the asylum to his son, and by all accounts lived the rest of his life peacefully and died of old age in 1954. All said not much to go on.”

“Well,” Shaggy said. “There is one thing more.”

Velma was surprised by this and awaited Shaggy’s elaboration.

“Years after his father’s death, Jean’s son Martin talked about his father’s bout of paranoia. It’s like, not much to go on really, but he did say his father would vaguely talk about having to do… well, something to appease someone, and that if he didn’t they would kill him. And, that he believed that they might kill him anyway.”

Velma put a hand to her chin. “Huh. That’s an interesting little wrinkle, isn’t it?”

“What do you think that means?”

“Well,” Velma said, reconsulting her notes. “There is that mysterious group that helped fund construction, could it have been a crime family?” Though it was phrased as a question, she wasn’t looking for Shaggy to try and answer, and continued. “That might’ve been the reason behind the strange visitors the staff complained about. Maybe they had helped under an agreement that Marchand would let them do business there.”

“Like, what if they were the ones that… that killed that person?” Shaggy said with an audible fear-gulp. “Maybe we shouldn’t go there after all.”

“There’s nothing to worry about Shag,” Velma said. “The place has been closed for years, even if this was what was going on back then I doubt they’d still be using it.” She stood silent for a moment, lost in thoughts. “But, someone might’ve heard about the murder, and used that as inspiration for acting the part of the ghost. Although,” Velma said, looking back to her notes. “That was far from the only death on the premises, unfortunately.”

“Or maybe it’s actually h-- haunted,” Shaggy said, trembling.

Velma just smirked at him. “Guess we’ll find out tonight, won’t we?”

“I’m starting to regret a lot of decisions,” Shaggy said. Scooby was also whimpering under the table, where he had been laying down and napping through most of the hour.

“Well, let’s clean up here anyway, then we can go get some lunch.”

“Yes ma’am,” Shaggy said with a mock salute, grabbing a section of the file stack and running off to put them back where they belonged. Scooby got up, sitting in front of Velma with wide, hopeful eyes. Velma laughed. “You two never change.”

Chapter Text

The sky darkened, day turned to night, and the time for the meeting dawned. Velma had almost decided to just walk to the asylum, but when she remembered how much walking these investigations entailed she thought better of it and hailed a cab for herself, Shag, and Scoob. She could feel the nervous anticipation practically radiating off the two, even the dog apparently knowing where they were headed -- and knowing it was absolutely the last place he wanted to be.

There were very few words spared on the ride, aside from a cursory “are you okay” directed at Shaggy. He nodded, but the gulp loud enough that Velma was sure people outside the car could’ve heard it told a different story.

The building was unassuming as they approached it, a simple block of beige brutalist concrete, now dilapidated with age and wear, its once-proud exterior covered in graffiti. It was like seeing an old movie star that was far past his prime, and falling into the deep end.

The driver didn’t get too close to the building, dropping them off down the street so they had to walk the extra distance. Velma didn’t mind really, but she wondered if some of Shaggy and Scooby’s fear had rubbed off on him.

 

There was a gate along the exterior wall that encircled the entire building, already opened, tire tracks leading inward. Daphne and Fred were already there, it seemed. Velma pushed the gate open and it screeched and protested the untoward familiarity, causing Scooby and Shaggy to whimper behind Velma. They walked forward across the courtyard, towards the direction where Velma could see a grey rental van with its back doors open, Fred and Daphne working together to pull the equipment they’d acquired to the front. 

Velma looked around at the abandoned construction equipment lying around, left by the workers who refused to return to them. They had even left a crane, wrecking ball attached, like the ghost of a threat that had long since died.

Daphne noticed the three that were approaching and waved over to them. “Check out what we got!” Daphne said, not bothering to hide her own excitement. Today she had let her hair run free and had a nice lavender jacket pulled up over a band shirt.

Fred finished pulling up the last piece of equipment. “Just in time,” he said to the other three, who had just walked up to the back and looked over the spoils. He picked up two black devices, rectangular with an antenna -- walkie-talkies.

“Why can’t we just like, use our phones?” Shaggy asked.

“Better to conserve battery on them,” Fred said. “Might need them if there’s an emergency. Plus, these things have a good enough range that they should more than cover us in there.”

“Now these,” Daphne said, opening the latches on a hard case. “Are some cameras, they have night vision functions and infrared.”

“Oooh, fancy,” Velma said. “That’s certainly an upgrade for us.”

“We’ve got flashlights too,” Fred said, handing one to Velma. “Night vision is cool and all, but those cameras won’t last as long. I’m sure you already know how much it sucks to be in one of these places and not being able to see.”

“Haha,” Velma said dryly.

“So what’s like, the plan?”

“We’re gonna split off into two teams,” Daphne said, holding her two fingers up for emphasis. “Velma and Fred will go one way, me, Shaggy, and Scoob the other.”

Shaggy groaned. “Why do we always have to split up man?”

“To cover more ground,” Fred said, not catching that the question was rhetorical.

“Velma already sent us what you guys found out, so there’s no need to go over that in detail again,” Daphne said. “But I agree with Velma -- I think whatever is going on here, it’s most likely someone using the dark stories of this place to their advantage.”

“But like, what if it’s not?” Shaggy pondered, Scooby grunting to reiterate the question himself.

“Then we’ve got bigger problems to worry about,” Fred offered. “Everyone all set, got your gear?”

The rest nodded at him.

“Alright then,” he said. “Let’s get to it.”

Velma turned to face the building with the others, staring up the front staircase to the double-door entry. It might’ve just been the apprehension she was picking up on from Shaggy and Scooby, but… she couldn’t shake the foreboding feeling that the building wanted them in. Still, a feeling was only a feeling, and she headed towards the doors with the others.

 

“So.”

“So?”

“This place is exactly as creepy as I thought it would be.”

Shaggy and Daphne walked side-by-side, Scooby sticking close by Shaggy’s legs, so close that he almost tripped Shaggy up a few times. The interior of the building was dark, a network of narrow corridors peeling paint and covered in graffiti. There was that dank, musty smell buildings only got when they had been left uncared for over decades. There was little sound, aside from the intrepid three’s footsteps on the concrete.

Daphne shone a light on a cell to her left -- empty, aside from a long-disused bed-frame.

Suddenly, she heard a sort of clang off in the distance. Shaggy nearly fell over Scooby in fear. Daphne peered ahead and shined her flashlight, though she didn’t expect to see anything -- the sound sounded like it had come from pretty far away.

“Wh-- wh-- what was that?” Shaggy sputtered.

“I don’t know…” Daphne said, sounding curious. “But we can go find out.”

“Uh-uh. No way. We’re not going all the way down there alone.”

“Look, I’m sure Fred and Velma heard it too. Hell, it might’ve come from them to begin with.”

“But like, it also might’ve didn’t.”

Daphne shrugged. “Stay here if you want then, but I’m gonna go check it out.”

Daphne started walking away. Shaggy and Scooby looked at each other, looked at the threatening cold walls around them and rusted iron doors, looked back at each other. Then they quickly took off after Daphne.

 

“This place is huge ,” Velma said.

“Yeah, I feel like it looked smaller on the outside,” Fred responded.

The tip of Velma’s shoe crunched against some long-broken glass. “Careful where you step. But yeah, I guess it’s a different perspective once you’re actually in it.”

“Honestl— hey, look at that.”

Fred’s flashlight fell on a rusted, barred door — or more specifically, the scrap of torn white cloth that hung loosely off it.

Velma walked up to it, pulling on one of the gloves she brought just in case they were needed, and took the scrap between her thumb and pointer finger, lifting it gingerly and shining her own light on it. “Huh,” was her astute observation.

“Think it’s a clue?”

“Mm, hard to say for sure,” Velma said, rotating the fabric a little. “But if I had to guess this seems like it hasn’t been here for very long. It’s very clean.”

Velma took it off from where it had caught on a slightly jagged piece of metal. “Looks like it came from a cheap bed sheet.” She stashed it away in her jacket.

“Judging by where it got stuck from, I would guess that whatever had it was heading this way,” she said, pointing her light down the path they had already been walking. “Looks like we might’ve stumbled onto the right way.”

Fred smiled. “Guess those instincts never go away do they? C’mon, let’s see where thi—“

Fred stopped, turning rapidly on his heel and looking behind him.

The movement startled Velma, and she turned to see what Fred was looking at. Nothing but an empty hallway. “Did you hear something?” She asked.

“No… no I just… it really felt like something was behind us.”

“Well,” Velma said. “Looks clear to me.”

“Yeah,” Fred said, though he did not say so with confidence. “I think it might just be my own nerves getting to me — I am a little out of practice with this.”

Velma shrugged. “It’s fine, let’s just see where this clue is going to take us, okay?”

Fred nodded, and with an unnoticeable hint of reluctance turned back around and walked the passageway with Velma.

Chapter Text

Daphne, Shaggy, and Scooby had continued toward the source of the mysterious clang but saw nothing. They couldn’t even be sure of where the sound had come from.

Daphne worried her bottom lip. “There’s no way they wouldn’t have heard that,” she said. “It’s not like either of them to not come running at the hint of a clue.”

“Like, maybe they assumed it was us?”

