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Necromancer

Chapter Text

"You may kiss the bride."

She barely had time to process the words before he was on her; cold and heavy, stealing the oxygen from her lungs. Lydia was vaguely aware of the Maitlands, her father, and Delia making a ruckus in the background, clearly unhappy with the recent developments.

This was not a normal kiss. Yes, it was with a dead man at an impromptu wedding ceremony to a minor out in the middle of bum-fuck-nowhere, with two other deceased guests serving as unwilling witnesses. Not to mention, Lydia was about ready to jump the gun and say that the acting priest was not a ghost, but was, in fact, an extraterrestrial life form. Anything was possible at this point.

Yet, it wasn't the alien priest, the magically animated sculptures, the plethora of dead people in attendance, or any of the fantastical illusions that made the kiss abnormal. It was the sharp zap of pure energy that shook her to her core the moment his lips touched hers. It hurt, a sharp ache in her chest as though her body just ran a mile after chain-smoking a pack. She might have fought or pulled away if the sensation didn't leave her paralyzed, the breath knocked out of her.

He seemed unaffected. Both of his arms were wrapped tight around her, trapping her own to her side. The hand that wasn't holding her deadlocked against him- only the tips of her toes were touching the floor- was greedily roaming over her backside, fisting the material of her gaudy dress. Then, the hand dared to dip too low and grab a handful. As best he could, anyway, through the many, many, many- Betelgeuse was beginning to regret his choice of dress- layers of gauze.

Pure claustrophobic panic took over, knocking her out of her temporary paralysis. She was able to slip an arm free, thanks to his current distraction, tear her face away from his- his tongue from her mouth- and bring her ring-bearing hand to his cheek with a hard, resounding SMACK.

He let go of her immediately and she stumbled backward from the slight drop, gasping for breath and clutching at the high neckline of her suddenly unbearably constricting dress. It occurred to Lydia that she could no longer hear the cries of the Maitlands or her parents. For that matter, it didn't look like they were in her living room anymore. What little light that was present before was absent here, and when Lydia couldn't will her eyes to adjust quickly enough to the abrupt change of scenery her panic evolved into sheer terror.

Betelgeuse was flattered.

For months he watched her; studying the handbook, taking her macabre photos, curling up in the attic with a stolen glass of her father's whiskey while reading all matter of ghastly horror stories from late night into the early morning- never once smelling fear on her. Even his serpentine form hadn't been able to elicit that kind of delectable response. Hell, she was even fascinated by him at first- lips parted in awe, spiced honey eyes gleaming brighter than he had ever seen them- until he made it irrevocably clear who he was and what he wanted. She only deemed to cower in the face of death and even then he didn't sense real fear in her. Just anxiety in anticipation of pain that would never come and an unsettling acceptance of her impending demise.

She was lovely.

When she did speak, everything she had to say dripped with sarcasm. Every inquiry from her parents about her day- these were few and far between- was met with an eloquent quip that denoted her bitter distaste with life. Still, with all her bite she was soft. Soft enough to sacrifice herself to him for two losers she barely even knew just because they showed her the slightest bit of kindness. That was a level of crazy even he couldn't relate to.

She wasn't the mark at first. This was supposed to be a normal job; swoop in, scare a couple breathers half to death, and rope some baby ghosts into a binding contract that would inevitably favor him in a hilariously gratifying way. He wasn't supposed to fall off the deep end and commit himself for an eternity to a depressive girl-child. Nevertheless, shit happens and here they were in his Neitherworldian home. And she was terrified.

The stabbing pain in her chest had faded to a duller, throbbing ache, but her skin still hummed with pinpricks of electricity. It made her flesh heat up and sweat, but it was freezing in the dark pit he'd dragged her to. Sweat-slicked goosebumps slid and scraped against the cheap material of her gown. The sudden realization that they were alone kickstarted her survival instincts. She scrambled away, crying out in fright when she fell back onto what could only be a couch. He was going to rape her. No doubt about it. Why else would he take her away from her home and family to this cold dark place? Involuntary tears streamed down her face and she huddled, curling her arms around her face protectively, entire body tense.

While Betelgeuse was initially pleased that he had finally been able to extract fear from her, his pleasure was short-lived. This was not the reaction he expected out of her. She was pitiful, curled up in his spot on his couch, silent tears streaming down her beautiful face, shivering. This girl had faced down monstrous undead anacondas for crying out loud! All he did was kiss her and grab some ass! Well, shit. He was no good with crying women. He took a careful step forward, freezing when she flinched at the minuscule movement.

"Babe..." He forced himself to take the next couple steps, hating how she cringed with each one, before crouching down to her level. For once, he kept his hands to himself. "I ain't gonna hurt cha."

After a long agonizing moment, she dared to open her eyes. They only stayed with him for a second before darting past his head, all around the room, not settling on anything. "Why- where- I-" a sob stopped any further attempts at stringing a sentence together, but she slapped a hand over her mouth to keep it from escaping and indignifying her further. Was this a trick? She didn't trust herself to speak.

Lydia was ruining all of his half-assed plans. She wasn't supposed to be this scared. She was only supposed to be somewhat scared. That way, all the cards would be in his hand. His little bride was going to force him to bare his throat like a lamb to the butcher and prove that he was harmless- where she was concerned, anyway.

"It's okay! Don't cry! Is it the digs? I know, my place is a piece o' shit, but this is just temporary. We gotta sign us some paperwork before I can go get us somethin' better." He paused painfully, waiting for her to say something, anything. Her wide frantic eyes had finally settled on him unblinkingly. Her lips trembled, but she didn't speak. "I was thinkin' somewhere in Jamaica or-" he stopped speaking abruptly when her lips parted, eager to hear what she had to say.

"Where am I?"

He had to strain to hear the softly spoken inquiry. "Let's just say we ain't in Connecticut anymore, Dorothy."

She sat up some more, still tense and guarded, back ramrod straight, and took in the surroundings. Having adjusted to the dim lighting- an oil lamp sitting on a coffee table- she was able to see that they were in a living room, his living room. It was filthy. Beer bottles and crumpled newspapers littered the floor. There were cigarette burns on the couch she sat on, which was a deeper, bloodier red than the bright, garish thing she wore. An old-fashioned tube tv sat in the center of the room, complete with asymmetrical antennas. A renaissance style portrait on one wall caught her attention for a moment before her gaze was drawn to the front door.

Her heart plummeted into her stomach. There must have been a dozen locks lining the frame, running from thick padlocks to deadbolts. Why on Earth would anyone want to break in here? Unless they were meant to keep something in, not out. Was he lying about not hurting her?

His gaze followed hers and he answered the unvoiced question. "You wouldn't wanna go out there without me- even if you could get through those locks." She was tense and shaking again, eyes wider than before. Damn, that probably came out more threatening than he meant it to. "Shit, that's not what I meant- just-" he groaned and ran a hand over his face in frustration, "c'mere."

She squeaked when he grabbed her by the bicep and dragged her up and over to one of the large, square, curtained windows that framed the front door. When he pulled back the drapes, she was momentarily blinded. A vast stretch of highway lay before her, levitating amidst a torrent of sand-twisters. It disappeared beyond the horizon, swallowed by the storm. Despite the furious weather, the sky was a bright neon orange, not a cloud in sight. There were no stops on the road between his home and oblivion.

"Where am I?" She repeated, more insistent this time.

He couldn't help but grin. Still timid, but better than the docile crying thing from a few moments earlier. "You're in, kid."

It was too much. She was going to faint. Her knees buckled, and when he felt the slight quiver in her body the hand around her bicep slid around her waist to keep her up. She was out like a light. He rolled his eyes before hefting her up into his arms easily. Betelgeuse thought he'd have her moaning his blessedly uncursed name by now. With a grunt, he kicked his bedroom door open before carrying the blushing bride through. Some traditions never die, even if the participants do.

She was so light, barely there really. He should've known better than to take her here first thing. Something about her had him going crazy. Shit, she hadn't even been properly wine'd and dine'd yet. He was so eager to get the paperwork signed and everything officiated, every i dotted and t crossed. Then he would be free, and she would be his, and for fucking once everything would work out for him the way it was supposed to. His fantasy had never before included a wife and white picket fence, but fuck it. He could work it in.

Wrinkles furrowed her brow. Her sleep was restless. That dress didn't look very comfortable. He wanted her writhing in his bed, but not like this. With a gesture from him, the garment was replaced with a long white nightgown of silk and her hair was unpinned from its coils. He really was a romantic at heart. Now that the pale flesh on her arms and shoulders was bare, he could see where her hairs stood on end with the chill of the environment. Only a select few mortals had ever been unlucky enough to make the trek to the Neitherworld with him, he forgot how cold it could get for them down here.

A thick, clean blanket emerged from the ether to creep up the edge of his coffin and encase her, neck to toe. The furrow in her brow smoothed.

"Sleep tight, honey bun."

It was time to pay Juno a visit. Somethings tells Betelgeuse she'll be expecting him.

Chapter Text

"He just took her!"

"There has to be something you can do!"

Looked like the Maitlands beat him to it. Before Betelgeuse had a chance to make his grand entrance, as per usual, Juno's office door flew open, nearly missing smacking him in the face. "You two just wait here while I make some calls!" The old bag almost ran into him, arms overflowing with manilla folders. They were all dropped to the floor when she caught sight of him. "YOU!"

"Gah!" She had him by the ear and was dragging him into her office where the Maitlands sat jabbering anxiously. Her stilettos carelessly stabbed the paperwork that now littered the ground.

"You can sit here and fester with these other pains in my ass while I try and clean up the mess that YOU made! AGAIN!"

The Maitlands were standing now from where they had been seated in front of Juno's desk, fists clenched and faces stern. "You know why I'm here, Junebug," Betelgeuse called out to the caseworker as she made to leave, making her already rigid form freeze. "Ya have ta give it to me. You have a legal obligation. You and I both know whose favor the courts will rule in if ya try ta fight me." Betelgeuse was by no means favored by the powers that be, but he was feared, which was much better in his opinion. Not many ghouls- shit, he was being modest- no one crossed him down here.

Juno turned her head to the side a fraction so he could see her profile. A rueful smirk was curling the side of her lips. "We'll see about that."

Fuck. She knew something he didn't. That wasn't good. The door was shut, she was gone, and the Maitlands were harassing him before he could begin to weasel more information out of the old bitch.

"Where is she?"

"Did you hurt her?"

"Bring her back home, you can't do this!"

"Fuck off!" A flare of energy pushed them out of his circle, where the jerks had been crowding him. He popped his collar before lighting a cigarette, sneering in their direction. "The little woman is just fine, thank you very much. Sleepin' like an angel back at our cozy lil lovenest while I run some errands." Ash from the end of his cigarette was flicked onto the carpet while a bloodthirsty Barbara was gifted with a look of mock sympathy. "She's had a long day."

Adam had to physically restrain his wife from the smirking poltergeist. "You BASTARD! She's sixteen, she's just a little girl! You bring her back to her parents and have this travesty annulled NOW!"

Sixteen, huh? She carried herself older. She definitely looked older, lying unconscious in white silk like a virgin sacrifice. Sixteen was young enough that he was judging himself... hard... but not young enough to make him back off. In his day, girls her age would have been married off with a couple of brats by now. Lydia never would have made it that far, though. She would have been hung, drowned, burned at the stake, or tortured to death with grizzly instruments long before that- and he would have been the one to do the deed. The thought made him uncomfortable.

"No can do, Babs. Don't worry, the wife n' I'll come visit whenever she's feelin' up to it." As selfish as he knew he was, he wouldn't be able to keep her all to himself and away from her family forever. Fuck, all she had to do was ask and he would probably jump to it while hanging a neon sign around his neck that read "Afterlife Express."

"Her father is going out of his mind with worry." Adam was speaking now, steely turquoise eyes glowering through his specs. "You know this is wrong."

Betelgeuse knew no such thing. Right and wrong, good and evil, black and white... the lines all started to blur after the first couple centuries. "Pft. If that chump cared half as much about his daughter as he did his stock portfolio, we wouldn't be standin' here, four-eyes." Daddy-in-Law didn't seem all that broken up at the time. Shit, the son of a bitch actually smiled and nodded while he accepted his reptilian dowry.

Adam's open mouth shut, his argument dying. Barbara was still seething and full of fight. It was clear who wore the pants in this relationship. "Oh what, and you care about her?! Don't make me laugh."

Betelgeuse sniffed noncommittally, ashing his cigarette again. "Irrelevant." It wasn't, but that was none of their damn business.

Barbara shook her husband's hands from her arms, reassuring him with a look that she wasn't going to fly off the handle. "Charles Deetz is..." she struggled for the right word, "imperfect. But that doesn't give you the right to-"

The exchange was interrupted by Juno popping into existence behind her desk, a cigarette in her mouth and a fresh stack of folders in her arms. Where before she seemed victorious, she was now grim. Betelgeuse still didn't know enough to determine whether or not this was a good thing.

A silence fell over the room as she made herself comfortable, relieving her short arms of their burden and taking a long drag from her smoke. Ancient quicksilver eyes eventually fell to Betelgeuse. For the first time ever- to him anyway- she looked tired. It was almost an uncomfortable amount of time before she spoke. "Do you have any idea what the fuck you've done?" The sharp, metallic voice he had become accustomed to was drained, exhausted. If he didn't hate the wrinkled cow's guts, he might have been concerned. "Here's your marriage certificate, by the way."

She half-heartedly slid a rectangular piece of parchment across the desk and he darted forward to snatch it up, reading the document over with a meticulous eye. Everything appeared to be in order. It couldn't really be this easy, could it? What was the catch?

"You're just going to give it to him?!"

Juno laughed humorlessly at Barbara Maitland's indignation. "Don't worry, tricking that poor girl into signing some petty document is the least of his worries." Betelgeuse paused his examination of the certificate to meet Juno's weary eyes once more. "Seriously, Betel." The elderly spirit leaned forward, resting both elbows on her desk and letting her head fall to her hands. "Do you have even the slightest inkling who that girl is?"

The blank look on his face said that no, he did not. Yeah, she had the sight, which he knew was pretty rare- rare enough that she was the first he had ever met- but not so uncommon that they weren't unheard of. Surprisingly enough, he isn't the first ghost to con an underage mortal seer into marriage.

Juno just sighed once more before flipping through the stack of folders before her, pulling out the thickest after a brief once over. It was about the size of an encyclopedia. Betelgeuse found himself taking a seat and scooting his chair close to Juno's desk, as close as he could without becoming disgusted by her proximity. The Maitlands reluctantly followed suit. "Here we go. Lydia Elisabeta Geuse, formerly Deetz, formerly Volkov. Where to begin..."

She yanked the folder back a few inches when it looked like Betelgeuse was thinking about snatching it out of her hands. "You know the information in here is strictly need-to-know. Mind your own business before I make more trouble for you than you've already made for yourself." He would have scoffed were it not for the intimidating width of his new wife's file. Respecting the privacy of a soul's file was one of a short, short list of rules that he adhered to per his code of honor- the existence of which would remain unknown to everyone. But this file... he was itching to read this one. Nobody could take him down, nobody was more powerful than him. With Lydia in his pocket, he was stronger than ever. What kind of game was the decrepit shrew playing at?

"I'll keep it short and sweet. I do have other admittedly less important clients to attend to. The girl carries necromancer blood." Betelgeuse's eyes just about bugged out of his skull.

"Necro-what?" If possible, Juno looked even further exhausted by Adam Maitland's ignorance.

"A necromancer is a special type of seer- someone with the ability to see raw spirit energy, to see us." The Maitlands' eyes lightened with understanding while Betelgeuse bit at his filthy nails, trying his damnedest to read Lydia's file upside down. What Juno was suggesting was blasphemous. Necromancers were only legend. They didn't fucking exist. "A necromancer can do more than see. They can control, manipulate; with the proper tools and education, of course. They are always women and they are always the seventh born in the line. Necromancers are new souls that have never been reincarnated and never will be. Their sole purpose in the living world is to die."

The light dimmed. "Die?" Barabara looked like she might cry for the hundredth time that night. She didn't know she still had so many tears left. "I don't understand."

"The only reason to die is to come here, ya dumb bitch." Betelgeuse hissed, glaring at the file.

"Lydia," Juno cut in, when it looked like the calculated wall that held Adam's anger in check was about to crumble, "specifically, comes from the only known line of necromancers in recorded history, the Clan Luminei."

Betelgeuse finally brought his full attention back to Juno, abandoning his fruitless efforts to sneak information from the file. He knew that name. Everyone in the Neitherworld knew that name, anyone who had been here for a significant amount of time, anyway. The origins of the Clan, however, were a well-kept secret- even to him.

"Over a millennia ago, there lived a renowned sorceress. There wasn't a soul alive who didn't know her name. The first necromancer, the Contessa Izabela Luminei, was known far and wide for her mastery of the dark arts. She was an unmarried single mother and independently wealthy, unheard of for a woman in her time. The Contessa would hold grand balls and summon spirit after spirit to entertain her guests. This is a woman that would hold exorcisms just to get a laugh."

"But Izabela bit off more than she could chew when she attempted to manipulate the demon Ba'Gul." Juno and Betelgeuse shared a look. The old woman was too tired to bother explaining exactly who Ba'Gul was to the newbies. He was known by many names to various cultures all over the world. His most common alias was probably the Pied Piper, the child stealer. Residents of the Neitherworld knew him as the ultimate trickster. Only a fool made a deal with Ba'Gul.

Pansy ass didn't scare Betelgeuse. He could take him. He would just rather not tangle with the slimy fuck if he didn't have to, so he continued listening without interruption. "Ba'Gul, simultaneously impressed and infuriated that a mortal managed to summon him, offered the Contessa a deal; true supremacy over the dead in exchange for her daughter's life. She accepts."

The Maitlands' disgust with the Contessa's choice was visible. The poltergeist could feel his hackles rising. If this story was going where he thought it was, he'd have to do much more than knock boots with Ba'Gul. He would have to annihilate him. "The only problem is, Ba'Gul meets the daughter and falls in love with her. Can't bring himself to kill her. Disgusted with himself for his weakness, he disappears and forgets about the deal. There's no official record, anyway, of him ever mentioning or coming to collect on the debt."

"Deals made with Ba'Gul come with a heavy price. The name Luminei eventually faded from the living world. There are none alive now who carry it, and none that remember those who did, but the blood kept flowing. Necromancers are cursed to lead short, wretched lives, only a fraction living long enough to procreate. But when they die..."

Betelgeuse had the rest worked out before she said it out loud. "Ba'Gul made good on his deal. True supremacy over the dead is what he offered, and that's exactly what he delivered."

Juno absentmindedly tossed a copy of Neitherworld Weekly towards the Maitlands and Barbara caught it eagerly. They were still on probation. They would know nothing of Neitherworld courts and politics. Splayed across the front page in technicolor were King Anton and Queen Anastasia, smiling brilliantly and perfectly coiffed as ever, as they had been for the past couple hundred years.

"Lydia was never supposed to see eighteen. Lydia was supposed to slit her wrists after a cruel prank at her senior prom, receive a formal pardon from the King, and ascend the throne as the new Queen of the Neitherworld."

Betelgeuse choked on his cigarette smoke. That was news to him. From what little he knew on this particular subject, Lydia had the potential to fulfill any number of roles upon her death; princess, duchess, as low as a lady-in-waiting even, but Queen?! Juno couldn't help the slightly crazed laugh that bubbled in the back of her ravaged throat at his reaction. Deciding she wanted to chase that feeling, the crone lit another cigarette and took petty satisfaction with her next admission.

"After her marriage to Prince Vince, of course."

Chapter Text

A quick peek upon his return confirmed that Lydia was still sleeping. That had been hours ago. Betelgeuse didn't know how many. Time was a construct few undead kept track of. She was definitely awake by now, he heard some shuffling coming from that end of the house during the first quarter of the dumb documentary he was only half paying attention to. The volume was up loud enough to announce his presence, but not so loud as to drown out any sounds she might make. He wasn't about to bust the door open and drag her out of there. She would have to come out on her own eventually.

He was a man with many enemies. You don't get to be as feared and powerful as he was without stepping on some toes. The Royal Family had always been somewhat... off limits in his mind. While it was true that they ruled the Neitherworld and all of its denizens, titles like "King" and "Queen" seemed more like formalities to Betelgeuse than anything real. They lived in a palace- an intimidating monument at the center of the most populated district of the Neitherworld- but didn't make any laws or enforce taxes. The King and Queen were occasionally called upon by the powers that be for assisting in the judgment of particularly high-profile cases. As far as the poltergeist was aware, that's where their rank ended. They were harmless puppets, cutting ribbons and hosting meaningless decadent balls just because they could.

In his afterlife, he had seen three sets of monarchs on the throne. Queen Illya Luminei- a buxom redhead- was running things when he first died. A new Queen was crowned every two hundred years, each bearing the name Luminei. As did the Princesses and Duchesses, even the maids. Any female with an iota of status in that castle carried the same blood. Male souls lucky enough to pass the thorough vetting process were assimilated into the family and gifted with meaningless titles as well.

Like Prince. Betelgeuse sneered at the thought, chugging his beer and glaring at the television.

Dead people couldn't have children, so the line of procession was tied directly to the Queen's living bloodline. Were the blood to dry up, there wouldn't be anyone to sit on that throne anymore- per Ba'Gul's enchantment, according to Juno. Lydia was the last in line. His wife just so happened to not only be the seventh girl in the generational sequence but the last Luminei, the last Queen, the living death of the Royal Family- unless she managed to pop a kid out before she died.

Of course, Betelgeuse wasn't going to let any of these hypotheticals come to pass. The Royal Family could suck his dick, and so could Ba'Gul- if the motherfucker even still had a dog in this fight. Her lifeline was tied to his now, so she was virtually immortal. Flesh wounds were still a danger to her, but anyone who was so inclined to harm her would have to get past him first.

He had stormed out of Juno's office, certificate in hand, shortly after her smug little quip about his wife hypothetically marrying that scrawny, mopey punk. Let the old bitch babysit the newbies and spell shit out for them, not his job. Prince Vince, Betelgeuse thought again with a growl, tossing his bottle at the wall so hard it smashed. No, he had never gone after Neitherworld nobility before, but he would decimate them if they thought any claim they had on Lydia was stronger than his.

The sound of his bedroom door squeaking open halted his thought process. He kept completely still, straining his ears. There was silence for awhile, aside from the murmur of the television, then some barely there shuffling. Then, a wide honey colored eye was peeking at him around the corner of the hallway. It widened impossibly further upon meeting his own and promptly disappeared from view again. To Lydia's credit, she stepped into full view just seconds later, knowing she'd been caught. She was barefoot, the blanket he summoned for her wrapped about her shoulders and trailing on the floor in her wake. her gaze was trained on the floor.

"You ready to socialize, buttercup?" He kept his tone casual. Last time he saw her up and moving around she was a jumpy, flighty thing. She seemed more composed now, but the last thing he wanted to do was accidentally make her cry again.

"I'm hungry." She admitted through pursed lips, hating that she was having to admit her weakness out loud and rely on him for a basic need.

There weren't any clocks in his bedroom. She wasn't sure how long she spent in there, going through his dressers, closet, nightstand, and an adjoining room coated in dust that she discovered to be the master bath, after some digging. Lydia didn't even know what she was looking for. A weapon maybe? It wouldn't do her any good, she knew that. All she found were old musty clothes, enough bugs to make even her uncomfortable, and nudie magazines. She kept the door locked and her back pressed against it for a long time, listening to him out there watching TV, certain that he was going to come terrorize her as soon as it suited his fancy. Then the hunger started to gnaw at her gut. She hadn't eaten since before the wedding- a ham sandwich for lunch. The mere thought of it made her mouth water and stomach growl. He did say that he wasn't going to hurt her...

"Whatcha in the mood for?" Fuck, he should've gone and offered her food sooner. She shouldn't have to come ask him for something like that.

Lydia braved a lidded glance up at him before returning her gaze to the floor. "I dunno," she shrugged a bit, not expecting her request to be granted that easily. "Pizza?" She settled on something simple.

So did he. A snap later and an open box of steaming hot plain cheese pizza materialized on the coffee table to the right of him. There were only two spots on the couch, and he was in one of them. The way Lydia saw it, she could sit on the floor and risk offending him or she could grow a spine and take the spot to his side. When the scent of melting mozzarella melded with roasted tomatoes and herbs hit her, her mind was made up.

"Thank you." She conceded quietly after settling on the couch, confirming that it wasn't poisoned, cooked with bugs, or tainted in any other visible form or fashion, and taking her first tentative bite.

"Don't mention it." He returned, trying his absolute best to remain somewhat indifferent toward her. Every instinct in him was telling him to lay it on thick; slide one hand around her shoulders, the other up her thigh, start whispering filthy things in her ear. This was his wife, it was only natural to want to put the moves on her, but... she was so jumpy. Her second slice was half gone before she spoke again.

"If you married me to get out," she paused, wiping the corner of her mouth on the back of her hand before taking another bite and finishing the sentence with a mouth full of pizza. She wasn't too concerned with etiquette right now, "then why are we here?" Lydia had a lot of questions. This one seemed the most pressing.

"Ah!" He exclaimed, sitting up straight and slamming his boots down from the coffee table to dig through his striped coat pocket. The sudden movement made her start, but she recovered quickly. "That reminds me. You need to sign this before we can get the hell out o' this dump." A folded up piece of paper was thrust under her nose. She hesitated to take it, wiping her greasy fingers off on the already dusty couch first.

CERTIFICATE OF MARRIAGE

This Document Certifies That

Betelgeuse  Lydia Elisabeta Deetz

Were United In the Sacred Bonds Of Matrimony

Lydia could only stare at the document with a numb sort of detachment. The certificate went on to list her home address as the site of the ceremony, both the Maitlands' and her parents' full names to account for witnesses, and a line for her and her husband's signatures. There was already a messy scrawl beginning with a barely legible "B" to denote his own.

"Okay. Do you have a pen or something?"

"Are you fuckin' kiddin' me?!" All pretense of disinterest in her was dropped. How dare she make it this easy for him after making such a spectacle of herself earlier! She had wept, curled up in his spot like a beat dog, before fainting in his arms like all the dames in the classics. Heartstrings he didn't know he had were being tugged at.

The girl lowered her face from sight again, brows furrowed in confusion. Why was he angry? Isn't this what he wanted? "No, I mean- I said I would, didn't I? For Mr. and Mrs. Maitland."

There were THREE genius, intricate schemes he had worked out in his head to trick her into signing this thing that now had to go straight to the garbage thanks to her infuriating compliance. She was so scared before! What conclusion could he come to other than that she would try to fight him on this?

"If that's how ya feel about it, then why the fuck did you act like I was 'bout to cut you up into a thousand tiny pieces in my basement? Then lock yourself up in my bedroom for damn near half a day, you batshit crazy piece of ass!"

Her prior confusion transformed into defensive annoyance. Honey eyes full of fire narrowed, pinning him to the spot. "You dropped. My father. Down a flight. Of stairs." Careful pauses punctuated her point. "So, you'll excuse me for maintaining a healthy sense of self-preservation. Besides," she sniffed, turning her profile his way, nose in the air, "I said I would marry you, not kiss you." The second half of her sentence was muttered, barely audible. A red stain was creeping onto her cheeks from her hairline.

Angry Lydia was much better than crying Lydia, he decided. Now all of her tears and shyness made perfect sense to him. "Babe," he grinned, giving in to the urge to wrap an arm around her shoulders and lean in close, "was that your first kiss?"

"No!" She rejected vehemently, standing and pacing out of arms reach of him, only to cry out in pain when something sharp stabbed the bottom of her foot. "Hey!" Before she could investigate the source of the malady, he swept her into his arms and was hauling her off toward a room she hadn't explored yet. It was the kitchen. She was deposited on top of a round wooden table and then he was on his knees before her, one of her small bleeding feet in his cold hands.

"So who was it? Some pimply faced loser, I bet." A scowl was aimed at the moderately large brown piece of glass he extracted from her heel before it was tossed toward the sink. His wife had dainty, soft little feet. He couldn't just go around smashing beer bottles like a neanderthal anymore.

It took Lydia a moment to remember what he was talking about. He knocked her off guard, carting her off and tending to her cut foot like that. "N-none of your business," she stammered out, resisting the involuntary urge to giggle when he started wrapping a bandage around the wound and brushed against sensitive flesh.

"All better," he lifted her leg slightly by the ankle to give the wrapping a once over, before shocking her by brushing his lips over the bottom of her heel where the bandage covered the shallow cut.

Her cheeks burned and she yanked her legs up onto the table to sit cross-legged, the bandaged foot resting on top of her opposite knee. "Thanks, it's fine. I didn't need all that- I mean, it's not that deep or anything- so, uhm. Yeah..."

She trailed off, fiddling with the lace trim on the nightgown he'd dressed her in. Lydia had scoffed at the thing when she first awoke and saw it. Did he think she was some kind of virgin; untouched and ripe for the picking? If that was the case, he was in for a letdown. Not that anything of that nature was even on the menu for him, she reminded herself with a mental slap when feelings of shame started to seep in.

"So... can I sign the thing? That's all I have to do and then I can go home, right?" That's not exactly what he said before. In fact, his earlier statements had left her to a much more worrying conclusion, but she was hoping that perhaps she just misunderstood him.

"Babe," He began uncomfortably, rubbing the back of his neck. "S' a bit more complicated than that..."

"So explain it to me. I'm not a child." She loathed how immature that sounded coming out.

The Maitlands would beg to differ, Betelgeuse mused, charmed by the way his wife's cheeks puffed up with indignation when she felt patronized. "Alright kid," an adorable pout and glare joined her expression, "I'll give it to ya straight. You're immortal now and our souls are bound together for the rest o' eternity. That means that we have to exist on the same plane at all times. If I spend too much time down here with all these stiffs while you're walkin' around with the breathers, both of our souls will eventually wither away."

Her eyes were wide again, but she was calm and silent, taking in everything he had to say. "Now you're not a true immortal, like me, cause you're still breathin', your body's still alive. You still need to eat n' sleep n' all the basics, but you're not gonna get sick or old anymore. In short, if ya get hit by a car, you're still roadkill. Ya with me?" She nodded slowly, expression glazed, and he took that as a cue to continue. "Now, with all of this in mind, if you were to die, you n' me both would be trapped in this shithole-" he gestured wildly around him to anotate that by "shithole" he meant the Neitherworld as a whole, not their current shelter, "forever. And I do mean forever."

He leaned over her on the table, hands planted flat and firm on either side of her. The jade eyes currently scrutinizing her were so intense. Lydia couldn't help it when blood rushed to her face again. No one had ever looked at her like that before. "Humans are so fragile..." He breathed out finally, brushing the back of his fingers along her cheekbone. "And Lady Death is an indiscriminate whore. Can't have ya dyin' on me."

She licked her lips, mouth suddenly dry. "So what? You're saying that you have to stay with me... to keep me from dying?"

"Damn straight. I told ya, I want out for good. I'm not about ta end up back here just cause you can't look both ways before crossin' the street. So you can just start gettin' used ta me right now, puddin' pop. I ain't goin' anywhere."

"But-but what about my family?" Even if he was willing to share a house with her parents, there's no way they would. They'd let him keep her before sacrificing their own comfort in such an imposing way. The thought stabbed her in the heart, but she knew it was true. Her father loved her, but he loved Delia more- and nobody loved Delia more than Delia. If Lydia were to show up on their doorstep with the information she had now, poltergeist in tow, her parents would pack up and move back to New York in a heartbeat.

"I am not shackin' up with the in-laws and those shit-poor excuses for ghosts." Shit, her eyes were big and shiny again, like she might cry. Fuck. He forced any irritation or aggression still left in him out of his expression and cupped both of her cheeks. "Aw, baby. Don't cry. We can go visit whenever you want, or they can come to us, whatever you want. C'mon, it ain't all that bad."

She recoiled, gently but firmly pushing his hands away. Not out of upset with him, it seemed, but because her emotions were getting the best of her and she wanted distance. She was furious with herself for getting so worked up in front of him. Again. Nothing was more humiliating to her than looking weak. She must have appeared fucking feeble to him. Of course she did. He thought she was so helpless that he had to follow her around for the rest of her suddenly eternal life just to make sure she didn't kick the bucket and end his vacation early.

She felt sick. "Just give it to me. I'll sign it."

Chapter Text

It wasn't until he saw the elegant curve of her signature placed next to his scrawl that it really hit him. This was the biggest fucking heist he'd ever pulled off. And completely by accident! On an uncharacteristically romantic and utterly insane- even for him- impulse, he managed to steal the heir to the Neitherworld throne and betrothed to the Crown Prince, ensuring the inevitable downfall of the Royal Family. He had never seen an afterlife that wasn't under the thumb of a monarchy. From what little there was to read and hear on the subject, he gathered that there wasn't a huge difference.

This was all fine and dandy, but it was just an added bonus as far as Betelgeuse was concerned. The real prize? He would never have to pull another job again, wouldn't have to settle for conning the mandatory probationary haunting years out of newbie ghosts just for a brief taste of life. Now, he had a direct passport to the surface world in the form of a petite bundle of teenage angst.

"There," she finished, dotting the "i" above her name and sliding the document across the table. A sad smile graced her lips briefly. "You're free."

Goddamn if those weren't the most beautiful words he'd ever heard coming out of the most gorgeous thing he'd ever seen. "Well, hot DAMN!" He launched across the table to sweep her into his arms. Lydia "eep'd" when he did so and flung her arms around his shoulders for balance while he swung her around in a gleeful circle, before landing a solid smooch on her cheek.

"I think this is a cause for celebration, don't you?"

His grip slackened and allowed the bottom half of her body to slide back to the ground. Not completely, though. She still hovered a good couple inches from the checkered linoleum; body plastered to his, arms around his neck, face uncomfortably close, blanket forgotten in her seat. The nightgown he conjured for her was thin, and she was so warm. Fuck, he wanted to do things to her. Bad things. He could. He shouldn't. He wouldn't, not like that... but when her slight form shivered against him and he remembered the exquisite scent of her fear, he was given a painful reminder of how laughably easy it would be.

"Uhm-" Pale arms were uncoiled from his neck and she was squirming to be let down. Reluctantly, the unspoken request was granted. She quickly put a few feet between them, arms folded across her chest; facing him straightforward but refusing to meet his eyes again. He understood that she was shy, but this was getting ridiculous. "I don't know if that's a good idea. I should probably see my parents." Truth be told, she wasn't terribly eager to face their rejection, but it needed to be done. "And the Maitlands. We just disappeared-"

A look of utter horror crossed her face. "School. I missed school. Oh God, what about school?"

Now, her panicked gaze met his.

"What am I going to do? I'll have to change schools! I don't know how to sign myself up for that stuff! I mean, I'm sure it's not that hard or anything, but what if I need a parent or guardian? YOU can't do it! I don't think this is even legal in most states!" She was gone in her tangent, pacing a hole in the floor and close to ripping her hair out. "And college! What's the point!? I'll have to change my name and start the whole process all over again every ten years or so and any degrees I earn won't mean SHIT!" That one had his eyebrows raising. "I'm not going to age. And people will notice. And the government is going to kidnap me and put me in a lab and dissect me and put my freak blood under a microscope and STOP LAUGHING, IT'S NOT FUNNY!"

The only possible future Queen of the Neitherworld was standing in his kitchen in a nightie, on the verge of an existential crisis. The straw that broke the camel's back? A missed school day. It was too fucking much.

"Doll," he croaked out, doubled over with cackles, "you are in very bad need of a drink, or a smoke, or a fuck, or all three; any of which I'd be more than happy to indulge."

"Give me a cigarette," she replied without missing a beat.

"Since ya asked so nicely," he offered her a slimy half-smile and a pre-lit cancer stick straight from the ether. He knew for a fact that she snuck cigars from her father to smoke half-heartedly in the attic with the window open- late at night, when no one else was awake- so it came as no surprise to him when she took a drag that would've done Juno proud. "Ya gotta relax, babe. You ain't gotta worry about any o' that shit. C'mon, let's get the fuck outta here, break some rules, paint the town red. Whaddya say?"

"I don't know." She had reclaimed her seat and was wrapping the blanket back around her shoulders, clearly feeling the chilling effects of the Neitherworld's atmosphere. "Is it like it is out there," she tilted her head toward the living room, the front door, "everywhere here? Where does that road go?"

Betelgeuse was inclined to spend his newly found freedom above, in the sunlight, but it seemed his little wife had some morbid curiosity that needed satisfying. This was it! This is how he would win her over! He could think of a dozen places off the top of his head that would send her reeling. If she thought his snake form was awe-inspiring, how would she react to the sight of a kraken inciting violent whirlpools from the depths of the Ocean of Sorrow? Jamaica could wait. He had an eternity, after all, and this was the perfect opportunity to show off his latest conquest. He already knew the perfect place to take her; just fantastic enough to entertain without overwhelming. That, and he had a bet to settle with the bartender.

"Hell no, I just live in a bad neighborhood." Despite her current turmoil, Lydia couldn't help the ghost of a smile that twitched the corner of her lips from his joke. "Lyds, if ya wanted to see the Neitherworld, all ya had to do was say so."

"Neitherworld? 'Neither', not 'nether'? Really?" She almost seemed insulted by the revelation.

"I honestly don't know where the fuck breathers got that from. Guess they just wanted death to sound more palatable." Well, she hadn't said yes, but she hadn't said no either. "Look, babe. You've already been gone 'bout a day, what's a few more hours? Lemme take ya out on the town n' show ya a good time. After we've had a few laughs, then we go pay Mom, Dad, and Mister and Missus stick-up-their-ass a visit. Deal?"

Lydia eyed him suspiciously. She highly doubted his guarantee of a "good time", and the last deal she made with him didn't go down very smoothly. "Is it safe?" His earlier warnings and the impossible view from the windows had led her to believe that the world outside his home was dangerous.

"Course it is. I already told ya I wasn't 'bout to let anythin' happen to ya." It definitely was not safe, not for a living breathing human anyway. Safety precautions weren't exactly heeded in the land of the dead. Regardless, no harm would come to her with him around. He would just have to make sure to keep an extra careful eye on her.

That's right, Lydia thought. His freedom depended on her wellbeing. "And you promise you'll take me home after?"

"Cross my heart n' hope to die." His grin said that she shouldn't trust him, but his eyes said he wasn't lying.

"I guess it's okay..." she conceded hesitantly, gnawing at her bottom lip. "What do you want to do?"

That was a loaded question. There was a lot he wanted to do. The first thing that came to mind was ripping that flimsy white thing off of her and getting to know his new wife in the biblical sense. "Let's keep it simple; drinkin' n' dancin'."

Lydia raised a single eyebrow. "Sure, but you should know that I have no intention of doing any drinking," she enjoyed the occasional buzz, but she wasn't stupid enough to allow herself to get that uninhibited in her current situation, "or dancing," she threw a pointed glance at her bandaged foot.

Exactly the answer he expected out of her, for once. "Who said we'd be the ones dancin'?"

Her interest was piqued. "I can't wear this out." Really, she never would have picked something like this out for herself. It wasn't necessarily revealing, other than her arms and decolletage, but it clung to her torso before loosening at the hips and flowing about her legs. The barely-there quality of the fabric made her feel naked. "It's too cold."

Betelgeuse examined her head to toe in consideration, agreeing completely. She couldn't go out looking like that; all that creamy living flesh wrapped up in pristine silk. No, that was for his eyes only. With a gesture, the nightgown melted away. In its place, a loose black sweater paired with vivid purple leggings and plain black ankle boots materialized.

Lydia shrugged the blanket from her shoulders, no longer feeling the chill. He had thrown a little extra juice into the mix to make sure the clothing would keep her adequately warm. Lydia ran a finger along the silvery spiderweb print on her leggings, adoring them. The print was subtle and overlayed, so one would have to be up close to see it. From afar, it would just look like her leggings were made of a shimmery material. Again, she never would have picked them out for herself, but she loved them. The sweater hung from her thin frame, almost revealing one of her shoulders, but Lydia had the type of build that forced too-big clothing to accentuate her petiteness in a charming way.

"C'mon." Before Lydia could determine whether or not she should thank him for the- finally- appropriate clothing, he had her by the hand and was dragging her down the hallway- slowing his pace when he realized she was favoring her uninjured foot- through a door, down a short flight of stairs, and into a garage.

Her mouth dropped open when he flicked a light switch and she saw his car. She had never seen anything like it. The yellow dragster with crimson leather seats looked like it belonged in either a car show or an art gallery, not a garage. With six sharp wings flaring out from the tail like whips from a flame. A pair of headlights and bumper were positioned in such a way that the thing seemed to be grinning maniacally. It was an impressive piece of machinery.

"Hold on just a minute." He couldn't possibly mean to drive them to wherever they were going. What happened to all that talk about humans being fragile and not letting anything happen to her?! "We're not taking thisout there, are we? Can't you just, y'know, poof us there? The way we got here?"

"I ain't ever poofed anywhere." He began, scowling, "Call it whatever the fuck you want, but don't call it that." He traipsed over to where she stood next to the passenger side, smirking down at her before opening her door. Chivalry was new to him, but practice was key. "And I could, but this is more fun. C'mon, Lyds. You didn't strike me as a chicken." An eyebrow waggle accompanied the manipulative insult.

Her jaw dropped, the flare in her nostrils and lava in her molten eyes marking her fury. "I am NOT a-!" The last word never made it. Her mouth snapped shut, then her eyes, and a muffled scream of frustration tore from her throat. After taking a deep breath through her nostrils, she opened her eyes, fixed him with the meanest glare she could muster, and threw herself into the car; arms and legs crossed, face turned pointedly away from him.

"I'm not a chicken." She muttered, more to herself than him, once he was done snickering at her and was seated in front of the steering wheel. Of course, she regretted saying it immediately when the garage door flew open. The dragster sprang to life with an almost gleeful growl. There was a brief floating sensating before her internal organs shifted up- the seatbelt the only thing keeping her in place- as they plummetted down, down, down, into the abyss.

It was a moment before Lydia realized that the high-pitched ringing in her ear was her own scream.

