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there's a devil in this town, swear he's up to no good

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As it turns out, doing things ‘Tom’s way’ ended up being much more work than Will had expected. Whereas he and Lauri would barge in on whatever location they were investigating without so much as hours of googling about it under their belts, Tom insisted that they should go above and beyond with measures to ensure their safety. Which is why they’re trudging in the cold towards a cab to take them to the West Clacton Library, at nearly 7:30 in the morning. 

“I start my shift at noon today, so we have to do this early.” Tom had explained over the phone after waking them up with the incessant ringing at around 5am, though his voice was raspy and laced with sleep. Will had felt a twinge in his heart at how dedicated Tom was to this whole issue he’d been sort of unwillingly dragged into, despite wanting nothing more than to go back to the warm cocoon of blankets that was his bed.

The sun is finally starting its ascent into the sky, the first few rays peeking over the horizon but partially hidden by the clouds making its way to the city, large and heavy with rain. Will takes in a greedy breath of crisp, chilly morning air, wishing he could get such cleanliness back home. Life in London is fantastic, but nothing could compare to how pure St Osyth feels. 

They’re walking towards the cafe at a brisk pace, where Tom guarantees they’ll be able to flag down a cab relatively quickly. Speaking of Tom, Will has a hard time keeping his eyes off him today; he’s clearly not dressed to impress,  what with the hour it is and all, but somehow that just makes him all the more endearing. His hoodie is zipped halfway up, showcasing his Muse graphic tee to the world; a pair of simple joggers with a shoelace belt keeping it secured to his waist, one of the tips chewed to hell and back, ties the whole ‘lazy morning’ look together. And yet, somehow, he manages to look better than Will, with his beige cardigan and yet another pair of chinos, this time in a dark grey color. Though anyone would feel boring when compared to Tom Blake , Will muses to himself. 

Tom catches him looking, though Will supposes that with the somewhat ambiguous relationship they have now, he doesn’t exactly need an excuse to be staring. He gives Will a slightly smug smile, though it doesn’t achieve the desired effect with sleep still clinging to his edges; he still looks like he just rolled out of bed, hair a mess and falling over his blue eyes. Will wants to kiss him, but he’s just out of reach, walking slightly ahead of them to lead the way. 

“See something you like?” Tom teases, taking his right hand off his pocket to mock-wave at Will, wiggling his ringed fingers at him like a schoolgirl. Lauri makes a gagging noise from his left, her long hair pulled up in a bun that looks as messy as the rest of her. She still has pillow creases on her cheeks, sunglasses perched atop her nose to hide her reddened eyes. Will flips her the bird. 

He doesn’t answer Tom; he feels like it’s obvious enough already. 

Eventually, they’re seated inside a much too small cab, the three of them squeezed together in the backseat. The driver is Irish, and his accent is so thick Will can’t really understand a word of what he says; though Tom seems to comprehend him perfectly fine, giving the appropriate directions and even making small talk with the older man. At Will’s bewildered expression, Tom chuckles lightly, leaning in and speaking lowly so the others can’t hear:

“My da’ was Irish. I’m used to this.” He explains with a smile, launching right back into conversation with the cabbie. Will is left reeling at the feeling of Tom’s lips brushing the shell of his ear, wide-eyed and blushing. Lauri snickers, not caring when Will sends her a warning look. 

‘You’re whipped,’ she mouths at him with a too pleased grin, and Will can’t bring himself to deny. He doesn’t care if he’s falling in too fast; not when it feels like he’s known Tom since before he was even born. 

Weird thing, that. 

In no time at all, they’ve arrived at Clacton-on-Sea, wind whipping their hair as Will pays for the ride. The sea is visible from here; the water seems to sparkle where the sunlight touches it, illuminating the grey and dreary morning. Tom smiles softly at the scene, turning back to Will and Lauri with renewed vigor. 

“Mum used to take me ‘n Joe here all the time when we was kids. Water was always too damn cold to swim in, but that really didn’t stop me,” there’s a dreamy look in his eyes, like if he focuses hard enough he can practically see himself and his brother running around as children. “Always went back home with a cold, I did. But it was worth it.” 

They head inside the library. Immediately, Will has to blink to get his eyes used to the sudden darkness of the building, compared to the brightness of outside. It looks more like a bookstore than a library, really; the fluorescent lights are all off, but the big windows make up for the lack of artificial light. Tom heads to the front desk like he’s done this same thing millions of times (which he probably has), and leans in towards the librarian to speak in quiet, hushed voices. As he does so, Will takes the opportunity to have a look around; the place is quite colorful, totally deviating from whatever it was that Will had in mind. It was certainly not this. Lauri trails behind him, but she’s much too tired and grumpy to really take in their surroundings. 

Tom quickly catches up with them, a thin strip of paper clutched in his small hand. “Newspaper clippings are this way,” he jerks his head in the opposite direction and takes off, not looking behind to check if Will and Lauri were even following. Not that there was any need to; at this point, Will is certain he’d end up following Tom to the ends of the world if he was asked to. 

“What are we looking for?” Will questions as they come closer to a number of grey cabinets, all labeled with letters and numbers he can’t really make sense of. Tom checks the note he’s holding and searches the cabinets with his eyes, tilting it to the side so Will can see it too. 00-ST , it says. Eventually, they happen upon the corresponding cabinet; as Tom rifles through the clippings there, he answers with a mutter.

“Stuff about the murder. Aha!” He exclaims, pulling out a folder labeled ‘ April 6th, 2000 ’. The folder is quite fattened up compared to others in its section; Will assumes April 6th must’ve been the day the murder Tom told them about at the cafe happened. With a shiver, he realizes April 6th just so happened to have been three days ago, ergo, the day of their first visit to the Chester House. He pushes the thought away from his mind, sitting down next to Lauri at the table she had saved for them to look through the clippings.

Most, if not all of the yellowed scraps of paper spread out across the table, mention the incident in some way or another. Tom separates the contents of the folder into equal amounts between the three of them and starts reading his pile, frowning here and there at the certainly not pleasant text. 

Will is quick to follow his example, skimming his eyes through a couple of paragraphs first before picking one of the clippings and reading it in earnest. The paper doesn’t go in much detail aside from basic facts; and Will isn’t exactly pleased to know what went down in that house, even if it’s at a very superficial level such as this.

A husband- Edward Chester -killing off all of his family; not exactly unheard of, but not common, either. Will shudders at the thought. Someone who you’re supposed to trust, to love , being capable of doing such a thing to those of his own blood… he doesn’t even want to imagine it.