Daphne shook her head. “They still would’ve checked to be sure.”

Daphne’s worry was inciting even more fear in Shaggy. “O-- okay, well maybe they just… got here first and left when they didn’t find something?”

“Maybe…” Daphne said. “But I don’t see how they could’ve gotten here before us, they were on the farther side of the building.” Daphne thumbed the walkie-talkie that was hanging from the belt loop of her jeans. She hadn’t wanted to use it yet in order to conserve battery, but she was too worried now, her mind caught in a storm of all the terrible things that could’ve befallen Velma and Fred in a place like this.

Daphne lifted the device to her mouth, pressing down the send button. “Velma, it’s Daph, did you guys hear that sound a few minutes ago too? Over.”

She released the button and awaited a response. Daphne waited, continued to wait until a full minute had passed them by.

“Shit,” she said, feeling a little embarrassed by how her voice cracked with fear. She pressed the button down again. “Velm? Please respond, over.”

Once again, nothing.

The nervous Scooby-Doo pressed his head against the trembling hand of Shaggy and whimpered. Shaggy’s teeth chattering so hard that it almost echoed down the halls.

“Velma please ,” Daphne said, this time starting to sound blatantly desperate. “Just let us know you two are okay.”

A final, heart-dropping silence.

“M-- maybe their walkie-talkies aren’t working?” Shaggy offered. “Or… or maybe this building blocks the signal?”

Daphne put the walkie back through the belt loop, her mouth twisted into a tight, grim frown. “I sure hope so Shag.” She took a breath and steeled herself. “C’mon, if we keep walking around we’re bound to find them. Standing here isn’t going to help us any.”

 

Velma and Fred walked, following the trail they had started down. After a while, Fred had noticed faint footprints left in the dust and debris on the floor, and they made the decision to follow them. This should’ve been a good sign since a ghost conceivably would not leave footprints to follow, but Velma couldn’t shake a worsening feeling in her gut, one that seemed to be whispering to her that something was just wrong, wrong in a way she couldn’t articulate. Velma shook her head -- she was letting the history of this place get to her, and she needed to clear her head and focus on the task at hand.

“Hey Velma,” Fred said with apprehension, spotting something on a far wall. “You… you might want to take a look at this.”

They walked up to the surface, and Velma instantly saw what Fred had been referring to. There were words scratched into the wall, jagged and harsh. She spotted a piece of broken masonry on the ground, a corner of it dulled where it must’ve been used to write.

“‘No way out,’” Velma read. “‘They are looking for me but they don’t have eyes.’”

“The hell does that mean?” Fred said.

Velma rubbed her chin. “I really wish I knew. If I had to guess, someone is really committed to scaring people away from here.”

Fred crouched down to get a closer look at the chunk of wall turned writing utensil. “‘Committed’ is certainly a word for it. Check this out.”

Velma crouched down next to Fred and saw that the masonry chunk had bits of a reddish-brown substance stuck to it -- whoever had clutched it had done so tight enough to draw blood.

“Jinkies…” Velma said, gravely. “I would’ve said that this message could be old, something totally unrelated to this case but… this blood can’t be that old. Not fresh, but maybe within the last couple days.”

Fred made a disconcerted “hm” noise at that. “I’m getting a bad feeling about all of this.”

“Yeah, me too,” Velma said. She had been so focused on the masonry she hadn’t noticed her walkie-talkie spurting with crackling static. She waited, but no clear words came out.

“Some kind of… radio interference?” Fred suggested.

Velma was about to respond when the static noise grew louder for a moment, followed by a popping noise as the walkie died entirely. “What the hell?”

“That’s… not normal,” Fred understated.

“Must’ve been faulty,” Velma said. “The tracks continue down this way, we should keep following them. I want to get to the bottom of this more than ever now.”

Fred offered no objection, feeling much the same.

Chapter Text

“Fred?” Daphne said futilely into the walkie once more. By now she knew better than to expect a response, but it made her feel better to be doing something . And it distracted her from the sound of either Scooby or Shaggy — or, most likely, both — whining in fear.

They had made a few circuits now, keeping an eye out for their missing compatriots, but there had been no sign of either the bookish Velma or the trap-obsessed Fred. Shaggy had noticed the way that Daphne seemed a little more frantic, desperate to find a sign of their missing friends, and had offered a litany of unconvincing and hollow comforts, not at all reassuring when Shaggy couldn’t stop trembling as he spoke. Still, Daphne supposed she could at least appreciate the intent.

They had turned up very little in terms of clues, there were some scuffed footprints that indicated that someone had been in there recently at the very least, but they were too degraded to follow all the same.

Daphne let out an exasperated growl and threw herself back against a wall, sliding down and sitting. “We can’t find Fred or Velma, can’t even find any fucking clues, and all because I had the bright idea to go wander around an abandoned asylum because I was bored. ” She dropped her head into her hand. “If anything happened to them… I pushed them. Hell, Velma didn’t even sound sure she wanted to go but I didn’t drop it. And now she’s… she’s somewhere in here and I don’t know if she’s okay, or if Fred’s okay, and I--”

Shaggy crouched down in front of her, trying to swallow down fear long enough to give Daphne a pep talk. “Hey,” he said. “Look man, we all decided to go. We-- we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t want to be. And… Velma and Fred know what they’re doing. I’m scared too that we can’t find ‘em but… like, we gotta trust them!”

Scooby, wanting to be of assistance, walked up to Daphne and nudged her hand with his wet nose.

Daphne finally looked up, running a hand through her red hair and scratching Scooby under the chin with the other. She gave Shaggy a weak, but genuine smile. “Can’t believe you two are the ones trying to reassure me -- what’s the world coming to?”

Shaggy smiled back, glad to see some of Daphne’s indomitable spirit return to her face. “It has been a long time,” Shaggy said. “Guess we’re not all the same as we used to be.”

Daphne stood up, pushing off her knees, and then brushed some of the dust off her backside, regretting the decision to sit down in the first place. “Guess not,” she said. “And… what the fuck was that.”

“What was what?”

Daphne was staring far down the hallway from them now, shining her light down it. “I-- I swear I just saw something.”

Shaggy and Scooby’s eyes looked at each other in the solidarity of being unnerved, then back at Daphne. “Like…” Shaggy started, hesitating as he started doubting whether or not he really wanted to know the answer to the question he was about to ask. “What kind of something?”

“It….” A chill ran down even Daphne’s spine as she finally accepted what she had seen. “It looked like a face. Really pale, dark around the eyes like they were… sunken in. Just watching us.”

“Oh!” Shaggy said, his voice cracking with panic. “Well is that all!? Case solved, it’s a creepy ghost, let’s wait outside for Fred and Velma.”

“Shaggy,” Daphne said with a forceful tone. “We’re going after it.”

“No, we’re not.”

“Buy you dinner for the next week.”

“...Make it two and we’ve got a deal.”

There was a whimper at Shaggy’s side.

“And for Scoob too, of course.”

Daphne smiled with exasperation. “Of course. Now come on, before it gets too much distance on us.”

Without another word, Daphne took off running, her less-than courageous cohorts trailing behind her.

 

Daphne had been close. She knew she’d been. Through the adrenaline pumping through her, the beat of her heart in her ears, she could hear the faint sound of footsteps and fabric rubbing against fabric ahead of her. Ghost her ass.

Shaggy and Scooby had kept up with her -- they always seemed to have limitless energy when it came to running. She’d even tried to convince Shaggy to join the track team back at Coolsville High, but he wasn’t the type to exert himself for fun.

But, in the now, they were gaining. Daphne couldn’t wait to take this guy down, having him all tied up and mask taken off when Velma and Fred caught up with them. The idea of solving the case before Velma had filled Daphne with a strange sense of satisfaction, one that she couldn’t fully examine in the heat of the chase. There would be time for that soon, once she’d nabbed him.

Or she would’ve, if it hadn’t been for one of the cell doors that had been swung open behind her quarry, right around the next turn. It was too close for her to successfully slow down and avoid, and she only managed to pivot enough to not run into it full-on, catching the side of it with her body, knocking herself off-balance, and consequently tripping and rolling onto the floor.

Shaggy and Scooby proceeded to trip over Daphne’s prone body, rolling into a pile themselves. Daphne looked up, just in time to see a bundle of ragged white cloth that was their “ghost” disappearing around another corner, out of sight. She tried to stand up and resume her pursuit, but as soon as she tried to put wait on her foot she yelped in pain, falling back to her hands and knees.

Daphne had twisted her ankle in the fall and wasn’t likely to be winning any chases anytime soon.

“Damnit,” she huffed out, as the rush faded from her and she began to feel the loss of breath from her sprint. “Shag? Scoob? You guys okay?”

From the jumbled mound that was part dog, part man, an arm stuck up into the air and gave a thumbs up.

Daphne pushed herself over to the wall, using it to support herself as she brought herself back up to her feet. Shaggy and Scooby detangled, seemingly no worse for wear. “Are you okay?” Shaggy said.

“Yeah,” Daphne said, right before sucking in a breath as she stepped forward on her bad ankle, still leaning against the wall to keep herself from falling back down. “Doin’ great.”

Shaggy came to her side, letting her lean on his shoulder.

