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

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Standing in front of the house for the third (and hopefully last) time, Will tries not to have an argument with himself about what the fuck he’s doing here . He doesn’t feel the least bit prepared to brave it once again, even with all the supposed ‘protection’ Father David had offered them yesterday. Will takes a deep, steadying breath, feeling his toes curl inside his shoes with anticipation.

It feels colder than usual, which isn’t particularly exciting. Despite not wanting to make it dirty with dust, Will had said fuck it when he was getting dressed earlier and elected to put on his favorite jacket, the one with the sharpie stain on the breast pocket. It’s not his warmest jacket, however, and now, shivering on the yard of the Chester House, Will has half a mind to berate himself internally for such a stupid decision. It’s almost easy to pretend his biggest problem here is how cold he’s feeling, but the open door of the house doesn’t allow his thoughts to stray too far from it. 

Will looks away. 

Things feel… weird this time. Whatever it is that’s been keeping tabs on them seems to have taken a step back for now, but the feeling that he’s being watched makes Will’s hair stand up on the back of his neck. Shaking his head almost violently, he turns to his companions, desperate for a distraction. 

Lauri looks nonchalant enough swaddled in her knee-high coat, but Will knows her well enough to know that she’s having a mini freakout on the inside. Her brows are furrowed just enough that he can tell she’s nervous, neck tensing up at the smallest of noises. Next to her is Tom, who’s digging through a small knapsack he brought with him, almost oblivious to his surroundings as he focuses on this one task. He’s got a patterned windbreaker on, in the clashing colors of black, pink and blue. The hood is large enough to protect his neck from the wind, which is simply hilarious considering Will forgot to bring a scarf. He smiles privately at how their roles have reversed, rubbing his hands in a failed attempt to bring back feeling to his numb skin.

“Got it,” Tom says eventually, holding up what Will identifies to be the small somethings he’d put in his pocket two days ago at the church. He realizes then that they’re actually rosaries, one for each of them, beads made up of a light terracotta shade. Will takes one off Tom’s grip, gently, taking a closer look at it. 

“I asked Father David ta bless these for me.” Tom explains, handing another rosary to Lauri and hanging the remaining one around his neck, hidden by his windbreaker. “Not much, but it’s somethin’, right?”

Will has never been more charmed in his life. 

Normally, he would never even consider putting on a rosary, his disdain for religion becoming all too clear once again. But this is different; Tom got this for Will because he truly believes it’ll protect him. He runs his thumb over the small cross dangling from the string of beads, taking in all of the small details engraved in the metal.

Tom, mistaking his stunned silence for a confused one, steps closer, prying the rosary from Will’s fingers carefully. “You’re supposed to put it on,” he smiles hesitantly, no doubt thinking back on how badly Will had reacted to the church a couple days ago. Tom holds the rosary above Will’s head, not daring to go any further. “Can I…?”

Not trusting himself to be able to respond properly, Will nods, shivering when the cold material of the beads comes in contact with his bare neck.

For good measure, Tom tucks the small metal cross beneath Will’s shirt, pressing against it with his palm just the slightest bit before stepping away. Will can’t help but notice the violent blush on his cheeks even in the dark, shoving his hands inside his pocket before he acts on instinct and does something stupid. He can feel Lauri’s eyes on the back of his neck, undoubtedly judging his every move.

Tom crouches down next to his knapsack, abandoned on the grass by their feet, and begins rifling through it once again, though he looks more distracted now. He gets back up with something else cradled in his left hand; a transparent vial full of... something. Will might have an inkling of an idea of what it is, but he’s really not up to getting splashed with cold water at the moment. 

“It’s holy water.” Tom crams the vial inside his pocket, cinching the knapsack and swinging it over his shoulders. Will lets out a minute sigh of relief, making sure not to take his dry coat for granted. Instead, he takes a glance at the house, which simply refuses to let itself be forgotten in the backburner of his mind. It’s looking more and more intimidating by the minute, and Will is not looking forward to this at all .

“We should just go inside.” Lauri speaks up, quietly, but firm. Will lets out a breath he didn’t know he was holding, nodding just the slightest bit to show them he’s listening. Tom looks nervously between Lauri and the house, like he’s wondering if there isn’t a better way to do this.

“Alright.” he concedes eventually, crossing his arms over his chest with a tense grimace. “Let’s get this over with.”

Wordlessly, they climb the three steps towards the porch, and Will is perturbed by how much it reminds him of the Blakes’ house. If he concentrates hard enough, he can almost see Tom sitting on the steps, shivering from the cold and teary-eyed because he just had a fight with his brother. When they finally walk inside, thankfully, the illusion is shattered. 

The house is much the same as they’d left it last time; a faded red splatter on the banister is the only sign left over from Will’s last visit with Lauri. The cuts on his arms tingle unpleasantly at the reminder. Will is quick to look away, ignoring the shiver that runs down his spine. 