He and his dad are not particularly close and not exactly in good terms either, but just the idea of him doing something as horrendous as this makes Will sick to his stomach.

“What an asshole,” Lauri breaks the silence offhandedly, though ‘asshole’ is a major understatement. “Says here he shot himself in the head after killing his wife and children. God, that’s so fucked.” 

“Mm.” Tom grunts in grim acknowledgement, scratching behind his neck with his lips pursed tightly. When Will looks up to take a gander on how Tom is handling all of this, he’s quick to notice most of the hair that was previously falling over his eyes has been pulled back with a hair tie in a ridiculously small bun, which is simply hilarious considering his downturned lips and furrowed eyebrows. Will stifles a laugh behind his closed fist, suddenly feeling a bit more relaxed. 

“We need more details,” Tom speaks up again a few moments later, pushing aside a good part of the clippings he’d selected for himself. “A lot of this is just stuff we already know, over ‘n over again.” 

“I found something different,” Lauri responds, fishing a bigger piece of newspaper out of her own little pile; this one is a whole page, folded multiple times. They all huddle together closely, quickly skimming the text for the most important bits; this is a much more detailed account of the murder, and of the Chesters’ home life leading up to the incident. 

“Seems like someone did a little snooping around.” Tom mutters, leaning in closer to read the fine print of the newspaper, weathered with age. “How d’you reckon they got ahold of all this stuff, anyway?” 

“People can be persistent.” Lauri answers without much thought to her words; she’d studied journalism for a while alongside her English major. “Sometimes, if someone badgers you about something too much, you might just tell them what they want to hear if it means you’ll be left alone.” 

“It says here that they couldn’t demolish the house.” Tom adds, peeking at a copy of a clipping dating from a few weeks after the murders, placed in the folder probably due to the relevancy to the subject. “I wonder why.” 

“This is awful,” Will is unable to keep himself from interrupting, skipping a whole section that droned about how Edward had started behaving weirdly a whole month before the murders and instead jumping right into the paragraph detailing about the animal remains that were found in the basement of the house. “He did rituals.” 

“There’s your demon,” Tom grimaced, reading over the paragraph Will was pointing at. “But why would he just start performin’ random rituals all of a sudden?” 

The newspaper didn’t have an answer to that, so neither did they. Lauri sighs, displeased, and instead reads one of the passages that has caught her eye out loud. 

‘The bodies of Grace Chester, 35, Jonathan Chester, 10, and Charlotte Chester, 1, were all found in different locations around the house, all mangled and nearly unrecognizable. The cause of death for all of them has been determined to be blood loss.’ This guy’s a total psychopath.” Her mouth twists downwards, clearly out of disgust. “This is making me sick.” 

“He killed his baby,” Tom mumbles, almost to himself, like he can’t believe it. “The nursery…” 

The three of them go quiet, an uncomfortable silence settling over their table. Outside, the first few drops of rain have started pattering against the window. Will reads over and over the passage about how the neighbors had called the police after hearing screams, though he can’t seem to retain any of it. All of it is too horrible for him to wrap his head around. 

“We didn’t check the basement at all.” Will says eventually, almost dazed with the brutality of what had happened in the Chester House. “I don’t even remember seeing a door leading to it.” 

“Then we’ll go down there next time.” Lauri’s voice shakes when she says next time , but her expression is unwavering, fists clenched tightly in grim determination. Tom nods, though he seems uncertain, face pinched and eyes heavy. 

They don’t find much else in the clippings; the crime had been written off as the doing of a perturbed man, not some supernatural being having a hand in all of it. Though the trip hadn’t been for nothing, as they’d gotten a lead for their future investigation out of it, Will feels like they could’ve gone without all this reading, as evidenced by Tom’s shaky hands as he shuffles all of the newspapers back inside their folder. 

“Hey,” Will places his bigger hand over one of Tom’s, squeezing it lightly to get him to stop. His hair is already out of the weird little bun he’d made, and brown curls fall over his wide eyes once more. “It’s alright.” 

Tom nods, jerkily, and resumes his task without saying anything, though he takes much longer now that one of his hands is held securely in Will’s grip. 

Lauri is nice enough to pretend she doesn’t notice anything. 

When they leave the library, the rain is starting to pick up slightly, and Will really doesn’t feel like dealing with wet clothes today. They practically dive inside the Sea Breeze Diner for shelter, ordering whatever as Tom shakes stray droplets of water out of his hair. 

Will thinks to himself he looks a little bit like a dog, and then laughs. 

A few minutes later, they’re surrounded by about five plates of pancakes, bacon, and scrambled eggs, just like true Americans would. Will scoffs quietly to himself at the comparison as he picks at his bacon, not really that hungry but not keen on wasting food. It just isn’t as good as breakfast had been in Tom’s house yesterday, that’s all.

Tom and Lauri have no such reservations; they scarf down their food like they’ve never eaten in their lives, probably to take their minds off the clippings they’d just read. Will watches the two of them fondly, occasionally taking a bite here and there. 

“That was pretty fucked,” Tom comments, a bit distracted, trying to remove a piece of bacon stuck between his molars with just his tongue. “We should visit the church next.” 

Church ?” Will questions almost incredulously, not at all attracted by the idea. Growing up with an overly religious mother can do that to you. “Why?” 

“Whaddya mean, ‘why’? It’s a church, Will. Their whole deal is that they exist to protect us from Satan or whatever.” Tom frowns, finally managing to pick out the bacon from his teeth. “And to spread the word of the Lord, I guess.” He adds, definitely as an afterthought. 

“Yeah, but-“ Will sighs, ignoring the weird look Lauri sends his way. “Just because the demon is real doesn’t mean any of that stuff would ever work on it.” 

“D’you have any better ideas?” Tom questions, looking cross, arms wrapped defensively over his chest. “Either we do this my way , or I’m out.” 

Will can recognize an empty threat when he sees one, but Tom does look genuinely annoyed at him, so he drops the subject. “Fine.” He sighs, feeling a bit like a child who’s upset for not getting their way. 

They finish their meal in silence, and Will tries not to seem too bothered by the idea of spraying the demon with holy water or something like that would do anything. But Tom is right; he doesn’t have any better ideas. Begrudging as he is to admit it, a church does seem like a pretty good place to figure out ways to stop this thing. 

“Oh, and we should talk to my brother, too.” Tom suggests after a while, after basically licking his plates clean. “That one clipping said the last attempt to demolish the house was in 2016. Joe works in construction, he should know somethin’ about this.” 

