In Your Head (Out of Your Mind) - Chapter 2 - Turning_Your_Local_Fandoms_Fruity (2024)

Chapter Text

TROUBLE IN PARADISE

One tick Charles is lugging Edwin to sit between him and Crystal. The Edwardian’s elegant reading voice washes over them in pleasant swells and he revels in the chance to admire his best mate's voice. Everything is brills. Crystal is holding Edwin’s hand, tethering them both to the moment lest their minds drift like wayward balloons. It both warms his heart and has him yearning to clasp Edwin's other hand; he’d gladly take up the job of flipping pages if that’s what it took to cradle his best mate’s palm.

The moment is so tender and sweet that Charles can feel the wound-up ball inside his chest settle, the restless buzz in his limbs recedes akin to low tide, and he forgoes the need to fidget. Edwin has always had that capability — to make him feel all placid and loose. It's supernatural, the way he can oust energy from Charles and reduce him to one big contented puddle within a few paragraphs.

Domesticity bleeds from the scene and soaks through his skin, unreal sunlight warming his insides and sinew, coaxing a tender smile to his lips. Sweet, wholesome moments like these are what Charles lives — afterlives? Dies? — for; him and his mates kicking it back and basking in aces company. Can't get much better than this, can it?

Within the next tick Charlie is springing out from thin air like a bad omen and levying her tyrannical presence on Edwin. Charles fingers curl into fists at his sides, resisting the urge to nab his cricket bat. Of which is still shattered to bits, Edwin’s gone about trying to bodge it but with how many small splinters there are — not to mention missing pieces — it's gonna take him a good tick.

Regret soon swamps him — yeah, he doesn't have his handy cricket bat, but he does have a sword. Charlie is capturing his best mate's wrist — a snake ambushing its prey with unhinged jaws — and faster than he can blink Crystal is pulling Edwin back and Charles is stumbling off Edwin’s desk shouting a useless, ‘CRYSTAL, EDWIN!’

It's a catastrophical line of dominoes.

But he’s too late, Crystal's eyes have gone white and roll to the back of her head. He’s not fast enough — Edwin’s posture is too lax — not observant enough — Charlie’s form is flickering, fire licks at the borders of her body — not strong enough. The brawn, the protector. That's who he's supposed to be, the monikers he's been assigned for the better part of thirty years. It’s a simple task, protecting the people he loves.

Yet he can't seem to get even that right.

On top of everything else, something must’ve gone wrong, ‘cause Charlie is looking mighty combustible right now. Embers and sparks fly off of her skin — reminiscent of a campfire or a sparking electronic — cinder litters the floor, fluttering to the ground like snowfall or volcanic ash; flame curls up her hair and the hems of her clothes in a mesmerizing dance.

Edwin appears comatose all while standing, his eyes caught in the middle of his usual graceful cerulean-veridian and pure white; fog swirling over a clear, teal lake. To add insult to injury Charlie's fire is climbing up his wrist at a tortoise pace, charring his pallor-gray skin a branding black. And Crystal is falling. Her eyes roll in her skull akin to marbles — not like when her pupils go canvas white — and her backs on a collision course to the hardwood floor.

And Charles is not enough.

Crystal and Edwin would lay into him for thinking that later, he knows. Edwin would bring out some mental health book he’d obtained through Crystal, movements lined with the typical sassy flourish he has when he knows he’s right. Stood next to him would be Crystal, nodding her head along and adding her own little caring-chiding quips here and there. Advice they'd never dare take for themselves but have no problem imposing on Charles.

But that doesn’t matter, does it? It doesn’t matter because Crystals plunging to the floor, as cumbersome as a sack of flour, and there’s nothing he can f*cking do besides intercept her. Charles trips forward, knees crashing to the ground as he outstretches his arms, catching the psychic and laying her flat on the ground; he tries to be as gentle, but quick, as he can. His warm fuscous eyes latch onto his next target and he rolls his jaw, nostrils flaring in fury as he slips his palms out from under Crystal.

It doesn’t matter because Charlie still has her grubby f*ckin’ mits on Edwin and isn't.

Edwin’s skin is audibly sizzling and plumes of smoke curl up to dissipate in the air. The sound sickens Charles and if he could get queasy he would, he doesn't even wanna imagine the smell — then he’ll really be sick. Charred black handprints leak onto pale wrists, corrupting the delicate, once unblemished skin and disfiguring him.

Letting.

Pale lips are parted just so and wheezing gasps escape him in timed, rhythmic patterns — it sounds as if his throat is swelling closed, as if he’s having an allergic reaction. Foggy pupils jitter back and forth, dilating and shrinking — pulsating quick as a whip. A flush rises to his cheeks with each second that passes; while the rest of his skin, contrariwise, turns grayer and grayer. He looks sick.

Go.

Crouched to the ground as he is, Charles doesn’t hesitate to kick out. A brutal ‘crack!’ resonates through the air as his slip-ons connect with her ankle; her foot slips and twists at an unfortunate angle, sending her sprawling. Once broken free from whatever that was, she resolidifies — the sweltering flames snuff out akin to a candle. Air swooshes and whirls, rising smoke curling and swaying in the unreal wind; kicking the ash back into nonexistence and leaving her whole again.

Shifting his weight to his heels, Charles lurches to catch Edwin before he, too, hits the ground. Deadweight meets him halfway, Edwins’s eyes slip shut and some color drains from his face back to his body; he’s far from looking right as rain, but Charles’ll take it. He risks a glance at his best mates wrists and relaxes upon seeing the black receding, it’ll be gone in less than a minute but still…

Now, Edwin being pale as snow isn't anything new — he’s always been a bit translucent — but the ashen, glassy lacquer to his skin most certainly is. ‘Don't be silly, Charles! Ghost can't get sick.’ That's what Edwin always says. What he would be saying if he could, Charles is sure. So why does he look sick? Why does he look as dead as he is? He shouldn't, ghosts can — to some extent — choose the way they look and Edwin prefers to look how he did the day before; never the day of.

Charles desperately wishes Edwin was awake. To smirk in that co*cky way of his, the way that means he’s internally chuffed and giggling at Charles’ antics — because he finds the eighties ghost ‘charming’ for some incomprehensible reason. To say that phrase for the nth time — which is silly in of itself. He wishes Edwin was awake to corroborate that the unconscious Edwin is, in fact, not sick?

“What did you do?” Charles asks. Voice lacking its typical emotive cadence, all hard edges and stiffness. Hands linger on Edwins shoulder as he scans his best mate's face, air is still puffing past his lips, but nowhere near as raspy or constricted. There's a kink in his brows and it takes all of Charles self control to not use his thumb and smooth it out.

Ghosts can't sleep. Ghost shouldn't be able to sleep. And, look, Charles knows there's a huge difference between sleep and lacking consciousness — do you know who his c*nt of a father is? — but ghosts shouldn't be able to stay unconscious for this long either! The longest he and Edwin have been out of it was when Esther trapped them and that was because they were snared in that wanker's glass box!

“What did- I have not done a thing! It was your trigger-happy friend there that disrupted my connection!” Charlie says, incredulousness drenching every word, her moves snappy and condescending as she flails to point at Crystal. His protective instincts flare and he tries to block the girl from her view, scowling.

“Which is exceedingly rude and dangerous might I add!” Her hands pat down her shirt as she stands, leftover ashes flutter off Charlie as she tries to reign in her professionalism — the black specks disappear before they can breach the floor. She’s doing that- that thing with her face, all puckered lips and furrowed brows. It reeks of a superiority complex.