His Polaroid camera hangs heavy on his neck, a weight that used to be so comforting now makes him want to hurl the thing across the room. The pictures he’d taken four days ago won’t leave his thoughts, no matter how hard he tries to focus on the here and now. It’s maddening. 

Will wants to go home. 

With a bitter sigh, he digs the new flashlight he’d purchased in the afternoon out of his pocket, turning it on and squinting at the sudden brightness. Lauri and Tom are quick to follow, unwilling to stay in the pitch black darkness for much longer. 

“Well.” Tom speaks up, uncertain, taking the vial of holy water out of his pocket and shining his torch in the direction of the dining room. “We need ta sprinkle some o’ this in the most active areas. I think.”

Will takes the lead and heads towards the dining room, bracing himself in case that dastardly chill decides to come over them yet again. His eyebrows raise minutely at the insecurity in Tom’s voice. “You do know what you’re doing, right?”

Tom hits him lightly on the shoulder, pouting. “‘Course I do.” he huffs, stepping around Will and hurrying over broken furniture to duck into the next room. “‘S just my first time doin’ somethin’ like this, ok?”

Lauri passes by Will as well, giving him a weird look with the corner of her eye as she does so. Will sighs and begrudgingly follows, dimming the light of his torch so he doesn’t go blind within the next hour. 

Because he’s too focused on adjusting his light, Will doesn’t notice when Tom stops walking in front of him, colliding against his back with a muffled curse. “Why did we stop?” he groans, catching himself on Tom’s shoulders so he doesn’t topple over. 

Tom gives him a frightened look over his shoulder, lips pursed together tightly. His flashlight illuminates a suddenly very obvious detail Will isn’t very sure how he missed the first time they came here; a door , right next to the broken cabinet, white and suspiciously well maintained considering the state of the rest of the house. Will takes in a sharp breath.

“The basement?” Tom stiffens uncomfortably at the question, no doubt thinking back to what they had found in the newspaper clippings a few days ago. Lauri comes closer to the both of them, looking around tensely as if she’s searching for something. “Should we go inside?”

“I guess.” Tom sighs, pushing around some debris on the floor with the scuff on his shoe, hesitantly. “No point in puttin’ this off.”

Will isn’t blind; he can see clear as day how nervous Tom looks, from the tense line of his shoulders to the wrinkle forming beneath his eye. Putting a hand out, he squeezes Tom’s bicep in what he hopes is a comforting enough gesture, tugging him aside slightly. 

“I’ll go first.” 

It’s only fair, after all. The only reason they’re here at all is because Will insisted on it. 

Lauri looks thoroughly alarmed, but Tom’s gaze softens appreciatively. He keeps his torch pointed at the door as he moves out of Will’s way, like he’s afraid of what could happen if he let it out of his sight. 

Will steps forward. 

The door handle is cool under his grip, made of shiny metal that looks like it’s just been polished. Pushing it open, he meets no resistance. The stairs look like they're made of plywood; Will hesitantly puts one foot down, testing if it can hold his weight. It wouldn’t do for them to get injured in such a stupid manner when there’s possibly a demon around the corner, just waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. 

‘Don’t think about it!’, his mind screams at him. Will grits his teeth together and starts his descent, running a hand along the wall to keep his balance. 

Tom and Lauri are quick to follow, their steps echoing quietly behind his own. Will chances a look over his shoulder and is met with Tom’s face, pinched in concentration and clearly afraid of slipping. He gives Will a nervous smile that looks more like a grimace. 

He can’t find it in himself to smile back. 

Will turns back to the never-ending darkness, speeding up the pace and getting to the bottom of the stairs as quickly as possible. Down here, it’s mouldy, and nearly suffocating, like the walls are closing in on them faster by the minute. He swings his torch around frantically, afraid of what he might find hidden in the crevices of the room, but his hands are too shaky for him to get a proper look. 

A familiar weight on his shoulder makes him stop. Tom’s other hand grips his wrist lightly, looking over him with worried eyes and furrowed brows.

“You ok?” His voice feels like it could be drowned out by the dark any minute, but Will clings to the familiarity of it, allowing his head to clear up some. He nods, albeit weakly, but it’s good enough for Tom, who steps away. 

Will feels the loss of the warmth almost immediately, like a cold fist puncturing his lungs. He feels awful in this place, like he’ll never be happy again. Swallowing heavily, Will turns his back to the basement to face Tom and Lauri, wanting nothing more than to rush back up the stairs and out of this damn house. 

“Let’s get this over with.” He mutters, pretending to be messing with his light again so they can’t see the troubled look in his eyes.

Tom takes the initiative and pushes past Will, looking around and making an effort to keep himself composed. The basement is smaller than they’d expected, but it’s not exactly tiny, either. It’s dusty as hell, and Will finds himself coughing frequently into his elbow, hardly being able to focus on anything at all. 

