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Septimus sent Sweet back a confirmation. Then, while he still had his phone out, he texted Max (Maximus, because his parents had intended to stop at six, and at least didn’t have the poor taste to name a child Sextus. They had some sense, despite both being classical studies professors and too far up their own asses, even if they still hadn’t imagined any potential problems with naming their sixth son ‘Maximus Boon’). Max was the only of his brothers still in town with him, and had insisted that Septimus text him when he got there.
Max worried too much.
Still, Septimus confirmed that 🗸sent at 6:02 pm was displayed next to his quick note, then opened his backpack to drop his phone into it again. Inside were all the supplies he’d anticipated needing—a change of clothes, hairbrush, toothbrush, deodorant, wallet, keys, phone charger, laptop, and a flashlight. The last he had only brought at Sweet’s prompting. “The power can be a bit shaky sometimes,” Sweet had warned him. “I’ll bring candles and flashlights too but it can’t hurt to have one of your own in case it’s dark when you arrive.”
Sweet was the sort who thought ahead about things like that. They’d met in Septimus’s History of Film summer course, which Sweet wasn’t enrolled in but snuck in to sit in the back and watch old movies anyway. Septimus preferred the back too, and although they hadn’t exchanged words, since Sweet usually arrived after the room had gone dark, they’d gotten used to sitting together.
The ice broke during Un Chien Andalou. The prof had warned the class about the eye-slitting scene in advance, and that it was a real eye (though of a dead calf), and that he’d had people pass out before, so if they didn’t think they could take it, they should look away.
Septimus had thought he could take it.
He’d no sooner realized that he’d been wrong before Sweet had reached over, wrapping an arm around him and pulling him in, forcing Septimus’s face into his shoulder to block the view, so that he’d barely seen any of it. He’d let go of Septimus as soon as that was over with and went back to watching in silence, but Septimus thanked him after.
“I looked away myself and saw the look on your face,” Sweet had said, grinning. “I acted without thinking. Sorry for grabbing you, but sometimes we need other people to make decisions for us in the heat of the moment. I’m Sweet.” And then, at the look on Septimus’s face at the perceived self-compliment, “Damien Sweet.”
And now Sweet was probably inside heating the rooms up or something while Septimus dithered around in the cold outside. Decided, he zipped up his bag and slung it onto his shoulder. The driveway had widened in front of the house, hence why he’d parked there, but continued on a slightly narrower track around to the back. He hesitated at the front door for a moment longer, since it was obviously unlocked, but if Sweet had any initial trick in the Halloween trick or treat, it’d be set up here. Sweet wasn’t really a prankster, but he did like fun, and he had gone on about how creepy the place could be.
Septimus headed down the steps and walked further up the driveway to the back. There was a detached garage there, so Sweet must have parked inside. The rest of the house was isolated by trees, leaving no other way to go from here, and the back yard was more of a back gravel lot. Septimus debated bringing his car around, then decided to leave it where it was rather than risk the paint trying to get it back here.
He walked up the back stairs and tested the door; the knob on this, too, turned under his hand, opening into a dark room. From the dim light of the sunset behind him, he could see that it was some kind of laundry room, or maybe a storage room. He stepped forward—
—and let out a shout as something landed on his back from where it had launched off the washing machine to the right of the door. He flailed a hand out, elbow landing in the gut of the laughing, clinging figure.
“Oof!” Sweet gasped between snickers, and Septimus froze. “Sep, you gotta be careful not to hurt anyone in this house, okay? It’s old and creepy, who knows what might happen.”
“Very funny,” Septimus said, willing his heart to calm down. He reached out with his other arm and felt around until he found a light switch, turning it on and flooding the laundry room with light. Sweet was very close, and the sudden illumination reflected in his eyes endlessly for a moment like infinite stars.
Sweet leaned back, smiling. “I watched through the window as you snuck around back, and thought I’d surprise you before you could surprise me. Welcome to my childhood home. What do you want to do first? Drop your stuff off upstairs? Get some food into you?”
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[Instructions | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 | Day 12 | Day 13 | Day 14 | Day 15 | Day 16 | Day 17 | Day 18 | Day 19 | Day 20 | Day 21 | Day 22 | Day 23 | Day 24 | Day 25 | Conclusion | Author’s Notes]