Actions

Work Header

The Fox Who Didn’t Like Musicals

Chapter Text

Andrew aimed for the bin next to Nicky’s desk and sighed when his coffee cup clattered to the floor next to it, the logo facing towards him as if to mock his failure. Bee would probably tell him that it was just a piece of cardboard, but he was refusing to talk to her at the moment because she’d told Nicky in his session with Erik that Andrew actually cared about him; which, he steadfastly retained, was not true in the slightest.

It definitely was the cup’s fault, and not Neil Josten’s. Because there was no way Andrew was getting this distracted by a boy with pretty cheekbones, so it was clearly just the vast amounts of caffeine he was consuming, and not the fact that he was spending every lunch break at Beanie’s and drinking their shitty coffee just to watch the way Neil scowled at every customer except him.

Maybe he’d go and get more coffee after he’d turned in these reports.

Andrew was shaken out of his reverie by Wymack’s gruff voice from across the cubicle.
“Hey, Andrew?”
He didn’t display his distaste, because he had a reputation to uphold and that involved presenting his carefully cultivated blank mask at all times, but he sighed internally when Wymack continued.

“So, I was trying to print something, and I think I might have sent it to your printer.”

Andrew reached down and pulled up the offending documents, handing them over silently. Internally, he was repeating the very simple fact that his own printer was an HP Inkjet, and that Wymack’s was an HP Laserjet, but he decided that if the man was stupid enough to have done this three times in the last week, then it was a lost cause.

If he was honest with himself, Wymack wasn’t bad as colleagues went. He put up with Andrew’s shit and let him steal his alcohol, and he kept quiet, unlike Nicky. His kid was really fucking annoying, but Andrew had owed Wymack a favour, so he’d turned up at the custody battle for Kevin, and given a character witness. He wasn’t quite sure how Kevin had ever managed to get himself a girlfriend, because surely no eighteen-year-old was this focused on obscure historical facts and his high school lacrosse team. There was no accounting for taste, he supposed.

So yeah, Wymack was alright. But Matthew Boyd, with his too-white teeth and knowing smirks whenever they ended up at Beanie’s at the same time, was not. Not only was Matt always there to witness Andrew fumble around Neil while he visited his girlfriend, he had also not given up on this fucking softball league.

“Hi Andrew!” There was another reason- the man was too damned happy, it was unnatural. He had a photo of Dan on his desk and a ring on his finger, and never shut up about either of them.

“Hey, so were you going to sign up for the company softball league?”
Andrew refused to look up at him and highlight the slightly ridiculous height difference between them, so he stared directly at his screen as he answered.

“No.”

“Oh.” Matt’s smile faltered slightly, and Andrew felt a slight rush of satisfaction that dissipated as soon as he plastered back on an even bigger grin than before.
“It might be fun! You could invite that barista-“

Matt stopped abruptly, probably because of the knife to his thigh.

“Oooooh!” That was Nicky, who was unfortunately out of stabbing range. “The ginger one? The ‘Latte Hahtay’? Oh my god, if he didn’t glare at me every time I walked into Beanie’s, I would invite him to me and Erik’s-“

Andrew thankfully didn’t have to listen to the rest of that sentence, because Nicky’s phone rang.
“CCRP Technical, this is Nicky, how can I help?” There was a pause, then Nicky smiled. “Oh, hi, Erik! How are things down at the precinct? Oh, I’m sorry to hear that, well my day’s been gr-“ He cut himself off, then grimaced slightly. “Oh, how late? Yeah, I know you’re busy. I’ll see you tonight, don’t work too hard, alright, baby? We’ve got a session with Bee on the weekend, okay? Alright, love you.”

Andrew had tuned him out, but looked at him when he finished the latest line of incessantly dull text on his Word document. “I’m going to go get some coffee from Beanie’s, anyone want to come? Wymack?”

Wymack looked up, slightly startled. “Oh, I can’t, I have to keep refreshing this webpage. I’ve got Kevin for one more night before he goes back to Clivesdale, and his uncle, just to make me look small, too him all the way to New York to see Hamilton,”

Andrew wrinkled his nose slightly. God, if there was one thing he disliked more than Matthew Boyd, it was musicals. He didn’t hate them- to hate something you had to invest a certain amount of emotional energy into it, so he reserved his hatred for the likes of Neil Josten.

Wymack continued, a slight note of surprise in his voice. “And he loved it!”

Well, Andrew supposed Hamilton was close enough to historical accuracy to pique Kevin’s interest, even though it was vaguely surprising that Kevin had managed to watch anything for two hours without snide comments. Like he said, the kid was annoying.

“So, to prove that two can play at that game, I’m on HotTix right now, and the moment more become available, I’m getting two tickets for tonight. The touring production of Mamma Mia, at the old Starlight theatre in downtown! Hey, you want to tag along?”

Andrew didn’t have to think about it. “No.”

Wymack pretended he hadn’t heard him. “Kevin would get a kick out of it. Remember when you looked after him that one time, while I had to get an operation?”

Andrew remembered everything. Kevin had been bad enough at fifteen, and he’d only got worse. “No.”

“You got other plans, Minyard?”

Andrew looked directly into his eyes. “Nope.” He popped the ‘p’, because at heart, he was an asshole.

Wymack looked vaguely offended, but not surprised. “I’m trying to reconnect with my teenage kid, and you’re just going to leave me hanging?”

Andrew started walking towards the exit. “Yeah.”

Wymack yelled after him. “Get me a caramel frappe, at least, you dickhead!”

Andrew smirked slightly, until he almost walked into Riko, who was skulking around the reception desk as usual. The man looked up, then saw Andrew putting his wallet into his back pocket and sneered. “You going to Beanie’s to eye up the barista again?”

Andrew had to focus on Bee’s voice in his head and the last warning note tucked into his drawer telling him that if he pulled one more knife on a colleague he was going to be escorted out by security.

“See, Andrew, I’d come along, but I don’t want to ‘show you up’, you know what I mean?”

Andrew kept his blank face firmly in place, but Riko decided not to take this as the obvious conversation-ender that it was.

“Andrew, come on. I know why you walk that extra block, instead of just going to Starbucks across the street.” His tone was full of thinly-veiled disgust. “You know, the ginger one that Nicky calls the “Latte Hottie”?”

Andrew had always hated the nickname, but somehow it sounded even worse in Riko’s pompous and overly-enunciated voice. He shouldered out of the building, ignoring Riko’s shout after him to ‘get him a chai iced tea’. Fuck Riko.

***************

Neil wiped down the counter for the twentieth time as a guy he vaguely recognised sauntered up to the counter, not even looking up from his phone as he texted.

“Can I get a grande caramel frappe in a venti cup, with ten pumps of hazelnut, three shots of espresso, no caramel drizzle with whip on top?”

It was Seth, he realised, Allison’s asshole boyfriend who’d picked her up last week, but more importantly, what kind of tooth-rotting bullshit was that order? But he had a job to do, and this was one of the better jobs he’d found in the last two years, even with Dan and Allison cooing over him, so he gritted his teeth and smiled blandly.

“Sure. That’ll be five dollars fifty.” If he’d added a tiny bit to the price tag in payment for Seth’s disgusting taste in coffee, then no-one had to know.

Seth scowled. “Jesus, fine.”

Neil realised his plan might have backfired slightly when Seth eyed the new sign on the tip jar and got a malicious glint in his eyes. He stuffed a wrinkled dollar into the jar, then leaned against the counter and smirked. When Neil pretended he hadn’t noticed, Seth drew his attention loudly.

“Hey, short-stuff, I just tipped you.”

Neil replied with his customer service smile firmly in place. “Oh, well thank you.”

“Aren’t you supposed to sing? The sign says to tip for a song.”

Neil’s cheeks were hurting with the force of this smile. “Yeah, that’s like a new thing- the owner, Hernandez, went to Cold Stone Creamery over the weekend and brought back the whole singing thing, but, you know, there’s a line and people are working, so I don’t want to disturb anyone, so-“

Seth puffed out his chest. He seemed to be taking this pathetic effort to undermine Neil’s masculinity quite seriously. “Hah, yeah, I don’t care. I just tipped you, come on.”

Neil let the customer service smile drop. “Okay, well did you do that to be nice or did you do it to be an asshole?”

“Fine, I’ll take it back then!” True to his word, Seth fished the dollar out of the jar, and Neil sneered mockingly at him, gasping dramatically.

“Oh no! What am I gonna do without that DOLLAR I have to split with five other people?”

Not to mention, Allison got a share of those tips too. But he counted it as a win, because apparently he’d pissed Seth off enough to get him to wait until Allison’s shift was over outside, grumbling as he went and slamming the door rather loudly.

Neil held up his middle finger as Seth left, and was interrupted by Dan’s rather pointed cough from behind him. Shit.

“Neil, what’s the deal over here?”
“Uh, Seth just flipped out for practically no reason.”

A girl in the line to pick up her drink stepped forward, flashing Neil a glare. “He wouldn’t sing for him.” Neil cursed as he realised it was the girl that had asked for his number a week ago. He hadn’t even realised that Marissa or whatever her name was had been flirting with him, until Allison had informed him, seeming delighted. He’d politely declined when she next spoke to him, but apparently she hadn’t taken it well, because she hammered the nail home with a toss of her hair and a snooty look towards Dan.

“And I still haven’t gotten my hot chocolate.”

“Sorry, we’ll get right on that,” Dan assured her, then turned to Neil as Marissa retreated to the line with a mutter that she had ‘very low blood sugar’.

“Jesus, Neil, I already warned you twice! We have to be nice to the customers, even if Allison does have shit taste in men. I know you don’t want to sing, so Allison’s got you covered-“

“Where is Allison, anyway?”