There’s a doorway leading out of the room they’re currently in into a bigger one, with weirdly empty wooden shelves that look to be in ok condition. Will runs a finger over one of them and is surprised to find that his finger comes back clean, which is just bizarre. It’s almost like there’s someone- or some thing -keeping things orderly around here. 

Will has an idea of what that might be.

For good measure, he wipes his finger on his trousers, turning away from the shelves with an involuntary shudder. The rest of the room (what he can see of it, anyway) seems pretty barren, not much to see aside from cobwebs and cracks on the walls. He hurried back to the center of the room, where he can see Tom and Lauri’s torches moving around in the dark as they walk. 

“Find anything?” 

“No.” Lauri huffs, pushing a rogue strand of curly hair away from her eyes, irritated. “Can we go back up now? I’m going to have allergies at this rate.” 

Before Will can answer, Tom makes a noise like he just got sucker punched, eyes widening as his flashlight illuminates something on the floor, just beside Will. Will looks down at his feet, taking a step back to have a better look. 

To put it simply, it’s a pentagram. 

Will holds his breath as he runs his eyes over it, trying to take in every detail and at the same time, trying not to see anything at all. From what he can tell, it’s red, painted on the floor with a viscous liquid long since dried. He doesn’t want to think of what it might be. 

One of the lines that make up the pentagram goes off the circle it’s contained in, almost like something was dragged in that direction. Tom follows the line silently, coming to a stop by a hole in the wall so big that Will can’t even begin to understand how they didn’t notice it before. When he steps closer to it, it feels like all the evil in this world is burrowed away inside this crevice. 

A loud noise that sounds like something clattering to the floor makes Will jump, stepping away from the hole with a muffled swear. Next to him, Tom has started shaking so badly he couldn’t keep a hold of his torch anymore. His eyes won’t leave the crack on the wall, like there’s something in there only he can see. It’s only then that Will notices Tom is crying, quiet tears streaming down his cheeks in a non-stop flow. 

“We shouldn’t be ‘ere,” he sobs, sounding like he’s out of himself. “This was a mistake, we need to leave -!” 

Will catches Tom by his arms when he collapses onto him, trying to hold him up as best as he can. “Ok. Ok, we’re leaving. It’ll be fine.” He mutters almost to himself, a bit frantically, but the way Tom has just given up on speaking and is staring into the hole like he’ll die if he looks away is seriously scaring Will. He turns around as best as he can, looking for Lauri’s silhouette in the dark without the aid of his torch. 

“Lauri?” Will calls out, trying his best not to panic. Tom is practically dead weight in his arms, shaking so badly he’s starting to have trouble holding the both of them up. He hears some shuffling, and like an angel sent by god, Lauri rushes out of the darkness and into Will’s field of view. 

“What happened?” She seems hesitant to touch Tom, hands hovering by her sides awkwardly. Will exhales weakly, feeling a bit unsteady on his feet. 

“I don’t- I don’t know.” He stammers, feeling completely useless as Tom continues to weep, immobile. “He just got like this all of a sudden. Lauri, I think we really need to leave-“ 

The rosary around his neck shatters, the sound drowned out by Lauri’s scream of surprise. Suddenly, everything is very cold. 

It’s a type of cold Will hasn’t ever felt before. The chill that paralyzed him by the crawlspace last time doesn’t even compare. It’s like his entire body is encased in pure ice, making the struggle to breathe even harder than before. His heart feels squeezed in his chest, slowing to an almost stop. 

Slowly, he looks back at the hole in the wall, like his gaze is drawn to it. He can't see anything but rubble and petroleum darkness, as if the crevice is filling up with it, viscous like the blood that trickled down the cuts he sports on his arm from just a few days ago. They ache all of a sudden, like the thing that gave them to Will is nearby. 

That would be an understatement. 

The mass of black gathering inside of the hole flies out towards them. When it goes by past them, Will feels himself choking, like there’s liquid filling up his throat. Tom stopped shivering in his arms a while ago. He’s too scared to look down and check if he’s still alive, or even there at all. 

Will can’t see. Or hear, or breathe, or do anything, in fact. It’s like being buried alive, the weight of a world pressing down on him as his body struggles to get oxygen to his lungs. His hands scramble for purchase against whatever this is, but it proves to be futile. The skin underneath his nails starts to rack and bleed the more he tries to escape , mouth open but producing absolutely no sound. 

There’s a noise beneath it all. It’s the one thing he can hear. It sounds like nails scraping against a chalkboard, but about a hundred times worse. It makes his brain shake inside his skull, head pounding like it’s going to split open. Will cries out, agonized, for anything or anyone that might be nearby, that might be able to dig him out of this hell. 

Tom. Tom can dig me out. Where is he? Tom would know what to do. Where is he? Where is he? Where-

Will realizes the noise is actually saying something. 

He strains his ears to listen, momentarily distracted from his struggle to survive. Past the awful, awful screeching sound, there’s a voice that he knows well. It sounds just like his mum. 

