Perpetual Halloween
Sera’s house. He hadn’t been by in over a year, truth be told. He hadn’t seen her in even longer, so the Hermetic expected the place to be a proverbial ghost town and, instead, found it to be a literal ghost town- much livelier than one would think to the point of being almost unsettling.
There were still pumpkins out on the front lawn, stacked up and carved with little faces and string lights hung with Edison bulbs decorated the front porch. They flickered and spooky sound effects played when they did as one would expect with your standard Halloween fare; the solo cups scattered in the yard were black and orange. There were two cats and three different permutations of Dr. Who sitting on the sofa at the curb.
Things existed here in their prime; the mind likes to build things in a state of how they were most memorable since most things are non-events in the realm of memory. Brushing your teeth in the morning, eating rice cakes, driving to work day after day without any incident whatsoever were all acts that did not warrant notice. The Corona Street house parties were always worthy of remembering, for the parts that he was chemically capable of remembering. Sometimes Serafine was at them, and sometimes she was not but the woman came with her own entourage, so it only stood to reason that if she were not there they would follow soon after. Like a pack instead of a band. Like a quiet religious order of their own following consciously or unconsciously the teachings Serafine lived her life by. Besides, he liked her friends. They were sort of also his friends; their relationships existed outside of her.
William smiled and trotted his way up the front steps. (Respite.) The house had that same smell that it usually does, but this time more punctuated by the ever-present clove and cinnamon scent that comes this time of year. Warm bodies in cheap costumes drinking whatever-the-fuck was there and each and every blessed one of them had their own sort of energy. You could feel it there more than any other place; Corona Street was more alive than any other place in this city if only because of the collective beating hearts sharing communion over gin.
 ("Remember that you're at the very beginning, and you have fuck-all of an idea of who's what and when and where. Caution, man. Especially now, when you're with your housemates, I think you need to have your wits about you at every step," was a warning and piece of advice Dan had issued to him before. With the potential of a very unpleasant Tribunal lurking on the horizon it seemed like a very solid piece of advice; there had never been an instance where William had not listened when Dan deigned to impart wisdom.)
“Hey, Dee!” he pressed himself against the back of a sofa where a few people were seated. Dee, with her milky white skin and tendency to blush from her bosom up, turned her attention in the direction of the voice.
“Elijah!” she brightened, “where have you been? We haven’t seen you at derby.”
“I’m lame,” he laughed, “packed up my cheerleading uniform and everything.”
“You are lame, there’s nobody who pulls off the flyaway skirt better than you.”
“You’re goddamned right there’s not- you seen Sera or Dan?”
“Oh! Yeah, we’re out of vodka and Sera wanted cupcakes sooo,” Dee laughed at that, a telltale blush creeping up her body.
“How can you want cupcakes when the whole place smells like bomb-assed frosting?” (Thanks NED.)
“That’s probably why, witch can’t eat the gingerbread house she lives in-”
“-hence the need to pop Hansel and Gretel in a microwave.”
“Gawd, Dee,” between laughs. This is what it was like at Sera’s; he was happy, “when did you get to be morbid?”
“Ever since you’ve been that way. I’m just following suit,” she winked and gave a little wiggle of her fingers. William excused himself and headed off to the kitchen.
It was the standard raiding of the goods presented. He grabbed a bottle of some unpronounceable local craft beer and took a drink. The flow of the party continued and there was the occasional question as to what he was for Halloween (”uh… I’m a fugitive?”) which garnered some laughter but mostly just the need to wave it off because people didn’t get it and didn’t want him to explain. They would rather get hammered or high or both and talk about whatever was going on. Neither mage nor mortal seemed to notice that there weren’t any stars or sun in the sky. Nobody but Neith seemed to have noticed, really. Oh, and the rest of the Order. So, the rather obvious astrological anomaly was off the table.
Which left the one thing they all had in common here: drinking. He wasn’t concerned about getting too drunk; the Hermetic could warp creation to his will. Sobering up and hangovers were, in fact, a thing of the past if he didn’t want to deal with them. One drink turned into two. Two turned to four. Beer went by drink three in favor of going for whatever the fuck was in the punch bowl by the fourth drink.
By the time he was finishing the fourth drink off, talking to a rather open-minded couple about how the harp is similar to the piano, a tall brunette was handing him his fifth drink. Her hand on his arm was what drew his attention; she had a bright red wig in her gloved hand. He had to take the drink if only to fill up space. “You look dehydrated.”
She was made of the stuff that young men had plastered to their ceilings so they could sleep at night.  Red lipstick and red sequined dresses that were slit up to the hip were the most telling signs of a Jessica Rabbit costume. The other sign is the haphazardly pinned down natural hair that inevitably shows when the wearer realizes that red wigs are fucking unbearable.
“I’m actually fucking starving,” he said with a grin, but tipped his glass her way, “but I don’t refuse a drink. Blahblahblah calories bullshit don’t care I live on sugar anyway.”
“You are going to give yourself diabetes.”
“Really? How quickly can I get on that?” Why do you sound familiar?
“Drink up and find out. That punch bowl is basically glucose and everclear.”
“And lime sherbet. Don’t forget that part,” he grinned, playful.
The brunette laughed and went to pour herself a glass as well, looking awkwardly at her wig before handing it off to Will so she could manage the punch bowl. The couple he had been talking to excused themselves, but the male partner does give him a thumbs-up and mouthed something that seemed to be a congratulation in his direction. William just shook his head with that damned grin on his face that hadn’t been a constant fixture in ages. Were he content to face the idea that he was going to lay down and accept his fate, this would be a good way to remember his last days.
“So, I’m Elijah,” he offers.
“I know,” she replies.
“Oh ho, I’m legendary apparently.”
The brunette just laughed. Drink polished off, he offered her the cup and she started in on a refill. William felt warm, breathing in quickly but noticing that air didn’t have the right taste. Maybe he drank too much? It wasn’t an unfamiliar feeling- the tendency towards floating and disconnect. He’d gone through five drinks in who knows how much time (what time was it? What day was it?) and he hadn’t had much to eat. Rookie mistakes for someone who was seasoned at this.
This was, however, a familiar feeling. He couldn’t shake the thought that he knew her, if not her then he knew her voice. He knew her textures even if William couldn’t place what palate she was painted on. The déjà vu wasn’t the concern, it was that feeling of disconnect, that feeling that comes when your body doesn’t want to respond to the commands you’re giving it and the feeling that you have control isn’t so much slipping as it is being wrenched away from you. His breathing was slower than it had any right to be; Will knew why it was hard to breathe. His knees started to give on him and the brunette reached to keep him on his feet.
She was much stronger than her body had any logical reason to be.
 “My name is Blythe,” she reminded him. He didn’t remember anything after that. 
author's note: This should probably have a content warning for things constituting as war crimes. 

