Sickness of the Dark

He was used to pain. Master Xehanort’s training was brutal, relentless. It’s part of why Vanitas was as powerful as he was. No one was going easy on him, and he’d destroy them if they tried.

But this? This was hell. The fever had him coated in sickly sweat that clung to him, every muscle aching at the slightest motion. And Vanitas wasn’t making a secret of it.

“Quit whining,” Repliku teased, his footsteps echoing in the barren room over to Vanitas’ bed. A heap of warm blankets fell on him, and Vanitas pulled them around him instantly.

Glaring out of the blanket cave with watchful gold eyes, he bit back, “This is worse than death. Go to hell.”

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“You have the flu,” his training partner corrected, a smug smirk coming to his stupid face. He dropped a box of tissues and a steaming bowl on the upturned box by the bed.

Turning back and dragging a chair over to the bed, Repliku offered up a bottle with a tiny cup over the lid. “Take this, and you can stop being such a baby.”

“Bite me.” Vanitas still reached past the overlapping blankets to grab the bottle and pull it into his lair.

“Not a chance. You’re infected.” Repliku chuckled at his own joke, and Vanitas heard him take a seat in the battered chair as it creaked. He threw the tiny plastic cup out at the silver-haired loser; what did he need it for anyway?

“The hell are you doing?”

“Isn’t it obvious? Watching over you.”

He didn’t have an answer to that, not yet. Did he think he was weak? What was this supposed to mean? Vanitas scowled and wrenched the bottle’s lid off, almost breaking it more than removing it, and had a drink.

…Immediately coughing. He couldn’t shove the bottle out fast enough to Repliku. “This is nasty. You trying to kill me?”

His ally’s callused fingers brushed against Vanitas’ hand as he took the disgusting medicine back. “So sorry, princess,” he taunted with a laugh. “They only had cherry, not grape.”

“Gross,” he snapped back, like that wasn’t obvious enough already. What an idiot, remembering the flavor he liked just to not get it.

He wriggled his way to an opening in the blanket, frowning at Repliku. “That bowl better have something good to make up for it.”

“Already so demanding.” He still passed the bowl to Vanitas, who took it and nudged at the onions in it with a spoon. Why’d he keep bringing gross stuff? “You must be feeling better.”

“Whatever,” he muttered. “What do you want, anyway?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” Vanitas rolled his eyes at that answer, not that Repliku bothered looking at him instead of the wall. No, loser, that’s why I asked. “I want my partner back.”

He felt the power of the Unversed pulling at him, eager to be called out. Vanitas learned to control them, so he held it back… The uncertainty. Or something like it, whatever. It’d been a while for that one, tch. What was he thinking, saying lame stuff like that?

“It’s boring, making fun of the others on my own. And no one spars like you. They cheat or don’t even try,” Repliku spat, his face contorting to a cutting scowl. “So.” His expression softened, a familiar grin taking over as he looked at Vanitas. “Now do you get it?”

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Vanitas pulled back into the blankets, eating the soup in the dark there as his face warmed up. Maybe it was the soup or his breath heating up the blanket cave, there was no way he was blushing. He wasn’t weak, overcome by feelings all the time like Ventus.

“Yeah, yeah,” he shot back. “I’ll be fine in a couple hours. Then I’ll kick your ass.”

“Ha!” One sharp laugh, that was better than any stupid medicine. Finally, Vanitas had someone he could count on, not like any of those pathetic wimps.

He didn’t need Repliku, not like Ventus and his friends, and he wouldn’t turn on him for some dumb fake power play. They were both strong enough already. “I’ll hold you to it.”

BioQuest: Free

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Was she ready? It was a good question even if she didn’t feel any fear at facing Fontaine… There was someone she was afraid of leaving behind. Almost without thinking, Elizabeth reached out for the front of Jack’s sweater, her fingers twisting around plush, worn cabled yarn as she pulled him into a kiss.

Not a chaste one either. The last they might ever share if something went wrong, as this things so often did, and she put all that feeling into it. Jack gasped and she took the opportunity to deepen the kiss, her face flushing at how bold she was being.

