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“I’m fine,” Septimus said sheepishly. He pushed away from the wall, his shoulder a little bruised for his efforts, and picked the comforter off the floor. “You cold?”
For a moment, Sweet just stared at him in that same blank confusion, like he was taking stock of his own body to try to answer and couldn’t interpret the messages he was getting. It was an unnerving expression, absent and unfamiliar.
Then his expression cleared a little with some visible effort, and he nodded. “I’m… really cold, actually.”
“That’s what this is here for.” Septimus wrapped the comforter around Sweet’s shoulders, pulling him in for a hug. “I’ve got you.”
Sweet let out a little sound, somewhere between a groan and a laugh, face dropping to Septimus’s shoulder. His cheek brushed Septimus’s bare neck, and Septimus jolted; Sweet wasn’t just cold, he was icy. It was like having snow dumped down his collar. Nothing living seemed like it could get that cold and survive.
“I’ve got you,” he said again, for lack of anything else to fill the space while he rejected that thought. “Let’s go upstairs, get you warmed up. I can get you a hot drink if you like. And maybe a bath?”
“I don’t want to be alone yet,” Sweet said.
“That’s okay,” Septimus said. The offer to sit next to the tub rose and died unspoken. It was an intimate thing, and while he was fine with it, it didn’t seem right to do while he was keeping his own secrets—better to get that out first. He nudged Sweet toward the stairs; Sweet responded sluggishly, but went along. “While you were down there, I, uh, I actually went into your mom’s room.”
“What?” Sweet’s confusion grew. “Why?”
“Well, like I was asking about,” Septimus said awkwardly, “I thought she might have something that’d help. And maybe if it had to do with the house, she’d have left it here to be sure she had it if she ever came back.” He hesitated, then added, “I’m sorry I went in there without asking you.”
Sweet looked at him, but his gaze didn’t fix on Septimus’s face. Once again, he looked like he was far away, like he was seeing something else entirely. “It’s okay, Sep,” he said vaguely. “I mean, it makes sense. Did you find anything…?”
They’d made it to the top of the stairs, so Septimus figured it was safe to let go of Sweet for a moment without risking him just toppling down. He dug around in his pocket. “Yeah, I—”
It was the penny that Septimus pulled out, and even in his current state, Sweet’s brows rose at the sight. “Small change?” he asked in a tone so non-judgmental that it wrapped right around to the other side again.
“It wasn’t what I was looking for,” he protested, staring down at it to avoid having to look Sweet in the eye. Then, more thoughtfully, he considered its weight in his hand. It seemed like maybe it could be a test about the way space felt in this place, like if he flipped it and it landed normally, the problem was definitely over. It couldn’t hurt, anyway. He went to give it a flip, but fumbled it as his phone started blaring.
Sweet jumped, then sank down to sit in the hallway, clutching his head. “What the hell—”
“Sorry,” Septimus managed, fumbling his phone out with hands suddenly numb with surprise. He pushed the alarm off. “I set an alarm on my phone, but time wasn’t moving while you were down there, so I guess, I didn’t check—” The clock on his phone read 12:36 now, which was simultaneously reassuring and not.
“Time wasn’t moving,” Sweet repeated, though less in shock and more in understanding. He groaned again, rubbing his head, clearly in pain.
“Shit, I am sorry,” Septimus said. He ducked to scoop up the penny—which had behaved like any penny would when you failed to catch it—then dropped it and his phone back in his pocket. This time, he drew out the necklace; in the light, it turned out to be a key on a chain.
“A key,” Sweet sighed. “Great to have if we knew what it was supposed to unlock.”
“I’m pretty sure I have an idea,” Septimus said, after a moment’s consideration of it. “There was a locked chest in your mom’s room that had something inside it. Do you want to check it out?”
“I should probably take that bath,” Sweet said. “You can go while I do that, if you want. I don’t want—I’d rather be alone for it if I do.”
“I’m not sure that’s wise,” Septimus said slowly. “Look, it’s nothing I haven’t seen before, right? I just want to make sure you don’t fall, and—”
“Never mind,” Sweet said. The sudden tension in his voice was palpable. He smiled, and seemed to force his eyes to focus on Septimus. “I’m actually feeling better, now that I think about it. Maybe I’ll come with you to check the chest after all.”
[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]