July 2017, earthbound.
… Forty-five, forty-six, forty-seven…
The water was cold, and while the rest of William was dry his shoulders and head were not. The room had always been dark, at least when she started coming it was. The first day, when Vriqiohr's followers came, they were of the belief that he truly was a friend of their reincarnated master. They treated him as a creature that needed to be observed and they had good reason to do so; Awakened beings were dangerous. The first attempt at leaving had been one of charm and lies; he had lied his way out of captivity before.
He was not a creature that liked being constrained; infinite beings never are.
… Fifty-three, fifty-four, fifty-five…
The water was cold, and the younger man held onto sensations while the oxygen from his lungs was slowly being depleted. A minute was where his lungs started to burn, but he wasn’t there yet. William held onto sensations, noticed everything. He felt the cold press of metal against his ribs and knew that even though he was on his knees the trough was a little taller than he could comfortably reach. That meant it was heavy- it was either a fixture in the basement or someone carried it down here empty and filled it later.
If he focused on minutiae, the Hermetic wouldn’t be stuck remembering other things, thinking about how badly it hurts when cold water first hits your lungs and how your body after a certain point just stops fighting and breathes. He knows those first desperate pushes to expel water from your lungs only to find more of the same. William knows what it feels like to die this way.
… Seventy-eight, seventy-nine, eighty…
The average person can only hold their breath for two minutes. He pushes back to sit up and try to pull himself out of the water, but her hand is still gripping a fist full of hair on the back of his head. It’s close enough to the scalp and her grasp too steady to really turn his head to try and wrench free. He’s tried- the first time, the second time. What shocks William is how strong this woman is, despite how he can feel how delicate her hand feels and how slender her arms are. This is wrong. There is some aberration here and he thinks she can’t be human.
… One hundred five, one hundred six, one hundred seven…
The bonds don’t give. He’d broken out of zip ties and duct tape and instead William was faced with a familiar clinical sensation. Medical restrains are designed in a fashion that is intended to make sure that the patient doesn’t injure themselves or others, but somehow William still manages to do that. Earlier on he had head butted a cultist who had come in to check on him at one point to be sure he hadn’t gone anywhere. On Blythe’s first visit she informed William that he broke the other man’s nose, and had concluded it probably wasn’t safe to feed him anymore. Now he was at least still trying as he broke the minute mark.

