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In the Water

Chapter Text

You placed the drinks on the tray, balancing it out in a manner that would hopefully stop you from having a nasty accident. Two weeks in, and you'd gotten the hang of the way things worked, but it was better to be safe than sorry. Waitressing wasn't a hard job to pick up, and with your experience working in diners and bars alike, you'd hit the ground running. It was a small town, customers had picked up that you were new to the place. A few had bristled at the presence of an outsider, but most had been kind and welcoming, a few even offering business cards of businesses around to help you get better accustomed with the townsfolk. Table twelve, you told yourself. Bourbon rocks, beer, two neat whiskeys. With that order done, you impaled the docket onto the chrome spike. You chanted in your head the order, and walked straight to the table. "Bourbon rocks, beer, two whiskies, neat." Unsure of who ordered what beverage, you placed the drinks on the table in the middle, knowing the would pick what they had. The table grunted a thanks, and you left the table, power walking in the direction of the front counter. You spied the supervisor, in the till, sorting more change into the contraption. "Any new tables in?" you said. The petite woman shook her head, blonde hair dancing around the aquiline structure of her face. "Not yet." You felt your lip tug downwards, slightly frustrated at the slow pace. Slow nights were long nights, boredom dragging out the evening and making you feel more tired than you actually were. "If you're looking for something to do, you can serve my tables while I run food?" You looked at Annie, ready to jump on her suggestion. "Yeah?" The blonde shrugged. "If you think it'll help you get more confident in your service, I can stick to that." You nodded. "Yeah, definitely." "Sweet," she said. She bent her head back down, filing notes away into the machine. "Table seven are looking like they're ready to order, if you get overwhelmed let me know." You nodded, and went back out on the floor. Eyes flickered toward table seven. You took them in - two men. You had seen them come in, Annie having grabbed menus and escorted them to the table. The tall one reclined slightly in the chair, blond mop falling over his eyes. The scruffy facial hair made you wrinkle your nose a little - you weren't a fan of it, no matter how attractive the man was. The other was the total opposite. Darker-features on a clean-shaven face, not quite as tall and less bulky. The man was positioned leaning forward onto the table. One relaxed, one uptight. You could be cordial with Blondie, professional with Brownie. Boom, here went nothing. "Hey, gentleman, are we ready?" You kept your voice clear, strong. Not overly bubbly that you would come off as obnoxious, not relaxed enough that you would seem bored. You position yourself toward the dark-haired one. "Sir, can I offer you any drinks to start?" "Just a coke, thank you." He was curt, sure enough. Polite, but still curt. You scribbled the order down, nodding. "Ice? Any lemon or lime?" "Just ice, thank you, ma'am." You finished your scribbling, nodding, before turning the conversation to food. "And what will you be having to eat?" "House sirloin, medium rare, side of fries and garlic butter." "Excellent. And for you?" Now, to turn the conversation more casual. You could slip in a few comments here. Some 'Oh! That's my favourite!' or a 'Are you sure you don't want a side?' could do wonders. More sales, more tips, more money you took home at the end of the day. "I'll have same, a coke, but make it rare instead, and a side of onion rings, instead." "Yep," you nodded. "Any more sides for the table?" He shook his head, blond hair swishing. "No, thanks." "Okay, I'll put that away for you-" "One more thing. Do you guys still do take away boxes?" "Oh! We do, our licensing allows it, but it has to be done at your table." The man looked at you thoughtfully. "Any chance I could take you as well?" It wasn't the first time you'd received such a comment. Waiting tables, you were bound to be found attractive by someone overly confident. It usually went downhill from there, and a few remarks of a particularly disgusting manner had reduced you to tears. Over time you'd grown used to it, often pushing back with an equally nasty comment insinuating something about performance or size. Often, you'd leave them red-faced and ashamed, other times they laughed it off. This time, you were stumped, left gaping like a fish. "Mike, leave her alone, she's new." The blond, Mike, raised his hands in an innocent manner. "I'm just genuinely curious." You had the order, you could ignore them for a while. Your instinct kicked in, flight over fight. Without thinking, you turned your back to the table to give the order to the kitchen. At least you could tell Annie you were getting stressed and have her back serving with you. There was a sharp jerk at your wrist, and you spun back in the direction from where you'd tried to escape. Mike's hand was wrapped around your lower arm, taking up half of it. Fingers overlapping, they enveloped your small limb. "Let go." "Mike, leave her be." Mike raised your arm, bringing your wrist to his face. For a brief moment, you thought he was about to kiss your wrist. You heard him inhale, and while it was still equally as creepy, you were somewhat relieved. "Hm, what is that - " Mike murmured to himself. He stopped nuzzling your wrist, rather abruptly. His grip tightened, and you found yourself prying at his fingers. "Well, now." "Sir, please." You kept your voice low, not wanting to cause a scene so early in the job. "You're hurting me." "Mike, please stop mauling my waitress." A voice called out from behind you, a male voice. Your head snapped back toward the direction the voice had come from, toward the bar. You were met with the imposing figure of Erwin, owner and manager. He stood, arms folded, serious and evidently not in the mood for games. The grip on your wrist was immediately released. "I was just messing around." Erwin raised an eyebrow. "Oh, I bet you were." His eyes flickered to you. (F/N), you can go home." Not saying anything, you made your way back behind the bar. Quickly looking around to see if anyone was watching, you were relieved to see no one was bothered, eating and talking as if nothing had happened. As you went to head through the doorway into the office, you felt Erwin put his hand on your shoulder. "The tips will be in an envelope for you tomorrow it your locker." You nodded in thanks, and left. Home, sweet home. More toward the outskirts of town, your abode had a substantial amount of yard, and seeing the neighbors house on either end required a pair of binoculars and a car ride. Just how you wanted it. You headed up the front steps of the porch, fumbling with the keys. Upon entering the house, you felt a sense of serenity; of peace, safety and calm. Dumping your bag increased your mood, as did kicking off your shoes. You reached inside your shirt, up your back. In two swift movements, you had removed your bra from under your shirt. Tossing the garment over your shoulder to land wherever, you made you trudge up the stairs into the loft. Your bed greeted you, the mattress waiting for you on the futon platform and looking more inviting than ever. Regardless, you had a little job to do. The altar was set up the exact same way it had been set up for years. Same setup, different house. Crouching down, you lit the candles. Pink on the right. Blue on the left. Purple in the middle. Soft fingertips skimmed along your arm, searching. Skin, nails, didn't matter. You found one, exactly what you were looking for. One of Mike's hairs had gotten stuck on your arm, courtesy of sweating like an animal in the diner. Hesitating for a second, you threw the hair into the flame of the purple candle. The rancid smell of singed keratin drifted to your nose. Wrinkling in disgust at the foul scent, you caught a whiff of something else. You knew. Not flinching, not pausing to lick your thumb and forefinger, you extinguished the flames, one by one. Needless to say, you knew now that life here was going to be interesting.