Will doesn’t know much about Tom’s brother outside of what he’d gathered from the many stories they’d shared the past two days. Joe is quite a few years older than Tom and equally frustrated, from the looks of it; though it seems he’s given up on getting out of St Osyth at this point.

“I’m a bit relieved, honestly.” Tom had admitted underneath his breath yesterday at the McDonald’s, picking at the lettuce on his Big Mac. “It means that mum won’t be alone.” 

Any excuse to put off their impending church visit is as good as any in Will’s book, so he readily agrees. Lauri gives him a look , but he’s become a bit of an expert when it comes to ignoring her after all these years.

A loud swear snaps Will back to attention. Tom’s chair scrapes across the floor loudly in his rush to get up, though the sound is almost completely drowned out by the chatter in the diner.  When Will gives him a questioning glance, Tom holds up his cracked phone screen, smiling apologetically. 10:30am .

“I have to get home to get ready for work,” he explains, digging through his pockets for his card. “You two don’t have to come with, though.”

They do come with, because what else would they do in Clacton-on-Sea without Tom as a guide? Well, even though there’s a plethora of things, Will isn’t exactly interested. So they all ride back to St Osyth, in silence this time, with no Irish cabbie to fill in their silences for them. 

“We can talk to my brother when I’m done with my shift,” Tom tells them as he jumps up the steps to his front porch, clearly in a hurry. “I’ll ring you later, ok?”

Will doesn’t have a chance to answer before the front door slams closed.

Lauri blows out her cheeks, exhaling as obnoxiously as she possibly can. When Will gives her the stink eye, she laughs a tad nervously, holding up her hands like she has no idea what he could possibly be annoyed about. “What? I just think it’s cute how much you like him, is all.”

Ha ha . Look, I know it’s weird, ok?” Will shoulders his way past her, heading in the opposite direction of Tom’s house but with no real goal in mind. Going back to the hotel feels like a waste. “It’s like… like a pull between us. And he feels it too, so leave it .”

Lauri catches up almost effortlessly, a worried glint in her eyes despite the easy smile she has on. “I believe you, ok? It’s just that you dropped the church thing so easily…” she tucks a loose strand of her curly hair behind her ear, long free from the ponytail, like she always does when she’s nervous. “Though we did catch a demon on camera, so I guess it’s not the weirdest thing that’s happened lately.”

Will sighs, but says nothing, trying to not retreat into his own thoughts too much. Religion is a touchy subject for him; in the house he grew up in, it was a constant. As in, church every sunday, praying before any meal, premarital sex is a sin, etc etc etc. He wasn’t all that bothered by any of it, but after he came out to his mum, it was a different story. Though she didn’t kick him out of the house, or yell slurs at him, or anything like that, the sudden contempt she had for her own son was so obvious it made Will’s blood boil. 

So now he doesn’t go to church anymore. 

“It’s fine.” Will shakes his head, making a sad attempt at distracting himself with the passersby; not that there are a lot, because St Osyth is just so damn tiny . “If it helps with the house I’m willing to try anything.”

He doesn’t dare say the name of the place out loud, not wanting to ruin the purity of this moment. The sun shines through the spaces between the leaves on the trees, not enough to blind them but enough to feel warm in the chill. It’s quite funny how his life has completely changed in just a few days, Will thinks to himself. He can’t even begin to imagine what it’ll be like when they leave St Osyth; it feels like all of his life has led up to this point and now he doesn’t know what comes after. 

When he was little, Will used to have weird dreams. Dreams of a man in uniform, no older than 19, with curly, dark hair trapped beneath a funny looking helmet. Some nights the dreams would be welcome; the man seemed to have a perpetual smile on his face, always telling the funniest stories that Will would wake up struggling to remember. And other nights, he wanted nothing more than to stop being plagued by the visions of holding his friend in his arms as he bleeds out, knowing he would be feeling his blood on his hands throughout the day, no matter how many times he’d wash his hands. 

Tom reminds him of those dreams. 

Will stays quiet the rest of the way to the hotel; they do end up going back, after all. Lauri excuses herself for a nap and Will’s left on his own, nothing to do and no one to talk to in this strange little town he finds himself so fascinated with. After three days of nonstop outings, having free time is just bizarre. 

Try as he might to follow Lauri’s example, Will can’t seem to fall asleep, feeling restless and exhausted all at once. The minutes seem to slow down to a crawl, and Tom’s shift is only supposed to end at about four hours from now. At this point, Will could probably eyeball the ugly eggshell color that is the ceiling of their hotel room, and he’s been reduced to counting dust motes as they flutter down, visible only due to the sunlight filtering in through the window next to his bed. If this demon doesn’t kill him first, then boredom will. 

Oh, right. The demon

Will fishes his phone from the bedside table, opening the browser and licking his lips nervously as the search bar stares innocently back at him. He can’t believe he’s doing this. 

exorcism ’. 

It takes barely a second for all the 14.700.000 results to load, thousands upon thousands of links at his disposal, and yet Will has the worst gut feeling none of it will do him any good. Nevertheless, he scrolls by the definitions and clicks on the first result that seems like it would be any help. 

In no time at all, Will’s fallen into a research rabbit hole of trying to discern what is complete bullshit and what might have some glimmer of truth to it. Apparently there’s all different kinds of exorcisms, from all types of religions, and no way of knowing what would work on their little problem . There’s so much that could do the trick and yet they don’t have the time nor the resources to try it all.

In a last ditch attempt to come across any sort of lead that could help them, Will opens his Netflix app and starts watching ‘The Exorcism of Emily Rose’. 

Halfway through the film and one thoroughly bitten thumb nail later, Will remembers reading somewhere that the movie had been based on a true story. So now he finds himself watching documentary after documentary about Anneliese Michel’s life and all the exorcisms she’d gone through. 

None of it helps.

In his frantic search for any morsel of information that could be useful, Will doesn’t even notice that the four hours of Tom’s shift had flown by, and now his name is lighting up his phone screen, making the device vibrate in his hand. He’s so startled he drops his mobile on his face, right against his nose. 

With a heavy heart and now a throbbing nose, Will is quick to recollect himself and accept the call. He feels weird, like his head is full of cotton and his body is made of lead, but if there’s anyone who can cheer him up it would be Tom. Will can’t stop himself from smiling as a voice crackles through the receiver. 