… one hundred seventeen, one hundred eighteen, one hundred nineteen…

Pushed back more desperately.
… one hundred thirty-three, one hundredthirtyfour, onehundredthirtyfive.
He drew that first, involuntary breath inward-
-wrenched back hard enough that her grip almost faltered-
She pulls his head out of the water, holds him up while he coughs out water and gagged like he might well throw up whatever he may have involuntarily swallowed.
 “I find your kind fascinating. Creatures of will and magick… nothing phases you, except in these moments.”
The only reply was the sound of his own breathing, trembling.
“My mistress rewards an empty vessel,” the woman told him.
He couldn’t get a solid breath before greeting the water again.
One, two, three, four- (I can’t- I can’t- it’s everywhere, I can’t-)… Seventy-seven, seventy-eight (It’s too much)… one… hun…dred…

When he came back around he could feel where bones had cracked courtesy of resuscitative efforts on the woman’s part. The room was black, and he did not see her. He coughed, tried to pull in a ball but found he was too weak and too tired and too terrified to move. He’d found himself paralyzed from less, but found that more left one helpless. The Awake portions of his mind railed, screamed, demanded that he get up and fight back.

 It was like this when Blythe came. He’d learn about hints about the gifts bestowed upon her by her beloved mistress. He would learn how hard she could swing a crowbar. He would learn how soft her hands were and how warm she could be and how he could feel her pulse in her wrist when she rested it on his temple when he couldn’t find it in him to fight back. 


She learned that letting him talk was dangerous, that he didn’t have to have something in his hand to be armed. Blythe also learned something valuable- though he was thoroughly capable, William didn’t have it in him to mortally wound someone. 

William laid with his head in Blythe’s lap, gently stroking his hair as though she were even allowed to bring some sort of comfort. She made gentle noises, shushed when she felt what one could readily assume was involuntary crying. “Beautiful,” she mused.
“What do you want?” he forced out; William hated how small he sounded. Hated how thoroughly and utterly terrified he was at that juncture.
“I want you broken,” in that same gentle voice she had used in comforting him. 

As he had before, he fell asleep in her lap. 
“My soft-hearted, void-touched boy,” she cooed to herself. Stroked his hair until she had to go back to work.

It would be another day before Andrés, Margot, and Ned came. 
October (?), Elsewhere
He came back around with his head pressed against the cold glass of a passenger window. There weren’t any stars in the sky, no sun to give an indication what day it was, and no other cars on the road to give an indication of where they were. The trees were tall, though, and grew straight up instead of being spindly things growing up and out and up again to try and take all the nutrients they could from the air. They weren’t trees that had been abused terribly.

Then again, William didn’t know much about that. He just knew that there were trees- lots of them- and hills (maybe mountain roads?) He could feel the up and down in his stomach and his hand came up to cover his mouth, but the movement was uncoordinated. Still sluggish from… how long ago? Long enough ago. His vision wasn’t sharp and his fingertips were tingling; William’s brain held onto things so they could be grounding. He reached forward before a woman’s hand batted it away from the passenger door handle.

His attention turned to the left; Blythe was driving and seemed rather focused on the road ahead of her.

“There was enough GHB in your system to kill a pony,” she said. Her voice was tight.
“Not a first,” he slurred.
“You could have died.”
“… and?”

She inhaled, slapped both hands back on the steering wheel. William narrowed his eyes before turning back to the window. He was looking for cues but the text and directions on the road signs didn’t seem too keen on revealing themselves to be useful companions in this regard. He reached for his seatbelt to unbuckle, only to have his hands batted away again. The ride was uncomfortable, and William kept looking for something in the car to orient himself. The clock was useless, the radio wasn’t on, the road signs were gibberish.

The road was becoming progressively more mountainous as time went on. He caught the hints of snowflakes coming and hitting the windows; the dropping temperature was accentuated by his breath on the window. The sun was gone; William wasn’t surprised that it was going to start getting very cold wherever it wasn’t. He had no frame of reference for how long they had been driving, but he did know that Blythe had moved his hands from playing with things at least three times until-

“Do it again I’m handcuffing you to the carseat-holder-thingies in the back,” she snapped.
William’s only response was to laugh. It made the woman glower.
“I’m serious.”
“I know,” he replied, uncoordinated but uninhibited, “it’s just-”
“You’re-they’re- thingies?”
“Yeah,” she said, almost sounding self-conscious, “they’re those loops in the newer cars so car seats don’t go flying out the front windshield.”
“I know,” which didn’t make him stop laughing. “You are sooooo much scarier when you’re not driving,” William tittered.
“Before the next rest stop I’m stuffing you in the trunk,” Blythe grumbled.

William didn’t stop laughing for a minute, but he was certain that when he looked her way she did have the barest hints of a smile on her face. Self-deprecating, but humoring him. This was why it was dangerous to let him talk. This was why it was easy for him to almost get out and away the first time, before anyone knew that he was some grand imposter back in July- he was affable. Some trickster or deceiver. Her soft hearted, void-touched boy.

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