“Oi! ‘Nough of that!” Charles' lips peel back into a snarl, scrambling to get his feet under him so Charlie’s not sneering down at him like she's so fond of doing. Isn't she supposed to be the smaller one? “Crystal didn't make you try and dig ‘round my best mate's head, did she?!” The verbal dart lands a bullseye. A gasping scoff wrenches from Charlie’s gut and she jolts back, eyebrows knit and lips gaping; a palm presses to her chest in a proper ‘Why I never!’ fashion.

“I-” she tries.

“And don't start on ‘rude’! You were boutta be invasive as Hell!” Charles cuts off, not having another word from her. He jabs a finger at her and she steps back as if he'd spit at her feet, nose wrinkling in disgust to top it off. “All cause, what? Edwin refused to speak to you one-on-one?!” Charles scoffs.

Not bothering to wait for an answer — it’ll be unsatisfactory, he’s confident — Charles turns to Crystal and crouches down. Tawny, lean arms scoop her up and he wades over to the couch to deposit her, every movement soft and careful as he adjusts her on the couch to make room. It's a bit awkward as it's been a solid tick since he was alive, so it's hard to determine whether she'd wake up with a kink in her neck or not, but he tries to make sure she won't.

Charles frowns as he spies blood dribbling down her chin, a thick gash has formed and he looks over her form in confusion. Did she split her chin when she fell? He doesn’t think so, he caught her. He knows he did. Further down he spots small red dots freckling her palms and gingerly takes her hand in his; scrapes adorn the skin and his concern continues to mount. Eyes flicking back to Edwin Charles bites his lip and settles Crystal's hand back down. He’ll have to deal with that later, unfortunately.

“It is less a manner of speaking to me privately and more the lack of respect for his superiors!” Charlie says — screeches, more like — it like she believes it too. Crystal had referred to her as their chaperone once, and Edwin had sent her the most dubious, scandalized look; it had Charles poppin’ a stitch. Charles has done his due diligence on Edwardian customs — a right rabbithole, that — and he’d, through insatiable laughs, had to explain to Crystal why Edwin would be so appalled at the idea.

The thought of them already aches.

“Bloody hell- you aren't our ‘superior’!” Charles shouts, sending an exhausted look towards the sky, or ceiling. Whichever will reach whatever God is out there fastest. Honestly, how many times must they say it before it sticks in her thick-skull?! Utilizing a brief moment to breathe, he rests his forehead on the sofa by Crystal's hip; in and out, in. And out. Once a few ticks are up he turns to Edwin with a heavy exhale.

“I disagree on that point! I’m assigned to this plane against my will and made to-” God. She's still yakking on?

“‘Mind us insolent brats.’” He mocks in a poor, Scottish accent, not looking up at her as he crouches to repeat the process with Edwin. Charles sets his best mate on the opposite end of the couch, arranging the two till they're in an almost comfortable spot. Reminds him of the sleepovers he used to have, feet by heads as they tried to stifle their google about raunchy jokes under thin covers. Just. Minus the covers. And giggles. And sleeping because being unconscious isn't the same thing as- whatever. It was a poor comparison, moving on.

“WE GET IT! f*ckin’ Christ…” Charles grumbles and curses, running his hands up and down his face — it feels like he's smudging his fatigue instead of rubbing it off. “I don't have time for this. Either help me fix your muck up or stay back, yeah?” He growls, meandering over to Edwins expansive book collection, pacified that his two mates are brills for now. As brills as two unconscious- OKAY! That's enough thinking! ‘Deep breaths,’ he tells himself. ‘Everything's aces.’

Charlie scoffs, Charles thinks she rolls her eyes too but doesn't care to double check, sole focus on the bookshelf. “Oh, please. Don't tell me you truly believe you can solve this without my intervention?” Clothes rustle and he instinctively knows she's crossed her arms in a way that screams disbelief — or ‘beggars disbelief’, as she would say — and Charles’ eye twitches. ‘Patience is a virtue,’ he tells himself. ‘But you're not feeling proper virtuous,’ his shoulder demon sings.

“Been reading up on ‘How to be a Wally’, have you?” A compromise is made, settling somewhere in-between the angel and demon whispering in his ears — it’s said with his usual charm but laced with an Edwin brand of snark. Charles runs his finger along the bumpy spines of each book — soaking in the way it wobbles his hand even if he can't feel it — pulling them by the top to take the occasional peak. Hooked fingers slide them back when it's not one he desires.

“A what?” Charlie asks, equal parts confused and offended. It’s right grills that she intuitively knows an insult when she hears one, makes riling her up that much easier. Charles probably shouldn't poke the proverbial bear but f*ck it.

“Nevermind.” He waves her off. Half to tick her off, half because he’s found a match. “Point is, I'm not part of the Dead Boy Detectives Agency for nothing.” Flashing her a charismatic grin and plucking a book off the shelf, ‘Maladies and Afflictions of the Ghostly Mind’ it reads. Not sure how much help it’ll be — given that this isn't a natural disorder — but it's better than nothing.

“Fine. I suppose failure is life's greatest teacher.” A huff peeks past her lips as she summons forth a burnt-orange loveseat with intricate, mahogany armrests. The inferno subsides and she plops down on it, one leg propped over the other, hands folded atop her knees, all while staring down Charles. As if that'd get him to give in. Clearly, she doesn't know who she’s working with.

“Not living now am I?” He shoots her the most counterfeit smile he can muster — too wide with too many teeth, gummy in a way that's not natural to Charles — digging under her skin as he slaps five gathered books onto Edwin’s desk. Resting his palm atop the top book as he falls back into the chair with a punched-out grunt and dropping his smile.

“You are insufferable!” Charlie guffaws. Posture breaking as she sags into the seat, pinching the bridge of her nose with puffed up cheeks. She looks like an incensed pufferfish.

“Mint.” Charles clicks his tongue on the ‘t’ and spreads open the first book. He flutters the pages down to the index and smacks a hand dead center. Charles traces a finger down each line, eyes following left to right, scanning for something promising. Once a good section is located he scours through the book, hunkering down for a long night of research. Leftover elbow set upon the desk, he rests his fist under his chin and starts to read. “Suffer quieter.”

THE THEY'RE MORE SCARED OF YOU THAN YOU ARE OF THEM FALLACY

The thick, suffocating silence creeps on — like murky water spinning down a drain with sluggish enthusiasm, and she yearns to tell it to hurry the f*ck up. Every tick that passes sees the anxiety-riddled roots retracting from Crystal's veins, the ice melts and defrosts her rigid joints. Whatever it was is long gone by the time her chest begins to ease, muscles unwinding like butter softening to room temperature. She focuses her gaze on Edwin and steadies her intakes and exhales, he starts to match her easy pace — whether it's a conscious effort or not, she doesn't know.

Crystal applies more pressure to her grip and, with telegraphed movements, removes the offending palm silencing her. Edwin sits back on his haunches in time with his slipping wrist, not quite relaxed but not as tense. They're still cramped together, and he’s still infected with bone-deep tremors, but it's better than it was.

“Edwin. What’s going on? What the f*ck was that?” Crystal shuffles to find a more comfortable spot on the grime-speckled floor. A part of her feels bad for jumping into an interrogation so soon but another part — the part that feels entitled to answers — screams it’s not soon enough.

“I don't… know its name, exactly.” Edwin says. His voice is shaky and she half expects his teeth to start chattering; the hand held aloft in her grip squeezes to an indistinct song, something playing in the Edwardian's head. Probably on a ‘victrola’ as he's so fond of calling any music player. “But it is an amalgamation of a giant spider and- and baby doll heads…” The admission is delicate and choked, he sounds pained.