“Little boy.” his mother’s voice rasps, but it can’t be her, it cannot be her . She’s far, far away from here, back in Cookingham, back in Will’s childhood home, saying her graces before every meal and twisting her rosary between her fingers whenever she’s angry at him. She’s not here.

“Little boy,” the voice call out again, and Will forces himself to listen, because panicking only makes him suffocate faster. “Little coward man, do you really think you can contend against me? Do you have any idea what it is that you’ve done?”

Will can’t exactly feel the tears that start to stream down his eyes, but the demon coos at him anyway, sarcastically. 

“Why is it that you weep, little mouse?” there’s something twisting around his neck, squeezing tight. Will can tell it’s the rosary, but not the one Tom had given him; it’s his mother’s. “Look at you, playing at being a believer. Lying about God won’t make Him real for you, you pest .”

The rosary squeezes harder than ever before. Will is transported back to his old bedroom, to his mum slapping him for talking back to her. 

“Do you think if you send me away, he’ll want you back? Greedy. Greedy little man.”

Will can finally see something amidst the darkness. It’s Tom. 

It’s Tom, lying on his back, bleeding sluggishly from his gut. He looks so pale, so dead , but so peaceful, it makes Will cry harder. Tom is so close to him. If he could just move, if he could just reach over and touch him-

The vision dissipates like a cloud of smoke. Will tries to swallow against the bile building in his throat, lungs screaming for air. 

“Don’t you know what I did here? Don’t you know what I did to this foolish family?!” the demon roars too close to Will, making his ears ring. 

“I don’t think you understand!” the voice grows louder and louder, the nails scraping the chalkboard become longer and sharper. Will squeezes his eyes shut, but the same darkness greets him behind his eyelids. “Would you like to see, then? Is that it, stupid little boy?”

The ground beneath Will starts crumbling away, sucking him in. He screams, desperate, soundless, feeling himself falling, falling, falling -

You are no longer yourself.

You look down at your feet, spreading your hands open before your eyes. They aren’t yours; not anymore, at least. They haven’t been for a long time. Your life lines on your palms are becoming shorter by the minute. You watch them shift, entranced. 

Look up , it commands you. So you do. 

Before you is your wardrobe. It’s big, made of wood. You press one of your hands against it. It’s so warm, pulsating like it has a heartbeat. Your hand feels like it’s burning up, skin about to shrivel up and fall off like ashes of a cigarette, but you let yourself feel it. You can’t feel much of anything, these days. 

Slowly, you move your hand to the handle. It used to be gold, but the blood smeared on it makes it look scarlet like lipstick. What a beautiful color , it says. You find yourself forced to agree.

You open the wardrobe.

Inside of it, is your wife; or what remains of her, anyway. You know it's her because you’re the one who put her there. Her once beautiful face is now mangled beyond recognition, a bloodied mess that drips drips drips and keeps on dripping viscous red liquid all over your expensive work clothes. Her eyes were ripped from her sockets, and so were all of her teeth and her tongue. You remember how warm she felt when you ruined her beauty; she was still alive, screaming and begging for mercy. Her head is almost completely severed from her neck, blood gushing from it like an open wound. You search inside of yourself for even the tiniest bit of remorse, and come up empty.

She looks gorgeous , it assures you. Suddenly, you aren’t in your bedroom anymore. 

You are staring out the window of the nursery. The forest looks peaceful behind your house, undisturbed. You think about how nice it would be to take a walk out there, by yourself. Just the songbirds to keep you company. You could even wash your hands by the river that you were never able to reach, but knew for certain was there. The cold water would feel good on your constantly burning body.

You turn around. The body of your son is sprawled out on the floor. You give the corpse a nudge with the tip of your foot. 

He’s lacking both of his arms and legs; punishment for running from you when you’d warned him to stay put. The marks your hands left on his soft neck are still very visible, purple bruises that adorn his skin like a necklace. If you look hard enough, squint your tired, short-sighted eyes just the right amount they need to to get past the blurriness that is the world without your glasses, you can see tear tracks left behind on his cheeks. That kid has always cried too much, anyway , it spits. And then you are in your basement. 

You’re familiar with your basement. You spend a lot of time down here, after all. You’re careful not to step on the pentagram you drew on the floor; it’s still wet. It would be a disrespect to your baby daughter, the only truly innocent member of your family, who gave you her blood just for this. You think about her little body resting inside the mausoleum made of brick that you built for her, in her playroom. You know she’d be happy in there, finally able to rest in peace away from this sickening world. It was so noble of you , it praises.

Now, you are in your dining room. There are sirens wailing outside.

They are yelling something, but you can’t be bothered to listen and figure out what. It sounds like ‘ ’come out’ . Why would you want to go out? You have everything you need right here. 

You stare down at your hands again. On your right, rests your pistol. On your left, your life line has disappeared from your palm.

You bring the pistol to your head. The cold barrel of the gun feels nice against your burning temple. You can’t wait to be away from it all.

