[New and want to jump in? Please read the Instructions, but go ahead!]
Septimus’s brows creased in stress and fear as he closed his eyes and thought about all their options: everything he’d laid out, everything they’d thought, everything they could do.
Warmth. Hope. Dreams. Love.
Fire. Destruction. Fear. Sacrifice.
He knew which of the two he preferred.
He opened them again, feeling a little more resolved, and looked at Sweet. Sweet seemed both scared and hungry, small and large beyond all reckoning, as foreign god and human upbringing churned inside him, his flesh hardly enough to contain him.
Septimus loved him.
He loved him just as he was. The Sweet who had originally covered his eyes so he wouldn’t see what now seemed like such a small horror, that uncomfortable moment in an old film. The Sweet who had invited him out here, bought pie, played games with him. The Sweet he’d spent long hours exploring. But also this Sweet: the one who had lied to him about his nature, who had brought him into the den of some deep terror, who was filled with space and eyes and void.
“Sep?” Sweet asked him in a very small, very unnatural voice.
“Yeah,” Septimus said. He smiled and leaned over, pulling him close.
And he kissed Sweet.
It was a symbol so long as it carried the meaning with it: Passion, a future together. In so many fairy tales, it was the signifier for every other promise, marriage and union and happily ever after. He tried to pour that all into it, kissing him with everything he had, all of his love, all of his hopes, all of his dreams.
For a moment, Sweet was frozen with surprise, stiff against him.
And then he let out a little whimper in that voice that wasn’t a voice, winding his arms around Septimus, bandages catching against him, mouth opening onto eternity.
Septimus kissed that as well, determined to accept it all.
When the kiss finally broke, both were breathless, airless. The room had seemed to fade out around them into darkness lit by strange lights; Septimus refused to look at that, at anything except Sweet.
“I love you,” he said, and surprised himself by not stumbling over saying the words for the first time. “I want to stay with you from now until the end of time. I promise that—I swear that.”
Sweet stared at him. Flesh came and went, reforming and vanishing, eyes opening and then blinking closed into nothing again. He said, softly, “I want that too.”
“Then say it. Promise it.”
“I love you,” Sweet said. It came out shyly, and his arms dropped from around Septimus, but only so he could find Septimus’s hands, squeezing them. He let out a weird, echoing laugh. Is this really happening?
Septimus gave him a half-smile, heart pounding, wry. “We’re either going to die together or live together,” he said. “It seemed like a good time to say it.”
Even with the room gone, it felt like something wasn’t quite right. Not quite done. He didn’t even have to think, though, to realize what it was.
He was giving Sweet his heart. It had to be literal.
“I’ll give you my heart,” Septimus said, “if you give me yours. That’s… what this kind of promise is supposed to mean, right? That kind of exchange. Sharing. Not something one-sided.”
Sweet stared at him. His eyes grew larger and larger, opening onto infinity, until only the sensation of Sweet’s hands in his kept Septimus grounded.
Okay, he whispered.
And suddenly it was the two of them again, and Sweet looked normal, human. Septimus drew a breath, trying to understand what was about to happen.
Sweet’s chest opened.
His ribcage popped like a gate, doors swinging wide, showing only nothing inside, his black-purple heart pumping void into himself. Septimus stared at it, morbidly excited, then let out a shout as a sudden pain and heat shot through himself as well, a sharpness in his chest like he’d been stabbed.
There was a horrible creaking feeling, a popping, more pain, unbearable pain, and he felt his own chest crack open.
He didn’t dare look down. He didn’t want to see himself bleeding out, his insides working, or, worse, something more unnatural.
Sweet, though, was staring at Septimus’s chest. “Is it all right?” he asked in his normal voice. “Really?”
Septimus almost didn’t dare speak. He knew he had to. “I’m giving you my heart,” he repeated, and heard the wheezing of his own lungs from the outside. “Give me yours.”
And he reached into Septimus’s chest.
It hurt unbearably. He was screaming, couldn’t help it, squeezing his eyes shut and unable to watch as Sweet tore it free. He felt, for a moment, a horrible cold nothingness, his body struggling to function with nothing there to allow it, but with it came a sense of relief. He didn’t need to feel anything like this. With no heart, there was nothing to feel with and no need to do so.
And then Sweet placed his own heart in Septimus’s chest and he felt it start to pump again, blood and emotion and something else. Once, twice—
His ribcage slammed closed. Again, an unbearable pain welled up in him, and this time, as he screamed, he felt heat racing through him. He could taste eternity, feel reality spinning around him, and knew that he could touch some greater power now. Bend it to his will. Their offering to each other had doubled, quadrupled, rushed back through each of them in turn and reflected and grew, finding more and more to build off of. He felt like he could grant wishes, reset time, give life or death at will—
Septimus opened his eyes, drawing an unsteady breath.
The sound of screaming continued, but it was no longer Septimus doing it. It was Sweet’s father, that petty, old thing, a great creature who had once been powerful enough to be a god but now barely could keep its eyes open. He was screaming and tearing at what Septimus realized was a small, portable world they’d created around them to give them space to do this, a circle within Sweet’s father himself.
The basement room, all of it, had still been inside Sweet’s father. They were still there. And they could tear him apart if they wanted, as they left.
Sweet was pressed against him, arms wrapped around him, breathing steadily with his eyes closed. For a moment, Septimus worried that he’d fallen asleep, but no; he was just reacting to whatever he felt within him of this power, or, perhaps, just to Septimus’s humanity. They were tied together, Septimus realized, by the bandage he’d used to act as a guide home.
All he’d have to do was follow it and they’d be out in the real world. But he knew that Sweet’s father would come pouring out of the hole they’d made, chasing them, trying to get his son back to eat him, too stubborn to stop.
They had enough power now to deal with him. They could put him back to sleep for however long it took the next foolish cult to bring him back. They could burn him in their joint power so he would be destroyed. They could take the connection he had to Sweet and reverse it, so Sweet could devour him instead. Or they could wake him, let him free to do as he wished to the world.
The unmade decision hung heavily around them as Sweet’s father raged and tore at the edges of their world, threatening to break it open.
“I don’t know what to do,” Sweet said softly, wryly. “He’s still my father. But he’s not good. He’s not human. He doesn’t feel what I do, because he can’t.”
“I’ll decide,” Septimus said gently. “Sometimes we need other people to make these decisions for us. Will you trust me? Will you forgive me?”
“I do,” Sweet said.
[Please decide what Septimus will have them do about Sweet’s father.
Please keep in mind that this is the last chance to influence the story,
as Day 26 will be the final part and thus the outcome!]
[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]