A shocked, humorless laugh is sucker punched from her chest. “I'm sorry. What?!” He can't be f*cking serious; maybe Edwin has overdosed on SRI’s or Xanax, or whatever else they provide in Hell. That'd sure make more sense than giant spiders and baby dolls but… All those scattered, shattered porcelain heads speak for themselves, don't they? Oh, f*ck her.

Crystal feels the way blood flushes down her body and leaves a numb, nippy feeling in its wake. The cold filling her body, she knows, is for reasons unrelated to the musty waft peeking out from under the weathered door.

He shushes her, jerking forward and shrinking the space between them once more. The hand kept in her grasp envelops her mouth again and she can feel his fine trembles through her lips. “Please, please be quiet.” Edwin verges on begging, there's a wet, clogged quality to his voice and sounds on the precipice of a breakdown. His bottom lip trembles and his eyes go glossy and- sh*t. Now she feels bad.

Crystal tugs at Edwin's wrist again, nudging it off with slow, gentle pulls. “Okay, okay.” She whispers, trying to be quiet while her brain spins at a million kilometers per hour. Possibilities flash past her mind's eye faster than her psychic work and she can't say she likes any of them. “Sorry.” She throws it out as an afterthought, but a genuine afterthought nonetheless. Edwin’s so, so scared and she is sorry to have contributed to that, no matter how minorly.

“It is. Alright.” Edwin says, taking deep breaths like Charles taught them to do and Crystal has half a mind to join him. Before she can decide, he's taking his hand back from her and pressing the meat of his palm to his temple, eyes squeezed shut as if in pain. A small whimper cracks his throat and Crystal feels her gut churn in unease.

“Are you concussed?” Concern bleeds through her tone and she can't find it in herself to reel it in, not when he looks like that. She brings her hands up to flutter about, a ball of panic lodges itself in her throat when Crystal realizes she doesn't know how to help. Doesn't know if Edwin would let her help. “Is that even possible? Ghost concussions?” Crystal asks, a little shrill.

All too aware of the grime and filth — and other fluids she's mentally trying to block out — Crystal shifts her seated position again. An action that catches Edwin’s eye and he lifts his head to meet her gaze, his eyes are glassy and look to be phasing in and out of focus like a camera lens. His eyebrows knit in frustration and he clears his throat.

“I do not know, Crystal,” he says. As he prepares to stand Crystal can’t help but feel even guiltier, had she not been so obvious in her discomfort he would not have bothered. “As of now we should focus on the matter at hand.” Right, like him being concussed as a ghost isn't a dire matter. The self-sacrificial complex on him and Charles — two already dead boys — is astro-f*cking-nomical.

“Shall we?” Edwin asks. Holding his hand out all polite and kind — and how is she meant to stay mad at him when he does thoughtful sh*t like stand as he's in agony because the floors are uncomfortable to her? He sways on tattered feet and she hurries to accept the helping hand, less for leverage purposes and more to help him not drop ass-first. He shares his weight with her with a grateful — if pained — look.

“Fine, but don't think I'm forgetting this-” She gesticulates with her free hand, nodding up and down his body with a disapproving gaze. “-so easily.” Moving to stand, whilst carefully holding Ewin up, Crystal gets her feet under herself with a small puff of breath. Tender fingers graze her chin to feel the way the blood flow starts to calm to a drizzle; with a hiss, she pulls away and spots her rubbed-raw palms with a frown.

A problem for another time, Crystal decides. The psychic surveys the room and follows when Edwin tugs her forward, leading her to the small shelf set smack-dab in the small library. Feels more like a cubicle, to be honest, but there is an extensive collection of literature. The main feature of a library is it’s expansive book exhibition, so the size doesn't matter.

Trotting over to the designated area, Crystal can't help but ogle the torn out pages; they all have words but nothing decipherable. It's as if the person writing couldn't remember anything besides vague sentence length and the occasional word; so they started to write random letters and smear ink blots across in an estimate of the book's contents.

With mindful hands, Edwin insists she sit down — pressing down on her shoulders. To which she obliges despite her indignance at being instructed. With his non-verbal command heeded, Edwin crouches as well — and that makes Crystal feel better. Lord knows what standing does for a concussion.

Edwin clears his throat and brushes off his pajamas, swabbing his sweaty palms off on the cotton textile. After a moment of adjustments he sits in front of her cross-cross and a look prompts her to mirror his position. “Currently we are-” His voice hitches and trembles. That's not a good sign, she thinks feeling faint and not entirely real. Not good at all. “-we’re in… in Hell.”

“Wha-” Crystal blurts and a hand claps across her lips. Again. It shuts her up with all the grace a gangly, awkward teenager scared to death can wield. Still a shocking amount of elegance, but given it’s Edwin — who probably took fencing and ballerina classes for a grade or some sh*t — she shouldn't be so surprised.

“Crystal, please!” The whispered words are desperate and waterlogged, his eyes glaze over and tears threaten to spill down his cheeks — one wrong move and she's terrified he’ll start bawling. Crystal’s heart cracks and she chokes down her outside voice. Can't afford to rage, not now.

Giggle.

A litany of curses fly through Crystal's head, each more explicit than the last. The monstrous being scuttles past the door again, scuffs and scrapes of porcelain against concrete sets her teeth on edge. Her throat bobs as she swallows down her fear and anger. All she can do is sit and wait for the thing to leave — she tries to focus on the trembling body pressed up against hers but that doesn't make her feel any better — its hulking body obscures the muddy green light and plummets the two into shadow.

Silence reigns once more and it feels as if her atoms are going to shiver apart, the thing pauses outside the door and she hears quiet child-like laughter emanate from too many mouths. There's a few puffs of air as if it's panting, or sniffing — can it even smell? — then it stops. It goes eerily still and it turns so, so slowly, like it's got all the time in the world. And it does, she f*cking hates it. It turns and it stares at the door, or maybe it an optical illusion and its staring across the hall, f*ck if she knows. All she can see is its silhouette against the foggy glass.

Quicker than a bullet it darts off down the hall, retracing its steps back where Edwin and Crystal first sprang up, she assumes. The laughter grows fainter and fainter until it's no longer within earshot. Which, she hopes, means it can't hear her nor Edwin any longer, but to be safe they wait in taut stillness; the only sounds she can hear are her deep, guttural breaths and Edwin’s mousy, erratic ones. With each tick Crystal can feel the adrenalin slow to a steady pulse, her friend’s intakes grow calmer and calmer till she can hardly hear him.

Crystal shakes her head and knocks Edwin’s hand free. “You can't say sh*t like that and expect me not to f*cking react!” Her voice is still shrill and hissing but she still muffles it to something softer. The psychics desire to be found by that spider baby doll thing is about as strong as Edwin’s.

“It isn’t- it's not real!” Edwin gasps out.

“What? Okay.” Sucking in a cumbersome breath — just like Charles taught them to — and clasps her hands in front of her face, closing her eyes as she releases and holds for five ticks. “Edwin you're gonna need to give me more than that ‘cause you sound off your f*cking rocker.” She pauses, tilting her clasped hands under her chin to point her index fingers at him. “Like five stages of grief, denial, off your rocker.”

“Yes, I know what you are alluding to! I’m not daft.” He spits, voice angry and pitched up with hysteria; he clears his throat to be rid of the squeak and, really, it's all Crystal can do to bite her tongue. Now's not the time for teasing. “It appears that Madame Night Nurse-” Ugh, why does he have to use formalities on such an asshole? “-has reanimated one of my traumas. Whatever you did to hinder her must've resulted in you coming in her stead.”