“Alright Will?” Tom’s voice sounds a bit far away, like he’s walking. From the eery lack of background noise, it’s safe to say he’s left the cafe already. Before Will can answer, Tom continues. “Listen, my brother’s already home, but he’s going out to meet some mates down at the pub in a couple hours, so we need to hurry. Can you two meet us at my place in thirty?”

Will’s throat feels dry and scratchy after nearly five hours of disuse, but he manages to answer without breaking into a fit of coughing. “That can be arranged.”

“Ok, you arse, just be sure to be here on time.” Tom reprimands him, but the smile is all too clear in his voice. “Joe can be proper difficult when he wants to.”

“We’ll be there.” Will reassures him, though all he can think of now are the judgemental blue eyes he’d seen through the window of Tom’s house yesterday, and they’re truly not a pleasant sight. “Just have to drag Lauri out of bed.”

“Cheers.” Tom bids him goodbye, a bit absentmindedly, and the line goes dead.

Getting Lauri out of bed is no easy task, so he’d better get started if they don’t want to miss their opportunity to talk to Joe. With a groan, Will finally gets up from his own bed, back popping in three different places when he stretches out. He ignores his phone, which now continues to play the documentary Tom had interrupted with his call, and heads towards Lauri’s side of the room, somehow managing to avoid all the stray clothing (that one is on him) and camera equipment littering the floor. He’s used to it by now.

Like she has some sort of fucked up sixth sense and she can feel Will getting closer even in her sleep, Lauri burrows further under the covers, curly hair disappearing beneath the patterned quilt. With a world-weary sigh that someone his age shouldn’t be able to heave, Will pulls all of the covers back at once and ducks when Lauri swings at him in her sleep-addled mind.

“Who’s there?” Lauri groans, sitting up in bed, completely disoriented. Somehow, there are pillow creases on both sides of her face, more than just a few strands of hair stuck to her mouth. It would be endearing, if Will hadn’t seen the same sight about a billion times before. They’ve been friends for a long time. 

“Come on, up you get.” Will holds the covers away from her, lest she just pull them back over herself and fall back asleep immediately. Lauri flops back down with a whine, curling into herself, but Will knows her well enough to be certain she won’t fall back asleep without the duvet. 

“Don’t wan’ to.” Despite her words beginning to slur together, she sounds more awake, at least. Will bites back a laugh and drops the blankets down on the floor, moving to shake her shoulders in that annoying way he knows she hates. 

“This is non-negotiable. Come on. You’re getting up.” When Will starts tugging on her arm, that seems to do the trick; with the mightiest groan of all, Lauri swats his hand away and sits up slowly, picking at stray strands of hair that have stuck to her face. Her eyes are crusty with sleep, slitted halfway, but finally she gets up from bed. Wordlessly, she pushes past Will and picks up random clothes from her suitcase, not giving any of it much thought, before locking herself in the bathroom without so much as asking Will if he wanted to go first. 

Classic Lauri. 

While she showers, Will digs through his own suitcase, stressing over a proper outfit to meet Tom’s brother with. Which shouldn’t even be a big deal, because they were meeting for work reasons; it’s not like Will has to impress him. But at the same time, he doesn’t want Joe to think his little brother’s been hanging out with a slob . He takes a singular look at his chinos, picking at the fabric like he’s debating if it’s quality enough to go out with. 

In the end he ends up only swapping out his shirt for a button up, and picking a different jacket (Will can’t help but feel a little sad as he stashes his favorite coat away, but it has a sharpie stain on the breast pocket). As soon as Lauri is out of the bathroom, still ambling somewhat sleepily through the motions, Will squeezes past her to shower as well, trying his best to not be bothered by the wet spots on the floor. He’s always hated sharing bathrooms, but sharing one with Tom probably wouldn’t be that bad. 

The thought is so sudden he almost slips. 

Trying to ignore the blush he feels taking over his face and the way his heartbeat just spiked at the idea, Will turns on the water, stepping underneath the spray and willing his brain to just shut up for a few minutes. He and Lauri are going to go have a nice little chat with Joe Blake, and it’s not gonna be weird, and he won’t have any more weird thoughts about Tom for the rest of the day. Nope. None at all. 

He tries not to spend too much time picking his reflection apart in the mirror, blow-drying his hair and ignoring the way his palms suddenly feel sweaty despite just getting out of the shower. Will truly has no idea why he’s so nervous about all of this, but meeting up with Joe feels important somehow. Like it’s a big thing he needs to do, needs to make it happen. 

Everything that he does in St Osyth feels important, actually.

Will tries to not let the thought bother him too much, getting dressed quickly and stepping out of the bathroom with his back ramrod straight. Lauri takes one look at him from her perch on the bed and can tell that something is wrong, quirking one eyebrow at her companion as she bends down to tie her boots. 

“You look like you’re gonna be sick.” She states, matter-of-fact, getting up and shrugging her coat on. Will does the same. “Are you nervous?” 

“No.” Will scoffs, unlocking the door for them, before wondering to himself why the hell he’s even trying to lie to Lauri. “Yes.” 

“Relax. You always get so worked up over the tiniest things,” Lauri huffs, pushing some of her hair behind her ear as they step inside the elevator. “It’ll be fine. Alright?” 

“Alright.” Will mutters in agreement, not too convinced but also not feeling like instigating Lauri any further. The sun is low in the sky when they step outside, clouds beginning to take an orange tint. It would be peaceful, if it weren’t for the inner turmoil brewing inside his chest. Something about this feels so familiar, but he can’t quite put his finger on it. 

The walk is silent, only the occasional passerby or chirping bird breaking the quietness. Will takes a sharp intake of breath as Tom’s house comes into view; it looks much the same as last time, but something feels different now. The lights are already on in the living room. It’s not quite dark yet, but it’s dark enough. 

This time there’s no enthusiastic ruffling of the curtains and a certain someone stepping outside to meet them. Will and Lauri walk up to the porch, side by side, shoulder by shoulder, like they always have, stopping by the front door. With a deep breath, Will reaches forward and rings the doorbell. 

Joe answers the door, and suddenly all the anxiety Will had felt before is gone. 

He nearly can’t breathe, so big is his relief of seeing this man alive - he doesn’t have the time to wonder why that means so much to him. Despite having never seen Joe before in his life, he looks much like Will expected him to; just like Tom, a little older. 

“You must be Tommy’s friends,” Joe says amicably, though his blue eyes betray a certain suspicion. “Well, come on in.” 