Chapter Text

The rush of falling was an odd sensation, but it was not one you didn't enjoy.
While much of your childhood had been deliberately blacked out, you did recall a few things. This sequence - whatever it was - revived something. Something pure; something happy. Something from a simpler time.
Five or six, you must have been, when your family had taken a trip to the lake. A keen swimmer, under the watchful eye of your parents, you'd been safe, diving and drifting in clouds of teal.
This time, no water held you.
Gravity had you in its force, pulling you further into the depths of the night sky. Luminous blue flooded your body, warming you with a heat you could only describe as astral. Your entire form glowed with the light, violet shadows flinging themselves across your skin.
What could you do, but gaze in wonder at the phenomenon that surrounded you? Stars, reeling in front of your eyes; comets whorled, chasing each other playfully in a dance older than time itself. Moons dipped and fluttered in the mysterious paths that they had been using for millennia.
You were to be the envy of every active stargazer; there wasn't an astronomer in the world that wouldn't kill to trade places with you right now.
Your body gave a sudden lurch - you were slowing down.
You stretched out one arm in what could only be a futile attempt to grasp a star, to take it back to earth with you. Maybe you'd get lucky, and the fall had left some to get tangled in your hair.
The familiar sensation of cotton fluttering against your skin was a familiarity you could deal with. It drew a sigh from you, and your eyes closed in an automatic response to the pleasant warmth, wanting nothing other than to enjoy it more.
"You're here." A man's voice resonated above you, husky and somewhat suggestive.
Your eyes fluttered open. Eyes widening slightly, you gasped. "Mike."
The grey light of morning filtered in through flimsy lace curtains, bathing the room in the dim light. You hauled your body into an upright position, begrudgingly. In your exhausted state, you tried to grip to the tails of the dream, in spite of the end part. How odd of you to conjure up such a thing.
Generally when you Casted, you didn't have the person involved entering your mind, especially not in such a vulnerable state.
There was no point in trying to go back to sleep now. You were far too alert.
The cell phone you'd purchased lay beside your bed. The screen read twelve minutes past six. That was a nap, and a new record for you. Coffee it is, you thought.

The aroma of the warm beverage filled your nostrils. Holding the mug up to your face, you inhaled deeply. For cheap coffee, it wasn't too bad. A nice change from the nasty stuff at work. Your body settled against the kitchen bench, tired and worn.
Eyes scanned the house, enraptured at the expanse of space you now had at your disposal. In spite of only having four rooms, it was a decently sized house. The white wash of the walls probably didn't help, however. Lighter colours made rooms seem so much bigger than they actually were.
Another factor; you had no furniture. Literally, no furniture.
Two weeks, you'd been here. You'd settled into your job relatively well. The shift patterns were something you were used to. However, nothing else had really been easy. It didn't feel like a home. Not yet, anyway.
You'd bought a fridge when you arrived, and a washing machine. Second hand, both in great working condition. The bed frame and mattress, you'd gone to the department store in town. Not expensive, and easy enough to put together yourself.
Maybe it wouldn't hurt to go back and have a look. You didn't have to buy a lot of things, just enough to start making the place a home.
Fuck it, you thought.
Water sloshed into the mug. After a quick shake, you placed it on the edge of the sink.
You were overdue for a shopping spree anyway.