Chapter Text

Lydia loved amusement parks. Who didn't? The junk food, the clowns, the multitude of opportunities to capture amazing photos, the fact that her father and Delia would always jump at the chance to drop her off with a wad of cash and leave her to her own devices for the day. Contrary to what after-school specials might have one believe, Lydia preferred it this way. She was never a fan of having to submit to unspoken arbitrary social cues. Like keeping up with mandatory small talk, asking each other about their days regardless of the fact that no one involved could give any less of a shit about the answers they received. Some of her favorite memories were formed strolling unattended through the New York State Fair with a tuft of cotton candy and her camera, taking photos and deciding which rides were worth waiting in line for.

The rides were the best. However, there was a special place in her heart for rollercoasters; the steep drop, the wind in her hair, the thrill of being that close to death without being in any danger of actually reaching it. This was better than that. There was no comparison, really. Rollercoasters only lasted so long, and this seemed to go on forever.

This was real. This was really, really happening. She was actually careening through limbo inside of an overgrown hotwheel with her deceased husband, on their way to what Lydia could only presume to call a date. Moments after the initial rollercoaster-drop from his driveway, she realized that her shrieks had evolved from fearful to joyful, the corners of her mouth upturned with elation. His vehicle lacked a speedometer, so there was no way of knowing how fast they were going, how much distance was being traversed. They looped and swerved, taking sharp turns and jumping over gaping chasms in their path. There was so much to see, but it was all a blur. Her fingers itched for her camera, though she knew they were moving too quickly for her to be able to capture anything. Just a swirling canvas of lights and color in constant motion.

Too soon, the ride was over, the car skidding to a stop in front of what looked like a lounge. It wasn't until he was already out of the car and opening the passenger door that Lydia realized she was just sitting there with a dumb grin on her face, staring at everything. There were dead people everywhere! They roamed in and out of establishments, some with shopping bags in their arms, still bearing the marks of their deaths. Their flesh was palid with the loss of blood, ranging in all shades of blue and violet. One woman, in particular, caught Lydia's attention. What appeared to be a cellphone was tucked between her ear and shoulder, and Lydia couldn't help but wonder how she managed to carry on a conversation without her jaw.

The buildings themselves were a marvel. The architecture varied wildly in style from building to building. Some were ancient and carved from clay, with no doors or windows. Just roughly hewn rectangular holes for patrons to exit and enter through. These were clearly the oldest businesses on the block. Others were towering monuments of chrome and magic, impossible spools of light and three-dimensional holograms sporting advertisements of what was sold inside. She was torn from a commercial for a perfume that claimed to smell like real, fresh blood! To attract that special vampire you've had your eyes on- when Betelgeuse, still holding her door open, grew impatient and tugged her up and out of the car.

He didn't even try to wipe the smug grin off of his face. This was working perfectly. There were stars in her eyes and a dazed sort of enthrallment about her- breathless and breathtaking all at once. Glad that he had hit the nail on the head, he slipped an arm around her waist and led them to their destination, Arachnophobia. Just as he thought it would be, the atmosphere in here was perfect. It was busy without being crowded, lively without being too loud. An attractive woman with a sultry voice was singing blues on the stage, a screwdriver embedded in her skull.

"Lou!" He called out cheerfully to the man behind the bar. The stocky man flinched, before turning around slowly to face the ghoul attached to the voice. One of his eyeballs rested against his cheek, having been knocked out of its socket.

"B-Betel!" The bartender sputtered out in surprise, nervously wringing the cleaning cloth tucked into his apron. "I didn't uh, think I'd see you in here again. After last time."

The poltergeist smirked at the memory. "Nonsense, Lou, I love it here! Ain't a better waterin' hole in town." Forget the fact that last time he was there he said he wouldn't drink there again if it was the last bar in the Neitherworld before smashing every last bottle of liquor from the wall in a fit of rage. "Just had to bring the wife around for a look."

"W-wife?" Lou gulped, his eyes growing to the size of dinner plates while Betelgeuse pulled an uncomfortable Lydia forward.

"Let me ask ya a question, Lou." Betelgeuse began, pulling out a bar stool and motioning for Lydia to sit. Unsure and with furrowed brows, she obeyed. "I seem to recall- and correct me if I'm wrong here- you once sayin' that a classy lady- y'know, a real woman- would never look twice at me and that if I ever brought in a broad that didn't charge by the hour, I'd never have ta pay for a drink again."

Lydia grimaced while Lou, if possible, paled even further. "I-I might have said somethin' like that, yeah."

"Lyds," her husband began again, clamping a hand down on her shoulder and leaning imposingly over the bar, "my wife- she don't look like a whore to you, does she?"

"N-No, of course not!"

He grinned, victorious, and took the spot next to her. "In that case, I'll have a glass o' the best whiskey you've got, neat, n' go ahead and mix up a fruity cocktail for the lady. Keep it virgin."

Lydia raised an eyebrow at Lou's back as he slunk away to make their drinks before turning the look on her husband. "Did you just use me to get free drinks?"

"I wouldn't call it usin' you so much as takin' advantage of the opportunity."

"Right," she responded without argument, spinning around in her stool to watch as the ghoul on stage finished up her set. "Just try not to get too drunk, please." The last thing she needed was to be stranded in the land of the dead with the only person who could help her inebriated beyond usefulness.

"You don't gotta worry about that, I can't get drunk."

He couldn't get drunk, and yet here they sat. In a bar. Waiting for a bartender to fix them drinks. "Nothing here makes any sense," she breathed out, shaking her head and resisting the urge to pinch herself for the hundredth time.

He snickered, lighting himself a cigarette and offering her one. She turned it down. "That's the problem with you breathers. Always tryin' to explain shit and find meanin' in things when life just ain't like that, sweetheart. It's a random shitshow circus and when ya die, the circus just goes on."

There was something strangely placating about his philosophy. How often had she sat up awake at night wondering where she belonged, what her place in the world was? Why she would be born into a family that so very clearly didn't want her, but was obligated to accept her anyway? What horrible thing she had done in a past life to deserve the empty existence she lead now? Maybe she didn't do anything. Maybe she didn't deserve it. Maybe it was just another accidental platter of unfair fuckery served up by the universe, and she was just unfortunate enough to be the recipient.

"Chin up, babe. You're gonna miss the show."

Lou had dropped their drinks off while she was contemplating. The antique bulbs surrounding the stage dimmed and the small band of skeletons gathered at the edge began playing. A bright pink spotlight appeared dead center. Then, a fuchsia spider the size of a large dog was dropping slowly from the ceiling, still attached to the line of silk she was producing. A microphone was curled up in one of her eight legs, each of which was adorned with tap shoes.

"As you listen to the band don't you get a bubble?

As you listen to them play don't you get a glow?"

Her voice was lovely, an old-fashioned quality to it. The sight of her alone was enough to astound Lydia, but it wasn't until her legs hit the floor and she started dancing that Lydia was really blown away.

"If you step out on the floor,

You'll forget your trouble,

If you go into your dance,

You'll forget your woe,"

Her steps were swift and calculated, each clack of her heel and shimmy of her thorax perfectly in time with the upbeat tune. She was on one side of the stage and then she was on the other, weaving in and out of each move with supernatural grace. Lydia found herself on the edge of her seat, tapping her foot along with the beat and sipping the drink that she could only describe as tasting like pineapple with a hint of menthol. It cooled her throat the way a menthol cigarette would, but without the burn of smoke. Strange, but not altogether unpleasant.

"Come,

Get together,

Let the dance floor feel your leather,

Step as lightly as a feather,

Let yourself go,"

Betelgeuse eyed her from the side, pleased by the smile curling her pink lips. It was a wonder that no one else seemed to notice that she still had blood flowing through her veins, but the lighting was pretty dim in here. Not to mention, Lydia was pale enough to pass as one of the dearly departed at first glance. So long as she wasn't embarrassed and all that blood didn't flow fetchingly to her cheeks. He wasn't concerned. Let them find out she was a breather. They couldn't stop him, not now.

"Hold tight, babe. I'm gonna go find Lou n' get the most out o' this little arrangement that I can." She gave a nod and hum of confirmation that she had heard him, honey eyes locked on the dancing spider.

The quasi-cyclops was taking care of a busty blonde in a mini-skirt at the other end of the bar. "Bumblebee!"

Betelgeuse cringed, recognizing her as soon as the horrid nickname spilled from her lips. Candy was his favorite whore for a while, until she got too clingy and he had to distance himself from their professional relationship. The stab-victim squealed before launching at him, wrapping her arms around his neck, and sloshing some of her beer onto his suit in the process. "Speak of the devil!" She cooed in his ear before pulling back a couple inches and pouting. "Lou here was just sayin' you got hitched. I told him he was full o' shit and that you'd kick his ass for spreadin' lies about you. Now say it ain't so, bumblebee!"

"Hate ta break it to ya, darlin', but I'm spoken for." He splayed his left hand, letting her see the brassy band of gold wrapped around his ring finger.

Candy stepped back, arms falling to her sides, shocked. "Bullshit. To who?" Betelgeuse tilted his head back. Lydia was the only other woman sitting at the bar currently. Candy laughed out, relieved, before pressing herself back up against him. "You had me worried for a second there, bumblebee. That skinny bitch can't be takin' very good care of you." One of her icy blue hands was playing with the lapels of his suit while she gnawed at her bottom lip in a poor attempt at playing coy. "C'mon, baby, why don't you come on back to the alley with me and let me take you around the world. I know what you want." Her tongue flicked against his neck. "I know just how you like it."

"Candy..." He hissed out, forcing her to raise her gaze from his adam's apple. He never called her just "Candy." Always candy cane or sugartits. The cold smile on his face made her freeze. His hand was around her throat and she was against the wall in an instant. Candy had never feared him before- he didn't have a reputation for harming women- but she knew what he was capable of. For the first time in a long time, dread curdled in her gut. "She is none of your concern. She is my wife. You? You're just a dumb slut that let me hit it for free sometimes. Got it?" His already gravelly voice had dropped to a threatening timbre. Candy whimpered, nodding as best as she could with his grip constricting the muscles. "Good. You're gonna find another bar to hook at. My wife likes the main attraction here and I don't want her to have to look at you. Now finish your drink n' leave. The back exit will do."

He released her and Candy fled, her beer shattering to the ground. Any other day and he would have Candy out back sucking his dick behind a dumpster, but things had changed. Monogamy was new to him. Fuck, relationships were new to him, but he had every intention of taking his marriage seriously. He wouldn't have done it if he didn't. The last thing he needed was a vengeful wife attached to his hip for the rest of his afterlife. Lou fixed up another glass of whiskey and a cocktail for Lydia quickly and silently, having witnessed the exchange.

However, Betelgeuse found he had no one to pass the fruity concoction to. Lydia was no longer in her seat. The stools they'd been sitting in were now preoccupied with a couple of skeletons from the band. Concern crept in, his eyes scanning the crowd desperately.

She was gone.

Chapter Text

He could sleep with whoever he wanted to. That's what Lydia told herself as she weaved through the crowd so that she might be closer to the stage and further away from the offending sight. She didn't own him, just like he didn't own her. Just because he wanted to sleep with her didn't mean he couldn't want to sleep with other people as well. She was new. She was his wife. He clearly had an overactive libido. Why wouldn't he try to sleep with her? All the touching and possessiveness didn't mean anything, nothing at all. It infuriated her that he was right. Here she was, trying to find meaning where there wasn't any, just like he said she did.

Why should she care if he wanted other women, anyway? She would just have to eventually find herself a boyfriend, to save face. Lydia would be damned if he was the only one in this sham of a marriage getting action on the side. The only problem with this idea is that no one other than him was interested in her, and she wasn't interested in anyone. That last thought caused one of the tears of humiliation she'd been furiously blinking back to slip from her bottom lashes. It was promptly wiped away before anyone could see it. Lydia wasn't sure why she was so upset. She wasn't angry or sad, those emotions didn't quite fit. It felt like Valentine's Day at school when no one else would make her a card, or when her father and Delia would go on month-long retreats and leave her behind with the nanny. It felt like rejection.

"You okay, honey?" It was the beautiful dancing spider that spoke. Lydia turned, blinking in surprise at the arachnid after she felt the tap of one of her spindly legs on her shoulder. "Why the long face? I saw you come in with that jerk, Betel. If he did anything to upset you, you just let me know and I'll go give him a piece of my mind right now. I told him I wouldn't have him coming in here and causing trouble no more!"

"What? No! He just-" Lydia turned to look for him, instantly turning away when she saw he was still cozied up to the curvaceous blonde.

"I get it." Ginger interrupted whatever explanation Lydia was about to pull out of her ass, her line of sight following the living girl's. "He's a loser, forget about him. Pretty lil thing like you could do much better, anyways. Why don't ya come with me to my dressing room while I change for the next set? I could use an extra set of hands getting into my costume."

"That sounds great!" Lydia responded enthusiastically, smiling at the idea that a spider might need an extra set of hands. "I wish I had my camera. You dance so beautifully. I bet you're incredibly photogenic."

"Oh, honey, that's very sweet of you," they were stepping through a door that read Ginger in bright pink glitter, "but I don't know where you would find something like that-!" The words died on her lips once she turned on the light and got a good look at her company. "You're- you're alive!"

Lydia's eyes widened at her surprise, before narrowing on the floor. "I'm not supposed to be here, am I?" Figures he would leave out an important detail like that.

"Did he take you here against your will? That rat!" Ginger's surprise quickly transformed into anger. "You just sit right there and I'll make some calls to the Department of Affairs. Somebody up there must know how to straighten this out and get you home."

"No, wait!" Ginger froze at the command, an old-fashioned wall-mounted phone in one of her arms. "It's not like that, I want to be here! He's my husband, we're just... hanging out I guess."

Ginger's grip slackened and the phone fell to the floor. "You are not. He did not."

"Oh, but we are, not that that's any of your business." Lydia and Ginger both started at the sudden appearance of the poltergeist, sitting on Ginger's vanity with both arms crossed, a scowl twisting up his features.

Ginger recovered quickly from her surprise, mustering up a scowl of her own to match his and resting four of her arms on her thorax in what Lydia supposed was meant to be an intimidating posture. "This one takes the cake, Betel! Just when I start to think that you couldn't possibly sink to a lower level of depravity, you surprise me."

"What the fuck did I do? You're the one who took off with my wife, Ging. She ain't been here before, I thought somethin' happened to her. You're lucky you're not guts on the bottom of my shoe right now."

"Oh yeah, I'm sure you were real worried with Candy to keep you company. I found this sweet little thing all by herself, near tears, while you were getting your rocks off! How could you cheat on your wife in front of her like that? Despicable."

Betelgeuse blanched, brows furrowing. "I- what- I did not!" Lydia had never seen him so tongue-tied before. He was usually a smooth talker. "I was tellin' her to fuck off!"

"Lying through your teeth; just like a man. We saw you. Tell him, honey."

Suddenly, they were both looking at her, waiting for her to speak. Lydia shrunk in on herself, fiddling with her hands and looking down at her lap. The situation had quickly gotten out of hand. "I mean, it's not a big deal or anything. I don't care." This was clearly not the answer either of them wanted to hear. They began to tear into each other; Betelgeuse telling Ginger to mind her own damn business and Ginger telling Betelgeuse in no uncertain terms what she thought of his perceived behavior.

"I want to go home." She did. Lydia wanted her camera and her books and her music and the perfect solitude of her bedroom. Too bad they were both yelling too loudly to hear her. "I want to go HOME!" She repeated, louder this time.

"No fuckin' problem!" Betelgeuse responded angrily, still sneering down at the equally furious spider, before storming over to the hot pink loveseat where Lydia sat and grabbing her wrist, tugging her up roughly. The change in environment was jarring and instantaneous. Lydia fell against him from the shock of it, losing her footing and grabbing onto his suit for purchase. As soon as she had her balance again, she pulled back, thoroughly embarrassed. She didn't think the beautiful spider was going to go off on a righteous tirade like that on her behalf.

They were on the Winter River bridge. Twilight had fallen over the small town and her house was just a short walk up the hill. He had taken her home just like he promised he would, but he still looked furious. "I'm sorry about that." Lydia began, nudging a pebble with her foot so that she wouldn't have to look him in the eye. "It happened really fast. I didn't have any time to explain. And then you showed up and you were both yelling and- and- like I said, it's- it's really not a big deal. You can fuck around with whoever you want-" she broke off to laugh somewhat bitterly and roll her eyes before training them back on her shoes, "Obviously. That's none of my business. She shouldn't have yelled at you for that. I should have stopped her. I should have said something. I-"

Both of his hands were wrapped firmly around her biceps and she was pushed into the wooden concave of the bridge. Then, he was kissing her. He couldn't bear to hear another word of her stupid apology. He had been so angry, so ready to tear into her for taking off. His thoughts had quickly descended into dark territory when he couldn't find her among his initial search of the crowd. Any number of things could have happened. Someone might've noticed that she was living and taken her for their own bride, ignorant to the fact that she was already spoken for. A member of the royal court might have noticed her and recognized her for who she was. Any one of his many, many enemies could have taken her for ransom and done god knows what to her fragile human body.

And what was she concerned about? Whether or not he was upset that somebody else yelled at him for cheating on her. It was ludicrous. He had to shut her up somehow and this seemed the most attractive option. She was so warm and soft. He could still taste the citrus from her cocktail, but there was something else there too. Something deeper and headier, like brown sugar or vanilla bean. Something uniquely her. He couldn't get enough of it, releasing his grip on her arms to tangle his fingers through her silky hair and angle her neck back, deepening his ease of access.

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At first, Lydia was frozen from the shock of his assault; eyes wide open and body tense. However, he was very good at what he was doing. It was too easy to relax into his ministrations, to let his teeth bite at her lips and his tongue invade her mouth. With finesse, he was able to effortlessly cajole hers into battle with his, seducing her into being an active participant. He'd had centuries of practice after all.

That last thought knocked Lydia out of it. Not ten minutes ago he was doing exactly this with some dead woman, wasn't he? Her eyes snapped open and she pushed him away, out of breath and still plastered to the wall of the bridge. She managed to separate his mouth from hers, but he still crowded her space. "Never," he slapped his hands on the wall on either side of her, making her flinch, "disappear down there without tellin' me where you're goin'. Ever. Again." His furious expression softened to an annoyed scowl. "N' I wasn't fuckin' around on ya, stupid."

Lydia rolled her eyes and slipped underneath his arm, freeing herself from his cage smoothly. She had seen men like him- okay, maybe not just like him- feed her mother similar lines for years. "You don't have to lie," she said over her shoulder, making her way toward her parents' house without him. "'Marriage of Inconvenience', remember? I honestly couldn't care any less. You do what you want and I'll do what I want."

He was in front of her in an instant, blocking her path. She had said the wrong thing, apparently. Fury poured off of him in waves, his aura crackling, his eyes burning into hers. "You're MINE!" He was kissing her again. It was quick and savage, him taking whatever it was he needed from her. She didn't even have enough time to worry about whether or not her parents could see them before it was over. "Don't you get that yet?!"

"Fuck you!" He was taken aback by the outburst. It seemed his meek little wife had found her backbone. "I'm not yours! I'm not anybody's! I'm going home so that I can pack my stuff and tell the only people in the world that kind of care about me that I'm leaving forever." She side-stepped his furious form, stomping up the hill with her nose in the air. "You can just fuck off until I'm done. Your presence is not requested."

"FINE!" She heard his growled shout behind her and nothing more. No footsteps followed hers up to the porch, and when she turned to look, she saw that he was gone. Good riddance as far as Lydia was concerned at the moment. Who did he think he was, kissing her like that and making bold claims of ownership? Her husband, a voice in the back of her mind answered back. She scowled before knocking. To Lydia's surprise, the Maitlands answered together, both of them sweeping her into the house and attacking her with hugs.

"We were so worried about you!"

"Are you okay?"

"Guys, it's okay! I'm fine!" She laughed, pushing them away with gentle hands.

"Did he touch you, Lydia?" Barbara was asking very seriously.

"Oh my god," Lydia muttered into her hands in mortification. "No. I told you, I'm fine. He wouldn't hurt me." As soon as the words came out of her mouth she realized they were true. As gruff as Betelgeuse was and as often as he liked to manhandle her, he had never given her any indication that he meant her harm. If he was going to hurt her in the way Barbara thought he would, wouldn't he have done it already? He definitely had ample opportunity.

"Where's... Where's my father? And Delia?" Why hadn't they answered the door? Why weren't they waiting for her? It had only been a day since everything happened. All of their things were still there. Her father's car was parked in the driveway, but Delia's was gone. Maybe they were grocery shopping.

The Maitlands shared an uncomfortable look and Lydia felt her heart sink. "Lydia, you have to understand. They love you very much but this is a lot for anyone to take in-"

"Where are they?" She repeated, in no mood for beating around the bush.

There was a tense silence. "Belize." Mr. Maitland answered, eyes downcast, before handing her a note with her father's pet name for her written at the top.

Pumpkin-

Weren't sure when you'd be back. Your mother and I needed to blow off some steam. Spending the week in Mexico, give us a ring when you come home.

-Dad

Adam was speaking again, but his words were just a dull buzz in her ear. She already knew the speech. She had heard it a dozen times over the course of her childhood from various nannies. They were already gone.

Chapter Text

That little brat had some pair of balls on her. It had been a long time since anyone other than Juno had gotten away unscathed with talking to him like that. Whatever happened to "honor and obey", Betelgeuse though to himself bitterly, glowering out over the coast. Jamaica was not living up to his expectations. It was hard to enjoy the sun on his back and the sand between his toes when he knew his little wife was out there laboring under the delusion that she didn't belong to him. The succubus hadn't even batted an eye at his rage before tearing into him and banishing him from the residence. How dare she not cower before him! Was he losing his touch? No, that couldn't be it. He had been playing the intimidation game far too long to start slipping up now.

But then again, wasn't this quality what attracted him to her in the first place? Her fortitude? Her ability to look into the abyss, smile, and say "Hello" when the abyss looked back? Maybe it was just the challenge that had excited him. In either case, it was not an attractive trait in her when she was using it against him.

Fuck. Who was he kidding?

He had never been more turned on in his afterlife.

It wasn't fair, damn it! He was FREE! He was loose on the world and there was nothing that old bitch Juno could do about it. This is what he had been working toward for centuries, and he couldn't even enjoy it! All because of that defiant temptress. He couldn't believe her gall. For her to even suggest that she would take lovers other than him sent him into a blinding rage. Setting a horde of anacondas loose on the unsuspecting residents of Ocho Rios had been amusing, but even their screams of terror weren't enough to ease his suffering.

If he was being honest with himself, he couldn't blame her for thinking the worst of him. The first time he ever allowed her to see him- the real him, not some illusion- he was tanning on the deck of a brothel. Granted, he was there to relieve tension that she had left him with, but Lydia had no way of knowing that. He would have to remember to thank Juno for financing his stag party. How was Lydia supposed to know that he had every intention of being faithful to her? He groaned, taking another long swig from his bottle of tequila before lying back on the gloriously empty beach. This was all his fault, wasn't it?

Of course it was.

Fuck.

He was going to have to apologize. Enough time had passed. She must have broken the news to her folks by now. It was dark in Winter River upon his return, the moon high in the sky.

"Lydia, please! Just listen!"

He turned toward the Deetz residence. Lydia was heading out into the yard on the side of the house, a rather large painting in her arms, while the Maitlands called after her, stuck on the bottom step of the porch. Were they to cross the threshold, they would be thrown into Saturn. She tossed the painting carelessly into an already existing pile of art, watching with sadistic pleasure as the frame cracked, before turning around and heading back inside. She didn't even spare a glance his way as he approached and he knew she must have seen him. The Maitlands, however, were quick to acknowledge his presence.

"You just go away!" Barbara Maitland began, crossing her arms. "She doesn't need any more problems right now!" Adam was following Lydia back into the house, trying and failing to get through to her.

"What the fuck is goin' on?" He growled, looking back at the pile of mediocre art before turning a dirty look on Mrs. Maitland. "What did you say to her!?" She had sacrificed herself for these two morons. They were supposed to make her happy, not so upset that she wasn't willing to speak with them. Even he hadn't made her that upset. Yet.

"Nothing! It's none of your business, just go away!"

Lydia was coming back, another painting in her arms... and a bottle of whiskey? Adam followed behind her, pleading for her not to do this and that it was a bad idea. "Follow me." She spoke calmly, never once breaking her stride. It was clear who the order was directed to. Betelgeuse didn't need to be told twice. He followed her out to the pile, noticing that it also appeared to include important looking files and paperwork, as well as a box of Cuban cigars. Her father's cigars. Then, he noticed for the first time, her parents were absent. She tore the wrapping off of the whiskey and twisted the cap away before drizzling about a third of the bottle over the pile.

It was handed to him once she was done. "You like nice whiskey, right?" He nodded dumbly, examining the label with disbelieving eyes. "That is a five-thousand dollar bottle of Johnnie Walker. My father was supposed to drink it at my wedding. Knock yourself out."

Then, she set the pile ablaze. The Maitlands gave up at this point, retreating back to the confines of the house while Lydia took a seat right on the grass in front of the bonfire. He followed suit, taking a deep swig from the bottle. "You gonna tell me what you're doin'?"

"Committing arson." She answered, taking a snapshot of the flames. She felt complete again, her camera around her neck. "Duh." She examined the polaroid briefly before deciding it was second-rate and feeding it to the flames as well.

It was pretty obvious to him at this point that her parents were the cause of the distress. She must have wanted to talk to him about it, or she wouldn't have invited him and just him to her destructive party. "Well, babe, yours truly is a fan of arson any day of the week. What's the occasion?"

"I wanted to burn stuff." Maybe she didn't want to talk about it after all. They sat in silence for a little while longer, until Lydia nudged him, signaling for him to pass her the bottle. The liquid gold burned on its way down and she savored the sensation. "You could've been doing really horrible things to me, you know?"

"I know. I didn't." This was a fact that he was painfully aware of. He sideglanced her, eating up the sight of the exposed flesh on her shoulder where her sweater had slipped all the way down. She hadn't gotten around to changing yet.

"Besides the point. What matters is that you could have. You could have been torturing me, or raping me, or- or- I could have been dead. You could have. It was within the realm of possibility." There was another lengthy pause. She spoke again before Betelgeuse could determine how he should respond to her hypotheticals. "They didn't know. They didn't know where I was or what was happening to me or if they would ever see me again." There was an almost imperceptible crack in her stony countenance, pain seeping in. She took another swig. "What would you do if it was your kid?"

The bottle was passed back his way. "If it was my kid, the 'me' in this situation would be one dead motherfucker. So to speak."

The answer, which was meant to amuse her, made her crumble. Her stubbornly detached demeanor fractured away into tears. She curled into a ball, burying her face in her knees and wrapping her arms around her legs. "Then you're a better man than my father." The words were muffled into her leggings. "He packed up and went on a vacation to Mexico."

If the sight of her didn't have his undead heart breaking, he would have been enraged. He knew taking her was going to be easy. He knew that her mother and father were irresponsible and barely showed her a lick of attention, that they were not likely to put up much of a fight. But to give up? To just hand her over to him? It was inconceivable, damn near abusive in his mind.

"Oh, baby..." He wrapped an arm around her shoulders, drawing her in close to his side. She stayed huddled up but allowed her slight weight to lean against him while she cried into her knees.

Betelgeuse found himself in the rare position of not knowing what to do. There was no easy fix to this. He couldn't just hunt down and kill whoever was hurting her. They were her own parents, and he doubted she would want that. He was used to forcing his way through obstacles, destroying whatever it was that was in his way. This was more complicated than that. "We can burn the whole house down if ya want."

She smiled a bit through her tears, though he couldn't see it. "That's probably a bad idea. Then Mr. and Mrs. Maitland will have to haunt an empty plot for the next hundred and twenty-five years."

"Damn, you really did read the fuck out o' that handbook, didn't ya? You know the rules better than most stiffs." He knew ghouls that went through their entire sentence on the living plane without ever putting a dent in the first chapter, much less making it all the way to the section on haunting perimeters.

She sat up a bit, wiping away some of her tears on her shoulder. "How do you know that I read the handbook?" She did a hell of a lot more than "read" it. She studied it, taking notes and looking up the definition of words she didn't understand so that she could better translate the thing. The tome was the most fascinating work of fiction she'd ever read- or so she thought.

"Same way I know that you have an intense love-hate relationship with Stephen King." He could clearly remember the night he watched her stay up till dawn reading Pet Semetary, only to throw the paperback to the ground and curse the author to hell. She was back the very next night with a worn copy of The Shining in her hands, he assumed to cleanse the memory of the bad read.

"The model..." she breathed out in realization, staring into the flames. "You were there the whole time, huh?" A teasing half-smirk was thrown his way. "Have fun stalking me?" At least she wasn't angry.

"You're more interestin' to watch than most people." It was hard to tell with the glow of the flame, but he thought he saw a blush come to her cheeks. "The attic was the only room I could reach without bein' summoned. I woulda tried to communicate with you if I could, but it doesn't work that way."

She flopped back on the grass to stare up at the stars. The whiskey was beginning to settle in, making her head swim. "So why me? Was I just the first one stupid enough to say yes?" Her tears were gone now, but a deep sense of hurt still radiated from her.

"Fuck no. You're the only girl I've ever made that deal to. I wasn't desperate enough to get out to just go n' get hitched to any broad."

"So? Why me? I'm a pretty shitty choice."

"Careful. That's my wife you're talkin' about." This earned him another brief half-hearted smile. Encouraged, he joined her in laying out on the grass, head propped up in one hand, turned to his side so that he could look down on her.

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"What can I say, babe?" He picked a stray blade of grass from her sweater before flicking it away. "When ya know, ya know. Cupid shot some arrows, I heard some bells, and a tiny little voice in the back o' my head told me you were the one."

"That's insane." She didn't even blink at his subpar, anticlimactic confession of love. "You're crazy, you know that?" He just grinned manically at her amusing indifference and twirled a strand of silky black hair between his fingers.

"Abso-fuckin-lutely."

Chapter Text

"She's drunk." Barbara Maitland watched the two from the window, feeling utterly useless. Lydia refused to acknowledge anything they said after reading the note. She just stood there impassively for a moment before settling her gaze on a particularly horrendous work of Delia's that sat above the fireplace. "I've always hated that painting." She muttered, before proceeding to calmly and methodically remove every last one from the house. Barbara was counting her blessings that Lydia decided to leave the sculptures untouched.

The Maitlands could hardly believe the sight that met them upon their return from Juno's office. Delia was packing suitcases while Charles sat comatose at the desk in his study, staring unblinkingly at a photo of a garden spider on his office wall. Anyone who attempted conversation with him was given the silent treatment. It was no big mystery who Lydia inherited that infuriating trait from.

"And just where do you think you're going?" Barbara had interrogated, hoping her eyes were playing tricks.

"Away." Delia answered hurriedly, slamming one suitcase shut. "Only for a week. Charles can't handle any more stress. He has a bad heart."

"I'll say." Adam returned with disgust, judgment shining clear through his glasses.

"Oh, what do you know?!" Delia's emotions reached a fever pitch and she turned on them defensively. "You don't have any kids! You don't know what it means to be a parent!"

There was no way the woman could know how deeply her words stung. "Apparently, neither do you," Adam responded with disbelief, holding his shaken wife.

"Oh, fuck yourself." The irate redhead was finished with the conversation. "The second my husband and I return from Belize, this house is going back on the market and then you two and all your dead friends will be somebody else's problem."

"What are we supposed to tell her?" Barbara called to Delia's retreating back, voice quivering. "When she comes back and finds her parents gone?"

Delia paused midstride. If either of the Maitlands could see her face, they would have noticed the shroud of pain clouding her features.

"Don't you mean 'if'?"

The two couples made a point of avoiding each other the rest of the day, only facing one another long enough for Adam to accept the poorly written note that Charles put together in the unlikely case that Lydia returned.

"Oh, Adam..." Barbara couldn't manage to tear herself away from the window, no matter how much she hated the sight of that poor little girl breaking down. To add insult to injury, Lydia only seemed interested in confiding in the monster who was the root of all her trouble. "What do we do?"

"What can we do?" Adam returned from his spot on the couch. He couldn't stomach the sight on the lawn the same way that Barbara could. "Either she lives forever with that... thing... or she dies and takes her birthright." This is a conversation the couple had gone through a hundred times over since returning from the Neitherworld. Charles' and Delia's departure had been too swift for the ghosts to even begin to explain the complexity of Lydia's situation to them. "No matter what, it's her choice and no one else's."

"They're coming back inside." Barbara moved to open the door while Adam stood from the couch, bracing himself for whatever tricks the poltergeist might have up his sleeve. Lydia was stumbling over her own feet, leaning heavily against him while he held her up.

"Fuck off," Betelgeuse growled when the younger ghosts crowded them in the entryway.

"Tha's not nice." Lydia slurred, attempting to wag a finger his way in disapproval, but only succeeding in flopping a discoordinated hand against his chest.

"How could you let her get this drunk?!" Barbara scolded, attempting to coax the inebriated teenager away from him. "Alcohol is the last thing she needs right now!"

"If the girl wants to drink, I ain't about to stop her, Babs."

"Yeah, Babs." Lydia parroted, exaggerating the B's, before breaking into giggles, having found something hilarious in the nickname. "What're you gonna do? Ground me?" The giggles intensified.

Barbara just sighed, tilting her head sympathetically. "Come on, come here. Let's get you to bed." Betelgeuse reluctantly transferred Lydia's wobbly form over to Mrs. Maitland. He would have preferred to just cart Lydia upstairs and put her to bed himself, but he didn't know which room was hers. That, and he was in no particular mood to dog it out with the Maitlands over something so petty. They had bigger fish to fry.

"But... m'not tired..."

Contrarily, Lydia sagged heavily against Barbara as she was guided up the stairs."You are going to regret this in the morning, young lady."

With that, the dead men were left alone. "Have you told her?"

Betelgeuse feigned ignorance. "What, that she's got a nice ass? Between you n' me, I'm pretty sure she is well aware. You oughta see her, prancin' around-"

"You know what I'm talking about." He chose to ignore Adam and light a cigarette, turning away dismissively. Mr. Maitland was incensed by this, moving around so that the two men were face to face again. "The fact that she's a Queen!" He whisper yelled, pointing up the stairs to where Lydia was being put to bed. "Your Queen! My Queen!"

The poltergeist fixed Adam with a chilling glare. "No. She's not. N' she ain't ever gonna be."

"That's not your decision to make."

Calculated fury filled the jade eyes and Adam found himself pinned to the wall, Betelgeuse holding him up by his shirt. "Do you know what they'd do to her, you stupid fuck?" Adam flinched at the intensity of his growl. "They'd kill her. Whether she wants the position or not. Then they'd lock her soul up in a shiny, glorified prison for the rest o' fuckin' eternity, only lettin' her out if a ribbon somewhere needed cuttin'. Yeah, she'd have pretty dresses and jewels and a fancy title, but it's all a lie. She'd be a slave in her own home." He dropped Adam from his death grip and returned to puffing the cigarette. "Besides, ain't no such thing as divorce down there. The only way for her to be Queen at this point would be to make me King, and I can tell ya right now, four-eyes; that is somethin' that ain't ever gonna happen."

"You're lying." Barbara Maitland spoke from the top of the stairs, having caught the end of his rant. A hand covered her mouth in horror.

"Pft. I don't have to prove shit to you. Ask Junebug if ya don't believe me." Betelgeuse was at the end of his patience with the Maitlands and their incessant yapping. "I'm outta here."

He wasn't though, not really. He just became noncorporeal so that he could float about the house undetected and locate his wife's room. It was a brief search. The girl had already managed to undo all of Barbara's hard work tucking her in. Pale, shapely legs lay splayed in the moonlight seeping through her bedroom window, her blanket kicked off and forgotten to the side. It looked like Barbara had managed to get her changed into an oversized t-shirt before laying her down.

He already knew his wife had nice legs after watching her trot around all day in the leggings he conjured for her, but it was another thing entirely to see all that white, smooth flesh on display for his greedy eyes. He couldn't help but drift closer to the bed, etching out the careful lines of her exposed limbs. It amazed him that she was so fucking short- not even meeting his shoulders in height- and yet her legs seemed to go on forever. The skin on her thighs especially seemed so delicate, so breakable- as though if he were to brush the rough pads of his fingertips there it would just tear away like tissue.

It was time to look away. She was sleeping. She was drunk. There was nothing to be done about his overwhelming desire to slip that shirt up a few more inches and bury his face in her most sensitive place.

With practiced discipline, he tore his eyes away. Her room was sparsely decorated. For reasons beyond his comprehension, there was a stylized map of Georgia on one of her walls. Thick red and blue lines lead a path to the center of the state, where the word TERMINUS was emblazoned in thick black letters next to a star, as though it had been drawn on with a marker. Upon closer inspection, he realized that the map was a poster. He would have to remember to ask her about the significance of this later. It was too weird.

The collection of horror movies and novels that sat on her bookshelf was extensive and impressive, as he knew it would be. She had all of the classics and then some; FrankensteinDraculaThe Phantom of the OperaThe Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, etc. He had to stifle laughter for fear of rousing her, however, when he spotted a DVD among the compilation that didn't quite fit in with the others. Disney's Beauty & the Beast was tucked away on the bottom shelf; all the way to the right, where you would have to be looking for it to find it. Luckily, Betelgeuse was very observant. How fucking adorable. Of course, as charmed as he was by the revelation that deep down inside Lydia was subject to the same fascination with Disney princesses that every other girl in the universe seemed to be, this wasn't going to save her from his torment.

While Betelgeuse would have preferred to be done with the Deetz residence and everyone who lived there- with one obvious exception- by now, they clearly still had unfinished business. She probably wouldn't remember it, but his drunk wife had told him of her intentions to go pick up her missed schoolwork the next day. When he reminded her that there was no point, she replied with "Is so. I have to keep learning, I'm not done yet" before proceeding to snap yet another photo of him. She must have taken at least a dozen. He appeared as a shapeless black mass in each one. Why she thought this made for good photography, he would never know.

Betelgeuse doubted that Lydia would be very happy if she woke up and found herself in a different country than the one she went to sleep in. So, it appeared they would be here for at least one more night, plus as long as it took for her to do whatever it was she thought she needed to do.

With a nod, her door was locked from the inside. The last thing he needed was Barbara Maitland sticking her nosy face in and making a ruckus about him sharing a room with his own damn wife. It wasn't like he was going to slip into bed with her. Besides the fact that he was pretty sure Lydia had never been truly drunk before, he had no desire to subject himself to that kind of torture. He was already cursed with the knowledge of how warm and soft she felt pressed up against him. He knew his own limits. There was no way he would last the night.

No, the armchair tucked away in the corner next to her bookshelf would have to do. He gave the shelf a once over, trying to decide which medium of entertainment would suffice until she awoke. There was a horizontal stack of photo albums that caught his attention. He withdrew the thickest one and flipped to a random page.

This was all Lydia's work. Satisfied with his choice, he got comfortable, all too ready to delve into the twisted mind of his little bride.

Chapter Text

Betelgeuse always prided himself on being two steps ahead at all times. His schemes were always carefully crafted and executed, each one landing without fail. He attributed this to his exceptionally good people-reading skills. It usually didn't take him more than a couple minutes with a person before he knew what made them tick; their deepest darkest fears, their greatest desires. Lydia was a maddening exception to this rule.

The cause of his most recent Lydia-related turmoil was hidden in the very back of her thinnest photo album. The central theme of this particular collection was death. The work here ranged from ethereal to grotesque; wilted plants that were on their last cusp of life, images of decaying animal carcasses- roadkill- that simultaneously revolted and seduced the eye with their vulgarity. The inspiration for the macabre display could be found at the end behind some pressed flowers; a photo of a stunning raven-haired beauty, a dead-ringer for his wife.

This photo was not taken by Lydia. It was old, frayed and creased. Shit, it was probably from before she was even born. The woman sat on a bench in some nameless park, smiling brilliantly at the photographer; full of warmth and love, but there was something haunted in her hazel gaze. That same look lived in Lydia's spiced honey orbs. Betelgeuse must have stared at the image in abject shock for at least an hour before setting the entire album aside to think, gather himself.

It shook him to his core that he could have been so wrong about something so obvious. How could he have missed it? Did she truly have him that distracted? Of course the redheaded cunt wasn't Lydia's mother.

He really didn't know his wife at all, did he? That would have to change.


Pain was all she was aware of upon waking. The girl moaned low, turning her face into the pillow to escape the harsh, stabbing sunlight. "There's some aspirin on your nightstand that'll help with that." A gravelly voice answered. Then, the evil sunlight was gone.

With great effort, Lydia pried her heavy eyes open. "Oh God..."

"Close, but not quite." He was laid back in her reading chair, arms behind his head and eyes closed. She hadn't seen him so relaxed since the first time she saw him in the miniature bordello. As promised, two little white pills sat next to a glass of water on the stand beside her bed. Before she could collect herself enough to take the offered aspirin, nausea began to swirl heavily in her gut. She was flying past him in an instant, fumbling clumsily with the lock on her bedroom door. Then, she stumbled to the bathroom next door and spilled her guts up into the toilet. He still hadn't moved from his spot when she returned.

The water was chilled but lacked ice. It felt glorious running down her parched throat. "I don't remember anything after starting the fire." Her blankets welcomed her back like an old friend.

"Not a lot to remember, babe. It was a pretty uneventful evenin'." He had no intention of embarrassing her; telling her of how she curled up against him and wept, spilled her heart out. There was nothing to be gained from it but to remind her of why she was drinking in the first place. Of course, this also meant she would forget his confession of love, but some things just couldn't be helped. "We talked Stephen King, you took a bunch o' pictures o' me, and when ya started fallin' asleep on the grass I took ya back inside."

"Oh..." That wasn't nearly as bad as anything her imagination conjured up. "Do you have them..? The pictures?" A flurry of polaroids rained down from the ceiling to her bed. "Deadly-vu..." He was nothing more than smoke and shadow through her camera's lens. Were it not for her splitting headache, she would have spent a lot more time shuffling through them. They were assembled into a neat pile and placed on her nightstand before Lydia burrowed back into the blankets, pillow over her head. "Do you know what time it is?"

"Almost six in the mornin'."

"I'm going back to sleep." If it wasn't for his unusually calm demeanor and the fact that he closed her curtains and gave her medicine, she might have requested he remain quiet while occupying the space. There was no need. He was being strangely docile, helpful. Sleep came back to her easily. Ironically enough, it was Barbara Maitland who tore her from her slumber with gentle tapping at the door. Betelgeuse wasn't reclined in her chair anymore when she turned to look. It was empty and he was gone.