You pull the trigger without hesitation. You’re proud to say that your brains were the hardest thing to clean up in the house. 

Will wakes up.

He startles awake on the floor, too close to the bloody pentagram for comfort. He scrambles up to his knees and retches, his dinner splattering all over the ground. His lungs take in air gratefully, nearly starting to hyperventilate. Will weakly wipes his mouth with he back of his hand, letting out an anguished groan. Fresh tears spill from his eyes, and he has no energy to try and stop them.

“Will!” he knows this voice. It’s Lauri. She rushes to his side, gripping his forearms, trying to pull him up to his feet. Will leans on her gratefully, taking in the sight of his best friend. 

Lauri looks awful. Her hair is a mess, matted to her forehead with sweat. Her eyes and nose are red from crying, and her voice sounds raspy, like she’d been screaming. Will imagines he doesn’t look much better. 

“Did you see it?” he asks shakily, not recognizing the sound of his own voice. Lauri nods, tears welling up in her eyes again. 

“I did, I did, I- we need to leave! We should’ve never come here at all-!”

A wail cuts her off. Will feels like hitting himself. Tom.

Will disentangles himself from Lauri and looks around madly in the dark, trying to spot Tom. He almost falls over again in his rush to get to his friend when he sees him kneeling a few meters away, hands gripping his curly hair so hard he might end up ripping it off. 

“Tom?” Will pries Tom’s hands gently from his hair, holding them between his own. Tom isn’t really here; his eyes are glazed over, panicked, misty with tears. He’s saying something Will can’t understand, so he leans in to hear better. 

“Dad,” Tom sobs in his ear and it’s enough to tear Will’s heart apart. He pulls Tom up to his feet, ridden with guilt. Tom goes easily, too lost in his own mind to resist. 

“We’re leaving. Now.” Will doesn’t bother looking for his flashlight in the pitch black darkness. He tugs Tom along, reassured by Lauri’s footsteps bringing up his rear, and climbs the plywood stairs with an urgency he’d never once felt before. It’s only when they’re finally out of the basement that his mind begins to clear up from his panicked trance. 

He can feel its eyes on the back of his neck, the phantom pain of being suffocated coming back slowly to him, bit by bit. Will shakes his head violently and focuses on getting Tom through the living room and out the front door, wishing for nothing more than a warm shower and his bed, all the way back in London. 

As the three of them stumble outside on the rotting porch, Will swears he can hear that awful, ear-splitting voice cackling beneath the floorboards. 

Will and Lauri work together, pulling Tom along by his forearms. He doesn’t struggle against them, but his unresponsiveness is worrying. It’s only when they’re a good few blocks away from the house that Will finds his voice again, compartmentalizing what he just went through to be dealt with later. 

“We need to get him home.” He sounds strangled and weak. Lauri winces at the quality of his voice but nods, though her steps seem to be faltering as well. They fall into silence again, only interrupted by Tom’s occasional groans and indiscernible babblings. 

The walk is tense. Any sort of little noise and creak is enough to make Will start to nearly hyperventilate, immediately plagued by the feeling of suffocating. When Tom’s head lolls against his shoulder and the expanse of his neck is no longer hidden by the windbreaker, Will can see the beads of his rosary are black, looking like they were burnt to almost crisps. 

He swallows heavily, tugging Tom closer to his side. 

When Tom’s house comes into view, Will can’t stop the guilt from sitting heavy in his gut. They can’t just leave Tom in the doorstep and sneak away like nothing had happened, obviously, which means he’ll have to face Joe after dragging his younger brother into hell. Mrs. Blake will probably be there too, now that he thinks about it. Will really didn’t want their first meeting to go like this. 

They shuffle awkward to the front porch. Tom has gone disconcertingly quiet between the two of them. 

“Should we… should we just knock?” Lauri worries at her bottom lip, clearly anxious, taking out her phone to check the time. “Holy shit, it’s already half past two.” 

“We don’t have a choice.” Will cringes, but raises his hand and gives the front door one, two, three forceful knocks. He steps back, and waits.

After about three minutes of awkward silence in which Will contemplated just looking for the spare key, lest he keep knocking until his hand falls off, the door swings open, a gruff Joe Blake standing behind it, clearly displeased. Next to him is a plump, petite woman, with greying hairs and wrinkles underneath her tired eyes, wrapping a shawl tightly around her shoulders. 

The woman’s eyes (they’re green, Will notices) widen considerably once she takes in the scene before her, any remnants of sleep evaporating from her in an instant. “Tommy?!” 

Mrs. Blake rushes forward, gathering her son in her arms in a practiced motion. Tom slumps forward without resistance, leaning on his mother even though she’s shorter than him. She tugs him inside in a hurry, not sparing a second glance to her ‘guests’.

Will breathes a little easier, knowing Tom is in good hands. The relief, however, is temporary; the second his eyes meet Joe’s, it’s like a bucket of ice water has been dumped over his head. 