The drive into town wasn't short, but you knew it would be best in the long run. The chances of someone bothering you out how was minimal - no one would travel that far to break into some lonely house in the middle of nowhere. It was too much effort. In saying that, you could see your neighbors house from your window, so you had the reassurance you weren't totally alone out there.
You hair was still damp from the shower, sticking to your neck and face. In an attempt o dry it, you rolled your window down only to be greeted with the frigid breeze. It cut into your body like a whip, sending your flesh into a frenzy of goosebumps blossoming along your skin. For further embarrassment, you felt your nipples harden beneath your shirt.
Silently, you prayed they would settled down before you got out of the car, otherwise they would for sure key someone's car.
It was the harsh reality of moving to a completely different climate. Even in the middle of April, it was still freezing. Everyone else felt normal - you were the freak that needed to integrate blankets into your spring wardrobe. Regardless, your inner child was ecstatic to witness her first real winter, bracing herself for the coming snow.
You stopped the car in the parking provided by the department store. Had it been located on the main street, you would have had a harder time. It was nice to see one of the remaining luxuries of living in a bigger city was still hanging around.
Even then, you relished the idea of only having to go to one place, and find everything you needed to. The amount of gas you wasted back home driving all over town only to find barely half of what you needed was infuriating. Living out of town may have been an issue, but you wouldn't be sucking your gas up just trying to find what you would need. It balanced out, in the end.
Kitchen, bedroom, bathroom - the place had everything you'd need, furniture wise. Further more, it would all match.
You needed bookshelves. It was non-negotiable. Not that you had any books at the moment, but you could work on that. There was a book exchange in town, on the main street. Pay four dollars, and you could fill a bag. It went beyond being a bargain; it was a sign from the gods.
There was a coffee table set, perfectly matching the shelves. One table to act as a focal point, and a smaller replica to act as a side table. Both were round, so it would make the place appear more full. You threw in a rug as well; knitted, heavy grey material, to properly contrast with the colours of the rest of the house.
A lamp - yes, you wanted one of those.
You continued to push the cart, now laden with goods and growing heavier.
The gardening section. Alright, time to fuck shit up, you thought.
A further blessing from the house was it's sizable back yard, and more importantly the shit that got left behind.
Pots. Some six feet long, some small enough to keep on your window sill. Having to leave behind a garden was hard enough, let alone one you'd been working on for three years. This was a part of starting again, however.
Lavender, you decided. Cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots. Some sunflowers, too. Seed packets landed in the cart. Flowers, full of colour and promise.
You were caught off guard by the prices in the hygiene section. Much lower than supermarket price. Best to stock up now; razors, deodorant, ear buds, soap moisturizer.
After today, you would be funding this place.
A little further, and you were into the make up section. Drug store brands, but enough. A few times now, you'd fallen into this section. Here, the pharmacy, or the supermarket. Each time you'd browsed for what seemed like hours, but you never purchased anything. The old you was in there, and that was proof.
She was inside that shell still, crying, scared, alone. She was still compliant, polite, a pushover. She was still weak.
You exhaled sharply, disgusted at her. Foundation, concealer, powder. Close enough to your skin tone, they would do. Liner, shadow, brow pomade, mascara, all tossed into the cart. Brushes, a contour kit, they went in, too.
Even if you weren't great at using them at first, you'd learn. You'd seen Annie's make up for work, and the other girls. What they wore, how they wore it, you'd pick it up fast enough.
A slip of red caught your eye, and you paused. The lip colour was deep - maybe too deep to wear to work. Either way, if you showed up and Annie didn't approve, you could scrape it off before your shift. Decisively, you put the lipstick into your cart.
You didn't care anymore.Nothing else mattered now. You had your house, you had your job. Most importantly, you still had yourself. Further, you knew you were going to be okay.
That was the confidence that freedom gave you.