But this was it, perhaps the only chance she’d have. Elizabeth had no idea what she doing outside of the romance books from the tower she read time and again.

The hand he’d held out to her found its way to her back and for a moment, she could pretend they were safe and the fight was already over.

Then Jack pulled away, resting his forehead against hers and gently rubbing her back. “It’s time, Elizabeth.” He didn’t have to say any more. “I love you with everything I am, whatever that might be… I’m yours.”

Elizabeth chuckled warmly as tears pricked at her eyes, not quite coming. “You’re whoever you want to be, Jack. And wherever your path takes you, no matter what comes, I will always love you.”

She opened her eyes to see his still closed, and he bit his lip to keep from crying– she assumed. He turned to the stairs, going up and into the elevator and kept his head down.

“Thanks, Elizabeth. For everything you’ve done. I…” His voice wavered for a second and he recovered as she came to join him, holding his hand. “Thanks.”

— Fontaine’s Lair —

“We didn’ know one another long, boyo,” Atlas droned as the elevator rose. At the gates of the last stand, it made sense that she felt Jack’s hand tighten around hers. “But you? You were like a second son t’me.”

The ADAM distorted his voice and she almost couldn’t believe it hadn’t warped his mind so far that he’d drop the Atlas ruse.

“Way I see it, your old man took my family from me. All of it,” he spat. “And that’s why this hurts. Betrayal, boyo… I know life ain’t fair, I know it better than most. But this one’s personal.”

And the elevator stopped, pausing for only a moment before the deco doors slid open to reveal the massive empty room. In its center stood some device, Atlas— no, Fontaine suspended and barely recognizable as human, never mind himself. Ryan was slumped over in a chair beside him, bloodied but still breathing.

“I’ll take care of draining the ADAM,” Jack explained, pulling his hand away as his eyes hardened. “And I’ll fight with everything I’ve got.”

“You won’t be alone in that,” Elizabeth answered curtly, holding her gun at the ready.

The fighting truly began once Jack drained him of ADAM, and Fontaine broke free, backhanding Jack clear across the foyer. It was chaos from then out– a cycle of super-powered plasmids overtaking Fontaine’s body as his ADAM resources became more and more depleted.

He screamed at them from the device, how he was going to cut them to pieces and the girls would be next, all the most horrible things he could think of. Elizabeth wondered if there was another version of him in some reality that might be horrified by this, but somehow, she doubted it.

It was luck that she found the bot shutdown panel before the security bots got too out of hand, and that bought her time to hack them to their side too. The splicers were another story altogether, even with Jack turning them with Enrage…

Every muscle in her body screamed, and there were far too many close calls to count. Jack drove the needle into Fontaine’s chest for the fourth time, hopefully the last. But he didn’t move fast enough to evade another brutal backhand from Atlas that sent him flying.

“Jack!” She started reloading, cursing the exhaustion that fighting this long brought with it.

“I made you,” Fontaine began, stomping towards Jack as he scrambled back. “Showed you what you were, all you were capable of… If you don’call that family, I don’t know what is!”

She finished reloading, aiming for his heart, when the first little girl leapt at him. But it wasn’t until the rest of the girls came from the tunnels of Rapture, stabbing him as their cries mixed with his, that Elizabeth could let herself believe it was over. Well and truly over.

Everyone was free.

She ran to Jack, dropping her weapon uselessly to the ground as she helped him to his feet. “Jack, are you hurt?”

“All over,” he breathed but smiled. “But… I can be free. I can go anywhere, be anyone.” He didn’t seem to believe it himself. One of the little ones ran up to him as Tenenbaum and Booker stepped out of the elevator, going straight for Ryan.

“I think I’d like to be with you. In Paris,” he added, laughing tiredly. “I don’t even know where that is or what it looks like.”

Elizabeth threw her arms around him, pulling him in tightly. “It’s alright. We’ll see it for the first time together.”


An epilogue turned out to not be necessary, so this is the end! Thank you for all your support.