"Come in."

"The door's locked." Barbara's muffled voice replied.

Sluggishly, Lydia tore herself from the covers and opened the door. The ghost carried a tray with her; chicken noodle soup, some toast, a glass of orange juice, and aspirin. Lydia didn't have the heart to tell her that the thought of food alone made her want to vomit. Again. Also, that Betelgeuse had already provided her with aspirin, which had done a fair job in dulling the harsh edges of her headache. Instead, she thanked her quietly and took the tray off her hands, setting it down on the vanity.

"Make sure and drink all that up. You need to replenish your Vitamin C."

Sure thing, Mom. Lydia almost replied with sarcasm but caught herself. There was no reason to be bitter with Barbara. The woman had done nothing but be kind to her. "I will." She said in lieu of the hurtful barb, taking a big gulp right in front of her to satisfy the woman.

"I'm not your mother, Lydia. I know that. I'm not going to lecture you or try to tell you how to live your life. It's not my place." She took a seat on the bed while Lydia sat at her vanity and took a tentative sip of the broth from her soup. "Adam and I... we just want what's best for you." Which was why the woman had no intention of telling Lydia the truth about her heritage. All it would bring her was pain. Mr. and Mrs. Maitland agonized all night over the matter before ultimately deciding that as loathe as they were to admit it, the girl they had grown to care for would be safer with the poltergeist than on a throne. She was too young for death and politics. At least with him, she would still have a semblance of freedom. Not to mention her precious, precious life.

Lydia didn't know what to say. She had never been faced with genuine maternal care before. "You don't have to worry about me. I'm okay." The words felt dry and untrue.

There was a deep well of sadness, as well as a sense of respect in Barbara's chestnut eyes. "I know you probably don't think you handled that situation very well, but I honestly don't think anyone else would have reacted any better if they were in your shoes."

"I'm sorry if I said or did anything... you know." Lydia raised guilty eyes to meet Barbara's. "I don't really remember much."

A stern thin eyebrow rose, clearly saying I told you so. "That's what happens when you chug hard liquor under emotional duress." There was a lot more that Barbara wanted to say, but she could sense that Lydia was overwhelmed. The girl hadn't had a chance to be by herself, alone with her thoughts, in days. "I'm going to let you be, okay?" Lydia nodded, grateful. "You just get as much as sleep as you need, sweetie. Don't forget to drink all your orange juice." With a kiss on the forehead, Barbara was gone and Lydia was alone.


 It felt like it had been years since her last shower. The steaming hot water beating down on her back, the cloying scent of her favorite brand of African black soap, the way she was able to forget about the world outside of that thin plastic curtain; it was bliss. No one had bothered her for hours. The Maitlands could be heard talking amongst themselves in the attic and Betelgeuse appeared to be gone from the house. The girl knew better than to accept his apparent absence at face value. After sleeping undisturbed until she woke up naturally- hangover gone- Lydia reheated up the soup Barbara left for her, brushed her teeth thoroughly once she was finished, tore her clothes off, and hopped in the shower.

"I started a joke,

Which started the whole world crying.

But I didn't see,

That the joke was on me,"

Lydia always liked her voice, but she was never one for singing in front of people. This was something that was uniquely hers, like her photographs. No one could speak her words, just like no one could see what she saw. Her vocal chords were loving the humidity and delivered every note without a catch or stutter.

"I started to cry,

Which started the whole world laughing.

Oh, if I'd only seen,

That the joke was on me,"

Betelgeuse and the Maitlands had left her to her own devices for the better part of the day. School would be letting out soon, making it a perfect time to go visit Miss Shannon- when the instructor wouldn't be distracted by other students. It would probably be a good idea for her to start putting together a bullshit story now to explain her absences. She still wasn't sure if it mattered or not, but she wasn't about to let her grades start slipping just because she could see dead people and travel to the underworld. Too much hard work had been put into her GPA.

"Get out." Lydia didn't even blink at the sight of her husband lying in her bed as she returned from the bathroom clad only in a towel. Without sparing him a second glance, she made her way to the closet to pick her outfit for the day.

"Your voice is beautiful."

Her hand froze mid-search, then she turned fully to examine him. A cigarette was between his lips, his eyes as intense as ever as they remained locked on her. But, there was something... different about him. He was calm, stationary instead of animated. If she didn't know any better she would say he was restraining himself. "Are you sure nothing happened last night?"

A lazy hand drifted to cover his heart while the one holding a cigarette stood erect, bent at the elbow. "Scout's honor." A cocky smirk twisted his lips and jade eyes burned a bit darker. "Why? You want somethin' to happen?" It was becoming a game, seeing how far he could push that blush down her chest. It was almost bordering on the edge of her towel now.

"Shut up." She muttered, turning her back to him to continue her perusal of the closet. It was not lost on him that she didn't say "no." With a tug, the towel that held her wet hair up was discarded on the ground, freeing the damp tresses to fall to the middle of her back.

"Can't a man compliment his wife without the FBI conductin' a full-blown investigation?" His tone was casual, lingering.

She settled on a simple long-sleeved black dress that would flow about her legs pleasantly with the Spring breeze. "You're just acting... I don't know. Nevermind. Forget about it." Lydia wasn't one to look a gift horse in the mouth. "May I please have some privacy? I have to get ready, I'm going into town for a little bit."

"Whatever you need, gorgeous." His actions didn't match his words. He took his sweet time, taking one last unhurried drag from his cigarette and looking her up and down slowly; ripping the towel from her body with his eyes. Then, he winked. It was deliberate and full of dark promises. Lydia's mouth dropped open with realization and she stared in disbelief at the spot on her bed where he faded from existence.

He was hitting on her.

Properly.

All of his previous advances had been tinged with trickery or intimidation. He never outright told her that he thought she was pretty, or smart, or even really praised her in any form or fashion. He married her because she was convenient. He promised to protect her because it was in his best interests. He kissed her... well, he kissed her because he could. Up until now, Lydia had known these statements to be irrefutable fact. Betelgeuse swept in and took what he wanted from her, leaving her to assume what she would from his actions in the aftermath. This was different. It was more direct, more forward than any of his dominant, possessive kisses could hope to be. This was a message that he wanted her. Bad. Badly enough for the usually stubborn, unyielding poltergeist to modify his behavior.

It wasn't until Lydia finished readying for her outing and pressed a cool hand against one of her still hot cheeks that she realized she was in deep, deep trouble.

Chapter Text

"Why do you have a map o' Georgia on your wall?"

He popped into existence as soon as she left the house, walking alongside her casually with hands in his pockets. "It's a Walking Dead thing. You know you can't follow me to school, right?"

No further explanation was needed. Seven DVD box sets for the television series headed the collection of horror media that lived on her bookshelf. Betelgeuse's interest was piqued. It had to be good if she liked it enough to decorate her bedroom with such vague, referential material. "Never heard of it. Came out in the last ten or so years, right?" She nodded. "Yeah, it can take awhile for new shit to reach the Neitherworld."

That actually made sense, Lydia considered. A first for the strange realm. Older souls would have more control over the media denizens were exposed to than the younger ones. "It's really good. It's about a cop who wakes up from his coma in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. I don't know if you would like it, though. It's not very fast paced. They really take their time with building character arcs, telling the story." He seemed so impatient most of the time. She wasn't sure if he would be able to appreciate some of the more seemingly unimportant- yet crucial- scenes. "That reminds me," she fixed him with a cold sideways glare, "I missed the mid-season finale and it's your fault."

"My fault?!" His reply was incredulous, disbelieving. Of all the things she could potentially be pissed at him about, this is what got her going?

"Yes, your fault. You could have just been nice and saved Mr. and Mrs. Maitland without any ridiculous conditions. Then, I wouldn't have missed an hour-long special of my favorite show. But you didn't and I did. I hold you personally responsible."

He almost reminded her that if her dad wasn't such a greedy bastard, he wouldn't have needed to rescue the Maitlands from eternal damnation in the first place, but thought better of it. His instincts told him to defend himself from her absurd accusation, but his brain told him to pick his battles. Betelgeuse realized he was by himself, his puzzled expression trained on the back of her head as she walked on without him. Then, an idea came to him. He caught up quickly, dropping to his knees and grabbing her hands. "Lemme make it up to ya! Let's go on a date! Later, after you're done with your stupid school stuff."

To his dismay, Lydia scoffed, pulling her hands away and stepping around him. "Absolutely not."

He would not be deterred. "Why not? It'll be fun, I promise."

"Several reasons." She stopped walking now, turning to face him with arms crossed. They were dangerously close to civilization. "I'm serious, you can't follow me to school."

That sounded like a challenge if he ever heard one. "You gonna stop me, pipsqueak?"

The stern expression on her face broke, something akin to exhaustion creeping in, and her arms fell to her side. "Fine." With that, she began back toward her parents' house, giving up on her plans for the day. "You win."

Damn. Things were going south quickly. "Babe, stop," he caught her by her shoulder, stopping her. "So what gives? If I go you can't go? That's stupid."

"People already think I'm enough of a freak." She looked so tired, so done with life. It made him feel like the worst kind of shit for pushing the matter at all.

"Fuck them!" Her eyes widened a bit at the intensity of his condemnation of the populace of Winter River. "They're just jealous 'cause you're special and they're ordinary," he said the word like it was particularly filthy. "'Nobody can see me but you, anyway."

She was shaking her head and he already knew what she had to say before she started speaking. "I'm not-" One of his hands slapped over her mouth, cutting the no doubt self-depreciating comment short.

"You are." It killed him that he couldn't tell her in excruciating detail exactly how fucking special she was. "I've been around for 'bout six-hundred years, give or take a couple decades. Ya know how many seers I've met?" The hand on her mouth fell away, joining its twin on her other shoulder. "One."

"Seer?" Lydia was familiar with the term, but not in the context he was speaking. "Is that what I am? What does that even mean?"

No, his mind answered, You're a necromancer. If you knew what you were doin' you could probably stand half a chance against me. His pride kept him from telling the truth, among other things. "It means exactly what it sounds like. You see things normal people don't."

"Is that why you picked me? Because I can see you?"

"Fuck no." It boosted his ego to see the visible relief his answer gave her. "Ghost with the most, babe. I can choose who sees me."

"In that case, I guess it's not that big of a deal if you come... Promise you won't do anything... bad?"

She really shouldn't bite her lip and look at him like that while asking such dangerous questions. It was awfully tempting to drag her off to the nearby woods and show her just how bad he could be. A stealthy, strong arm slipped around her waist and pulled her flush against him, forcing a surprised squeak out of her in the process. "Can't make promises like that, baby."

It took her a fraction longer than usual to squirm away, but Betelgeuse was acutely aware of the minute change. "Stop that! You know what I mean!"

It was time to play dirty, a tactic he was very familiar with. "Tell ya what," he began, "lemme take ya out tonight n' I'll be on my best behavior. Ya won't even know I'm there."

Lydia very highly doubted that. "I don't know... I still have a lot left to do. I need to pack my stuff, and do the classwork I missed so the incomplete grades don't transfer over to the new school- which is a whole other mess I haven't even begun to sort out." A stressed hand ran through her wavy, air-dried hair. "I should probably leave a letter for my Dad. Didn't you say something about getting a house for us in Jamaica?" It was so weird, talking about their future as a married couple this casually.

Betelgeuse ran a hand over his face in exasperation. His little wife's anxiety was contagious. "You literally don't have to do any of those things. I can move your stuff, school is pointless, your father is a worthless piece o' shit that doesn't deserve another second of your consideration, and Jamaica is overrated. Now I'm thinkin' Peru. Or maybe India."

Lydia hated how much much she agreed with him. "I can't just stop going to school. I'll be truant. The cops will come looking for me and when they don't find me, they'll take my father and Delia instead."

"Still not seein' how that's your problem." The expression on her face told him that she clearly thought it was. "God damn stupid arbitrary human shit," he cursed angrily, thinking rapidly for a solution before one came to him. "What about home-schoolin'? You get to keep up with your education, the walkin' talkin' scum you call parents don't go to jail, and I don't have to deal with the fuckin' Board of Education. Everybody wins."

"That's..." To his surprise and delight, she actually smiled while looking him directly in the eyes, "actually a really good idea." It was like an enormous weight was off her shoulders. Why didn't she think of that? It was so obvious. The stupid ghost had her all turned around.

"Perfect." He drew her in close again, but instead of squirming away this time she only rested her hands against his chest to maintain some distance. "Then let's get the fuck out o' here. I wanna take my wife on a date."

Her ever-endearing blush was back. "I still have to pick up my missed assignments." This was dangerous. He was entirely too eager to get her alone. "And I need to- to-"

"Give me one legitimate reason why you shouldn't."

Her mind went blank. Lydia had never seen eyes so vibrant, so feral before. Why was this a bad idea again? The memory of a beautiful, bosomy blonde with arms wrapped around his neck, whispering in his ear shattered the illusion. She would not open herself up to that kind of pain. Eye contact was broken and she stepped back from his embrace. What was she thinking? The first time she met him he had just finished fucking his way through an entire whorehouse of thumbelinas.

"I just... Just give me one more night and I'll go wherever you want." One more night to pretend everything was normal, whatever that meant. It's not like she had much of a choice in the matter in the end, right?

Betelgeuse was at a loss. What changed? One moment she was putty in his arms and then she was gone, withdrawn inside herself again. She might as well have been encased in a slab of steel. "Fuck that. All my ideas are shit. Where do you wanna go?" There, maybe that would make her open back up.

It did something. Her limpid honey eyes dared to look into his again after a moment's consideration. "Anywhere?"

"Anywhere."

"I want to go to the Neitherworld."


Just his fucking luck. Half a dozen centuries gone down the drain. There were no Gods or Devils to construct elaborate plots that would inevitably end with some artistic form of poetic justice. Still, he just knew deep down in the slimy pit of his soul that someone out there was laughing at him. It was probably Juno. To spend the entirety of his afterlife trying to get out, out, OUT! Free from that putrid pisshole death trapped him in! Only to lose a heart he thought didn't exist to a little girl that just wanted in.

People said they wanted in all the time. The poltergeist knew better than to accept what she said at face value. She didn't want to die. She just didn't want to be so fucking lonely anymore. Who could blame her for wanting to off herself just to be closer to the only people that bothered to acknowledge her existence? In retrospect, he should have taken her desires more seriously.

The celebration drinks at Ginger's bar had been a mistake in so many ways. Lydia's love of her kingdom was discovered, nurtured. Seeds of doubt for his feelings for her were planted- all thanks to an incredibly foolish oversight. Betelgeuse saw where this was going. She would love it there, would never want to leave. And he would take her wherever she wanted to go.

He was her slave and she didn't even know it.

The parking lot was nearly empty upon their arrival at Miss Shannon's School for Girls. A handful of students meandered about while he waited outside, per Lydia's request, and chain-smoked. Because "he was distracting." That one made him grin. The uniform looked scrumptious on her and he was lamenting that she wasn't wearing it. Maybe then he would have been able to steal another lengthy kiss, some light petting if he was especially smooth. That would be one fantasy he could cross off his extensive list.

No matter. She also looked good the way she did now; walking toward him in the billowy black thing she was wearing, textbooks and papers in her arms. It was shorter than the uniform, flirting with skin above her knees. Still, it wasn't as appealing as the furious blush on her cheeks, pursed lips, and fire in her eyes. For a split-second, he actually feared that all this glorious rage was aimed at him. Luckily, that was not the case. "You were right. There was no point in doing this. I should have just taken the F's and moved on with my life."

His eyebrow twitched and he floated after her enraged form. "What happened?"

"I told Miss Shannon I was sick and that's why I missed yesterday and today, but that I was feeling better and wanted to finish my missed classwork. I'm a terrible liar and she saw right through me," Lydia's nose scrunched up, indignation pouting her lips against her will, "but that doesn't give her the right to be so- so rude!"

"C'mon babe, don't keep me hangin'," he drawled, cracking his knuckles. Betelgeuse was itching for some fun.

"She outright called me a," Lydia made exaggerated air quotations, "filthy liar before not so subtly insinuating that she thought the color and length of my dress and inappropriate placement of my jewelry," she waved her hand, her irremovable black diamond ring- the one he gave her, his favorite ring- glinting in the sun, "made me an attention-seeking slut."

He growled, gruesome acts of retribution filtering through his head. Before he could begin to work out how he would punish the instructor without his merciful little wife being none the wiser, a shrill voice called out. Lydia's furious flush paled to a ghostly white that rivaled his own.

"You shouldn't flatter yourself, Deetz." The voice belonged to a girl about his wife's age with platinum blonde hair, sun-bronzed skin, and two ice cold glaciers for eyes. She was sitting in the passenger seat of a car not too far from them, window rolled down. A boy at least three to four years older than her lazed with his hand on the wheel, a dopey amused smirk on his face. "The term slut would imply that there was someone out there who was, like, willing to sleep with you."

Full red lips split into a nasty grin. "I think a more accurate name would be freak."

Chapter Text

"People already think I'm enough of a  freak ."

It wasn't their fault. She was too much for them. He knew that.

"I think a more accurate name would be  freak ."

He didn't care.

How dare this spoiled rotten little skank degrade Lydia in such a way, make her believe she was so utterly other? Betelgeuse had the bottle-blonde bitch pegged the moment she opened her mouth and exposed that her insides weren't nearly as pretty as her outsides. She was the kind of girl that developed early and was therefore used to an abundance of attention, both positive and negative. This alone wasn't enough to spoil her. No, her divorced daddy's deep pockets, lack of attention to her, and over-attention to her equally developed friends finished that job. This girl craved to be in the spotlight at all times. Lydia's shadow was simply too great for her to survive under. It was only natural for her to feel threatened by his wife, to want to tear her down. Betelgeuse wouldn't have been surprised to learn that this person eventually would have played a hand in orchestrating the prank that pushed Lydia to slit her lily-white wrists open.

That singular revelation sealed the girl's fate. With a glare, the Porsche's windows snapped shut at speeds faster than the automated mechanism was able of producing without external motivation. The locks clicked and the girl and her beau screamed, pounding at the glass as the vehicle came to life and rocketed from its stationary position. It jumped over the concrete ledge that separated asphalt from grass and zoomed through a hedge of bushes.

With a jolt, Lydia realized she was just staring on in shock as Claire's car made its way toward the icy depths of the Winter River, doing nothing. "Stop!" She grasped the lapels of his suit and shook desperately. "Please stop! You can't do this!" The half dozen students that littered the parking lot were too busy staring after the cheerleader's car to be bothered with strange and unusual Lydia Deetz and the hysterical conversations she had with herself.

"She deserves it, Lyds." The ghost was rigid, manic eyes locked on the barrelling vehicle and its pleading inhabitants.

"Please!" She wasn't getting through to him. They were so close to the edge, the weight of the car forcing clumps of rock and dirt loose to careen into the shallow rapids. "I'll do anything!"

The car's decent halted abruptly, throwing the occupants against the dashboard. "Anything?"

Oh god. That was a very dangerous offer to make. The sight of the Porsche teetering alarmingly on the edge of the cliff settled the matter. "Anything!"

"Deal."

The vehicle rolled back a few feet before Claire and the boy stumbled out. They were too far away to see clearly, but it appeared as though she was simultaneously screeching and crying at him while he vomited on the grass. Lydia let out a deep sigh of relief, pressing a hand against her racing heart. With a start, she realized he was nudging her. The books and homework that she hadn't even realized were dropped in the heat of the moment were collected in his arms. Still in shock, she took them.

And then walked away.

He floated after her, she knew, when there weren't any footsteps echoing behind. "Where to next, babe?" A cold shoulder was his only answer. No pause in her step, no blink, no solemn quip, nothing. This is how she was when he returned from Jamaica and found her burning things. Toward the Maitlands, though. Not him. "C'mon, don't be pissed. You know she had it comin'."

Her gaze didn't break from the path when she answered. "Is that your one favor?" There was no emotion in her voice. "If so, then you've got it. I will act very happy for you."

"Nah." His cigarette stained scratch answered back casually as he floated in a reclined position alongside her, matching her pace. His expression was studious, examining; attempting to find the fault in her armor. "I'm savin' that for a more... opportune moment."

"I wouldn't expect anything less." A curt nod and nothing more accompanied her apathetic observation. They were on the main road, the one that led straight to her parents' house. Betelgeuse refused to see it as anything else. Her home was with him, whether she was ready to accept that or not.

"Wanna play a game?" No answer. "I ask you questions, you ask me questions. Tit for tat, we each get a pass. Whaddya say? Quid pro quo, Clarice?"

Even his best Hannibal Lecter impression wasn't enough to make her crack a smile. "You're a manipulative jerk and I'm not interested in asking you questions about anything."

That answer was a tad too defensive for it to be a complete truth. "I know you got things you wanna know. Things about death n' dead people n' all that jazz. Things that aren't in that stupid little handbook."

That gave her pause. Honey orbs flicked his way before they broke away from the road to a dirt path that was shaded by branches and foliage. "This is the way to the cemetery."

He took that as an affirmation of her acceptance to his terms of the game. "Tell me about your first kiss."

"Uh-uh," She shook her head, pausing her step to take a snapshot inside the hollow of an ivy encumbered oak. "Put that in question form, please."

Damn, she was quick. "Fine," he grumbled, "who was your first kiss?"

"A boy named Timmy in the sixth grade," she wasn't lying, but there was the barest shadow of deceit in her tone. It wasn't the complete truth. "To keep you from badgering me anymore about it, I'll just tell you what happened. It turned out to be a dare. His friends thought it would be funny to get him to kiss the witch-girl. When I found out, I got suspended for a week for breaking his nose." Pride swelled within him and he forgot all about her interesting lie. Good for her, showing that snot nosed little punk who's boss.

"My turn," she was hesitant, mustering up the courage to spit out whatever she had to say. "Why are we still here? I mean why..." there was a pause while she tried to restructure the question into one that made more sense. "Why are you putting up with my stupid arbitrary human shit, to put it in your words? Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the consideration; bringing me back to say goodbye to my- to the Maitlands, and get my school situation in order. But... you clearly have the means to take off and go wherever you want to go. With me. If that's what you want. I mean, that's obviously what you want or you wouldn't still be here. I think. I don't mean to assume, I just," he was visibly enjoying her discomfort. This time it was a coil of her own doing. She couldn't even blame him. "I'm rambling. Please interrupt me."

"Do ya wanna fuck the consequences n' go check out Thailand? 'Cause you're right, that's definitely an option, babe." The twitch of her upper lip said that no, she did not. "Whaddya want from me? Would I like to scoop your ass up n' give my juice a workout on some exotic island? Yes. Sweet merciful satan, yes. But kidnappin' is no way to start off a marriage." The bastard had the audacity to wag a finger her way, as though he was teaching her a valuable life lesson.

Her barely contained outrage was expressed in a single, effective sneer. "Yet, coercion and manipulation are perfectly acceptable. What exactly do you call that little trip to the Neitherworld if it wasn't kidnapping?"

"Borrowin'." His smirk was unfairly handsome when compared to the context of the conversation. "Never said I was a saint, sugar."

"Just trying to figure out where your line is." It was precarious, questioning him like this. If Lydia wasn't careful, he might just lose his patience and decide that it wasn't worth waiting for her to get her life in order after all. "It's your turn, by the way."

"When did your folks get divorced?"

She did a subtle double-take, clearly not expecting a question like that. "They were never married. I'm a bastard." The words were sharp, capable of slicing clean through solid rock. "Why do you want to play this game? And yes, that's my question."

"Had to get to know my wife somehow." If he thought he was making her angry, it definitely wasn't showing in his nonchalant gait; hands in his pockets, cigarette hanging out of the corner of his mouth. "Apparently she's too fuckin' chicken ta lemme take her on a real date."

"I am not a chicken."

How far could he push her, he wondered? Would she resort to physical violence knowing she didn't stand a chance? Maybe. She did have a history of attacking the opposite sex when instigated. Betelgeuse just couldn't help himself. She was so cute, trying to intimidate and push him away the way he did to other people. He moved his line of questioning along before she could start into her list of completely valid reasons for why she should never go on a date with him ever. None of which had anything to do with cowardice or lack thereof.

"Why'd your family move away from New York City to the middle o' fuckin' nowhere?" It unnerved Lydia how much he already knew about her life.

The vegetation grew sparse along the path, making way for a clearing. They had arrived at the cemetery Lydia alluded to. An acre's worth of tombstones lay before them, all in varying degrees of decay. The necropolis was guarded by a black iron fence and twin stone lions. The stoic beasts remained forever vigilant of trespassers, ignorant to the fact that the rusty gate between them lay dangling open, no chains or latches present to keep it in place. Some of the graves were marked with nothing more than wooden crosses. Others were morbid displays of opulence, laden with platinum engravings and labyrinthine marble carvings. He already knew this place before stepping foot inside. It wasn't until he noticed the tears of a weeping angel bent over in prayer that he realized from where; Lydia's photographs.

"My dad had a heart attack. Delia thought he could use the fresh air."

"Liar." She turned on him, full of ire for being called out on so serious a subject. "Not about your dad. That happened, but that's not why you moved. Nice try, though. Not bad for an amateur."

She proceeded to snap a photo of him with the same attitude that one would shoot a gun at a mugger. "Pass."

"Seriously?" He was almost offended. "This early in the game? What're you gonna do when I start askin' the really uncomfortable questions?"

"Put my headphones in," she returned without missing a beat or blushing at the insinuation. Lydia was acclimating to his sense of humor quickly.

"It can't be that bad." There was a falter in her mask, the left corner of her lips turning downward. "What, did your dad get involved in some mafia shit? Money launderin'? You in witness protection? Fuck, babe, ya gotta gimme somethin' ta work with."

A tinkling bell of a laugh rang throughout the hallowed ground. "My life isn't nearly as interesting as you seem to think it is."

"I beg to differ." She didn't even flinch when he spoke directly over her shoulder rather than from across the yard where he had been loitering just a moment before. Instead, she turned, tilted her head to the side to study his features with a detached sense of contemplation, and took another fucking picture.

"If I tell you," she finally spoke, waiting for her hundredth photo of him to develop, "you'll think I'm stupid."

He wasn't one to back down from a challenge. His chin rose and he stood a little straighter. "Try me."

Her eyebrows drew together in thought. There was no way of telling if she was assessing the quality of her work or considering whether or not she would continue their game. "I tried to kill myself." The match was still on. "Chased a handful of sleeping pills with a half a bottle of vodka. Spent three days in the hospital, then two weeks in a psych ward."

Betelgeuse knew she was a flight risk. It was one of the excuses he would have given her for sticking around if she really pressed him on the matter. All of her prior red flags were only talk, though. It was troubling to know that she already had one attempt under her belt.

"That's all I feel like saying about it." Her voice, which had dropped to a softer pitch while she was confessing, steeled. "Do all dead people go to the Neitherworld?" Sweet honey eyes were large and curious, waiting for an answer. All memory of any wrongdoing on his part was forgotten in the pursuit of knowledge.

"At first," he answered slowly, purposefully vague while lighting another cigarette, "unless they've got unfinished business like your pals the Maitlands," his lips twisted crookedly and a suspicious eyebrow was angled her way, "but you knew that already, didntcha?" One deliberate nod was her answer to the unspoken accusation. "You wanna know about Heaven n' Hell? What happens ta good people n' bad people? The big guy upstairs, or lack thereof? The meanin' o' fuckin' life?"

Lydia was lost in his eyes again. Eye contact with him was dangerous. It distracted her at best, thrilled her at worst. Currently, the piercing stare had her pinned to the cold monument at her back without the need of magic or physical restraints. The ghost stood as close as he possibly could without touching her. How had he gotten so near without her noticing? She couldn't remember. "Is that what you wanna know, Lydia?" Her mouth was so dry. She couldn't find the moisture or courage necessary to scream Yes! Yes, please God, yes! So, she just gathered what saliva was left in her mouth, swallowed, and nodded again.

A predatory grin cut across his face. Then, a terrible shiver that had nothing to do with the frozen mausoleum at her back wracked her form. He rested an elbow on the wall to the left of her head, flicking his cigarette away with the other arm before taking hold of a lock of her hair. The limb was careful not to brush skin in the process. It did little more than tug gently at the strand, feeling the softness across the pads of his thumb and index fingers.

He was going to kiss her again. There was no doubt in her mind. Cool breath that smelled of whiskey and tobacco drifted across her lips. Before she could close the mouth she suddenly realized was open, the long fingers still entwined in her hair curled and tucked beneath her chin, doing the job for her. The back of her head thumped soundlessly against marble as he urged her face up toward his. There was no reason to do this. She was not neglecting their grueling, hypnotizing staring contest. It must have been for his benefit, Lydia speculated, so that he could more thoroughly kiss her. He leaned in closer and she closed her eyes, bracing herself. Stubble scratched her cheek and Lydia couldn't help the instinctual response to gasp and turn her head, bare her throat in submission to the threat.

"Hate to disappoint ya, babe."

Suddenly, the heavy, chilling presence before her was gone. She opened her eyes and he was yards away, lazing across a crypt. The smirk on his face said that he thought he was somehow the victor of their little game, though no prizes had been set.

"But I'm gonna have ta pass on that one."

Chapter Text

"I don't think you're stupid." He appeared in her bedroom later that night, right as the end credits for The Walking Dead started rolling. She at least had the decency to jump at his sudden appearance this time. "For tryin' ta take the uh- long nap," he continued when she did nothing but stare at him incredulously, eyes wide and reflecting the blue light from her television. "Doesn't make ya stupid."

Lydia was still somewhat emotionally raw from the episode. Initially, she was prepared to admonish him for startling her, especially considering how they had left things after the cemetery. As promised, when he started asking the really uncomfortable questions, she put her headphones in and proceeded to ignore him all the way to the grocery store and back home. To his credit, he didn't pull them out of her ears or make them vanish like she knew he could have if he really wanted to. After the first quarter hour of trying and failing to get her to respond to him, he evaporated into a pile of ash. Still, she never felt his presence wane. A possessive gaze burned over her as she shuffled through aisles and picked out ingredients for dinner, on her way home as she skimmed her missed assignments, while she grilled chicken, sauteed mushrooms, and shared an awkward goodnight with the Maitlands.

He didn't say anything particularly rude or hurtful, but his interrogation had begun to descend into very personal territory. Lydia quickly decided that the game was no longer worth it. "What's your cup size?" followed by "You a virgin?" killed it for her.

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A person can only stand so much humiliation for so long. She only hoped her aloof response had been cold enough to not give away the answer. The idea of him knowing terrified her. He clearly thought she was one. He only asked because he wanted to hear it out loud. She was safe now, while he found her interesting, but what if he didn't like the truth? Would he still want to keep her? Did she want him to want to? Until she knew where she stood with him, he had no business knowing such private things.

"Thank you for saying so." His genuine admission earned him a genuine response, lacking sarcasm or pretense. She sat up, moved so that she was sitting cross-legged on top of the covers, and muted the television. "I have a question. A regular question, not a quid pro quo question." He rolled his wrist and grunted, wordlessly saying out with it. "How do you intend on procuring a house for us? As in, signing the papers and all the technical stuff. You know you don't look- I mean you don't look bad or anything, but- but you're not going to just walk into a real estate agency like that, are you?"

He couldn't tell if she truly thought he didn't look bad or if she was just being polite. There was no telling with her. The idea that the little minx actually found him aesthetically pleasing was not that far outside of the realm of possibility, though. They had only been married for a few days and already an album's worth of photos of him lay scattered across her dresser. It was flattering to be the current subject of her creative mind. Lydia took her art very seriously.

In either case, it was more fun to assume she thought he was sexy, so Betelgeuse went with that. "You don't look too bad yourself, babe." She thought he was something. He could see that pink glow bright as day under the dim light of her television. "You think I can't fool a couple o' skin bags into thinkin' I'm one of em?" His image flickered for a moment, like an old reel of film. A different man stood there leaning against her bedroom door with muscular arms crossed, a cigarette in his mouth. This man was very clearly alive; bronze skin, dark golden hair. Not a speck of grave-dirt could be found on his pressed black slacks or white button up, the first three undone to reveal blonde chest hair. The eyes, though... those wild green eyes left no doubt in Lydia's mind that this was her husband. "You obviously don't know who you're dealin' with."

The sight only lasted for maybe a second, but it was enough. "Oh," she breathed, feeling suddenly self-conscious. He could look like that whenever he wanted? He was so handsome! Once again, Lydia found herself wondering why he had chosen her. She was just a girl and he was a man. A very old, very experienced man. There was no way she could live up to any expectations he might have. Tugging the hem of her oversized T-shirt down toward her knees, Lydia asked the next question on her mind. It was easier getting them out this time knowing that they didn't come with a price. "What about money? Do you have money? Can you even afford a house-" she stopped herself with a hand over her mouth. "I'm sorry. That sounded really rude."

His response was to raise a single eyebrow on his otherwise expressionless face, grab her purse off the edge of her vanity, and start digging through it. "Hey!" She was on her knees on the bed, indignant at the invasion of privacy. "Stop that!"

"Shut up." He grumbled, dropping the bag once he found her wallet. A thick green stack was deposited into it from his jacket pocket. It hit her chest with a thump when he tossed it her way before falling to the blanket. The fold was filled with so many hundred dollar bills that it could no longer close properly, springing open to display her learner's permit instead. "Got any other concerns that I can address?"

This was real, cold hard cash fanned out in her hands. At least a couple thousand dollars. Lydia didn't even bother with propriety, trying to give it back to him. She didn't need it and he wouldn't take it, but none of that mattered. He clearly enjoyed dressing her up. This was in the same vein as that, Lydia concluded. "Well," she tucked a single hundred back into her wallet and placed the rest in the drawer of her nightstand, "you've just got everything figured out, don't you?"

A cold cloud of smoke was blown her way. "Had a long time to plan." He was still miffed that she had actually questioned his capabilities as a provider.

Soft yellow light filled the room as she switched the lamp on her bedside table on, collected the photos of him from her dresser, and spread them out on her bed to examine. "So, which exotic island have you decided on?" She questioned, leaning forward to rest her chin on top of her hands and take them all in at once. The ones at the cemetery were by far the best. "Don't expect me to sit on some beach all day long. I won't do it and you can't make me." He could, of course, but she would make it very difficult for him.

"Whatcha got against the beach?"

"Not the beach, the sun."

Oh yeah. Humans got sunburns, didn't they? Little things like that were lost on him, forgotten with the centuries. Every time he turned around there was something else threatening her wellbeing. "What'cha think o' Vietnam?" He spoke finally after pondering her original question for a moment.

"I think there's absolutely no point in buying a house there if you're just going to change your mind every ten minutes." The reply was airy, monotonous, as though she wasn't really paying any attention to the conversation. The way he lazed about the tomb in the photo in her hands made it appear as though a dark spirit was trying to break free from the casket. This one was the best. Proud of her work, Lydia sorted it into her pile of desirables. "I don't see why you want to get out so badly, anyway. Nothing up here is as interesting as anything down there." She hummed in thought, running a finger across the shapeless mass he formed beneath a crucifix. "Except maybe the Loch Ness Monster. If it's real. Is it real?"

Suddenly, she was all his again. Lydia's attention span was fickle, it seemed. Unless she was just very good at giving the appearance of not giving a damn about anything. "Pretty sure it's just a guy in a costume." Her lips pursed in disappointment, then she was lost in her photos again. That wouldn't do. He wasn't about to play second fiddle to pictures of himself for fuck's sake. In an instant, he was lying in bed next to her; not touching, but close enough to feel his chill against her bare thigh.

To his absolute disdain, Lydia was unfazed. She did little more than turn her head for a brief moment to acknowledge his presence before saying in the most courteous, nonchalant tone, "Would you please take your boots off? They're scuffing my blankets."

Every attempt to unnerve her, shake her, shatter her adamantine guard was met with polite indifference, a stern- yet lenient- reprimand if he was being particularly bothersome. She had more of a reason to hate him than most of his enemies, but instead, she treated him with more humanity than he could remember anyone ever having shown him. More than he deserved. The thought made him angry and her request was ignored. "Ya never answered my question, babe."

Her back stiffened. Ever so carefully, she calmed herself, willed her voice to remain uncaring and steady. "You never answered mine." The range of emotion flashing across her face was hidden from view.

"Which one?"

Lydia gathered all of the photos into one pile, deciding to sort them another time, and rose from the bed. "The one about where we're supposed to be going tomorrow."

"First thing's first," he scooted over to the middle of the mattress, letting his legs spread and his arms fold behind his head so that he was taking up the entire space. "I promised you a date."

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"Ha!" Lydia couldn't help the sharp, bitter sound that bubbled up from her throat. "That was only if you were on your 'best behavior', remember? You tried to kill two people."

"Details." He waved off her complaint dismissively. "Besides, if I ain't mistaken, I believe you have a particular scratch that only I can itch."

She stared- mouth agape and face burning- at the blatant insinuation for an embarrassing amount of time before realizing that it was a play on words for the Neitherworld. "I still want to go!" She was finally able to blurt out, taking an eager step toward her own bed, before catching herself. "But it will not be a date. It'll be... an outing. Acquaintances on an outing."

"Hold on," he wheezed out, chucking his cigarette away in his laughter. It faded away before the embers could hit the hardwood. "Is there a fuckin' difference here that I'm not aware of?"

"I'm not going to wear any makeup." She replied with furious rebellion. "And I'm going to take pictures the whole time and ignore you. And if you try to kiss me I will hit you."

"Yep, that's 'bout what I expected out of a date with you. Minus the ignorin' me part. You couldn't if you tried."

"Oh?" Had he learned nothing after badgering her at the graveyard? Lydia didn't care about the consequences anymore. Something about his total assuredness, his complete faith that he would win her over eventually pissed her the fuck off. Let him do what he would. He was going to anyway. "Watch me."

She didn't need headphones this time. Her books would be enough. His response turned to muffled rocks in her ears as she traced the third shelf down. Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There seemed an appropriate choice. Maybe Alice could provide some wisdom for her current predicament. Alice was also able to visit a fantastical world where nothing made sense. She wouldn't blink twice at dancing spiders or roads that floated in mid-air. Alice got to go home in the end, too. Would he rescind that promise if she displeased him? Did she care? What did she have to come home to? The Maitlands cared about her, she supposed. Maybe she cared about them, too. She knew she couldn't let their souls whither away just because of her father and stepmother's ignorance. If she had to do it all over again knowing what she knew now, she would.

A gravelly hum was still murmuring in the back of her head, but it was almost completely shut out now. The master bedroom was cloaked in shadow. Lydia set her book down where she knew the edge of the bed was before pausing. Which side of the wall was the light switch on again? A cold, heavy hand on her shoulder shocked her from her mental space. She gasped, arms flying out instinctively to push away the foreigner out of her proximity, but the other person was too quick. Her arms were pinned to her side and she was pressed up against a solid, male form.

It was so dark. She couldn't move. She couldn't see. A terrified scream tried to escape her lips, but one of the arms holding her captive released her to cover her mouth, muffling it. She took advantage of the opportunity, using her now free arm to punch and slap at her assaulter. In a flash, she was pinned to a bed. She shook her head furiously back and forth to free her mouth so that she could scream. There was a slight give, the cold flesh of the hand becoming slick with her tears, though she was nowhere near successful. He was too strong.

"Lydia!"

A gruff voice was calling to her, far away.

Betelgeuse.

He wouldn't hurt her.

Slowly, hazily, reality returned. She wasn't six, she was sixteen. She wasn't lying on a cheap, stained, spring mattress. She was lying on the expensive name-brand featherbed that Delia insisted on. It wasn't Gregg's dead puke-green gaze on her while a stabbing pain radiated from her center. She wasn't in pain at all, and those eyes weren't dead. Or puke green. They were her husband's and they were the most beautiful shade of jade, speckled with flecks of vibrant emerald and sapphire. Right now, the concern shining through them was unmistakable, even in the blackness of her parent's bedroom.

When the blind, wild animosity faded- leaving scared, confused honey eyes looking up at him while she trembled- he removed his hand from her mouth. "Shh, baby..." he whispered calm and low, urging her fear away. The scent of it, which had once been intoxicating, now filled him with disgust. "It's okay. You're okay."

"Bee- Beej?" She stuttered, sounding so small. Ice cold fingers raked gently through the hair on either side of her head and she shuddered at the sensation. It was comforting. Soothing. Unnatural heat blossomed out from the point where his fingertips scraped her scalp, crawling down her neck and spine, all the way through her legs. Her muscles relaxed, embracing the feeling whether she wanted to or not. "What are you... doing..." Her eyelids were so heavy, and the bed was so deep, so soft, coaxing her into its depths.

"S'okay," he reassured, "don't fight it. Just go ta sleep." A few more measured strokes of her hair was all it took to put her under without the help of any more juice. With one last stolen kiss between her brows, he rolled off of her to a sitting position, his legs over the edge of the bed. A flick of his wrist later and a lamp in the corner of the room sprang to life.

He was going to have to kill someone.

Chapter Text

Nothing scared Lydia. This was indisputable fact. After all, she faced down the prospect of death at his serpent's fangs with nothing more than silence and an alarming recognition of her fate. He was a scary motherfucker and if he didn't scare her, nothing did. That was that.

Someone hurt her. What else was new? The general breathing population shunned her, her father and step-mother neglected her, her mother was presumably dead and sitting pretty at some royal function. This was all part of Ba'Gul's curse, wasn't it? "A short, wretched life," is what Juno said. Still, this was different. All the other abuse he was aware of her persevering had been emotional. This was physical. Sexual. It had to be. Because nothing scared Lydia.

Nothing, that is, unless it was dark... and someone bigger and stronger than her was overpowering her...

His stomach flipped and a mouthful of acidic bile was spat out the window. The whole incident was out of his control, just like everything else concerning her seemed to be. He didn't mean to frighten her. He thought it was all an act, that she was just being a brat. He didn't realize she was so deeply gone, so removed from reality that she truly wasn't hearing him speak, genuinely didn't know that he was there, right behind her.