Wednesday's were generally slow. This suited you, however; the thought of an early knock off called to you like a siren wooing a sailor. Saying you were exhausted wouldn't quite cut it.
You were already running on fuck all sleep already, before even throwing your day into the equation. Putting together furniture, by yourself, arranging it, then spending time out in the back yard digging up soil to get your pots done.
You were fucked. Fucked, shagged, shattered, rooted, all the describing words for tired. Your eyes were felt as though they were being held open with matchsticks. The sooner this shift was over, the better.
You had checked your orders twice, out of boredom. Four tables in the place meant nothing was going to be missed, however. Tonight was going to be easy. People would come in, eat, and leave. Not like Friday nights, when you were throwing out multiple groups of people solely for how shitfaced they got.
Hannah was on food, you were taking care of the drinks. Annie was in the bar, already having closed half of it down. You headed over, hoping she'd be in a chatty mood tonight. She got pretty talkative on slower nights, after all.
"What table are those for?" you said. You were too chipper with the question, almost as though you were shocked at the fact she actually had something to do in the bar.
"Two whiskies for five, and a beer for table eleven."
"Noice." Leaning against the bar would get you yelled at any other night, but this evening you knew not even Annie cared.
"So who are you all done up for?"
The question took you back a little - it wasn't the kind of comment you'd been hoping to get on your make up. "Sorry?"
"Your face looks nice," Annie said dryly. "I thought maybe someone was coming in to see you tonight."
A giggle burst through your lips. "Please, I wish."
Annie slid two dockets toward you. "Spike these. That, and I could pass your number on to someone who wants to spike you."
Blood rushed to your face. "Whiskies for five, beer for eleven."
You dropped off the drinks, flush gone as you brushed off Annie's comment. A few people had shown interest in you; to say Mike was the first wasn't the truth. He was just more forward with it. You returned to the bar, after ensuring the tables didn't need anything else.
You returned to the bar, once again searching for something to do. Cleaning had been completed by the day crew, irritatingly enough.
"I'm bored."
The blond grimaced. "I'm gonna have to send one of you home soon. Probably when kitchen closes."
You nodded absentmindedly, mentally crossing your fingers it would be you. "I'm gonna do a glass run."
"Take this." A rag flew through the air. You caught it, stuffing it into your back pocket.
There was a table Hannah hadn't wiped. It was her section, her responsibility. That being said, she was running food. Didn't matter, easy fix. You yanked the rag from your pocket. Cleaning the table, you removed all traces of filth; crumbs, stickiness, greasy marks.
"Waitress!" A shout rang through the bar, followed by the heavy snap of clicking fingers. For a second you didn't move, instead using a second to throw your eyes back into your head. Finger snappers were generally the rudest customers, as well as the ones who whistled.
You turned around, moving your body to face the direction of the customer. Hannah's section, again. A quick glance showed you she was still busy with food.
You didn't mind dealing with a customer for her - worse came to worse, you could swap, her talking to the patron while you ran food. No trouble at all.
Table fifteen, two males.
The older one, you remembered, having served him on your very first shift. Bald, polite, tipped well. Very nice, even told you your service was divine.
The second one, you pegged him to be around your age, maybe even younger. The beanie didn't help. If he was going for the edgy vampire teen look, he was hitting out of the park.
Up close, he looked even younger, shadows under his eyes contrasting with such pallor you actually considered for a second you were serving a vampire. After last night you wouldn't put it past this town.
"Hey guys, how can I -"
"Do you work here?"
Did you work here? Nah, you just put on the uniform, served people, and got paid for fun. "Yes?"
Count Teen-ula shoved his plate toward you, still full. Two bites had been taken out of the steak, and nothing else. "So then, explain why this is rare when I asked you for medium."
By all factors, he was being unreasonable. You hadn't taken the order, Hannah did. "Sir, let me just go get my manager, she can - "
He cut you off again. "I don't want to speak to your manager, I want to know why you can't take a fucking order correctly."
You needed Annie, now. Plenty of customers like this came through, but this was on a different level of asshole. You could see heads turning, out of the corner of your eye. Because after last night's drama, it was absolutely what you needed.
"Levi, you have the wrong waitress," his companion said. "Even I'm not that blind!"
He laughed, loud and boisterous. You were grateful for that, crossing your fingers it would at least make the guy - Levi - look somewhat stupid.
"Gentlemen, do we have an issue here?" You hadn't seen Annie come over from the bar, and in all honesty, you could have kissed her right then and there.
"Your waitress here can't take a fucking order to save her life, look -" he stabbed a morsel, and prompted to hold the fork up to Annie's face. Blood dripped down the silverware; well, he was right about it not being medium. You wouldn't even call that rare. Hell, if you put grass on the plate, the steak would eat it, that's how under-cooked it was.
Still, his tirade of abuse wasn't going to fly. Annie wouldn't let it.
On queue, as always, her hand dove into her apron. In a flash, it was back out again, and she tossed a piece of paper to Levi. The docket.
What a clever bitch. She was ready to brawl, you could tell.
"Well, if you learn to read, you'll see it says that Hannah put the docket through, not (F/N), so that cuts out the need for you to swing your dick at her.'
'Secondly, that word there says "medium", do you know what that means, Levi?"
She paused for a second before continuing, raising her voice into an upbeat lilt as though she were teaching a preschool rather than dealing with a customer.
"Very good! It means it was the kitchen's fault!"
Annie snatched the plate from the table. "I'm gonna send this back to the kitchen and wipe it from your bill, meanwhile you can take everything you said to my waitress and suck on it."
Rooted to the spot, you questioned whether you were witnessing this for real. Was this a dream?
Oh my god, you thought. Oh my fucking god.
Annie addressed you. "You can head home. Grab some food before you do."
Your gaze returned to Levi, glaring daggers at you from underneath his beanie. You noted, in front of him, an empty glass. You snatched it up, placing it on your tray. It seemed innocent enough, thank the gods. He wasn't gonna stick around much longer to drink. Besides, you need it more, anyway.
Annie was still arguing with Levi, from what you could see in the bar. Good, she was preoccupied. Hannah was somewhere, probably helping the kitchen. You took a toothpick from the dispenser, fully aware of what you were doing. A knife would have been better, cleaner, but you needed to do this on the down-low.
Deep breath, (F/N), deep breath -
One harsh jerk was all it took. Crimson pooled from the pad of your finger, tears springing to your eyes in result of your little self-infliction. You slid your finger around the rim of the glass, smearing the blood over the print he'd left with his lips. The edge evenly coated, that was it.
Your little act of revenge was done.
Cursing was wrong. It was serious. You felt like a loser for doing it over something as petty as being yelled at by a rude customer. The day really had fucked you. You were at the end of your tether. You needed food and rest, and it would be a new day tomorrow.