“For God’s sake Joe, stop fuckin’ calling me that!” Tom barrels down the stairs just as Will and Lauri step inside, Lauri taking a not-so-subtle look at her surroundings. Will knows she doesn’t mean to be rude, so he leaves her be. He has more important things to take note of, after all.

Tom’s hair is wet, a pink hand towel draped across his shoulders to keep his shirt from getting soaked through. He’s in a different pair of joggers than the ones from this morning; these look rattier, like they’re only meant to be used at home. Will feels a bit silly for putting so much thought into what clothes he was going to wear when it’s clear that Tom is comfortable enough with the both of them to wear whatever he wants in his own house, but it was all just to impress Joe, after all. 

Speaking of Joe, clearly he couldn’t give less of a shit what his guests thought of him; he’s in a pair of blue dungarees, streaked with dirt in multiple places, with a white undershirt underneath it. There’s a pair of dirty gloves discarded by the foyer, next to a dingy pair of boots, which evidently belong to him as well. 

“Makes me sound like a damn child,” Tom continues to complain, stepping up to his older brother with a pout. Joe is taller, but then again, it’s not exactly hard to be taller than Tom. He reaches forward with a cackle, ruffling his brother’s hair and quickly stepping out of the way when Tom swings at him. 

“Fits ya with how much of a brat y’are all the time,” Joe laughs, very much ignoring the way Tom flips him the bird. Lauri watches their exchange, clearly amused, before saying:

“Heh- hem .” 

Tom straightens up immediately, like he just remembered he invited guests over. He gives Will and Lauri a small smile, though it doesn’t reach his eyes. With how much he’s wiping his palms on the fabric of his trousers, Will realizes that he’s nervous.

“Right, sorry. This is my brother Joe,” Will is pretty sure Tom skipped like five pleasantries when introducing them to his sibling, and the familiar crease between his eyebrows gets more noticeable by the minute. “Joe, these are Will and Lauri.”

Joe hums noncommittally and begins moving towards the kitchen, grabbing a chair from the dining room on his way. Tom jerks his head towards his brother and follows after, prompting Will and Lauri to do the same. Compared to yesterday, the kitchen is practically spotless, no left over dishes to be washed or put away, no food placed on top of the round kitchen table. The curtains on the window above the sink are drawn, made up of a translucent checkered pattern that looks as old as Will’s nana. The thought makes him smile, but he’s quick to stifle it when Joe’s gaze lands on him again. 

“Well,” Joe sets the chair down by the table and sits, stretching his long legs across the ceramic tiles of the floor. The other three are quick to follow his example, Tom giving his brother a dirty look that Will’s not very sure what it’s for. Joe ignores him, easily, practiced, and continues: “Tommy told me you birdies have some business to discuss wit’ me.” 

“Joe,” Tom growls in warning, his hands curling into fists where they rest on his knees. It’s only then that Will begins to wonder exactly how strained the relationship between the two of them was; Tom hadn’t said much aside from telling him about how Joe had to drop university to help their mum with money when their father died. Joe smiles caustically at Tom, crossing his arms as he finally turns to face his little brother properly.

“Yeah, Tommy ?” 

Tom looks like he’s one second away from vaulting over the table and committing fratricide, so Will thinks that it’s best to intervene. “You work in construction, right?”

Joe looks at Will in that calculating way of his, one eyebrow quirked in confusion. “Sometimes. I do all sorts of things around town. Got to keep us afloat somehow, ain’t that right, Tom?”

Tom’s lips curl in displeasure, but he doesn’t say anything in response, staring straight ahead and practically burning holes on the wall with his eyes. Lauri awkwardly shuffles on her seat, giving Will a look that says ‘get on with it!’ .

“Did you,” Will licks his lips nervously, toying with the sleeve of his coat as tension becomes palpable in the room. Tom still refuses to look at his brother, but the way his shoulders are tensing up is hard to miss. “Uh, were you part of the demolition attempts of the Chester House in 2016?”

Silence. 

Joe’s face twists into something angry, anger that comes with fear. Tom finally chances a look at him and clearly doesn’t like what he sees, averting his gaze to where his hands are wringed together on his lap. Instead of screaming his head off at him, however, as Will was sure Joe was about to, he simply takes in a sharp breath and nods.

“Yes.”

“Why couldn’t your company go through with it?”

The self control Joe is trying so hard to maintain is clearly slipping from his grip. His teeth grit together so loud Will can hear it. “Bloody evil thing, it was. It froze all of us to the spot and showed us the most horrible things. Yes it did. It showed me…”

Joe takes a troubled look at Tom. “Showed me my family.”

He doesn’t elaborate further than that, but he really doesn’t need to. Will can take a good guess at what he meant. 

“And you didn’t tell anyone about it?”

“Of fuckin’ course we did! Not that it did us any good.” Joe snarls, vicious, reliving memories Will has no doubt he’d much rather forget. “Mass hysteria, they said it was. Them lads in the government sent in three other companies to do the job, and not one of ‘em got any closer to doin’ it than we did. Mass hysteria, my arse!” 

Joe pounds a fist against the table, face going red. Wordlessly, Tom rises from his seat and grabs a glass from one of the cupboards, filling it up with tap water. Joe takes the glass when it’s handed to him with shaky hands, gulping down the contents of it in one go.

“Why do you ask?” Joe asks quietly after a few seconds of silence, like he’d tired himself out talking about the house. Will and Lauri share a nervous look, debating whether or not they should tell him.  

Tom shifts his weight from one foot to another where he stands by the counter, arms crossed tightly together. Shaking his head, he elects to tell Joe himself: “We’re trying to exorcise it.”

Will flinches at the word. It’s true, after all; they are trying to exorcise it. But saying it like that just makes it sound stupid, like they’re playing pretend. Joe doesn’t share the sentiment, however; he whips around in his seat to face his younger brother, nearly shattering the glass in his grip as his knuckles go white.  

We ?! You’re not doing shite near that house, Thomas!”

“Piss off, Joe!” Tom screams back, pointing an accusing finger at his sibling with fire in his eyes. “Ye don’t fuckin’ git to tell me what to fuckin’ do! And ye never have!”

Will cowers in his seat at the venom in Tom’s voice, Lauri doing the same. Distantly, he takes note of how thick his accent gets when he’s angry. It would be amusing, if he wasn’t this mad.

“Y’have to be bloody jokin’! I’m the one who puts food on this damn table everyday! When you start helpin’ around, then you can go off prancin’ with your little friends, chasin’ demons or whatever.” Joe gets up from his seat, towering over Tom by a good few inches. Tom doesn’t let himself be intimidated, however; he squares up his shoulders and stares right into his brother’s eyes with an intensity Will had never seen before. He starts wondering if he should get between them, before an actual fight breaks out. “When y’start using yer money to help me n’ ma, then I don’t give a shite if ye want to go get yerself killed in there!”