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BioQuest: To the Point

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The presentation of two doses of Lot 192 from Tenenbaum got more of a reaction from Jack than the message from Atlas did. As pained as he was, he seemed suddenly… Unsure was the closest word Elizabeth had. He stared at the bottles as if they might disappear at any second.

“Drink them both quickly,” she ordered, somberly staring him down. “This will not be pleasant.”

Like a spell was lifted, Jack took both bottles without a moment’s hesitation and downed the first. He almost dropped the bottle once it was empty, a shuddering gasp escaping him the second he was finished drinking.

“Tenenbaum,” Elizabeth warned, reaching out to Jack to– she didn’t know what. How could she help when she didn’t even know what was happening? She could feel the tremors in his body even with a light touch.

“Nein, Jack, the second bottle,” the mother in her kicked in, pushing his other hand up to jolt him out of whatever the effects of the first were. Fire and electricity ran up his forearms and over his hands as he drank the second bottle, his face twisted in pain.

“Jesus, Mary’n Joseph,” McDonough exclaimed, taking a few hearty steps back. “What in blazes?!”

“It’s… It’s over now.” Jack did drop the bottles now, color back in his face even as he trembled– however slightly. “We need to go.”

Elizabeth nodded, knowing this is exactly what she would want in his place. “And we will.” She marched over to him, met with a tired, confused stare as his shoulders slumped. And Elizabeth hugged him gently, feeling his breath steadying and finding a bit of solace in that. “I love you, Jack. Now that I’ve said it, we can go.”

She tried to ignore Booker and Tenenbaum sharing a grin, but her own smile wouldn’t quit.

“I’m… Right behind you!” Jack caught up, walking beside her with a bright-eyed smirk. Whatever Point Prometheus held, she knew they could handle it. Together, they could handle anything.

“W-wait,” a young girl’s voice called after them, and she turned to see Sylvette. She gave Jack the present from the girls at his birthday party, and she was close with Carol, but Elizabeth didn’t know much else about her. “You’ll need help… From a former Little Sister. Fontaine, he… He’s splicing now. I can help you against him. Me and my sisters.”

Without missing a beat, Jack nodded. “Thank you, Sylvette. This means a lot to me.”

Her smile was faint, almost invisible in the dark, and even less obvious as she shrank in shy delight. “Oh… Of course. We’re family.”

— At Point Prometheus —

Leaving the Bathysphere station, everything was calm… Even if it was in shambles.

“Watch your step,” Sylvette advised, flitting over the wreckage like a natural. Her boots helped with that, no doubt, though her floral overalls were well out of place here. Elizabeth figured her dress and Jack’s knit sweater were too, though.

“Oi remember puttin’ you into that sub,” Atlas drawled on overhead speakers, so sincerely hurt. Jack exhaled sharply, but otherwise, his mouth was set in a hard line and he never stopped scanning their surroundings as they pushed ahead.

Atlas had to have his people eating up some story or another, a hint of the truth drowned out by pretty lies. “T’help you escape this awful place. And what’s my thanks? You come right on back, but to save your daddy even after he tried to kill your mum.”

Turrets and splicers broke up his speeches, inaudible underneath her calls out to Jack, Sylvette warning about more splicers, and the general chaos of combat.

“S’ppose there’s no helpin’ it. Blood’s blood, and yours is tainted,” he accused. Even if Jack didn’t feel that, she did. Her grip tightened on her weapon, and Elizabeth got a second wind. Atlas would eat those words.

“You wanna find me, save your wretch of a father?” He chuckled drily, a twinge of… Something else layering his voice now. Something inhuman. “Come to the top o’ the Point. We’ll settle this like men.”

The overhead speakers hissed off, and they came out from their long trek to an atrium of sorts… Filled with vending machines and weapons, and the odd corpse or leak. Had Fontaine been preparing for them here, just like they would now? And where was Ryan?

Sylvette darted over to a Little Sister holding out a needle from the flower tunnel, muttering something to her before running back.

“We… We can’t beat him without this.” She bit her lip, looking down at it before presenting it to Jack. “Drain him of ADAM. It’s the only way.”

He took the needle, pulling her into a one-armed hug. His voice was low, tender, but Elizabeth could just make out the words. “Thanks again. You’re the family I’ve always wanted. All of you.”

