[New and want to jump in? Please read the Instructions, but go ahead!]
Septimus found that he wasn’t meeting Sweet’s eyes any more—at least, not the ones on his face. The ones on his stomach and chest seemed a bit swollen, blood trickling, and their pupils were too wide, which he had to assume still wasn’t normal, even in this incomprehensible circumstance.
He pulled his sleeve down over his knuckles and used that to dab away some of the blood, careful not to get his sleeve into any of the eyes. The nearest one squinted shut in alarm as Septimus’s finger grew near, then slowly opened again at his gentle touch.
“I’m sorry,” Sweet groaned.
Septimus hesitated over what to do, trying not to freak out but still find a way to express what he was thinking. “Well,” he said. “I mean. I did realize by now you weren’t being totally honest to me.”
He couldn’t quite bring himself to say it’s all right, but he nodded, knowing that Sweet could see it quite clearly. “Are you sure you need to go down there?” he asked, instead of pursuing it further. He wanted to know, but honestly didn’t have any particular questions come to mind. The weirdness was too weird to know where to start. “You don’t look good.”
“I know,” Sweet said. “But I have to.”
He pushed Septimus back a little. Sitting back on his heels, he felt something sway against his chest, and raised a hand to find himself wearing a necklace—presumably the one he’d found in the chest, though he hadn’t got a good look at it then, and couldn’t now with it on him. “Did you put this on me?”
“Huh?” Sweet had got to his knees, his shirt falling back down and making him seem human again. He stayed there, swaying, staring at him. “Oh. No. It wrapped itself around you. I tried to get it off and you clonked me with your elbow.”
“I—sorry,” Septimus stammered, aghast. “Really?”
“Not why I’m out of it,” Sweet promised him, managing a smile. “Sorry, I can’t—I really gotta go. I feel like I’m coming to pieces.”
Septimus looked at him uncertainly for a long moment, then slid an arm around Sweet as carefully as he could. He couldn’t stop thinking about those eyes, and how many more his arm might be pressing against under Sweet’s shirt. How uncomfortable this might be. “Is this okay?”
“Thank you,” Sweet whispered.
Throat suddenly too tight to answer, Septimus just nodded.
The two of them made their way down the stairs with great care, flashlight clutched in one of Septimus’s hands as he supported Sweet. It was still almost impossible to see where they were going, and between the darkness and Sweet’s difficulty carrying himself, it was an agonizingly long process of feeling out each step before shifting their weight to it.
Sweet let out a sigh of relief as they came to the main floor, though whether it was that he was fighting the compulsion less, or that he was just tired after all that, Septimus couldn’t say.
“I’ll take it from here,” Sweet said.
Septimus cleared his throat. On the one hand, it was probably a bad idea to offer—he still didn’t know exactly what was down there, or what tie Sweet had to it, or anything else. But like the guy in the—memory? Dream?—he too was a seventh son of a seventh son, so that had to have some kind of power or significance. Maybe there was something he could do.
“I’ll come with you,” Septimus said, and managed to keep his voice steady.
Without any hesitation, Sweet shook his head, then groaned. He pulled away from Septimus and stood on his own, though he kept a hand on the wall to do it. “No,” he said. “It’s a bad idea. Please. It’ll be fine—it’s always been fine before. He already knows you’re here. I don’t want him to be able to do anything about it.”
“I don’t want to stay up here while you just—”
“I told you before,” Sweet interrupted. “I invited you here because I, I need you to be here for me after. If you go down and get—if things go wrong for you down there, we’ll both be in trouble. If you want to support me, let me go alone.”
Helpless, Septimus stared at him, searching for some kind of argument—though he didn’t have enough answers to make one. He wished, briefly, that he’d asked more, pried more, learned more.
“All right,” he said, finally. “I’ll get the blankets and stuff ready. Don’t fall down the basement stairs.”
“Thanks,” Sweet said. He smiled softly, and opened the basement door. “Love you.”
And then he was taking a step down into the darkness, shutting the door behind him.
Septimus staggered back against the wall of the bent hallway, trying to will his heart to calm down, his mind to stop rushing, everything to slow down again. He swallowed the lump in his throat and mechanically dragged himself back up the stairs to go fetch the blankets.
On the way, he stopped in front of the door Sweet had identified as the bathroom, hesitated, then went in. It had been a long few hours. When he was done, and had quickly washed his hands—there was at least a little cold water left in the pipes, though he couldn’t be sure if the house need electricity to pump up anything new—he carefully angled his flashlight to check the necklace he was wearing in the mirror over the sink.
It was a small anatomical heart in glass or resin, attached to a chain. His own heart sank, because there was no way it could be a coincidence. It wasn’t the same heart—or at least, this one was small and seemed artificial— but it wasn’t like that was reassuring.
Shaking his head, Septimus made himself keep going. He’d probably taken four or five minutes up here already. He went and gathered blankets, dragging them back downstairs to the basement door, and waited.
And waited. And waited.
His phone was showing 10% power remaining and had frozen at 3 am, but he had no idea how long into the power outage he’d been unconscious for.
It was definitely more than six minutes now, and there’d been no change. He began counting hundreds again, and got to eight hundred before he was too disturbed to continue.
Sweet had been so sure that it’d be fine, but what if it was different this time? There were so many reasons it could be, from Sweet’s attempt to fight it to stay by Septimus, to Septimus’s dream with the necklace, to Septimus’s presence here in the first place—the dream had made it clear that the seventh son of a seventh son had some significance. Or it could be all of them together, or other things he couldn’t begin to guess at.
He guessed that roughly fifteen minutes had passed by now, which was not a lot of time in the grand scheme of things, but when compared to six minutes both times previously, it felt like an eternity.
Septimus rose and put his hand on the basement door. The knob was ice cold as he turned it, opening it to try to shine his flashlight into the darkness below. The light didn’t penetrate it, like the darkness itself had mass.
Was there anything he was forgetting? Was there anything he should do to prepare for this? Did he need to take anything?
There was no question for him any more that he should follow Sweet down, though.
[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]
[Also, a friend, Mikage, surprised me with art to accompany Day 18. Check it out!! My skin has cleared up and blessings have been laid on my household. I am currently eating both my fists in pure joy.]