“She says she’s on ‘vocal rest’? I’m not sure, but she’s out back drinking a tea with honey. You’re lucky she majored in musical theatre, because Hernandez wants us to learn this dance for tomorrow- yes, you have to do that one, honey.” She ruffled his hair fondly, and Neil tried not to flinch. “Now move your ass, you’ve got a line.”

Dan retreated into the back room, and Neil turned back to the coffee machine, throwing his towel over his shoulder. He shouldn’t have stayed this long- it wasn’t god that Dan and Allison were fond of him, that they knew his coffee order and that he’d never watched a Disney movie. Allison had been inviting him over for weeks; if his mother was here they’d be out of the country with new identities faster than he could blink.

But Neil couldn’t quite bring himself to leave the easy familiarity of Hatchetfield- sure, he’d picked it because it was so empty, houses standing empty in the endless rows of old people’s homes, because the average age of the town was about ninety. It was easy to find somewhere relatively comfortable downtown to squat in, an empty two-bedroom bungalow that still had hot water running to it. Hatchetfield only had one exit, the island connecting to Clivesdale by a bridge that was up for the winter season, but he reasoned that meant there was only one exit he had to keep an eye on for intruders. There was a strong small town mentality here- everyone knew everyone, and he’d been relying on local gossip to warn him if his father’s people showed up, but he should have known that the inherent friendliness of the Hatchetfield residents meant they were just as keen to gossip about him too.

Well, apart from one. Neil let himself give Andrew a small smile when he walked in, and didn’t mind the way Andrew stared blankly back at him. That was basically joy for Andrew, and besides, his indifference was a hell of a lot better than Matt’s exuberance and faint aura of golden-retriever.

Andrew’s order was just as ridiculous as Seth’s had been, if he was honest, but somehow he didn't mind. Although, Neil couldn’t help his slight grimace as he handed over a concoction of caramel, whipped cream, sugar, and far more milk than actual coffee.

“Jesus, Andrew, how do you drink that?”

Andrew looked him dead in the eyes and slurped half the cup down. Neil was intimidated and slightly impressed. He dropped a five-dollar bill into the tip jar, and Neil grinned.

“Want me to serenade you, then?” Neil cleared his throat, and dramatically opened his mouth before Andrew slammed his hand on the counter.

“No.”

Neil pulled out the fiver from the jar. “Yeah, well, if I have to sing for it, it’s not really a tip, right? It’s just like I have another shitty-paying job on top of my already shitty-paying job. Cause, I mean, most of my tips are less than a buck? So after the split, I’m making, what, not even 25 cents a song.” He jabbed a finger. “That, my friend, is less than a fucking jukebox. Only a jukebox doesn’t also have to make coffee for these assholes!”

He paused. “Not that you’re an asshole. Well, maybe you are- you gonna snitch on me if I keep this?”

Andrew nodded. “That’s for you. I don’t give a shit about your coworkers.”

Neil’s face split into a grin. “Yeah, Allison’s nice, but Sheena and all her little theatre friends that she hired will not shut the fuck up about some shitty production of Godspell they did last summer.”

“Nicky made me go watch that. I didn’t like it.”

“God, I’m glad I only started here in September, otherwise Dan would have made me see it in the name of ‘company spirit’.”

Andrew took a long sip from his hellish concoction. “I don’t like musicals.”

Neil leaned forward, elbows resting on the counter, and didn’t miss the way Andrew’s eyes flicked down to his mouth. “So why’d you come to the singing coffee shop? You know, there’s a Starbucks across the street.”

Andrew considered him for a moment, taking another sip. “You are a problem.”

Neil didn’t have time to work out what that meant, because Marissa’s annoyingly shrill voice piped up again. “Excuse me! I have been waiting a very long time!”

With his customer service smile plastered back on, Neil looked away from Andrew in annoyance. “Sorry, I’ll get right on that.”

By the time he’d handed over the offending hot chocolate, Andrew was gone.

****************

Ah shit, Andrew thought. He’d forgotten Wymack’s caramel frappe.

Chapter Text

“Hi, can I talk to you about saving the planet?” Renee beamed at the passers-by, brandishing a clipboard. “Um, sir? Do you have a few minutes to talk about saving the planet?”

 

She noticed Andrew, and somehow her smile got even wider. “Andrew! Are you interested in saving the planet?” 

 

She’d already signed his name down years ago, but she liked to play the same game every time he passed her on the way to Beanie’s. To be honest, and he tried to be, he wasn’t particularly interested in saving the planet- Andrew was very much of the nihilistic school of thought. Sure, it sucked for Kevin and the kids who’d have to grow up wearing oxygen masks, but Andrew wasn’t going to be around to see it. Bee would have words to say if she heard this, would lecture him on his ‘lack of empathy’, which was why he simply told her that he was donating to Greenpeace on a regular basis. Maybe it was only because he’d lost a fight to Renee and the price had been signing up to the charity of his choice, but Bee didn’t need to know that. 

 

“You know, we’ve got lots of new ways you can contribute to Greenpeace’s efforts all around the globe.” She waved a pen and a clipboard at him enticingly, and Andrew gave her the usual treatment of a blank stare until she sighed.

 

“Andrew, you can pretend you don’t know me all you want, but I will know if those donations stop rolling in. Do you know about our new campaign to save the sea turtles?”

 

Andrew sipped his coffee. “Yep, been reading all the emails.”

 

Renee laughed, her voice floating on the wind. “Sure, the sea turtles that I just made up. Our latest campaign’s about getting food to children in Yemen, which you would know if you actually read my emails, Andrew.”

 

“Hmm, I definitely remember one about a sea turtle.”

 

“I know you only read the ones with ‘sparring’ in the title. One of these days, I might just send you petitions disguised as another meet-up for you to get your ass kicked.”

 

Andrew chucked his empty cup in the bin. “You’re too nice for deception, Christian Girl.”

It would have sounded nice if he didn’t say the word ‘nice’ with enough disdain that one would think it had personally offended him. Renee laughed and agreed, though, because she really was that nice. 

 

This too, seemed to offend Andrew, because he raised a finger warningly. “You know that money you’re raising? You know how much of it actually goes to the sea turtles?”

 

“Well, none of it, I just made that up-“

 

“That’s right! None. It goes to line the pockets of some corporate bigwigs. If I was actually donating money by choice, Renee,” He enunciated her name very carefully. “Then I would give it directly to the people who need it. Luckily, I do not find myself consumed by your Catholic guilt, and am therefore perfectly capable of hoarding my cash until I die and then being buried with it like a dragon.”

 

“You’re a real humanitarian, aren’t you?” If it was anyone else, it would have sounded bitter, but Renee managed to sound both teasing and completely sincere in her belief that Andrew was a good person at heart. 

 

“Yeah, yeah.” He grumbled, dropping his change from Beanie’s into the cash box sitting on her table. “As if I’m going to save the world single-handedly.”

 

“Well-“ 

 

Renee didn’t finish, because there was a crash from downtown that lit up the whole street, leaving them both dazed and half-blind. 

 

*****************

 

Neil had noticed the crash, of course he had, it had lit up the whole street, but safe inside Beanie’s coffee shop he hadn’t realised how shit the weather really was. He grimaced as he stepped out into the pouring rain, holding his jacket above his head to try and keep the worst of it off his face. His grimace turned into a scowl when he noticed Seth sitting in his car smirking at his predicament, obviously still waiting for Allison. 

 

Neil had never been able to keep his temper in check, and he was ready to rip Seth’s door right off it’s rusted hinges when Allison stepped out beside him, umbrella poised and hair as perfect as it ever was. He had quite a lot of respect for the way she hadn’t yet twisted her ankle walking across the cobbled pavement by the cafe’s staff door in those stilettos.

 

Seth rolled down his window. “Hey, Alli, you want a ride?”

 

Allison looked vaguely affronted at the idea. “In your shitty car? Yeah, I’d rather not crash and die. It’s fine, thank you.”

 

Admittedly, Seth’s car was a piece of junk. He scowled, then waved a piece of paper out the window. “Hey! Come grab your ticket, the show’s at 7!”

 

Allison held the now slightly soggy piece of paper advertising Mamma Mia! between two perfectly manicured fingernails as Seth drove off, before turning to Neil

 

“Hey, I’ll give you a ride home, okay?” Neil wasn’t going to turn the offer down in this weather, so he settled into the passenger seat of Allison’s barbie-pink convertible and watched with thinly veiled amusement as she stuffed the ticket into the glovebox, ignoring the way the fragile wet paper broke off. 

 

She saw him looking, and laughed. “God, I’ve seen Mamma Mia! something like twenty times. I majored in theatre, remember? Besides, I have enough money to fly myself out to New York tomorrow and see the Broadway version, but Seth keeps buying me tickets and calling them gifts, because he seems to think that if anyone realises that he never misses a musical at the Old Starlight Theatre then they’ll think he’s less of a man, or something.”

 

Neil privately wondered why she was still dating Seth, but decided to keep that to himself in case Allison was for some reason in love with the bastard despite his overly fragile masculinity, general dickheadedness and frankly disgusting personal hygiene. 

 

 

**************

 

Andrew regretted agreeing to let Wymack drive him own, because he was loath to leave his Maserati in a company parking lot, but he still saw stars every time he closed his eyes and admitted he probably wasn’t in any state to drive at the moment. Still, he sorely regretted accepting Wymack’s offer- even Nicky’s endless chatter was better than listening to Wymack’s incredibly awkward and slightly painful attempts to relate to his son. 