“Thanks.”

“So like, are we gettin’ out of here now?” Shaggy said. “I mean, if you’re hurt--”

“I just rolled my ankle, it’s not that bad.”

Shaggy didn’t look convinced at the way Daphne winced every time she moved it, and Daphne had to admit that she was starting to consider the possibility that this wasn’t just a sprained ankle.

“Well, we’re not gonna be catching him in a foot race now,” she said. “So we’re gonna have to go old-school, make a trap. Or two.” She paused. “Or a lot.”

“How do you trap a ghost?”

Daphne laughed, and Scooby cocked his head at her like he was waiting for her to explain the outburst. “Shaggy,” she said. “Why would a ghost run away from us? Why would a ghost try and trip us up when we got close? Whoever that is, they’re as human as you and me. And I’m going to catch that fucker if it’s the last thing I do.”

Chapter Text

The oppressive atmosphere felt likely to suffocate Velma and Fred as they continued following their trail. Velma knew her eyes should have adjusted to the darkness, and maybe they had, but to her, it seemed as if every dark corner had become a pitch-black void of nothingness, like if she walked into it she would fall and fall and fall endlessly in the absence of light. But, she was here to finish this job, and she wasn’t going to let her overactive imagination get the better of her.

Fred hadn’t said anything to her about it, but she could tell that with the stalwart expression on his face despite the sweat leaking from his brow and shaky hands that he was feeling much the same.

It felt impossibly big inside the building, and Velma felt like they should’ve reached a dead-end somewhere, or an exit, or anything besides the endless turns and corridors. Her mind wandered to Daphne, Shaggy, and Scooby-Doo -- where were they? She would’ve thought that she and Fred would have at least heard them at some point, but there was nothing. Velma knew that if even she and Fred were feeling scared, Shag and Scoob must’ve been downright terrified, but she also trusted that Daphne would keep them focused. She was good at that.

“Finally,” Fred said, snapping Velma from her thoughts. “Looks like a room up ahead that the trail leads towards.”

“Good,” Velma said. “Maybe we just found this guy’s little hidey-hole.”

“I sure hope so,” Fred responded. “I don’t even want to think about needing to follow another trail.”

They walked forward, both trying to push out the instinctual, animal fear they felt approaching the closed door of the upcoming room. It felt malicious, felt like it was a predator lying in wait for its foolhardy prey. But it was just a door, just a heavy iron door like all the others they’d seen.

In what seemed like a century and a millisecond both, they were standing before it. Velma wrapped her hand around the handle, looking to Fred. He nodded. She pulled the door grinding in protest on rusty hinges, Fred grabbing the side of the door once it was clear to help pull it open the rest of the way.

Inside was nothing like Velma would’ve expected. There was a small, raised surface in the center of the room, with candles burnt down to stubs covering it, the once melted and now cooled wax trailing off the sides. Symbols carved into the floor, five concentric points around the room connected by a web of complex lines. There was writing on the walls but Velma didn’t read the language -- rather, it didn’t look like a language she’d ever even seen .

“Holy shit,” Fred understated. The room was not that large, a perfect square with each wall 15-feet long.

“Look,” Velma said, pointing at the entryway. Fred did, and saw what she did -- their trail didn’t enter the room. It stepped only one foot past the threshold and turned back. Whoever they’d been following had opened the door before them, but never entered.

“That’s unsettling,” Fred said. “What do you think all of this is?”

Velma took in the sum total of the room again. “Looks like some sort of ritual was performed here.” She traced her hand on the edge of the surface the candles resided on, bringing up a thin layer of dust. “Not too recently,” she continued. “But not that long ago either.”

“Do you know what that writing says?”

Velma shook her head. “Couldn’t even guess.” She took out her phone and began to snap photos of the scene. She needed a record. “Try not to touch too much, I want to keep this as preserved as possible.”

Fred leaned closer to some of the writing -- blood-red in color, but definitely paint. It was only a small comfort.

Velma snapped one more picture, then looked down at her phone. “Hm,” she mumbled.

“What?”

“No signal,” she said, raising her phone for emphasis with a resigned look on her face.

“This can’t be from our guy,” Fred said. “I mean, if those are his tracks then he didn’t actually go in here. And if this is a few weeks old, at least, then this predates the haunting reports.”

“Unless,” Velma objected. “He set this scene up in advance -- I mean stumbling across this is bound to scare anyone. Maybe that’s all this is -- an elaborate scare.”

“Yeah, maybe,” Fred said, though doubt crept into his voice. “But how does this connect to a classic ghost story -- what’s the angle?”

“If we find them, we ask them,” Velma stated plainly. “If they’re not behind it, well… I guess there’s more going on here than we thought.”

“We should try and track down Daph and the others,” Fred said. “Let them know what we found.”

“Right,” Velma said. “But at the same time, those tracks lead back out -- maybe we should keep following them?”

Fred shook his head. “No, I don’t think these are going to help us much anymore. The ones that lead out look too faded to follow.”

“Alright then,” Velma said. “Regrouping it is.”

Chapter Text

“So like, traps.”

“Yes, I’m sure you’re familiar with the concept.”

“No I mean,” Shaggy said. He rolled his shoulder a bit, the lanky man not exactly being used to supporting someone else’s weight. “Like okay, we set a trap, but… what do we set one with?

Daphne considered the complete lack of useful tools they had on hand. They usually just used things they found laying around, but they hadn’t come across a lot in the asylum that wasn’t bolted down. “We’ll figure that out! We always do.”

“No, Fred always does, and then me and Scoob end up the bait, the trap never works the first time, and then we catch him in a trap we didn’t even set,” Shaggy corrected. “Like if we’re being honest our record of traps set against traps that succeed isn’t great man.”

“Noted,” Daphne said. “But this time, we’ll set the trap. Maybe that’s the key.”

“Right,” Shaggy said, not at all sounding like he had been convinced. The low grumble from Scooby concurred with Shaggy’s assessment.

 

In around a half-hour, they had managed to find an old medical cart that had miraculously not been taken in the decades since the asylum had closed. It wasn’t in fantastic shape, but for what Daphne had in mind it didn’t need to be. Her ankle had started to feel somewhat better, while it still hurt too much to put her full weight on it she was at least able to limp around on it.

Daphne searched for just the right spot to place the cart and soon found one that seemed like the closest she would get to what she was searching for. To test it, she stood at the head of one of the asylum’s many corridors, holding the cart. She let go and smiled with satisfaction as it began to roll down the slight, almost visually imperceptible slant downward. She found a spot near the top of the corridor where the cart would stay put, as long as no one pushed it.

“So like, what exactly is this plan?” Shaggy said watching her, Scooby tilting his head at the unexplained actions that Daphne took.

“It’s simple,” Daphne said. “Look down there.” She pointed to an open cell door at the opposite end of the corridor. “These iron doors have some simple bar locks on them, they slide into those little rings on the wall next to them. All we have to do is chase that ‘ghost’ here, get him to trip into the cart, and then he should roll down the small hill and right into the cell, where I’ll be waiting behind the door outside to shut it behind him and lock him in. See? Simple!”

“Uh… yeah. Very simple. Like, ‘this is never going to work’ simple.”

Scooby nodded and grumbled his agreements.

“I mean like, this all really depends on everything just working out the way you want it to,” Shaggy continued. “And I think that old cart is just gonna fall over if he trips on top of it.”

“Well,” Daphne said, a little annoyed. “If that happens we’ll still be on both sides of this corridor. There’s nowhere else he could go, he’d still be stuck.”

“...What makes you say he’ll be on both sides?” Shaggy asked despite both suspecting and dreading the answer.

“Because you’ll be the one chasing him here!”

“Uh-uh. No way. Nada. Nope. No siree.”

“Shag,” Daphne said, pleading. “Come on, you’re usually the one getting chased, I thought you’d be excited!”

“Like what’s the difference?” Shaggy said, his voice cracking with exasperation. “I’m the one that has to go and find the spooky ghost, and you’re the one that gets to sit here!”

“Hey, at least you get to move around,” Daphne said. “And you’ll have Scoob with you, I’m the one that’ll be alone here.”

“Right,” Shaggy said, begrudgingly realizing that she did have a point. “But like, it’s easy to get lost here, how are we supposed to know where to go to get him back here?”

“I thought of that too,” Daphne said with a satisfied smile. “Look up.”

Shaggy did and saw a bundle of wires overhead. “What exactly am I supposed to be looking for?”

“Those wires don’t run through every corridor,” Daphne explained. “If you follow them they should loop back here eventually. You’ve just gotta try and direct him that way.”

How am I supposed to do that?” Shaggy was entirely incredulous now, waving his arms in the air.

Daphne nodded at the dog next to Shaggy. “Scoob of course! He can smell this guy, right? So have him split away and block off his other routes.”

“This doesn’t sound very simple anymore,” Shaggy whimpered.

“The simplest plans are the most complicated,” Daphne said. Before anyone could question the logic of her statement, she continued. “Anyway he can’t have gotten too far away from this general area, you should start looking before he does.”

Shaggy looked at Scooby, Scooby at Shaggy, their mutual self-pity reflecting in the gaze of the other. “Alright,” Shaggy finally said. “But you owe us two boxes of Scooby Snacks for this one.”

