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It was an undeniably alarming response. Septimus let a breath out through his teeth, mind racing as he tried to decide what would be best to say.
“Okay, Sweet,” he said carefully, finally. “I just have a couple more things, and then we can have fun, all right? We can relax. Maybe watch a movie. That sound good?”
Sweet nodded, jerkily. “It sounds good,” he said, his tone mimicking Septimus’s, apparently unconsciously.
“All right,” Septimus said. “Just, before that, I just need to know. The vertigo and time loss, do you think that’s part of the house’s… thing? Has it happened to anyone else? I need to know if it’s because of that or if it’s, you know, unrelated, and I just happen to be sick too.”
“It’s almost certainly the house,” Sweet said, and tucked the blanket more around himself, cocooning. “When Mom got a boyfriend, he had problems on those nights too. Not exactly the same, but similar. Mom didn’t have them, or at least, didn’t let me see if she did.”
A bit uncertain at that response, Septimus nodded. “Just those nights, though?” he asked. “Not like… there might be a gas leak or something, or bad electrical wiring, which would cause it normally?”
“These are the only nights it’s active enough,” Sweet said.
That was possibly the most frightening answer Septimus had gotten so far, and he restrained whatever embarrassing noise was trying to wrestle its way out of his throat. “Oh,” he said instead, a bit airlessly. “Okay.”
“That’s… good?” He couldn’t quite prevent the way it sounded. “That I’m not sick or exposed to, I mean, anyway.” God, what was he even being exposed to? “My second question’s kind of related, but do you have reactions to things in here? Physical, I mean. Since you’ve come here every year, you have to know, right?”
Sweet didn’t answer, staring down.
Shaking himself, like he was trying to push his mood away, Sweet got up from his chair. “I haven’t had dizzy fits before,” he said. “Some stuff will probably happen to me, though.”
“And it’s stuff you expected I wouldn’t notice,” Septimus said cautiously. “Since you thought you could get away without me knowing any of this.”
“It’s stuff I wouldn’t show you,” Sweet corrected.
Septimus shivered. It was cold, and he couldn’t be sure how much of the chill was just emotional. “Will you show me now that I know?”
“I don’t know,” Sweet said. He met Septimus’s gaze, brows creased. “Some things are personal? It’s not, I trust you, but… I mean, I mostly trust you, but we really just met, and I don’t like these things either.”
“I might be able to help—”
“That’s why I invited you!”
Holding up both hands, Septimus tried to shush him. “I know, you said. I know. Okay. We’ll deal with that later, okay? If it happens.”
“It’s… less likely to if you’re here,” Sweet volunteered, after a moment. “I think, probably. It wasn’t bad at all when Mom was here. But the times I came here by myself, it lasted a really long time.”
Christ almighty. Septimus cast his gaze around for something other than Sweet to look at, and saw his laptop and phone. “Okay, well,” he said. “For now, let’s do something fun. Watch that movie, see if it does make you feel better. I’ve got a bunch downloaded, but I need you to go find some candles and flashlights and all that. It’ll make for good mood lighting, and if the power goes out again, we won’t be left in the dark. Also, it’s cold, and I really think we can both use hot drinks. Can you do that for us?”
“Okay,” Sweet said.
“Do you want to watch on the TV or on a laptop?”
“Let’s do laptop,” Sweet said. “The TV’s old, so if you have it on your computer, we can’t just stream it or anything.”
“Right, okay,” Septimus said. He gave Sweet his best reassuring grin; this, at least, was more normal. “So can you get those things started? If you get me the candles and matches I can get that ready while you get the drinks and stuff.”
“Okay,” Sweet said again. He sounded a little helpless, and just stared at Septimus for another moment, like there was something more he felt he should say, then just held out his blanket to Septimus. Septimus took it, and Sweet gave him an awkward smile, then left the room.
As Sweet came in and out, dropping off candles and candle holders, Septimus did a quick google for local paranormal investigators while pretending to look for his movie file. Nothing that he could get out here tonight—the crew from the nearest city had a blog post about a Halloween investigation they’d be on. Well, after tonight, he and Sweet could decide about calling them out, or a local priest, or whatever. Right now, his priority had to be keeping them both calm, comfortable, and keeping an eye out for whatever weirdness might happen next.
There had to be something he could do to make this easier.
He quickly closed the tab and rewindowed to his files as Sweet came back in and handed him the matches. “Thanks,” he said, voice almost even.
“No problem,” Sweet said. “The water’s almost ready for drinks. I’ll be back in a minute.”
“Great. I’ll make a little nest for us in here.”
This time, Sweet’s smile was its old self again. He headed back out, and Septimus arranged the candles around Sweet’s desk before lighting them, and put flashlights within grabbing range on both ends of the bed.
When Sweet came back, he was carrying two steaming mugs. He smiled at the candlelight, and at the little pile of blankets Septimus had made to wrap them both in with the laptop in front. “I made us pumpkin spice lattes,” he said. “It’s just that Starbucks instant coffee stuff, but I thought, seasonally—”
“Good thinking,” Septimus said, and reached to take his.
They leaned together as Hocus Pocus played, huddled together in the blankets, and both of them tangibly relaxing. Things felt suddenly proper again. It could be a normal Halloween in a normal house.
In fact, it took until the movie had finished, credits rolling, before the power went out again.
Both of them went tense, neither of them moving for a moment, as if hoping that it was just a flicker and the lights would come back on.
Then Sweet began to pull away.
[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]