 

They crossed a speed bump, and the hand Wymack was using to hold his phone to his ear jolted. “Holy hell, it’s raining cats and dogs! Are you sure you don’t want me to pick you up?” There was a pause. “Okay, Yes, I got a ticket for Thea and after the show, we’re gonna go to your favourite restaurant!” Another pause, and the smile on the man’s face became slightly strained. “Red Lobster! Yeah, I know Thea’s a vegetarian because she’s dieting for the lacrosse season, they’ve got fish.” Another pause, and the smile fell completely. “Vegan? It’s crabfest! Kevin, you’re killing me!”

 

Andrew felt a slight jolt of satisfaction when Kevin hung up on him, followed by fearing for his life when Wymack swapped the hand on the wheel to reach over and rummage around trying to put his phone in the glovebox, causing a baseball glove and a pack of Kleenex to fall out. He did manage to shut the glovebox, albeit with with what looked like half a parking ticket sticking out the front.

 

******************

 

Andrew fixed his tie in his bathroom mirror the next morning and considered drowning his radio in the bathtub. It chimed obnoxiously, because for whatever reason he couldn’t figure out how to change the default to anything but the local Hatfield news station. He swore it ran louder than any of his music channels, too. 

 

“This is the morning news with Dan and Donna!” Andrew didn’t know what Dan looked like, but he was picturing a man who looked suspiciously like John Mulaney with whiter teeth.

 

“They said he wouldn’t make it!” Donna probably had one of those glossy newsreader bobs, and wore a cardigan. Her teeth were probably blindingly perfect, too, because he could almost hear the smile over the radio. Andrew remained bitter about the years of cigarette smoke staining his teeth, especially when he visited Aaron and had to face the evidence that smoking really does fuck up your teeth, because his brother, identical in almost every other way, had an irritatingly picturesque smile. 

 

He briefly wondered if his dislike of the news was because Donna sounded exactly like Katelyn. Andrew bet Donna had been a cheerleader. God, Aaron was nauseating, with his perfect teeth and high-school sweetheart wife. 

 

“They said he wouldn’t make it, didn’t they, Dan? That he had fallen from too great a height. But this little guy beat the odds and captured our hearts!” He had certainly captured Matt’s, that’s for sure. He could almost hear the man’s delighted exclamation of “Peanuts!” from whatever suburban house he’d crawled out of.

 

“Now weighing in at almost ten ounces, Peanuts the Hatchetfield Pocket Squirrel has outgrown his adopted father’s pocket!”

 

Maybe Neil liked squirrels. He’d bring it up in his lunch break- the daily trip to Beanie’s could fit a dry and aloof sounding comment, and maybe Neil would laugh.

 

“Luckily, proud Papa Ed has been squirrelling,” god, he disliked people who laughed at their own jokes. “away on his GoFundMe, to build Peanuts his very own, get this, Dan; squirrel house!”

 

“Huh, that’s amazing, Donna!”

 

Andrew decided his tie was acceptable, and ambled back into his bedroom. 

 

“And something else has fallen to the ground here in Hatchetfield, this time from Outer Space! The meteor came-“

 

Andrew pressed the button on his alarm, reaching down to tie his shoes. He’d pass Renee on the way to work today, having to walk to work instead of driving because his Maserati was still at the office. 

 

He supposed it was a pleasant enough walk. He cut through the park for most of it, thinking of new ways to start a conversation with Neil. Was Neil even attracted to guys? He thought he’d made it pretty obvious that he was flirting, but maybe it was time to try a more direct approach. 

 

Renee smiled at him as always when he stopped at her table.

 

“Hey, are we on for Saturday at the gym? I booked us a room-“

 

He paused, because Renee’s facial expression hadn’t changed. She smiled, all her Christian do-gooder shining through, but completely ignored him. He stepped closer, and realised her eyes weren’t focused properly. 

 

“Renee?”

 

And then, she opened her mouth and began to sing. 

 

“Hey, yeah! Just a typical day!” He’d heard her sing before, on Christmas when she and Nicky had dragged him to church, but that had been hymns and songs about Jesus, and this? This was something else.

 

“Got me feeling, in a beautiful way! No rhyme or reason! We can sing a duet-“ Renee grasped his arm, and he had a knife out in an instant. He wasn’t stupid enough to think he could beat her in a fight- he beaten her maybe five times in the last three years- but maybe it would get her to snap out of whatever was going on. She knew not to touch him; they’d known each other for four years and she’d never, not once, disrespected his boundaries or asked why they were there. She was a fighter, same as he was. 

 

In fact, he realised as he looked closer, brandishing his knife, it looked like she’d already been in a fight. There were scratches on her neck, and her Greenpeace apron was ripped as if someone had held her down. It took a lot to hold down the woman who’d grown up as Natalie Shields, who’d carried knives on her for years and was still the most formidable person he knew, even with her Christian smile on. 

 

There was something very wrong with her. She didn’t seem concerned with the knife, prancing around to some music that only she could hear. 

 

Well, her and three teenagers he’d thought were loitering on a nearby park bench. A girl in a denim jacket did some kind of ballet move, jumping to land in the arms of another. 

 

“Sometimes I just want to shout, atop of roofs and mountain tops, that all the world is paved in gold!” Renee sung, dancing towards him until Andrew was backed against the flimsy table still laden with sign-up sheets.  

 

She grasped his shoulder, still smiling brightly. “So I threw all my worries, and my old skin away. Doing what I want to, on this Lah Dee Dah Dah Day!

 

A homeless man burst out of the bushes, and joined the teenagers in what looked like a choreographed number as Renee vocalised. Andrew watched in horror, knife held in front of him, as they slowly advanced with jazz hands up. 

 

“Lah Dee Dah Dah, Lah Dee Dah Dah, Lah Dee Dah Dah Day, Lah Dee Dah Dah Day!

 

The homeless man advanced on his left, and the teenage boy on is left, flanking him as Renee and the girl twirled. Boxed in on all sides, the only thing Andrew could do was try and make Renee snap out of whatever haze she was in.

 

“Renee, listen to me, if they drugged you I can help you throw it up-“

 

Renee kept smiling, and pointed one finger at him threateningly. “Do you want to save the planet?”

 

The teenagers repeated back her words, slowly advancing forwards while tapping their feet. “Don’t you want to save the planet?”

 

“Do you want to save the planet?”

 

“There’s just one way you can do it!” Andrew started swiping, jabbing his knife into the homeless man’s arm when he reached for him. Whatever drugs he was on must be strong, because he didn’t even seem to notice it, dancing away with Andrew’s knife.

 

“By singing a song.... Singing aloooooong!”

 

Andrew was defenceless without his weapon, and he made a split-second decision before the Renee’s outstretched arms reached him. He didn’t want to leave her here in this state, but he turned on his tail, flipped over the table, and ran.

 

He sped away, cursing the decades of filling his lungs with cigarette smoke, and dared to risk a glance over his shoulder. Renee was dancing with the homeless man, and the group seemed to have forgotten he was even there as they spun through an elaborate choreographed dance break. 

 

Something was very, very wrong in Hatchetfield. 

 

Chapter Text

Andrew stumbled into the office parking lot and collapsed against his car. He’d ran all the way from the park, ignoring the looks he was given as he tore down the street, his shirt coming untucked, and now he panted as he tried to sort through what the fuck had just happened. 

 

He let out a long puff of breath. Jesus, he needed to pull himself together. “Okay. Okay, okay, okay.”

 

He didn’t move. Maybe it was all just a hallucination, and he’d accidentally taken acid or something. He hadn’t eaten anything today- maybe hunger was making his brain go loopy. 

 

Actually, it was rather nice out here- the metal was cool beneath his back, and the clouds had just started to clear above him. He was vaguely aware that he did actually have a job, and that whatever kind of freak show he’d stumbled onto in the park, Pig Higgins was going to have his ass if he turned up late because he was having a miniature mental-breakdown in the parking lot. 

 

So he steeled himself, and got ready to push himself up. “Okay.” 

 

He didn’t move. 

 

What was wrong with him? Back in college, he’d sometimes gone days without being able to get out of bed, unable to push past the invisible force that weighed down on him, but he’d been better since the antidepressants Bee had gotten him on.

 

Maybe this was some kind of coping mechanism, he mused. Bee wouldn’t approve of the self-diagnosis, but maybe he’d just dealt with too much fucking weirdness recently and his brain had just given up entirely. Maybe he’d just sit here until either the world fixed itself, or he’d just waste away right here on the top of his Maserati. 

 

No. No, because he’d hadn’t done almost a decade of counseling just to give up when things got weird. He refused to give up on his progress, no matter how tempting it was just to idly watch as the world went to shit. 

 

“Okay. Okay, okay.” He catalogued his issues. He hadn’t eaten anything today, apart from some antidepressants and smoking half a cigarette, which, Nicky steadfastly retained ‘does not count as breakfast, Andrew’. There was something wrong with Renee, Nicky’s husband was working too hard and he hadn’t actually turned in his reports yesterday, because he’d spent so long dissecting every word of his conversation with Neil. A handy aspect of an eidetic memory, really, was being able to replay moments like Neil smiling at him with perfect recall.

 

“Okay.”

 

Andrew pushed himself off the car, and walked into the office, and decided that whatever was going on could wait until after he’d had his morning coffee. 

 

***********

 

“Now, I get that Kevin is eighteen. He’s a senior, he’s captain of the lacrosse team, he’s got his own life. But I only get my son for one week a month, and he wants to spend that whole time with his girlfriend, Thea! So I say, “Bring Thea along, we’ll all go see the show”. And would you believe it? We get there, and the whole dang theatre was exploded by a goddamn METEOR! Mamma Mia! Huge hole right through the marquee and everything, can you believe that, Nicky?”