Chapter Text

Shaggy and Scooby were alone, walking the lonely, decrepit halls of an old condemned asylum, looking for a ghost to lead it into a trap that would almost certainly not work.

They had had better days.

“Y’know Scoob, how is it that we’re always the ones that have to look for the monsters? You ever notice that?”

Scooby chuffed his agreement.

“I mean like, why? We’re cowards! Everyone knows it! But whenever someone’s gotta go find the scary thing, it’s us. Why not Fred? Fred’s brave, Fred could do it no problem. But it’s always us.”

Scooby nodded along.

Shaggy sighed. “I guess it’s just our lot in life Scoob ol’ pal. Oh man, why did I agree to this whole thing? Scooby next time someone asks us if we wanna go walk around some creepy old abandoned building we’ll say no, won’t we?”

Scooby gave Shaggy a doubtful whine.

 

“Okay, I think we’ve made… some progress,” Velma said, looking at another non-distinct hallway.

“What makes you say that?” Fred asked.

“Wishful thinking.” Velma chewed the inside of her cheek. “Hey, did you try your walkie-talkie? Mine died, but maybe yours still works?”

“Worth a shot,” Fred said as he unclipped it from his belt loop. He pressed down the send button. “Daph? You there? Over.”

There was a few seconds of silence, and Velma felt herself tense. Fred’s expression screwed up into one of worry before there was a crackle of static -- and a voice.

“Fred? Is that you?”

Relief washed over Velma and Fred, both of them looking at the other with a gleefully relaxed smile. “She didn’t say ‘over,’” Fred joked, before pressing send down again. “Yeah, it is, over.”

“Is Velma there too, did you guys get separated? Are-- are the two of you okay?”

“She did it again,” Velma said this time, trying to mask her own sudden release of tension with humor. Fred clicked the button for Velma. “I’m right here Daphne, we’re both okay. There’s… something we’re gonna have to tell you guys about later when we meet up. Are Shaggy and Scoob there?” She stopped, and at Fred’s raised eyebrow and bemused expression added, “Over.”

“Um,” Daphne said from the other end. “Not right now, they’re… they’re looking for our culprit. Over.”

“Finally,” Fred said, though whether that was in response to the culprit being found or Daphne’s final word Velma couldn’t tell. “We’ll try to make our way to you, do you know where you are? Over.”

“If you find some power lines in the ceiling follow them, they should loop by me eventually. Over.”

“Alright,” Fred said. “What’s our suspect look like? We can keep an eye out on the way. Over.”

“White sheet, looks tattered -- I mean it’s a guy in a crappy ghost costume, we’re not really talking Hollywood-level effects here. Over.”

“Maybe I should give these guys a seminar,” Fred said with a grin. “Teach ‘em how we really do it out there. Be seeing you soon Daph, over and out.”

Fred put the walkie-talkie away, then looked up at the ceiling. No power lines there, but they’d find them. He looked at Velma, who even with her usually excellent poker face could not hide the sheer alleviation of finding out the others were safe. They didn’t say another word as they searched for the wires that would lead them to Daphne Blake.

 

Shaggy had stopped complaining, as he decided the idea of his noise covering up the sound of someone sneaking up on him was less preferable to the quiet, albeit unnerving, natural ambiance of the empty halls.

Scooby did not seem as happy at the decision but was in no mood to argue the point. He silently strode along Shaggy’s side, giving the air a cursory sniff every now and again.

Shaggy was about to break his oath of silence, but the words caught in his throat as he thought he heard something else. And then he listened closely and realized that he very much had.

Off somewhere in the distance was some kind of… muffled muttering voice. One that didn’t sound familiar.

His mouth dried, and his hands shook. Despite himself, he slowly padded closer to the sound. He couldn’t make out words, all he could hear was the low hum of someone speaking to themselves. It was coming from a cell up ahead.

Shaggy swallowed, putting one shaky leg forward. Scooby’s back went taught, his ears pulled back, his lips curling back into a rather unconvincing threat display -- the canine was plainly scared out of his wits.

“Tired of running tired of running tired of running. Haven’t slept in days, tired of everything.” The voice became clearer as Shaggy and Scooby got closer and closer. “No eyes, how do they find me? How do they find me when they don’t have eyes ?”

The voice spiked at the end of that sentence, and both Shaggy and Scooby flinched.

“Won’t run anymore. Can’t. Don’t want to. I’ll show them. Show them. Show them.”

Just then, Shaggy’s foot kicked against a fire-extinguisher that had been left on the ground. It scattered and clanged, not much, but enough for Shaggy’s heart to sink into his feet. Scooby looked up at him with wide, fearful eyes.

The voice stopped.

Silence hung in what could’ve been seconds, minutes, days, months… millennia.

And then the ghost of the asylum came running and screaming from the room at Shaggy and Scooby, dressed in a tattered, dirty sheet… and brandishing a rusted, heavy pipe.

Chapter Text

Fred and Velma had found the wiring Daphne had informed them of over the walkie-talkie and had started to follow it. It had been as quiet as it ever had in the dusty old building. Quiet until they heard the screams coming from somewhere deeper in ahead of them, two distinct voices… and a dog barking.

Velma looked at Fred with worry. He nodded at her, and both knew without words the next course of action. They started running in the direction of the sound. 

 

Daphne had been hiding in place behind the door and took a second to massage her still smarting ankle. She was probably going to need it looked at, and her agent was going to give her hell if she had to sit out due to an injury. She would tell her to shove it. Here, in this moment, with her friends who weren’t immediately with her but were still closer to her than anyone she’d met in the years since Mystery Incorporated’s dissolution, she knew this was where she truly wanted… needed to be.

Daphne’s thoughts were dashed against the sound of shouting, at first a distance away, but soon rapidly coming closer. The chase must’ve been on. She focused her mind on the task at hand, pushed her aching ankle from her mind, and braced herself against the door. 

 

Nononononononono, ” Shaggy was shouting as the disheveled ghost trailed behind him like a screeching banshee. Scooby was right beside him, tail between his legs as they both sprinted like their lives depended on it -- in fact, it seemed like they very much did. Shaggy and Scooby had been chased by plenty of monsters before, but this one didn’t feel the same. The others had always meant to just scare off some nosey teens -- none of them had swung pipes at Shaggy’s head or chased them with the pure frenzy this tattered ghost did.

In hindsight maybe those other “monsters” weren’t as scary as Shaggy had remembered. Impending death had a way of putting things into perspective like that. 

Even through his sheer terror, Shaggy knew one thing -- where Daphne was waiting. He kept his frantic eyes checking up to see if he was still on the right path. He wasn’t exactly sure what he’d do when he got there -- after all, the plan had hinged on the ghost being the one in front. But when had a Mystery Incorporated plan ever gone… well, according to plan. He would have to improvise and trust that Daphne would be able to back him up.

The ghost gained and swung again at Shaggy’s skull, Shaggy ducking just in time to dodge the swing as it clanged ineffectively into the wall. The other key part of improvising was to make sure he was still alive to do it.

 

Velma and Fred grew closer and closer to the source of the sounds, hearing what was definitely Shaggy’s voice yelling out in fear and another that was unfamiliar to either of them. The sound of something metal hitting the wall hastened them.

They came to an intersection just in time to see the last of a green-shirt and brown dog whisk by, and a “ghost” with a ragged dirty bedsheet thrown over them charging through after them, hoisting a metal pipe.

“Well that’s a familiar sight,” Fred said through huffing breaths, before joining in the chase with Velma lagging slightly behind him.

“Stop,” Velma shouted at their culprit, a fruitless effort made more out of a desire to feel like she was doing something rather than any belief that the person would actually listen to her.

Ahead she saw Shaggy stumble against something metal that had been placed in the middle of a hallway. He and Scooby had made some distance between them and their pursuer, giving Shaggy enough time to look down at the metal cart he’d bumped against… and formulate an idea.

“Hey, spooky!” He shouted at the ghost. “Have a nice trip!”

As the ghost descended upon him, Shaggy swung the cart out in front of him, catching the attacker in the stomach and knocking him onto the cart itself. With all his admittedly minuscule might, he wheeled the cart back around and let go so that it drifted down the rest of the hallway, towards an open, waiting cell.

The ghost was too stunned to rectify its situation, only managing to uselessly drag its feet against the ground in a feeble and far-too-late attempt to stop himself as the cart rolled him into the room.

Velma then saw the door swing and slam shut behind the ghost, revealing the red-haired woman that had been hidden behind it. Daphne quickly hobbled over to the sliding door lock and pushed it into place with a satisfying final thunk .

Daphne whistled a sigh of relief. She looked at Shaggy with a grin. “ Told you it would work.”

Shaggy’s legs wobbled as he fell sitting onto the ground, his face awash with exasperated relief.

Chapter Text

The authorities were called after the asylum “ghost’s” capture. As he was being led out of the cell, handcuffed, his dirty sheet was removed — it revealed a man in his late forties or early fifties and he looked haggard. Dark bags encircled the bottom of his eyes, his face was smeared with dust and debris and the thick shine of sweat and grime. One of the officers escorting the criminal remarked with surprise when he recognized who the man was — Jeffrey Hoffman, a big player in the Sunset City real estate world.