You felt better after eating. Applying a plaster to your finger, you headed out into the bar. It would be rude not to say goodbye to the girls.
"What did you have for dinner?" she said.
"Caesar salad."
Annie glared into space, almost as though she could start a fire if she stared hard enough. "I could really go one of those."
"I'm sorry about tonight, too." You shrugged your jacket onto your shoulders. "I didn't think he'd be such a princess about it."
Annie shrugged. "I messaged Erwin, just so he knows that he treated you like shit."
You frowned. "I'll see you tomorrow."
"Go out the back way," Annie said. "Levi's out smoking."
Rolling your eyes, you gave Annie a wave as you headed out.
Ten-thirty wasn't a bad time to get out. Five and a half hours of your base wage, plus the eighty dollars you received in tips, you weren't sitting on a bad amount. That was just for tonight, and you were working all the way through to Saturday. Tuesday payday was getting you excited.
It was a vain effort, but you turned up the radio in your car up loud, praying the shitty static would keep you awake for the ride home.
You were crestfallen as the train tracks ahead began to flash. Fuck, you thought.
Was it too much to ask that you got home quickly? It was getting hard to shift gears, you were that exhausted.
You leaned against the window, no sign of the train at all. What was the bet going to be that it was overly long, just to rub salt into the wound?
You sighed, only to be cut off as an earsplitting bang reverberated through the car. There was the sound of shattering glass as your back window gave way. The vehicle lurched forward, and the inertia propelled you forward. Before the seat belt scraped the wind out of your lungs, your head smacked against the window with a sickening 'crack'.
It all happened so fast. So fast, you weren't sure if it even happened at all. Did you fall asleep at the wheel? You couldn't have. Something had hit you from behind. Another car. Headlights were beaming through the window so that was going to be your first assumption.
The airbags hadn't deployed, so it couldn't have been that serious. Still, the pain ripping through your torso was proof enough that seat belts worked.
"Hello?!" The voice outside was muffled, dulled thuds telling you they were trying to get the door open. "Miss, are you okay?!"
Out of habit, you drove with your doors locked. Painfully, hand shaking, you lifted your wrist to flick the lock. The stranger - whoever he was - wrenched the door open.
"Fuck," he said. You felt fingers brushing your face. "(F/N)? (F/N), can you look at me?"
You opened your eyes, not finding the strength to nod.
"I'm fine, Levi."

Chapter Text

Red. Blue. Red. Blue.

The colours flickered in the same pattern, the repetitiveness oddly hypnotic. It was like counting sheep, lulling you further into the depths of your fatigue.

A sliver of brightness slapped you out of the reverie, white light interrupting the pattern of lights slowly merging into a blur of magenta. Your eyes watered, squinting instinctively at the sudden intrusion of light. The paramedic gently placed his thumb beneath your eye, and delicately pulled the skin downward. Opening your eye further to his inspection, he hummed thoughtfully.
"Any vomiting since the accident?"
Your eyes narrowed, frustration growing with each question. "You would have seen it if I did."

The responders had been quick to react, on the scene in a matter of minutes. You had the whole trifecta - while you were being checked over by the medics, firefighters disconnected the batteries of both vehicles. Looking on further, you could see the police conversing with a calm and collected Levi. Stoney-faced and grim, but calm.

"Well, ' the young man said, pulling your attention away from the accident. In spite of your irritation, you were grateful for the brief distraction, both from your exhaustion and bearing witness to the carnage that was now your car. The back windscreen was smashed along with the back cab, the bull bar wrangled into lumps of scrapped metal.

Already, you could smell an expensive price tag attached to parts entailing a '97 Defender. If whoever was given the task of repairing the car could even find parts for it, it was going to be a pricey endeavour.

Your attention was brought back to the medic, his jabbering dropping in and out of your ears.

"- because you don't seem to be showing signs of distress aside from your head."
"What was that?" you said.
"It should be fine to let you go because you don't seem to be showing signs of physical trauma aside from the lump on your head, but I'm a bit concerned."

"Why would you have cause for concern?"
The guy removed his gloves, the sharp snap of latex slapping against skin too loud in your ears. Your teeth clenched together against the sound, irritated at the rubbery gabble. "Your head. I'm still not confident you don't have a concussion."
You opened your mouth to speak, but your voice was drowned out.

"(F/N)!" Shouts sounded from the road side, growing louder. "(F/N)!"
Eyes drifting to the direction of the voice, you were greeted to the image of Annie and Hannah, both still in uniform. Erwin strode behind them, gait slow and careful. For someone who wanted to maintain a low profile, you weren't exactly doing a fantastic job of it.

"Give her space, ladies," the medic said. "She's had a knock."
His comment made you roll your eyes, his tone instantly striking you as condescending. It was like he was talking to children, wanting to see their friend after she was injured on the playground. needless to say, you weren't enjoying being in the presence of this man.

"Whatever," Annie snapped. "Step aside, Frankenstein."
The blonde at one side, the redhead at another, you found yourself in a more comforted state. To be fair, they were the closest things you had to friends at this point in your settlement. It didn't concern you right now your exceedingly high level of vulnerability. Who wouldn't need a little support at a time like this?

"How bad is it?" Hannah delicately placed a hand on your shoulder.
"Look at my car," you grumbled.
"Holy fucking shitsnacks." Annie rose from her seat, evidently wanting to further investigate the mess in front of you. "What the shit happened?"

I cursed someone because I'm clearly fucking twelve, you thought. Out loud, you said, "Guess who rear-ended me?"

Annie's face darkened, slender eyebrows arching into her trademark scowl. "I know. He called us."