“That ain’t true and ye bloody know it. It ain’t!” Tom roars, pushing Joe away and moving towards the doorway. “I do the groceries every other week. Stop treatin’ me like a damn kid, I’m twenty one!”

“Oh, every other week ! Like we don’t do literally everything else ‘round here!” Will feels frozen to his seat as he watches the Blakes quarrel, throat going dry like sandpaper at the scene. “If yer twenty one, then bloody act like it, Thomas! I’m tryin’ to look out for ye, if y’haven’t noticed!”

“STOP TRYING TO ACT LIKE DAD!” Tom’s shout shocks Joe into silence, eyes going wide. Tom himself looks a bit startled, but he doesn’t let up. “Ye always do this! Always ! I’m not a kid anymore, Joe! When the fuck are ye gonna realize that?!”

Tom rushes out of the kitchen, clearly choked up. As he hears the front door slam shut, Will can’t help but wonder how the hell that escalated so quickly. 

Joe exhales heavily, collapsing back on his seat. He covers his eyes with one hand, sitting there and seemingly forgetting all about his guests, rubbing his temple with his thumb and index finger. Will clears his throat, incredibly awkward, getting up from his seat swiftly and waiting for Lauri to do the same. “Right, then. Thank you for your help. We’ll be on our way.”

Joe says nothing. 

Outside, it’s nearly dark, the sky a cold shade of dark blue. They find Tom sitting on the steps leading to the porch, rubbing his hands over his arms, clearly cold but unwilling to go back inside. Lauri laughs to try and break the tension, looking as  uncomfortable as Will feels. “Well, that was a disaster.”

“‘M sorry.” Tom mutters, looking downright miserable. Wordlessly, Will sits down next to him, placing a comforting hand on his lower back. Tom tries to smile at him, but it’s clearly forced. “It’s always like that with Joe. He’s my brother, and I love him, but god, he’s just so …!” He trails off, biting his words back before he starts crying. Will winces, sympathetic. 

“He’s just trying to look out for you.” Will rubs his thumb against Tom’s back, not pulling away when he shuffles closer and leans his head against his shoulder. His wet hair doesn’t feel exactly pleasant pressed against his cheek with how cold it is, but Will isn’t going to deny him this one thing. “I’m sure he didn’t mean what he said to you back there.”

Tom sighs, looking up at the sky like it’ll somehow give him an answer to his problems. Lauri sits down on his other side, placing a small hand on his knee.

“When I started working,” Tom begins, digging his nails into the flesh of his right arm. “Joe was real mad when I said I wanted to save up to move away. Mum said it was fine, that I needed to see what was out there for myself, but he’s been pissed off at me ever since.” He lets out a sardonic laugh, which just sounds sad to Will. “I don’t think he’s looked at me properly in the eye for like… a year.”

With a wet sigh, he continues. “I love Joe. A lot. He’s done so much for me n’ mum, and I appreciate him for it, ‘course I do… But he can’t expect me to stay here forever.”

Tom turns to look at Will with an anguished look in his eyes, brimming with unshed tears. Will feels his breath catch on his throat, wanting nothing more than to take his sadness away. “D’you reckon that makes me selfish?”

“You’re not selfish for wanting to make something of yourself, Tom.” Lauri pipes up gently, taking one of his cold hands between her own. Tom shifts to look at her, sniffling. “Joe just wants to protect you. He just doesn’t know how to tell you that, is all.” 

Tom wipes his eyes with the back of his free hand, humming. “I suppose so.” He looks even colder than before, now that the adrenaline is leaving his body, so Will drapes his arm across his shoulders. “I’m sorry you two had to see that. But at least it wasn’t all for nothing.” 

Will doesn’t even want to begin thinking about the Chester House after all that, so he shakes his head, squeezing Tom’s arm comfortingly. Plus, Tom’s bound to catch a cold soon, sitting out here with no jacket on and his hair all wet. “We’ll talk about this later. You should get some rest now.” 

“Hm.” Tom grunts, looking over his shoulder and at the front door, clearly not too keen on going back inside. “I guess.”

“Hey, it’ll be fine.” Lauri pats his knee and moves to stand up, stretching her arms above her head. “Remember what I told you, ok? He just wants what's best for you.”

Reluctantly, Tom disentangles himself from Will, standing up as well. He shivers when a strong breeze blows past them, finally convinced to head back in. “I’ll see you tomorrow then.”

Before Tom can open his door, Will stops him with a hand on his shoulder. 

“Tom,” he begins, unsure of himself. “If you don’t want to do this anymore because of your brother, it’s- it’s fine, alright?”

With a small laugh, Tom gives Will his first real smile of the night. “Are you kidding me? If anything, I want to do it even more now, just to piss off that bastard.”

Will doesn’t know why he expected anything different.

“Well… cheerio.” Tom says fondly, finally stepping inside and shutting the door carefully behind himself. Will can hear him sneeze the second he does so, stifling a laugh and turning to walk back down the stairs. 

When he and Lauri settle in that night, all Will can think of before he falls asleep is how much Tom really does look like Joe. 

 

-

 

The following morning, they’re up early again, though not as early as yesterday. Tom has to work the night shift today, so they can take things at their own pace. They meet up in front of the cafe, since it’s closer to the church than Tom’s house is.

The church. Will is absolutely dreading going there. 

He knows he’s probably blowing this whole thing way out of proportion, but he’s been known to overthink everything that he isn’t exactly keen on doing. Will knows they’re not going there to go to the confessional, or to participate in mass or anything like that, but he still feels that familiar hole opening up in the pit of his stomach, full of Christian guilt he has never truly grown out of. It’s complicated. His mum’s voice is loud inside his head, past conversations insisting that religion would fix all of his sins taking the forefront of his mind for the first time in months.

Will swallows heavily. 

In a desperate attempt to put off his impending doom, he suggests the first thing that comes to mind:

“Why don’t we ask around the neighborhood about the house? The people who used to live close to it, I mean.” 

Tom and Lauri share a weird look that Will can’t make sense out of. They agree easily to his proposition, though he feels like they can see right through him. 

