In the end, it wasn’t much of a decision.
Sweet’s father couldn’t be set free, and putting him back to sleep would just leave the problem for the future, however near or distant. Leaving him alive in any way left open a connection between him and Sweet that might never close, might always keep Sweet captive in some way. Trying to channel that power back to change him was, in some ways, even more horrible.
So they would destroy him.
It was done quickly, but not with malice. Despite everything Septimus had gone through, despite everything he knew Sweet had gone through, he couldn’t find it in himself to hate the creature. It was what it was, and it was doing what it knew how to do. It didn’t have anything inside itself to care one way or another who suffered in its path, so nothing it had done was actually cruel.
Sweet had hated him, but had wanted something more, too. Septimus could feel that, almost taste that, and he bundled it up in the rest, in that forgiveness and regret and killing intent, and he released it all at once.
Fire exploded around them, heat and flame, instant and fatal. The screaming outside stopped. The void outside stopped. A multitude of stars closed their eyes.
And Sweet drew a sharp breath in as he felt the sudden end of a connection that had been there as long as he had been alive.
Septimus closed his eyes too, rested his forehead against Sweet’s, and pulled on the bandage.
They collapsed in a heap against the wall outside the basement door—or, rather, what had once been the basement door. It was a twisted, blackened thing, the wood warped beyond all recognition and barring all passage. The basement, and everything in it, had burned, but the house above still stood.
Finally, unsteadily, Septimus exhaled. His breath felt raw, and that foreign heart still beat in his chest, but they were both too tired, too drained from that to be much more than human right then. He wondered if it would return someday, if they would fill back up with that strange power.
That was a thought for another day, though.
“You okay?” he managed, with a slow, tired tongue that didn’t want to form words.
For a few moments, Sweet didn’t answer. Then he nodded and shrugged at the same time, looking up at Septimus with his eyes that refracted hundreds of times, as they always did. But there were only the two, and they were in the right place, and they were flooded with unshed tears.
“I don’t know,” Sweet said. “I think so. I haven’t really… processed.”
“Yeah,” Septimus said softly.
“The power won’t come back. I mean, the electricity,” Sweet said, as if that was what was important right now. “He powered it. The house.”
“We… could probably power it,” Septimus pointed out with a weak laugh. “If we wanted.”
“Not now. Maybe not for years.” Sweet seemed to look inside himself, unsure. “Maybe not ever. We spent a lot on—that.”
He couldn’t say it, or didn’t want to. There was no point in forcing it, though, not this soon.
“Yeah,” Septimus said. “…m’cold.”
“Somehow,” Sweet said. He managed an unsteady smile. “Want to go to bed?”
“Yeah,” Septimus said. “For… however much of the night is left.”
“I don’t have anything to do tomorrow,” Sweet said. He rose unsteadily, shaking the burned remains of the gauze bandage from around himself, and held out a hand to help Septimus up.
Septimus took it, and they almost both tumbled over again, but managed, if only just, to get upright. “Damn,” Septimus said. “I don’t know what I’m feeling.”
“You don’t know what you’re feeling,” Sweet grumbled, half-supporting Septimus and half being supported as they dragged themselves up the stairs. For a few steps, neither of them said anything, and then Sweet let out a wet little laugh. “I can’t believe you married a guy you’d known for three months.”
“I think it was a bit more permanent than marriage,” Septimus said, mustering up a dry humor. “Hopefully it works out.”
“I think it will,” Sweet said. “I’m an optimist.” They paused in the upstairs hallway. “Do you want me to take my mom’s room?”
“Don’t be an idiot.”
Another strange, wet laugh, and they headed together to Sweet’s room and fell down together on the bed.
“Shit,” Sweet whispered. “The comforter.”
“I’ve got it,” Septimus said, and pulled it over them.
They both paused, silently trying to figure where he’d pulled it from—then both simultaneously decided to deal with that another day too. They just pressed together for warmth and comfort as they fell into an uneasy sleep.
And though Septimus was woken hours later by Sweet sobbing, he was a little glad, because eldritch horrors and cosmic power was one thing, but holding someone and rubbing their back and soothing them—that was something he understood.
[Happy Halloween and thank you for playing!
Please check out my Author’s Notes post for a thanks, a giveaway, and Q&A!]
[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]