With a sniff, she nodded and took off to the tunnel. Soon, she would be too big to use it. Carol was already, and she was so proud of herself for it. For them, they had to win. This was why they came here from Columbia in the first place, and she got so much more than she ever hoped for.

“Elizabeth?” Jack held his open hand out to her, waiting for her on the first few steps to the elevator that would take them to Fontaine. “Are you ready?”


What do you want to do, Elizabeth?

Two chapters remain, potentially one (an epilogue will only happen if I need to tie up any loose ends). 

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BioQuest: The Fray

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Tenenbaum didn’t say a word, just kept getting her supplies together in preparation to make Lot 192. Looked like she was coming along, at least, but it was up to Elizabeth to decide anything that remained.

With a careful breath as she watched Jack, Elizabeth reached for the radio from Diane. She only hesitated for a second before opening the channel. “Booker, do you read me?”

“Yes,” he answered, curt with the expectation of worse news he always seemed to carry. He wouldn’t be wrong, not this time. “McDonough’s secure.”

“Can you meet us Suchong’s old apartment? We need Lot 192 for Jack now.” As if on cue, Jack hissed and tensed while he was getting his weapons together for braving the city. Try as he might to be subtle about it, Elizabeth couldn’t keep from noticing his every expression and stumble.

“The hell happened?” An echo of McDonough in the background layered with Booker’s response, but they didn’t have time for either. Not yet.

“We’ll tell you when we get there,” Elizabeth explained, picking up extra ammo for her gun.

“Right,” he grumbled and the line went to static.

“Ready to go?” Tenenbaum hadn’t wasted a moment, her pistol and science equipment ready.

“As I’ll ever be,” Jack breathed, pale but determined as he made his way to the exit.

“I’ll stay with the girls and watch the clinic. You be safe out there, you hear me?” Diane squeezed Elizabeth’s hand gently, giving her a worried smile.

“Of course, Diane.” Elizabeth felt a pang of guilt that it couldn’t be a promise, but she would do her best. They all needed to come home.

– – – Outside Suchong’s Old Apartment – – –

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Slowed down by Jack, they arrived to gunfire and shouting already underway. Without a word, everyone reacted like a well-oiled machine. They covered each other’s back and pushed forward to the apartment itself– no sign of Booker or McDonough, unless the dead splicers they passed counted as evidence.

“Elizabeth,” Jack called out, pointing down the hallway to a lit room across from a slumped over, bloody splicer. “The– there. I saw Booker.”

How he caught so much in battle, she would never know. She nodded, leading the way with her gun ready. Tenenbaum shoved past, going directly for the shelves and muttering in German.

“Thank God,” Booker muttered, stepping back to give her space. Science was… Out of his scope, so she couldn’t be surprised.

booker dewitt bioshock.jpg

“Good to see you too,” she teased him, smirking. Everything had been so chaotic from possible treaties to Atlas’ ambitions, this was a shred of normalcy Elizabeth needed.

“Aha!” That was the only alert from Tenenbaum that she was making progress before she cleared off a battered desk and set to work.

“So…” McDonough cleared his throat, thumbing to Jack. He looked older than she thought he’d be, but he had a naturally fatherly air about him that made you want to trust him. “This the kid?”

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“Yeah,” Booker answered, studying Jack and his unsteady breathing. “Yeah, that’s the one.”

“Ryan’s kid,” McDonough said through a laugh. “Yer dad’s not a bad man, son, he’s just…” He scratched the back of his head awkwardly, the sentence dying. “I’m Bill McDonough. ‘S great to meet ya.”

“Thanks,” Jack answered, taking Bill’s offered hand. “He… Kind of is.”

“Almost done,” Tenenbaum interrupted, though Elizabeth doubted that she’d known she had. This was Tenenbaum’s area of expertise, after all.

“Hello, boyo,” came the fizzled voice of Atlas through Booker’s radio. “Hope you ‘ad fun cutting down my people,” he spat, a sure sign he wasn’t alone. He only had to put on a show for his people, not one of them mattered to him.