 

Wymack paused his tirade. “Nicky? You got enough coffee in the sugar?”

 

Nicky looked up, startled, from the coffee pot he’d been steadily pouring sugar into for the last minute. “Huh?” He looked down, and jumped. “Oh! I didn’t even realise. Sorry, I’ll make another pot. Coffee in the sugar...” he laughed slightly too loudly, his smile pasted firmly in place. “Wymack, you’re a riot. Coffee in the sugar!”

 

Andrew shut the fridge door, eating his way through Riko’s pasta salad as Nicky emptied the coffee pot into the sink. He wouldn’t admit it, but it was ridiculously comforting to be in the office, listening to Wymack bitch about Kevin and stealing Riko’s food, without anyone singing. “Hey guys, is today some kind of, I don’t know, Canadian holiday or something? Like, uh... International Music Day, or...?”

 

Nicky blinked. “Not that I know of. Why, is Renee celebrating it with a charity project she’s roped you into or something?”

 

“Sort of, I guess. Uh, I just saw some people dancing and singing in the park, like they were in a musical. There was this homeless guy and some teenagers, all dancing with Renee, but she had these blue scratches on her neck, and they were doing this whole choreographed number-“

 

“Like a flash mob?” Riko interrupted, eyeing the pasta salad Andrew made no attempt to conceal as he considered it. 

 

“I mean, what else could it have been, right?” Andrew ignored the voice in is head that told him that no matter how much money it raised for charity, Renee would never ignore his boundaries. He ignored any possibility that consisted of Renee being harmed, because that would mean that he’d failed to protect her. She always insisted that he’d already taken in too many strays, and that she was perfectly capable of protecting himself, and Andrew knew it was true, but that only made him the more scared when he considered the possibility that someone had hurt her. If they’d got to Renee so easily, what chance did he have?

 

He was interrupted from his quickly spiraling thoughts by Riko. “Well, did you get a video of it?”

 

Andrew ate some more pasta. “No.” 

 

“You’re fucking useless, Andrew. Is that my lunch?”

 

Andrew made direct eye contact as he ate Riko’s lunch. “No.”

 

Riko scowled and walked away, and he turned back to Nicky, who’d been watching with no small amount of glee. Apparently, whatever was going on with him wasn’t enough to keep his nose out of workplace drama.  “Nicky? Have you noticed anything strange?”

 

“What? No. Oh, it’s silly. It’s just... It’s Erik, my husband. He said he was coming home late last night, and I knew he was working late but I didn’t expect him to roll in around 6:00 this morning. He was in the shower when I woke up. I could hear him. He was... singing.”

 

Dread curled in Andrew’s stomach as Nicky continued.

 

“And I know this is a strange thing to realise, because, well, Erik’s not a bad singer. He’s just always been a little... flat. You know, those terrible folk songs he sings at Christmas.”

 

Andrew did know. In fact, like with everything else, he could perfectly recall Erik, drunk on eggnog and bawdy as he swayed Nicky around Aaron’s living room singing shanties at the top of his voice. 

 

Nicky sniffled. “But not this morning. Today, he... he sounded like an angel. And I don’t know why, but it frightened me. It just, it didn’t sound like MY Erik. Oh, I must sound silly, I’m probably just imagining things...”

 

Andrew stilled, the pasta forgotten. “Nicky? Do you remember what Erik was singing?”

 

Nicky’s smile was watery. “Oh, it was just a silly little song. Something like...” he cleared his throat, “La.... Dee.... Dah...-“

 

“Dah Day?” Andrew finished the line for him. Oh god, it was worse than he’d imagined, he had to-

 

“Andrew?” Jesus. Matthew fucking sunshine’s-my-middle-name Boyd was back, grinning as usual. “Mr Higgins wants to see you in his office.”

 

Ah, shit. His weekly reports.

 

***************

 

“Mr Higgins. Before you say anything, I am aware that my weekly reports were not turned in yesterday, not because they’re not done-“ he was quick to add, “They are done. There’s a problem with the printer network, you see, you try to print something over here, it get’s sent over there. I bet my report is sitting in someone else’s printer tray right now. You give me till the end of the day, I can find it.”

 

Andrew was perfectly aware that this was a ridiculous excuse, but he’d learnt that if you said nonsense with an absolutely deadpan expression, as if it were the absolute truth, usually people didn’t want to talk to you long enough to question it. Plus, he was pretty sure Pig still had a soft spot for him- despite all the verbal abuse Andrew had given him when he was an intern. Pig Higgins had still hired Nicky when Andrew had mentioned he was out of a job, even though the company wasn’t really big enough for a marketing department. 

 

Still, it probably wasn’t the best idea to try this bullshit when he’d already been late. He was getting slightly annoyed with the newspaper that blocked his boss’s face from view. 

 

“Find it, not do it. I wouldn’t just not do my statistical analysis, That would really gum things up here in the office, and that’s the last thing I’d want.”

 

Assurance usually helped, even if it was completely falsified. He’d promised not to stab Katelyn, too.

 

The newspaper was really fucking annoying him, but when Higgins put it down, Andrew only found himself even more confused. The man grinned up at him with a smile to rival Matthew Boyd’s, his eyes almost as manic as Andrew’s college self.

 

What do you want, Andrew?

 

Andrew stumbled back towards the door when he heard the note, but Higgins was already there, blocking his path. With the manic smile stretching his face unnaturally, Higgins sung. 

 

Tell me what you desire to see, your deepest intent, Andrew!

 

The man spun round, sitting back on his desk chair, moving in time with a beat Andrew couldn’t hear. “What d’you see for this company? I’m looking for someone with strong ambition, someone to sell their specific vision! Someone to share with precise precision, their thoooouuuuughts... ‘Cause I want you to want.... To want!”

 

Andrew watched in horror as Higgins cocked his head, grinning at him with insanity in his eyes. 

 

“So, what do you want, Andrew?” He asked conversationally, pacing up and down the room as if he hadn’t been singing just seconds before. “What’s that one concrete goal that motivates all your actions?”

 

Andrew couldn’t help himself from answering. “I don’t think I have one of those,”, immediately regretting it as Higgins moved round to grasp the back of Andrew’s chair. 

 

“Then how is anyone supposed to sympathise with you as a character, Andrew?”

 

Jesus, wasn’t that the question. He did enough therapy with a licensed professional, he hadn’t come into work today to be psychoanalyzed by someone with a psychotic grin on their face. Andrew didn’t want anything, didn’t let himself want anything, even if sometime he could admit to himself in the privacy of Bee’s office that it wasn’t exactly true, not when it came to certain redheaded baristas.

 

I want you to want, Andrew! A man so vague just can’t be trusted- something you pine for!”

 

Fuck, Neil. Whatever was happening, it had managed to take down Renee, one of the fiercest people he knew. He needed to get to Beanie’s, then run with Neil and Nicky. Wymack could come too, he supposed. 

 

Maybe someone who keeps you lusting?” Andrew felt like there was something keeping him bound to the chair, as Higgins winked at him and kissed the photo of his wife on the desk. He knew from experience that people wielded the things you wanted against you, until you destroyed yourself trying to cling onto the shreds of happiness left in your life. No, it was easier to not want anything, to keep his cards close to his chest so that no one could ever use them against him again. He’d wanted Cass, had wanted Aaron, and he still had the scars on his wrists from letting himself be fed to the wolves as long as he kept his brother safe, as long as he still had Cass’s warm cookies and smiles after a life full of nothing but pain. 

 

Higgins advanced slowly. “Andrew, you must know what it is to want! It consumes a man with the passion, to drive the primary plot. So take up yoga, or improv classes, volunteer at shelters, or Twitch to the masses! ‘Cause I want you to want... To want!”

 

Higgins climbed onto his desk, bopping his head to a tune only he could hear. Andrew inched towards the door, ready to slip out when Higgins turned his back. 

 

Cause I want you to want! No, I need you to want!”

 

Andrew pushed open the door, slipping out into the corridor. He grabbed a desk chair- it was Riko’s, actually- and pushed it under the door handle to lever it closed. 

 

From behind the door, Higgins was dancing, his feet tapping on the desk’s hardwood surface. 

 

“Andrew?” 

 

Oh shit. The dancing stopped, and he could hear Higgins banging on the door now. “Andrew!”

 

ANDREEEEEEEWWWWW!”

 

Andrew found himself running for his life for the second time that day, only stopping to tell Nicky to hide. God, he realised as he gasped for breath, Aaron was going to be so smug that he had been right about the cigarettes.

Chapter Text

“Okay, okay, okay, okay, okay,” Andrew tried to calm his pounding heart as he panted outside of Beanie’s coffee shop. He was standing hunched over, angled away from the glass window on the off chance that Neil was watching, because he’d never live it down if that annoyance saw him gasping for breath like a fish out of water.

 

“Okay, alright. This isn’t happening. Get a grip, Andrew, you’re hallucinating. Better yet, you’re still dreaming. You just told need to wake up, you need some coffee. That’s it. Just a nice cup of sugar and cream, make Neil cringe as he hands it over. Okay.” 

He took a final deep breath, then tried and failed to pull himself together, straightening his tie and checking his hair in the mirrored surface of a car window before going in, because despite the fact that the world might be ending, Neil was working today, and he was pathetic like that. 

 

The bell chimed as he walked in, and Andrew gritted his teeth at the musical sound. Neil was probably behind the wall, making coffee, so he pounded his fist against the counter and shouted, ignoring the old woman glaring at him and Matt’s evident confusion from where he was texting, probably waiting for Dan to come out. 

 

“HELLO?!” There was no answer. “HELLO? Come on, God, I just want some fucking coffee!”