This was riveting - damage and trauma aside, you decided. You were getting a vibe that she disliked the dark-haired male on a level that could only be described as "extreme", and there was an inkling that the feeling was mutual.
"I can drop you home if you're free to go." Hannah turned her attention to the medic. "Is she -?"
"I'm not confident." The guy ran a hand through his hair, cheeks puffing in evident reluctance. "No evidence of concussion or anything."

You piped up. "I'm fine, and I'm exhausted, and I would like to go home."
His mouth fell open in protest, though he didn't say anything to stop you.
"I can stay with her tonight," Hannah said.
You turned to the girl, a little surprised at her suggestion. "What?"

She offered you a smile, her freckles bunching into little constellations on her cheeks. "If that's okay with you."
Annie interjected. "I agree with Hannah and fire engine nurse."
"Aren't you tired? I don't have anything that would fit you, or a spare room."
"I have a bag in my car, and honestly a pillow on the floor will do." She stood, barely taller than Annie. "You finish whatever you need with these guys and I'll wait."

After a quick chat to the police, filling them in on what you'd done and your recollection of details regarding the accident, you were free to go. Hannah was leaning against her car, patient and happy. No sign of her blonde counterpart, which you found odd.
"Where's Annie?"
"She had to check everything was properly closed down, we just left Connie when we got the call."

"You left Connie to close the diner?"
"No, not really.." She frowned. "More to just watch the place…"
"Oh, God."

Hannah unlocked her car, and the two of you clambered inside. Clean, fresh aroma, and bare, bar the bag on the passenger seat.
"So, you're just very prepared?" you said, placing the bag on the floor.
"Not really," she laughed. "Thought I'd have a dick appointment tonight, but he cancelled"
You chuckled at that, holding your own bag to your chest.

With any luck, you would get through the rest of the night alright. Sleep was in your reach, you were ready to cleanse yourself of the day and rest.

Maybe you were ready to welcome friendship into your life, too.

Chapter Text

Breeze rolled gently through the window. The lace curtain drifted back and forth in a delicate lull. The familiarity of the dainty fabric was something of a comfort to him, just as it had been countless nights before.

It made him wonder why he hadn't fallen asleep hours ago.

Mike's eyes drifted to the alarm clock on his bedside table. Red numbers glared in the darkness, half past one in the morning. For fuck's sake, he had to be up in three hours. Hauling himself up into a sitting position, Mike vigorously rubbed his face. He was already frustrated at the lack of rest, knowing well that he would certainly be feeling it tomorrow.

The prospect of a power nap was tempting - to shut his eyes until the alarm went off blaring in the morning. Or, in a few hours from now. there was no point, he was too restless.

Fuck it.

Mike swung his legs off the side of the bed, planting his feet on the floor.

Rising from the bed in a single, smooth movement, Mike began to move through the empty house.

The eeriness of the kitchen struck him - no blaring television, all appliances switched off. Spooky, he thought. A shudder passed over him. Whether from the unearthly feeling or the cool that caressed his nude form, he wasn't sure.

Everything was making him feel bizarre. It was like something had possessed him all of a sudden. A demon had entered his body, and was slowly working its way through his veins. It twisted through him, worming through his blood into every crevice it could.

It was her fault. (F/N).

She had caused all this.

Mike raked his fingers through his hair, anger growing at the fact he couldn't shake the bitch from his head. At least not completely.

The neat, little kitchen suddenly felt destitute. What was comforting, was now bare. Everything in its place, wiped down after dinner, fresh and sparkling even in the hushed light.

There was a stirring in the air beside him - he could have sworn something brushed past. His head turned, following the direction of the sensation. How weird.

Curiosity got the better of him, as it always did. Funny, he could have sworn he'd seen a flourish of (H/C) hair. Similar to that.. That THING'S… Much, much longer, though.

Reluctantly, he followed his imagination, the haunting presence urging him to follow. Through the living room, to the front door.

If there was someone out there, they were about to get a shock. He wasn't about to clothe himself.

Then again, maybe a late night run was just what the doctor ordered.

He opened the front door, allowing the night air to hit him in a wave of scents.

With a final breath, he began to run, tearing off into the dark.