“sh*t.” Crystal runs a stressed-out hand through her unruly curls, fingers snagging on knots and yanking them loose like tangled springs. The sting registers and she's almost thankful for it, as it keeps her brain distracted from other things. “So how do we get out?” She blows a strand of hair away from her face.

“I- I suppose I must-” Edwin takes in a quaking breath and ends it in a swallow, being rid of all his built up saliva. “I must contend with my trauma…” His body is just as quivery as his voice and he begins to knead his fists together, and it's so transparent he doesn't want to. The rolling of his hand is light and stilted, and he hesitates every now and again like he can't decide if he actually wants to grind his knuckles or not.

“Absolutely not.” She snaps, tone sharp and unwavering; her jaw clenches and she swears she's this close to chipping a tooth. They already did one impulsive thing today — courtesy of her — they don't need to go for double.

“Crystal-” Edwin protests.

“No!” Her waspish whisper cuts through the atmosphere and Edwin flinches, tossing a distressed glance at the door. It drains the anger from her and Crystal feels herself soften, she sighs and hopes it'll give her some semblance of courage. It doesn't but it's the thought that counts. “You've been through enough bullsh*t. I vote we wait for Charles to figure something out.” Crystal tries, not wanting to plead but by God is she not above it.

“And what? Lie in wait for- for that monster to gobble us up?!” Edwin’s voice creaks and Crystal can't help but feel like he's trying his hardest to raise it — to impress upon her the importance — but can't. And she can see the way his frustration builds, hands fluttering in front of his chest like he's not sure what to do with them; where to place them. If this keeps up he really will work himself into hysteria and she is not certified to handle that.

“I don't know, Edwin, okay?! I just-” A trembling breath escapes her as she chokes back a wet hiccup, her voice cracks unbidden and Edwin- God. Sweet, emotionally repressed, touch-avoidant Edwin knocks his knobby knees with hers, encouraging. But it's not all for her benefit, she realizes, not with the way he sags too. “I can't stand you or Charles getting hurt and not being able to do sh*t about it…” Crystals coils her hair in a finger and flexes, not enough to hurt but enough to apply grounding pressure.

Crystal slumps back against the bookshelf, ruffling her hair with her hand and ignoring the tear or two that cascades down her face. At her side her remaining fist clenches and she imagines holding a stress ball; she has the strongest urge to hit something right now but it's painfully aware that she can't. Any noise could alert the monster and reveal their position.

She was useless when it was Niko and now she's useless when it's Edwin. What are these fancy new powers of hers even good for if she can't save her friends? The ones who stick by her no matter what, the people she loves the most — her ride or dies? That's all she wants, she doesn't care she's not some fairytale knight she can do it, but she also really, really can't. Powers or not, she's just some helpless girl crashing in a haunted office to avoid reality.

“Like… you know when- when your friends are hurting and you know there's something you can do, you just don't know what?” The Edwardian goes mute in the face of her brutal honesty and settles back down. For the first time since this whole shebang Crystal can feel something akin to hope stir to life in her gut, extending an olive branch to the contemplative boy sat across from her.

He chews his bottom lip in thought and furrows his brows, staring off at the floor and drooping his hands to his lap in classical Edwin stiffness. The face he wears is one that screams ‘I’m solving a complex puzzle, do not disturb me’. And it's so normal, so similar to the one he dons when working a hard case that she yearns to just be back home, snuggled up under the stupid quilt listening to Edwin read. Waiting for Charles to grow bored and Edwin-Attention-Deficit so he starts fiddling with the book he picked. Then he’ll crack and feed Charles attention like some starved puppy and Crystal will start badgering Edwin too — half to tease Charles codependency, half to poke at Edwin.

She wants to play Cluedo and lose to Edwin because he always wins unless she and Charles team up and cheat. She wants to cradle a cup of coffee and smirk as Charles eyes her up with exaggerated jealousy — he doesn't even like coffee. She wants to poke fun at Charles, she wants to bicker and fight with Edwin, she wants to harass Jenny for fun — she wants to go home.

“I understand your plight, Crystal.” A Look is sent his way and Edwin rolls his eyes. The brief taste of normalcy is appreciated beyond words, every minute spent here is a minute closer to a psychotic break — no, she's not f*cking kidding. Not sure who’ll snap first. With any luck they won’t find out. “Truly, I do. Emotions aren't… my forte either-” With a tense giggle she makes a teasing ‘No sh*t?’ face. “-oh, don't give me that!” He huffs, a smile curling up his lips.

This, the bantering, is safe and nice, and Crystal wishes desperately to stay here till Charles seeks them out. A small fond huff escapes Edwin, going as far to roll his eyes, before he’s sobering up again and- god f*cking damn it! One normal day! One normal minute. f*cking please. “But I, too, can’t stand seeing you hurt. Besides, it's not as if this is a new experience for me.” She wants to sob.

“Edwin…” Crystal pleads, voice breaking.

“Just.” With a deep breath he snaps up a prim hand to cut her off. Then he stands up with cracking knees and grimaces, trying not to further strain his back. It feels like the final nail in the coffin. “Wait here, either something will change and you’ll know or…” Edwin sucks his teeth and tip-toes to the door, hand grabbing the doorknob like he’s about to step on a landmine.

“Or?” Crystal prompts, resigned. Her skin crawls.

“Or I'll be back… again.” He mutters the last bit and a sense of foreboding drags down her bones.

‘Please,’ she begs to anyone who will listen. ‘Let him come back safe.’

A CHARLES AND A CHARLIE

“Oh for goodness sake… Stop being so stubborn!” Having had enough, Charlie rises from the loveseat and stomps over to the desk, arms on her hips and lips puckered in a full force glare. If he bothered to look up Charles is sure it would remind him of his old English class teacher, a right twat that one.

“‘M not being ‘stubborn’. I'm cleaning up your mess.” Not sparing her a glance he squints at the page, the words don't make any more sense than when he'd started but that just means he has to try harder. Even if his brain feels like a toaster tossed into a tub or molten plastic. ‘That says how, yeah? But that doesn't… Oh. It’s who not how.’ His brow twitches in irritation, not this poppyco*ck again. ‘How much of a muck up can I be? Settin’ a record at this rate.’

“No. You're being stubborn!” Charlie corrects with a huff. Worse than her tone is that she barrels on without waiting for his response. “You are not going to find a thing in this library of yours.” As if swatting a pesky fly, she flaps about her left hand — eyeing up their sizable collection with mild interest.

“It’s more Edwin’s.” Charles grumbles, not much else in his arsenal to rebuke with. Doesn't mean she's gotta be such a prick about it though. Nor does it mean he's gotta stop being… Okay, so, maybe he's being a lick stubborn, but she deserves it!

“Whether you like it or not, you need my help.” She breezes past his snark with ease — no need to ‘dilly dally’ as she would say.

“What? You mean like you ‘helped’ my best mate with his memories?” Charles asks rhetorically, sarcastic as can be while he makes over-the-top finger quotes. “Good lot that did.” He grunts and rubs his eyes, but does concede to close the book. Not like it’s doing much anyways. Half of it is in some language he can't read and the other half is some illegible scrawl even with layman terms; it makes him regret tuning out Edwin’s lectures.

A pang of want hits his chest at the thought of his best mate. He sneaks a glance over at the two and feels emotions wage war in his chest and gut, something sinking him down and something burning him up. A metaphorical lit bomb doused in gasoline.