 

A piano played the opening to an upbeat tune, and Andrew stumbled back in horror as Neil swept in, coffee pot in the air and customer-service smile beaming. 

 

And then, he began to sing. 

 

Black coffee, I’m your coffee guy-“. “NO!!!”

 

Neil paused, registering Andrew’s presence and obvious distress, and the smile dropped from his face as Andrew babbled. “No, not you too, Neil, for the love of God stop singing!”

 

Neil raised his hands in surrender, looking more than a little concerned. “Okay, okay, I’ll stop. Jesus, Andrew, when you said last month that you didn’t like musicals I didn’t expect you to go batshit crazy!”

 

Relief washed over him. “Neil. You’re... talking to me, like a normal person.”

 

Neil grinned as he swirled some milk into a mug. “Uh, yeah, and if my boss catches me, I’ll get canned. Uh, new company policy, not only do we have to sing when people tip, but when they enter, when they order, all the time apparently!” He gestured wildly, waving his hand around as he stirred a pot with no small amount of enthusiasm. 

 

Andrew swallowed down the relief coursing through him that Neil was okay. If he mentioned it in one of their sessions, bee would tell him it was unhealthy to clamp down on his emotions, especially when they were good ones, but he was not going to admit how scared he’d been about a junkie who obsessed over lacrosse and drank coffee black like a heathen. 

 

“Neil, I think there’s something terribly wrong with the world today.” He knew he sounded morbid, but Neil just sighed as he poured drinks. 

 

“Yeah, fucking tell me about it. I spent the entire morning learning some dumb ass new tip song, I’m exhausted. Do you-?”

 

He stopped, because Andrew reached out a hand to pull Neil round the counter. 

 

“Neil? Neil, Neil, come here.” Andrew manoeuvred them into the corner of the room, next to an old vinyl record player and a bookcase that were clearly only there for aesthetic appeal. Neil was looking up at him, utterly confused, and Andrew hated the soft trust in his eyes even when he was sure his own were wide and crazed. 

 

“I feel like there’s something... sinister, infecting Hatchetfield, and I know this is gonna sound crazy... and not very scary... but it is scary if you think about the implications.” Andrew was getting very odd looks from the customers filling the shop, including Matt, who was trying not to stare as he took a long sip from his coffee. 

 

Neil, though, looked terrified. He was breathing hard, as if he was about to have a panic attack, and his eyes were darting towards the duffel bag he always kept behind the counter. Andrew didn’t know what was in it, but Neil was primed to run. Which, if he was honest, surprised Andrew. 

 

This rabbit only seemed to get even more interesting with every new thing Andrew learned about him. But whatever Neil was scared of, he doubted it was as much of an immediate threat as this, so he grabbed Neil’s shoulders and stopped him from running. 

 

“Promise me you’ll think about the implications?” Neil dragged his eyes back to Andrew, and seemed to come back to the present, seemingly vaguely startled but not worried to find Andrew holding him. 

 

“Uh, okay, okay, I promise.”

 

Andrew stepped back a bit, rubbing his face as he considered how to say this without making Neil think he was hallucinating. God, maybe he was. What were the side effects of his meds?

 

“Okay, Neil, I think the world is becoming...” He grimaced, face twisting as he spat out the next words. “A musical.”

 

The panic cleared from Neil’s eyes, and he seemed to breathe a little easier. Whatever reaction Andrew had been expecting, this was not it. Neil seemed to look again at his face, at the sweat beading on his forehead from running here, and the concern settled in again. 

 

“Um, I’m going to get you some water-“

 

Andrew reached out, not touching him as he turned away but making him stop and turn to face Andrew again. “Don’t say anything. Let it sink in.”

 

Neil backed away reassuringly, holding his hands out to placate him as if Andrew was some kind of wild animal. “Okay, okay.”

 

Andrew could feel himself cracking. “Alright, now...” He reached out again, hands hovering near Neil’s face as his voice cracked. “Are you frightened?”

 

The idiot backed off even more. “Uh, yeah, I think I am starting to get a little frightened. Andrew, what’s going on with you? I think you should sit down-“ Andrew let Neil gently push him into one of the seats, just as Matt dropped a few dollars into the tip jar. 

 

Immediately, Neil’s blonde coworker, Allison, he thought it was, called out loudly, seemingly summoned by money being stuffed into a jar. “Neil! Tip!”

 

Neil looked over his shoulder and grimaced. “Sorry, Andrew, I’ll be back in a minute okay, I’ll bring you a coffee, I gotta do this stupid tip song.”

 

He rushed back to the centre of the room to stand next to Allison and Matt’s girlfriend, Dan, joining them just as a jazzy song filled the room. They danced in a line, choreographed movements hat looked vaguely like an old-times chorus line. 

 

Get your cup of roasted coffee, your morning cuppa joe-y. We’ll make a jamming cup of java, mocha latte with the froth for you jack.”

 

Neil clapped his hands to the beat, doing the stupid dance in his stupid apron, with his stupidly perfect legs and his stupidly good singing voice, because of course this idiot was good at singing. Andrew had always known Neil would be the death of him, ever since he’d first seen him behind the counter six months ago, and the music coming out of his mouth only proved it. 

 

Frappuccino with the freshly-roasted mung beans, it’s a caramel drizzle mod in a cup!” Neil winked cheekily at Andrew as he sung ‘caramel’. Andrew wanted to kill him. 

 

Even more so when the trio huddled together to smile at the customers as they pretended to pour coffee into a cup.

 With a drip, drip, drip drip, drip, and we’ll bring it right up!

 

Neil and Allison danced backwards, humming, as Dan faced Matt, who was trying not to gawk at her legs as she sung to him. 

“Hey, Mr Business, how do you do? Can we get a triple for you?”

 

Neil didn’t look particularly enthused to be dancing, dragging his feet slightly as he rushed back and rolling his eyes at the over-the-top shocked gestures they were making, but he sung along anyway. 

“Decaf? Whaaaat? Decaf? Whaaaat?”

 

They swung their arms, harmonising in a way Andrew might have appreciated if he hadn’t harboured such resentment to both musicals, and running for his life.

 

“Dit dit, Dee de dit, Dee de dit, Dee de dit. And we’ll bring it right up!”

 

They danced around the room, handing drinks to charmed customers and Neil giving Andrew a glass of water he didn’t touch. Neil looked like he was about to say something, but Dan and Allison called his name, chiming out in harmony. 

 

“Hold on, Andrew-“

 

He ran to the middle, and they did some kind of elaborate dance break, involving waving their arms and shaking their hips, and then most of the customers in the shop stood up as one, taking long sips of their drinks and letting out a satisfied “Ahh!”

 

Neil and his coworkers harmonised as they spun from one way to the other. “And we’ll bring it, and we’ll bring it, right, right, riiiight! And we’ll bring it right up!

 

Neil finished with his hands in the air, pausing when Allison and Dan danced backward, in what Andrew could now see was perfect synchronisation. Neil looked around at them, confused. 

 

“Wait, hey! What’s this! There’s more to the dance?” He waved a hand in front of Dan’s smiling face. “Dan? Hey! You know what?” 

 

His voice was slightly angry as he turned the music off. “Alright, alright, stop it!

 

Dan and Allison came to a stop, holding identical poses and wearing matching smiles as Neil gestured in confusion. 

“What is that? A whole other A section? God, when did you learn that? You know what?” He threw his arms up, tossing down his apron.

“When I got this job, I signed up to serve coffee and cold, shitty pastries. If I wanted to be in a musical, I’d be in a damn musical! Yeah, that’s right, Allison. I know you like to think I’m some kind of child, or some sort of puppy you can play with and dress up, but I was in Brigadoon in high school and I fuckin’ killed it!”

 

He’d always had an explosive temper, Neil had. Andrew remembered him vaguely mentioning something about doing his junior year in Germany. Now, Neil gestured wildly, waving a hand at Dan.

 

“But now, I’m just trying to make ends meet so I can afford to move back to France, and I can do that just as easily, without anyone ruffling my hair like I’m their pet, down the street at Starbucks! I quit!”

 

Neil grabbed his duffel bag, moving back towards Andrew and the door, but Allison moved forward and Dan blocked his path. When they spoke, it was synchronised perfectly, with matching smiles wide. 

 

You can’t quit, Neil!”

 

Neil looked taken aback, his earlier explosion reeled in. He clutched his duffel bag, hunching in on himself as he looked between the two of them. “Yeah, I sure as hell can.”

 

The girls advanced slowly. “The song is so simple! We’ll teach it to you! Why, everyone here will be singing it soon!”

 

Neil and Andrew shared twin looks of horror before turning to watch every patron in the coffee shop cough and choke. Matt spluttered, eyes filling with panic as he tried to bang on his chest. he fell to the floor, gasping, then stopped very suddenly. He, and the 8 other customers, slowly stood up, matching expressions making them look eerie. Andrew had never seen the man so blank-faced, without his customary trademarked grin. 

 

Neil’s voice was bordering on hysterical as he backed towards Andrew. “What are you talking about? Allison, what’s going on?”

 

The girls’ weren’t singing, but their speech sounded musical as they spoke as one. “They’ve all had their coffee. Their apotheosis will be upon them at any moment!”

 

Neil grabbed the coffee pot from the counter, flipping it open. “What did you do to their coffee?” He reached in and pulled out a handful of something gelatinous and blue, panicked eyes meeting Andrew’s even as he recoiled from the blue stuff.

“Fucking gross!”

 

The piano started back up, and Dan and Allison danced towards him menacingly as Neil ducked under their arms. 