Chapter Text

It was easy to justify the two dollars for bottomless coffee. A warm hug, that prevented mass murder every day. Two bucks, just to stay out of jail. That was a steal. You stirred, focus at an unusually high level in spite of the yesterday's events. Your bed had welcomed you like a long lost lover, pulling you into its comforting embrace and entrapping you in a slumber lasting ten hours. Waking up to deadarm, drool, and a headache was worth it. Hannah sat across from you, dumping sugar into her own beverage. "You want diabetes?" Her soft brown eyes narrowed. "I know who I am." You chuckled, appreciating the humour. A clatter rang out as the spoon left your fingers, landing on the porcelain saucer. You lifted the cup to your lips. "So this place is cute." The diner Hannah had brought you to was small, and relatively empty. Nevertheless, the decorating was on point. Vintage, you would've guessed, bordering on rustic. Wrought iron chairs, matched well with the unvarnished timber of the tables. A couple couches were positioned a little in front of the counter, out of the way with a bookshelf to top it off. Hannah grinned. "I come here all the time with Annie." "Really?" you said, shifting forward in your seat. "You two seem so different." Hannah shrugged her shoulders. "Work brings people together, oddly enough." You took a sip of coffee. "Oh God, this is amazing." "They use the same coffee we do." "Huh." You gazed into the cup. "There you go." "I'm surprised you haven't been put onto breakfast shift yet." She raised the cup to her lips. "Erwin said you've picked it up really well." "Is breakfast shift better?" "We do a lot more take away items, so there's more orders to get done and tips to be split." You hummed thoughtfully. Morning shifts started at five thirty - you'd seen on the weekly shift allocation. Perhaps it would be worth talking to Erwin, once your car was back. You mentally groaned. Your car. Seeing your baby, bashed, beaten and brutalised was enough to make crush your spirit. You still couldn't believe all it took was a fucking Ranger to ruin the most valuable thing you had. It was insulting, almost - Defenders were the sturdiest cars out there. The fact it was an older model added salt to the wound. Finding a part wasn't going to be easy. That car was older than you. "Do you think Erwin would let me go to breakfast shift?" "If you asked him, he'd probably swap us around for a few days a week. It IS a much harder shift though." "Worth it, though." "Yeah," Hannah said. "Definitely." The flush of soft yellow tones fluttered in the corner of your eye, pulling your attention away from your friend. The waitress beamed at you, both hands occupied with a plate. "The two breakfast specials?" "Thank you," you said. The growl in your stomach prompted you to snatch up your fork faster. "So, what's everyone's deal in this place?" "I'm sorry?" You stabbed at a mushroom, piercing the morsel. "Mike, Levi. You guys must put up with some shit." Hannah frowned softly. "It's not the best place to live or work." "Why stay here?" "Why move here?" Answering her came at no difficulty, having your story rehearsed and ready. "My parents died." Hannah was already fair, as typical of redheads. The flush in her cheeks vanished as the colour drained from her face. "I am so sorry." "That's okay." You averted your eyes. "Let's just not talk about it." A silence fell over the two of you as you ate. Evidently you'd caused some embarrassment for Hannah. Guilt seeped into you like rain through clothing. Clothing dried, when hung out in the sun, though, and your survival instinct shone through you brighter than anything else. After the waitress cleared your plates, you could feel the awkwardness lifted. "The tip is a dollar fifty, I'll get it -" you said, pulling out a ten dollar bill. "She the only waitress on?" Your eyes met Hannah's. Immediately, you could see what she was getting at. Exiting the diner, you felt a little lighter thanks to the twenty you had left. "So are you at least liking living here? Asshole customers aside." "Um." You thought, for a split second. "Yeah, I do. Jackasses aside." Hannah laughed. "You have Annie on your side with that, so you're well protected." Her words warmed you. Lucky, because you hadn't exactly picked the best jacket. "Does it ever heat up here?" "Not really," Hannah said. "Summer can get pretty warm but spring still stays nippy." "Great," you said sarcastically. "You'll get used to that, don't-" "Don't what?" "Fuck." Hannah grabbed your elbow. "Let's cross the street, now!" "What? Hannah, I-" "Just run!" Hannah hauled you across the street, your legs struggling in the ankle boots you'd picked out. Not functional, but warm. Unless that made them count as functional. "Hannah, what the fuck is going on?" "Don't look back, but there's a girl back there, curly blonde- (F/N)!" You snapped your head back to where you were facing. "Sorry!" Hannah's pace picked up. "There's a girl back there that's an evangelical psychopath, always trying to rope people into her little church group." "So we just escaped the town whack job?" "Ya." "Here." She tugged your arm gently, toward a backstreet. "We'll be safe in here." "In where?" ""Look." You looked along the stretch of alleyway, searching for what your companion was telling you. "Look closer." The street art was something to behold, which was something of an enigma to you. The nearest high school was over at the next town over, well over forty minutes of driving. You couldn't recall seeing that many teenagers around town. Maybe one or two came into work for dinner with their family. Hannah reached out, running her hand over the graffiti-covered wall. Her fingers hooked into a crevice, and she gave a tug. The wall came away, easily, swinging open. Your eyes widened, and you stood there aghast as Hannah slid her body into the wall. "You coming or not?" Silent, and utterly intrigued, you followed your companion into the wall. You slid your jacket from your shoulders, surprised at the sudden wave of warmth that wrapped itself around you. Light filtered in through the ceiling, you realised. Gazing up, you could see the stained glass window panes. The light filtering in through the roof split into colours, spilling onto the floor in brilliant hues of red and purple and yellow. Candles rested everywhere in neat stacks, surrounded by stones, books, and plants. "What is this place?" "One of the six occult shops we have in the state." Hannah draped her coat over her arm. You looked at her, your brow furrowing. "You only have six?" She shrugged. "Red state. Most go out of business within a year." "Jesus," you said. "Exactly." You gazed at a set of wind chimes, enraptured at the details. Flattened spoons and forks enamoured the ends, and the strands led up to glass beads, engraved silver and delicately painted acrylic. "How does this place make money?" "Everyone comes here from around other towns. Not many people here know about it, but Facebook groups are good advertising." "Good old social media," you muttered. "I'm gonna head upstairs for a second, i wanna see if the book I wanted got returned." "I'll be here." Hannah flashed you her trademark grin, and tore off through the store. It was incredible how hidden away the place was - usually that could only be pulled off in larger cities. You couldn't even remember if the place looked that big from the outside. It was so dilapidated and worn and defaced from the outside, it was pure genius. You were impressed. It was a source of a spiritual channeling to you. Something mysterious to the outsider, but to you it provided a sense of familiarity. You knew how things in this shop worked; what was legit and what was otherwise just a farce to the untrained person looking to seek something deeper and ancient. Pausing briefly, you gazed at a crystal ball, large and polished resting in a wooden cusp. Those, you could say were a scam, but they made a pretty knick knack that would start a conversation among house guests. Your nose wrinkled slightly, tickled by dust. Torturous, as the scent of old books lingered in the air in the soft musk so typical to them, begging to be inhaled. Some had stickers, you noticed, red, others yellow. Some had no stickers at all. Several were ones you recognised, all from authors famous and revered in the occult world. You almost laughed, knowing all too well almost all of them were scrumming for money. It made you feel grateful, and proud at your access to ancestral power. Exclusive, too, as these were things no one else could simply pass along. It was through the female line that you obtained everything you knew, and gained your strength. Why the hell was Hannah getting caught up in this stuff? "Hey there." You didn't jump, knowing the place was likely manned at some point while being unlocked. To not be would have been a ballsy move, given the lack of visitors. "Hi," you said, turning to acknowledge the shopkeeper. "My friend has gone up to look for a book." The young woman smiled at you, though you could tell it wasn't friendly. "I know." Your smile faltered at her tone, surprised at the impolite exchange. "You're the new girl at Smith's, aren't you?" You turned to her again. "Yes." "Congratulations on not being run out of town yet." She reached under the desk, producing a white rag. "Usually women who move here leave within a week." "So I've heard." "'I'm not like most women though'," she said, her voice escalating in pitch. "I know, honey." You blinked, taken aback at the insulting manner in which you'd just been addressed. "What did you just say to me?" "You heard me." She tossed the rag behind her, and leant on the bench. "And, by the way, I know you aren't like other women. At all, in fact. So spit it out, what are you?" "I.. What are you on -" Don't feign cluelessness, it's annoying." She leaned further forward, coming to rest on her elbows. "So. What are you?"