And, worse yet, there's blood trickling down Edwin's forehead. Outside of… of Hell Charles has never seen Edwin bleed. A blessing he'd taken for granted it seems. And it feels like he's dying again, like the room has depleted of oxygen and the temperature has dropped below zero, and he kinda feels like crying or punching a hole through the wall.

Tick.

“Lord…” The exhausted groan plucks Charles' attention away from his best mate and he bites his tongue when he sees her pinching the bridge of her nose. Oh, it must be sooo inconvenient for her. As if she didn't trap his mates, as if she's not the reason- “What did I do to deserve this?” She groans, looking at the ceiling with a put upon expression.

Tick.

“Oi! It’s not like we're too thrilled ‘bout you being here either!” Charles scowls. The bomb continues to tick and the wick fizzles away centimeter by centimeter. He clenches his fists under the desk and resists the urge to stand, to hurl something at Charlie. Fists or antique artifacts, he doesn't care. Either would do.

“I know of a spell but I'll need your full cooperation.” Is she seriously still ignoring him? Does she think that will get him to cooperate? Fat f*cking chance. ‘Sides, him? Cooperate? That's a laugh! It's like she's completely deluded to the fact that this all happened ‘cause she wasn't workin’ with them!

Tick.

“My cooperation?!” Charles half-laughs, half-snarls. “You're the one who-”

“It’s a yes or no question.” She cuts in, voice firm and leaving no room to argue. It takes all his self control and then some to not scream in frustration, the eighties ghost scowls at her, feeling like a chained up mutt. All bark, no bite, and pure unfiltered rage.

Tick…

“Fine.” With a grumble Charles slumps into the office chair,panting from his nose to dispel his residual fury. The tick, tick, ticking fades to the recesses of his mind and he takes another deep breath. Ignore it. This is right brills — he’ll make it brills.

“I can not hear if you mutter.” Its snooty and the twat isn’t bothering to hide the leverage flex — all cards lie on her side of the court or however that stupid f*ckin’ phrase goes, h edoesn't care he just wants his f*cking deck back. With an expectant brow — holy sh*t does she bear an uncanny resemblance to his English teacher — Charles gives in. His mates are worth more than his pride.

“Fine!” He snaps, voice louder than before as he simmers in his anger.

“There is no need for an attitude.” Charlie scoffs, she sniffs haughtily before rounding on the door, marching like a soldier off to war. Right as she reaches the door and Charles thinks he’ll get some much-needed relief from her breathing down his neck, she pauses. She turns her head just so and wrinkles her nose judgementally. “And do fix your posture.” With that unnecessary comment she swings open the door and steps out.

“‘Oh, and do fix your posture’.” He mocks as soon as the door clicks shut. “Sod off.” He grumbles, sinking further into the chair and stopping only when he risks falling off.

“Language!” Comes faintly from somewhere down the hall and he jumps in his seat, knee smacking the desks underside as he tries — and fails — to fix his posture. She could hear them this entire time?! Oh, they're so f*cked when Edwin and Crystal wake up. On second thought, maybe he shouldn't tell them. At least, not Edwin. Knowing his best mate he’ll probably catastrophize and claim they should move back to America and hide in an off-the-grid bunker. Charles misses them…

Tick.

“Sod is hardly a swear!” He shouts back, stuffing his thoughts and emotions back into the bag they clawed out of. Ha! Get it? Bag, cause… well, anyway.

Looks like Charles’ll be working with Charlie today.

Joy…

Tick.

OVER AND OVER AND OVER

Crystal is going clinically insane.

Soon she’ll need to be institutionalized. Can she die of boredom? It certainly feels like it. Not that Crystal wants to find out, Hell no — bad choice of words — she hopes Edwin finishes up whatever the f*ck he's doing soon. Despite how torturous the dragging mundanity is, it's much preferable to the static panic she feels writhing beneath her ribs.

She feels a perpetual tick away from hyperventilation; which is not good, if the monster spider doll thing takes a run at her she suspects she’ll just keel over. ‘Steady breaths, steady breaths,’ she tells herself with a distinct lack of conviction. Now more settled than she was, Crystal goes over the day's events; to avoid being redundant she skips straight to when Nursie showed up.

That's when this whole clusterf*ck took off after all. So, Nursie tried to access Edwin’s trauma but Crystal interfered — because no sh*t, who do you take her for? She tried for Charles of course she’d try for Edwin — which, in theory, booted Nursie from the program and input Crystal instead. Cool. Now that that's out of the way, it poses a simple question.

How do they fix it?

They could wait for Charles to figure something out, but Edwin seems very against that, and it's not that she disagrees — the boredom and fear are eating away at her too — but it looks like the most viable option. Of course, the monster could sniff them out before Charles gets a chance to find them — she doesn't want to know what’ll happen. On the other hand constant movement could hinder Charles' search for them.

(Crystal doesn't know why she's debating this, Edwin already left. The choice is no longer hers. If it ever was.)

They could fix it themselves. Somehow. She's still not one hundred percent on that but whatever, she’s tired of sitting like a useless duck. The psychic rises to her feet as quiet as she can, she bites her lip at the sound of her clothes ruffling — too loud in the mute room. Still, she persists and sets off to poke around the nooks and crannies of this godforsaken room — maybe something here could give them a clue?

Scouting the area with nothing but her eyes reveals very little she didn't already know. Blood, ripped out pages, thick book with a f*cked up spine discarded to her right, rows and rows of improperly shelved books. What new there is, though, piques her interest. To her left is a shattered mirror, yet not a chunk is out of place, each fracture resides in the frame through sheer will power. Never thought she’d respect a mirror of all things, but it paints an accurate picture of her mental state so. Respect.

Leafing through the unreasonable pile of paper with the tip of her boots reveals that the pages truly don't have anything legible on them — just a bunch of approximated scribbles and smears — and blood further obscures any words she might've been able to make out. She counts one page with a few readable words or phrases; most notably, however, has to be the ‘S+E’ scrawled into the corner of the sheet. Nice to know teens have been vandalizing sh*t in the name of love since the twentieth century.

At least, she assumes it was a teenager? And this book is probably from sometime during the nineteen hundreds, given that this is Edwin’s mind and- wait.

Edwin.

E.

Holy sh*t. He had game since before Port Townsend?! God, she wonders how many people hit on him as he floated in his own little world, oblivious — was the Cat King really the first person he noticed to lay some lines on him? Surely not, right? Crystal bends down to scoop up the page, pinching it between her forefinger and thumb like a dirty dishcloth and thins her lips at the blood stains. She flips it upside down to reveal the blank underbelly, it seems this place doesn't account for anything out of view. ‘Well,’ she thinks, tossing the paper and watching it flutter to the ground. ‘That confirms the memory theory.’ Edwin’s ability to remember finer detail is a marvel, not that she's ever gonna tell him that. He’s got enough of an ego.

Bit by bit Crystal feel her nerves settle and she approaches a shelf near the f*cked up mirror. Halfway to a hardback cover she pauses, eyeing the mirror with a weariness that suggests something will leap out at her. Taking in everything that's already happened today she wouldn't put it past her luck; wisely, she decides to walk backwards and pivot to face the opposing shelves.

The mirror feels so… unnatural. It's silly, she knows, everything about this is unnatural — her whole life is supernatural — but that thing radiates bad vibes and Despair, okay?! Shaking her thoughts loose, Crystal scans the shelf in front of her. No matter how hard she tries she can't pinpoint any specific details of the books, the one in front of her could be red or black and she wouldn't know — whether that’s from some kind of instability in how she entered the space, or because of the green lighting, she doesn't know. A lot she doesn't know it seems.