 

Getcha cup of poisoned coffee! Your toxic cup of joe-y! We’ll make a twisted cup of java mocha latte with the goo for you jack, jack, jack, jack!” They advanced, clapping to the beat, and Neil let out a cry as he clutched Andrew’s arm. 

 

Hey, Mr Business, how do ya, how do ya, how do ya doooooo?

 

Neil looked at him, and the panic in his eyes matched Andrew’s own. “They’re singing! Why are they singing?”

 

“We need to run, Neil. Don’t hold back, just run!”

 

Hey Mr Business! And we’ll bring it right up!

 

Chapter Text

Neil hurtled down the alley in front of him, and Andrew cursed the fucking musical apocalypse for ruining a sight he otherwise would have enjoyed very much. As it was, he was red-faced, panting, and trying to keep up with Neil, who was somehow having no trouble at all, looking graceful and incredibly, incredibly fast as he ran.

 

He called ahead for Neil to wait, then checked his phone, to see Nicky had sent him his location- an alley a few streets away. They picked their way through the back-alleys towards them, and Andrew silently cursed whoever had decided to line this very narrow alleyway with shrubs. Wymack had once offhandedly mentioned something about the council turning this area into a park, but due to lack of funding Andrew was currently having to climb his way through bushes.

 

Neil looked slightly doubtful of the route they’d chosen to take, and like he was ready to bolt- clutching his duffel bag to his chest, eyes scanning wildly. Ridiculously, he was still the most attractive person Andrew had ever seen. He imagined how that conversation would go, and almost laughed out loud.

 

So, I know this is probably a bad time, because we could be turned into singing zombies at any minute, but do you like movies?

 

He could almost imagine Neil looking at him like he’d lost his mind- yeah, Andrew, you know what? This is a bad time. 

 

Hmm. The amount of time he spent thinking about Neil was beginning to become an issue. 

 

“Wait, Andrew!” 

 

He was brought back to the present by Neil pointing at a dumpster, and the collection of trash cans sitting next to it. Andrew sighed in relief, about to call out for Nicky, but Neil grasped his sleeve and looked at him, panic in his eyes. 

 

“Oh my god, what the fuck was that?”

 

Andrew smiled grimly. “I told you it was scarier than it sounds.”

 

Neil gaped at him, then shook his head as if in wonder. “You were right.” He blinked, panting heavily. “I didn’t think about the implications. Oh my god, I didn’t think about it!”

 

He looked like he was spiraling into some kind of panic attack, so Andrew grasped the back of his neck and made blue eyes meet his own. “Listen, Neil, shh.”

 

They stayed like that for a few seconds, the fog in Neil’s eyes clearing as his breath leveled out. When Andrew thought he was able to stand on his own without collapsing, he stepped back.

“It’s alright, okay?”

 

There was a metallic crashing that made Neil almost jump out of his skin again, and Wymack came busting out of one of the trash cans.

 

“No, it’s not alright, Andrew!”

 

Andrew glared at him. “Shut up, Wymack. You’ve already scared the shit out of him.”

 

Wymack seemed to register Neil for the first time, and grunted an apology as they both ignored Neil’s muttered declarations that he was ‘fine’. 

“Well, Andrew, tell me- how the hell am I supposed to pop out of a trash can and not scare the shit out of you?”

 

Andrew didn’t miss the way Neil flinched away from Wymack’s gruff voice. Usually, he’d just  ignore the man, but with his hand on Neil’s neck, able to feel his erratic heartbeat, he snapped back at the man.

 

“I don’t know, give us a warning to something next time!”

 

There was a loud banging on one of the other trash cans, and Neil instinctively ducked for cover and Andrew pushed in front of him. Nicky popped out, hair messed, and Andrew relaxed his stance to glare at him, too.

“Seriously, Nicky?”

 

He had the grace to look vaguely sheepish. “Sorry, I tried to warn you.”

 

Neil looked up at him, his hand still tangled in Andrew’s sleeve, and swallowed. “Who are these people?”

 

Andrew let his hand fall from Neil’s neck. “My cousin, Nicky, and Wymack, who I do not remember  telling him to bring along.” 

 

Nicky smiled apologetically. “Well, I wasn’t just going to leave him there! Mr Davidson kept calling people into his office and they kept coming out singing!”

 

Wymack nodded. “It was the same at the bank, the butchers, and the post office.”

 

Andrew pulled up a map of the island in his head, and put it together. “They’re all downtown. We were just at Beanie’s.”

 

There was another metallic banging, and Riko popped out of the last trashcan. “You didn’t invite me!”

 

Andrew sneered at him, loudly telling Neil that ‘this is Riko, he’s an asshole.”. Riko scowled. 

“Shut the fuck up, Andrew. If you want to stay in our hiding spot, you’ve got to be quiet. There is something going on, and we don’t know who we can trust, so Andrew, get in a trashcan.” 

 

He noticed Neil, and gestured for him to leave. “You, beat it.”

 

Even through his haze of panic, Neil still managed to scowl at him. “Uh, fuck you?”

 

Andrew moved forward, flashing one of his knives at Riko. “Neil stays with us.”

 

Apparently, not even the threat of dismemberment stopped Riko being an asshole. “I don’t know him!” 

 

Nicky looked between them in confusion. “Yeah you do! That’s the barista from Beanie’s, you know...” he paused, seeing Andrew’s knife, but decided to be stupid anyway, “The latte haytay!”

 

Neil scrunched up his nose, and it was the most adorable thing Andrew had ever seen. “What?”

 

They ignored him, Riko looking at Nicky like he’d grown another head. “Nicky, that is not the latte hottie, that’s the crabby one who won’t sing when I tip him! Where’s the blonde girl? You grabbed the wrong one, Andrew!” he slammed a hand against the lid of one of the trash cans, and they all jumped when a police siren blared, steadily getting closer. 

 

Nicky let a grin spread over his face. “Oh, thank god! They’re here! I- I called Erik, he’ll get us out of this!” He ran towards the top o the alley, where the car was pulling up, and waved frantically.

 

“Erik, sweetheart? Erik, baby? Oh, Erik, thank god you’re here. They’ve gone crazy!” 

 

Andrew, with dawning horror, remembered what Nicky had said that morning. That Erik had been singing. He rushed forward, ready to drag Nicky out of the way of the six-foot blond walking towards them, but it was too late. 

 

Erik pulled his gun, and Nicky stumbled away in confusion. “Erik? What-?”

 

Nicky’s husband was wearing sunglasses, the ones Katelyn had gotten him for Christmas last year. All the cops were, in fact- two others fanned out behind him in a triangle formation, blocking off the alley completely. What was more disturbing was the man’s grin as he held the gun pointing at Nicky’s chest.

 

When he opened his mouth, it was to sing. 

 

“Sir, I need you to take a step back. You’re facing the law, not the clerk at the Ga-ap.”

 

Nicky stepped back, his hands still reaching up as if to touch Erik’s face. Andrew pulled him away, standing in front of the huddled group as the cops moved in synchronization. 

 

“Yeah we’re cops, yeah we’re cops, you better shape on up!” 

 

Nicky tried to push past him to get to his husband, and Andrew had to grasp his shoulder to stop him. “Get away from him, Nicky! He’s one of them!”

 

“You’d better empty out all of them pockets! But don’t empty out all of them pockets! Yeah we’re cops, yeah we’re cops, and we make sense.”

 

Grins plastered on, the cops nodded, bobbing their heads to an imaginary beat. Then, they burst forward into a line, slowly advancing while they did jazz hands. 

 

Show me your hands! Show me those jazz hands, get ‘em up or you’ll end up in cuffs!”

 

Nicky screamed, clinging onto Wymack as one of the cops advanced with handcuffs, but the woman backed away before she reached him to rejoin the line of dancing. 

 

Show me those hands, show me those jazz hands! Or I might be inclined, to shoot you up!”

 

The cops moved forward, grabbing Wymack, Riko and Neil by the arms. They held their hands up,  terror evident on their faces, but even now Riko managed to be condescending. He smiled at the cop who was now behind him, grabbing his right arm. 

“Look, my ID is in my back pocket-“

 

The cops ignored him, moving their captive’s hands in synch. “You go 40 in a 35, check your mirror, you’ll find hell has arrived! Cause we’re cops, yeah we’re cops, we’re up in yo shit!”

 

They threw them to the ground, dancing away before they could get up. 

 

One of the cops, the woman, turned to Erik, still singing as she held up her radio to him. “Kathy lost her cat in a tree.

 

Erik grinned back. “Contact fire, not the HFPD! Cause we’re cops, yeah we’re cops!”

 

Her cat is dead.” The woman sung it without any emotion visible other than the huge smile that stretched the faces of everyone infected. 

 

Erik pulled out a megaphone, and the police car’s siren began to blare again as the police danced to it. |

 

Step away from the vehicle. Step away from the vehicle. Get back in the vehicle. Get back in the vehicle. Slowly get out of the vehicle, slowly get out of the vehicle! Do the things I say, I’m a cop!”

 

The cops danced towards them hands in the air. “Get those hands up, get those hands up, get those hands down! Get those hands down! Up, down, up down, I’m a cop!”

 

Backed against the wall of the alley, Nicky and Riko had decided to try and follow the instructions, frantically tripping over themselves to comply.

 

9-1-1 emergency call, got a 4-1-1 at the shopping mall. Better pack your heat and utility belt, any mall-rats comin’ in hot, they melt. Grab your 9 millimetre and donut bucket. Want my badge number? Put it in your mouth and SUCK IT!”

 

They held out threatening fingers, but Nicky approached Erik carefully. “Erik? Sweetheart... I’m you husband! Erik, baby just talk to me.”