Joe’s eyes are stone cold, stormy with anger. His jaw is set so harshly Will can hear his teeth grind against each other, and it’s a sound that reminds him too much of the demon’s voice. 

“Yer a right down bastard, ain’t ye?” Joe growls, grip on the handle tightening. “I told Tom ta stay away from all this.” 

“Tom is an adult. He can make his own decisions.” Lauri butts in between them, squaring her shoulders despite being shorter than Joe by a good few inches. Will’s heart swells with affection for her at that moment. Despite the extremely stressful and traumatizing night they just had, she’s still willing to defend her best friend with teeth and nails. He smiles softly at her as thanks, though she doesn’t seem to notice. 

“Yeah, an’ look how well that turned out for him. The hell did ya do?!” Joe’s voice is beginning to raise dangerously. Down the street, Will notices a light turning on in one of the neighbors’ houses. He shushes Joe with urgency, trying to avoid making a scene. 

“Look, it’s hard to explain. Just- don’t be mad at Tom. He’s stressed.” Stressed doesn’t even begin to cover it. If Tom went through the same thing as Will did, traumatized would be a better word to use. Will shivers at the thought of unpacking tonight’s events, and just having to deal with them. 

Bitterly, he thinks to himself that he just can’t let that thing win. 

“Get the fuck out.” Joe’s eyes narrow into thin slits, spitting at them with venom. “Get the fuck outta ‘ere! Go! Leave!” 

“Don’t have to tell us twice.” Lauri snaps back, grabbing Will by the sleeve of his coat and pulling him down the steps with her. He doesn’t want to just leave , though, Tom is still in there, he needs them-


Tom’s shrill scream is enough to stop both of them in their tracks. 

Will looks back at the front door, towards a bewildered Joe. He hears Tom coming before he sees him, squeezing past his brother and nearly tumbling down the stairs in his rush to get to Will. He doesn’t have his windbreaker on anymore, the pale skin of his arms covered in goosebumps from the cold. 

“Y’can’t leave!” Tom wails, gripping the front of Will’s coat desperately. It’s clear that he hasn’t snapped from his trance yet, eyes wild and unfocused. “It’s still out there! I- I can’t-!” 

“Tom, it’s ok. It’s ok.” Will grips Tom’s forearms soothingly, feeling his muscles relax beneath his palm. Tom’s skin is on fire . Will is worried he might have a fever. “I won’t leave if you don’t want me to. I-“ He pauses to take a deep breath. “I don’t want to leave either.” 

“It’s still out there.” Tom insists, nearly choking on his words. Will simply nods and begins leading them up the front porch again, and inside the house. This time, Joe doesn’t say anything as they walk past him, though his irate anger is quite obvious in the way he slams the door shut behind him. 

Tom clings to Will like he’s afraid he’ll disappear into thin air if he lets go. Mrs. Blake walks up to them with a grim look of worry on her face, placing a kind hand between her son’s shoulder blades. 

“I’m goin’ to run him a bath. He’s shivering,” she says while rubbing his back in large circles, displacing his shirt slightly and exposing the bruises on his neck where the rosary no longer sits. Tom tucks his face against Will’s collarbone with a whimper. “Why don’t ya give me a hand?” 

“The girl can help ye, mum.” Joe interrupts, hands buried inside the pockets of his slacks. Lauri bristles at his comment, looking like she could rip the elder Blake a new one. “I need ta ‘ave a word with Will ‘ere.” 

Will swallows thickly but doesn’t protest, stepping away from Tom remorsefully. Tom looks too tired to put up a fight, letting his mum and Lauri lead him up the stairs. Joe trails them with his eyes, waiting to hear the bathroom door shutting closed, before he turns to Will fully, looking seconds away from snapping. 

He doesn’t say anything at first. The silence is tense. Will feels like prey, being scrutinized by the animal that’s about to make dinner out of him, and it’s not a pretty thought. He squirms uncomfortably where he stands, shoulders coming up to his ears defensively. 

Anxiety pools in his stomach when Joe finally speaks up. “Lis’en.” He grumbles, expression very hostile. “I don’t give a damn if ya want to go get yerself killed messin’ with shite ya don’t understand. By all fuckin’ means, be my guest. But you,” Joe steps close enough for Will to feel his breath, jutting a finger against his chest, just above his heart. “Keep. My. Brother. Out of it.” 

Will doesn’t let himself shrink underneath Joe’s gaze. He’s taller, after all. “Won’t happen again.” 

Joe takes a step back, retracting his hand. He doesn’t look very convincing, but Will continues to school his expression, no emotion showing on his face.

“See to it that it doesn’t.” He bites out after a while, turning on his heel and climbing the stairs in twos, presumably to check on Tom. Will lets out the breath he’d been holding, willing his muscles to relax. 

He doesn’t know how he’d envisioned this night going, but being threatened by Joe Blake was definitely not in his plans.