It happened so quickly. If he had seen it coming, he would have just used his juice to restrain her. When he put a hand on her shoulder to force her attention- irate that he was being ignored so thoroughly- she slapped him. He grabbed her, she tried to scream, he muffled her so that the Maitlands wouldn't come rushing in, but then she was hitting him again so he pinned her to the bed. This is when she really went wild; bucking against his hold so furiously that he was forced to tighten his grip in such a way that there would surely be bruises. When the scent of pure fear- thick and nauseating- hit him, he called to her. Her eyes were wide and glassy- gone away, like a veteran's on fourth of July. It took several more firm, urgent whispers of her name before she came back to him.

The symptoms were all so obvious now, in hindsight; depression, anti-social behavior, low self-esteem, and most disquieting of all, her suicidal tendencies. "Why?" He once asked her with an air of superiority, like he knew it all. Like she was a fool for wanting to throw away the only life she was ever going to have. Like he was any better than her. He was a horrible, horrible hypocrite. A coward too, apparently. It was easier to put her to sleep against her will than try to deal with her fragile state of mind and all the stupid fucking emotions he was feeling.

Rage was the most familiar, so he settled on that. She was his wife. He was supposed to protect her. That's how it worked, right? Besides, somebody had to do it. The people who took part in bringing her into this world had done a shit job so far. How is it they had only been married this short period and already he, too, was failing so miserably in his duties? This was his self-appointed position, his responsibility. Not just because she was his ticket out, but because he said he would and she believed him and she was his wife goddamnit.

Someone hurt her. Now, they needed to hurt too. It was only fair.


Lydia stirred at the crack of dawn to the scent of burning tobacco. The bed beneath her was softer than her own, larger. The orange light of early morning beat at her eyelids softly, coaxing them open a crack. He was there, sitting on the edge of the wide-open window. An ashtray on her father's dresser was teeming, a few butts and a smattering of ash tainting the otherwise spotless surface. Clearly, he had been there all through the night.

The sight of him brought back memories of their- she hesitated to call it an altercation- filling her with apprehension. Oh god, had she actually attacked him? She waited for him to speak, but he didn't. He just kept smoking and glowering, looking at her like he hated her. The wait was excruciating, so she went first. "I'm sorry," it came out small, raspy with sleep and guilt. "It was an accident-"

"Stop."

His eyes were closed now, like he couldn't stand the sight of her. Lydia sat up, drawing the blankets into her lap and raking fingers through her sleep-mussed hair. Awful dread was curling and settling in her belly. He was livid. Angrier than she had ever seen him. At her. What would he do? Her heart beat faster, her breathing became more shallow. "Please don't be mad at me."

His next move was so fast she couldn't help the quick intake of breath at his supernatural rapidity. He was halfway on the bed, one knee on the mattress, and holding both of her hands. They were allowed to stay in her lap instead of being pulled his way. "I'm not mad at you!" He was handling her gently, as though she were made of glass. The waves of fury were gone, replaced with something Lydia almost wanted to call despair. Then, he kept talking and shattered the illusion. "Idiot."

"Jerk." She returned, pulling her hands away and salting her still drowsy demeanor.

He didn't let her, snatching them back quickly. "Babe, no."

"What do you want from me?" She snapped, frowning at the pallid, calloused limbs enclosing her sweaty palms. "I said I was sorry. I didn't mean to. I thought- I wasn't trying to-"

"Stop. Just stop apologizin' for five fuckin' minutes, okay?"

Her eyes widened at the lack of aggression in his tone. It was a pained, sincere request. "Okay," obediently, she became quiet and resisted the urge to apologize for annoying him with her apologies.

Words escaped him, not for the first time in her company. She had a nasty habit of stealing them from his usually silver tongue. Naturally, her first inclination after he holds her down on a bed and makes her cry is to ask his forgiveness. Like it was her fault. Technically, she did start it, but that was beside the point. Was her sense of self-worth that diminished? Probably. Did she actually feel sincere guilt for striking him- laughably weak as the blows had been? Again, probably. As someone who always had his own interests at heart, this kind of selflessness was completely foreign.

Her stupid apology ruined his plans. Torture was on the forefront of his mind the majority of the night. As soon as she awoke he was going to interrogate her; what happened, when, where, how, and most importantly, who. Seeing her now- nervous and stressed, letting him hold her hands without a fight- reminded him of how guarded she usually was. The mask she wore in his presence was carefully manufactured and held. However, in this moment it was absent, leaving her emotions to be read clear as day. It would kill her to have such a horrible stage from her past dissected so thoroughly, especially by him; someone that she worked diligently to appear composed around. She would just shut down again if he pushed her.

He was no fucking psychiatrist. He just knew a lot of random shit about a lot of random shit, allowing him to shoddily diagnose her post-traumatic stress disorder. He didn't have the first clue what she needed, how to help her. The idea that there was nothing to be done was not something he was willing to accept, though.

The silence was agonizing. She wished he would say something, do something. Anything. Again, he took too long to speak and she shattered the quiet. "Are we leaving today?"

How long had he been staring at her like the idiot he accused her of being? Her right hand twitched within his, as though it had been still too long and the muscles were aching to move. "You sure are eager to get out o' the country with me." He finally responded with a drawl, forcing some pink into her cheeks. She was particularly lovely in the morning glow, her pale skin reflecting gold. God damn, he missed sunlight. "Can't keep sendin' these mixed messages, Lyds."

Embarrassment at the subtle shift in the intensity of his gaze forced her to avert her eyes. "I don't think there's anything left for me in Winter River, anyway." A clever response to his teasing remark popped into her head and passed through her lips before she knew what she was doing. "You can't blame me, you know? What's a girl to do when a guy keeps stringing her along?" The audacity of it all, to flirt so shamelessly when it was she who requested the extra night's stay. It gave her a rush and she couldn't stop. "I'm starting to think you like it here."

She was fucking with him. She had to be. She didn't mean what she was saying. He was in her face in an instant, hands fisted in the sheets on either side of her hips. If he didn't hold onto something, he would be holding onto her. That territory was to be trodden more delicately now. "You want me to be the bad guy, baby?" His pupils were nearly swallowing the rest of his irises, only a sliver of clouded jade left for her perusal. "'Cause I can be the bad guy. I can take you wherever I want n' do whatever I want n' there ain't nobody out there who can stop me." He inhaled deeply. No fear. Just vanilla and some other headier scents he couldn't quite place. Maybe shea butter.

"Can you?" Honey eyes never faltered from his all through his bullying assault on her personal space. There was no underlying insult or malice in the question, no challenge. It was a sincere inquiry asking for a sincere answer. "Can you really?" He was struck. Her mask wasn't even up and she still wasn't affected by his intimidation tactics. There was something searching and curious in her big, doe eyes. Even knowing what he knew now, even with his disgusting threat- that he regretted as soon as it passed through his teeth- she saw right through him.

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Lydia leaned forward from where she had reclined when he jumped at her so suddenly. His muscles were taught and restrained, like it was taking everything in him not to pin her down and consummate their marriage. He really did want her that badly, didn't he? That was interesting, she mused. Slowly, as though she were handling a rabid wolf, she rose her hands, letting them rest on his shoulders. All the while, she explored the depth of his unrelenting gaze for any sign that she was wrong and he was going to turn on her. A bunch of muscles near his neck twitched. Still, he didn't move. With a burst of courage, before she could second-guess the point she was trying to make, she pressed her lips against his. It was innocent and brief, not even lasting long enough for the residual chill that was usually left behind from his kisses to tingle at her lips.

His eyes were closed when she pulled back, his grip on the sheet lax. It was as though the kiss sucked all of the tension from his body. Encouraged, she cupped one of his cheeks in her left hand, running her thumb across his cheekbone. Jade eyes crept open. He was dazed, like he didn't know if he was defeated or victorious. He looked confused and vulnerable and real and it tugged at something in her heart.

"I don't think you can." A tiny, secretive smile pulled at the corner of her lips. Something bright and wicked flashed through his eyes when he saw it. "Don't worry. I won't tell anyone."

Chapter Text

"What do you mean he's been here?!"

Lydia had been less than forthcoming about Betelgeuse's whereabouts since the night she lit a bonfire in the front yard. She didn't exactly lie to Mr. and Mrs. Maitland so much as neglect to tell them the complete truth. As far as they were aware, the poltergeist was gone and wasn't going to come back unless he got the urge to terrorize them or wanted something from Lydia. Neither were particularly appealing concepts, however, both were a far cry from the horrible truth.

"You are not going anywhere with him! You are sixteen years old, Lydia Deetz. What on Earth are you thinking?" It was difficult to tell from Barbara's tone that she didn't think she was Lydia's mother.

The girl shrugged and cut a neat triangle out of her syrup-soaked toaster waffle. "Don't really have much of a choice in the matter."

That wasn't necessarily true. At least, Lydia didn't think it was. While she was now fairly certain that he wouldn't force her to do anything that she really didn't want to do, a promise is a promise. Obviously, he had his reasons for maintaining the big bad wolf persona. This unspoken truce between her and her husband was none of Adam or Barbara's business. If that meant making Betelgeuse look worse in their eyes, then so be it. Wasn't that his intended goal anyway?

"Where is he now?" Adam cut in urgently, appearing quite perturbed that the poltergeist had been in the house without their knowledge.

Again, Lydia shrugged. Who knew what he was doing? Rarely did he stay in the same spot for very long. When he still hadn't been able to tell her what her new address was going to be, she told him to throw a dart at a map before taking off to prepare a lazy breakfast. The deceased couple was found conversing quietly over coffee. Lydia figured the day of was as good a time as any to tell them she was leaving. Unfortunately, this quickly turned into an interrogation when they realized that Lydia was not nearly as disturbed by this information as they thought she should be.

"Why didn't you tell us he was still coming here to see you?" Mr. Maitland appeared hurt by the lack of trust. "We could have done something, helped you!"

"I didn't need any help." Her fork left a lazy trail in the sugary nectar as she dragged it slowly across her plate, feeling too guilty to meet either ghosts' eye. "He wasn't doing anything wrong. Just talking to me."

"This doesn't make any sense, Lydia." The confused frustration in Barbara's tone almost left Lydia with the impression that she thought she was being lied to. "If his plan was to take you away anyway, why bring you back home at all? Why take you in the first place? I don't get it."

"Because I asked." Defensiveness was beginning to creep into Lydia's tone. It was entirely too early in the morning for this. Maybe she should have just disappeared quietly, without a word. No, the guilt would have gotten to her eventually. This needed to be done, loathe as she was to form answers to these pointless questions.

"Because..." Barbara's bewildered features darkened ever so slowly as realization dawned on her, "... you asked..?"

"The only one I think I can deal with... is Edgar Allan Poe's daughter."

A memory of gravelly words echoed through Barbara's head.

"I think she understands me."

The night of Lydia's disappearance- her wedding night- had been unbearable. She and Adam held each other till dawn, whispering that Lydia was okay and there was nothing more that could have been done- wishing with everything inside of them that the empty words were true. Though their relief upon her return was short-lived- thanks to Charles' and Delia's gross neglect- it was still monumental. Their wishes came true! She was safe! Not willing to speak to them, through no fault of their own, but safe. Untouched. Suspiciously so, but not unfathomably. Lydia was just a teenager and a grown man, dead or not, had no business having any romantic designs on her.

But then, just hours later, he came back. Now, Barbara and Adam learned together, he had been coming back, probably never left. The only reason Lydia even came back in the first place is because she asked and he allowed it. The implications of why were troubling. This was a possibility that neither Mrs. nor Mr. Maitland had dared to voice out loud, yet weighed heavily in the back of their minds. Nevermind Juno's numerous reassurances that freedom was his primary goal. Why rape or torture when he could just seduce Lydia? It's not like he didn't have time to win her affections. A willing victim was better than a broken down slave.

"Yes. Because I asked." Judging by how quick Lydia was to cover up his presence, not to mention the sharpness seeping into the girl's tone the longer they stayed on the subject, his methods were working. "So I could say goodbye and get my school situation in order. It's not my fault that my father and that woman weren't here to receive me." She averted her gaze and some of her irritation faded. "I'm going to home-school myself wherever we go. Still don't know where yet. He's being indecisive. You'd think after six-hundred years of trying to get out he would have a concrete destination in mind, but no such luck." The annoyed complaint was laden with impatience. It spoke volumes to both Maitlands and they shared a secret, concerned glance.

"Oh, sweetheart..." Lydia was actually leaving, taking off who-knows-where with that monster. She claimed he would take her back to visit but who knew how true that was? There was nothing Barbara could do but warn her, try to prepare the innocuous young girl. "You can't trust him."

Goosebumps rose on the back of her neck and Lydia just knew he was there, watching, waiting for her response. "I know." It felt like a lie. He would be able to spot the distinction, but Barbara didn't. Or if she did, it didn't show. All Lydia could see while she tried to take in Mrs. Maitland's distressed, obligatory smile at her meaningless reassurance was the mental manifestation of her husband's satisfied smirk.

Adam took a seat at the table, pushed his specks up on the bridge of his nose, and clasped his hands together nervously. An imperative, meaningful look settled in the turquoise eyes behind his glasses. "You are a very beautiful young woman, Lydia." He cleared his throat and she swore she almost saw a bit of pink tinge his cheeks. "The point being is that- uh," he swallowed, "you should trust me when I say that I know what I'm talking about here. Boys-" he stopped, correcting himself, "men. Men will say anything to get a woman to- to-" there was another pause while Adam stuttered and cleaned an imaginary smudge from his glasses.

"Fuck?" Mr. and Mrs. Maitland both flinched at Lydia's bluntness and the girl could practically hear the ghost of Betelgeuse's nonexistent laughter.

"Become intimate." Barbara corrected after a moment, smirking with bemused affection at her humiliated spouse. "Adam, you're embarrassing yourself. Let me do this."

With a grimace, Lydia stood from the table. "I really don't think anyone needs to do anything." He was here. He was watching this. She was never going to hear the end of it. "Seriously, guys, I appreciate the concern, but I can take care of myself. No need to give me 'the talk.' I'm not a child."

"But you are, Lydia." There was a desperate need for her to understand in Barbara's deep chocolate eyes. "Yes, you're wise beyond your years, but in a lot of ways you are still just an innocent little girl."

"You don't know how easy it can be for someone like him to take advantage of you." Adam's timbre was gentle, pleading.

The message they were trying to convey did not get through. Unmistakable hostility turned Lydia's form rigid, narrowed her eyes and curled her upper lip. "You don't know anything about me or what I know. Please don't pretend to." How dare they patronize her? As if she weren't already excruciatingly aware of the precariousness of her situation? The urge to shame them for speaking to her so condescendingly, especially when it was their fault she was in this situation at all, came and passed. They were to blame and they weren't. Her father's avarice could not be ignored as a key player in this tragic comedy. Then again, neither could her naiveté. She was the one who had ultimately been gullible enough to agree to such ridiculous terms. Terms that Betelgeuse set. Everyone was at fault and no one was.

"I'm leaving." She had to. Before bitterness got the best of her and she said something cruel. "I'll be back whenever."

In less than a week's time, more specifically. Her father and Delia would probably need to sign the paperwork necessary to enroll her in a home-schooling program. Lydia had every intention of explaining this to Mr. and Mrs. Maitland when she initially began her confession. They never gave her the chance. Their crestfallen, heartbroken expressions at her cold departure only managed to inspire the slightest twinge of guilt. No footsteps followed her up the stairs. Betelgeuse materialized as soon as her bedroom door slammed shut.

"Ya mean it?" The fervor with which the question was asked left no doubt in her mind which statement he was referring to.

"I'm ready if you are. Are you?" If Lydia was being honest with herself, which she was not, she had been ready since leaving Miss Shannon's office. His unexpected attack on Claire Brewster definitely set her back a few steps, but the Maitlands' well-meaning, yet arrogant warnings were exactly the push she needed.

The bite in her question thrilled him. She was practically begging him to take her. Cold hands curled around the curve of her hips, pulling the black cotton material of her oversized shirt taunt. Then, her body was flush with his. "I've been ready for a long damn time."

"Could've fooled me." She allowed him the show of affection but didn't return it, curling her hands beneath her collarbone so they had somewhere to rest that wasn't directly against him. "If you still don't like any of your ideas, I read about this town in Cambodia once. It's so badly infested with tarantulas that the locals have been cooking and eating them for almost half a century. They've got it down to an art form." Was that... admiration in her voice? Would she actually be willing to try such a delicacy? "Close to the ocean, too," now, the familiar blush chose to dust her cheekbones, "I know you want to be near the beach."

Good god.

"Does that sound okay?"

He was in love.

Betelgeuse was almost tempted to indulge her beautiful fantasy, but he was too selfish. Never one to deny himself, his marriage to Lydia was a test of patience as well as a question of priorities. As badly as he wanted to laze about on the sand and hand feed deep-fried tarantula legs to his utterly flawless wife- she wore a tiny black bikini in his imagination, causing the fingers on her hips to flex- there was something else he wanted more.

"That sounds fuckin' perfect," there was a purr in his voice that made the muscles in her lower stomach clench, "but I'm pretty sure I promised ta show you the Neitherworld." Her lips parted, fingers twitching subconsciously in delight. "What kind o' husband would I be if I didn't give my wife the honeymoon she asked for?"

Even his inflation of their agreed upon harmless date to a honeymoon was not enough to deter Lydia's visible, yet clearly repressed, excitement at the prospect of going back. "Now?"

It was almost like she didn't believe him. "Say the word and we're gone."

"Can we-" her weight shifted, one of her thighs and the side of her hip pressing more firmly against him when she did so, "can we take your car again?"

His grin was downright villainous. "To the moon n' back, doll."

The stars were back in her eyes, where they belonged, forcing the spiced honey orbs to gleam gold. "Now."

Chapter Text

She was simply irresistible; warm little body pressed up against him, eyes clenched shut, gripping the lapels of his suit so tightly her hands were trembling, breath held in anticipation for the jump between planes. Betelgeuse had already told himself- firmly and with conviction- that he was going to be more careful, try to be less handsy with her until she became more accustom to his touch. Sadly, honesty- even with himself- was not one of his strong suits. Neither was self-restraint.

A short kiss should be fine, something just long and deep enough for him to get his fix. Besides, didn't she kiss him of her own free will just hours ago? Granted, it was only done to prove him wrong- an unexpectedly masterful move on her part. He would have to stop underestimating her. The remembrance that she was willing to kiss him at all was motivation enough to move forward now.

Quick as a snake, he struck. One of the hands on her hips slid to the small of her back while its twin tangled within her thick, still sleep-mussed hair. She gasped against his mouth, granting him entrance, and he very nearly mimicked her. Her heat was always a shock to him, seeping into the frozen depths of his soul like boiling water into ice. When the edge of it dulled- leaving waves of steaming hot, delicious Lydia to wash over him- he realized she was stiff, unmoving.

Alas, all good things must come to an end. However, just as he was about to tear himself away and accept the slap on the wrist he would no doubt receive for sticking his hand into the metaphorical cookie jar, she moved. The vice grip on his suit became lax and her hands tentatively came to rest on his shoulders. Then, satin lips were moving against his on their own. A shy bite to his lower lip broke him.

All previous thoughts of caution and discretion were abandoned. Cold hands gripped her bare thighs, wrapping her around his waist easily. She made a sexy little surprised sound into his mouth when he did so. Pale arms laced around his neck- whether to maintain balance or pull him closer, he couldn't tell. He was too busy kissing her, so lost in the ferocity of it that he almost didn't notice her gentle tugging, trying to get him to pull back so she could breathe. All too eager to oblige her desires at the moment, he hoisted her up a few inches to move his assault down her neck. There was a spot just beneath her ear that especially seemed to enjoy his attention. When he scraped his teeth there her legs tightened around him just right and he was gifted with a soft, breathy whimper.

Then, something was wrong. She was stiff again, holding her breath instead of making those sweet little gasping noises. Immediately, cursing himself for being so reckless when he knew better, he withdrew from the junction between her neck and shoulder to search her expression for any signs of fear or discomfort. All he found was confusion, and a bit of annoyance, while she turned her head from side to side, taking in their surroundings with furrowed brows.

Lydia felt tricked. She thought when she finally opened her eyes from his dizzying affections she was going to find herself in a different dimension- like on their wedding night. Instead, the same familiar cherry wood bedroom set and mauve walls greeted her. "We're still... here." Disappointed, she let go of him, moving to be let down.

Amusement flashed across his features as he realized what her problem was. "Says who?" His mirth died very quickly, however, when it occurred to him that she would have let him keep fooling around if only he had transported them just a little bit differently. Lydia waved an arm around, indicating that they were clearly still in her bedroom. When his smirk only deepened and a single wicked eyebrow rose- as if to say "so?"- she decided it was time to start questioning the laws of physics. The light seeping in from behind her curtain was just a bit too orange for this time of day, wasn't it?

With one last suspicious glance his way, Lydia pulled the drapes back. A breath of wonderment was drawn in and she stepped back from the enormity of the sight, right into Betelgeuse's chest. "Told ya I'd move your shit." Sure enough, a vast wasteland of raging sandstorms lay before her disbelieving eyes. Off to the right, almost out of view and camouflaged by twisters, she could make out the looping concrete rollercoaster. Suddenly, remembering that she owned feet, Lydia moved to her door and flung it open. The garish lime-green and yellow striped wallpaper of his hallway clashed violently with her dark decor. As soon as her head passed the threshold, the tell-tale chill of the Neitherworld clouded her breath. She needed to look, to be sure.

To the left was his living room which led through to the kitchen, to the right his bedroom. Directly across from her was a black door she'd never been through. He didn't "move her shit." He moved her room, attaching it to the foundation of his house with magical superglue. Like it was nothing. Not only that, he did something to keep the cold from going anywhere near her area. When she finally found a second to spare him, once the shock wore off, she saw that he was staring off into space, hands in his pockets, boots scuffing the floor in boredom- waiting patiently for her to get over the fantastic thing he had just done.

"You're amazing."

For a split-second, he had a look on his face like she had just slapped him. Then, a familiar cocky grin twisted his lips and he stood a little taller while lighting his cigarette. "Yeah. I'm pretty fuckin' cool."

The awe in her eyes didn't dim, but her orbs did narrow slightly at his conceit. "Well?"

"Well, what?"

"Well, get out." She held the door open a bit wider, nearly laughing at his perplexed expression. "I need to get ready." Tangles riddled her hair from sleep- among other things- and she still wore her favorite old sleeping shirt.

"Ready for what?"

"Our date." She would have to stroke his ego more often. Flattery dulled his wit. "Idiot. Now get out."

The satisfaction he felt from her snarky demand was so great that he wasn't even insulted by the echo of his own insult. "Aw, you gonna get yourself all dolled up just for me, Lyds?" He strolled her way while he spoke, stopping to linger in the doorway and blow smoke rings. "You shouldn't."

A furious blush burned her cheeks and the fire in her eyes flared up. "I won't if you don't get out. Now!" With that, the door was slammed in his face.


An hour later and he was still waiting.

"This is BULLSHIT, Lydia!" He called from the living room, glaring at his television. She was being insufferable and as such didn't deserve any of his loving pet names. He had tried bursting in not long after she locked him out- having grown impatient very quickly- only for a short, pale, half-naked little brat to start pelting him with things from her vanity until he closed the door. He rubbed the side of his head where a hairbrush had hit him, scowling. Her aim was decent, so he wasn't even able to get a good look. It would take him two fucking seconds to have her made up and out the door. The fact that she was insisting on doing it herself, wasting even more of his time, making him wait- typical woman- was infuriating.

"Almost done!" She sing-songed pleasantly in response, making literal steam blow out his ears.

"That's what ya said half an hour ago!"

"I've been thinking," she called back, tone casual, refusing to acknowledge his irritation, "I haven't curled my hair in such a long time. It takes forever. It's just so thick, you know? But I'm trying, and trying, and trying, and I just can't think of a better style to go along with this outfit. Nothing else will do. We've got time, don't we honey?"

Lydia was opening the door and stepping out of the room before his angry, pounding footsteps could reach the end of the hall. He stopped dead in his tracks, throat constricting and mouth going dry. A bewitching smile curled black lips, marking her amusement that she had been able to rile him up so easily. "Worth the wait?"

A queen stood before him. Not just any queen. His Queen. The Queen of the Damned.

Before, he had found the concept preposterous. Lydia had his respect, his admiration, his love- he was man enough to admit that to himself at least- but she was so delicate, so fragile, so in need of protection. What was the Royal Family thinking, choosing someone like her for their next matriarch? The thought of her ruling over anything was laughable. Princess seemed much more appropriate a title for her; tucked away on a pedestal and doted upon. Until it was time for someone else to come along and take her place, of course.

Seeing her now, he understood how she might inspire countless millions to bend the knee. Lydia didn't need fear or intimidation to inspire loyalty, not like her predecessors. Her people would love her. Just like he did. Was this quality, the one that had him so enchanted now, the same thing that weakened Ba'Gul a millennium ago? If he ever met the dirty son of a bitch, he would have to ask.

Obsidian fabric cloaked her beautifully, as usual, but this dress was far more polished than the simpler ones she usually wore. The sleeves were long and loose, slipping down to reveal both shoulders and the tops of her arms. They slit at the elbows so that the excess gossamer could flow freely without hindering her movement. The velvet skirt clung to her hips and thighs before loosening at the knees. Its curling train was long enough that it would trail only slightly on the ground behind her when she walked, just enough to maintain the look without inconveniencing.

A built-in corset forced her breasts together enticingly, as well as drawing the eye to a baroque choker that encompassed her entire neck and collarbone. Little onyx gems were sewn into the lacework, matching her ring- his ring- and her earrings. For the first time, he noticed that each of her lobes was pierced thrice. The top two were adorned with simple studs, accenting the teardrop shaped stones that hung from the final, bottommost piercing. Ebony locks were swept up into a neat teased bun on top of her head, though a few spiraled strands hung down to frame her face.

That's the sight that really struck him. Lydia was gorgeous on her own, didn't need makeup to hide flaws. No, what she had done here was something else entirely. Coal and silver lined her eyes strategically before blurring together over her lids, shaping them like a cat's and making them appear larger than ever. Full, pouty lips were coated with a metallic black paint that gave them the look of being wet. Prismatic iridescent particles dusted the high lines of her cheekbones and the very tip of her nose, ethereally sharpening her soft features.

She looked every bit the Queen she was meant to be- before he stole her. How he had ever mistaken her for anything else, he would never know.

"It's not too much, is it?" Some of the confidence that gave her petite stature the illusion of increased height faded away, leaving room for doubt. "It's just- last time we were here most everyone was wearing what they died in so I thought I could probably get away with something like this. There's not really anywhere up there I can wear it- other than on Halloween, I guess." When he continued to remain silent, her expression fell. "It's too much. I'll change."

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"No!" He appeared in front of her, blocking her path when she turned back toward her room. "You look..." he dropped to his knees, grasping her hips and looking up at her with the most genuine expression he could muster.

Her brows furrowed in concerned confusion. "Beej?" The silly nickname sounded so sweet sliding off her lips that he didn't even want to question its origins.

"You look too fuckin' good to be goin' out on the town with me." He finally spoke, forcing as much sincerity into his tone as he possibly could. Words like "beautiful" and "gorgeous" didn't feel good enough. Depreciating his own inflated self-worth felt like the highest possible compliment he could pay to her in this moment.

Lydia, who was well aware of how highly he thought of himself, did not take what he had to say about her appearance lightly. A deep heat settled inside of her, warming her cheeks. She stepped forward, cupping his face and tilting up. "I would kiss you if I didn't know that you would absolutely hate to have to wait any longer while I fix my makeup."

A pleased growl rumbled in his chest. "Baby..." With inhuman quickness, he was standing and she was knocked off balance in his arms in a low dip. "If there's one thing I'm good at, it's waitin'." Then, cold lips were brutalizing hers again, plundering the depths of her soul.

An hour later and he was still waiting.

Chapter Text

Betelgeuse was too selfish to take her to the zoo or the park, or some other simple thing that would undoubtedly blow her mind. He couldn't. She ruined those plans- an annoying habit of hers. Those places were too populated, too crowded. The wrong kind of attention was sure to be drawn from someone and he really didn't feel like exposing that particular side of himself. Not right now. Not tonight. Not when she was teasing him and dressing up for his benefit and letting him kiss her- just kiss her, he discovered when his hands got a bit too explorative during their last makeout session. Nonetheless, her progress was stunning. She was unraveling beautifully under his attention. It was something she was starved for, after all, and he had plenty to give.

No, tonight Lydia belonged to him alone.

"Where are we?" She asked breathily, with awe, when the dragster slowed enough for the view outside her window to no longer blur. They were circling a cliff, approaching the peak of an opal mountain that overlooked a sea of lava. It was warm here, pleasantly so. Like on a sunny day in the living world. The molten ocean's boiling heat was canceling out the Neitherworld's chill.

"Tell me, babe," he began, letting the car decelerate to a slower pace and rolling both their windows down. They were taking the scenic route. "Anybody ever told you never ta wake a sleepin' dragon?" Were she looking his way, she would have noticed the telling mischief in his gaze.

"Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus." She quoted back airily, gearing her camera up to capture the horizon. "Why?"

This earned her an impressed, taken aback sideglance. "You know Latin?"

"No," she blushed, shaking her head, "I just read Harry Potter. I do speak Russian, though."

"Bullshit."

His quick dismissal and the straight line of his brow said that he honestly didn't believe her. "Kak tebe takaya brekhnya, kozyol? A ty govorish po-russki?" The cigarette in his mouth fell to his lap, jaw slackened. Tinkling laughter was her response to his shocked, put out expression. A reaction like that was answer enough to her questions.

The surprise faded quickly, something sinister flashing across his face. "Do it again." It was an order.

"Do what?"

"Keep talkin' like that. It's sexy."

"No." The refusal was hesitant, bashful. The pure thirst in his gaze was so great that she had to look away. "Do you speak any other languages?" Changing the subject was easier than acknowledging their increasingly intimate relationship.

"Shit..." He ran a hand through his hair and started doing a mental check. "French, Spanish, Italian, German, Dutch, Greek, Latin, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Arabic-"

"Wow." She interrupted with a whisper, eyes having grown larger with each one. "You can stop, now. I'm impressed."

"Eh, it's not like it's somethin' I worked at." For once, he waived off her compliment instead of basking in it. "Just picked it up along the way. What I wanna know is where the fuck did you learn fluent Russian?" Last time he checked, they wouldn't be teaching that in American schools.

"My mother." The response was automatic, unthinking. Then, a frown turned her lips as though she regretted her answer. "It's my first language, I mean to say."

A deep knit drew his brows together. There was no deceit in what she was saying, but from what he knew about her, this didn't add up. The only real concrete facts he had about this side of her life were that her parents were never married and at one point her last name was different than her father's. Volkov, he remembered now from her file in Juno's office. This was practically nothing to go off of and he no longer trusted his unreliable imagination to fill in the gaps when it came to her. "That doesn't make any sense, Lyds."

She almost deflected by teasing him for trying to rationalize things, the way he did to her once upon a time. Instead, she chose to remain genuine. "What's not to get? My mother was a Russian immigrant who spoke Russian and consequently taught her daughter Russian. It's not rocket science, Betelgeuse."

That was a whole lot of information she just threw out there. Trying to get Lydia to talk about her life prior to them meeting was usually comparable to pulling teeth. However, her use of his full name instead of the dumb nickname she had taken to calling him told him that he should tread carefully. "It's just that..." he rubbed his jaw, considering how he should proceed. "Ya don't have an accent. At all."

"Yeah, diction lessons with expensive tutors took care of that." The response was bitter, speaking volumes about what she thought of the experience.

"Also, wouldn't your dad've wanted you to learn English first- er, primarily? 'Cause, ya know, obvious reasons?"

"Beej," she was far away, in the process of distancing herself, but not quite gone yet, "I didn't even meet my dad until I was seven, after my mom went to prison. If he and Delia hadn't taken custody of me, I would've gone into foster care."

A lot of things were becoming clear to Betelgeuse in a very short period of time. No fucking wonder they let him have her so easily. They didn't even want her in the first place. "What did she do? Your ma?"

A pained, mournful smile curled the corner of her mouth while she looked out over the sea. "A hell of a lot of heroin."

"Did he know?"

The edge in his tone brought Lydia closer to reality, but not by much. "Did who know what?"

"Your dad." It was a fight to keep the threat out of his voice. "Were you a surprise or did he know you were out there?"

Her mask was back up, firmly in place, while she aimed her camera at an opal stalagmite in their path. He was going to have to swerve to avoid it in just a few moments. Flash. "He knew."

Betelgeuse seethed silently, a mask of his own making in place to keep his temper camouflaged. The fervor of it would only startle her. Charles fucking Deetz let her go fatherless for seven years before abandoning her to him- and all the unknown horrors he represented- further shattering her already fragmented heart in the process. If Daddy-in-Law thought that fall down the stairs hurt, he didn't know what the fuck he had coming.

"You know," she spoke again once they turned the loop, "you're asking an awful lot of personal questions and I'm not getting anything out of it." Her expression was still emotionless, but a light tease was back in her voice. "I think you owe me."

They were approaching a bluff near the peak. A series of caves were carved out of the crystal here. "Is that right?" The car slowed to a complete halt.

"Yes. It is." Lydia popped out and strolled right up to the edge without hesitation, fearless of the scorching demise that would meet her should she fall. "I'm thinking that I should use you for something." It was unreal; standing there, looking down at the burning current. Waves of flame reared up and bellowed against the monument of precious stone, causing a spectrum of rainbow-colored light to bounce rapidly across the crystalline surface. "You used me for free drinks," Lydia dared a sultry look over her shoulder as she knelt down very carefully in her tight dress, "and other things," and let her legs swing freely over the ledge. "It's only fair. I know how much value you place on fairness and decency."

The opal was warm against the back of he legs. Still, even with the heat radiating from the volcanic sea, his chill aroused the baby hairs at the nape of her neck. He was floating beside her, opting out of sitting. "I'm sure you can think of a lot o' things to use me for." Despite the flirtatious insinuation, he had no fucking clue what she might request of him. Vengeance seemed to be a foreign concept to her, so she wouldn't find any use in his more unsavory services. Worthless garbage that her father was, he never left her wanting financially. She was already in. What could she want?

"That I can." She replied cryptically, running a finger across the stone. It was rough, unpolished, in its natural state. "I pierced my ears myself, you know." The statement seemed nonsequitur, but Lydia clearly had a point, so he waited patiently for her to go on. "Not the first ones, those were done at Claire's- it's a jewelry store," she explained at his inquiring look. "When my Dad wouldn't let me get any more- just my Dad, Delia was actually on my side on this one- I took a needle, a lighter, and an ice cube into the bathroom and did it myself. That really pissed him off. I don't think I've ever seen him so red." From the way she was speaking, it was a fond memory. "I never got in trouble for anything, so they didn't have the first clue how to discipline me when I acted against their wishes. I don't know what he was expecting, honestly. I warned him that I would do it myself if he didn't take me. I was only twelve, so I guess he just didn't believe me."

"Babe," Betelgeuse growled from above, and she knew without looking that whatever he was about to say would make her blush, "I like a girl with a high pain tolerance."

Her prediction was accurate. "I've been wanting to get my belly button pierced," she had finally reached the point of her anecdote, drumming black fingernails against opal. "I can't do it myself and Daddy dearest forbid it, but," this time, the smirk that curled her lips when she spoke of her father was wicked instead of solemn, "he's not the boss of me anymore. Is he?"

Ah. Of course. He was wondering when she was going to start exercising her teenage rebellion again. Arson, drinking, and flirting with older men- his personal favorite- were just a start. Surely, she would get the urge to dip her toes into more forbidden waters soon. "Nope, that would be my job." She stiffened, indignant at his arrogant assertion. Black nails tapped against the stone imperceptibly harder, faster. "I think it'd look hot as fuck on you n' if ya wanna do it, you should do it. Whaddya need from me ta make it happen?"

She braved a brief glance back at him, long enough for him to see that her face was beet red, before looking back to the burning abyss. "I'm not eighteen yet." She mumbled, embarrassed, as though that explained it all.

"So?"

"So-" she cut herself off, muttering into her lap. "I have to have a parent or legal guardian present."

Oh...

Oh!

Oh, this was delicious.

"You," he began, lighting a couple smokes for them, "are a naughty, naughty girl." She glowered downward, crossing her arms, but still accepted the cigarette he offered. Poor thing looked like she could use one. "I'll admit, 's a lil kinky, even for me, but if you really want me to pretend to be your daddy, you got it. Pumpkin."

"Oh god," she groaned into her hands, mortified. "Nevermind. Forget I said anything. I'll just wait two more years. It's not worth it."

"Aw, c'mon, it'll be fun." His eyebrow waggle made her cringe. "You can go ahead n' get a tattoo while you're at it. I think my name would look real nice right across your-"

"Stop!" Her hands were covering her ears. "That is never happening! You can come down off of that cloud right now, Mister!"

"Lyds," he cackled, holding his sides, "babes. M'just fuckin' with ya. Ya can't keep makin' it so easy for me."

The scowl on her face faded and she leaned back, crossing one leg over the other. Those black lips looked entirely too good blowing out smoke. Bad behavior suited her. "So you'll do it?"

"You fuckin' kiddin' me?" When was he ever going to get another opportunity like the one she was proposing? "Course I'll do it. Stupid." The side of her lips curled in pleasure at his reply and she tossed the end of her cigarette over the edge. She leaned forward, watching as it fell down, down, down into the fiery torrent. He floated around until he was behind her, letting his feet touch the ground. The ease with which she balanced her body on the precipice of certain death made him uncomfortable.

"It's so beautiful here. Like something out of a fairytale." Her neck craned back until her face was parallel with the sky and direct eye contact with him could be made. "What is this place? Why is it here?"

He crouched down behind her, breath cool in her ear when he spoke. "Ya gotta learn to quit askin' why and just let shit be what it is, babe." It was always a curious surprise how tiny she was compared to him. His calloused hands easily spanned her thin, bare shoulders. A horribly devilish smile darkened his face. "The what is the fun part. Wait here a minute."

Before departing for one of the caverns on the upper ledge of the cliff, he stopped, considering her. With a wave of his hand, a patchwork quilt complete with a picnic basket, a bottle of wine, and two glasses materialized a safe distance away from the ledge. Hopefully, that would help lure her. He didn't like the idea of her sitting in such a dangerous spot for very long without him there to supervise. Just to make absolutely sure, he didn't let her out of his line of sight until she was out of death's proximity.

Lydia left the wine alone, for now. It needed a corkscrew and the basket lacked one. Inside, there was a small wheel of soft white cheese, a loaf of French bread, a summer sausage, a container filled with strawberries, and a canister of whip cream. The sight of the last item caused her pulse to quicken. If he thought he was about to get some action on top of a mountain made of jewels... while they overlooked an ocean of fire... then he could just... just...

Oh god.

He could just fuck her right there and she would let him. The weight of the realization barely had time to settle in before the mountain was rumbling beneath her and screeching bellows echoed from the cavernous halls dug out in the cliffside, clearing her from her headspace.

Something was coming and it was angry.

Chapter Text

Dragons.

There were hundreds of them. Maybe even thousands. It was impossible to tell, they flew so rapidly from the caverns. Some were barely larger than housecats, while others could have easily snatched up elephants within their mighty jaws. Lydia's presence on their mountain was apparently so insignificant that they didn't even acknowledge her. Instead, they swooped overhead in a torrent of rainbow-colored scales, shooting jets of ice and fire through the air. Angry steam sizzled whenever the streams met.

It was chaos.

The vast majority of them fled into the distance until they were nothing more than specks in the sky, off to hunt, leaving several dozen behind. The smaller ones grouped off; fire-breathers nosedived straight into the sea, only to emerge moments later with molten fire dripping from their great wings. Ice-breathers circled the peak of the mountain in perfect formation, scouring for any signs of a threat. The distinction between the two was clear in the warm and cool tones of their scales.

The largest ones from both groupings- the champions or alphas, Lydia supposed- were brawling in midair above the lava almost playfully. "You got a deathwish or somethin'?" Betelgeuse tugged her back roughly from the edge of the cliff- where she had wandered to get a closer look.

"You know I do!" What was intended as a sarcastic reply came out sounding quite genuine; what with her ecstatic smile and barely contained excitement.

Betelgeuse did not like it. "Yeah, well," he scowled, tugging her further away from the edge and back toward the untouched food, "that's just too fuckin' bad."

"It was just a joke, Beej. Lighten up." He couldn't stay irritated with her for long, not when she smiled at him like that. "I'm not gonna kill myself, I promise."

"Your track record has me less than convinced." There was a brief flash of hurt before her mask was back in place. Shit. That was a dick thing to say, wasn't it? She didn't offer that information up, he forced it out of her. And now he was using it casually to tease her. "Fuck, babe, I didn't mean it-"

"It's okay." She was busying herself with spreading some of the cheese onto a piece of bread- anything to avoid eye contact. "Do you have a corkscrew? The wine needs one."

Betelgeuse meant it when he told Barbara that he had no intention of stopping Lydia if she wanted to drink. However, he was not in love with the idea of her turning to alcohol whenever she was upset and it was available. That would only breed more problems he was ill-equipped to deal with. He would allow it this time- when it was he who upset her and he who provided the alcohol- but no more after this. Besides, there was a very big difference between splitting a bottle of wine on a date and chugging hard liquor while burning things.

"Cheers," their glasses clinked together and Lydia took a deeper sip than he would've liked. Hypocritically, his entire glass was downed.

"I know you don't like it when I ask why, but..." Lydia set her glass down and moved to retrieve her camera from the passenger seat of the dragster, "what the fuck, Beej? I can't not ask. Why are there dragons here? I mean, we're still in the Neitherworld, right? This isn't some third dimension inhabited by warlocks and fairies, is it?"

"Quid pro quo?" The smirk he gave her should have warned her not to press on. Instead, she scowled and nodded her affirmation. "We're still in the Neitherworld, but I honestly couldn't tell ya if a place like that did or didn't exist. These guys?" He thumbed toward the vicious beasts. The mountain shuddered slightly when the large, black fire-breather body slammed the pale blue ice-breather into it. "These guys used to be at the top of the food chain in the living world, but there wasn't enough magic there to sustain them, so they came here. The weaker ones, the ones that couldn't make the trip on their own stayed behind. You probably know em as dinosaurs."

"Cool."

Whatever horribly personal information he wanted out of her was worth it. "Why'd ya try ta kill yourself?" If only she had an answer for him.