From there it was easy for Velma to extrapolate what the man’s plan had been, even though he wasn’t much for sharing beyond mumbling to himself in a daze. It was likely he heard that the building was to be dismantled, and figured that he could buy the land rights for cheap if he scared the construction crew off long enough. He would’ve gotten away with it, meddling kids, etcetera etcetera. He didn’t voice any of this of course, but the feeling was there.

As EMTs pulled up outside of the asylum to take Mr. Hoffman away, Velma pulled one aside.

“My friend said he was talking nonsense when they found him,” Velma said. “Saying stuff like ‘they don’t have eyes but they see me' or something like that. Is he still… acting strangely?”

The EMT shook his head. “Not at all that strange when you take into account how sleep-deprived he is. Can’t be certain but it seems like he hasn’t slept in several days — it’s no wonder he’s delirious.”

Velma nodded and thanked the man for his information. She then walked over to the culprit in question. The officers nearby gave her a wary look but didn’t stop her.

Hoffman looked sad and pathetic, his head dropping and his hands chained in front of him. He had weary, soft eyes that didn’t match with the screaming violence he displayed earlier. He was sitting on the ground, so Velma crouched down to speak with him face-to-face.

“Why did you attack my friend, Mr. Hoffman?”

Hoffman looked up at the bespectacled detective. He seemed almost surprised to hear someone even speak to him, let alone use his name. “I thought he was one of them.”

Velma’s brow furrowed. “Who’s ‘them?’”

“The ones without eyes,” Hoffman said. “They would follow me sometimes… always lurking… always watching. They didn’t have eyes, but I could tell they were always watching.

Velma extracted her notepad from the pocket of her vest and began to take the statements down into writing.

“They say it’s only been a few days,” Hoffman continued, though it sounded more like he was speaking to the air than to Velma. “But that can’t be. I know I was in there longer. Weeks maybe? Longer? Couldn’t find the exit. Endless corridors turning into other, endless corridors. I tried to map it out once but it was pointless. Those hallways couldn’t exist.”

Velma took on a curious expression as she continued to take notes. There was no possible way he could’ve been in the asylum that long — his “haunting” had started less than a week ago. She factored in the EMT’s judgment of sleep deprivation. Could he have simply gotten lost in the asylum’s labyrinthine pathways, had his perception skewed by the lack of rest? It would certainly explain his claims of eyeless people. Spending days alone in a place like that with no sleep would make anyone see things in the shadows. Hoffman went unfocused, returning to unstructured, unintelligible muttering. Velma thought it was time to direct those rambling thoughts. “Did you see the room?”

The look of shock and fear that fell on Hoffman’s face told Velma she didn’t need to specify. “You saw that place?”

Velma nodded. “Did you put that stuff there? Did you stage some mock cult ritual to scare people off?”

Hoffman frantically shook his head. “I only saw it once,” he said. “It was evil. I could feel it. I only looked inside and I turned right around. No one should step foot inside that room.”

Velma took out her phone flipped to the pictures she’d taken inside. She showed the ones of the writing on the walls inside the room to Hoffman. “Do you recognize this script?”

Hoffman looked at her with sheer horror when he realized what that picture implied. “ You went inside? ” He spoke with a harsh whisper. He scooted himself back away from Velma. “Shouldn’t have done that. Shouldn’t have done that!”

Hoffman became more and more erratic, and the officers were taking notice.

“Nothing good will come from that,” Hoffman said, his blurry, unfocused eyes looking into Velma’s. “I don’t know what that room is — what it does — but it won’t be good. It won’t be good.”

Firm hands fell on his shoulders and turned him away from Velma. “I think it would be best to leave the suspect alone before you make him worse,” one officer said in a terse warning.

“Alright,” Velma said. She didn’t think she would’ve gotten much more out of him anyways.

 

One of the EMTs had seen to Daphne’s injured ankle. She hadn’t broken it, thankfully, but only just barely. It would get better with time and rest, and until then she was told to try and keep off it as much as possible. Following that instruction, Fred was helping support her weight for now until they could get her some crutches.

“Wild night,” she said to him, as they made their way toward where Shaggy and Scooby were sitting on the steps to the door of the asylum.

“No kidding,” Fred agreed. “I remember this being easier.”

Daphne laughed. “Guess we’re pretty out of practice.”

“Still managed in the end though,” Fred said. “Not the most graceful conclusion to a case we’ve had, but hey, we caught the bad guy and we all made it out mostly okay, right?”

Daphne nodded. “It felt nice.”

When they had reached the steps, Fred helped Daphne to sit down next to Shaggy and Scooby. “It’s not too bad,” she informed them. “Not broken and it should heal on its own in a couple weeks.”

“Good,” Shaggy said. “Oh man, I could do with a good meal after all this.”

Fred chuckled. “I honestly agree with you. Maybe after we’re all settled here we can see what’s still open this late.” Fred checked his watch, seeing that it was creeping into one in the morning.

The waiting four saw Velma approaching, her expression deep in thought. It made Daphne glad to see that face again, not only to know that Velma was okay but the way that she pulled her mouth into a tight little focused frown and furrowed her brows when she was really thinking something over in her head had always been endearing to Daphne.

“Hey Velma,” Fred said. “Find anything out?”

Velma actually startled for a second, so deep in her own mind she’d forgotten where she was. “Well… sort of. That room we found? Mr. Hoffman claims he didn’t make it. Says he never even went inside when he found it.”

Daphne, Shaggy, and Scooby all looked at each other with confusion. “What room?” Daphne ventured.

Velma shared a disconcerted look with Fred, and then an explanation followed. She showed the other three the pictures she’d taken.

“What does that writing say?” Daphne asked.

“I wish I knew,” Velma replied. “I don’t even recognize the language it’s in.”

Daphne frowned. The idea of Velma not knowing something like that unsettled her. “Some kind of… dead language then?”

“Maybe,” Velma said with a shrug. “But I believe Hoffman, I don’t think he wrote this or placed those other things in the room.”

“I don’t like where this is going,” Shaggy said.

“There’s more going on here than we thought,” Daphne said.

Velma and Fred both nodded, and Shaggy groaned.

“We’re going to look into this, right?” Daphne said. “I mean… I mean we have to.”

“We all agreed to a one-time reunion tour,” Velma said. “We’ve all got lives to get back to.”

Daphne gave Velma a questioning look. “Velma if I know you as well as I think I do I know you can’t leave something like this half-finished.”

“I can’t either,” Fred added. “I mean the cops aren’t going to take this seriously, they just want to wrap this all up as quick as possible. If anyone is going to find the truth of what really happened here, it’s gotta be us.”

Daphne looked at Shaggy. “What about you and Scoob?”

Shaggy looked none too pleased to have the question directed at him now. “I don’t like this,” he said. “But… man, I think you’re right,” he said. “If we don’t get to the bottom of this I think we’ll be spending the rest of our lives wishing we had. It’s like, just the way we are.”

Daphne looked back to Velma, her eyes gentle. “No one is going to force you to do this, Velma,” she reassured. “I don’t want you to do this unless it’s what you want. But… but I know that I’m not the only one that hasn’t really felt like myself since Mystery Incorporated disbanded. Maybe this is a sign that this is what we’re supposed to be doing — an opportunity.”

Velma sighed, looking at the soft, yet resolute look on Daphne’s face. “Let me take some time to think about it,” she lied. In her mind, she already knew the truth — there was no way she could back out now. No way she could leave the others… leave Daphne… to deal with this alone. Her doubt was a concession to appearances more than anything else.

Chapter Text

A few days had passed since the “end” of the asylum ghost case. Velma had taken the time to type up a report on it -- it wasn’t like she had anyone to send it to but it had been a habit she’d kept for the sake of documentation. Aside from that, she hadn’t done much. Velma had seen the others since then, sometimes together and other times individually, and they’d all been polite enough to not push the issue of the lingering question she hadn’t yet answered.

The truth was that she knew the answer already, and had spent the last few days looking for any possible way to talk herself out of it. She knew it was a terrible idea -- all of them dropping their lives because they saw a creepy room in an old abandoned asylum, one that could’ve just been a prank by some locals with too much time on their hands. Yet, she felt like it couldn’t be that simple. Velma always felt like you could tell when someone was just doing something as a joke -- this did not feel like that. Whoever had written those things, whatever they said, had meant it. And she doubted that whatever they did say was good.

But the one thing that Velma knew she couldn’t deny was that she was just too damn curious for her own good.

 

Velma had called on Daphne, asking her if she wanted to meet up and grab lunch together. Velma was ready to officially declare her decision, but she also felt that gathering everyone would make it too obvious. That and… she just felt more comfortable telling Daphne first.

They met at a local place that was one of Velma’s favorites -- the Greenwood Diner. It had a very carefully maintained and preserved fifties aesthetic to it, and Velma appreciated the dedication. The food was simple, but also good and filling. Velma could tell she made the right choice when Daphne arrived outside and looked at the place with a smile.

Daphne was using a crutch to help her walk as her ankle healed, though Velma also didn’t doubt that she probably wasn’t using it as much as she should be whenever Velma or someone else wasn’t around to see. Daphne never was the type to let an injury or illness keep her from doing what she wanted.