Will collapses on the huge couch with a sigh, sinking into the old cushions. Running a hand through his hair, he unbuttons his coat with the other, though the process goes very slow considering how badly he’s started shaking. Being down here, alone, with only a dim light bulb overhead to keep him from being swallowed into the darkness, definitely makes Will nervous, like the demon could come back at any second. But he needs a moment for himself before he braves upstairs; he needs to be mostly ok to be able to help Tom. 

Just the thought of Tom is enough to leave Will swimming in guilt. The last thing he wanted to happen was Tom getting hurt; the absolutely worst case scenario. That had gotten pretty damn close, though; Will rubs a hand over his neck nervously, making sure that everything is as it’s supposed to be, shivering at the thought of what had happened back in the house. The demon had buried Will alive; he doesn’t even want to think what it was that it did to Tom.

And despite everything that just happened, he still can’t let it go. He just can’t let that thing walk away free from all this after all that it had done. It was just pure evil down to its very rotten core. 

Get a grip, man. ’ Will thinks to himself, leaning forward and resting his elbows on his knees. With one last, punishing tug of his hair in both of his hands, Will stands up slowly, afraid he might fall over if he tries to rush things. He takes his time with the steps, admiring the picture frames that adorn the walls leading up to the second floor.

There’s no shortage of them. Most of them are depict Tom or Joe, or even Tom and Joe, through various stages of life. Others have Mrs. Blake in them, starting by a portrait of what Will assumes is her in her teens, and going all the way to a picture that couldn’t be more than a couple months old, of her taking out a pie from the oven. There’s enough pictures that Will could spend a good hour looking over them, but only one has the person he’s looking for. 

Tom’s dad.

The picture looks dated, that much is clear. Which doesn’t make sense, judging by the date in the corner; it reads 2012. But it’s yellowed and the corners are wrinkled, like it had spent a good while out of this picture frame before being encased and displayed on this wall. Tom is easy to find in the photograph; he has the same brilliant grin as always, though his hair is a mess of dirty blonde curls instead of the brown Will has come to be so used to. He’s sitting down at the kitchen table, hands gripping the collar of a dog Will doesn’t recognize. Standing behind him is Joe, looking at the camera with a grumpy glower, turning away from it as best as he can while still showing his face. By the sink, hands twisting her apron, is Mrs. Blake, looking jovial and happy, shoulders relaxed and back straight. And next to her, is Mr. Blake.

Will takes his time taking in the man’s face. He has blue eyes, the exact same shade as Tom’s. A great big mustache covers up most of his mouth, but Will can tell he’s beaming by the way his eyes crinkle at the corners. The black hairs on his head curl in a way so familiar it makes Will’s heart clench, tongue suddenly feeling dry like sandpaper inside his mouth. He steps away from the picture, blinking back tears he doesn’t understand away from his eyes. Emotions are still running high tonight; that has to be it. 

With a deep breath, Will continues to climb. 

As soon as he gets to the landing, a door down the hallway bursts open, and out of it comes Lauri, looking frazzled but considerably better than she did when they’d just gotten here. She spots Will and rushes over, taking both of his hands in her own. 

“I was going to come down and get you. Martha needs you in the bathroom.” Will doesn’t have to ask her who Martha is; he simply nods, eyes glued to the door Lauri had come out of. “Tom is still too nervous. You need to help him relax.” 

Will nods jerkily, pushing past Lauri and into the bathroom with his heart about to leap out of his throat. The first thing that he notices is the warmth; the steam makes everything foggy. Will is quick to spot Tom, sitting in a half-filled bathtub, stripped down to his underwear, visibly shivering.

“Oh, darlin’.” Martha speaks softly, as if soothing a wounded animal. Her hands waver hesitantly over Tom, uselessly, as if she’s afraid that touching him might set him off. Tom doesn’t look at all there; his arms are curled protectively over his stomach, eyes set on the wall before him, far away from them all. Will feels his insides twist when he realizes the place that Tom’s covering is where he’d seen the stab wound in that vision, back in the house. 

“Tom?” Will calls out, nervous. 

Recognition flashes in Tom’s eyes, and he turns his head towards Will, eyebrows creasing together like he’s struggling not to cry. Martha looks like she could kiss Will, smiling with teary eyes as she smoothes a hand over her son’s hair. 

“There you are,” she whispers. 

Will steps closer, slowly. Tom’s shivering has subdued some, but he still looks like a total wreck. As soon as Will kneels beside the bathtub, Tom shuffles over, leaning over the edge. 

“Can I touch you?” Will puts his hands out, carefully so he doesn’t startle Tom. He needn’t have bothered, though; the second Tom is close enough, he leans against Will, eyes squeezed shut like he’s afraid of opening them again. 

Will wraps his arms around Tom, unconcerned if his clothes end up getting wet or not. He squeezes Tom’s shoulder in that comforting way he knows helps, worried if his hands are too cold. Tom doesn’t really seem to care.