"I just..." maybe another deep sip of her wine would help, "didn't want... to be alive... anymore."

"C'mon, Lyds." She wasn't lying to him, but she wasn't even trying to put together a decent answer. "You can do better than that."

When she couldn't think of anything to tell him, she deflected. "Okay, Mr. I-Know-Everything-About-Everything, why don't you tell me why you think I tried to kill myself?"

"I know why I killed myself." She gasped. Something soft and pained came over her face and it took him awhile to place it. It had been a long time since anyone showed him that emotion. Concern. "Loneliness is a bitch, ain't it?"

The blanket creased a bit when she scooted closer, reaching across his lap for his empty glass. It was refilled and she went ahead and topped hers off while she was at it. "Yeah, it is." There was comfortable silence for a bit while she sliced the cheese, meat, and bread and prepped a handful of mini open-faced sandwiches. The strawberries and whip cream were pointedly ignored. "The answer is no, by the way." She couldn't give him a good answer for this question, so she might as well answer an older one. That was fair, right?

"What're ya talkin' about?"

She stalled, stuffing a sandwich in her mouth so she didn't have to clarify immediately. "No. I'm not a virgin." When she felt him stiffen beside her, her heartbeat sped up. Simultaneously, the pulsating organ sunk heavily into her stomach.

"What?" His teeth were bared, eyes wide with venom.

Lydia immediately scooted to the opposite edge of the blanket, hardening herself. "Yeah. I'm a big slut. I've slept with lots of guys." It was a horrible lie. She knew it. He knew it. She knew that he knew it. She didn't care. "Deepest apologies that you won't get to deflower me, but don't worry. I'm sure there are plenty of virgins out there you can seduce." Her hands shook. Her eyes were wet, but she would not cry. Not again. "You're pretty good at it. You shouldn't have any trouble."

"Jesus fuckin' ChristLydia." He dragged her back over, pulling her rigid form into his lap and forcing the side of her face against his chest. She did not protest but remained tense and unmoving. "Would you just shut the fuck up, you beautiful little lunatic?"

She broke. The tears wouldn't stay in place, no matter how badly she wanted them to. Not when he was speaking so softly in that rough voice of his. Not when he was holding her like that, caressing her hair, face, arms- nonsexual places- so gently. They poured out of her and she pressed her face fully against him, grasping the front of his suit, not caring that her makeup would probably leave a stain.

He pulled her in impossibly tight, closing his eyes and dropping his nose to the top of her head to inhale. He didn't need to breathe, but if he had to walk around with air in his lungs, he preferred for it to smell like her. "Tell me who did it."

She shook her head against him. It was a quick, jerking motion. "I don't know what you're talking about." The lie was muffled and thick with tears.

"Fucking hell! Just-" she flinched against him and he forced his fists to unclench so that he could keep stroking her. "Just tell me who hurt you."

"Nobody." One of her fists beat once, weakly against his shoulder. "Nobody did anything. I'm fine, I'm just fine. I'm okay, really!"

She was actually begging him to just believe her lies without question. "Baby..."

She was pulling away now, moving off of his lap and wiping at the black tears on her cheeks. "Can we go back now? It's really beautiful here and I had a really great time and thank you for that, but I just want to go." The words were quick and jumbled, her tone pleading.

What could he say? She was crying and it was his fault. Again. God, he was such a fuck up. "Yeah. C'mon."


Magical transportation seemed best this time. She disappeared into her room upon their arrival at the roadhouse, but not before thanking him again for their date and leaving a black lip print on his cheek. That was hours ago. He didn't know what she was doing. She could have thrown herself from her window and he would be none the wiser. The memory of her cheerful promise not to kill herself- before he made her fucking cry again- kept him from checking, bothering her. Clearly, she wanted to be alone. If nothing else, he could give her that.

When she finally emerged, almost all of the makeup had been cleaned from her face, but her eyes were still rimmed with smudged coal. She wore a long, black bathrobe and her hair was down. The strands she'd curled earlier stood out against the rest of it. "I'm sorry," she sighed out, dropping down onto the couch next to him and leaning her head against his shoulder. "I ruined our date."

"Shut up, stupid." He returned affectionately, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and leaning back to throw his booted feet up on the coffee table with a thump. She settled into him easily, closing her eyes and drawing her legs up onto the couch, curling her arm to rest on top of his chest. They stayed like this for awhile. It was such a foreign feeling, holding her relaxed form against him like this. They were both unmoving- with the exception of his fingers absent-mindedly trailing through her soft hair- and yet it was different for her. He was permanently, painfully still in death while her body was in constant motion; blood rushing through the veins beneath her skin, her torso expanding and decompressing with each breath, the slow, thrumming beat of her heart pounding against him. It was hypnotic, lulling.

He almost thought she was asleep until she spoke up again.

"We need to get you caught up on your pop culture." The Twilight Zone was on. The commercials, however, were the most interesting parts. For Lydia, anyway. They advertised products that made ridiculous claims; an injectable oil that supposedly helped with stiff bones, maggot repellant for coffins, fang-whitener for those really tough stains. "There's this show called Black Mirror. You might like it. It's like this, but the episodes are longer. Almost all of them take place in the future and have to do with some kind of fucked up technology. Like, little chips implanted in your brain so that everything you see and hear is recorded and can be played back for an audience at the touch of a button. Stuff like that."

"It's your vacation, babe." The only reason they were still holed up in this shithole instead of living it up on some resort is that he thought it was what she wanted. "You wanna spend it layin' around watchin' TV with me, you got it."

"Wanna hear something hilarious?"

"Shoot."

"My laptop is open in my bedroom right now, picking up a wi-fi signal from a Starbucks." A slow, wheezing laugh built up in his chest, shaking her slightly. It was infectious. Soon, they were both guffawing, filling the room with the raucous sound. "God!" She gasped, sitting up and wiping happy tears from the corner of her eyes. "How is it that that's the weirdest thing I've seen all day?"

"Ya got me, babe." For once, they were on equal footing; delightfully surprised and amused on the same level by the same thing. "I don't have an explanation for this one."

She stood from the couch and he noticed she was barefoot. With a subtle wave, every last shard of glass innocuously disappeared from the floor. "I'm gonna go raid your kitchen."

"There ain't shit to eat in there. Ya hungry?"

This didn't pause Lydia's stride. "Not yet, but I want to see what I have to work with here."

He frowned, following after her as she disappeared through the entryway. "You don't have ta cook." She was his fucking Queen, not some lowly kitchen-maid. He would have to do something to get that through her head somehow.

She turned her head from the cupboard she was exploring, a putout frown of her own pulling at her lips. "I like cooking."

He knew she could cook, and well if the scent was anything to go off of. It would often seep into the Maitlands' attic, making his mouth water. He didn't often partake in human food- if only because it was nearly impossible to get a hold of in the Neitherworld. That, and hunger wasn't something that bothered him nowadays. Still, he thought it was just a skill she developed out of necessity- not a hobby she enjoyed. The idea of Lydia running around his kitchen in an apron, putting together a meal for him was just too fucking much.

"Goddamn, I hit the jackpot." He strolled right up to her and she backed into an open drawer, eyes wide, not knowing what to expect from him. With one quick motion, she was lifted by her waist and set on the countertop. They were eye-to-eye now, instead of her looking up at him. "You're fuckin' perfect, ya know that?"

A modest blush stained her cheeks and she tilted her head to the side coquettishly, averting her gaze. "Nobody's perfect."

"Bullshit." The dismissal was just as quick, just as absolute as when he thought she was lying about speaking Russian.

"Ya ne sovershenna, no ty zastavlyaesh menya chuvstvovat' sebya tak, budto eto pravda." She wasn't brave enough to convey her emotions to him in English, but it didn't matter. He understood. The hands on her hips slid to the back of her knees, her legs were spread, and she was pulled flush against him, right on the edge of the counter. Instinctively, she grasped his shoulders at the quick movement. He leaned in and she closed her eyes, sure that he was going to kiss her. Instead, he went straight for her neck. She gasped, legs tightening around him, when an ice cold tongue ran a slow straight line up the column of her throat, stopping at her ear to give it a quick tug between his teeth.

"You keep talkin' like that," he breathed harshly into the same ear, making her entire body shudder against him in the worst kind of way, "n' I'm gonna fuck you right here on this countertop. Hard." He ground against her in such a way that there could be no room for doubt of his intentions. "N' fast. N' rough. N' I'm not gonna wanna stop for a long time." When he pulled back, the total seriousness in his gaze startled her. Was she actually ready for that, for someone like him? "I don't wanna hurt you, baby. So I'mma need ya ta stop talkin' like that."

"O-okay," she stuttered obediently in English.

"Good girl." A firm kiss was left on her forehead before he stepped away, turning his back on her to light a cigarette. She took this moment to close her eyes and take some deep breaths, one hand coming up to her chest to feel her racing heartbeat. "So you wanna cook dinner tonight, right?" Lydia nodded, snapping her legs shut when he turned back around and she realized they were still splayed wide open to accommodate him. "That means grocery shoppin', cause I ain't got shit here."

"Oh." She replied dumbly, still flushed and heated.

"Which means...?" He raised an eyebrow, waiting for her to come to the obvious conclusion and smirking when she only furrowed her brows at him. It seemed his threat of a good, hard fuck had his little bride hot, bothered, and distracted.

Utter perfection.

"It means it's time for you ta make your grand debut in the living world as a married woman. Winter River seems like a good start ta me, don'tcha think?" They could go grocery shopping anywhere, but the idea of wearing her proudly on his arm while they strolled through the town that hated her so much, caused her so much grief was too tempting. His human form was a catch. He knew it. She knew it. Anyone who saw them would know it. His brand of vengeance didn't seem to appeal to her, but maybe this subtler form would.

Judging by the mischief that gleamed in her eyes and pulled at her lips at his suggestion, he wasn't too far off the mark.

Chapter Text

"You're not wantin' to go see Tweedledick and Tweedledumbass while we're here, are ya?" The grimace pulling at Betelgeuse's ruggedly handsome human features told her everything she needed to know about what he thought of that idea. They were in his car, approaching Winter River from a road on the outlying forest where the dragster had materialized inconspicuously. There were only a few hours of sunlight left, which was ideal. What was the point in coming here if no one could see them?

"No, not really. I just told them this morning that I was leaving the country with you. It would probably be best not to get their hopes up." Lydia didn't bother dressing up for the occasion. She wore a plain spaghetti-strap black sundress, combat boots, and her hair was thrown into a messy updo that disguised the fact that some of her hair was curled and some of it wasn't. Black makeup was smudged around her eyes still. She was a hot freaking mess, but who cared? This was a standard look for her, usually, and she pulled off grunge well.

No, this time, it was Betelgeuse's turn to shine. Freedom suited him. He wore the same pressed slacks and white button up from before, but he'd rolled the sleeves up to his elbow to reveal a big, shiny, golden Rolex. This was not the watch he wore in his true skin, so Lydia knew it was just a prop for his act. When he smiled, it was chillingly white and blinding. Like a shark's. The more Lydia saw him like this, the more unsettled she became by it. It was not natural.

"Good," he growled, his whiskey-stained scratch sounding so wrong coming out of such a beautiful face, "'cause my patience with those motherfuckers is runnin' on empty."

"They just want what's best for me, Beej." As unhappy with them as Lydia currently was, she wasn't about to let them go undefended while Betelgeuse badmouthed them. "Besides, they're so... sheltered. I mean, fuck, I think I was more jaded than them before I got to kindergarten."

"Babe," he began very seriously, his mouth turned in a grim frown, "the only reason they're not floatin' around in the lost souls' room right now is because they want what's best for you. If you didn't like em, they wouldn't still be here."

The Lost Souls' Room. Lydia remembered reading about that in the handbook. That's where exorcised souls were banished to. "I don't understand." They were approaching Winter River now. "What are you saying?"

"I'm sayin'," he pulled sharply into a random parking lot, taking up two spaces, "that if it wasn't for you, I woulda taken em out myself. With or without the help o' Red's decoratin' boy."

Lydia pouted and stepped out of the car, depriving him of the chance to open her door for her like he was rushing to do. "Why? What did they do to you? I know they don't like you, but that's not a big enough crime to deserve exorcism." He wasn't that petty... was he? "Is it?"

There was something dark in his eyes. "They broke a deal with me."

Lydia scoffed, becoming indignant, and walked on without him. People were staring at them- mouth agape, eyes wide- but both were too caught up in the conversation to care very much. "So?"

He caught her by her shoulder, spinning her around roughly. "So nobody gets away with that shit."

If Lydia had a lesser constitution, the ice in his eyes might have frightened her. "So... what if I had said 'I don't' instead of 'I do'? Would you have killed me? That's what it sounds like you're saying."

The ice melted, making way for amused warmth. Then, he was laughing at her. It was infuriating and she turned her back on him once more to keep walking toward the store. A cold heavy arm that refused to be shrugged off landed on her shoulders. "Whoo!" He wiped an imaginary sweat drop from his brow. "That was a good one. I didn't know you were funny, babe. Ya can't keep holdin' out on me."

"I'm serious!" God, she was fucking glorious when she was angry. It just made him want to push her buttons all the more. "What would you have done if I changed my mind? Didn't keep my word?"

He shrugged, examing his pristine human nails. "Dunno. Prolly woulda married ya anyway. You're too cute to kill." A light pinch was gifted to one of her flushed cheeks. The only thing that stopped her from lashing out and biting his hand is that it probably would have just turned him on.

"That," she began resentfully, nose in the air, "is incredibly sexist of you and I am offended." He was going to die again. From laughter. "Shut up! Being cute," she said it like it was a filthy thing to be,"shouldn't exclude me from candidacy! I deserve the same right to be murdered by you as any man!"

"She thinks I'm the crazy one!" He cackled out to an especially disturbed onlooker, not even bothering to acknowledge her insane assertations. Their bickering was drawing quite a lot of attention. She was walking quickly, eager to put as much distance between them as possible. He caught up to her in the grocery store right as she picked her cart and pulled out her list. "Ya know babe, as fuckin' adorable as it is that ya got your panties all in a twist over equal opportunity homicide, ya probably shouldn't walk around screamin' 'murder' at the top o' your lungs. Might give people the wrong idea."

"You probably shouldn't chase around underage girls," she returned without missing a beat, "people might think you were some kind of pervert."

That was the first time Lydia had ever come close to shaming him for pursuing her despite her age. It was one of a short, short list of things that he felt somewhat guilty about. Not guilty enough to throw in the towel, though.

"You probably shouldn't go around kissin' older men," a sneaky hand slipped down her backside discretely to squeeze one luscious ass cheek. With lightning fast reflexes, he caught her wrist when she turned abruptly to slap him. "Might make em think ya want more than you're ready for."

The unrelenting heat in his gaze killed whatever slick retort she had for him. "Yeah- well-!" With a tug, her wrist was her own again and she began toward the produce section, "you're still a sexist jerk."

However, the sight of an elderly woman with frizzy dyed orange hair and thick coke bottle glasses made her freeze, then pull a one-eighty. Not before she was spotted, though.

"Miss Deetz!" Miss Shannon's shrill voice called out. Lydia's shoulders shot up to her ears and she cast Betelgeuse a quick, pleading look before turning around and plastering the biggest, fakest smile on her face that she could muster.

"Hi, Miss Shannon!" Betelgeuse's upper lip curled. So this is the cunt that suggested his wife was sleeping around when she was just trying to be a good girl and do her homework. "I'm uh- I mean, I didn't think I would see you... here..." Lydia was floundering, trying to think of a good excuse for why she both missed school for the fourth time that week and was now in the company of a much older man.

"I suppose you didn't," her reply was curt and knowing, as though she'd just got Lydia smoking in the bathroom. "I must admit that this is quite a coincidence, Miss Deetz. I was actually going to head up the hill and see your mother and father once I was done here. So that we could speak in person about your recent attendance issues. They've been ignoring my calls." The crone turned her shrewd, beady eyes on him and Betelgeuse was reminded of a different old bag that liked to get on his nerves. "I'm sure they'll be quite interested to know you're running around with a man twice your age, dressed so..." Miss Shannon's thin lips pursed, "inappropriately."

With Lydia's smudged makeup and messy hair, she probably looked like she'd been partying all night and day. When Betelgeuse stepped forward menacingly, no doubt with murderous intent, she snatched his hand and pulled him back to her side. "You really shouldn't bother. They're in Mexico right now, no one's home. This is my uh... my... uhm-"

"Husband." Betelgeuse finished for her, with venom, making Lydia's face burn and Miss Shannon's fall in shock. "'N I got a bone ta pick with you. See, I heard that you implied my fuckin' wifewas runnin' around with her legs spread," he stepped forward, brushing away Lydia's weak grip, "n' that ya tried to tell her how she should wear the ring I gave her." His pallid skin and striped suit were dearly missed in this moment. The old bitch wasn't nearly as scared as she should have been.

"Honey!" Lydia cut in urgently before he could go on, a desperation in her forced laugh. "It's really not a big deal." Oh God. He was going to murder her teacher in broad daylight in the middle of a grocery store. He had to be stopped. "Seriously, I've already forgotten all about it."

"Now, sweetheart," he returned condescendingly, cupping the side of her face and pressing a quick kiss to her forehead, "ya know I can't have anyone disrespectin' you. My pride simply won't allow it." He said it like it was a joke, but Lydia knew it wasn't.

"Miss Deetz," Miss Shannon finally spoke up again, scandalized and choosing to ignore the irate man, "I don't know what kind of joke you are trying to play, but it is not funny. I've been around the block a few times in my day. I've had students with far more pluck than you try to pull the wool over my eyes. They were unsuccessful as well. I will be going up that hill to see your parents after I leave here and I will be telling them about all of," she waved a hand toward the couple, "this!" With a snooty humph, Miss Shannon rolled her cart onward to continue with her shopping.

Lydia immediately grabbed Betelgeuse by his shirt, pulling him down so they were face to face. "If you hurt her I will never forgive you."

Probably not true, but Betelgeuse didn't want to test her on that. There was clearly a limit to how much bullshit Lydia was willing to accept from him. "You," he darted forward, licking her cheek, "are a party pooper."

She grimaced, letting go of him to rub at the wet spot. "Gross!" A blood-curdling scream from the next aisle over stopped her cold. "What did you do?!" Lydia didn't wait for an answer, running around to the other side of the row to check on Miss Shannon.

Lydia didn't know whether to laugh or cry out at the sight that met her. The teacher was plagued by roaches. Not just any roaches. Big, fat hissing ones. Probably Madagascar if Lydia knew her entomology. They crawled out from her scalp and she screeched horribly again, shaking her head and batting them from her hair so furiously that she knocked her glasses away by mistake. Lydia could see movement beneath her shirt and just knew that they were crawling all over her skin. However, the instructors high, tight neckline and cuffs didn't give them any room to escape. Consequently, she was forced to rip her blouse open and tear it off her back, leaving her in nothing but her white bra and ankle-length skirt.

"That's enough, Betelgeuse."

Like that, the illusion disappeared. The spectacle had drawn a large crowd. Cashiers, fellow students, random citizens of Winter River flooded both ends of the aisles. The entire store was concentrated on this one aisle. No one did anything to help her, though. They just stood there, watching while the exposed elderly woman sobbed hysterically, still swiping at imaginary roaches. A few students even dared to yell out some less than kind phrases, taking photos with their cellphone.

It made Lydia sick.

Mind made up, she moved forward with purpose, breaking away from the crowd. Miss Shannon's dropped glasses and ripped blouse were collected in her hands before she carefully draped the shirt over the quivering woman's front, placing the glasses in her shaking hands. Students still snickered here and there. Something inside of her snapped. She stood at attention, fists clenched at her sides to face them all down at once. Not too long ago, she wouldn't have had the courage to do something like this. Currently, she was all out of fucks to give.

"Don't you people have anything better to do than kick an old woman while she's down!?" The sporadic laughter and muttering went quiet. "You're all disgusting."

That did the trick. The mirth that kept the crowd riled up died. One by one they all filtered away until only Betelgeuse was left, leaning against the shelves with his arms crossed, scowling. He watched, feeling utterly undermined, as Lydia helped the old bitch to her feet. Miss Shannon was less than grateful. As soon as she had her bearings she fled from the store, but not before looking at Lydia as though she were the devil incarnate. In turn, Lydia tried to tell her that she was leaving her purse behind. She was ignored.

"That was a really cruel fucked up thing to do." She tore into him as soon as she was done turning Miss Shannon's purse in to the store manager and could finally begin her shopping. Rage poured off of her in waves. Her words were grit out through her teeth.

"She started it."

"No!" Lydia returned, tossing a bag of frozen shrimp into the cart with more force than necessary. "She was doing her job! Could she have been nicer about it? Yeah, but she did not deserve that! Nobody deserves that!"

Betelgeuse fundamentally disagreed but knew there was nothing he could say to change Lydia's mind on this. His wife had a deeply entrenched sense of right and wrong. Though her lines occasionally blurred when it came to him, her moral compass was fair and blind. If the crime was equal, she would show the same level of outrage for an enemy that she did a friend. "I didn't hurt her, right? Technically, that's the only condition ya gave me."

"Details." She echoed back with vehemence, and he was reminded of the last time he attacked someone who was unkind to her. "I don't want you to protect me anymore if that's your idea of protection. I'll be damned if you're going to go around bullying little old ladies in my name." The disgust in her voice hit him. Hard. She had never taken that tone with him before. The sound of it twisted up his insides. Her mouth opened again and the idea of having to face any more of her horrible judgment forced him to speak up- make it stop.

"I'm sorry."

The scolding died in her throat. Never had he ever apologized for any of the things he had done before. Not once. It was a powerful statement. Warm fingers intertwined with his and pink lips brushed his tan cheek. "You're forgiven."

Betelgeuse grinned, victorious, and walked along with her, hand in hand, as she moved on down her list. "Ya gotta admit, babe. She had it comin'."

Lydia tried to shoot him another dirty look but when his eyebrow rose, imploring her for an actual answer, her stern expression dissolved into soft giggles. Seeing stiff, uptight Miss Shannon screaming bloody murder while batting giant cockroaches from her hair was pretty damn priceless.

"Yeah," her hand squeezed his, "but only a little bit."

Chapter Text

A gaggle of teenagers surrounded his car as they made their way back. A ball of dread formed low in Lydia's stomach when she noticed a familiar head of platinum blonde among the group. "Heh," her husband chuckled beside her, "looks like Doomie's gettin' some attention." They were still too far away- roughly a block down the road- for him to recognize the girl.

"Betelgeuse."

Her use of his full name and the fact that she had stopped walking drew his regard. Anxiety was twisting up her delicate features and he did not like it. Just moments before she was smiling and joking with him. With a grunt, the lot of groceries he had made a show of hauling on just one arm were slung over his shoulder and he stopped too, giving her his undivided attention. "What's wrong?"

"Claire."

What the fuck? "The jewelry store?" Was she wanting to get her piercing now?

"No," she shook her head, casting a pointed stare down the block, toward their destination, "Claire. Claire Brewster." He followed her gaze, comprehension dawning on him when one of the adolescents- a nasty little blonde- took a seat right on the hood of his fucking car, running a hand across the yellow finish adoringly. Lydia's soft, warm hand on his arm stopped him when he surged forward impulsively, ready to kill.

"Please don't." She was begging him again. Goddamnit.

A deep sigh of exasperation escaped him and his free hand pinched the bridge of his nose. "You're killin' me, babe." He didn't do rules. He especially didn't stand for anyone trying to tell him what to do. However, an upset Lydia was simply unacceptable. He was torn between his instincts; obey his perfect wife or mangle the girl. Was it better to preserve the trust they had painstakingly established? Or to indulge in the momentary satisfaction that destroying the teenage pestilence would give him?

The choice was clear. That didn't mean he had to like it. "I can't keep this shit up, Lyds. We gotta find a compromise or somethin'."

The frustration in his voice made her feel guilty. Here he was, this wild, powerful thing leashing himself. For her. "I only have one rule, Beej." He sneered when the despised word passed her lips and she hated herself for having to do this. "Primum non nocere," she quoted, knowing he would understand, "physical or otherwise. Especially on my behalf. I can't have shit like that on my head, it's too much."

His irritation flickered, making room for confusion. Did she really blame herself for the things that he did? Of course she did. She was a compassionate, guilt-prone little thing. Why was he even surprised? The revelation made his decision to adhere to her binding stipulation all the more absolute. "If you can manage that for me, everything else is fair game." That was a lot of wiggle room to work with. He was creative. Surely, he could find a way to torment the little cunt without arousing Lydia's ire. Besides, he could always come back later, by himself, while Lydia slept. What she didn't know wouldn't hurt her, right?

"Fine," he grumbled finally, putting on a show of feigned annoyance and wrapping an arm around her waist, continuing on their way to the car, "but you owe me. I wanna plate o' whatever you're cookin' when we get home."

Home. The way he said it, it felt so right, so natural. Once the warmth of hearing the word spoken so casually settled, the rest of the sentence sunk in. "You eat food?"

"You watch Disney movies?" He returned easily, thick with sarcasm and tease.

She paled- only for a moment- before flushing a deep scarlet, eyes wide with horror. "Shut up! Some of them are really good!"

"I wonder what Freud would have ta say 'bout your appreciation for Beauty n' the Beast- considerin' who your darlin' hubby is. Personally, I think it's appropriate. Wanna go ask?"

"He wouldn't say anything because there's nothing to say about it because it's entirely coincidental-!" Her flustered, defensive argument lowered considerably in volume as they reached the portion of the sidewalk that bordered the parking lot where the dragster was parked.

Claire was quick to notice their approaching forms. She slid down from the hood, brushing off her blue and yellow cheerleading skirt. Whatever scathing remark she had for Lydia died on her lips when she noticed the man on her arm. Sweet Jesus. He was gorgeous, much too handsome to be in the company of someone like Lydia Deetz.

"Lydia!" She called out amicably, flipping blonde hair over her shoulder and gifting the beautiful man with her award-winning- literally, she actually had awards- pageant smile. "Is this, like, your Uncle?" Glacial orbs didn't bother to look into the person's she was addressing. Claire only had eyes for the tall, dark stranger. "Where have you been hiding him? He's so strong!" Those were a whole lot of bags he had slung over his shoulder, soldiering them around like it was nothing at all.

Lydia's own honey eyes narrowed. Claire never called her by her first name. Only ever Deetz or freak. "Lydia's too pretty a name for someone like you," she once said, before going off on a cruel spiel that was subsequently blocked out by the apathetic goth.

"No," the raven-haired girl answered. The sharpness of it drew Claire's eyes to her, finally. Lydia never talked back. She never cared enough to. It's what kept Claire coming back for more, what fueled her determination to tear down the mute's armor. After all, who did Lydia think she was, ignoring her? "He's my husband." The possessiveness in the statement both delighted and startled Betelgeuse. The hand on her hip squeezed to convey his pleasure.

While Claire was initially taken aback that Lydia actually responded to her, the absurdity of what she had to say made her dissolve into obnoxious giggles. "Wow! I knew you were a freak, but I didn't know you were, like, a liar, too." With total confidence, the cheerleader strutted right up to them. Once again, Lydia was forgotten in favor of eye-fucking the man on her arm. "You must be new here," she began, too busy zeroing in on the muscles on his biceps to notice the way he was grinding his teeth, "let me introduce myself. My name is Claire. Claire Brewster." When she didn't see any recognition in his expression, she kept talking. "My father owns this town," a sultry smile curled at her hot pink lips and she dared to run a manicured finger across the exposed part of his chest, playing with the wiry golden hair there, "but you don't have to worry about him. I don't tell him everything."

Lydia's blood boiled and she lashed out before Betelgeuse had a chance to, slapping Claire's hand away and stepping in front of him, arms crossed. "He's not interested." Claire was taller than her- like most people- but not so much so that she had to look up to make eye contact. "You can call Ethan if you need someone to fill the gaping hole that is your putrid cunt." Shock and humiliation turned the platinum blonde's face cherry red. Barely suppressed laughter echoed from the trio of similarly popular, rich girls that followed Claire around everywhere she went.

Lydia raised an eyebrow at the snickering brunette still leaning against her husband's car. Sometimes, not having any friends paid off. People dropped their guard around her, said things that they normally wouldn't. Secret things. "That is, unless he's too busy with Stacy these days."

"SHUT YOUR MOUTH, YOU STUPID BITCH!" The brunette screeched, stomping her feet like a toddler throwing a temper tantrum.

"Stacy?!" Claire turned on her, hardly believing that her right hand could possibly have betrayed her in such an insidious way.

The fellow cheerleader rolled her eyes and scoffed, "Like, whatever, Claire! It's not as though you haven't been fucking, like, the entire football team! You've been being a giant bitch to him since the accident, anyway." By accident, she must have been referring to Claire's recent near-death experience in the Porsche.

"Maybe because he, like, tried to KILL ME, YOU TRAITOROUS SLUT!"

The scene quickly escalated. It was like watching a house of cards collapse. Lydia had always known that it would not be too difficult to tear down Claire's hierarchy, but she'd never had the desire nor motivation to do so before. High school politics were beneath her. However, she considered with narrowed eyes and a vicious smirk, watching as the cheerleaders all took off in different directions, no longer able to stand one another's company- that bitch crossed the line.

Proud of her work, Lydia moved to the hood of his car, using the material of her dress to wipe away a scuff left behind by Claire. "See? I don't need you to protect me. I can take care of myself."

In a flash, the groceries were juiced into the trunk and he had her spun around and caged to the hood. He was bouncing on the balls of his feet, riled up by the show she had just given him. "That was fuckin' amazin', babes!" Needless to say, Betelgeuse was thoroughly impressed. That was more entertaining than any of the ideas that were rattling around in his brain would have been. With no more than a few short, cold comments his scrumptious wife had effectively ripped that little skank's life to shreds! No more boyfriend, no more cronies, and- if Winter River was like every other small town in America and Claire's "friends" spread word of her promiscuous activities- no more pristine reputation. "Did you see the look on her face when you called that other bitch out?! I thought they were 'bout to kill each other right here in the parkin' lot!"

As usual, Lydia's pale cheeks pinked under his praise. "They can kill each other all they want. As long as it's not you doing the murdering."

He moved in closer, pinning her with his hips and forcing her to throw her hands back to support herself. "Thanks for savin' me from the nympho cheerleader from hell." That's a sentence he never thought he would find himself saying. "Dunno what I'd do without you around to protect my virtue."

The blush faded and her lips pursed. "I'm sure you'd manage. Let me up."

The request was ignored. He pressed even closer so that her front was flush with his. A cold hand trailed along the outside of her thigh to play with the skin just beneath the hem of her dress. "I haven't given you a proper thank you kiss yet." Pink lips parted- no doubt to protest his suggestion with some biting quip- but he didn't let them, bearing down to unleash his passion on her. Unfortunately, the kiss was cut short when she turned her head sharply and started squirming with discomfort. She was regarded with a confused frown and he stepped back, letting her stand up straight and keeping his hands to himself. He thought they were past all this. "What gives?"

Lydia at least had the decency to look embarrassed by what she was about to say, gaze trained on the concrete. "You feel..." Spiced honey eyes gave his human face one more cursory examination before returning to the ground. "...different..." His lips were softer, more supple than she was used to. "And you look funny." That part was muttered, barely audible. Letting this man kiss her felt wrong, almost like... cheating? Her brows furrowed at the ridiculous thought.

Betelgeuse was charmed, laughing out boisterously at her hilarious observations and uncomfortable demeanor. When he looked around and saw that the street was currently deserted, his human skin was shed and he was back to normal. "Better?"

A tiny smile curled her lips. "Much."

"Good." Then he was on her again. She was more receptive this time, letting her hands come up to rest on his shoulders, but still pushed him away gently when his attention became too much for her.

"Come on, I'm hungry." He was gifted with one last soft peck before she said something that made his dead heart thump. "Let's go home."

Chapter Text

Not only was Betelgeuse a sexist pig, he was a lazy sexist pig. Violent scenarios flashed through Lydia's head as she furiously scrubbed at the last few dishes left in the sink. The death metal screeching from her portable speaker definitely helped to set the mood. "That sounds like woman's work ta me," he had drawled to a disbelieving Lydia when she asked for help tidying up the kitchen, before grabbing a beer out of the fridge and setting up camp in front the tv. While it was true that she didn't know the extent of his power, she was still pretty fucking positive that all he had to do was point a finger and the room would be spotless. It was a good thing she'd had the foresight to pick up soap and sponges while they were out. With a growl, the water was shut off and Lydia dried her hands on her dress. Dishtowels, she thought, mentally adding them to her list for their next shopping trip.

If Betelgeuse wasn't having the time of his life, he might have felt guilty. While initially, the thought of her doing any kind of cleaning or cooking repelled him- his wife, his Queen dirtying her dainty hands like some filthy commoner- he got used to the idea real quick. The novelty of having an actual wife cleaning up his kitchen to prepare a meal for him was too damn attractive. Besides, she asked for this. She didn't have to cook, she wanted to cook. If it got to be too much, she could always come crawling his way and beg him to conjure a meal for her. As if, he thought with a smirk as he returned to the kitchen to grab another beer, investigate the delicious smells wafting from the area, and eye-hump the goddess of rage currently slaving over his stove.

The music coming out of her speaker was blaring. It was probably done to annoy him, interrupt his television watching. What Lydia didn't know is that he was an excellent lip reader and her efforts were for naught. Though, he was counting his blessings that she had good tastes- if a bit eclectic. She listened to everything from classical opera to filthy, hardcore rap. Music had definitely gotten dirtier in the past decade. Some of the things coming out of that speaker almost made him blush.

Lydia still hadn't noticed him yet. A deeper, spicier scent joined the other mouth-watering aromas as she added diced bell pepper, onion, and celery to the roux she'd been working on for the better part of the last hour. A delicate piano rhythm started to play and she nodded her head along with it. When a male tenor began to sing, so did she.

"He opens his eyes, falls in love at first sight,

With the girl in the doorway,

What beautiful lines, how full of life,

After thousands of years what a face to wake up to,"

Though the music was quite loud, it was not difficult to discern her voice from it. She had a high, smooth soprano that soared above the simulated sound clearly. Still, he couldn't really hear her. The stupid song was drowning out the nuances of her voice, her high harmony blending so perfectly that it was impossible to just listen to her, to block out the insufferable tenor.

"He holds back a sigh as she touches his arm,

She dusts off the bed where till now he's been sleeping,

Under miles of stone, the dried fig of his heart,

Under scarab and bone starts back to its beating,"

He couldn't tear himself away, didn't want to. The song was tragic; all about a trusting little human- not unlike his Lydia- who lets a mummified incubus suck her life force away, all because she was blinded by his love.

"Long ago on the ship, she asked 'Why pyramids?'

He said 'Think of them as an immense invitation'

She asks 'Are you cursed?' He says 'I think that I'm cured'

Then he kissed her and hoped that she'd forget that question,"

He finally had her attention when the next song didn't play and she turned from what she was doing to investigate. He was gifted with an icy glare before she turned her back to him again, her movements sharp with irritation. "Dinner's not done yet. Go away."

Damn, he might have pissed her off more than he meant to with that women's work line. He would just have to do something to make it up to her before the night was up. From what he'd heard, going to bed angry was a bad practice. "I think I know how I wanna cash my favor in."

Wide, panicked eyes turned his way. The chicken stock and measuring cup she was holding slipped from her hands, but they never hit the floor. With a gesture from him, both floated back to the counter without a drop spilling on to the clean black and white checkered linoleum. This reaction earned her a knowing chuckle that made her face burn. "Now, Lyds," he floated her way as she steeled herself and continued measuring. Her mask was in place, but the deep color in her cheeks gave away what she was thinking all too clearly. "You don't think I'm gonna ask for anythin'... ungentlemanly, do ya?"

Unable to stand his close proximity, she flew to the other side of the kitchen to retrieve meat from the fridge, a knife, and a cutting board. "I don't have any fucking idea what you want from me." It bothered him that her sharp retort came out sounding so honestly perplexed, strained. He thought his desires had been made pretty damn clear. Apparently not.

"When I fuck you," the words were growled into her ear, cold hands gripping her hips to pull her rear up against his desire, "it's gonna be 'cause you wanna be fucked. Not 'cause I tricked you into it." In a flash, his presence was gone from behind her and he was leaning back in a dining chair, boots thrown up on the table while tossing back a good portion of his beer. The knife in her hands shook while she proceeded to cube chicken breasts and slice sausage. He watched carefully, ready to freeze the utensil if it looked like she was about to slip and cut herself.

"Well?" Wary honey eyes flicked up from the board. "What do you want?"

"I want you... to..." he spoke slowly, drawing out the anticipation, basking in her nerves, "sing a song for me."

The horrified look on her face almost made him laugh out. She looked like he just asked her for anal. With no lube. "No!"

"Have it your way," he feigned surrender, lighting a cigarette, "I've been gettin' a lil antsy anyway. I'll just go take out the lil skank later, after dinner."

"You wouldn't." He totally would. She didn't need to see his victorious smirk to know that. The bastard would go murder Claire Brewster tonight just because she refused to sing him a song. "But Beej!" She hated the whine in her voice, "I don't- I mean- I can't-" the way she was biting her lip and furrowing her brows in discomfort made him want to console her, but it was probably best not to get too close while she was wielding such a large knife. She might do something stupid and hurt herself. "I've never sung in front of anyone before."

Lydia didn't even know if she was any good. She sounded good in her head and in the shower, but she could feel her throat closing up and becoming scratchy at the mere thought of there being a witness- especially someone as brutally blunt as him.

"I've never not killed somebody who was askin' for it."

His reply made her feel terrible for trying to worm out of the deal at all. He really wasn't asking for a lot, and after what she had asked of him earlier that day, it was more than fair. With a gulp, she returned to the stove and added the meat to a skillet to brown. "What do you want to hear?"

"I don't care, whatever you like ta sing."

That was good. At least he wasn't expecting her to just know a song of his choice on the fly. "Okay," she cleared her throat, mentally preparing herself, "Just- just give me a minute." After choosing a song- something older, something he would recognize- and taking several deep calming breaths, she allowed herself to begin. However, before she could get the second word of the first verse out, her voice cracked, stopping her. She buried her face in her hands abashedly, muttering reassurances to herself. "You can do this, LydiaIt's just a stupid song."

It was painful. He was this close to showing her mercy, letting her off the hook, when she started up again.

"Stars shining bright above you,

Night breezes seem to whisper 'I love you',

Birds singing in the sycamore trees,

Dream a little dream of me,"

It was shaky and unsure, but still pretty sounding. He made sure to keep very still and quiet, knowing that his presence was what was throwing her off. The second verse came out much more smoothly than the first. By the time she got to the chorus, he couldn't hear her nerves anymore.

"Stars fading but I linger on, dear,

Still craving your kiss,

I'm longing to linger till dawn, dear,

Just saying this,"

It was lovely. He closed his eyes, basking in the sweet lilt of her voice, pretending that she was singing for him because she wanted to. Too soon, his songbird had finished her serenade. The only sounds left in the kitchen were the bubbling and sizzling from her cooking. "'S a good thing you don't like singin' in front o' people," he finally spoke after he was done fantasizing. "If Ging ever heard that, she'd want you on her stage every night, n' I don't like ta share."

"Oh God," she muttered, just as turned off as he was by the idea, "Never. You don't have to worry about that. Though, that reminds me," she was adding the browned meat to the larger pot now, "I feel bad about how we just left her like that. I know you were fighting, but she was just trying to be nice to me. Can we go back tomorrow? I want to go see that store... the shocking mall, I think? Is that right?" A lid was placed over the top, the heat was lowered, and the dirty dishes were moved to the sink. Just a few more minutes to simmer and dinner would be done.

"Yeah, that's right."

The look on his face was grim. She frowned, following him out to the living room and hunkering down on the opposite end of the couch. "What's wrong?"

Well, this sucked. She wanted to go to the mall. Chances are, she was going to see something she wanted. "Babe, ya ever wonder why we're spendin' our honeymoon in this shithole instead o' some swanky Neitherworld vacationin' spot?"

"No," she answered with complete honesty, brows furrowed, "I like it here, your house is neat. Dead people go on vacations?"

Her naiveté was charming, but it only served to make him feel even more inadequate. "It's 'cause I'm broke."

Her confusion deepened, "But you gave me... money..." Realization dawned on her. He gave her U.S. dollars. The Neitherworld wouldn't run on greenbacks, that would be preposterous. The United States was a formidable country, but its reach didn't extend that far. "Oh."

He kept talking when he saw that she had worked it out. "I can't buy ya nothin'. That's not to say you're not gonna get whatever the fuck ya want..." the way he turned his face away from her told her that this is something he was actually embarrassed by, "but I can't buy it for ya."

"Beej," she scooted to the middle seat, on her knees facing him, "if you wanted a gold digger, you should've married Claire Brewster." The smile in her voice brought his face up from his lap, though he still blanched at the suggestion. "You really think I care about stuff like that?"

Of course she didn't. He knew she didn't, she wouldn't. "I care." She was supposed to be living on top of the world in a fucking castle, not slumming it in this hovel.

"Well," she leaned forward. The way her arms pushed her breasts together elevated his mood, "if it's that big of a deal," her breath turned to steam in the Neitherworldian atmosphere, "you could always get a job." The disgust in his expression broke her, making her fall back against the cushions with her laughter. "Oh my god," she giggled, covering her mouth and pointing at him, "if you could see your face right now!"

"Shut up." He grumbled, turning away from her again.

Her laughter died and she sat back up, "Wow. This really bothers you, doesn't it?" He didn't answer, choosing to busy himself with lighting another cigarette instead. "What if I told you that you could walk me all over that mall, not buy me a single thing, and I would still like you by the end of our date?"

She liked him. He was pretty sure that was practically a confession of love in teenager speak. "I'd say 'that's enough tequila for now, Lyds'."

The half-cocked grin on his face told her that her reassurances had done their job. Insecurity was not a look she liked on him. "Never had tequila," a yawn drew out the last syllable and she laid back, stretching her arms in the air above her and extending her legs until the muscles pulled, releasing tension, "is it good?"

"Tequila is the facilitator in 'bout half o' all marriages. And divorces. You're prolly better off."

"Can we get divorced?" The question was airy, bored. "Is that a thing?" She rolled her eyes when she looked over and saw him glaring at her with suspicion. "I'm just curious, Beej, geez."