Chapter Text

You knew this was a safe place to talk of practices and beliefs. So often, occult shops were. But you were new, here; an imposter in this small town with residents that had known each other for generations. You could not trust this woman, who or whatever she was. 

"Look, you seem kind of rude," you said. "In all honesty, I'd rather you just didn't talk to me if you want to speak to me like that."  

She gazed at you, her eerily gold eyes casting a warmth over your body that made you shudder. "Rude, but at least I'm not dishonest."

"I'm just going to take these and go." You placed the goods you wanted on the counter - a sage bundle, and the wind chimes. They were simple little items, but bound to make the place feel like home. 

"Thirteen dollars." Her tone was sharp, not the kind you would take with a customer at work. The bitch certainly had a bug up her ass. 

"Thank you." You handed over the cash, she gave you your purchase. "Tell Hannah I'm outside." 

She scoffed. "My company not good enough for you?" 

You gave a half smile. "No. It really isn't." 

 

The wind cut into you like a whip, slicing through the fabric of your clothing. Though, it felt less hostile than the look that woman gave you. That was the second time you'd been called out in three days. What the fuck was wrong with this place? 

 

You'd been hoping to make this place into a home for yourself. You were having doubts, now. It was pure accident you'd found the place, so you'd figured it would be inconspicuous enough. It was turning out to be the complete opposite. 

 

The door slid open, startling you. 

 

Hannah emerged, an opaque bag of cloth hooked over her shoulder. A quick observation led you to believe it was full of books. "Bit of light reading there?" 

 

The redhead chuckled. "Just a little." 

 

The two of you began walking back to her car, the little yellow matchbox that it was. It was cute, you would admit- it suited Hannah perfectly. But compared to the Land Rover you found it awfully cramped. Your heart sank, having been reminded of the Land Rover. 

 

You hoped to receive a call from the mechanic today; you wanted to know how much it would be to fix your baby back up. You weren't at fault for the incident, so insurance should have been able to give you something. Fingers fuckong crossed. 

 

"Were you ready to head home?" Hannah said. 

 

"I think so." You sighed, tugging your coat tighter around you. "I want to get some housework done." 

 

"Your place is spotless." 

 

"I wanna do some gardening." The pair of you slid into the car. "I think it'll take my mind off my tank." 

 

Hannah frowned. "Probably good for you to distract yourself for a while." 

 

You gave a frustrated grunt, yanking your seatbelt on a little too harshly. 

 

"It'll be okay." 

 

You knew it would. 

 

It always turned out in the end.

 

 

 

The previous occupants had left wooden pallets laying in the yard. You'd spent the afternoon digging up soil, filling the pallets, and planting seeds. Winter vegetables, hopefully able to sprout before the frost hit. It would be freezing, you were sure. Laundry was washing, and you had dinner on the stove. 

 

Housework was turning into a remedy. Distracting yourself from your lack of funds, and the current shit show that had become laying your roots here. 

 

What disgruntled you further was waiting for the call from the mechanic. Surely the paperwork had been processed by now. 

 

The sun had sunken lower in the sky. It was still chilly, for March, as you were almost painfully reminded every day. The colours of spring, however, were still clear in front of you. Flowers still blossomed, vibrant even in the orange hues of the sunset. 

 

One day at a time, you told yourself. One day at a time.