“Cute place,” Daphne said.

 

They sat and ate and talked and laughed, feeling glad to be in each other’s company. Neither mentioned the asylum, the events that had taken place there, the lingering questions… but somehow not bringing it up had almost made it feel more prevalent to their discussions. There’s only so long you can avoid talking about something before it’s obvious that you’re avoiding it.

Daphne pushed a lonely french-fry around on her plate, giving the appearance of absent-minded fiddling that Velma knew was a cover for Daphne thinking about something serious.

“Something on your mind?” Velma prodded.

Daphne’s eyes looked up at her but her head didn’t move. She smiled and set the fork down. “Oh no, it’s nothing.”

Velma tilted her head with a smile. “Come on Daph, I’ve known you for long enough to tell when something’s bothering you.”

Daphne’s smile faded and she blew out a breath. “I don’t know, I just… I can’t stop thinking about how I couldn’t reach you and Fred back in the… we don’t have to talk about this.”

“No, it’s okay,” Velma said. “Go ahead.”

“I just-- I was really scared that something would happen to you two and we wouldn’t be able to do anything about it or-- or even find you.”

“Well,” Velma said. “We turned out fine. I mean you were the only one that got hurt.”

Daphne smiled a little, but it felt… distracted. “Yeah, guess so. Kind of ironic, right? How did we split up all the time as kids and not even give it a second thought?”

Velma shrugged. “We were young. Things didn’t seem as serious back then. But now we’re all adults burdened with the knowledge of just how dangerous things can be and that we aren’t invincible.”

Daphne looked down at her injured ankle. “Yeah, that sounds right.”

“If you’re worried… I don’t want this to come out the wrong way, but if you were worried why do you want to keep going with this?”

Daphne nodded with that same wistful smile. “I’ve been asking myself that too. I mean why should I want this? I have success, I have money, I have people that look up to me and would do anything I ask… but I would throw it all away to cram myself in a hippy van with three other people and a dog going around and foiling the plots of greedy assholes in crappy monster costumes. It doesn’t make sense, does it?”

“Sometimes the things we want don’t make sense,” Velma said. “Sometimes we’d be better off just… accepting that something is over and done, moving on and not dwelling on what could have been. But we can’t. Humans are just kinda funny like that.”

“Yeah,” Daphne said, definitely not picking up on the fact that Velma was not exactly talking about the same thing as she was.

“But since you bring it up,” Velma said, eager to move the conversation along even if there were only a small chance Daphne would figure out too many hidden meanings behind Velma’s words. “I’ve decided to see this thing through with you guys.”

Daphne didn’t register the statement for a moment, but when she did her eyes went wide. “Really? You’re coming too?” The excitement was not at all hidden in her tone.

Velma nodded. “I mean you know me Daphne -- I never could resist a good mystery.”

Daphne beamed and to Velma’s shock and sudden embarrassment she reached a hand across the table and held it over Velma’s that had been resting on the flat surface. “I was really worried you might not want to,” Daphne said. “But I was really hoping you would. It just… it wouldn’t have felt right without you there with us.”

“U-- uh yeah… right.” Velma’s hand felt hot under Daphne’s and she curled her fingers in. “It wouldn’t have felt right for me to let you guys go off without me.”

Daphne was so radiant that Velma almost couldn’t look straight at her. “I can’t wait for Fred and Shag -- and Scooby of course -- to hear, they’re going to be so happy.”

Velma pulled her glasses off to wipe them on her shirt as an excuse to move her hand before her face had completely flushed with color. “Guess this means Mystery Incorporated is officially back in business?”

Daphne nodded. “And the world isn’t even close to ready for us.”

Chapter Text

Daphne’s smile beamed across her face. “I have a surprise for you guys,” she said, a glint of mirthful mischief in her eyes.

“Why is Fred the only one blindfolded?” Shaggy asked as the indeed blindfolded Fred grasped at the air for something to guide him. Shaggy stepped to the left and let his shoulder take on that duty.

“I’d also like to know that,” Fred said.

“You’ll see,” Daphne said with a wink.

“Not with that on he won’t,” Velma said.

“Well, we could just take your glasses off if you want to feel included,” Fred retorted.

“I’d like to see you try with that thing on,” Velma jabbed back. “But are we going to go see this surprise or what?”

“Gentlemen,” Daphne said, gesturing to Fred, Shaggy, and Scooby. “Lady,” she said to Velma, with a slight curtsy that made Velma roll her eyes, though she couldn’t keep a smile from creeping across her face. “Right this way.”

 

She took them down the street to a public garage and the pieces of the puzzle began to fit in Velma’s head. She looked at Shaggy and could tell by the expression on his face that he was thinking the same thing.

“You didn’t…” Velma said before Daphne shushed her.

“Didn’t what?” Fred looked around. “Are we there? Can I take this off now?”

“Not yet,” Daphne said, taking the rental key to one of the garages out of her jacket pocket. She slotted it into a panel next to one of the doors and turned it, and the white panels began to rise. 

Inside a light-blue van with lime green paneling was parked, orange flowers on the hubcaps with the words “The Mystery Machine” written along the side in wavy, blocked letters.

Scooby began to bark excitedly at the sight of it and both Velma and Shaggy stared at it with wistful smiles.

Daphne walked up behind Fred and untied his blindfold. The black fabric fell away and his eyes caught the Mystery Machine in its full glory. “There’s… there’s no way….”

Daphne nodded. “I tracked her down,” Daphne said. “After you had to sell her. Put a lot of money into getting her fixed up over the years, even though I never thought we’d actually be using her again. Just… didn’t sit right with me to let her sit in some used car dealership’s lot and rust away after all she’s done for us.”

Fred wiped a tear from his eye. “She looks amazing.”

Shaggy patted him on the back. “Now it’s really all of us back together again,” he said.

Velma stared at that gaudy vehicle in silence. Seeing that here in front of her made everything feel suddenly real. This wasn’t a dream or some wild fantasy -- it was really them, all of them, reunited and ready to solve a mystery. For the first time in far too long, she felt like she was home.

“I had her flown out here a few days ago,” Daphne explained. “I’m honestly glad it took so long for Velma to decide, I was worried you guys might’ve wanted to leave before she got here.”

Fred walked up to the van and ran his hand along the hood. His face was the face of a sailor who had been away at sea for months and had just returned home to the love of his life waiting for him, just as beautiful now as they had been when he left -- just as they always would be in his eyes.

Shaggy opened the back doors and on pure ingrained instinct, Scooby hopped in, clambering over to stick his head between the front headrests as if he was asking why they hadn’t left yet.

Velma hung back, standing next to Daphne. “This is amazing Daph. You’re amazing. All these years I never would’ve even thought…”

Daphne shrugged. “Guess sometimes it pays to be sentimental.” She looked at Fred with a warm smile. “I always meant to give her back to him when it felt right. I can’t think of a time more right than now.”

Velma hm’d an agreement. Fred was going over the entire car and she could tell with every shocked, gleeful smile on his face that he was consistently surprised at how close Daphne had been sure to keep the Mystery Machine to its original form.

“I feel like this seals it honestly,” Velma said. “Looking at all this. I’m not one to put much stock in fate, but this feels… this feels like it was always meant to be.”

Daphne leaned an arm on Velma’s shoulder. “It does, doesn’t it?”

Even Velma was too overcome by the feeling of the moment to register Daphne’s touch as anything more than some far-away message her nerves were sending to her brain. “Welcome back, old girl,” she said to the Mystery Machine.

Chapter Text

Velma was at her laptop, her phone open to the pictures of the writing on the wall she’d taken back at the asylum. She was searching database after database on all kinds of language, dead, obscure, whatever she could find. She was not having any luck yet.

Velma sighed, pushing her glasses up as she rubbed the bridge of her nose. Her bleary eyes, worn out from staring at the bright screen for so long, looked over to a clock on the wall at the time -- 4:15.

The others had all decided on getting together for dinner that night in order to commemorate the official reunion of Mystery Incorporated, as well as discuss their next move over a hot meal. They’d be by to pick her up in an hour. She hoped she would have something to tell them by then.

Having exhausted her other options and with no small amount of resignation, she turned to a conspiracy forum she had signed up with years back. It was always a gamble whether or not it would provide anything useful instead of the usual deluge of half-baked wild theories and antisemitism. Unfortunately, Velma was forced to admit that with so little progress made on her own, it was now her only real option.

She uploaded the photos to a new messageboard, asking if anyone could recognize what language the text might be from. She waited. And waited. A few messages popped up that suggested potential languages she had already debunked herself and said as much in response.

After another fruitless twenty minutes, she was ready to pack it in for the night and check again later when she got a notification -- someone was messaging her directly.

 

asjk54i90: Where did you take this

 

Velma’s mouth curled into a confused frown. She typed an answer.

 

MissJinkies: I’m not in the habit of telling strangers on the internet where I’ve been.

 

There were a few seconds that passed before a new message popped up.

 

asjk54i90: Delete that post before the wrong people see

 

Now Velma’s interest was piqued.

 

MissJinkies: Does this mean you recognize the text?