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“‘Cause we’re gonna get even.” Elizabeth raised her eyebrows, distantly impressed with his emotion. For a person who can’t bring himself to genuinely connect, he almost sounded invested. “Hurry now to Point Prometheus, an’ you might just be in time to save yer old man.”

Thankfully, they had Tenenbaum to break up the staticy silence that followed.

“Jack,” she called him over, holding up two bottles. “You’re a free man.”


What do you want to do, Elizabeth?

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Chapter 4: Secret Ritual

Hawke woke to incessant knocking with far too brief bouts of quiet between. He rolled in his bed, pulling sheets with him. “You’re just drunk, Sergius. Again,” he muttered, shooing away one of the neighbors packed in around Gamlen’s ramshackle home.

“Good morning to you too,” Carver grumbled.

Carver Hawke Templar Dragon Age.jpg

Ah, it was coming back now. Hawke sat up, stretching to loosen the tension in his shoulders, but there just wasn’t any getting rid of it. Andraste’s ass, this bed was a curse worse than any magic. A bit of morning light filtered down to Hawke, but hardly enough to wake him up. It was no Hightown, that much was obvious. Still— better than the Deep Roads.

“My own brother, here to fetch me?” Hawke teased, swinging his legs out of bed and approaching Carver at the door. Rather, through the slotted window in the door. “I’d been promised a rotating guard. And here I was, worried I’d start to miss you. Barely got a wink.”

“Don’t joke, brother,” Carver scolded, unlocking the door. “They don’t call it the Harrowing because it’s easy.” He stepped back with a scowl set on his face that really was going to turn him into Gamlen if he kept it up. And Hawke knew what that meant. He’d sooner die than admit it, but Carver was worried, and so the joking had to stop. …Alright, he’d just slow it down a little.

“Oh, I’m sure I’ll be alright. Lead the way, Ser Carver,” he teased with a smirk. It wasn’t a spritely dance to lift his spirits, but that was more of a Carver trick anyway. Didn’t have much of an effect regardless as his little brother turned without a word and they rounded a corner into another indistinguishable hallway of the Gallows.

Identical wall torches were all placed the same distance apart and slivers in the walls that were supposedly windows gave no hint as to where they were in relation to the outside. Dark doorways broke up the monotony of the stone halls, but even those doorframes matched each other perfectly.

The Harrowing would be easy for Hawke, no matter what Carver fussed over. What weighed on him now was the idea of Merrill travelling these halls alone at night in a couple weeks without getting lost. There would be no ball of yarn this time, not like in the alienage, and she couldn’t risk being late.

One step at a time. First, the Harrowing.

“They’re testing me, you know. That’s why they sent me for this.” Carver wouldn’t actually look at Hawke while he talked this over. Strangely, no one else was around, but at least it afforded them this moment for Carver to get this weight off his chest and onto his brother’s shoulders. After all, what were big brothers for? “I’ll be watching your Harrowing with Cullen. It has to be perfect.”

“It’s hardly my first visit to the Fade, you know that. Trust me! This won’t be much of a test for either of us,” he encouraged Carver. “I’ll be back before you can miss me.”

Carver scoffed, finally granting Hawke a glance. Barely. Walking up a set of stairs leading to another level in the Gallows, Hawke wasn’t sure which, Carver continued. “You’re not taking this seriously. If you get possessed, I’ll have to—” He cut himself off with a grumble and stopped suddenly on the landing.

Carver had an explanation ready before Hawke could even start to ask what this hesitation was about. “Right, before we get too far… After the Harrowing, watch out for Ser Alrik or anyone who looks like they don’t want to run screaming from him. He’s a nasty one, probably the worst Templar here.”

“Take the Harrowing seriously and avoid Alrik. I think I can do that,” Hawke answered brightly, flashing a smile to counter Carver’s scowl.

“Maker’s breath, just follow me.”

Harrowing_Chamber.png

At the Harrowing chamber, which may or may not be what it was actually called, few Templars in full armor waited with Cullen and Orsino. Hawke had a tendency to turn heads when he entered a place, but nothing like this. Andraste’s ass, it was like being at his own funeral.