Her teeth gnaw on her cheeks and she makes a split-second decision on which to take up, nothing organized or serious, a random selection. Part of her wonders if this is safe, if this is worth it for information they might — keyword being ‘might’ — contain. For all she knows this bullsh*t could be the same indecipherable ramblings as the stuff on the floor — or utterly blank — but that's what this is for, isn't it? Figuring sh*t out?

Hesitant fingers brush up against the spine of the dusty book, it feels forbidden almost. With the way she's so clearly not meant for this space — a puzzle piece forced to fit — as if grabbing it will cause her to disintegrate or send her back to reality without Edwin. And, as much as she doesn't want to be here, she can't just leave him. Even imagining Edwin in this operatic horror show alone causes involuntary shivers to spike up her spine.

A thick swallow punctuates the air and her throat clicks wetly as she wraps her knuckles around the tome with great caution. Dust bunnies cling to her nails and she leaves fingerprints in her wake, all her nerves are livewires dangling above a flooded basem*nt — moments from frying. She can't tell if its the unobstructed silence that's getting to her faster or her mind, but whichever it is she can only hope Edwin gets back soon and-

A blood-curdling shriek rocks against the walls like a thunderstrike, cut off much too soon to be natural. The sparking wires fall into the water and she drops the book with a brutal slam, she jerks backwards and falls down, back flat against the small shelf as she smacks her palms to her mouth. Air puffs from her nose and brushes past her fingers, and she's acutely aware of how loud her breaths are in the deadness of the library.

Teeth gnaw on the inside of her cheek frantically as she fights to keep her chest steady and whimpers silent, finger pads graze the congealed blood painting her chin and she forces down a pained noise. All but choking as she squeezes her eyes shut and puts her sole focus on not making any more noise. The scrapes decorating her palm graze her chapped lips and she glowers at the sensation.

Giggle.

The laughter is faint through the walls and Crystal feels herself go rigid, cement cakes her limbs and freezes her to the spot like a statue. She can't move, she shouldn't move. Should she move? Should she run? But what if Edwin gets back before she does and he goes to find her and then they both get even more lost and-

The door creaks open, the hinges squeak and click and the wood groans. A soft shuffling and crunching emanates from the entrance and Crystal feels her heart beating out of her chest. Sweat gathers on her scuffed palms to the point she fears they will slip and expose her gasping, leading it straight to her. Taps light as a feather and quick as a cat scuttle into the room.

Soft wind circulates around and chills her, shivers burst her hairs into standing on end like static electricity. A closing door and more pit-pats, whatever it is, it's searching for something; and if it weren't for the terse silence she wouldn't be able to track it. Her gut writhes and she feels dizzy, the air thinning and thinning till she's heaving soundlessly — doesn't matter how much she takes, it's never enough.

Prey, Crystal feels like prey. And whatever it is that is stalking her, well, she really f*cking hopes it can't smell. All the blood and grit coating her body is uncomfortable, clogging her sweat-slicked pores and- and-

It's quiet.

Hyperawareness bleeds into her body and she goes still as stone. Technicolor explodes and her vision sharpens on every minuscule detail, Crystal feels like she can isolate dyes down to the tint. It’s overwhelming and her heart won't shut. Up!

Why is it quiet? Where did it go?

Slow goosebumps travel up her ankles to her wrists, no hair left untouched. It feels wrong, and bone-chilling, stranded in suspense — the precipice of a cliff. It feels like animalistic fear. A kind of frantic terror.

It shouldn't be- where is it?

Each wet exhale is too loud, each sharp too-fast intake grates her sore throat, each scuff of her trench coat ignites her nerves, each invisible wind tickles her neck and turns her body's perspiration into ice. Dripping down her forehead and hanging off the tip of her nose like snotty icicles.

The floorboards creak to her left and there's a glint of white in her peripheral. It feels like everything slows to a stop — the ticking of a clock stalling, she's run out of time — and Crystal turns her leaden head, eyes wide with an unhealthy paling face and-

“… Edwin..?” She gasps the name out — a desperate prayer, a sob worthy salvation — and chokes on her gathered spittle, forcing it down with shuddering coughs. ‘Quiet, quiet,’ she scolds herself. ‘I need to be quiet.’ With careful, telegraphed movements she gets up and steps over to him, palms splayed to her side as if approaching a skittish alley cat. His eyes dart up to hers but they don't quite click into place, like he's staring through her. They have this glassy sheen and his pupils swirl into wallowing pits of Despair. He looks, for lack of a better word, haunted.

“It didn't work…” The boy claims, voice hoarse — cracking like he’d been screaming his vocal chords into disuse, or neglecting them to drought — he leans heavily on the bookshelf to her left and slides down, making little near inaudible sounds.

Crystal takes another gentle step forward, crouching in front of him — trying her hardest not to frighten him. “What didn't- what… what happened to the blood..?” His breath hitches around something strangled, and she feels a numb cold creep through her trench coat. Frost collects on her fingertips and nose, and she can't say her hearts any better. The blood is vacant from Edwin’s face, the only wounds left desecrate his feet — small porcelain bits invade jagged cuts, ripping his soft pale skin asunder and leaving bloodied footprints.

It’s silent and she's trying to be patient, f*ck is she trying, but she can't go through another answerless phase. She just can't. This place is f*cking with her head and there was that scream — a whole ass blood-curdling, my limbs are actively being ripped off and mauled, scream! Which, what the f*ck was that? Is there another person down here? Or was it some bullsh*t Hell-parrot trying to draw them out to face the- the thing.

“Edwin?” The psychic tries again. Her voice is weak — she feels weak and she hates it — and for once she sounds her age. Ironic. If only her parents could see her now, no longer acting ‘tougher’ or ‘more mature’ than she should. And for the low, low price of being hunted for sport. Oh, how proud they’d be.

Not knowing what else to do Crystal reaches out and tentatively sets her hand on his shoulder, to try and provide some modecrum of comfort. Centimeters away she pauses. ‘His shoulders are shaking,’ she realizes. No, not just his shoulders. Edwins posture hiccups and quakes, and it’s with a deep-seated Despair that Crystal realizes Edwin — unshakable, fearless Edwin — is crying.

It’s the heavy, somehow silent, earth-quaking kind of sobs. An anguish so rooted into his being she feels like it's a glimpse at his soul. At why Esther wanted to harvest him so badly. Edwin is falling apart before her, and he doesn’t like touch so she can’t hug him, the creatures f*ck knows where so she sure as sh*t can’t talk.

Crystal is seeing Edwin falling apart and there's not a damn thing she can do about it.

SPELLWARD BOUND

Charles, infamously, hates waiting. He’s not very patient — outside of Edwin or Crystal, his mates deserve the best, but even then he can get testy — evident by his impulsivity. Hands on tasks that require movement and a go-go-go energy are his thing. If his hands aren’t busy, his legs are moving; if his legs aren't pumping, his arms are swinging; if his arms aren't — well, you get the picture, yeah?

To wait is to be inactive and Charles fancies himself a right active lad.

Excellent at distracting himself, Charles takes up the noble task of dressing his mate’s spontaneous wounds. Hunting down their plasters took longer than he’d like to admit ‘cause as ghosts they don't have much use for them. It’s not a big surprise that he’d needed to rearrange their unnecessary collection of Cluedo to reach the dusty thing all the way in the back. Charles remembers buying it ages ago, claiming it to be a precaution when Edwin stared at him unmoved.

