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second wind

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The kid didn't even move. His body spasmed weakly one last time before lying still, then he rolled sideways out of it only to lie on his back and stare quietly up at the sky.

Ben eyed the gory wound on his stomach. It was far from the worst thing he'd seen, but that didn't make it pleasant. When he looked away from the body, it was to see a matching wound on his spirit. God, how miserable had this kid's life been, that he didn't have a happier time than this to remember?

He wasn't breathing, either. He didn't need to, of course, no one needed to at this point, but most people did anyways out of pure habit. He was so still and quiet that Ben might not have known which one of them was the corpse, if he hadn't seen him move. Either he had resigned himself to his oncoming death remarkably quickly, or he had been waiting to die for a much longer time than he had been in these woods. 

“Hey,” Ben said.

“Coochie coochie coo,” the kid said, and Ben paused. He finally lifted his head just enough to grimace apologetically. “Sorry. My best friend told me once I'd probably say something embarrassing if I ever met god. I figured the least I could do is prove her right.”

Not what Ben expected to hear. He wasn't supposed to question these things, but he still cocked his head to the side curiously. “Uh, coochie coochie coo, then. I'm god?” 

The kid shrugged. “Close enough to count. God of the other half, I guess.”

Ah. Devil. Depressing as hell, but probably about what Ben should have expected considering the kid's death. Still, when he glanced down at his hands, it was to see his own skin, clean and a little calloused. No scales, no claws, no dripping blood. Interesting. The kid had decided the devil was coming for him, but hadn't bothered to picture what that devil would look like.

“What's your name?”

“Harry. Hook, actually, which is kind of hilarious.” He gestured vaguely at his stomach. “Because, you know.”

Ben hissed in an unnecessary breath through his teeth. “Yowch.”

Harry dropped his head back onto the ground. “Yeah.”

“How long have you been out here?”

“Dunno. Feels like a while. Probably not too long.” He shrugged again. The dead leaves below him didn't rustle as his arms slid cleanly through them; he sighed at that and pushed himself up to sitting. Blood dripped down his stomach, but he didn't pay attention to it. “So, time’s up? I guess? Or do I have to do something first?”

Ben frowned. He wasn't sure he'd ever met a murder victim so cavalier about his own gruesome death. “Uh, no. You're pretty much free to go.” 

Harry's mouth twisted, and the first sign of anything like emotion flickered across his face, gone too quickly for Ben to read it. “Kind of you. Thanks so much.”

He stretched, climbed to his feet, and offered Ben a cocky smile. “Off we go, then? Or am I meeting you there later?”

“Meeting me… there?” Ben asked. 

“Well, if I'm special enough for you to greet me yourself, I assume you'll want a crack at the fire and knives at some point.” The easy smile stretched into a grin. “Don't I feel special.” His eyes slid over Ben's shoulder. “Oh. There it is, then. Guess I'll be seeing you soon.”

He took a half a step forward. Before he could put his foot down and walk into a very, very unpleasant eternity, Ben darted forward and shoved him back from it. “Are you insane?”

Harry froze. “What?”

“You think you're going to hell? You're willingly going to hell?”

For the first time, Harry looked uncertain. “It… seemed easier than fighting with you over it? I'm going either way, might as well do it with a little dignity.”

Ben dropped his head but didn't take his hands off Harry's shoulders. Cursing to himself and already planning an explanation for Mal, he said, “I may have another option.”