“Hawke,” Orsino acknowledged him, sounding somewhere between exhausted and irritated as he usually did. At least he was consistent. Carver went to join Cullen while Orsino came over to Hawke, his back to the Templars almost as if they were scheming.

“I’m not certain what you’ve heard about the Harrowing, but it’s nothing like a normal visit to the Fade.”

“Of course not,” Hawke teased, smirking and already prepared for the worst. It’s not as though he lied to Carver before; he truly was confident that he could handle whatever came his way. It’d worked so far, why question it?

“This ritual sends you to the realm of dreams to contend with a demon with only your willpower to guide you.” Orsino, as somber as ever, looked up at Hawke with an intense, prying gaze. “Do you understand—”

“First Enchanter,” Cullen interrupted. “Each mage has to go through their Harrowing without prior instruction to prove they can shield themselves from the threat of demons.”

Orsino had instructions of a sort for Cullen, Hawke could tell that much even as the elven mage stepped back to stand a good distance away from everyone present. The stoup of lyrium in the center of the room couldn’t be more obviously for the ritual, so Hawke approached it with everyone’s stares boring into his back.

“Sirrah Hawke,” Cullen continued, his voice level with years of practice beginning this speech. Watching the lyrium swirl and glow, as if it were alive, Hawke kept his back to them all and listened. “Place your hand in the lyrium to enter the Fade and begin the Harrowing. If you fail, we Templars will uphold our duty.” The gravity of the pause told Hawke he wasn’t done and that he had nothing nice to say. What a shame. “You will die.”

So that’s what had Carver so worked up.

“Well, no one wants that.” Alright, a few people did. Hawke slipped his hand into the lyrium and felt the cold, lightning rush of the Fade overtake him.

BioQuest: Sideways

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Elizabeth didn’t have an exact count on how many people from the Family were with Grace, but she believed Grace wouldn’t let harm come to them. Even if they didn’t agree to the truce, she’d keep the peace. Elizabeth had to believe that.

“I have considered your offer, but I actually come here with one of my own.” She holstered her weapon, hearing Diane doing the very same behind her. If anyone recognized her in connection to Ryan, they didn’t mention it.

“We’ve made a truce with Ryan,” she started frankly, hoping that honesty would earn her some leniency. Elizabeth saw anger come to Grace quickly, spreading to the Family with her like wildfire.

“A truce with that monster! Like he cares what happens to the good people of Rapture,” she scoffed. “Throw your lot in with him if you like, but we–”

“Grace, please hear me out before you decide. I implore you,” Elizabeth begged, trying to pull this back from the brink. She only had this one chance. “This is our opportunity to bring peace to Rapture for everyone.”

Grace shook her head, scowl unwavering. “Peace? That animal doesn’t want any peace.” Muttering agreement rippled through the group beyond her. “How can you tell me about peace with Ryan when he holds Dr. Lamb, the one who really cares about us little people?”

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“We’ll talk to him about Dr. Lamb,” Diane interjected, stepping up to stand beside Elizabeth. “It’s the only right thing to do.”

It was a tall order, but they had to try it. And the fact that Diane came forward… Elizabeth couldn’t be happier. Her friend was finding the self-esteem to be brave when she had to be.

“You do that,” Grace bit back, but at least her expression had softened slightly. “But you hear this, and you remember it well: his answer is ours.”

“I understand,” Elizabeth nodded, taking the unspoken command to leave. Diane walked alongside her in silence until they were far enough from the Limbo Room for comfort when the radio she carried crackled to life.

“Zur Hölle fahren,” came the first distant words, and Elizabeth’s heart froze. Gunfire followed while Diane scrambled to get the radio where they could both speak into it.

“Tenenbaum! Can you hear me?” Elizabeth waited for what felt like ages in static.

“Yes, yes, I hear you,” she snapped back. “Scheisse.” More gunfire burst in the background. “Fontaine was watching us. With you both and Booker gone, he attacked.”

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“Oh, oh no,” Diane worried, her brows furrowing. “What about the girls?”