Tom knows the people they have to talk to by name. Will doesn’t question how, or why; when you live in a tiny place such as St Osyth, it’s hard not to know everyone personally. Will went through something similar back during his childhood in Cookham; it wasn’t nearly as small, and quite close to London at that, but he knew everyone in his neighborhood and everyone in his neighborhood knew him. He knew the kids he used to play cops and robbers with in their driveways, and he knew the boys he used to dream of kissing before it got hammered into his brain that being gay was wrong and something to be ashamed of. He feels dirty with sin just thinking about home. 

Will tries to stop that train of thought right there. It had been difficult to unlearn that he wasn’t broken or messed up for loving who he loved, and he doesn’t want to reopen old wounds again. He had started going to therapy as soon as he got away from home, and he’d made good progress since then. But Will isn’t stupid; he knows it’s not that hard to spiral down those thoughts again when he starts having them. Best to cut it off at the root, rather than letting them fester and eat him up from the inside. 

They go around and ask. It’s extremely uneventful, as no one is willing to give them a hand. In fact, they get doors slammed on their faces as soon as the word ‘Chester House’ gets out. It can’t be a good sign. Will rubs his hands nervously, trying to warm them up as a bitter cold at his predicament starts filling up his veins. So much for avoiding a visit to the church. 

“What a waste of time.” Lauri comments bluntly after their sixth and last attempt to talk to someone about the murders; Tom’s list of names had run out way faster than Will had bet on. With a resigned sigh, Will turns on his heel and stalks away from the house, not even bothering to check if the other two were even coming after him. 

Tom is quick to catch up with him, finally dressed appropriately for the weather. He’s in a faded, clearly well loved Helmut Lang jacket, with enough frays on the sleeves for Will to guess it’s second hand, or at least a thrift store find. He looks warm and cozy in it, like the jacket was made just for him. Will smiles at the thought. He could use a distraction.

“I like your jacket.” Will offers as a compliment, though he knows Tom can see it for what it really is: he’s just deflecting. Tom smiles anyway, hands fitting comfortably inside his pockets. 

“Thanks. Me mum got it for me ‘couple years ago.” He says with a dreamy look in his eyes, like he’s reliving the moment in his head. “For my eighteenth birthday. Said I had to start dressin’ like a proper fellow. I ‘ave no idea where she found it, though,” he adds, running one of his hands over the front of the jacket. “It’s supposed to be an expensive brand.” 

“Mums always find a way.” Will responds without really thinking about it, but it’s true in a way. He knows it’s true for him; his mum always found her way. She got her way when it came to his education, to his friends, to his personal life in Cookham; and she still gets her way whenever he comes over to visit, like his life back in London is just a little game of pretend that he can put on hold whenever she calls for him, like he’s some sort of dog. 

There’s the thoughts again. Will’s expression twists into something bitter, and of course Tom notices it. He takes a look over his shoulder, at Lauri, who seems to be giving them space as they walk, and turns back to Will, lowering his voice so only he could hear it. 

“Look, I don’t know what your issue with goin’ ta church is, and it isn’t my place to ask.” He begins carefully, looking at Will with kind yet stern eyes. “But it’ll be quick, ok? Swear it on me brother.” Will lets out a cautious laugh at that, a small smile making its way on his lips. 

“I thought you were mad at him?” It’s Tom’s turn to laugh. He winks and turns to Lauri again, beckoning her over with a jerk of his head. 

“He doesn’t have to know, right?” His voice is light again, airy, and Will figures that church can’t possibly be that bad. 

The Parish Church of St. Peter and St. Paul is, somehow, exactly like Will imagined it to be, a funny contrast from the library yesterday. It’s an old building, and so goddamn traditional Will can’t help the hesitation he feels when they’re about to step inside. The interior is quite dim compared to outside, just like pretty much every other church ever. Tom makes his way through the pews with confidence, like Will’s sure he’s done many times before. Will and Lauri hang back as he enters the sacristy, which just goes to show how familiar with this place he is. 

There’s no one else around. Lauri sits down on one of the pews, craning her neck to get a proper look at the tall ceiling. Will tries to keep his nerves in order, messing around on his phone until Tom comes back, followed closely by who Will assumes must be a priest. 

“This is Father David,” Tom introduces him without any preamble, sitting down next to Will and making him scoot over to make space for the priest as well. “He agreed to help us out with your… research.” 

Will doesn’t even get the chance to wonder what the hell Tom told this man to get him to help them without any further questions, before Father David is leaning over to talk to him and he has to try his hardest to quell the panic rising up in his throat like bile. 

“Thomas told me your sister is pregnant.” His voice is kind, wise, and weathered with age, but all Will can think of is the priests back home who’d give him dirty looks for daring to be different and stray from their flock. 

“Yes sir.” He says instead, nodding jerkily as the priest takes one of his hands in his own wrinkly ones and pats it with a congratulatory smile. 

“And you’re worried your house is suffering from a demonic infestation?” 

Will whips his head to look at Tom, a bewildered look in his eyes. Tom frantically gestures like he’s saying ‘just roll with it’ , eyes widening comically in his panic. So that’s what Will does, looking thoroughly put-upon but hopefully not enough that the priest notices it. 

“I- yes. Yes I am.” 

Lauri disguises a very undignified snort with a cough. Will feels like he could kill her. 

“Well, the first step,” Father David begins, completely oblivious to the obvious farce happening right in front of him. “Is knowing how to protect yourself. You can use holy water, rosaries, talismans, anything of religious significance to you and your family.”

“Uh huh.” Will doesn’t know what to say that won’t ruin everything, so he keeps his mouth shut and only makes a sound when it’s needed. Confusion and panic brawl inside his head, like he can’t make up his mind on how to feel about this situation. 

Everything is so different from home. The sounds. The people. And yet Will still feels stuck to the past, his mother’s voice loud again inside his head, and it quickly becomes too much. 

Will doesn’t register much else of what the priest says. All he knows is that he wants out, and fast, and he can’t be bothered to listen when he knows Tom and Lauri will be there to pick up his slack. He also can’t be bothered to admit how selfish of him that is. 

“Do you understand, son?” Father David’s concerned voice snaps Will from his trance, and he is quick to nod, wanting nothing more than to be out of this place. Despite the clearly worried look he sports, the priest simply nods, leaning back and getting up with that difficulty that comes to be expected at old age. Tom helps the man on his feet, though he doesn’t step in line with Will and Lauri as they turn to leave.

“Go on ahead, I’ll catch up.” He doesn’t elaborate, and Will is so desperate to get out of this place that he doesn’t even question it. It’s only when they step out into the courtyard that he feels like he can breathe again. 