"No. It's not. So, you can just stop gettin' ideas like that right now, kitten."

She just sighed. He was so easy. Though, his pet name reminded her of something else she'd been meaning to ask about. "Where do dead animals go? Can we get a kitten?" Stars lit up her eyes. "Can we get a dead kitten?" The idea of a permanently tiny, fluffy ball of cuteness was extremely appealing.

"You can get a kitten. A livin' one, dunno where pests end up. I ain't takin' care o' no mangy glorified rat." He glanced over and the look on her face punched him right in the gut. A dazzling smile took up her entire face, lighting up the dark, filthy room better than sunlight ever could.

"Really?" Delia never let her. She was allergic. Lydia remembered having a cat once upon a time. A skinny black thing named Percy that left her life along with her mother. "Do you mean it? You really don't care?"

"Get a cat." He swallowed in a fruitless attempt to get rid of the lump in his throat. "I don't give a shit."

Then, there was a warm, soft pile of Lydia in his arms. Her own were wrapped around his neck. "Thank you." It was quiet and meaningful, as though he had just done an enormous, significant favor for her.

Suddenly, remembering who the fuck he was, he pulled her in close and turned, flipping them so that she was pinned to the couch beneath him. "Anytime. No dogs, though." With a subtle, expert maneuver her legs were kicked apart and he was settled between them, wrapped up in her warmth. "They're needy little fucks n' I already told ya," she was trembling around him, but he didn't smell any fear. A dark pink tongue darted out to wet her pale satin lips. "I don't like ta share."

"I- I have to-" she shifted her weight up, making a move like she wanted up, and he ground down into her center. She cried out softly, pressure coiling inside of her from the contact. The arms around his neck tightened, pulling him closer. Then, she came back to herself. "Dinner!" She pushed him up and he- with camouflaged disappointment- let her. "Dinner is done! I have to turn off the heat!"

With that, his bird took flight. Once she was out of the room, he groaned, burying his face in the spot on his couch where she had just been- it was still warm- and palmed the front of his pants. He was good at waiting, but if she didn't give in soon...

"Come get your plate, Beej!"

He didn't know what he might do.

Chapter Text

"What do you think Mr. and Mrs. Maitland's unfinished business is?"

They were eating in her bedroom. Her tv was bigger than his and she had Netflix- his new favorite modern marvel. Lydia had already finished her food and was laying out on her stomach on the bed, waiting for the next episode of Black Mirror to start. Betelgeuse had found the first episode particularly humorous, laughing so hard that a hunk of chicken shot out his nose Currently, he was floating cross-legged in the air, working on his third bowl of gumbo. At this rate, there weren't going to be any leftovers.

It wasn't her best batch. She would have preferred to let it simmer longer, but he forced her hand with that little stunt on the couch. Lydia was fairly certain at this point that she was probably going to let him fuck her. How could she not? He was trying so hard. Still, that didn't make the idea of actually going through with it any less petrifying.

"C'mon, ain't it obvious? Big house like that, no kids? Either Babs has some dud eggs, or four-eyes is shootin' blanks." The bowl was tipped upside down so that the last of the succulent sauce could drip into his mouth. An impossibly long, thick, striped tongue extended to lick the dish clean.

The sight of it made Lydia's thighs clench. He could probably do some interesting things with that tongue. Though, when what he said sunk in, the heat in her belly cooled. "That's so sad..."

He snorted. "Fuckin' tragic." The bowl was absent-mindedly tossed over his shoulder. Then, he remembered himself and juiced it to the kitchen sink before it could hit the floor and shatter. With that, he apparated next to her on the bed; not touching, arms folded behind his head while he relaxed into her pillows, parallel with her.

"Boots, Beej," she reminded without turning her head to acknowledge him.

"Nag, nag, nag," he complained, though her request was still obeyed. "You're lucky you've got a nice ass or else I'd-"

"Shh!" Did that little brat just shush him? "Next episode's starting! Would you give me a pillow please?" She either didn't notice or was choosing to ignore the force with which he threw it at the back of her head- which admittedly was not much, but still enough to be considered aggressive. "Thank you!"


"Wanna talk about sad?" Betelgeuse grumbled as the credits started rolling and the little box in the corner of the screen started the countdown to the next episode, "That was some sad shit." He couldn't help but feel for the protagonist. The girl he loved reminded him of Lydia; with her pale skin, dark hair, and pretty warbling. If his own songbird was used in such a horrible, degrading way he would... he might...

The thought refused to fully form.

When Lydia didn't respond, he sat up some, shifting so he could see her face. She was gone away in her dreams; lips parted, breathing even, a hand curled up next to her mouth as though she used to suck her thumb but had since broken the habit. Carefully, he floated up and off the bed. Frankly, he was surprised she made it this long. She had been on her feet all day, and cleaning and cooking must have taken it out of her.

With a gesture from him, the half of the covers that she wasn't lying on top of were folded over her sleeping form and the tv was shut off. He would have liked to stay and keep watching, but didn't trust himself around her in this state; pliant, trusting, vulnerable, completely ignorant to the hunger in his gaze when he scanned the swell of her breasts beneath her dress. Evil thoughts tempted him. He promised to protect her and he damn well meant to, even from himself.

The door clicked quietly shut behind him and he looked down to his right hand, flexing the fingers. "Well, hello Palmela Handerson," he snickered quietly to himself before retreating to the confines of his bedroom, unzipping his pants, and spitting a loogie into the center of his palm, "s'been awhile. I dunno 'bout you, but I think it's time we got reacquainted."


When the time for little humans to get out of bed came and passed, Betelgeuse got impatient and decided it was time to check on her. The first five notes to "Shave and a Haircut" were tapped out against her door. "Lyds?" When no answer came, he carefully cracked it open, cautious of flying objects. She had resituated herself at the top of the bed and her face was buried in a pillow. At some point, she had changed out of her sundress and was now wearing another oversized black T-shirt. He almost thought she was sleeping until he noticed that her shoulders were shaking. She was crying. Silently.

"Baby?!" He was across the room in an instant, gentle hands on her shoulders trying to coax her face into view. "What's wrong?"

"It hurts." A small, pained voice sobbed into the cushion.

Panicked jade eyes scanned her body for injury, but couldn't see anything. When he tried to tug the blanket away so he could check more thoroughly, she gripped it tight, not letting him. Unfortunately for Lydia, he was stronger. She cried out, curling her legs up and shielding herself as best she could. The sight that met him was shocking, terrifying, and rage-inducing all at once. Blood- lots of it, bright red, and sticky- coated the inside of her thighs. The dress she fell asleep in was laid out beneath her to shield her sheets from the mess. It was quite clear where it was coming from. Had someone actually broken into his home right under his fucking nose and hurt her?!

Lydia took advantage of his momentary stupor to steal the blanket back, tucking it under her chin so that she was completely covered. "I forgot to get tampons when we were at the store," she confessed tearfully, humiliated and in pain. "I want to take a bath, but it hurts too much to try and clean the bathroom." Her periods were usually intensely painful and heavy, but, thankfully, quite short. "I didn't want to ask you for help. It's embarrassing."

Monumental relief washed over him at her clarification, as well as slight awe. It had been so fucking long since he had spent an extended period of time with a living woman. This was one of those human nuances, like sunburns, that had been out of his mind for so long that its existence was completely forgotten. This was cold, hard- hot, wet- proof that she was very much alive and fertile, and would be for the rest of eternity. Now was as good a time as any to start learning how to care for her when she was subjected to her womanly curse.

"C'mere," he drew her into his arms and though she initially resisted out of shame, she eventually relented and allowed herself to whimper into his chest as he carried her through his bedroom and toward the master bath. With a nod, every last speck of grime and dirt disappeared from the room and steaming water began to rush into the deep, square jacuzzi. Gently, so as to not agitate her condition, he lowered her to the edge of the tub.

"Jerk," she sniffled, wiping away tears and letting her feet sink into the rising hot water. "I knew you could do that if you wanted to. Why did you make me clean?" Her hormones exasperated the twinge of hurt she felt at the revelation and it showed in her tone.

"'Cause I'm a selfish dick and I thought it was hot," he answered honestly, crouching down to press a kiss to her tear-dampened cheek before licking the residual salt from his lips. "I'mma head upstairs," his eyes flicked up toward the ceiling and Lydia knew he meant the land of the living, "n' pick you up some tampons. Anythin' else ya need while I'm there?"

She was slipping into the shallow water, still clothed. The water clouded red when she did so, an alleviated sigh passing her lips as the heat engulfed her lower abdomen. "Midol," she panted, sinking deeper into the tub, "and chocolate. Please."

"What doll?"

"No," she was shaking her head, smiling through her pain, "Midol. M-I-D-O-L. It's a painkiller specifically for cramps. If you ask someone nicely, they will point you in the right direction."

Well, that was never going to happen, but he would return with her requested items regardless. Still, he humored her. "Got it. Tampons, Midol, chocolate. Anythin' else?"

"One more thing," Lydia sat back up and winced, distracting him from the way the wet fabric was clinging to the contour of her chest. She leaned over the edge of the tub and when her intentions became clear he moved forward, meeting her halfway so she wouldn't cause herself any more discomfort. Despite the fact that she opened to him easily, inviting his tongue to tangle with hers, he kept it brief and urged her back into the tub by her shoulders. "That's all," she sighed, eyes closing, a contented smile curling her lips as she relaxed back into the soothing heat.

"Sit tight, babe. Be back in two shakes of a rattlesnake's tail."


Betelgeuse had enough sense to knock on the door upon his return instead of just barging in. "Ya didn't fall asleep in there, did ya?" The trip had taken a tad longer than expected. He was so used to just taking whatever he wanted that he forgot to pay and had been forced to teach a handful of security guards a painful lesson in why it was a bad idea to waste his time. Especially in that moment, when he knew his pitiful bride was writhing in agony, awaiting his return.

"No. The curtain's closed, you can come in." Fuck if he was going to turn down an invitation like that. The curtain was indeed closed, until a slim, pale arm slipped out to slide it open a bit, revealing just her head and shoulders. Her face was clean of all of the previous day's makeup, her hair wet, slick with conditioner, and piled on top of her head. A thick layer of bubbles helped the curtain in keeping her body from view.

Lydia's eyes bugged at the load of bags in his arms. "That's a lot of chocolate and tampons."

He scowled, dropping the bags off on the counter. "Ya didn't tell me what kind ya wanted. I mean fuck, I get it, every pussy is unique n' all that shit, but what the fuck, babes?! You tell me, is a whole fuckin' aisle really necessary?!" The poor ghost had been forced to just grab one of every kind. He faced a similar problem when it came time to pick up her chocolate.

His ignorance was beyond amusing and soft laughter echoed through the tiled chamber. "Yes, Beej, an entire aisle really is necessary. As you so charmingly put it, every pussy is indeed unique. I know that six-hundred years ago they just hid women away whenever they got their periods and pretended it didn't happen, but we've since evolved." She moved forward, resting her head on top of her arms over the edge of the tub. "Would you hand me some Midol and something to swallow it with, please?"

Pussy. Swallow. Please. Though she wasn't saying anything sexual, the use of such provocative words while she looked up at him- naked, wet, and naive to her power- was having an effect. "Only rich bitches got ta hide away," he corrected, trying to keep his eyes off of her while heeding the simple request, "poor women used blood moss or linens n' worked through it."

She tossed back a couple of capsules before cringing at what he had to say. "Do I want to know what blood moss is?"

It was exactly what it sounded like. "Prolly not." He had to get out of there. The knowledge that she was so close to him, bare and soaked and fertile was too much.

"Thank you," she called sweetly as he prepared to turn tail and run, freezing his hand on the doorknob, "for the bath. And the stuff," she clarified when he didn't immediately respond, "thank you."

I know how you can thank me, an insidious voice whispered in the back of his skull, just open your mouth a lil bit n' lemme slide my cock between those pretty pink lips o' yours. Then we'll be square. Even-Steven. Right as rain. The lewd suggestion almost made its way from his brain to his mouth. Instead, he calmed himself, threw her his best, most charming smile, and a wink that was downright indecent.

"Don't mention it, babe."

Chapter Text

"You still wantin' ta go see Ging n' the mall?" Betelgeuse inquired when Lydia finally emerged from her bedroom; drowning in a fluffy black bathrobe, damp hair coiled into twin braids on either side of her head, comical black cat slippers adorning her feet. Textbooks, papers, and her laptop were stacked in her arms and a grocery bag filled with chocolate was laced over one wrist. She curled up in the spot opposite him on the couch- he was beginning to see it as her spot- and tore open a bag of white chocolate truffles. He made a mental note of her choice for the next time he had to care for her during her bleeding time.

"Maybe tomorrow. Is it okay if we just stay in today?" The hot water and Midol had done a fair job in dulling her cramps, but for obvious reasons, the idea of walking around and making pleasantries with the undead was not as appealing as it usually was.

"Ya know I don't give a shit." In the past, he had spent months at a time lazing about in front of this tv; doing nothing, feeling nothing, drifting deeper and deeper into madness all the while plotting his escape. Her presence helped to keep the demons at bay. He could probably sit in front of that tv for another half dozen centuries if she was there to keep him company.

"I need to research which homeschooling curriculum is best and finish this work for Miss Shannon, anyway."

This earned her a disbelieving snort. "You still on about all that learnin' shit?"

"It's important, Beej," Lydia returned argumentatively, "my Dad put a lot of money into my education; diction lessons so I wouldn't be discriminated against because of my accent, ballet so I had some kind of physical extra-curricular activity to put on a college application. Private school tuition is not cheap, you know. I'm pretty sure my father single-handedly paid for all of Miss Shannon's vacations for the next couple years. The least I can do is see the job through, finish high school and get a degree or something."

"He left you to rot. Fuck him and his money." Lydia's fingers paused their tapping against the keyboard, pain flashing across her face, and he immediately regretted bringing up her father's abandonment. It only lasted for a moment before she steeled herself and began typing again.

"He didn't have to take me in at all, Beej. He didn't even want a kid, he wanted my mom to have an abortion-" pupils at the center of jade irises dilated with deranged fury, though Lydia was too caught up in her browsing to notice, "He could have just left me to the system, but he didn't. He stepped up and did the right thing. I'm the one who came along and fucked up his life- not the other way around." A huff of air was exhaled through her nostrils and the side of her mouth turned up bitterly. "Frankly, I think everyone would've been better off if my mom just got the abortion. She'd probably be a doctor right now." That's what she was going to school for before her whirlwind romance with Charles Deetz and the unexpected pregnancy that followed.

"GOD FUCKING DAMNIT, LYDIA!" Betelgeuse had reached his limit. Days of pent-up bloodlust- not to mention plain, good ol' fashioned lust- had taken their toll on his patience, which was already lacking to begin with. She jumped when he shot up from the couch, her laptop almost falling from her lap. He floated in the air above her, ripping his hair out, baring teeth. The air around him sizzled with power. "That YELLA'-BELLIED, COCK-SUCKIN' sperm-donor doesn't give a SHIT about you n' the next time I see him I'm gonna gut him like the lily-livered, gutless fuckin' coward he is!"

She was frozen, trembling, eyes wide. "My dad loves me." The response was small, but not a whisper. It felt like a lie, but she knew it was true. Rapidly, he moved, grabbing her up with him. Her computer screen cracked against hardwood as it fell to the floor. She grasped his suit for purchase, not wishing to fall several feet and break as well, but there was no need. His arms were immovable around her, one hand squeezing the back of her thigh in a vice grip while the other wrapped around her back, forcing her against him.

"Do you know what I wanna do to you, little girl?"

He hoisted her up to bury his face in the opening of her bathrobe, pushing the material aside. She was bare beneath it. The exposed portion of her right breast received a long, cold lick and she shivered against him, whimpering. "First, I wanna rip that lil piece o' cotton out o' your pussy n' lick you squeaky clean, til ya ain't got nothin' left ta gimme but cum."

The filthy words shocked her, freezing the flow of air into her lungs. "Then I wanna tie ya up spread eagle in my coffin n' fuck ya till ya can't use yer legs no more," he was growling hoarsely into her flesh, stubble scratching, teeth scraping. "Won't need the rope after that. Not that I needed it ta begin with, jus' wanna watch you struggle."

The threats, which should have frightened her, made her turn to jello, limbs going limp as a horrible heat consumed her being from the inside out. "After poundin' that tight lil pussy some more, I'd prolly show ya mercy. Let ya suck my cock until your legs started workin' again." Unconsciously, her tongue darted out to wet her bottom lip.

"But then I'd have ta break the rope back out n' start over from the beginnin'. N' your dad doesn't give a shit."

It was like being dunked in an ice bath.

"He's dancin' the mamba, drinkin' margaritas, n' eatin' tacos right fuckin' now."

She didn't even realize tears were flowing until they dripped down from her jaw to her collarbone in icy little pinpricks. "He loves me," she insisted again with a quivering voice. He had to. Somebody had to.

The pleading desperation in her assertion calmed his fire. "Nah. He doesn't," his grip on her softened just a bit, letting her slide down so he could bury his face in her neck, "but I do." She broke. It was too much. Again, she was limp in his arms. Fractured sobs crawled up her throat only to be muffled into his shoulder. He floated back down to the ground, carefully rearranging her so that she was cradled like a child against him. The sight of her cracked computer laying on its side on the ground made him cringe.

He fucked up. Again, but worse.

Solemn, hating himself for destroying everything he touched, he floated to her room and laid her out on the bed before turning to leave without a word. A soft plea stopped him at the door, "Please don't go." Unable to deny her, he returned to her side. A tiny, warm hand tugged on the cuff of his suit until he was sitting on the edge of her mattress. "Hold me." Ever her obedient slave, cold arms encased her, tucking her against his powerful body.

There they stayed, wrapped up in one another until her tears dried and her breathing evened. "Please don't kill my dad."

He knew this was coming. "M' not gonna." Before, he might have been able to get away with it on the sly, but now there was no way he could take Chucky out without Lydia knowing he was somehow behind it.

It was a long time before she spoke again. "You can fuck me if you want." The frivolous way she offered herself up bothered him. It couldn't be this easy, not after all the work she made him do. All the damage he had done. He didn't deserve it. "I mean, like... right now. If you want. I won't stop you."

With one quick movement, she was pinned beneath him. True to her word, she was pliant, honey eyes dull and sunken from all her crying, expression tired. With a tug, the tie that kept her bathrobe shut was loosened and the plush material separated to reveal alabaster flesh. "I already told ya," he spoke between the soft kisses that trailed down her neck, across her collarbone, "I ain't gonna fuck you until you wanna be fucked." She gasped, nipples hardening and goosebumps raising, when his freezing hands cupped her breasts, lifting and then squeezing lightly. "But I gotta say," the sharp tip of his tongue struck her nipple, "I really appreciate the offer."

Then, he bore down on her, encompassing the entire peak of the fleshy mound in his mouth. She arched against him, crying out as his lips, teeth, and tongue sucked at and played with the sensitive point. When he turned his attention to its twin, her legs shifted beneath him and he moved so that they could part and wrap around his waist. He didn't leave her chest until the pale pink tips of her breast were reddened, so overly sensitive that the legs wrapped around him quivered and twitched in response to them being touched. Icy open-mouthed kisses led a trail down the flat plane of her stomach until his bottom lip brushed against the lace trim of her- surprise, surprise- black panties.

She was quivering and compliant, silent with anticipation while he positioned her legs so that they were together and sticking straight up toward the ceiling. One of his hands wrapped around both her ankles while the other slid beneath her, squeezing her bottom before pulling the garment off with just one finger, its nail scratching across her ass cheek and the back of her thigh on its way up her leg. Her toes curled. Then, with reverence, he took a thigh in each hand and spread her open like a book, staring down at the raven thatch of curls as though they would reveal the secrets of the universe to him.

Lydia closed her eyes. She couldn't look at him, couldn't watch him while he watched her. There was a slight tug, something leaving her body, and she knew her tampon was gone. Cool breath ghosted across the exposed area and the muscles in her thighs jumped against his hold, instinctively trying to close. "Lydiaaa..." He hissed softly, forcing her clenched eyelids to open. They only stayed that way long enough to see heinous smile twisting his wicked lips before he moved in for the kill.

Betelgeuse was greedy here, as he was in everything else that he did. A sound that he could only describe as a cross between a gasp and a scream tore from her throat as he lapped at her. Sweet honeyed nectar- with a metallic, earthy undertone that brought a whole new meaning to the word bloodlust- flooded his senses. He groaned into her when his tongue finally deemed it necessary to pass the threshold of her swollen lower lips and penetrate her fully. She was so fucking tight. The pulsating muscles clamped down around his slithering appendage in such a way that it was a fight to sink deeper. He was going to have to work her in thoroughly if there was any hope of ever consummating their marriage.

With conviction, he released her thighs to slide one arm beneath her lower back, the other pushing down on her ribs to angle her hips up. Creamy, sweat-slicked thighs closed around either side of his head when he did so and he took a brief moment to nuzzle to the left slightly, rubbing his cheek against the damp skin in an affectionate gesture. Then, eager to get back to work, his tongue surged deep within her, wrenching a euphoric scream from her throat. Slowly, he withdrew, letting the tip circle all around her pearl- applying just the right amount of pressure to keep her on edge- before flicking it just once and plunging back inside. A tiny bundle of nerves within her jumped against his tongue and he grinned against her mound. There it was. Mercilessly, his tongue massaged against it, all the while sliding against the external pleasure point just above her entrance.

This must be what dying feels like, Lydia thought as she floated out of her body in delirium. In reality, she was convulsing with tremors, face slamming from one side of her pillow to the other, unhinged. Incoherent, rapturous moans spilled from her mouth, filling her bedroom with audible proof of her immense ecstasy. Once the vice grip on his hair slackened, Betelgeuse withdrew to take her in.

She was intoxicating, still twitching from the aftershocks of her orgasm, both arms thrown over her head. Her braids were mussed and falling out in places. A natural rosy hue that matched her nipples- and had nothing to do with embarrassment or rage- colored her cheeks. When sweet honey eyes finally opened, he saw that they were alight with stars, gleaming with life the way they always should. Her quivering hand accepted the lit cigarette he offered. She made no move to wrap the heavy bathrobe beneath her back around her bare, perspiring flesh. When he moved to lay beside her, relaxing back into her mound of pillows, she pressed against his side and threw a leg over his- soaking up his coolness and gifting him with her own delectable heat. One of his hands came to rest on her thigh while the other slid beneath her shoulders to draw her closer.

"That what ya thought it would be?" He finally spoke, juicing up an ashtray to rest on his stomach when he saw that the cinders at the tip of her smoke were threatening to fall onto her blanket- the cleanliness of which was apparently very important to her for some reason.

"Not at all," she breathed out, exhausted, before taking another deep drag. A deplorably cocky grin pulled at his lips, chest puffing up with pride while he craned his neck down to kiss the top of her head.

"Good."

Chapter Text

Cigarettes were out, old news. Who needed them? Eating his wife's pussy was his new addiction. After she finished her cigarette- a mercy he allowed because, really, everyone deserves a smoke after their first orgasm- he devoured her again. And again. And again. And again. It took her threading her usually gentle hands through his hair and tugging roughly, desperate pleas spilling from her dry mouth- a direct result of dehydration and nonstop moaning- to finally tear him away.

Betelgeuse changed his mind. Simply wanting him to fuck her was no longer good enough. If she wanted him, she was going to have to beg for it. Nothing else would do, not after this. Too much hard work had been put into breaking down her resolve. He would be damned if his prize was tarnished by such a pitiful surrender of her will. She was better than that. He was better than that. They were better than that. If she was going to go down, she was going to go down burning.

"Beej?" A sweet, quiet voice to his side spoke up. She was annoyingly clothed again. The fluffy bathrobe was draped back over her shoulders when she realized that he couldn't behave around her when she was naked.

"Hm?" He returned, flicking his gaze her way briefly before returning to Black Mirror. There wasn't any dialogue in this portion of the episode. Apparently, talking during shows was a big No-No for Lydia.

"If I ask you a question, will you promise to answer honestly?"

"Dunno. Depends on the question." He knew without looking that honey eyes were burning a hole in the side of his head. "Make it quid pro quo n' you got a deal."

"Okay," she conceded surprisingly easily. She must have had something important to say, then. With a flick of his wrist, the screen paused and she had his full attention. "I don't want to... I mean, I'm not the kind of girl to..." It seemed she was having a difficult time saying her piece.

"Babe, c'mon, spit it out." What the fuck had her so nervous? He had just spent the better part of the last few hours with his tongue buried in her cunt. She was supposed to be a pile of goo in his arms, not the skittish kitten she currently was.

She couldn't bear to look him in the eye while asking the dreaded question. "Are you going to cheat on me?" Instead, she fiddled with a button on his jacket intently, gnawing at her bottom lip. "I won't ask you not to. I just want to know."

A flood of affection drowned his being. "You're fuckin' unbelievable, Lydia." How did she keep doing this to him? Make him feel all these feelings; mortal emotions so far gone from his heart and mind that he had long since stopped considering himself human. With a jolt, realizing that she was misinterpreting his unthinkingly coarse response, he drew her in tighter and pressed a sloppy kiss to her cheek. "Nah," the arm that wasn't wrapped around her shoulders slipped between the folds of her robe to squeeze her backside, "m'gonna be too busy tappin' this ass ta worry about other birds. Besides, these whores've been bleedin' me dry. You're a cheap date. I'd be an idiot ta fuck up a sweet deal like what we've got goin' on."

The light flush in her cheeks and upward turn in the corner of her lips told him that she saw through his guile to the message he was trying to convey. It was charming that she could still become flustered by him after what they had just done. His cheek was granted with a kiss of its own before she stood from the bed, throwing her slippers on and grimacing at the reflection in her vanity. Her hair was a mess. After pulling the mangled braids out and shaking her head from side to side, raven locks settled around her in a thick mass of waves. "Let me go fix something to eat and then I'll answer whatever your question is." She had a pretty good idea what he was going to ask about. Luckily, Lydia was adept at stalling.

She was only out of the room for maybe five minutes before he heard her calling to him from the other side of the house, voice muffled by walls and distance. "Uhm, Beej?!"

"Yeah?!" He yelled back, pausing the show again, not in the mood to tear himself from her sweet, sex-smelling blankets.

"Someone's knocking at your door!"

Pounding steps followed her out to the living room, and he nudged her out of the way when he saw her picking at the locks. "Stop that! You just answer the door to strangers!?"

Pale arms crossed and honey eyes rolled. "You already told me I can't open them. I was just looking, geez."

"Blegh!" Betelgeuse sneered, a disgusted sound rolling off his tongue when he peeked through the window and saw who it was at his doorstep.

"Who's that?" Lydia piped up over his shoulder, on her tiptoes so she could get a peek. She almost stumbled when he turned rapidly, a scowl twisting his face while manic jade eyes flicked back and forth between her and the door.

Finally, with authoritative command, he spoke; standing up straight and pointing a rigid arm down the hall. "Go to your room."

Her jaw dropped, eyes wide with furious indignation. "No!"

"Lydia..." He growled warningly, brow twitching.

"GEUSE, YOU OPEN THE DOOR RIGHT THIS SECOND!" A hoarse female voice called out from the other side before said door pulsated in its frame, shaking the walls. Several of the locks unclicked. "DON'T MAKE ME DO IT! YOU KNOW I CAN!"

"Go!" He took a heavy step toward his wife, beginning to lose his temper.

"No." She repeated coolly, raising her chin and taking a rebellious step of her own, body language daring him to do something about it. "I want to meet your friend."

Before he had a chance to throw the fair maiden over his shoulder and cart her off to her tower, his door flew open. Abruptly, he grabbed her and spun around, shielding her from the pelting sand and vacuuming tornadoes that sought to pull her into the abyss. The raging torrent only lasted for a moment before all was as it should be again. To his complete disdain, Lydia gathered her bearings faster than anticipated and slipped from his hold gracefully, side-stepping him to greet their guest.

His wife gifted a sandy, bedraggled Juno with her brightest, most beautiful smile. "Hello! I'm Lydia! Beej didn't want me to meet you for some reason, but he's not the boss of me." The latter half of the sentence was said in a nonchalant, matter-of-fact manner that made him want to give her a spanking.

The elderly spirit's frenzied ire at having been forced to beat the door down faded away completely, to be replaced by stupefied shock. Wrinkled maroon lips parted, but all she could manage was a weak, "Hi."

Lydia was speaking a mile a minute, beyond excited at the prospect of making another ghostly friend. "I'm sorry you had to wait outside like that, he has absolutely no manners. Are you his mom or something? Did you walk here? Can you poof places like Beej can? I'm sorry, I'm being rude. Do you want to sit down? Would you like something to drink or-"

"That's ENOUGH out o' you!" With a snap, Lydia was banished to her bedroom, lock clicking in place and a soundproof barrier shrouding the area to keep the mouthy brat from doing any more irreparable damage to his reputation. "Now you," Betelgeuse began, regarding Juno with contempt, "the fuck do you want?"

It took the ancient ghost an embarrassing amount of time to gather herself after the friendly, thorough interrogation she had just received from such a diminutive mortal. "It's not like I can summon you at the drop of a hat anymore, is it?" Juno took her time lighting her cigarette, looking at him like she'd never seen him before. "Had to come see for myself. Didn't believe it when your progress report showed up on my desk. Thought somebody was bullshitting me. Fired three people for insubordination." A long drag was sucked through maroon lips, only for the smoke to seep out the gash in her neck before a decent amount could make it to her lungs. Thus was Juno's eternal curse. "Guess I'll have to hire them back with apologies and a bonus. Beej."

The sound of Lydia's sweet name for him slipping from such a detestable mouth filled him with scorn. "Ya got five seconds ta get the fuck out o' my house, or you're really not gonna like my next report."

Juno only smiled bemusedly at his threat, unaffected. This infuriated him. Threatening the old bitch with more paperwork almost always got a rise out of her. "Aren't you curious as to why I haven't informed the Royal Court of your recent nuptials?" That stopped Betelgeuse. He thought she did, though he had started to wonder why no one had come to try and punish him yet- try being the key word in that sentence. He wasn't entirely sure- hadn't bothered to research that area of the law- but his marriage to Lydia was probably classified as high treason. "Don't you want to know why I gave you your marriage certificate? This would have been a lot harder for you if I hadn't. Both you and the girl trapped here, locked up in paperwork for decades."

If he had never taken Lydia home, she never would have known that her parents abandoned her. She wouldn't have jumped ship so completely, right into his arms. Did the old bag... do him a favor? "I'll bite. Why?"

Juno's countenance turned solemn, pensive. Neon orange light filled the room as she drew back the curtains on his window to gaze into the horizon. "On your wedding day, when you and the Maitlands barged into my office... I was given instructions directly from the powers to read a section of your file." This filled Betelgeuse with apprehension. Files were highly classified. They contained everything that has been and could be, beginning from the moment a soul was born to when they ceased existing. "I saw how many deaths you would bring about if you were allowed to keep the girl," disturbed quicksilver eyes flickered his way before returning to the abyss, "and how many if you weren't."

Failure was something Betelgeuse had never considered as a possibility and thus had never pondered what he might do. Currently, the mere idea of anyone trying to separate him from his wife filled him with vehemence. "So fuckin' what? You're helpin' me out ta save yourself some paperwork? Seems kinda lazy for you, Junebug."

Her wrinkled hand shook as it tapped ash to the floor. The peculiar sight forced his irritation down some. "The death toll was in the billions, Betel."

Like that, all the negative feelings that were associated with Juno's presence faded away. A heavy arm landed on the old bag's shoulders and he stole her cigarette right from her lips to take a drag, "So... If I ain't mistaken, you're sayin' that by givin' me what I want... you n' your bullshit, pansy ass bureaucracy is avoidin' what'cha been scared o' this whole time..." a sleazy, triumphant grin that made Juno want to vomit cracked across his face, "right?"

"Right." A flare of her own power knocked him back a few feet. "Which brings me to my next point..." The crone turned on him, lightning flashing through her stormy eyes. "What the fuck is she doing here?! For that matter, what are you doing here?! You've been riding my ass for the better part of the last millennium trying to get out! Do you not know how dangerous it is for her here, or are you truly just that irresponsible?!"

Betelgeuse shrugged, tossing Juno's stolen cigarette. It was a light, and he just wasn't that kind of guy. "S'only temporary. The wife wanted ta see the sights, n' you met her. She don't take 'no' for an answer." Not that he had ever seriously tried to deny her anything, but that was none of the shrew's business.

Juno's nostrils flared and she closed her eyes, taking a moment to compose herself. There was no reasoning with the maniac. He wanted what he wanted and he took it. Clearly, he wanted the girl- badly enough to bring about Armageddon if he was denied. The girl wanted to be here, so here she would remain until further notice.

"Just watch your back, Betel..." she was beginning to fade away, a shapeless cloud of smoke forming and dissipating in her place, "and hers."

Chapter Text

As expected, Lydia was a ball of rage when he finally dropped the enchantment on her room and she was allowed to leave. Her door swung open- doorknob hitting the wall with a bang- and when she rushed to the living room and saw that Juno was already gone, she turned on him, tiny shaking fists balled at her side. "You are such a JERK!"

When he approached her to place his hands on her shoulders and abate her beautiful fury, she slapped his arms away and stormed to the kitchen. "C'mon, babe, don't be pissed." Lydia ignored him completely, dragging a dining chair toward the counter to stand on top of so she could reach for something in a tall cupboard- a box of cereal. It was somehow more annoying that she didn't ask for his help than that she was giving him the cold shoulder. "Seriously, I did ya a favor. She's a giant cunt, you don't wanna be her friend."

Fiery eyes burned a hole through the wall while she poured milk over the sweet rainbow-colored human kibble. "I'm sure Mr. and Mrs. Maitland would have something similar to say about you." Damn. That was a hell of a good argument. Good enough to kill the one that was forming on his tongue. A flurry of black hair and fabric was stomping past him again, muttering angrily. "... tell me to go to my room... bastard... I'll show you..."

When the door to her room slammed shut and her intentions became clear, he remembered with a start that she still needed to fulfill her end of the deal. "Nuh-uh!" He popped into existence in her room, lounging on the dresser next to her tv. To Lydia's credit, she wasn't watching Black Mirror without him. "You're not weaselin' out o' this one so easily! You still owe me! Quid pro quo, remember?"

"Pass." She said through a mouthful of cereal, unfazed by his ire.

"One," he began, listing off the reasons for why this was an unacceptable answer, "I ain't even asked the question yet! And two, you already used your pass!"

"Is that so?" She shrugged noncommittally, eyes still locked on the television. They refused to acknowledge his presence by drifting his way. "I've completely forgotten. In any case, I'm not answering any of your stupid questions."

"You have to!" He was on his feet now, pointing an enraged finger at her, aura crackling, "I answered yours! We have a deal!"

She supposed they did. Apparently, based off of things he had said in the past, breaking a deal with him was a bad idea. Lydia set her bowl off to the side and leaned forward, resting her chin on top of her knuckles, looking utterly unimpressed. A single eyebrow rose at the offending limb before her honey gaze slowly trailed up his arm, finally making eye contact with the person it belonged to. "Make me."

The brat was calling his bluff. Again, but without any sweet kisses to smooth out the sting of it.

A strangled shout of frustration gurgled from the back of his throat. Then, he exploded into a pile of ash- simultaneously disappearing from her room and filthying everything within a five-foot radius of where he had been standing. Lydia only scoffed and rolled her eyes at his temper tantrum before standing to take care of the mess. When she went to retrieve the ratty old broom and dustpan- discovered tucked away in a utility closet when she had been coerced into cleaning his kitchen, the memory of which infuriated her at the moment- she saw that he was really gone. The tv in his living room was turned off, his bedroom door wide open, the room empty.

Minutes later, a horrible thought occurred to her as she swept up ash and bundled her tarnished sheets into a ball. She broke their deal. What if he broke his word in retaliation? He could be at Arachnophobia right now, cozying up to the gorgeous blonde, and she would never know. The thought squeezed at her heart, a lump forming in the back of her throat as tears pricked at the back of her eyes.

The heat in her room was suffocating. She couldn't stay there another second, couldn't continue to lay on the bare mattress where he had given her so much pleasure. There was no remote for his tv. He always used magic to turn it on and off and change the channels. She was forced to turn it on manually. The groove at his end of the couch accepted her easily and she huddled into it, weeping silently into her arms the way she had on their wedding night- though for an entirely different reason this time. Why did she have to be so stubborn? What if he was just trying to protect her like he promised? If he hadn't grabbed her, the sandstorm would have sucked her right up. What if the old woman really was a giant cunt?

God, she was such a fuck up.


It was hours before Betelgeuse could collect himself enough to go back home. He didn't trust himself around her. His wrath was too great. Nobody got away with that shit, after all. Nobody, that is, except Lydia. While he was certain that he wouldn't- couldn't- hurt her, not physically at least, he didn't know what he was capable of in that moment. He had to leave before he did something bad, something unforgivable- even with the bounty of mercy that flowed from his wife's big, black heart. Instead, he used Doomie to lead the German police on a high-speed chase down the autobahn that ended with a fifteen car pile up, not to mention a stack of paperwork for Juno. With the edge of his anger dulled, it was deemed safe to return to the Neitherworld- to his wife.

The sight that met him broke his heart.

Lydia was curled into a ball in his spot, fast asleep. She had taken his bathrobe from the coat rack and draped it over herself like a blanket. It was a musty plaid thing with cigarette burns in the scratchy fabric and questionable items in the pockets. This didn't stop her from forming a makeshift pillow out of it, the excess material bunched up underneath her head.

The skin around her eyes was puffy and there were dried tracks of salt on her cheeks, indicating that she had been crying. Then, she shivered. He realized with a pang of fear that her lips were an unhealthy shade of blue. How fucking long had she been out here? It was too cold for her! No matter how many layers she wore, extended exposure to this atmosphere without the help of magic would freeze her from the inside out.

"Idiot." He chided, drawing her into his arms before transporting them to her room instantaneously. Walking would have taken longer than he was comfortable with. She began to stir at the disturbance, wrapping her arms around his neck and refusing to let go when he tried to deposit her on top of the magically cleaned and dressed bed.

"I'm sorry..." a half-awake voice whispered, breath hot on his neck. The ache in his chest sharpened.

"Forget about it." She still wasn't loosening her weak, drowsy grip. He couldn't find it in himself to do it for her. "You gonna let go, babe?"

"No..." she was pulling him down into bed with her and he followed like a love-sick puppy, letting her turn and situate herself in his arms so that he was spooning her. "Stay with me..."

This was bad. This was very bad. He had been trying to avoid this, despite the temptress' best efforts. Soft, warm, supple, trusting little Lydia pressed up against him all through the night. From the way the plush material of her bathrobe slid without traction against her skin as he held her, he knew she was still bare beneath it. Could he really keep his hands to himself for that long? A contented sigh deflated her torso and she relaxed deeper into his hold. His arms tightened around her, face burrowing into her silken ebony mane as she drifted back to oblivion.

Unfortunately, it didn't look like he had much of a choice in the matter.


The answer was no. No, he could not.

His resolve was broken when she began to squirm in discomfort, loosening the tie on her robe in her sleep so that she could press creamy, bare, overheated flesh against his coolness. All too eager to oblige, he shifted, turning her so she was laying out flat. Honey eyes flew open, a sharp gasp escaping her lips when his tongue began to lather her inner thighs, cleaning her moon's blood. "B-Beej?"

He paused just long enough to respond, a devious smirk twisting the corner of his mouth. Her cheeks flushed dark red at the sight of a crimson smudge on his chin. "You expectin' somebody else?"

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Then, he dove home, thrusting his tongue deep into her. A strong grip on her hips kept her pinned down as her entire body arched up, simultaneously attempting to escape and lean into his ministrations. He murdered whatever response she might have for him, twisting and manipulating it into rapturous moans. It wasn't long before she was falling apart beneath him, murmuring unintelligible combinations of all the syllables in his name.

She scooted up the bed when he moved to service her again, stopping him with a foot on his shoulder. One shaking hand held her robe together in front of her chest. "I take it you're not mad at me anymore?" The pant in her voice was beyond satisfying.

"Me?" He grabbed her ankle and tugged her back flat, peppering kisses across her stomach. "Mad at you?" His tongue dipped into her belly-button and she broke into giggles at the sensation, pushing him up by his shoulders. "Never."

Legitimate laughter filled the room. "You," his mouth went dry as she stood from the bed, dropped the robe to the floor, and extended her arms over her head- stretching the sleep from her muscles, "are full of shit." Her head rolled back during the process, the tips of her long hair brushing against the curve of her ass. Hungry eyes followed the pert orbs all the way to her closet until the delicious sight was stolen from him by a high-waisted, ankle length skirt. It was paired with a turtleneck sweater that would expose a scant amount of pale midriff whenever she raised her arms.

When she sat at her vanity to begin combing the tangles from her hair, something startled her. She did a double take- looking from him, to the mirror, then back to him again. "You don't have a reflection."

"N' you have a glorious ass. Don't see me goin' on about it all day."

Blood filtered to her cheeks, dusting them light pink. After a moment, she spoke again. "I am sorry," a guilty look was flashed his way before she returned to her mirror, "I take it back. I'll answer a question."

Immediately, all traces of joke and tease left his expression, though she couldn't see it through her looking glass. "Who hurt you?"

Lydia became very still, brush frozen mid-stroke. A heavy silence filled the air for an uncomfortable amount of time before she moved again, dragging the bristles through her locks at a sluggish pace. "He's been dead for a long time, B."

A long time. Betelgeuse didn't like the implication of that statement. "How long?"

"Almost a decade."

His gut twisted up, lurching with revulsion. A throbbing ache resonated from his heart, making the pain he felt the previous night seem pale in comparison. "Who." It was not a question.

Her bottom lip trembled and the room was flooded with the scent of her fear, exacerbating the nausea building in his stomach. "Please don't make me say it." The boogeyman's name hadn't passed her lips since he was still breathing, but it still floated around in the back of her mind- only coming back to haunt her whenever her subconscious saw fit to torture her with memories.