Taking in a shuddering breath through the wanton ache, Charles nabs the first aid kit and haphazardly blows off a plume of dust. Kit acquired, he trots over to the couch and debates for a second; eyeing up Charlie's loveseat as if it'll bite him. He doesn't know where she got it from — what dimension it crawled out of — but she wouldn't have left it here if it could harm him.

Probably..?

Charles places the kit on the ground before leaning over to pick Crystal up, the loveseat looks a little small for his best mate so she’ll have to make do. ‘Sides, he should patch her up first — what with her human-living status and all. As much as it agonizes him to make that choice if he could fix them at the same time, he would.

He kicks the first aid kit at the loveseat and plops Crystal down on it, their office isn't too big so he doesn’t have to shuffle them for long. Legs knocking to the floor as he kneels, Charles pops open the kit and picks up some alcohol wipes, gauze, and plasters. The methodicalness of it is oddly calming, simple swipes that garner no reaction — less calming, she usually spits some rhetoric or bitchy comment at that — and placing some gauze down to staunch the blood running down her chin; lastly some plasters to keep it all together.

Charles repeats the process with her chaffed hands, Charles sees blood peaking past the rips in her jeans but he's pretty certain she wouldn't appreciate him rooting around her trousers, no matter the reason. So, with great reluctance, he lets it go to help his best mate. He packs up the kit and braces himself to tackle whatever issue Edwin’s scalp is having, it reminds him of the- the first time he’d seen him in Hell.

Not an experience he wants to relive. It takes him a second to build up enough nerve to turn around, behind him he swears he hears the sound of fabric tearing and something squelching — he thinks something snaps but it disappears under a tick — and then it’s all gone. Christ, it's been an hour tops and he's already bored enough to hear things.

Right, that's enough twiddling his thumbs then. Charles stands up quick and spins around to see-

Nothing.

No blood or injury. His heads fine, his palms — once Charles gets his wits about him, as Edwin would say, he scurries over to take off his silk gloves and inspect the soft flesh — are chaff-free and nothing like Crystals. It's only then he realizes how unfortunate it’d be for Edwin to have injuries anywhere else, his tweed armor would hide any and all wounds from view.

He sits there for what feels like forever trying to understand where Edwin’s gash has gone. Not like a head wound to just disappear, would it? For a brief tick he debates poking ‘round his best mates clothing just to be safe — it poses a similar moral debate as Crystal’s, but he and Edwin are best mates! Charles knows the older wouldn't scorn him if he did. And it wouldn't be the first time they'd partially undressed the other for bandage reasons.

“You lot’ve seen better days.”

Charles gasps, jumping up and snapping the first aid shut to throw at the invader. The box passes through the Ghost Postman without harm and hits the wall, some drywall flakes down from the new hole and the eighties ghost cringes. Edwin and Crystal are gonna beat his ass when they wake. “You need to learn how to knock, mate.” Charles sighs, retrieving the tin box and sucking his teeth as he inspects the dent. He wonders if he has enough time before Charlie gets back to fix it and- Oh, god. Forget Edwin and Crystal. Charlie is gonna beat his ass.

“Knock, knock.” The Ghost Postman says dryly, tossing the stack of letters and such onto their desk with what Charles swears is an amused smile before leaving via the nearest wall.

With a weighted sigh he steps over to the scattered papers and roots through them with minimal enthusiasm. A few spam, a couple letters or postcards that could amount to something, a missing poster or two, and a coupon for… rocks? Magical rocks, apparently.

Black Tourmaline 50% OFF!!

Great grounding abilities for when you need a little more down-to-earthness in your life! This extraordinary rock is great at stabilizing your root chakra and is recommended by nine in ten psychics for calming anxiety spells! If you're searching for a good, green way to do some self-soothing…

Some more vague bullsh*t, blegh. Might as well write ‘I’m a scam’ in big, bold letters. Crystal will get a kick out of this when she wakes up so he sets it to the side, the girl has an affinity for collecting rock and gems, and other such knick-knacks. Whether they work or not doesn't seem to matter to the bird, she claims to like the pretty colors more than their supposed powers. Though, Crystal admits, a few do seem to wield some otherworldly capabilities. It's one of the few topics she and Edwin really click on.

“What are you doing?”

Charles stops himself before he can throw the first aid kit again. Hitting Charlie may have been cathartic the first time around, but he suspects he won't get off as easily a second. “Ghost post.” He says shortly, facing the closet to put their kit away. There's a scoff and a mutter he maturely ignores.

A cleared throat. “Right then, no time to dilly-dally. I have a list of facets needed, come collect it.” She tutts as if hurrying him along and he gets the impression that this is what waiters feel when someone snaps or whistles for their service. Feet dragging, he complies, plucking the small lined paper from her fingers and biting back a remark about Edwin’s handwriting being better. ‘Cooperate,’ he reminds himself. ‘Then I’ll get my mates back.’

With purposeful, obnoxious swishes, he flaps the paper about and clears his throat, staring down at the list.

Seance Preparation:

Ouija Board

Kyanite

Personal Belongings

Chalk

Candles

Incense

Befuddled, he points toward a box of sidewalk chalk sat on their windowsill. They had bought it not too long ago for f*cking around, Edwin had turned it into an impromptu demon banishing lesson that Crystal was all up for. Charles felt like his brain was swiss-cheesing — “Brain lesions. They’re called brain lesions, Charles.” His inner Edwin scolds — but stayed anyway because, well. Because it was Edwin and Crystal, of course he’ll tough out a dragging explanation on chalk runes.

sh*t. He’s getting distracted again. Bad Charles. Thoughts clearer, he turns back to the list and makes his way over to their closet again, eyeing the paper dubiously as he pulls down their Ouija Board.

“Does this say ‘Ouija Board’?” Charles didn't even know she knew they had one, but given how often their closest is open due to the case board — and their games are in plain view for all to see — it shouldn't be that shocking. He’s just surprised she pays attention to them or their office at all. Guess she really does take her job as their minder seriously.

That felt awful. Charles is never sub-complimenting her ever again.

“Yes.” Her answers curt and when he peeks out at her he can see why. Charlie's attention is captivated by a wide, near-perfect circle, on the circumference are letters that he recognized as Ancient Aramaic; the whole ritual reminds him of some archaic magic he’d seen in the past. A modified connection spell maybe?

“And what do we need the Weeja board for?” He asks, setting the game down on the floor just outside the circle, unsure if he should place it inside or not. A small smirk plays on his lips and he tries his best to smother it to adopt a poker face; he gets up and paces over to their bookshelf where Edwin’s stashed a box of thin, white candles. Charlie twitches from where she sat drawing the finishing runes.

“It is to better establish a connection. And the proper pronunciation is ‘Ouija’.” The answer is short and huffy, and oh he’s so gonna enjoy this. He picks up the box and trots over to his page of trick backpack, the lost skip in his step returning. Charlie has taken it upon herself to relocate the Ouija Board, discarding the box and placing the board in the center of her chalk circle.

“That's what I said, innit? Oh-eeja.” The bag rustles as he roots around inside it, bringing out an old lighter that never runs out of fuel — they’d gotten it as an apology from The Chainsmokers Debacle of ‘14 — and the old oil lamp.

Charles had nearly forgotten it back in hell, snatching it up and shoving it into his bag last second. It’d have been a shame if he left it down there in that creepy crawly horror house. He figures the ‘Personal Belongings’ bit has to do with things that belong to Edwin and hold some emotional significance; he’s pretty sure he’s heard Edwin talking about seance rituals before.