 

Andrew had his heart in his mouth as, with shaking fingers, Erik removed his sunglasses to look at  his husband. 

 

“Nicky?” His voice was hoarse, and the word was spoken as if Erik was in pain, crushed under an invisible weight. Andrew let Neil clutch at his sleeve, and they watched in tense silence as Erik fought whatever force was overcoming him.

 

Nicky reached out a hand slowly, and for a second Andrew thought it would work.

 

And then Erik’s grin snapped back into place, and he slid the sunglasses back up and lifted his gun.

 

Nicky screamed, and Erik sung the chorus of their song while the other cops advanced, jazz hands ready and singing the back-up harmonies.

 

Show me your hands, show me those jazz hands!”

 

“Doo bop a da-ba da-ba, doo bop a da-ba da-ba.”

 

“Get ‘em up, or you’ll end up in cuffs! Show me those hands, show me those jazz hands, or I might be inclined to shoot you-“

 

Erik collapsed to the floor, and Wymack stood over him with the trash can lid he’d used to knock him out. For a second, Andrew was frozen, watching the same blue fluid from the coffee at Beanie’s seep out of Erik’s skull. 

 

In those precious few seconds, Nicky grabbed Erik’s discarded gun, holding it up with tears streaming down his face. 

 

“Get back!” His hands were shaking, but the gun was trained on the cops behind them. “Just stay away, just leave us alone!”

 

The cops looked between each other, then ran, hands above them and shouting in an alien voice Andrew couldn’t understand.

 

Nicky collapsed onto Erik’s slumped body.

 

**************

 

Neil had never been a particularly empathetic person. In his defense, he’d never actually needed to be- he hadn’t had anyone left to care whether they lived or died, not after his mother had died in Seattle. Sure, he liked Andrew. He didn’t know what he would have done without the man’s comforting steadiness, with a hand on his neck grounding him to the present, tethering him to the world when his mind was swirling. His mother would have slapped him for the weakness, for needing someone to rely on when he was in danger, but she wasn’t here anymore.

 

So he didn’t know Nicky. He didn’t know any of these people, and Wymack’s height and gruffness made him flinch, and Riko made him want to run from the danger Neil was sure he was capable of, but it didn’t stop him feeling something almost like sympathy as he watched the man sob over his husband.

 

“Oh, my god!” Nicky was hyperventilating, cradling the German man’s head in his lap. “His head is open!”

 

Riko snapped, gesturing angrily. “Well, he had to do something, Nicky! We were going to die!”

 

Nicky’s fingers found the blue leaking out of Erik’s skull. “Oh, Jesus, his brain’s falling out!”

 

Riko recoiled from the stuff in Nicky’s hands. “Well, put it back, then!”

 

“I don’t know how! I’m not a doctor!” 

 

“Nicky, that’s not his brain, it’s blue!”

 

Nicky glared up at him, tears still streaking his face. “Well, how do you know, you’re not a doctor either!”

 

Riko turned away in disgust, and Nicky muttered. “I need to see a doctor, he needs to get to the doctor! Oh, Erik, baby...”

 

Neil stepped forward, crouching next to the crying man and placing a hand on his shoulder. “Nicky- It’s Nicky, right?”

 

He nodded morosely. 

 

“Yes, okay, listen, we have to get out of downtown. The hospital is downtown, we can’t go there. I have some bandages, I can hold Erik together for a bit, but we’ve got to go, okay?”

 

Nicky nodded, and let Neil kneel next to him, and after rummaging through his duffel bag, slowly patch up the fluid leaking from Erik’s skull. If he ignored the way the blood soaking through the white gauze was sickly blue, the wound wasn’t too bad- he had a scar almost exactly like that on his own skull, where hair hadn’t grown for years afterwards. 

 

When he looked up, bandages expertly secured, Andrew was watching him with something indescribable on his face. 

 

“Andrew?”

 

The man blinked, hazel eyes snapping down to Erik as he spoke. “My brother, Aaron, is a doctor, and his wife is a surgeon. Well, used to be. She quit a few years ago, got paranoid about a guy from her university who was stalking her. Their house is a fortress- Aaron was terrified that he’d show up for her when he was out, and put gates and alarms around the whole house.”

 

Neil gulped at the idea of being trapped, hunkering down in a fortress. His own house had been a fortress, back in Baltimore, but it had never kept him from danger, not when the monsters were already inside. No, his instincts were to run, always to run- his mother had drilled that into him well enough, with a lifetime of hiding, and a promise as she lay dying on a beach in California, bleeding out like Erik was now.

 

But it was his best option. He had a gun, half a million dollars in bonds, a fake identity and eight outfits- that was enough, when you were running from someone. But this wasn’t his father, this was half an island, out to turn him into a musical zombie. This wasn’t anything he’d ever dreamed of having to fight.

 

Plus, maybe Andrew’s sister-in-law and brother could fix Erik, could help them.

 

So he nodded up at Andrew. “If Aaron’s house is fit for an apocalypse, let’s go.”

 

Nicky looked at him, panicking again. “An apocalypse? Is that what this is? Maybe we should go to a church-“ He cut himself off to recite a stream fo prayers in Spanish, so fast that Neil’s rudimentary knowledge couldn’t keep up.

 

Riko interrupted. “No, no, no, no, no. We are all from different denominations, alright? We can not split up. I am a Presbyterian, I’m not gonna die in your dirty ass Methodist church, alright?”

 

He jabbed a finger at Nicky, before turning to Wymack. “I say we go to Andrew’s nut-job brother’s panic room.

Andrew growled at him in warning, but Nicky nodded. “Okay.”

 

Neil pulled out his lock picks, looking around for something to cut wires with. “Let’s take the squad car, I can hotwire it-“He stopped, because Andrew was looking at him strangely again, and was holding up Erik’s car keys. Shit. He hadn’t actually had keys to one of the cars he was driving for years. 

 

They piled into the car, with Erik propped up against the window, and all Neil could think about as they made their way to Aaron’s house was that it was just his luck that after all these years of surviving, he’d finally found somewhere he was almost happy; and then. The world had come crashing down.

Chapter Text

“This is Hatchetfield Action News with Dan and Donna! What began as a series of isolated incidents had escalated into what some are calling a musical riot-“

 

“Good god! Katelyn, do you hear this? It’s spreading faster than I theorized!”

 

Katelyn looked up from the news screens she had pulled up on her iPad, speaking through a mouthful of cereal. “Well, I did tell you it would.”

The radio was playing from the Alexa sitting on the edge of the counter, Bee’s housewarming present to them when they’d moved in. Aaron had shown her endless conspiracy theories when they’d first gotten it, adamant that it was ‘recording their conversations, Katelyn!’, but she had a sneaking suspicion that his bitching had less to do with Aaron actually being concerned about Jeff Bezos stealing their data, and more to do with the fact that Aaron liked to bitch about things. It was something he and his brother had in common, although they’d both deny any similarities until their dying breaths. 

 

“Despite several reports of violence, the Hatchetfield Police have assured Channel 9 there is no cause for alarm.”

Donna’s irritatingly cheery voice cut through their kitchen, and Katelyn was vaguely tempted to let Aaron get away with destroying it like he said he’d always wanted to. But no. They were smart people. They had medical degrees and common sense, were extraordinarily well-protected, and they needed to listen to what was happening outside of the house.

 

Although, if she had to sit through Donna’s chirpy voice for five more minutes, Katelyn would be throwing all common sense out the window. Aaron looked close already- he was pacing the room and stress-eating Hawaiian sweet rolls, gesturing wildly as he muttered angrily.

 

“Because they’re part of it, Donna!”

 

“Nevertheless, our skittish neighbors in Clivesdale have raised the Nantucket Bridge. With the ferries down for the season and no accessible means off the island, Hatchetfield citizens are advised to stay indoors.”

 

Aaron threw up his hands. “Like fish in a barrel!”

 

Katelyn sighed, putting her iPad down just as the doorbell went off. Well, not the doorbell- the buzzer system, hooked up to speakers, that guarded the gate in the ten-foot wall around the house. They tensed, and Aaron shouldered the gun he’d assembled that morning, before pressing a button and speaking into the receiver. “Who is it?”

 

The cry from the other end was delighted. “Aaron!”

 

Katelyn watched as Aaron eyed the panel suspiciously. “Don’t lie to me! I’m Aaron. I said who is it?”

 

“No, Aaron, it’s me, Nicky! Andrew and Erik are with me. The whole town’s gone crazy, we didn’t know where else to go!”

 

Katelyn let out a breath she didn’t know she’d been holding. “You’ve come to the right place. Hold on, we’ll let you in.”

 

The speakers turned off, and she shared a look with her husband. Of course she was glad Andrew was alright, and that he’d got here safely, but god knows those two hadn’t been civil in a room together without Bee there to mediate for decades.

 

When Nicky stumbled into the room, he collapsed into Katelyn’s arms, wrapping Aaron in a hug which he allowed, standing awkwardly stiff as he took in the tears on his cousin’s face. Wymack followed, carrying Erik between him and a redhead she didn’t recognize. 

 

Andrew was the last in, and he barely looked at Aaron before reaching out an expectant hand for the gun, and inspecting the barrel closely. 

 

Nicky was babbling incoherently. “We came from downtown, Neil’s coffee shop was infected and Erik- listen, this is going to sound crazy, but everyone is-“

 

“Singing?” 

 

Nicky nodded, and Aaron’s lips pressed together grimly. 

 

“Singing and dancing, like a musical. We’ve been watching the news. They want you to join them, and once they get you, you’re a part of it.”

 

“Wait, so that’s what’s wrong with Erik?”