A cold, calloused hand landed on one of her shoulders- much more gently than it usually would- while the other coaxed the brush away, setting it to the side and robbing her of the distraction. The tangles were all gone anyway. In her mirror's reflection, she was still alone. A piece of paper materialized on the wood before her and a pen was slipped into her now free hand. Obediently, understanding the unspoken demand, she began to write. Her usually neat, flowing script was jerky, the letters crude as her quivering limb shaped the forbidden name without daring to raise her eyes to the paper.

The process seemed to drag on for an eternity, though it couldn't have been more than seconds. When she was finished, she felt blindly for the corner of the sheet, rapidly flipping it upside down so that it was safe to gaze upon the surface of her vanity again. From her peripheral, she could see a black and white striped arm reaching over her shoulder for it, but she kept her eyes locked on the mirror- watching as the rectangular parchment floated through the air to hang suspended above her head before shimmering out of existence.

Gone.

Like it had never been there in the first place.

Gregory Green

Chapter Text

"What's behind this door?" Lydia was referring to the black-painted door that ran parallel to hers in the hallway. It was locked- the only other in his home beside the front that could make that claim. Curiosity finally got the best of her as they passed it on the way to the garage.

"Oh, that's just my dungeon." When no footsteps echoed behind him, he realized she wasn't following him down the stairs. Upon further investigation, she was still standing in front of the black door, angling her camera for a shot. "Ya comin'? Ging only does the one show a night, n' I know ya don't wanna miss it."

"What do you need a dungeon for?"

"Torture." Wait. This was one of those things she wouldn't like the answer to, wasn't it? "I mean storage."

It was disconcerting how very little his admission disturbed her. She knew it had to be something for him to bar her from entering. Obscenely, the clarification that it was a torture chamber was somehow mildly comforting. Her imagination had been running wild. The truth was tame in comparison to some of her more twisted thoughts. "It's not occupied right now... is it?"

"If it was," he was tugging her away, back down to where Doomie lived, "you'd know."


Again, Betelgeuse was robbed of the chance to open her door for her when she bounced out of the car, speed-walking into the tap-dancing spider's bar eagerly. It was rowdier tonight than last time. Something must have been happening for there to be a break in the monotony. He caught up quickly, wrapping a possessive arm around her back, hand settling on her hip so that it was unequivocally clear to the anyone who saw them who she was there with.

"Hello, Lou!" This time, it was the tiny human girl's friendly greeting that made the balding bartender flinch. Her smile fell at such a reaction and Betelgeuse threw the barkeep a dark warning look from behind her, right over her head. "I'm sorry that Beej is using me to make you make us free drinks," she began sympathetically, "but, uhm, could I please have a... bloody mary?" She had never had one before and it seemed an appropriate choice at the time, all things considered. That, and it sounded cool.

"S-sure thing, little lady!" Lou stuttered out, managing a stressed smile for her. She beamed back in response, ignorant to the forced nature of the exchange.

"Keep it a classic," Betelgeuse butted in, booting a random ghoul from the crowded bar so that he could claim their seat for himself. Then, he grabbed her up to sit on his lap. She rolled her eyes at the rude behavior, but let it go and said nothing, situating herself so that she was balanced on his thigh. "You'll find what ya need in the back." Things like tomato juice and Worcestershire sauce wouldn't be available on tap in the Neitherworld. "I'll have a rusty nail. I know I don't gotta remind ya, but I'm gonna anyway. Top shelf shit only." Lou was already walking away, grumbling and waving off the unnecessary admonition.

Cold hands came to settle on her hips, keeping her firmly in place as he spun around so they were facing the stage and she could watch the current performer. "I would appreciate it if you would try not to drink this place out of business. Though," Lydia brought her camera up, snapping a shot of a slow-dancing couple not far from them, "they seem to be doing pretty well."

"This isn't normal," his tone was suspicious, jade eyes scanning the crowd, "somethin's goin' on."

"Like a party?" She ran a fascinated finger across her photo of the lovers. The spirits actually showed up through her camera's filter, instead of just a cloud of spirit energy. That was interesting. It must have been all the magic in the air, clear and palpable through the Neitherworld's chill- of which she was currently immune thanks to Betelgeuse. Maybe she could actually get a real photo of her husband while they were here.

"Maybe," he replied with a frown, juicing each of her photos back to her bedroom as they were handed to him. "Not so fast!" The bartender was caught by his tie as he attempted to scuttle away unnoticed after dropping their drinks off. "What's with the crowd, Lou? Ging finally turnin' this place into a titty bar?" This earned him a sharp elbow and a dirty look from his wife.

"Don't ya know? It's the Prince's deathday! They've been paradin' up n' down main street all day long. The man of honor himself showed a lil while ago n' word spread fast. Guess he wanted to have his afterparty down here with all us peasants."

Shit. His grip on Lou's tie went slack.

"There's a monarchy here?!" Lydia was squirming in his lap, trying to peek over heads and pick out which ghoul looked most like royalty. "How does that even work? That's ridiculous!"

"You're tellin' me, kid." Lou's sarcastic grumble came before Betelgeuse could spin an answer for her. The barkeep seemed unfazed by Lydia's ignorance of Neitherworld antics. Ginger must have clued him in about his wife's living status- just like a gossiping schoolgirl. "Nobody really knows how it works." Betelgeuse did. So did Juno. And the Maitlands, now. "The Queen's got a livin' line o' relatives out there somewhere n' that's how they choose who makes it in, but it's all real hush-hush- for good reason, too. The wrong person could do a lot o' damage with that kinda information."

Lou's easy expression faltered at the calculated glare the poltergeist was giving him over the girl's head. Apparently, he had said the wrong thing. Betelgeuse searched for any sign of pretense in Lou, to see if he knew more than he was letting on. He did not. "You just come find me if ya need a refill, sweetheart." With that, the barkeep turned tail and ran, using the other thirsty patrons as an excuse to escape the dirty looks he'd been receiving.

Luckily, Lydia's attention span was fickle. "This is delicious!" She took a bite from the celery stalk before using it to stir her drink. "What's in it?"

"You would like it, ya lil commie. It's vodka."

"I'll have you know that I am a devout libertarian, thank you very much." Yeah, that sounded about in line with what he knew of her ideals. "I shudder to ask, but do you have any political leanings?"

"Nixon definitely would'a had my vote." One of the hands on her hips slid to her upper thigh, tracing circles through her skirt. "M' a practicin' anarchist."

To anyone else, she would have argued that anarchy was a pipe dream and that they should really focus their energies on more realistic pursuits. However, this wasn't anyone. "No wonder you want out so badly. An anarchist stuck under the thumb of a monarchy? You must hate them."

He resented the implication that the royal court had any kind of power over him and channeled that feeling into a sharp nip on the side of her neck, drawing a gasp and shudder from her. "You have no idea." The lights dimmed and a thrumming beat drew the crowd into a wild dance. His rusty nail- complete with an actual rusty nail- was shot back and once Lydia finished nursing her own drink, he plucked the empty glass from her hands. "Let's dance."

The sooner he had her exhausted and out of breath, the sooner she would want to leave. He was eager to get the fuck out of there. The last thing he wanted was to run into her ex-fiancé . That was a fight that could wait for another day.

Her feet turned into lead weights beneath her when he tried to tug her out onto the floor. "Beej! I can't- I mean, I don't know how, I've never-"

"Don't worry," an arm slipped around her waist and she was pulled up flush against him, "I gotcha. Just hold on tight."

Then, they were whirling, dancing circles around the room. Faces blurred around them, becoming even more obscured as fog encompassed the floor and flashing strobes disoriented her senses. Her feet moved without her permission, matching each of his expert moves with a maneuver of their own. Lydia didn't mind the lack of control. After the initial trepidation that she felt from the loss of autonomy faded, she relaxed and let his power take over. He clearly knew what he was doing. Maybe one day he could teach her how to dance for real.

This was nothing like ballet. It was fun. She was actually dancing. With a man on a dancefloor, as opposed to a handful of similarly aged girls wearing buns and tights- in front of a wall-length mirror where her every move could be corrected and judged. While Lydia enjoyed ballet- to an extent- it was structured and disciplined, every arch of her heel and bend of her back carefully calculated to appear effortless. This actually was effortless.

As the wild beat began to calm, he threw her body out like a whip, a hand around her wrist keeping her from flying into the crowd like a bowling ball into pins. Then, with a firm tug, he curled her back into his arms before bending her into a low dip. The strobes settled on a bloody hue, muting the cool shades of the patrons' flesh. At the moment, the only way one could tell they were dead were their fatal injuries. A familiar voice began crooning an old love song and Lydia knew without looking that Ginger had finally taken the stage.

"Heaven, I'm in heaven,

And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak,

And I seem to find the happiness I seek,

When we're out together dancing, cheek to cheek,"

Her arms came around his neck as he pulled her back up. This was a move of her own making. With the discovery that her body was her own again, she moved with him, falling easily into the simple two-step he was setting. Her head was spinning- in a good way- and her body felt warm from the dancing and drink. Her eyes closed and she pressed her cheek to his chest, right where his heart would be. It was like a dream or something out of a movie. This was an experience she never thought she would ever have, not unlike many of the things he had shown her. Lydia was utterly, thoroughly seduced.

"Heaven, I'm in Heaven,

And the cares that hang around me thro' the week,

Seem to vanish like a gambler's lucky streak,

When we're out together dancing, cheek to cheek,"

"Ahem." Betelgeuse stopped moving. The magic was broken. Her eyes snapped open and she lifted her head, turning in his arms to view the intruder. He was tall, but not as tall as her husband- and extremely thin, lanky. A shag of messy black hair hung over his sunken features. Lidded, mournful eyes were gazing into hers longingly, drawing a fierce blush to her cheeks. Betelgeuse was the only other person who had ever looked at her like that.

He wore a tailored black suit with silver skull-shaped buttons and a curled, stylized lapel and collar. A short, fur-lined cape and ruby-encrusted crown completed the ensemble. The sight of the shining status symbol made her lips part in awe. This must be the Prince.

"My dear, forgive my forwardness, but," he began, before biting his lip and sinking into a low bow, "you are the most enchanting creature these miserable eyes have perchanced to land upon in several hundred years." Both of her hands came up, curling against her face in stunned embarrassment. The Prince rose half way from his bow, offering her a bony, long-fingered hand to take should she wish. "I simply must have your name... and perhaps a dance, if I may be so bold?"

"Lydia," she breathed out, taken aback by the monarch's praise, though she made no move to accept his hand.

Betelgeuse growled harshly, stepping in front of Lydia. This straightened the bend in the Prince's back completely. "Back off, Vinny." The undead teenager blanched at the blatant lack of respect, but still craned his head, trying to get another look at the raven-haired seductress hidden behind the filthy poltergeist. "She's extra fuckin' taken." He reached behind him, dragging Lydia's ring-bearing hand forward to show off his mark.

"Lydia..." The prince muttered to himself as if he hadn't heard Betelgeuse's warning at all. Black brows furrowed in disappointment at the sight of the large, onyx diamond. "That's the same name as my fiancée..."

"Fiancée ?" Lydia cried out, indignant, before pushing her husband out of the way so she could give the Prince a piece of her mind "You're engaged and you're running around feeding lines like that to random girls!?" She was kicking herself for- even momentarily- being affected by such a common trick. "You should be ashamed of yourself!"

"It's arranged, my love!" The heart-broken Prince insisted, falling to his knees and clasping his hands together to beg her forgiveness. Lydia's eyes widened, her ire transforming into discomfort. The pathetic display was drawing attention, a circle forming around them as people stopped to watch the Prince make a fool of himself. "We have never met and I care nothing for her! She is but a piteous anchor while you- YOU are a breath of air in these deflated lungs, a lustrous moonbeam on my unending agony!" A shaking green hand removed his crown, tossing it across the room. A handful of onlookers broke into a brawl over it. "I renounce my title, refuse my fiancée, my future as King- if it means you will be mine."

"Sorry, uhm," Lydia stepped back, pressing herself more firmly against her husband. This was too fucking weird, "not that I'm not flattered, but uh- like he said. I'm married."

Betelgeuse scowled down at the simpering royal, curling an arm around his wife. "You heard her," with one hard kick, the Prince was knocked clear across the room, right into the collection of ghouls fighting over his crown, "now beat it."

"BETELGEUSE!" A flurry of clicking heels was parting the crowd, coming from the direction of the stage. It was Ginger. She'd hopped right off, cutting her show early. "WHAT DID I TELL YOU ABOUT- Oh." The sight of the human girl in his arms killed Ginger's fury, a bright smile lighting up her annoyed features. "Hello, honey! This loser still showing you a good time?" The arachnid couldn't help but worry about the girl, knowing she was permanently attached to the hip of such a fiend.

"Yeah, yeah, fuck you, too, Ging. Here ya go," he nudged Lydia Ginger's way, "I brought you a friend. No need ta thank me, she wanted ta come see ya- god fuckin' knows why since the only thing ya got goin' for ya is a halfway decent bar n' a two-bit act." Ginger scoffed. Lydia glared. Betelgeuse rolled his eyes, "But I digress. Watch after her for a minute, I got some business needs handlin'." Betelgeuse turned his back on them, strolling with hands in his pockets toward the direction he'd kicked the Prince.

"Please don't be too mean!" Betelgeuse halted. Lydia's sweet plea stilled the crowd completely, more than their monarch's show of humility ever could. Who did this girl think she was? Seducing their crown Prince and ordering around the most powerful poltergeist in existence? Surely, she was doomed. The silence was deafening. Blood rushed to Lydia's face, camouflaged under red light. Slowly, Betelgeuse turned his head until his profile was facing her way. A manic devious grin curled, revealing grimy teeth, and what he said next had the crowd going a flutter with whispers and gossip.

"No promises, babe."

Chapter Text

Betelgeuse had the de-crowned Prince by his mop of black hair, dragging him out to the alley as he kicked and threatened behind him. It appeared his royal lowness had foregone guards tonight- not like it would have done him any good if they were there. "Unhand me, you villainous brute!"

With a grunt, the punk was slung across the way, right into the dumpster where he used to get his dick sucked by Candy. A piece of slop that resembled a rotten banana peel fell on top of his head and the Prince grimaced. "Look, I get it," Betelgeuse began casually, lighting a cigarette and strolling toward the disgraced royal, "she's one fine piece of ass." How could he blame the Prince for falling for her at first sight? Fuck, he did. He couldn't help but appreciate the irony; the Prince ignorantly vowing to leave his fiancée... for his fiancée. "But- n' I'mma need ya to listen real close here," he crouched down, blowing a cloud of smoke into Vincent's enraged face, "she's my fine piece of ass."

"How dare you speak with such disrespect in regards to the divine angel that is Lydia!" Her name was spoken with reverence. The Prince was gathering himself, standing from the filthy concrete and brushing detritus from his person. "You are unworthy of her love!"

Betelgeuse didn't disagree. That didn't make what he had to say any less infuriating. "You're a greedy lil fuck, ya know that?" He shoved the prince back by his shoulder, making him rattle the dumpster again. "Ya kick the bucket n' instead o' havin' ta slum it with the rest of us common folk, ya just so happen to be blue-blooded enough to hit the fuckin' jackpot n' live it up in that castle with all those royal snobs. Not only that, but it's pretty much guaran-fuckin'-teed that one day you're gonna have a fine piece of ass wife o' your own." This was no longer true, but for the sake of the argument, Betelgeuse kept up the charade. "I've seen the bitches you've got runnin' around up there. Hotness runs in the family."

He sneered, stubbing his cigarette out on the Prince's expensive suit. Vincent made no move to stop him. While it was true that he was powerful in his own right, he knew that alone he stood no chance against the poltergeist. "For anyone else, that'd be more than good enough, but oh no! Not for you! What do you do, you spoiled rotten little shit?" He was hissing, his close proximity forcing the undead teenager to recoil in disgust against the dumpster. "You move in on another man's wife. You know what?" Betelgeuse fell back, laughing humorlessly as though he had just heard a twist on an old joke. "Fuck you, Vinny."

With that, the Prince took a hard right hook to the jaw. And he felt every bit of it. Several teeth bounced across the concrete when fist met face, the back of his head slamming against metal with a hollow thunk. Vincent whimpered on the ground, holding his face and blinking up at the poltergeist with a real fear in his eyes. Pain- real physical pain, not the emotional kind he was so very familiar with- was something that he thought was lost on him with death. Now, he thought while tonguing the empty spaces in his mouth, he understood completely why the filthy ghost was as feared as he was.

Betelgeuse was cool as a cucumber, hands in his pockets as he headed back inside. "Lemme find ya talkin' ta my wife again. Seriously. Do it. I want an excuse." With that, he began whistling a cheerful tune. The back entrance to Arachnophobia opened and slammed shut behind him without the use of his hands.

This isn't over, poltergeist, Vincent promised to himself, gathering his lost teeth and forcing them back into place in his gums. Not by a long shot.


"Honey," Ginger fawned over Lydia in her dressing room, "you have got to tell me your secret!" When the spider noticed that all the whispering and speculation was making the living girl uncomfortable, she took Lydia back to the confines of her changing room, but not before visiting the bar for another round of bloody marys. The two had bonded over their shared appreciation for the drink, though Lydia declined to try her version. "You oughta carry a baseball bat around with you the way you keep drawin' em in!"

Lydia giggled, feeling quite tipsy, and took another snapshot of Ginger. The arachnid was finding the extra attention quite flattering. "I would tell you if I knew. I'd never even been on a date before I met Beej. Living guys don't really like me, I guess." She leaned forward in her seat, gazing intently through her lens and gesturing, "Okay, now move your leg- no, not that one, or that one, the other one- yeah, there! Just a little to the left... Perfect." Flash.

"You've gotta know you're special, right? I've never seen Betel stick around any girl as long as he has you, and I've known him pretty much since I died. He was a fan of my movies, it's why he puts up with me."

"Beej is in love with me," Lydia explained matter-of-factly, with complete confidence. Then, what Ginger said sunk in and she moved the camera down to look at her with awe. "You were in movies?"

Ginger was still reeling from the girl's cocky confession. As much as she wanted to argue with it, she couldn't. All signs pointed to her telling the truth. "Yeah. You ever heard of Ginger Rogers?"

"You're THAT Ginger!?" Lydia dropped her camera, lips parting in awe. "Oh my god, you're a freaking legend! May I please have your autograph? Here, here- sign this one, it's the best so far!" She handed the flattered spider a sharpie and a photo that featured her sprawled across her vanity, a feathered boa twined around her thorax. "Do you still talk with Fred Astaire? Where is he? Is he a spider, too? For that matter, why are you a spider?" Ginger's face fell. Guilt, heavy and instantaneous, broke Lydia's excitement. "Oh God, I'm so sorry. I think you're gorgeous, I wasn't thinking-"

"It's okay, honey, you didn't know. I made my choice and I don't regret a thing." The arachnid sighed heavily, a nostalgic smile curling her fuchsia lips as she passed the autographed polaroid onto the living girl. "When you die, you get... sorted. Yeah, sorted. That's a good word for it. Suicides are at the bottom rung of the social ladder. They're slaves for the rest of eternity, working as civil servants in the department of affairs until they're nothing but bone. Eventually, they're given the option to move on to the Lost Souls' Room if they want, but most don't."

Lydia was hanging on her every word, sipping her drink patiently. It annoyed her that Otho was right. Where did he get off knowing more about the Neitherworld than she did? Still, the realization that she had been so close to such a fate was disquieting. It occurred to her that Betelgeuse killed himself- or at least, he said he did. Why wasn't he still slaving away as a civil servant? "Nice people get to live at the top; mansions, servants, money- you name it, they've got it. Performers- only the real successful ones, people like me... We're slaves for the nice people. We're sentenced to dance and sing for them forever."

What the fuck kind of a rule was that? The more Lydia learned about the semantics of death, the more unfair she found it all.

"None of these roles are set in stone for anyone, though. There's a loophole. Betel's the one who taught me that- after he came to one of my shows and watched me cry through my entire routine." Ginger's wistful smile returned at the memory. He claimed that it was for his benefit- that he didn't like seeing a star he admired so much that fucking miserable. Still, she knew then that he wasn't as bad as he wanted everybody to think he was.

"You can get away, but it comes with a price. Me? I got this gorgeous little body." Sarcasm dripped from the spider's tongue. "Somebody up there must have a sense of humor. I'm just thanking my lucky stars that I still get to dance. I think I might've begged someone to exorcise me if I ended up a worm. Freddy chose to keep his chains, not that I need that glory-hogging slave-driver to put on a good show."

So that's why Betelgeuse looked the way he did, instead of the handsome visage he showed off in the living world. It was the price he paid for escaping eternal slavery. "If it's any consolation," Lydia spoke gently, taking the opportunity to snap a photo of Ginger's vulnerable expression, "when I first saw you drop down onto that stage, I thought you were the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen."

"Honey," Ginger sniffled, dabbing at her eye with a handkerchief, "you're gonna make me cry."

"I leave you broads alone for five fuckin' minutes n' you've already turned on the waterworks'!" Betelgeuse's sudden appearance and subsequent rude remarks earned him dirty looks from the both of them. "You ready to get the fuck out o' here, babe?"

The way he was tapping his foot and his twitchy demeanor told her that his patience was running thin. The Prince's advances must have really set him on edge. "Yeah, we can go."

"Come back soon, honey!" They shared a tentative hug, one that Lydia instigated to dispel any doubts that Ginger may have had about her feelings about her eight-legged body. "Your drinks are always on the house- with or without that big bully ya got followin' you around."

"You're a giant bitch, Ging!" With a possessive tug and a pop, they were gone.


He was on her as soon as they came into existence in his living room. She was pushed against the wall, fierce lips locked on hers, while his hands tugged at her skirt. The material was pulled up around her thighs so that he could get a good grip on her legs, wrap her around him, and slide her up the wall- extending to his full height as he did so.

"B-Beej! Stop! Slow down-" when she attempted to push him away, he redoubled his efforts; thrusting up against her and scraping his teeth against her neck. His intensity, paired with his apparent momentary deafness, frightened her. Then, he stopped cold, teeth frozen mid-nibble on her neck. Just like that, she was dropped like a hot potato and he was across the room, stalking down the hall. A door slammed and she knew without looking that he had barricaded himself in his room. Gathering herself, she followed him, stepping lightly.

"Beej?" She called softly, pressed up against his door. His currently unpredictable disposition called for a cautious approach.

She had to strain to hear his answer. "Don't wanna be around me right now, Lyds." His voice was gruff, muffled by wood.

"Is this about the Prince?" She waited for a long time. No response. "You know I'm not going to cheat on you, right?" He must know that. When he still didn't deem what she was saying worthy of a response, she grew frustrated and stood. "Fine. Be that way."

She was hungry anyway, though a tad wobbly on her feet- thanks to the vodka. She had intended to ask him to conjure something for her. Whatever. Lydia didn't mind cooking. "You owe me a laptop, by the way!" She called back angrily as she passed through the living room on her way to the kitchen and spotted her broken computer. The only reason she hadn't said anything about it up until this point is that she knew it was just a matter of going to the store and picking out a new one.

"What to make, what to make..." she whispered to herself, standing back to appraise the kitchen with hands on her hips. It didn't look half bad without the layer of grime coating everything. A sandwich sounded perfect. Simple enough to not require much preparation, but hearty enough to hit the spot. Maybe she could make him one as a peace offering, even though she knew she hadn't done anything wrong here. He thought stuff like that was hot, right? It would probably improve his mood.

The bread was tucked away on a top shelf, but it wasn't next to the cereal like she thought. It was a couple shelves down. No matter, she could reach it. Just a little bit further... "AH!" When she shimmied too far to the side, the chair wobbled and her foot got caught in the long train of her skirt. She lost her balance, falling, but never hit the floor. Strong, cold arms caught her before setting her back on her feet roughly.

He looked furious. "Stop tryin' to kill yourself, you fuckin' midget!"

She matched his fury ounce for ounce. "Stop being a jerk for no reason!" And to think, she had been about to make him a sandwich. "I didn't do anything to you! I wouldn't even be out here if you weren't ignoring me like a child! And what the fuck was that little stunt in the living room, huh?" Lydia was near ripping her hair out, frustrated beads of moisture gathering in the corners of her black-rimmed eyes. "I don't know what you want from me!"

"Fuck, Lyds, just- c'mere." He tugged her back into his arms, tucking her head under his chin. She breathed deeply into his chest, tears dissipating while she enjoyed the perfect safety and comfort that always washed over her when he held her like this. "I didn't like watchin' that punk make moves on you." The confession was grumbled into the top of her head. It was an understatement to say that he "didn't like it." It filled him with an overwhelming need to stake his claim, make her utterly, thoroughly, unquestionably his. The scent of her fear had shocked him back to reality- filled him with disgust and self-loathing at his behavior.

"I'm yours, Beej," Lydia reassured, somehow knowing exactly what he needed to hear. "Just yours. Only yours. No one else's."

Her sweet admissions broke something inside of him. "I'm sorry," he buried his face deeper into her hair, arms tightening around her so that only the tips of her toes touched the floor. "I'm so sorry, Lydia. I'm a fuck up. You deserve better, you deserve-" a Prince.

"Hey," she interrupted, pulling back to poke him in the chest and fix him with a faux stern glare, "that's my husband you're talking about."

There she went again, using his own lines on him. He should really look into patenting. "We'll go get ya a laptop tomorrow. Fuck-face n' Red should be on their way back from Mexico right about now, anyway." He wasn't sure how he was going to manage reigning in his temper around Daddy-in-Law, but if that's what Lydia wanted then god fucking damn it, he would do it. Regardless, it was time he sat Chuck down and had a conversation with him; man-to-man. If he couldn't cause the man any physical pain, emotional would have to do.

Lydia relaxed back against him heavily, arranging herself like they had been when they were dancing. "M' hungry. Was going to make you a sandwich too so you'd stop being a jerk- when I fell." Subconsciously, her body shifted side to side. He moved with her, rocking soundlessly to her silent rhythm.

"Yeah," a soft smile was aimed down at the top of her head, jade eyes lidded with affection, "that prolly woulda done the trick."

Chapter Text

The Prince was in a mood again. Not that he wasn't always losing his head over something or another, but this was different. Her boy, her beloved, her one and only had locked himself away in his tower. He dismissed his guards and servants, refusing any food or drink that was offered to him. Anyone who attempted conversation was shut out, thrown from the highest window without a blink or nod of acknowledgment.

None of these things were out of the ordinary.

No, what concerned the Queen was the loss of his crown. On the eve of his Deathday,- what was usually the least morose day of the year- he returned to the palace bereft of his jewels and solemn, an uncharacteristically savage gleam in his dark eyes. It was no large feat to track the royal treasure down and return it to its proper home, but that was beside the point. The point was that it still lay on display in a glass case in the main hall rather than upon his miserable head- where it belonged.

If she didn't have any choice in the matter then neither did he.

Thunder shook the tower as Anastasia ascended the steps, crown in hand. His storms were not usually so violent. The gentle downpour that used to lull her to an almost dreamlike state was gone, no more. Now, vicious torrents beat down on the stone walls. Lightning bolts devastated the gardens and warded off any would-be visitors. The moat overflowed, allowing the purussauruses passage onto land where they wreaked havoc, destroying everything in their path.

Something had to be done to console her precious boy, set him back on the right path. The tall wooden doors to her son's hideaway flew open with a bang. "Vincent."

The deceased youth sat at his desk, surrounded by imposing stacks of books that cast strange shadows around the room. The sound of her voice inspired him to pause his furious scribblings, but only for a moment. Her boy loved her too much to attempt to throw her from the window as he had all the others. There was a new addition to his dreary decor that gave her pause. Directly above his desk hung a massive portrait of a girl; ebony hair, snow-white skin, draped in flowing black fabric. She whirled beneath a crescent moon, lost in her dance. Eyes the color of spiced honey gazed back at Anastasia, burning with a dark, all-consuming desire.

"Are you ever going to tell your dear, loving mother what has you so upset?" It was a rhetorical question. She floated forward, the train of her lilac gown whispering across stone as she did so, captivated by her beloved's newest masterpiece.

"You are not my mother."

That hurt very deeply, but no emotion showed through Anastasia's frigid countenance. "Are we back to that again?"

One of the books was slammed shut and tossed to the side. "Did we ever really leave?" Several more floated down from a high shelf, settling and opening before him.

The Queen still found herself unable to tear her eyes from the painting. "You know, you are allowed whores, Vincent." Now, Anastasia showed emotion, the corner of her sapphire lip turning up with bitterness. "Your wife will get used to it. She has no choice."

"DON'T YOU DARE SPEAK OF HER THAT WAY!" He was standing, facing her now. A current of power filled the room, flipping pages and causing papers to fly around him.

A sculpted silver eyebrow rose at his temper tantrum. "My, my. This witch has cast quite a spell on you, hasn't she?" The softness in her usually sharp gaze gave away her concern.

The storm paused. Parchment floated to the ground and tears filled her beloved's shadowy eyes. "I ache for her, mother."

The block of ice that was the Queen's heart splintered. Powder blue hands placed the crown back upon her son's head. Elegant fingers raked through sable locks on their way down to cup his beautiful, angular face and stroke his sharp cheekbones. Sapphire lips brushed his brow, urging the worry lines there to fade. It was a futile effort.

"Then you shall have her, my love."


"You know you ain't got shit ta worry 'bout, right?"

Lydia was a nervous wreck in the passenger seat, fiddling with the paperwork she printed out in Hartford's downtown library. She chose to shop for her new laptop there, as opposed to Winter River, knowing that they would have a superior selection. They were almost to her parents' house now. A wooden sign that read "Welcome to Winter River! Who has more spirit than us?"wavered in the wind as Doomie zoomed past it. Once it was still again, an extra "s" materialized at the end of one choice word.

"What if he won't sign it?" He had to. If he didn't, then he and Delia were doomed. Betelgeuse would take her away, she would never see another day of school, and the cops would blame her disappearance on them. They just had to see reason. Unfortunately, the Deetzes were not known for being reasonable.

"He'll sign it."

Lydia did not argue with the implied threat. Instead, her brows crinkled, her teeth sinking deeper into her abused bottom lip. "They're probably not even there. I bet they already have movers packing everything up. They must hate me."

Delia- who put up with a lot of shit from her in the past- was not likely to forgive the destruction of her best, most prized paintings. She wasn't sure exactly what the documents from her father's office were supposed to be, but she knew that they were gone- burnt to ash- and they were never coming back. Hopefully, the important looking information was backed up on a hard drive somewhere.

A tan, calloused hand drifted to her knee, the thumb tracing circles. "They don't get ta hate you. That's not how it works."

How the fuck was he going to pull this off? How was he supposed to walk into the Deetz household and not destroy them all in a spectacular show of blood and gore? Maybe he shouldn't. Maybe he should just stay back and let Lydia take care of business on her own. Experience had taught him that she was adept at cutting down threats when she needed to. On more than one occasion she had made it quite clear that she didn't want his protection. Perhaps, this one time, he would listen to her.

Then, a tiny warm hand fell over his, squeezing gently, and he knew he couldn't. He had to be there for her, in case she needed him. What if those losers ganged up on her, pushed her for answers she didn't have or wasn't willing to give? Fuck that bullshit. He would just have to find it in himself to only indulge in his more malicious inclinations if it became absolutely necessary.

Besides, he had a name now.

Gregory Green could take the Deetz's punishments, and then some.

Lydia became rigid as Doomie fishtailed to a stop on the grass in front of her parents' home, flinging damp soil onto the white paint and leaving ugly tracks in its path. It appeared her trepidation that her parents would be absent- yet again- was for naught. A second expensive looking sports car that hadn't been there before was parked in the driveway. She remained seated when he opened the passenger door, but he didn't rush her. Instead, he lit a cigarette and leaned against the hood. He didn't want to be there. As far as he was concerned, this was a big fat waste of time. She could sit there and put this off for just as long as she fucking wanted.

Unfortunately, Charles Deetz had other plans. He stormed through the front door and out to the porch, face twisted up and red with outrage as he took in the superficial damage to his pristine property. "WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE, YOU GOD DAMN-!" Furious blue eyes flickered past the indifferent stranger to the dark-haired girl in the passenger seat. All the blood drained from his face, paling the sun-kissed flesh to an unhealthy white that almost rivaled his daughter's, as though he had just seen a ghost. "L-Lydia...?"

The shaken man sunk backward, one hand clutching his chest while the other gripped the door frame for support. Lydia, finding her courage, stepped out of the car, paperwork clutched in front of her dress. Her expression was unreadable. "Hi, Dad."

Charles' face twisted with pain. "DELIA!" He barked out, crumbling in on himself. "DELIA, COME OUTSIDE! IT'S LYDI-!" The name never made it. It was cut off as he fell into a furious coughing fit that colored his face red again. Slowly, still wheezing, he fell to his knees. "It's Lyd-", cough, "Lydia!"

A pleased smirk curled Betelgeuse's lips. He had seen this sight before, having caused quite a few in his day. Chucky was having a heart attack. Not the magnificent bloody end that he would have chosen, but beggars can't be choosers.

"Daddy?!" The swell of triumph in his chest deflated. The paperwork in his wife's hands floated forgotten to the ground as she rushed past him and up the steps to kneel at her father's side, just in time for Delia to meet her.

"Lydia!" Her step-mother gasped, mouth agape. One glove-covered hand came up to cover her mouth immediately after when she noticed the state her husband was in. "CHARLES!" Both Maitlands stood in the doorway, silent and assessing the situation. Only they seemed to notice the handsome stranger stalking on the outskirts of the scene, smoking a cigarette while a grim scowl pulled his face down to the ground.

"I'm sorry, baby," Charles sobbed out through the sharp pains shooting through his torso, "I'm so sorry. I left you-"

Lydia was shaking her head adamantly, black tears dripping down her face. "No, no, it's okay! Just breathe! It's okay!"

Delia was trying unsuccessfully to pull Charles up from the ground. "We have to go to the hospital! Now!" He slipped from her arms, an agonized groan ripping from his throat, and black tears of her own painted her pink cheeks. "Please help me, Lydia!"

Coming back to herself, realizing what needed to be done, Lydia's expression hardened. "No. Driving won't be fast enough."

"What?" Blue eyes were large and disbelieving on her step-daughter. "What are you-?"

Lydia was already up and flying down the steps to grip the front of her husband's shirt and plead her case. "Please help him, Beej!"

He didn't have to. He could stall, let the pathetic man's weak heart give out right there on the porch. Hell, he might even have some unfinished business of his own to keep him subjugated with the Maitlands. Though, his merciful daughter's forgiveness may have alleviated him of that burden. Regardless, if he did have any loose ends that needed tying, then he would be here forever, right where Lydia could find him. The bastard would never be able to leave her behind ever again. Two birds with one stone. Lydia would almost certainly forgive him this transgression. It was her nature. Her heart was just too big, she didn't know anything else. She was so sweet... So understanding...

"I'll do anything! I'll sing for you every day, whenever you want, and- and clean your house top to bottom! Just please, please, PLEASE help him!"

Goddamnit.

Betelgeuse darted forward, pressing his forehead against hers and running a heavy hand across the top of her head before stopping to grip the back of her neck through her thick mass of hair. She would have received a good, hard kiss if he didn't know that she found this form unappealing. "I fuckin' love you, Lydia. Don't ever forget that."

Then, he sauntered up the steps to the porch- not quickly, but not slowly. "Piss off," he growled at the redheaded cunt as she sputtered out stupid questions like who are you? and what do you think you're doing? Charles said nothing, choosing to save his short breaths and gaze up at the grumpy stranger with perplexed disorientation. Betelgeuse savored the moment, taking one last long drag from his smoke before flicking it right at Adam's face without taking the time to look or aim. Mr. Maitland flinched back, instinctively patting his skin to check for burns even though Betelgeuse knew he wouldn't find any.

"Now, Dad," the poltergeist began, kneeling down and clamping a hand down on the struggling man's shoulder. A semblance of rage filtered into his pained expression when he finally recognized the gravelly tone, the manic jade eyes. "I know ya prolly think we're even; what with you tryna use me ta make a quick buck n' me marryin' your hot daughter without even askin' ya for her hand," the grip on his father-in-law's shoulder increased in pressure. His fingernails pierced into the muscle there painfully, forcing Charles' narrowed eyes to clench, "but we're not. Not even close."

With that, they both disappeared from sight. In their wake they left two befuddled ghosts, a shaken step-mother, and a crying, relieved, loved little goth girl.

Chapter Text

"Fix him," the quivering, aching mass that was his father-in-law was shoved into the perplexed arms of one of the few ER nurses on staff at Winter River's only hospital. "S' a heart attack."

"O-okay, sir," the young woman stuttered, grunting as she took on the brunt of Charles Deetz's superior weight, "could you tell me how-"

"Dunno," Betelgeuse cut her off abruptly, walking away, back outside to where he could smoke in peace, "don't care."

It was simply unfair. To be so close to finally bearing witness to just a tiny fucking bit of sweet justice- the retribution that Chuck so dearly deserved, only for the glorious moment to be cruelly ripped away from him. She just had to go and beg him again, didn't she? Make her sweet, silly promises knowing that he didn't have it in him to force her into true servitude. She was evil.

What was supposed to be a short visit was now going to drag on and on- until his wife was ready to leave. He would be damned if they slept under the same roof as those motherfuckers, though. Distractions wouldn't do tonight. It had been too long since his last taste, and Lydia owed him. She wanted to beg? He would give her a reason to beg.

Delia's black corvette zoomed into the parking lot, crudely fitting itself into a spot near the entrance. "I told you they'd be here!" He could hear a smug Lydia intoning to her flustered stepmother through the barrier of glass and metal. His wife flew right up to him, launching into his arms and peppering kisses across his face, murmuring "thank you"s in between each one. He didn't return them, choosing instead to smirk victoriously at his distraught mother-in-law while basking in Lydia's affection. She left one last big smooch right on the curve of his unmoving mouth before rushing inside, eager to see to her father.

The redhead paused before meeting the entrance. "Thank you," Delia conceded with hesitation, bitterly. As loathe as she was to admit it, Charles might not have had a chance without the ghoul's interference.

The icy smirk freezing his features deepened sickeningly. "I hope he dies."


Sadly, he did not.

"His vitals are looking good," the nurse spoke with an optimism that killed Betelgeuse's buzz, fiddling with a machine to the right of the unconscious man. It was a natural sleep, not drug induced. The heart attack had taken a lot out of him- stress related, they said. Big surprise there. "It doesn't look like he's going to need surgery, but we'd like to keep him overnight for observation."

Now, Betelgeuse spoke up. He had remained silent in the waiting room, letting his wife and mother-in-law work out their shit on their own. Though, he's fairly certain that his piercing glare kept the talentless hack from voicing her true feelings about the loss of her "art." Instead, she swallowed her pride and accepted Lydia's genuine apologies, returning them with a few of her own. The subject of Lydia's acquiescence to her role as his wife was clearly the elephant in the room. He also bit his tongue when they were finally allowed back to see the inanimate patriarch of the Deetz family and receive a rundown of his condition.

However, with the realization that Chuck was presently useless to sign anything, Betelgeuse decided it was time he hurried them along. "Alrighty then!" He piped up cheerfully, earning bewildered looks from everyone in the room except Lydia. "Sounds like our business here is cut short for the time bein'. You ready to get the fuck outta here, babe? It reeks of infection." Hospitals reminded him of the plague; burning, rotting corpses piled up throughout the streets, fodder for the rats. No amount of antiseptic could dispel the memory of that horrible stench.

Delia answered for her, wrapping protective arms around her stepdaughter. "No!" She cried out, dialing down her intensity when she saw how much their behavior was perturbing the nurse. "I-I mean, you just got back! You can't go! She has to stay! What if- what if Charles wakes up and she's gone again? He won't be able to take it!"

Betelgeuse, indignant at the possessive display over his wife, moved forward, looming over the both of them. "Sounds like a personal problem ta me." What right did this bitch have to hold her like that, as though she actually cared? Lydia's heart had been broken too many times. He refused to let them hurt her again.

"It's okay, Delia," Lydia assured, carefully extracting herself from the woman's arms so that she stood as a petite barrier between the two, "We're not going anywhere. Not until Dad wakes up. Right, honey?" A pointed glance accompanied the tight-lipped term of endearment. It was aimed at the nurse, who was trying and failing to look disinterested in the obviously personal familial bickering.

A scowl marred his beautiful human face and he shifted back, hands on his hips to stare the little woman down. "Fuck. No. I'm not dealin' with any more bullshit tonight, Lyds. There's a luxury suite at a five-star hotel n' casino in Vegas that has my name on it."

"And I'm sure you'll enjoy it," she returned sharply, nose higher than it needed to be while she looked up at him. "I, however, will be at my parents' house- waiting for my father to come home with a clean bill of health."

He was about at the end of his patience with all her sass. Swiftly, he lunged forward with every intention of grabbing her up and popping them out to Vegas despite her protests. Her expression steeled and she slipped to the side, escaping him smoothly. Delia squeaked, moving with her so that she remained at her stepdaughter's back. "If you take me to Vegas tonight I will scream 'rape' and tell everyone you kidnapped me."

The nurse gasped, the items in her hands falling to the floor. She gathered them quickly, muttering an excuse to leave the room. "You wouldn't." She totally would.

Lydia's expression gentled as his twisted even further in frustration, muscles becoming tense and rigid. "Beej-" her stepmother scoffed at the softly spoken nickname, rolling her eyes at the absurdity of it all before Lydia sent a stony glare over her shoulder that shut her right up. "It's just one more night. Then we can go to Vegas or that town in Cambodia-" he licked his lips, eyes brightening. She smiled. "Wherever you want."

"Lydia..." Delia began from behind her, fading off when she found she had no words. As heavily as the urge to exercise her maternal duties pressed down on her shoulder, she knew that she had thrown away that right- if she ever had it to begin with.

"Besides," Lydia continued when it became clear that her stepmother had nothing to contribute to the conversation, "I can't legally drink or gamble up here, not like down there. I would rather not sit in some hotel room worrying about my Dad while you run around blowing all your money on," she paused, thinking of a game, "blackjack. Or whatever. Not my idea of a good time."

"Fine," Betelgeuse conceded, grumbling, after considering her argument. She made a fair point, though it wouldn't be too difficult to juice her up a legitimately fake I.D. He couldn't very well run a good hustle without his lucky charm at his side to sit on his lap and blow his dice. "N' for the record, my game is poker."