“No- why must I be the one shafted to you three?” Charlie bemoans, accepting the things Charles hands her with undue reluctance. Or maybe it is due. Cause… y’know. Fish food. Or something. Ignoring her he shuffles over to Edwin and makes sure he’s all nice and comfortable on his back. Charles can't help but feel guilty as he rifles through his best mate's vest, looking for his signature notebook. The thing never leaves his side and the last time it did was his second stint in Hell, and that's not exactly a… fond memory.

Once the notebook is obtained he stalks back over to Charlie — stepping around the lines like Hiccup from that neat little dragon movie Crystal showed them, she gives him an atrocious side eye for it but otherwise doesn't comment — and deposits it in her awaiting palm. He looks around at the finished… runes? Summoning circle? What would the proper terminology be? Regardless of name, he looks at them and whistles low.

“Right then, what can I do?” Charles prompts, placing his hands on his knees and bending down to peek over Charlie's shoulder. A move unappreciated by the transdimensional being given how she sniffs and moves away from him. Standing up she brushes off any grime or chalk stuck to her. ‘We really gotta dust this place,’ he thinks, holding off a sheepish smile.

“Get me something of the girls.” She pauses. “Am I correct in assuming the lantern falls under ‘Personal Belongings’ and not ‘Candles’?” Charlie asks. For emphasis she holds up the lantern with a blank expression, it takes everything in Charles not to demand she place it down so as to not break.

“Ayup.” Charles quotes Tragic Mick. He misses that guy. “‘S sentimental to the both of us.” At Crystal’s side he starts to wiggle her out of her trench coat, mentally apologizing for stealing it but ‘needs must when the devil drives’ — as Edwin would say. “Figured it’d work best if we had personal stuff if it’s what I think.” Charles says, folding her jacket with care and looking around to where Charlie has started to set everything up.

Dead center of the large circle in the Ouija Board, on the outside ‘corners’ sit four candles which Charlie is currently lighting, and to the right of the Ouija Board — closest to Edwin — sits the lantern and notebook. He sucks his teeth at the placements and wanders over to nudge the notebook further away from the oil lamp, Edwin would kill him a second time if he found his precious notebook charred.

He goes to place Crystal's jacket next to it, assuming that's where the… offerings? Yeah, offerings. He assumes that’s where they go. “The opposite side.” Charlie says without looking up from where she lights the last candle. Charles jolts a bit at that, eying her before grunting and complying; he places the rose-embroidered trench coat to the left side of the Ouija Board and stands to stare at their work. “What do you think?”

“Huh?” Charles asks, very articulate.

“The personal objects, what do you think they're for?” Charlie asks again with a surprising amount of patience as she double checks the runes and unknown letters to be sure. She frowns and leans down to redo some symbol, it reminds him of a lamp if he tilts his head and squints super hard.

“Oh, um. To better the connection or, like, specify who we’re trying to connect to?” Charles replies, somewhat unsure of his answer. He thinks he's got a pretty good idea of this all but he does tend to tune out Edwins rants and focus solely on his voice; which Charles can't be blamed for. Edwin has a nice voice.

“Yes, specificity is key.” The way she grumbles it makes it sounds like there’s a story behind that and he's not sure wants to — or cares to — know. With that she pulls incense out of nowhere and lights it to begin wafting it about the room. Charles drums his fingers against his thighs, not knowing what to do, as he eyes up the whole seance.

“What's the fancy rock for?” he asks, spotting said rock resting at the top of the circle closest to the desk. It’s milky blue and rectangular, the way it's shaped kind of reminds him of bismuth or quartz; it's pretty and he wonders if he can convince Charlie to give it to him when this is all blows over.

“Kyanite helps establish a telepathic connection,” she informs. Dragging smoke lines through the air above his mates unconscious forms; seeing her so close to them gives him anxiety. “Given my extensive knowledge on such a magic, I typically would forgo such procedures. But I still can't ascertain how your foolhardy friend managed to kick me from my connection. My most promising hypothesis is that she superseded me, which would mean I can not enter again on my own.” She huffs and summons a thurible through a small, palm-sized inferno to place the incense on. “The kyanite is to assist you.”

“Wait,” Charles says. A skeptical laugh escapes him as he blinks once. Twice. “I’m meant to use magic? I've never done that before!” This plan feels a lot less reliable than it did a minute ago. It was just proven that Charles can barely do his job as the brawn, now he's expected to be the mage? If he mucks this up, who knows what could happen!

“Oh, do not fret. I'm sure you'll do just fine.” ‘Easy for you to say,’ he wants to snarl. Charles doesn't think he’s had this many bitten-back retorts since he was alive and trying to avoid his fathers ire. Still, he’s gotta try for his mate’s. “Sit.” Charlie motions to the Ouija Board and his eye spasms, he's not some dog to be yanked around. Yet one look from her is all it takes for him to do as told. Not that he's happy about it — for his mates, he reminds himself, the nth time that hour.

“Fine,” he grunts. “So the Ooga board is for-” He continues, just to annoy her. A little harmless payback, he deserves a treat after dealing with her mug for so long.

“Ouija.” She corrects. Charles smirks at the familiar impatience shortening her tone. He probably shouldn't poke the bear but he's still bored out of his mind — not to mention angry with nowhere to put it — and he's a perpetual teenager so. Blame the sixteen-year-old hormones. Or something.

“Luigi?” Charles says, biting down the cheeky grin threatening to split his lips. Tilting his head with wide, overly innocent eyes and watching as Charlie goes through the five stages of grief rapid fire.

“For heaven's sake- you're doing it on purpose!” She accuses.

“I've not a clue what you're on about Char-lie.” He sing-songs her not-name with a mischievous twinkle in his eye, smiling mirthfully. It's so plainly on purpose that she stares at him and looks all for the world like she wants to scream, rip out her hair, and shake him by the shoulders.

“Just,” she sighs. “Picture who you wish to make a connection with-” Easy, Charles stares at Edwin and Crystal frequently enough he could draw them from memory. “-set your hands atop the planchette, and connect.” Well, that's not vague at all. Super helpful. Thank you so much for that vital information Charlie. He lets out an aggravated breath but does as told, closing his eyes and picturing his mate’s arguing about mythology. He reaches out to set cautious fingers on the planchette alongside Charlie and continues his breathing exercise.

“Ready?” Charlie asks. The way she gazes at him feels strictly professional, but behind her eyes lies something else — some context he can't decipher. There's an infliction to her voice, too; Charles can't pinpoint it, but were it on another he would venture to name it concern. Double-checking with himself that he's all good to go, Charles nods. “Go on then,” she prods, closing her eyes too.

With a deep breath Charles pictures Edwin — Crystal too, but given it’s Edwin’s mind, he puts more focus on his best mate's features — and reaches out. It's hard to explain but it feels like his energy is groping blindly for something to latch onto, there's something oppressive and hot, but also much like a sturdy rock amidst a storm — Charlie, he realizes. Then there's something familiar and wild, barely held-back energy pooling at the seams and bleeding out in soft petals, it's bright and loud — Crystal. Finally, he feels it, it’s scared and bitter but bright and kind too, like the sun peeking past gloomy clouds; it’s skittish at first but is quick to recognize him and shake off any apprehension — Edwin.

The cloudy rays reach out to his frosty safety and latch on, something in his head slots into place and it all feels so right. And then everything goes. Well.

Everything goes… something. Not quite black, not quite white. The last coherent thought Charles has is,

‘Hang in there, mates. I’m coming.’

In Your Head (Out of Your Mind) - Chapter 2 - Turning_Your_Local_Fandoms_Fruity (2024)

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