“And Jack?” They only just opened up to one another, finally starting to date. She waited for him to ask, why did she do that? What if he was–

“We pushed him back. They’re safe, but not for long.” Static punctuated her sentence and it was all Elizabeth could do not to run off without a word.

“We’ll be there soon,” Elizabeth promised, rushing ahead as Diane hurried to keep up.

– – – Back at the clinic – – –

The first thing she heard was Jack biting back a scream, and Elizabeth couldn’t hold back anymore.

“Lizzie, wait,” Diane tried to shout, breathless, but with no luck in stopping her.

“Jack, where are you? Jack,” she called again, running through the second set of clinic doors to see him breathless, pale, and sweaty, leaning again a counter.

“H-here,” he forced out, wincing.

“Fontaine used a command, one I need Lot 192 to reverse,” Tenenbaum explained from her lab area. “Ryan hasn’t delivered, so we would have to go and get the supplies ourselves. But he can’t go anywhere.”

“I can–” Jack cut off in a horrid gasp, gripping the edge of the counter he was against. “I can go. I’ve had worse.”

“You aren’t convincing anyone, Jack,” Elizabeth said, tempted to be gentler but knowing she had to be honest first.

“I need the dose, or I’ll die waiting here for it. My heart is stopping every–” He cringed, eyes shut tight for a few seconds. “It’s stopping too often. I won’t make it unless I go too.”


What do you want to do, Elizabeth?

Read the next chapter.

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Have a Good Scare

“Weeeird!” Demyx squeaked, twisting around and bending his arms to look at the fins sprouting from his limbs. Thin fog sat close to the ground in the graveyard and Jack o’ lanterns were skewered on wrought iron fence posts over the headstones. A grinning scarecrow pointed further into the world where Xigbar was assigned with Demyx to scope the place out. This was his first big mission without Vexen nagging him— or instructing, he called it. Not that it meant Xigbar was about to give blondie a break.

“Hey, ‘s no big deal.” Xigbar shrugged it off. “What, this your first transformation?” He nodded to Demyx, a smirk on his face. He could feel stitches pulling on his skin, but it didn’t hurt a bit. So he was some kind of Frankenstein’s monster and Demyx was a creature from a lagoon. If nothing else, at least the sneaky little slacker would get a chance to be scary for once in his life.

“Uhh… Yes?” Demyx frowned in confusion, but that got him standing still for a change. Sure, Xigbar recruited the kid for the cause, but even he had his doubts sometimes that he was really cut out to wear the cloak. Not that it mattered much in the grand scheme of things, anyway. And hey, Xigbar liked having someone fun around for once. The others were so uptight all the time, and when he ran out of munny to lose to Luxord (and steal back later), Demyx was always right there and ready to prank and be pranked.

“Ha! What’re you asking me for?” He shook his head, chuckling. “Don’t you know for sure?”

“Well, yeah, it’s just, couldn’t we go a place that’s less…” He tugged at the tattered, faded shirt hanging loosely over his scaled skin, eyeing the area now instead of dwelling on his new form.

“Less what?” Xigbar knew the answer, but he had to lead the kid on. Where’s the fun in not doing that? For a guy told all the time that he didn’t have a heart, Demyx sure gave the best reactions to his feelings. If people took him more seriously, that might’ve been a problem. Lucky for the both of them that he did barely enough to not be turned into a Dusk, then.

“Ah, y’know, it’s kinda…” Demyx dragged it out, leaning to look past Xigbar into the dark, shadowy town through the iron gate. “Kinda scary here.”

“Scary? As if!” Xigbar turned around, waving over his shoulder as he went ahead toward the town. “You don’t even exist, remember? Not like you can die again, Dem. What’s to be scared of, huh?”

Demyx groaned, shuffling along in awkward steps. He was never a graceful guy, but from the sounds of his steps, the transformation really screwed up his stride with all those fins made for swimming, not walking. “Fiiiine. Just a quick look, yeah? Then we run back and RTC?”

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“Nah, we gotta get the whole job done right.” Not his favorite thing to do either, but what can you do? “Check your little card— says we gotta team up, infiltrate the world, and get intel. Maybe you like Saïx yelling at you all the time, but I didn’t sign up for that.”

