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It was somewhat tempting to jump on every question he’d had since this night had started—and there were already too many of them—but Sweet’s shoulders were tight, and he seemed miserable, defensive, hunched over.
Septimus rubbed his face with both hands, forcing himself to focus on not just what he wanted to ask but how he wanted to ask it. If he asked it the wrong way, he might get Sweet clamming up—but that wasn’t really the problem. It felt like their relationship might be on the line here, both in terms of how he might put his issues, and in terms of what he might end up hearing.
He hoped not. It might have been only three months, but he wanted it to last.
Moving slowly, he got up, pulling the comforter off of Sweet’s bed. He carried it over, putting it over Sweet and tucking it around him, rubbing his back.
Sweet let out a shudder.
“Okay,” Septimus said finally, keeping his voice low. He kept rubbing Sweet’s back in slow, steady circles, like the touch, the motion, could keep them both grounded in reality. “Let’s start with, just… why did you invite me here tonight? Sure, it’s creepy, like you said, but you sold me the house on the creepy ambiance, then shut down every suggestion I had to bring the house into Halloween things. You’re obviously uncomfortable here, but you invited me here. It all just feels kind of contradictory?”
“Yeah,” Sweet muttered into his hands. “I mean, it is.”
Letting out a soft, prompting Mm?, Septimus let his hand slow a little, resting on Sweet’s shoulder.
“I just wanted to be sure you’d say yes,” Sweet said, haltingly. “I don’t like it here. You’re right. So I wanted some company? I thought it would be better with company. With… you.”
Septimus forced a smile, hoping the expression would show in his voice somehow, even if it was an effort. “You felt you’d be happier having to be here if I was here too?”
Sweet nodded, quiet.
“But why come here at all, baby?” The pet name slipped out unintentionally; they’d never used terms like that for each other, and he felt himself flush, embarrassed. Sweet didn’t move at all, and his breathing didn’t change—though Septimus couldn’t decide whether he hoped or not that Sweet hadn’t really noticed. Septimus rushed on. “We could have had a Halloween get-together at either of our places back home. Or gone out somewhere. Rented a hotel room—did you know a lot of hotels do spooky packages?”
“I did not,” Sweet mumbled.
“I was looking it up,” Septimus said, and laughed awkwardly, “before you invited me. …You said earlier that you come back here twice a year, right?”
“Is it on the same days every year?”
“Is Halloween one of those specific visits?”
Sweet was getting almost monotonous now, the word coming out in the same way every time, and Septimus began rubbing his back again, gentle, because it was horribly unnerving. “Okay,” Septimus said, carefully unthreatening. “Why?”
“I have to,” Sweet said. It came out in that same tone: hollow, empty, depressed.
Trying to swallow his frustration and discomfort, Septimus nodded, although he knew Sweet couldn’t see it. “So it’s not by choice.”
For a moment, despite himself, the frustration turned into anger. So Sweet was forced to come here and he dragged Septimus into it too? Some caring boyfriend this was.
But that wasn’t fair. There was no proof he was in any actual danger. It was weird so far, nothing more. He had to give Sweet the benefit of the doubt; he seemed so affected by this, so upset. He should have said something, first, been honest, but Septimus doubted he’d have believed it without the feelings he’d had here. So Sweet had made a mistake, and if it was a mistake, surely Sweet was having second thoughts too.
Septimus drew another careful breath and let it out. “Okay,” he said. “Can you explain why? Is it a… a curse or something?”
A couple of seconds ticked by in silence. Then Sweet’s head sagged further as he let out another shudder, folding his arms on the desk and pillowing his face in them. “I guess,” he said. “Something like that. It’s in my blood. The house needs me here sometimes. After it’s done, it lets me go.”
Septimus had to stay calm. For both of them. “That’s really scary,” he said, over the thudding of his heart. “Super weird. I want to believe you, but if you’re trying to play a big Halloween prank on me with all this, this is uncool.”
“I’m not,” Sweet protested, suddenly urgent—finally getting his normal voice back as he jerked around to look at Septimus. His irises seemed larger than usual, black circles growing like spilled ink, though Septimus couldn’t tell if that was real or just a product of his own anxiety. “I’m not, Sep! I wouldn’t.”
“All right,” Septimus said quickly. “Okay. I’ll believe you, Sweet. I’m taking this seriously, that’s all, so I don’t want to get… I don’t want that played with.”
“I’m sorry,” Sweet groaned, and dropped his head down again. “I didn’t think you’d feel anything weird here. I thought we’d come, just spend some time, I could distract myself by having fun while you were here, and then we could just go in the morning. You wouldn’t need to know anything. I didn’t think—you’re safe, I promise, though. Back when Mom lived here, she didn’t get hurt, and we lived here together until I was eighteen. You just have to stay aboveground, and you’ll be perfectly safe.”
“So it has to do with the basement,” Septimus said.
“Please don’t—look, I wouldn’t bring you into danger. Isn’t that what’s important?”
It wasn’t anywhere near as reassuring as Sweet probably wanted it to be, but Septimus forced himself to drape over his shoulders, hugging him loosely. Sweet was cold, practically radiating chill, even through the blanket. “I’m worried about you too,” he pointed out.
“I’ll be fine. It’s been twenty years now,” Sweet said, voice muffled. “I just want to feel better. I want to distract myself, can’t we just—not talk about this any more? I can’t think, tell me what I should do, what I should say, how I should act…”
[Please offer actions, thoughts, or concerns for Septimus in the Comments.]
[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]