“You ok?” Lauri asks, genuine apprehension coloring her features. Will nods, taking a shaky breath and wiping his sweaty palms on the front of his third pair of chinos. It’s over. He doesn’t have to go back inside there ever again. His mum isn’t inside his head, she’s all the way back in his childhood home, all the way back in Cookham. It’s fine. 

“It was just weird.” Will offers, and Lauri doesn’t seem convinced, but she drops it easily, knowing when not to push him farther than he’s willing to go. They wait for Tom in silence while Will does his best to calm down, remembering the breathing exercises his therapist had taught him the year before. He’s alright. He can do this. 

Tom doesn’t take too long to come back, shoving a small packet full of somethings Will can’t take a proper look at inside his jacket pocket. He turns to give Will a good look, placing a warm hand on his elbow with an apologetic, hesitant smile. 

“Sorry.” Is all he says, not like he really needs to. Will shakes his head, taking the hand in his own and squeezing gently. 

“It’s fine.” He finds the time to be mesmerized at how small Tom’s hand is in his own. “Church reminds me of my mother, is all.” 

Tom doesn’t ask, doesn’t question what he means by that, doesn’t demand an explanation to his issues. Will could almost sob at the relief that comes from not having to explain himself when he doesn’t want to. 

Yet again, Will finds himself enveloped in one of Tom’s wonderful hugs, his fingers bunching up the leather of the Helmut Lang jacket on reflex. Tom twists to plant a quick kiss to Will’s cheek and he nearly flatlines just then, mind going blank of any stray thoughts. 

“It’ll be worth it, I promise.” Tom lets go and takes a couple steps back, which Will thinks is just criminal. He doesn’t trust himself not to say something incredibly foolish, so he says nothing at all, following Tom out of the courtyard like a lost puppy. 

He very much ignores Lauri snickering behind him, just low enough that Tom won’t hear it. 

The rest of the day goes by in a blur. The three of them mess around in town for a bit, walking as far into the roads as Tom is confident in taking them. Since he has work later, they can’t just get it over with and head inside the house. Which is fine in Will’s book; he doesn’t feel nearly mentally prepared enough as he needs to be, almost ashamed at how much of a toll the church visit had taken on him. Clearly he wasn’t as over it as he convinced himself that he was. 

Tom bids them a quick goodbye when they stop by his house, much like yesterday morning. Will finds himself wishing that he’d come back out and hang out with them some more, but he has responsibilities to get to. Will feels a bone-deep type of tired settling in that he rarely experiences, and he really doesn’t feel like fighting it today. 

Lauri doesn’t try to make conversation, and he’s thankful for that. They simply head back to the hotel and Will settles in for an early night, quickly dozing off to the sound of television playing in the background and Lauri scrolling through her social media just a couple meters away from him. 

Will wakes up disoriented in the middle of the night from a nightmare he doesn’t even want to remember, overheated and in desperate need of water. He throws back the covers and steps inside the bathroom, rinsing his mouth and splashing cold water on his face until he feels like a human being again. 

They won’t be able to head into the house today either, according to Tom. He has to work the night shift again. Will sighs as he remembers, staring into his reflection until he gets tired of looking at his wet, miserable face. He just wants this to be over .  

At the same time, he’s endlessly thankful for everything that happened, in some weird, fucked up sort of way. He has Tom to thank for that. 

Will dries himself off and heads back to bed, falling back asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow. 

When he wakes up again, it’s quite late in the morning; 11:00am, the digital watch tells him. The first thing Will notices is the clear absence of Lauri, meaning he is alone in their impersonal hotel room. Feeling a tad creeped out, Will sits up in his bed slowly, pulling the covers to his chest and reaching for his phone on the bedside table. There are two texts waiting for him:

Went out. Couldn’t wait for your lazy ass to wake up anymore. Will bring breakfast. This one is from Lauri.

hope u slept well. see u 2day maybe? 2morrow 4 sure :). And this one is from Tom. 

Will doesn’t even notice how hard he’s smiling. 

Despite all the hardships, he has good people in his life, old and new. He sends Lauri the middle finger emoji and drafts Tom a proper response: 

I’d love to. What time?

He receives an answer just as he’s stepping out of the shower, not bothered enough to blow dry his hair. Lauri said she’d bring breakfast, so he doesn’t need to get ready to go out yet or anything. The text reads:

come by the cafe 2night? 8pm. i have 2 close up 2day. helping mum with the house rn, sorry :(( 

Will laughs at Tom’s obsessive use of 2’s as an abbreviation and sends him his confirmation quickly, putting down his phone to quickly get dressed, lest Lauri see him with just a towel wrapped around his waist. He’d never get to hear the end of it. 

The day goes by uneventfully, though it doesn’t slow to a crawl like two days ago. Lauri comes back with a proper English breakfast, and Will tries hard not to think of how ridiculous it is that they actually eat beans on toast ; his American followers have been rubbing off on him. They talk, and watch movies on the telly together, and spend all of it in each other’s company. It’s moments like these that really drive home the reason why Lauri is his best friend. 

8pm comes quicker than expected, and finds Will in front of the cafe, knocking on the glass door despite the sign that clearly states ‘Closed’ . Tom is quick to answer, standing there in his work apron and disheveled hair. Will laughs, reaching out unthinkingly to push a curl away from Tom’s forehead. 

“Having a hard time?” Will teases, reveling in the way it makes Tom blush. Tom scoffs, slapping Will’s hand away without any heat behind it and turning on his heels, stalking back inside the cafe once more. Will follows, closing the door behind himself. 

“‘S all goin’ perfectly fine, I’ll have you know.” Tom grabs a broom propped up against the corner and continues to sweep the floor with it, though Will can’t see anything on the wooden floor that needs cleaning still. The chairs are all placed on top of the tables, so he can’t really sit anywhere. 

“Need any help?” He offers, leaning against the counter as he watches Tom sweep. Tom gives him a knowing smile, but shakes his head all the same. 

“No thanks. I’m almost done.” He responds truthfully, pausing for a second and leaning his weight on the broom, crossing his arms over the tip of the handle. “Hey, d’you want a coffee?” 

Will spends the rest of the evening with Tom, any thoughts of the Chester House pushed far away from his mind for the moment. For now, he doesn’t need to be William Schofield, ghost hunter extraordinaire, or William Schofield, the unwillingly perfect son. For now, he’s just Will, or ‘Scho’ as Tom has taken to calling him now and again, and it feels good. 

It feels really good.