“Okay, okay,” he begrudgingly agreed, trotting to catch up with Xigbar. Demyx was even quiet for almost a full thirty seconds when he found his nasally voice again. “Do you, uhh… D’ya hear that?”

Xigbar stopped, focusing on their surroundings when he heard a tune in the air. “Singing?” Of course he noticed the music before Xigbar did.

“It’s our town, everybody scream,” shrill voices sang, but even Xigbar was running into trouble placing exactly where the singers were. “In this town of Halloween!”

Whisps of white blurred around them and Demyx let out a shriek, bubbles forming and dissolving as he realized the ghosts already took off again. What, was Xigbar s’posed to pretend he didn’t see that? Turn a blind eye? The bad joke to himself just made him laugh harder.

“C’mon, man,” Demyx whined, rubbing his arm self-consciously. He really was a terrible swamp monster. “You’ve been laughing like that forever…”

“Exaggeration, much?” It’d been, what, maybe a few seconds. Not Xigbar’s fault he was self-conscious about being a scaredy-cat. “‘Sides, you’re in for a lot worse than that. You hear them over your squealing?”

“H-hey, it’s not a squeal, it’s— Enngh, never mind.” Dem caught sight of his smirk and dropped it then and there. He knew a losing battle when he saw one, even if he always just ran away from ‘em. “They sang about a town of Halloween, so that’s gotta be here. I mean, just look at the place. Spooky.”

“Oh, so you do listen?”

“Huh?” He tried playing innocent, scratching his cheek absently and avoiding all eye contact. As if that was gonna make him more believable. “Umm. Sometimes.”

“Uh-huh, sure,” Xigbar dismissed with a sneer. He could taunt Demyx about that all he wanted on this mission, but they did actually have work to do before the day was out and Saïx had a fit. Xigbar outranked him and all, but he was easier to deal with once he had what he wanted. “Alright, time to dig up some intel. Fear’s a good emotion to keep folks in check, so I betcha Lord Xemnas will love hearin’ about this.”

“Yeah, probably,” Demyx agreed half-heartedly, kicking a pebble along the graveyard pathway. “He already scares me a lot, an’I… Xiggy?” When the musician kid wasn’t looking, Xigbar used his powers to teleport himself behind him. No harm in a little prank, right? ‘Course not. “Haha, reeaally funny, you… Ya got me.” Man, that nervousness was too real. The little water spout actually liked him, imagine that! He wasn’t gonna last long in the ranks at that rate.

Xigbar teleported himself behind Demyx this time and whispered, “Gotcha.”

“Eek!” Demyx elbowed him in the stomach, hard, and Xigbar coughed out a laugh.

“Look at you! Got some fight in you after all, just gotta scare it outta you first.”

“Wha? Me?” Demyx gestured to himself, panic in his amphibious eyes. This world really went all out on the transformation bit, not that it did a damn thing for the kid. “No, no, no, I just… It was instinct! C’mon, can’t we just look around and, I dunno, not scare me?”

“Ha! Not a chance. I’m just blending in, Dem,” he teased, empty friendliness and sarcasm giving his words an edge. “You really oughta do the same or they’ll find out you’re chicken.”

Demyx’s brow furrowed again and he stuck his tongue out, touching the end of it. “Ennnh, I bi’ my tongue!”

“Not even listening to me, what’re we gonna do with you?” He clapped Demyx on the back once, walking ahead. “I’ll show you how it’s done.”

“Really?!” Demyx brightened from his voice to his eyes, a light chuckle not far behind. So easily pleased, so easily scared. He had a heart, alright. Just a matter of time before he pieced that little fact together, but that was a problem for the future. As if he’d even act on it— this was Demyx, the king of lazing around in closets, the Grey Room, and anywhere he thought he’d get away with it. Even if he figured out part of their scam, it’s not like he was gonna do anything about it. “Hey, thanks, Xiggy!”

“It’s my job, Dem,” Xigbar reminded him drily. “Just be glad they sent me along to help you out and not cranky, old Vexen.”