 

Aaron’s head snapped towards the blonde man Wymack had lain propped up against the wall. “Jesus, don’t tell me you brought one of them here! Katelyn!”

 

Katelyn was already crouched down, unwinding the bandages and checking the wound on Erik’s skull. Aaron rushed over, and they managed to manhandle him into a chair together while the rest of the room looked on in apprehension.

 

It was Riko, who spoke up next. His face twisted, and he gestured at the German, who’s head lolled back. “So he’s gone. What, we’re just going to keep him here, where he can infect us, too? I told you we should have left him in the alley!” His eyes scanned the room, skimming right over Nicky’s fury. “Andrew’s got the gun. I say we shoot him.”

 

“You’re a monster, Riko!” 

 

The man whirled on Nicky. “No, you idiot. He’s a monster! And I’d like to get out of this alive!”

 

Aaron snatched his gun back from Andrew, when he was sure Erik was firmly secured to the chair with the police-issue handcuffs he’d had on his belt. Andrew merely gazed back calmly, not even blinking as the redhead- Neil, she presumed- touched his sleeve lightly. 

 

“Make sure he’s secure. There’s no telling what would happen if he were awake and loose.”

Aaron’s words were bitter, anger showing through, but Katelyn knew how much this was affecting him. Sure, he’d taken too long to accept Erik and Nicky’s relationship back when he was young and didn’t know better, but he knew how much his cousin cared about the man, and they’d spent Christmases and birthdays and thanksgivings together for the last ten years. He was doing what he always did, lashing out and being abrasive to hide how vulnerable he was feeling. He and Andrew were similar in that way. 

 

She placed a soothing hand on his arm as he placed down the gun, which he shrugged off as he pulled on some latex gloves. Together, they inspected the wound with masks on and sterile tools, before Katelyn carefully placed a sample of the blue leaking from his head into a Petri dish. 

 

She focused a harsh light on it, holding the dish up so they could inspect it properly. “Now, tell me, what does that look like to you?”

 

Her words were quiet, but Aaron responded loudly enough for the room to hear. “Nothing. Absolutely nothing.”

 

Wymack cleared his throat. “You all remember that meteor that crashed into the Starlight Theatre last night?”

 

Katelyn pondered this as she prodded the blue slime. They’d run full tests on it later, in their kitchen with latex gloves and cheap surgical masks, wishing they were back in their sterile hospitals. “I think it carried a deadly cargo, that meteor. A contagious pathogen of cosmic origin.”

 

Neil spoke up for the first time, voice disbelieving. “What, you mean aliens?”

 

Aaron glared at him. “Why is that so hard to believe?”

 

The man shook his head, an almost smile gracing his delicate features. “No reason. I guess I’m just finding it hard to believe that after a lifetime of people trying to kill me, what’s finally gonna do me in is fucking aliens.”

 

There was an awkward pause in the room, Wymack looking vaguely appalled while Riko narrowed his eyes in suspicion. The man seemed to realise what he’d said, quickly looking away from Aaron and leaning closer to Andrew, who wasn’t forthcoming with information about who the redhead was, even though Katelyn recognised the rest of their coworkers from Nicky’s constant gossip, so she turned back to studying the blue under a microscope they’d stolen from the hospital. 

 

In the background, she could see Andrew and Aaron staring at each other, stuck in some sort of ridiculous stand-off, until Andrew broke it off to glare at Neil. The man suppressed a smile, clearly unaffected by a glare many other, Katelyn included, ad cowered before. Andrew scowled at him, then turned back to Aaron.

 

“Do you have alcohol.”

 

She couldn’t see Aaron’s face from here, but she could almost perfectly picture the disgust on his face as he spoke. “Andrew, for the last few years I have been stockpiling the barest essentials for human survival in the event of an apocalypse. Of course I fucking have alcohol.”

 

***********

 

Nicky’s jeans scuffed against the carpet where he knelt next to Erik. Katelyn and Aaron were examining the blue slime, and Andrew was ignoring them while he drank whisky in the kitchen, leaving Nicky alone in the living room with his murderous husband.

 

He hadn’t prayed in ages. Too long, his mother would tut, but then he’d never really subscribed to Maria Hemmick’s particular brand of Catholicism anyway. He’d spent sixteen years kneeling next to his father every night while they prayed together, sixteen years of itchy suits for Sunday sermons, sixteen years of desperately praying to the God his parents so adamantly believed in to change him, to fix him.

 

If he was more cynical, he’d say that God had never done anything for him. He’d been seventeen, suicidal and disowned, begging desperately to a higher power that never seemed to listen to fix him- but Nicky was an optimist at heart. God had given him the twins, even if they were complete assholes, and God had given him Erik, lovely, gorgeous, could-lift-Nicky-like-he-was-a-feather Erik. Erik who’d seen through Nicky’s blinding smiles, and had helped the desperately guilty boy underneath understand what real happiness was.

 

So God had been kind to Nicky, even if it wasn’t the God his parents had taught him about. 

 

But now here he was, hunkering down in a bunker in the fucking apocalypse, praying next to his husband, who was handcuffed to a chair. 

 

Hey, God. He’d never really believed in the stiff formalities of his family’s prayers. It’s me, Nicholas. You just gotta know... I didn’t want any of this to happen. I love Erik, and I know we’ve had our problems recently, but I don’t know what i do without him. Please, just let him wake up. Just let him wake up!

 

When he opened his eyes, the room was still silent. His jeans were still scuffed, his husband was still tied to a chair. 

 

Nicky scoffed, and leaned his head back against Aaron’s sofa. What had he been expecting? He sat like that for maybe five minutes, listening through the wall as Riko tried to simultaneously flirt with Katelyn and try and tell her that she wasn’t using the correct method of handling her test tubes, before even that went quiet.

 

He’d shut his eyes again, trying to fall asleep, maybe, when he heard it. The voice was quiet, barely a rasp, but it was undeniably there. 

 

“Nicky?”

 

His eyes snapped open, watching in awe and horror as Erik blinked at him in confusion.

 

“Where am I? Why am I tied to a chair?”

He pulled at his handcuffs, staring imploringly at Nicky, who gulped.

 

“Um, it’s for your own safety, Erik. And ours... you’re not well.”

 

Erik shook his head, seemingly noticing for the fist time the gaping hole in his head. 

“Nicky, baby, I’m hurt real bad. I need a doctor.”

 

Right. Yes, that was sensible. Katelyn and Aaron could help him, and Andrew would know what to do. 

“Um, I’ll go get Aaron-“

 

“No!”

 

The ferocity of the word startled him. Erik was a big guy, the kind of guy who looked like he could take half a village in a fight, but he’d never so much as raised his voice near Nicky. He shrank away slightly, but then Erik flashed him a blinding smile, and Nicky melted. 

 

“They left me here to die, Nicky. Only you can help me, baby. Untie me, and we’ll leave here. Together.”

 

And that smile, what Nicky wouldn’t do for that smile. He would have done whatever Erik said right there, consequences be damned, but then he started singing, and Nicky was horribly reminded of just exactly where they were. 

 

I’m tied up, Nicky. Tied up with you!” Erik lolled his head towards him, grinning, and Nicky backed away from the sight of just how little human there was left in him.

 

“No, please don’t do that, don’t sing.”

 

You understand me, baby. Hand me those keys- the keys to our youth. God! We were young once- innocent and fun once, and free! Let go of this grip of me, because you tied up my heart!

 

Erik pulled at the handcuffs, shuffling the chair ever closer to where Nicky was backed against the sofa, and grinned. 

 

You tied up my heart, you tied me down, now break me open! With your love and mercy.

 

Nicky gulped, his body slowly inching closer, hips swaying no matter how much he willed them to stop. Surely, Erik wouldn’t hurt him.

 

You’re breaking my heart, babe, got my feet to the fire, just let me go, and I’ll love you-“

 

“I- I love you too, Erik, but I- I can’t let you go-“

He protested, but they could both hear how weak it was. 

 

Erik cocked his head, and pouted cheekily. “Don’t you trust me?”

 

Nicky couldn’t help but nod, and Erik got to his feet wobbily, hands still bound to the chair. “Please take away my pain, Nicky! Let me hold you again, babe, just free up my arms, and free up my heart!”

 

And suddenly, Nicky could hear the music. 

 

He swayed towards Erik, the voices calling angelically from seemingly nowhere. 

 

Untie me now, now break me open, with your love and mercy!

 

Nicky was lost in the music, and he barely heard Erik as he said something else. He didn’t even notice his husband until Erik collapsed, the chair toppling over him as he coughed on the floor, and all of a sudden the voices stopped, and Nicky was very much back in the present.

 

“Erik?”

 

He shook the man, gripping his shoulder. “No, no, Erik, wake up, you’ll be alright! Just hold on!” Hands shaking, he fumbled with the key ring, unlocking the handcuffs binding Erik to the chair and reaching to check for a pulse. 

 

There wasn’t one. He stared, blankly, and then-“

 

Nicky!” Erik sung, springing up as if he’d never been hurt at all. He held up his hands, grinning down at him triumphantly. 

 

You’ve brought me back from the dead, babe! My light was in red, I saw God, and he told me boy, to free up my heart!”

 

The voices were back, and Nicky inched towards him. 

 

Untie me now, now break me open, with your love and mercy!”

 

He reached Erik, and collapsed into his arms, unable to do anything but smile stupidly and bask in the music. In the back of his mind, he could hear Erik’s voice, but it hardly seemed important, when the notes flowed over him like a wave. 

 

“Now I’m gonna free up your heart, baby.”

 

The last thing Nicky registered before it all went hazy was a sharp pain in his gut, and Erik’s manic grin, and then all he could focus on was the music.