 

asjk54i90: Yes

 

asjk54i90: Delete the post

 

MissJinkies: Will you tell me what it is if I do?

 

After another pause, Velma tapped her finger on her desk impatiently. Her phone went off, but the buzz was a sensation that barely registered in her mind. Her focus was clear. “Come on, come on…” Velma said as her pulse quickened.

 

asjk54i90: I will

 

Velma did as the mysterious account had asked, deleting her original post.

 

MissJinkies: Alright, the post is gone. What do you know?

 

Moments passed.

 

asjk54i90: It’s a language without a true name and it’s been called many things. Necroscript, the tongue of the devil, the script of the dark arts

 

MissJinkies: I’m noticing a theme here.

 

asjk54i90: It’s been around for centuries, but I don’t know if anyone remembers where it came from. There are legends that it’s not even a human language. Whatever anyone believes, all you need to know is that it’s very old and bad news

 

MissJinkies: Are you about to say I’m cursed now or something?

 

Velma rolled her eyes as she typed. 

 

asjk54i90: No

 

asjk54i90: At least I can’t say for certain I can’t read it myself, but cults use that script a lot so I would be very careful because there may be some dangerous people around

 

MissJinkies: Do you know where I might find some more information on this language?

 

asjk54i90: Hard to find, there are books but they’re rare since most of them have been destroyed. I know of one copy of a book written in that language, very old, but it’s in a private collection. Rich banker named Floyd Gimbleson.

 

Velma pushed an ecstatic, hushed “yes” through her teeth.

 

MissJinkies: Thank you for helping, maybe I can figure out what’s going on here now.

 

asjk54i90: Don’t

 

asjk54i90: There are some things we aren’t meant to mess with

 

Velma was about to respond but found her messages were no longer sending. She had been blocked. She leaned back on her chair, thumb on her chin. She pondered whether or not anything she’d been told was true or if it had just been some troll messing with her.

Velma did a quick search on the name “Floyd Gimbleson.” Sure enough, the man existed and was a wealthy banker as the strange messenger had claimed. With a little bit of extra digging, she even found an interview from Gimbleson where he mentioned having a private library of old texts that he was quite proud of. None of this confirmed the stranger’s claims about the language itself nor that Gimbleson owned a book written in the same script, but it was at least a lead. Even if it turned out to be nothing she would still learn something from it.

She looked at the time, then panicked as she realized that her friends would be there soon. She hurried to get herself dressed and presentable, closing the laptop.

Chapter Text

The restaurant the gang went to wasn’t on the highest end of fancy — it may have been a step up in class from a diner, but only by degrees. They had all settled into a booth seat, minus Scooby who was not allowed inside, and had in due time ordered their food and enjoyed conversation as they waited.

“So about the case.” Daphne finally brought up. All eyes turned to her, attentive. “Where do we go from here?”

“I might have something about that,” Velma said. “A lead. I can’t say that it’s concrete, but I haven’t been able to find out anything else on our mysterious writing yet. Allegedly, according to a source I can verify yet, it’s a script that’s used in some cult practices.”

Shaggy’s face immediately looked nervous at the statement. “C— c— c— cult?”

Velma nodded once. “Certainly a different beast from someone in a costume.”

“I did some follow-up on Hoffman,” Fred said. “He was admitted to a hospital for a psychological examination. I wasn’t able to get too much out of the staff, but I got enough to say it sounds like with sleep he’s been more stable. I think someone asked about what he saw while I was there though because I could hear him yelling at them to get out from down the hall.”

“Do you think that room might’ve been set up for him?” Daphne suggested. “Maybe some rival knew what he was up to and wanted to teach him a lesson?”

Velma shook her head. “I don’t know, that feels unlikely. I can’t be exact but it appeared that room had been set up and left there weeks before Hoffman got there. That’s awfully far to be planning in advance.”

Fred rested his head on his hand. “I think what it all comes down to is we just don’t have information to go on right now. We need more — we need to figure out what those words mean, I feel like that’ll clear some things up and we can go from there.”

“I agree,” Velma said. “There might be a book we can use but it belongs to some rich guy and it’s in his private collection.”

“So like, we’re just gonna ask him for it?” Shaggy said.

Velma shrugged. “Unless you want to break into his house then yeah, we’re going to have to and just hope he’s okay with it.”

“I can see if I have any connections there,” Daphne said. “I might be able to pull some strings. Otherwise, I’m sure I can arrange something with him in exchange for seeing the book.”

“How far away is this guy anyway?” Fred asked.

“About two days driving,” Velma said. “Guess we can put the Mystery Machine through her paces.”

“A good, old-fashioned road trip,” Daphne said, wistful.

“Yes. A good, old-fashioned road trip to read a book on a dead language that people use for dark rituals. Just like my family vacations.”

Daphne laughed.

“I think we should leave as soon as we can tomorrow,” Fred added. “We don’t want to let the trail get cold if we wait.”

“Oh man,” Shaggy said. “Guess it’s really happening, huh?”

Just then the food was brought to the table and Shaggy’s worries were lost in the depths of his several entrees.

The rest of the night took on a more casual tone, the four reunited friends spending the time relaxing and enjoying themselves. When it was time to leave, Velma startled for the briefest of seconds. No one else seemed to notice, or at least if they had they hadn’t said anything about it. For what seemed like the smallest portion of a second… Velma could’ve sworn that none of the other patrons had eyes. Just flat patches of skin where they should’ve been. But it was just as quickly gone. Her nerves were more frayed than she’d thought, evidently.

 

Velma and Daphne were dropped off outside of Velma’s apartment. They’d decided it would be easier to stay together that night so there was one less stop to make before setting out.

Velma led Daphne upstairs and entered the apartment.

When the door closed behind them, Daphne looked at Velma with a shadow of concern falling across her countenance. “Velma, are you okay? You’ve seemed kind of… off since we left.”

Velma was genuinely surprised that Daphne had noticed. She’d thought she was doing a good job of masking it. “I’m fine, I think it’s just nerves and… indigestion.”

The way Daphne’s bottom lip curled made it obvious that she didn’t totally buy the excuse, but she did not press further.

The two were tired and did not speak much as they prepared for bed. They laid down in the same arrangement as they had before — Velma on the inside of the bed, Daphne on the out. There were no sounds beyond the soft noises of breath. 

“Hey, Velma?”

Velma rolled over so she could face Daphne, looking into her gentle eyes. “Yeah Daph?”

“Do you think… do you think we’re getting involved in something we shouldn’t? You said it yourself tonight — this might not be some guy in a costume.”

Velma shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe. But when has good sense ever stopped us?”

Daphne nodded. “True. I’m just… this could be dangerous Velm.”

“It could be,” Velma agreed. “But we’re all in this together. We’ll be looking out for each other. And if it ever gets too dangerous, we can always back out.”

“I guess,” Daphne said. She flexed her hand out, staring at it absently. “I’m just worried that at that point it’ll be because something terrible happened.”

“We’re not going to let anything happen to you,” Velma reassured.

“I’m… not worried about me,” Daphne clarified. I’m worried about you— about Scooby, Shaggy, and Fred. If something happened to any of you I don’t know if I could forgive myself.”

Velma did something brave then. She reached out her hand, putting it over Daphne’s and squeezing. “We’re all here because we want to be,” Velma said. “Whatever happens isn’t on you — we made the decision, every single one of us.”

“Velma…” Daphne said softly. “I know you’re right. But… but I can’t help but feel like this wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t pushed for this.”

“Maybe it wouldn’t have,” Velma said with a shrug. “But I don’t think for a second that we could stay away from this forever. It was always bound to happen… it was just chance that it happened when you said something.”

Daphne smiled. “Why do you have to always be so smart and so right Velma Dinkely?”

“It’s a blessing and a curse,” Velma said with a wry smile.

Chapter Text

The Mystery Machine left early the next morning for its two day journey. Scooby was excitedly bounding from the back compartment to the front seats, in seeming disbelief of where he was. He licked Shaggy on the face, who responded with a fond chuckle. Velma was sitting up at the front with Fred, who was driving, while Daphne and Shaggy occupied the middle row of seats. The radio was playing at a low volume, the windows rolled down just enough to let in some air, and it felt like home.

“It’s been too long since I’ve gotten to go on a real road trip,” Daphne said. “I was getting real sick of planes.”

“Yeah, there’s just something about it,” Fred agreed.

“How does she drive?” Velma asked.

“Just like how I remember,” Fred said, the fondness clear in his voice. “Anybody have any road trip games we can play on the way?”

“What, like ‘I spy?’” Shaggy asked.

Fred shrugged. “Maybe. I dunno, we’re probably going to want something to do after a few hours.”

“I’ve got one,” Daphne said. “Why don’t we just ask a question to the ‘room,’ and everyone gives an answer? It’s been a while and I think that would give us something to do and let us maybe catch up a little more.”

“Why not? I’m down,” Velma said.

“Yeah, that could be fun,” reported Fred.

“Sure,” said Shaggy.

“I’ll start then,” Daphne said. “Let’s get right to the juicy stuff. Any of you have anyone special back home?” There was a mischievous lilt to Daphne’s voice.

Shaggy laughed. “No.”

Velma shook her head.