Martha stands up with a shaky exhale, leaning heavily against the tiles on the wall. “I’ll give you two some time.” She sounds exhausted, but Will can’t blame her; he’s feeling like pure death himself. So he just nods, finding himself too tired to speak. 

They don’t really talk. Tom only moves to shift himself so he’s closer to Will, and that’s it. Eventually, he stops shivering completely, though if it’s out of exhaustion or if he’s truly more relaxed Will can’t tell. He simply holds Tom through it all, finding one of his hands and squeezing hard.

“I’m sorry.” Will mutters with half of his face buried in Tom’s curls. He gets no response. 

Will isn’t sure how much time passes. The water in the bathtub is starting to become too lukewarm for an April night. Martha comes in eventually with two sets of clothes and leaves them on the toilet lid, pointing out which ones were for Tom and which were Will’s. As soon as she closes the door behind her, Will begins to tug Tom out of the bathtub, taking on most of his weight himself. 

“Let’s get you dried up.” He mumbles, mostly to himself. Tom doesn’t respond other than giving him a weak sigh, taking one of the towels hanging on the wall and beginning to pat himself down. Will grips Tom’s waist tightly to support him, not complaining even once whenever he needs to lend a shoulder so Tom can reach lower without toppling over. 

The only thing remaining is taking off his wet underwear. Will clears his throat, averting his gaze. 

“I won’t look.” He promises. Tom gives him a wry smile, which is better than nothing, he supposes. 

“Shouldn’t be a big deal.” Tom mumbles while he strips fully, flinging his boxers to the side and fishing a clean pair from his pile of clothes, but Will doesn’t look either way, eyes burning holes on the bathroom rug. It’s only when Tom’s finished dressing that he looks up, ignoring the way his face is lit up with red. 

“Get dressed.” Tom squeezes past Will and out of the bathroom with tired eyes and slumped shoulders. Will can’t help but wonder if Tom is mad at him, though that would be only fair; Will would be mad at himself too, after the night they’d just had. 

He strips quickly, bundling up his clothes in his hands and placing them on top of the toilet lid so they don’t get even more wet. The clothes Martha picked out fit him, but it’s a near thing. The shirt is a bit too tight around the shoulders, and the sweats only reach down to his ankles. These must be Joe’s.

Will picks at the collar of the shirt, uncomfortably. 

When he steps out of the bathroom, Tom is slumped against the wall, practically asleep already. He collapses against Will without any hesitation, clinging tightly so he can’t be pushed away. 

Not that Will would ever want to do that, of course. 

There’s someone coming up the stairs; their steps are heavy, loud. Will flinches momentarily, relaxing only when Martha’s soothing green eyes come into view. She takes one look over them and smiles, though her face look heavy with worry. 

“His bedroom is just down the hall.” She speaks quietly, like she’s afraid of waking Tom up; but that doesn’t look like it’s happening any time soon. Will follows Martha’s lead, dragging Tom along with him, feeling his knees click like they always do whenever he stays up for too long. 

Tom’s bedroom is dark, of course. The curtains block out the moonlight from filtering into the room. Martha pulls back the covers on the bed and Will is careful to deposit Tom down on it, making sure his head hits the pillow and not the wooden headboard behind him. 

Tom goes easily, of course. Though he doesn’t let go of Will’s arms when he moves to stand up, even if he’s clearly asleep already. 

“He’s done that since he was a baby.” Martha whispers affectionately, tugging the covers over Tom’s body. Her smile is sad, strangled. “He’s such a sweet boy, my Tommy.” 

Will could just blow up with shame. 

“Ah, I gave the guest bedroom to your lady friend.” Martha tries to wipe her eyes inconspicuously, though Will notices the tears when they stream down her cheeks. “Maybe it would be best if ya slept ‘ere tonight, hmm?” 

“Sure.” Will can’t think of a reason why he wouldn’t want to stay, really. Sleeping away from Tom tonight sounds like a nightmare. He climbs underneath the sheets as carefully as he can manage, exhaling when he feels Tom curl to his side. Just like a cat. 

Martha moves to shut the door with a muffled good night, but before she can do so, Will calls out to her.

“Mrs. Blake?” 

Her figure pauses, hand leaning heavily against the door handle. Will can’t see her face with the hallway light shining from behind her. 


“I’m- I’m so sorry.” 

He can hear the regret in his own voice, and it makes him wince. 

From the doorway, Martha shakes her head. Will doesn’t have to be able to see her to know that she’s smiling.

“He’s always been awful stubborn, that Tommy.” Her tone is warm, kind. Will feels his body sinking into the mattress, sleep starting to soften his edges. “He would’ve gone with you no matter what you said to him. Good night, dear.” 

Martha shuts the door with finalty. The darkness washes over them, but this time, Will isn’t scared. 

He lets himself relax with Tom’s weight pressed comfortably to his side. It’s no time at all before Will falls into a deep, fitful sleep.