Fred thought for a second. “I did, but not anymore. Didn’t work out.”

“Oh?” Daphne said with a smile, her interest plainly piqued.

“It’s nothing that interesting,” Fred continued. “It was just… pretty obvious things with me and her weren’t going to work out.”

“Did you end it or did she?” Daphne asked.

“Ah-ah,” Fred said, raising a finger in objection. “You already had your one question.”

“Killjoy,” Daphne joked back.

“Speaking of that, does the asker have to answer their own question?” Velma said.

Daphne shrugged. “I don’t know. I guess if they want to maybe.”

“So… do you want to?” Velma said.

“Awfully curious, huh Velma?” Daphne said.

Velma was thankful that she was sitting ahead of Daphne, otherwise, she might’ve seen Velma blush. “No, I mean-- I was just asking.”

“Mhm,” Daphne said. “Well if you read the tabloids there’s about thirty different people I might be dating, give or take a few that are secret affairs. But if you want the whole truth I honestly just haven’t given myself the time to even consider dating.”

“We’re all a bunch of casanovas in here I see,” Fred joked. “I think I’ll take the next question.”

The ride continued on like this for hours, questions asked and answers given, until the sun started to descend below the horizon. Fred pulled up to the next motel, and the gang exited to bed down for the night.

 

Velma’s dreams were not peaceful. She could barely even understand them. She felt trapped in a sea of swirling black -- strange, alien voices were around her speaking words she could not follow. Her body felt light, like a vapor that was in danger of drifting away at any second if she didn’t focus on holding herself together. The voices got louder, louder like someone was shouting them into her mind.

Velma sprang up from her bed, breathing heavily. She tried to calm herself by looking at her surroundings. She was in the motel room, the lights were out, and she was in her own bed on the side of the room closer to the door, with Daphne on the other nearby. No sea of darkness, no weird voices. Just an ordinary, everyday motel room. She sighed. She needed some fresh air.

Velma pulled on some pants and shoes, and walked outside. She climbed onto the hood of the Mystery Machine, laying her back against the windshield. There was a cool, gentle breeze that rustled the trees of a small forest nearby. There were rolling hills of grass and other plant life, the sound of insects chirping away the night. Peace.

“Velma?”

Velma turned her head to see Daphne walk up next to her. Velma thought she’d been quieter than that. “Sorry if I woke you up.”

“Don’t worry about that,” Daphne said. “Bad dream?”

“Something like that,” Velma said. “I needed to clear my head.”

Daphne nodded. “Well, got room for two up there?”

Velma scooted to the side and tapped the hood next to her.

Daphne climbed up next to her and sat with her head back, looking up at the stars. “You can see them so clearly out here,” she said. “It’s been a while since I’ve really gotten to take a good look at them like this.”

“Yeah,” Velma said. “They’re really something. Make you feel small, but like… in a good way. Reminding you that there’s so much bigger than yourself out there.”

Daphne nodded. “I was… so sad. For so long. I feel like that must seem dumb, I mean. I had everything anyone could ever want, right? But… it wasn’t what I wanted. You can only force yourself to be something you’re not for so long.”

“Yeah…” Velma said.

Daphne looked at her. “It really is good to see you again. I missed everyone, but… I don’t know. I really missed you.”

“I… I missed you too,” Velma said. She gave a wry smile. “Guess we just can’t stay away from each other for too long, huh?”

“Eleven years is a pretty long streak,” Daphne said. “But I’m not in any rush to beat that record.”

They grew quiet and let the sounds of the night take over. Velma couldn’t help but notice how close they were, just barely touching. Taking a risk, she laid her head against Daphne’s shoulder. Daphne didn’t flinch or move away, nor even acknowledge the act. They sat there with each other for company, and at that moment it was all the company they needed.

Chapter Text

Shaggy and Fred had not gone to bed yet, though Scooby seemed to have no trouble curling up at the foot of Shaggy’s bed and snoring softly while Shaggy himself was sat up in an armchair, looking at his phone. Fred paced around the room, taking in its countenance with a keen, observing eye. As motels go, it wasn’t the worst. It looked clean at the very least, though the somewhat sickly yellow color of the walls wasn’t exactly the spitting image of comfort. The bedsheets were basic and, by the feel of the materials, cheap, but not profoundly uncomfortable either. The whole room was somewhere in-between worse and better.

“Man I’m hungry,” said Shaggy from his corner that the armchair resided in.

“And water is wet,” Fred replied with a smirk. “Think I saw a vending machine in the lobby, want anything?”

Shaggy thought to himself for a moment. “Nah, I’m alright.”

Fred sat down on the end of his bed, looking over at Shaggy, who hadn’t looked up from his phone. In the years since they had last been all together, Shaggy had changed remarkably little. He’d always looked a little older than he really was back in the day -- he sometimes mentioned that he could get into an R-rated movie without being asked for I.D. -- and now he looked much the same. His eyes looked a little older, Fred decided -- like they had seen more.

“Hey, Shag?”

Shaggy looked up with an acknowledging glance.

“You… I mean I’m glad we’re all doing this again and all, but… I don’t know, I just wanted to ask and make sure you didn’t feel like you were leaving anything important behind.”

Shaggy gave a curt laugh. “Like what? I was just hopping from underpaid job to underpaid job. Wasn’t exactly glamorous.”

“Guess not,” Fred said. “But still, eleven years is a long time. I mean we all met different people in that time, did different things….”

Shaggy nodded. “Sure, I guess. But like, I don’t know man, I just…” he sighed. “I just haven’t met anyone that’s really felt like a fixture, y’know? One of those people that you like, become friends with and you know that’s it’s something that’s going to last.” Shaggy gave Fred a discerning look. “Is that something you’re worried about? Leaving stuff behind?”

Fred didn’t answer for a moment. “I… in a way, yeah. I don’t know, it all sounded great when it was just an idea we were talking about but now this is reality. We’re really doing this. And as great as it feels now, is it going to stay that way. People don’t stay the same after a decade, even if we get along fine for now we’re not the same as we were as teenagers. What if this doesn’t work out?”

Shaggy shrugged. “Then like, it doesn’t man.”

Fred gave him a wry smile. “Nothing much phases you, huh Shaggy?”

Shaggy shrugged again. “Sometimes you just gotta like, live with what comes, y’know? I mean I can’t see the future or anything, I don’t know where this all goes or ends or whatever. But right now I’m here, and everyone else is here, and whatever ends up happening is what happens. We can’t tell what that will be before it happens, and after it’s happened it can’t be changed.”

“‘Go with the flow,’ huh?”

Shaggy pointed a finger at Fred. “Exactly! I don’t think we’ll regret this, even if it doesn’t last -- it’ll just be another good memory for us to share.”

Fred nodded, and then went quiet for a few moments. Thinking that signified the end of the conversation, Shaggy went back to his phone. After a minute, Fred finally spoke again. “Want to know something Shaggy?”

Shaggy glanced up. “What?”

“When I started working on special effects, it just… it didn’t feel as good as I thought it would. I mean it wasn’t bad, but it was… missing something. Something that, for the life of me, I just could not figure out.”

“Did you figure it out eventually?”

Fred nodded. “It took a few years for it to click, but… I did. Everything just worked too… too perfectly . Sure something would go wrong every now and then, but it was usually something small that we could fix easily. Nothing going completely off the rails, nothing that forced us to change plans.” He looked over to the Great Dane laying stretched out on Shaggy’s bed. “No big dogs or their owners there to mess it up. It was boring.

Shaggy laughed. “Good one.”

“I’m serious!” Fred sounded suddenly passionate and emphatic, straightening his posture and moving his hands. “If every plan worked perfectly, then it would just be boring. I lived for the moments where something would go wrong and then we had to react, had to change our ideas on the fly, and on the few times something worked just like how we had strategized the fact that something could go wrong made those successes special. Things just got too predictable without you and Scooby around.”

Not used to being praised in this way, Shaggy awkwardly scratched at the back of his neck. “Well… zoinks man, thanks.” He laughed again. “I think I missed having plans to ruin too.”

Fred chuckled. “It’s good to have you around again, Shag. Truthfully.”

“Ditto,” Shaggy said.

A pause of uncertain silence hung in the air, with neither party being sure of what to say or not say next. “Well, it’s getting pretty late and I’m sure the girls are probably asleep by now. We should get some rest.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Shaggy said. “Got a whole lot more driving ahead of us tomorrow.”

Fred groaned, standing up and stretching out his back. “Yeah. We should start taking shifts driving.”

Shaggy thought for a moment. “Well like, I don’t have a driver’s license, so… I don’t think I can. Daphne probably does, but I don’t know about Velma.”

Fred shrugged. “We can ask in the morning. Have a good night, Shag.” With that he took off his jeans, clambered under the sheets on his bed, and turned out the light. Shaggy sat there for a moment in the diminished light, with only the nearby desk lamp still on. He thought about what Velma had confided in him years ago -- what he never had the courage to confide in her -- about second chances and missed opportunities, and about what it meant to start again. He thought about the uncertain future ahead of them, and the feeling in his gut that he couldn’t shake -- the feeling that something was going to go wrong. Or already had. He shook his head as if trying to force them from his mind, and an hour later he too was in his own bed, asleep.