"There's a lovely motel just down the road," Delia cut in with a falsely pleasant air about her, speaking directly to Betelgeuse. It seemed they shared a mutual contempt for the idea of sharing the same space. Lydia grimaced, knowing how very unlovely the motel she spoke of truly was. Her stepmother faltered at the looks she was receiving from the unconventional couple. "Just an idea."

Betelgeuse grinned at her obvious unease, darting forward to land a heavy arm around her shoulders and press a kiss to her cheek. "Sorry, Mom." The woman's face burned, body reacting to the close proximity of his attractive illusion- whether she wanted it to or not. "Looks like you're stuck with me."


His human skin was shed upon their return to the Deetz residence, not wishing to miss out on any potential sugar from his hot wife. He and Lydia showed up first, opting for magical travel while Delia drove. "Please don't fight," the girl had implored, emotionally drained, to all deceased parties before they had a chance to begin ripping into each other. Betelgeuse took that as his cue to set up camp in her father's study and familiarize himself with the liquor cabinet.

"Oh, sweetheart," Barbara gushed, pulling Lydia into her arms once they were free of the poltergeist's imposing presence. "How have you been? Are you okay? We've been worried about you."

"I'm fine," Lydia murmured into her shoulder, pulling back when Barbara's hold loosened at her reassurances. "He's really not that bad of a guy, I mean-" she cut herself off, remembering his dungeon and not wishing to lie, "he is. But not to me."

"He's a murderer, Lydia," Adam spoke up, features twisted with disgust. "The police found the bodies of Sarah and Maxie Dean the night you took off, floating down the river; broken and bloated and-"

"Stop!" Lydia interrupted, unable to hear another word of it. "God, do you think I'm an idiot? I know who he is- much better than you do." She was making her way upstairs, curious to see the state of her bedroom. The Maitlands followed behind- giving her space, yet equally intrigued. Upon Lydia's departure, they had found the door locked, the room impenetrable. It opened easily for her when she twisted the knob. Interestingly enough, everything was still in place from how she left it in the Neitherworld; blankets rumpled, photos of flying reptiles spread across her dresser's surface.

"This isn't a..?" Mr. Maitland inquired, squinting at the Polaroid in his hand in disbelief.

"Dragon?" Lydia replied, curling up on her bed to play with her new laptop. "Yes. It is. Did you know that dinosaurs are just dragons that were too weak to travel to the Neitherworld?" An amused ghost of a smile pulled at the corner of her lip, face glowing blue from the lights of the screen. "No. Of course not. Why would you?" The question was more to herself than them.

Well. How were Mr. and Mrs. Maitland supposed to contend with that? Who cared if he was a demented, murderous pervert? He could offer her money, and looks, and freedom, and dragons. This was a battle that they would never win. The realization hit them both with horrible solidarity.

"Adam," Barbara opened the door a bit wider, knowing that this was a conversation she needed to have with the girl alone, "why don't you go wait downstairs for Delia?" Adam obeyed what he knew was a command and not a request from his wife. Once their male company was gone, Barbara joined Lydia in sitting on the bed. The girl's face remained stubbornly attached to her monitor. Done with decorum, she spit out the question that was at the tip of her tongue and conscience. "Are you sleeping together?"

This earned her a brief searching glance, then Lydia was typing away again. "Not yet. He's been going down on me a lot, though. Like, a lot."

That response was much more blunt and honest than what Mrs. Maitland was expecting. The blood painting the young girl's cheeks red told her that she had no qualms about the experience. "I can't stomach the thought of anything bad happening to you. Neither of us- Adam, I mean. We just can't." Her voice wavered. Lydia's heart clenched. "This is our fault."

"No!" The laptop was snapped shut and moved to the side so that the ghost could receive her undivided attention. "That's not true! I'm the one who agreed to the deal! I'd do it all over again if I had to." Barbara was shaking her head in disagreement. Lydia scooted forward, taking hold of cold, coarse farmer's hands to force her attention. "He loves me, Barbara. He would never hurt me, or- or do any of the horrible things that I know you and Adam and my parents are thinking."

"Do you love him?"

Goosebumps rose on the back of her neck. He was there. How was it he always knew exactly when to drop into the conversation? Maybe he had been lurking the whole time and just chose to make his presence known at the most uncomfortable moment in order to toy with her. That seemed like something he would do. "I don't know. Maybe." The admission was small, embarrassed. The temperature in the room increased even as chills ran up her back. "But I do know that he loves me, and he makes me like myself, and that's all I care about."

A horribly permanent guilt settled deep inside Barbara's soul. Lydia was lost to them. Forever. Her lips parted. No sound escaped. "Lydia!" An overly cheerful Delia called from downstairs. "I brought home pizza! Bacon and banana peppers, your favorite! Come eat!"

The pathetically obvious reparation in the form of so-so pizza from Winter River's questionably "authentic" Sicillian cafe made Lydia wince. However, the gravelly shout and surprised squeal that echoed immediately afterward manipulated the disgusted curve of her lip into an amused smirk. "HOT DAMN! Are those hot wings? Fork em over, Ma! Sharin' is carin'."


Dinner was a short, awkward affair.

The Maitlands were notably absent, lurking in the attic. Delia excused herself after choking down only one hot wing and half of a breadstick, sick from the nauseating sight of unchewed masses of food disappearing into the poltergeist's filthy gullet only to be washed down by greedy swigs of her husband's expensive liquor. Apparently, Betelgeuse could not tell the difference between good food and bad food. He inhaled over half of her pizza, with no complaints from Lydia- who only nibbled at a single slice, electing to fill up on greasy salt-encrusted breadsticks instead. His apparent lack of taste buds was a blow to her ego. The gusto with which he once ate her cooking obviously had nothing to do with her ability in the kitchen and everything to do with his unquenchable gluttony.

Suddenly, with purpose, Lydia moved- reaching across the table to steal the bottle of scotch from his side and fill her mouth with burning liquid courage. She was unable to stifle the wet cough that followed and Betelgeuse's resulting obnoxious laughter shook her resolve. "Shut up," she hissed, wiping her mouth on the back of her hand and departing for her bedroom without him.

It was a dumb idea anyway. She probably wouldn't be any good at it.

He was already laying in her bed when she opened the door. "Didn't you learn your lesson the last time ya drank your weight in booze?" His eyes were closed, a cigarette hanging out of the corner of his mouth. "Obviously, brown liquor don't agree with ya."

A lock clicked into place. Soft footsteps pattered toward him, stopping at the foot of the bed. Then, some barely there rustling, a whisper of fabric hitting the floor. Jade orbs snapped open as he felt the mattress dip, dilating at the sight that met him.

She was bare, save for an insignificant scrap of black stringy lace that served to hide the delicious apex between her thighs. Her other shaky knee pressed into the bed as well, the delicate flesh of her inner thigh brushing the steel toe of his boot in the process. She shimmied forward on her knees somewhat clumsily before plopping down to straddle his calves. Cold lips tightened around their cigarette and he remained utterly still, not wishing to startle his brave little bird.

"I know that wasn't easy for you," she whispered, molten honey eyes finally meeting his as she arched her torso forward; gripping his hipbones for balance until her breasts were mashed against his thighs and her bottom was perched in the air. The position forced the scant material of her panties to wedge between her squishy, luminous globes and accentuate them in a torturous fashion. His teeth clenched. The tick in his jaw forced her eyes back down. "Saving my dad, I mean." Unfortunately, the sight of the monstrous bulge in his trousers- mere inches from her face- was no less daunting than his barely restrained animalistic lust.

"Dunno the fuck you're talkin' 'bout." One tiny, curious pale hand came to rest over his hardness and it became incredibly difficult to form words. "It was a piece o' cake. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy."

"In any case," her fingers moved, curling against his aching length, and he damn near bit the tip of his tongue off, "I'm awfully grateful." The fingers on her other hand tucked under the waistband of his slacks, sliding along until her thumb could locate the button that held them fastened together. Scorching breath seeped through the striped material and warmed the metal teeth of his zipper. His cock twitched from within its confinements, forcing rough fabric to scratch her moist bottom lip.

"Let me give you a proper thank you."

Chapter Text

Lydia had made a big mistake. Huge. Gargantuan.

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There was no way that thing was going to fit in her mouth- much less her vagina whenever the time came. The violet monstrosity was thicker than her wrist- her fingers unable to completely circle its intimidating girth- and not quite as long as her forearm. The sight of the darkly shaded flared tip made her shy away, biting her lip in trepidation. He would destroy her.

"S' not gonna bite," Betelgeuse rasped, arms folded behind his head. An easy, inviting half-smile curled his mouth. The jade eyes locked on her were more intense than ever, lidded and burning as they followed her every move.

The sight she was currently presenting him with was downright sinful; knees spread wide over him, juicy ass cheeks rounded high in the air, tapering down to a deeply arched back, long tendrils of black hair draping the flawless milky canvas like spilled ink. When she withdrew some, one itty bitty hand still wrapped bravely around his cock, the curve in her spine extended her backside inches higher.

Lydia had a thin layer of fat that coated her all over- made her so soft, squishy, and squeezable. It was especially apparent around her hips and hindquarters. Her timid retreat forced the scrap of lace she was wearing to dig into that area even further, cutting into the cushiony flesh. Betelgeuse really was an ass man. Not that her tits weren't perfect, just like the rest of her. They couldn't have been very large- barely big enough to fill his hands- but they looked full and voluptuous. Almost too much for her small frame, but not. Just fucking perfect.

He could imagine the thoughts running through her pretty little head right now and thus focused on maintaining a smooth and approachable air. It wouldn't do to lose himself to lust and scare her off. He was well aware of his impressive endowment, but she made it look freaking massive in comparison. Even he had to admit that the pure masculine pleasure he derived from her nervousness was shameful.

At the sound of his sarcastic, yet gently spoken reassurance, her fingers flexed around him once, curiously. In response, his lids fluttered, nostrils flaring as he took in a deep unnecessary breath. Encouraged, she shifted forward, taking hold of the thing with both hands now. He lost some of his cool composure, eyes closing and lips parting to release some of the oxygen he just inhaled. Fascinated by his responses, she tightened her grip and drew down before stroking back up with a slight twisting motion- a move she saw in a porno once. He actually gasped. A pearl of milky fluid presented itself at the tip.

Every little move she made garnered an obvious, unfiltered reaction from him. Feeling powerful and with a burst of courage, she pressed her lips against the pearlescent bead in a soft kiss. As she pulled away her tongue darted out to lathe the spot clean. She was expecting it to taste foul; rancid and rotten. One could imagine her surprise at finding him sweet- unnaturally so, like a sugary syrup. "Beej," she questioned, licking the excess from her lips, "why does your precum taste like..." she stroked him once again, pulling more to the surface for her curious tongue, "cotton candy."

"Magic," he breathed without any attempts at wit or sarcasm. The heat engulfing his manhood wherever she touched was rendering his brain useless.

Lydia pouted. "That's not fair." He got to taste like cotton candy while she probably tasted like- well, she had no way of knowing what she tasted like. Definitely not cotton candy. Though, he seemed to enjoy the flavor of her well enough. She hadn't gotten any complaints yet. The memory of the ecstasy he had given her in the past inspired her to just fucking do it. Give it her best shot. It was the least she could do after all he had done for her.

"Ffffuuuuuckkkk," he hissed, face twisting with pleasure when she swallowed his entire head into the searing softness of her mouth. She pulled back until her lips were pressed against it in a kiss, using her hands to work her saliva down to coat the rest of his shaft in a slick sheen. Then, she closed her mouth over him again and he was lost to her intoxicating heat. It was a fight to keep his eyes open, but god damn him to hell if he missed a fucking second of this.

Sweet, naughty, innocent, dirty, moral, wicked little Lydia; pretty pink lips wrapped tight around the big bad wolf's big fat cock. And he didn't even have to cut a deal. This was it, the culmination of his seduction. He fucking owned her now. If she would do this without any provocation or manipulation on his part, what would she do if he actually tried? The thought went straight to his balls. Luckily for him, Lydia was fucking perfect and saw to his needs immediately. She moved one of her hands down, relieving it of stroking duty so that it could cup the sensitive flesh and soothe his ache away.

Honey eyes flicked up to meet his, shadowed with doubt. Her palpable uncertainty didn't stop her from continuing her work, from trying her absolute best to please him. An icy hand came to stroke the side of her face and she closed her eyes, leaning into his caress. There was slight pressure on her cheek, him feeling his own cock through the thick layer of flesh. Frigid fingers raked through her hair and his hand became a dead weight on top of her head; petting, tugging, leading her along but never pushing her to take more.

His nonverbal cues emboldened her resolve. Who cared if she couldn't even fit half of him past her aching jaw? If his sporadic breathing and the bursts of saccharine flavor that exploded in her mouth on every up draw were anything to go off of, she must have been doing something right. His hand tightened in her hair and she hummed contentedly, drawing pleasure from the slight tug against her scalp.

"Lyds," he gasped, eyes clenched shut, free hand curled into a fist against her headboard. "Baby-" jade orbs fluttered open, only to snap shut again as she hm?'d her response, tongue pulsating against the thick vein underneath the head of his cock. He was powerless to keep watching, as much as he would have liked to. "'M gonna cum."

Okay, she hummed around him pleasantly and resumed her sucking, as though he had just told her the sky was blue. How had he ever thought her evil? She was an angel- come to relinquish him from the bowels of Hell and deliver her sweet bounty of mercy and pleasure.

Unfortunately, Lucifer was not ready to let go of his favorite horny little devil just yet. "Lydia?" Satan chose to take on the form of Adam Maitland tonight.

She released him with a pop; eyes wide, mouth agape, lips dark red and swollen. "Yes?" She called back to the voice behind the door, after clearing her throat and swallowing the excess saliva.

"Would you like some chamomile tea before bed? Barbara's heating up the kettle now."

Her shoulders sagged in relief. "No, thank you." Then, she flashed him an impish smirk as she leaned back into place, positioned his cock upright, parted her ruby lips. A soft pink tongue darted out to-

"Are you sure? It really hits the spot, nobody makes it like Barbara. Just the right amount of cream and honey and-"

"FUCK OFF, ADAM!"

Silence.

Then, quiet, almost nonexistent footsteps echoing off into nothing down the hall. Lydia was still staring at the door when he turned to look; arms crossed over her chest, sorrowful eyes lidded with guilt. "You didn't have to do that. I was getting rid of him." The somber quality of her voice killed his erection. Cursing his impatient nature and quick temper, he tucked himself away before she could see what he looked like flaccid. Not that he was embarrassed- far from it, actually- but there were few things more mood-killing, more unromantic than a flaccid penis. She started at the movement, tugging at his wrist as he zipped himself away. "Wait! I wasn't- you didn't-"

"You're drunk," he grunted, juicing up a smoke and avoiding eye contact, "n' sad. I don' wanna drunk, sad blowjob."

She was not drunk. She wasn't exactly sober, but she wasn't drunk. Still, the rejection stung. "So, a sad drunk blowjob is off-limits, but a regular drunk blowjob is just fine?" She was yanking her dress back over her head, back facing him so he wouldn't see her furiously blinking away tears.

"Man's gotta have a code o' honor."

A bitter sound that could have been a laugh or a sob crawled up her throat. Then, she was across the room, face dry and mask firmly in place. Chamomile tea sounded absolutely lovely.

"Fuck you, Betelgeuse."

With that, the door slammed and she was gone. When she returned minutes later, steaming mug in hand, he was gone. Like so many nights before this one, Lydia fell asleep crying silently into her pillow.


Betelgeuse didn't stray far. The roof was an adequate mattress for his ancient bones. It was dark out here in the country. He could still see most of the stars- not the way he used to, but better than he would have in Vegas. He could see his star. It would be the brightest in the night sky if the human eye could view all wavelengths of radiation. Though, if Lydia had one of her own, it would undoubtedly outshine his.

He had to do something, make this up to her. Fuck, she practically threw herself at him and he turned her away- unable to stomach the thought of allowing her to continue her beautiful ministrations with that guilty, hollow look in her eyes. The Maitlands wanted a child to love and she wanted parents that loved her. And he stole that from her. Why? Because he wanted a wife to suck his dick.

He was garbage.

A creak echoed, footsteps leading out onto the porch. The mothering timbre of Barbara's voice filled the night air, "I just don't want there to be any hard feelings between us, Delia." Something clicked- a lighter, he'd know that sound anywhere- then a cloud of smoke drifted up over the edge of the roof.

"Don't tell Charles about this, and we're even. He thinks I quit."

A brief silence. "Let me bum one and you've got a deal."

A snort of disbelieving laughter, then another click. "What? You can't just pull them out of thin air like him?"

"No," the answer was clipped, cynical, "but I can do this."

A shocked, horrified cry, then more laughter. Betelgeuse was almost tempted to abandon his position and give Babs' parlor trick an appraisal. "Not bad, dead girl! I can see why Lydia was so taken with you."

"Thanks," it was strained, hesitant- as though Barbara didn't know if she should be flattered by this observation or not. "Can I ask you a question?" Silence. Barbara kept speaking and he assumed that Delia gave a nonverbal yes. "What happened to Lydia's mother? Did she die?"

A short, bitter huff of breath. "I wish. That junkie whore is rotting in prison where she belongs." So. Lydia's mother wasn't dead like he had assumed. Maybe just carrying necromancer blood wasn't enough to fulfill Ba'Gul's curse of a short, wretched life. Perhaps one had to be a true necromancer; the seventh female in the line, like Lydia was. "I almost divorced Charles when he told me he had a daughter. We'd been married for about a year and he hadn't said anything about her, nothing. I understand his reasonings now, but at the time-" Delia cut herself off and he visualized a redheaded dragon sucking down droves of smoke. "Let's just say it wasn't pretty."

There was more silence. Crickets filled the air with their music. Click. Click. "So. One day, my husband up and tells me that he has a daughter. And we have to take her in because she's his and she needs us." The bitterness in her tone got under his skin. He clenched his fists rather than grit his teeth, not wishing to give away his hiding spot. Then, she kept speaking and the reason for her audible disgust became clear. "Because the foul junkie whore he impregnated had been letting her drug dealer boyfriend rape this little girl for nearly two years."

Barbara whimpered, "Oh God." Betelgeuse suffered silently, knowing the Maitland woman's pain all too well.

"He got his," Delia reassured with a biting vengeance. "Charles knew a guy who knew a guy. Slipped some money into the right hands." Another lengthy silence. "The son of a bitch didn't make it long enough to learn his cellmate's name. Who knows? Maybe he's haunting the halls of Rikers right now."

Barbara's whisper was barely discernible from the crickets' song. "Seems like a light punishment to me."

Ya know what, Babs?

Both women gasped when he tossed his cigarette over the edge of the roof, the burning bit landing smack dab between them. However, he didn't stay long enough to listen to the hushed worried stammering that followed.

I agree.

Chapter Text

Rikers Island was among one of the most haunted places in the world, up there with Auschwitz and Jonestown. Prisoners were almost always weighed down by unfinished business, after all. The vast majority of them were stab victims, still wearing their blood-stained prison issue garbs. Many of them were naked and hostile. It was humiliatingly obvious how those poor souls died. The rest were a product of state-sanctioned homicide.

The live prisoners were almost all asleep, or pretending to be. Still, the crowded halls echoed with raucous sound. It was a clusterfuck of madness. The more reasonable deceased inmates played card games, speaking silently among themselves- blending, trying not to draw attention. Others- newbies and amateurs- tried and failed to torment their living roommates. The violently deranged convicts brawled and howled, ripping each other to shreds fruitlessly.

Betelgeuse's appearance in their halls quieted the establishment truly and thoroughly. A few breathing prisoners turned in their sleep, sensing the disturbance. They didn't know who he was, but they knew he was somebody. Foreign spirits didn't just show up in their domain willy-nilly like that.

"M' lookin' for a guy," the poltergeist began casually, shattering the silence, "n' one o' you is gonna help me. See, I dunno how he died, n' I don't know my way 'round this dump. I need a tour guide." A lit cigarette materialized between his fingers and several prisoners licked their lips at his minor show of power, hunger making their depraved eyes gleam through the shadows. "Oh, you guys like that?" A cocky grin revealed his teeth and he began strutting down the block, hands in his pockets. "That's nothin'. Here, have a round. On the house."

With one snap, a lit cigarette appeared between the lips of every last deceased prisoner in the vicinity. This earned him roars of praise and a standing ovation. The ghouls that moments before looked like they were contemplating attacking him now regarded him with exaltation, singing praises of his unmatched skill and magnanimous generosity. "Guys, guys, stop! You're gonna make me blush!"

The on-duty guard coughed, trolling the upper floor, banging his nightstick against cells as he passed them. "Lemme find which one of you motherfuckers is lightin' up," the beefy man threatened, other arm curled over his face to protect from the plumes of smoke that suddenly filled the entire block. "Jesus fuck-" cough, cough- " Christ." Why wasn't the fire alarm going off?

"Who wants me to shut this guy up?" A cacophony of applause answered him with crows of YES and PLEASE.

Betelgeuse garnered the loyalty of his adoring fans even further by manipulating the metal stairs just as the guard descended to do his rounds on the bottom floor. The staircase wavered like a magic carpet, throwing the unsuspecting correctional officer nearly twenty feet to the ground. Several bones snapped. Blood leaked out of his broken body, pooling beneath his head. The crowd went wild.

"Thank you!" Betelgeuse circled, bowing in every direction to show his appreciation. "Thank you! You're too kind!"

"Boss," a behemoth of a man made his way to the front to address their new king. The sleeves of his jumpsuit were absent, ripped off, revealing a massive swastika and a naked Marilyn Monroe, "you say you're lookin' for somebody?" A meaty fist beat into the palm of his hand, making a wet sound as the flesh connected. "I got you. Let me help."

These were definitely his kind of people. Betelgeuse's grin deepened and he tossed a fresh, cold brew in the direction of the mammoth, who caught it clumsily, ripping the metal cap away with his teeth- several of which were rotted out and replaced with gold. "Walk with me, cueball." The rest of his subjects were incensed by this show of favoritism. A single sneer silenced their protests.

"You regrettin' that shit yet?" Betelgeuse inquired, glancing pointedly at the swastika as they departed from the jeering crowd.

Cueball almost looked embarrassed, but he was too tough of a guy for such a sensitive, womanly emotion. "White meat. Dark meat," he grunted before taking a swig of his beer and sighing contentedly, a nostalgic glow in his eyes. "We're all dead meat in the end."

"Tell me where I can find Gregory Green," Betelgeuse implored, raising an eyebrow at the horribly permanent embarrassment on the behemoth's arm. The tattoo flickered out of existence, but only for a moment, and Cueball just about swallowed his cigarette, "n' I'll get rid o' that for ya. For good."

"Gregory, Gregory, Gregory," the giant growled to himself in thought, thick brows furrowed. Then, his eyes lightened with recognition. A slimy smile curled, revealing a single golden tooth. "Oh, you must mean Greasy Gregg! Scrawny, nasty lil bitch? Likes to fuck kids?" Betelgeuse's eyes narrowed dangerously, killing his guide's fiendish mirth. A single nod answered the question. "He stays in the showers with the other punks."

"Show me. I need ya ta point him out. I dunno what he looks like."

"Gotta say," cueball began hesitantly, walking eggshells around the clearly superior ghost, "m' kinda surprised. I thought you'd be lookin' for..."

"Someone like you?" Betelgeuse finished, replacing his guide's cigarette with a new one when he saw it was about gone. "Sorry ta disappoint."

"S'okay if ya don't wanna answer, but..." This was the most interesting thing to happen at Rikers in decades. He just had to know. "Why Greasy Gregg?"

Betelgeuse grimaced as though the scent of something particularly foul had just wafted across his nose. "Just bein' a good husband n' takin' out the trash for my wife."


Once the vermin was detected, Betelgeuse proceeded to provide the rest of the deceased inhabitants of Rikers Island with twelve beers a piece and a pack of cigarettes each. The price for these amenities? Not much. Just make Gregory Green's afterlife Hell- well, more hellish than it already was. Betelgeuse didn't stay to watch, not having the stomach for some of their more... obscene punishments. He was a married man, after all. Besides, now he could rest easy with the knowledge that the insect was spending his every waking moment in horrible agony- thanks to some of his juice. He would feel every bit of it. That little tidbit of information was extremely attractive to some of the more sadistic expired lunatics.

As much as Betelgeuse would have liked to spend a couple months down in his dungeon with Greasy Gregg, he just didn't have that kind of time on his hands anymore. There were only so many hours in a night and he still had to figure out how he was going to make up with his wife. He would go back to Rikers. One day. Gregg deserved to know why he was the subject of such torment. For now, Betelgeuse would let him wonder.

The sky was still dark over Winter River. He had time for one more pit stop.

Charles Deetz was sitting awake in his hospital bed, watching The Price is Right with tired, sad eyes. He felt fine. He knew that he could call his wife to come pick him up and that she would jump out of bed and hop to it- but, he was too scared. What if Lydia wasn't with her? What if she was gone? Again? Guilt ate at him, weakened his willpower and brittled his spine. However, the bone hardened, becoming rigid when all of the lights in the room went dark. The machine that kept track of his heart rate died with a sad little sound, ending its incessant beeping.

The cherry end of a cigarette glowed through the shadows, illuminating a face that struck fear into his heart- as well as a pang of animosity. "Wh-what are you doing here...?"

"I'm gonna make you a deal, Chuck," the ghost began, looming over the foot of his bed. "I don't like you, n' you don't like me, but we got somethin' in common-"

"We have nothing in common," Charles interrupted with a hiss, detesting the comparison.

Having adjusted to the dark, he could see the flash of grimy yellow teeth revealed by the poltergeist's wolf-like grin. "You wouldn't be sayin' that if you could see Gregory Green right now."

This effectively quieted the Deetz patriarch. "Keep talking," he finally spoke, curiosity getting the best of him.

"You hurt that lil girl, Chuck. You hurt her bad," Charles turned his face away from the accusations, unable to face them head-on, "bad enough that she came ta me for comfort. Curled up in my arms. Cried her lil black heart out n' asked me to kiss it all better-"

"FUCK YOU!" Charles attempted to lunge at the ghost, only for his blankets to squeeze tight, binding him to the mattress.

"Oh, you don't like that? You're really not gonna like hearin' about the lil strip tease she gave me after dinner- right before she unzipped my pants, pulled out my cock, n' sucked me off like a goddamn porn star. Not one fuckin' hour after kissin' your cheek n' biddin' ya a good night." Betelgeuse chuckled, a wave of affection for his wife washing over him. "I think she's got herself a soft spot for bad boys. S' a good thing I'm here ta take care of her. She might get tangled up with the wrong crowd if I wasn't around ta keep her... distracted."

"Get to the point," Charles bit out, unable to bear another word, but powerless to make it stop.

"How much is it gonna take ta make you n' Red go on a permanent vacation?"

The ghost flicked his wrist and the curtains that barred moonlight from entering the room parted, shedding light on Charles Deetz's alarmed perplexion. "How... much...?"

"You heard me." Betelgeuse's expression was grim. "How fuckin' much is it gonna cost ta make you break that lil girl's heart again? Pack up. Disappear. Never talk to her. Ever. Again."

"You can't possibly think-" A pile of clean greenbacks materialized on Charles' bed, piled high on either side of his restrained form. Whatever derisive comment he had for the ghost died, fading into nothing in the darkened hospital room. Betelgeuse only allowed the money to stay long enough for his father-in-law to grab a stack, examine it for himself, see that it was real- before he took it all away.

"Five million? Six? Sixty? One-hundred?" The poltergeist leaned over the bed, clenching the blankets. Smoke billowed through his nostrils. "Name your price, Deetz."

The internal struggle was clear on his father-in-law's face. "But- but Lydia, she-"

"You don't gotta worry about her," Betelgeuse assured with a frown. "She's not your problem anymore, no matter what decision you make. I'll fix her. I did it once. I can do it again."

A horrible silence filled the room once more. It dragged on for an eternity. Finally, Charles raised his gaze from his lap to the ghost. The blue pools had frozen over completely. "Fifty," he choked out, hating himself, "billion." The frown curling the poltergeist's lips shifted into a deep sneer. He bowed his head low, hiding his face from view. Then, his shoulders began to shake. A wheezing, mocking laughter expelled from his decrepit lungs. "What?" Charles snapped, baring his teeth. "That's not too much for you, is it?"

"Too much?!" Betelgeuse cackled, holding his sides. "TOO MUCH?!" The room trembled as the ghost continued to lose himself to madness, tears rolling down his unnervingly gleeful features. The lights flickered, machinery going haywire as ectoplasmic energy infiltrated the atmosphere. With the death of his laughter, everything returned to normal; heart monitor beeping, the studio audience of The Price is Right cheering. "Chuck," Betelgeuse gasped out, running a heavy hand across his face, "s'not enough."

Red hot fury turned his vision red. "What do you want from me, you son of a bitch?!" Once more, Charles wrestled with the blankets, eager to escape and throttle his infuriating son-in-law. "I named my price! You want it higher? Fine! One-hundred BILLION! TWO! THREE!" The thin blue quilt still refused to release him.

"You just don't get it," Betelgeuse sighed, turning away from the struggling man to gaze out the window, up at his star. "S' never gonna be enough. See," burning jade eyes closed, a soft smile curving his lips and gentling his features. "You're right. M' not like you. I love her... n' you don't." The cruel statement was laden with disappointment, as though the poltergeist expected better from his wife's father.

It was all a game.

The realization stabbed Charles like a knife in the heart. The ghost was never going to give him anything. He was just toying with him, proving a point. Charles felt sick. "Get out." It was more of a plea than a demand.

"Sure," Betelgeuse conceded surprisingly easily, stubbing his burning cigarette out on the glass of the closed window, "but I'mma need ya to remember somethin' for the next time ya see Lyds."

"What's that?" Charles responded numbly, docile and detached. The dead man's grating, whispered reply would echo throughout his head, replaying at least once a day for the rest of his life- and then some.

"I'm her daddy now."

Chapter Text

Lydia was coaxed from her restless sleep by a rough, strangely wet scratching sensation on her cheek. "Mm," she hummed drowsily, turning away from the annoyance and burying the side of her face into a pillow. However, whatever it was, it was persistent. The sandpaper tongue followed, moving its administrations to her nose. Face scrunched up, honey orbs cracked open a hair, only to spring wide at the sight that met them. "Oh!"

Large viridian eyes with thin black slits in the middle popped open to scrutinize her curiously. Then, the kitten dove in to deliver more kisses. It was small, but not so much as to require its mother, and impossibly black and fluffy. Instinctively, immediately- needing to cradle the baby- Lydia enclosed it within her still sleep-heavy arms, making sure to leave room should it wish to bound away. "Hello, precious," her voice was laced with dream dust, thick with infatuation as she scratched the top of the purring fluffball's head. "Where did you come from?"

There was a scratchy clearing of a throat from over her shoulder, coming from the opposite side of the room. She stiffened, memories of the previous night sharply waking her conscience. Though, the ache of her recollections was blunted by the warm ball of affection currently curled up against her breast. She shifted, turning to lay her weight on the opposite shoulder, and brought the kitten with her as she did so. Betelgeuse was leaned against the far wall, blowing cigarette smoke out the window. He was unable to meet her lethargic gaze.

Honey eyes- dry, gritted from crying and sleep- blinked before drawing their focus closer. There was a new addition to her nightstand, right next to her Dracula alarm clock. At first, she thought it was but a lovely, simple flower; sticking upright from its plain clay pot, a grouping of white blooms gathered at the top of one thick, tall stem. Then, she followed the stalk down to the bunching of... leaves... at the base. A gasp parted her lips and she sat up, cradling the furball with one hand and wiping the sand from her eyes with the other. The vicious looking blades had thin, spiky teeth. Their red mouths looked hungry.

A venus fly trap.

It was just a fledgling, with only one cluster of four traps. However, Lydia knew that if she set it up in an optimum location in his home, those numbers would grow exponentially. After all, it would have more than enough prey. Though, she would definitely need to procure a UV lamp to simulate real sunlight for the unassuming predator.

There was an oblong velvet box laid out in front of the carnivorous plant. It was obsidian in color, a black and white striped ribbon tied in a bow around it. She made no moves to open it. Surely, it was another beautiful, thoughtful trinket that she would love. She couldn't. This was simply too much, more than she knew how to take. Unsure, she cuddled the kitten closer, words lost on her trembling lips.

"I'm sorry, okay?" He finally snarled out, when it became clear that Lydia was declining to speak first. "I dunno how to do... this." He waved an arm between them, still refusing to meet her wide gaze. "N' I keep fuckin' up n' makin' you cry. N' that- that's just shitty. 'Cause if I dunno what I'm doin', then you definitely dunno what you're doin'-" she winced at the harsh truth in his observation. He flinched back, though he couldn't possibly have witnessed her subtle reaction. Then, he bared his teeth in frustration, bowing his head and pinching the bridge of his nose. "See? There I go again. Sayin' dick shit without thinkin' about it, shootin' my fat mouth off-"

"No," she stopped him, shaking her head. He didn't get to berate himself like this in front of her, not after giving her such caring, mindful gifts. "You're right. I don't know what I'm doing."

"That's the thing, Lyds." She was so young and inexperienced, so very eager to please him. "You don't gotta know. It's my job to know. Not yours."

She was sixteen, a hormonal teenager, a schoolgirl. Yes, she had a bright, inquisitive mind that soaked up any information presented to it and a dark, innocent type of beauty that rivaled the most sought-after of succubi. Yet, be she a skilled necromancer or a revered queen, she was still just a girl. As he was the one guilty of selfishly adding wife to her ever-growing list of titles, it was his responsibility to make the transition as seamless as possible. He was in a position of authority over her- whether she was willing to admit that or not- and was shamelessly taking advantage of that. To get his dick wet. At the very least, he could keep her big, soul-crushing eyes dry and full of stars in return.

Lydia lowered the baby cat to her lap to scratch its rounded belly. "We could always..." For the first time since she awoke, the comely dusting of pink that he had grown to adore graced the pale apples of her cheeks. "... learn together." The forgotten shriveled up organ in his chest thumped. Now, she dared to reach for the velvet box. "You're not doing all that bad, you know," she teased, uncoiling the ribbon. "With this, you've got Christmas, Valentine's Day, and my birthday covered." The last gift was set aside for a moment while she took the striped line of silk and tied it around the kitten's neck in a pretty bow. "I don't know what I'll get you." She could never top this. Ever. There was no way.

He rolled his eyes, waving off her ridiculous comment. "You ain't gotta get me shit. Now go on, open it." Ash from the end of his cigarette fell carelessly to the floor as he made an impatient gesture her way.

She hesitated, throwing his twitchy form one last amused smile before cracking the velvet box open. Her breath hitched. "Are these real?" She was afraid to touch them. The bulbous red gems and polished silver were crammed into the ill-fitting box in such a way that she couldn't quite make out exactly what it was yet, though it was clearly jewelry.

"As real as the rock on your hand." Well. That answered that question. Though she suspected that the cold onyx gem was genuine, she had been considering it too rude to ask. He was fidgeting again, scratching behind his ear. "This one was kinda last minute. Didn't have time ta find a box that fit, n' the fuckin' pest wouldn't quit crawlin' outta my pocket n' fallin' in the tomb. Kept wantin' ta play with the bones."

The tomb. Carefully, she extracted the heavy matching earrings first, laying them out side by side on top of her blanket. The kitten received an admonishing swat when it tried to play with the baubles. Then, she began the task of removing the necklace. Two round, polished rubies the size of silver dollars fell in in a straight line down the center, embellished by intricate sterling lacework. It was simultaneously dramatic and understated; aware of its beauty, but not bragging. "Whose bones?" She whispered, hands shaking as she set out the amulet next to the earrings, straightening the delicate plated chain as though she were arranging it for a photo.

"Catherine the Great." Oxygen was lost on her as her throat tightened, her already pounding heart racing at an unforgiving pace. "The ring belonged ta Alexander the Great. Figured you should have a full set." Her left hand, currently splayed flat over her chest in an effort to ground herself, clenched. Black nails bit into her flesh. "N', ya know, she's Russian. You're Russian. Seemed appropriate."

Appropriate, he said. That's the word he used to describe robbing the Empress of Russia's final resting place just to snag her some apology jewelry. "Beej-" her voice sounded choked in her own ears. "I can't-" take this! It belongs in a museum! It belongs with her! With greatness! I'm not great, or special, or- or anything! I'm nothing. I'm no one.

Weakly, she tugged at her ring, knowing that it wouldn't come off. Lydia didn't realize tears were streaming down her face until she felt his cold hands there, lifting her chin from her collarbone and wiping them away. "Stop that! C'mon, this was supposed ta make you not do that!" The pure desperation in his plea forced her into action. She launched forward, wrapping her arms around his neck and pressing her lips to his clumsily. The unexpected assault knocked him off guard. When her tongue pressed against the seam of his mouth, he came back to himself, returning her passion with equal ferocity.

"Take me," she sobbed against him, working her hands beneath his jacket to clutch at his back through his shirt. "Please!" She arched her entire body, pushing back until he was straddled on the bed beneath her, knees on either side of his hips. "I'm yours, Beej," her nightshirt was ripped off, slung across the room, and then she was nibbling at his earlobe the way he had done to her in the past. "However you want me. Wherever you want me. Tied up in your coffin or bent over the counter in your kitchen, I don't fucking care as long as you're fucking me."

In a flash, their positions were reversed and a cold hand was clamped over her mouth. "I'mma need ya ta slow down for a minute, kid." If he didn't shut her up right that second he might have been tempted to indulge her insane ramblings. She cried out into his hand furiously, hungrily sucking air through her nostrils. Her eyes were still leaking, hot moisture streaming down the side of her face. He glanced sideways, juicing the tear-inducing jewelry away to her vanity when he saw that the ancient adornments were in danger of falling to the ground. Not that he wouldn't be able to restore them to their former glory should they break, but he didn't know how she might react if something like that were to happen. The little maniac might have a full-blown psychotic meltdown.

This kind of a reaction was... incomprehensible. Bittersweet. He vowed to make her beg, and here she was. Begging. The universe sure was having a lot of fun fucking with him lately. "Calm down, baby," he shushed against her ear, grip over her mouth slackening. She whimpered, biting her lip to muffle the wail that was threatening to escape. The soft baby hairs that framed the side of her face were nuzzled. Her nipple was rock hard against his palm as he slid his hand down to caress her ribs, her hip. She wasn't wearing any underwear. She was completely bare and he hadn't even noticed, too distracted by her tears. Jesus fucking Christ.

"Don't worry," he reassured, keeping up his slow petting. Her quick breaths were deepening, telling him that his administrations were having the desired calming effect. "M' gonna. Later. After fuckface signs those papers- n' you've had a nice dinner or somethin', with rose petals n' all that shit."

"I don't care about that," she insisted, sniveling. "I'm not-" a virgin. "I don't need that. I don't-" deserve it. "I want-" to pay you back. "Please-" don't leave me.

"Later," he promised again, with a growl.

"Meow." The high-pitched mewl made them both turn their heads. The kitten was perched on the pillow next to them, watching the impassioned exchange with the sort of indifferent curiosity that only a cat can possess.

"She's gorgeous," Lydia murmured numbly, extending one limp arm toward the furball in an inviting gesture. The kitten responded in kind, nudging the offered palm with a tiny, black nose. "I love her."

You're gorgeous. I love you. The sappy comeback never made it to his lips. Instead, he rolled to the side, pulled the blanket back up around her bare form- for both of their benefits- and curled around her, spooning her as she spooned the kitten. He remained atop the covers, her comforter a thick layer between them. "It's a scrawny pest n' if it scratches up my couch, I'm drownin' it." She gasped, holding her baby close and giving him an alarmed side-eye over her shoulder. Jade eyes rolled in almost a complete circle. "Or not. Whatever."

"She won't scratch the couch. She's a good girl, yes you are, aren't you? Who's a vicious little beastie?"

"Mew," it answered back pleasantly as if to say me!

"The cat was kinda last minute, too," Betelgeuse admitted, grumbling into her hair. "Found it tumblin' around the catacombs at St. Petersburg. Wouldn't quit followin' me." Most cats became hostile by his presence, bristling and hissing before making themselves scarce. This persistent ball of fluff instead chose to remain hot on his heels throughout his graverobbing, not leaving him alone until he gave it a beetle to munch on. Any other day on any other trip, he would have snapped its neck. However, thoughts of his delicate wife and her love of vermin weakened him.

Lydia inhaled sharply, turning in his arm so that he could see her visible panic. "She was homeless? Did you feed her?"

"Kinda," he gulped, the side of his mouth twitching, "not really."

She was already flying out of bed, tugging her nightshirt back over her head and donning her robe. "Don't let her leave the room, Delia's allergic. I'll be back in a minute." She didn't wait to hear his sarcastic grumbled response, jogging down the stairs to raid the pantry for tuna.

"Lydia?" The Maitlands were sharing their morning coffee in the kitchenette, regarding her with concerned confusion. "Have you been crying?" Her complexion was still somewhat blotchy, the skin around her eyes puffy and red.

"What?" She replied distractedly, becoming increasingly frustrated when she couldn't immediately locate a canned protein. "Oh, yeah. I'm fine, it's whatever. Don't worry about it."

"Lydia-"

Their palpable worry, the unnecessary consternation in Barbara's tone made her snap. "I told you I'm fine!" A truth. "If I wasn't I would say so." A lie.

Adam's mouth was set into a thin line, his turquoise orbs steely and intense. "If that bastard did something to you, I'll- I'll-"

"You'll what, Adam?" Lydia interrupted again, moving her frenzied search to the fridge when the cabinets refused to produce anything for her. "He would rip you apart." Shrimp! There were still leftover shrimp from the night of Delia's cocktail party and the mass possession. The guests hadn't been too eager to finish off a dish that had attacked them, after all. They were dumped onto a cutting board and Lydia began mincing them into a mush that the kitten could easily devour. "Besides, he was trying to make me not cry. It's not his fault I'm crazy."

Her bizarre words and actions quieted the disturbed spirits. "What are you doing?" Barbara finally queried as Lydia began to scrape the pink slop into a small bowl.

"Making cat food. He got me a kitten." Saying it out loud brought an unstoppable, dazzling smile to her lips. She actually had a cat! Her excitement died very quickly, however, when she remembered that her baby was hungry and in need of nutrition. "Don't tell Delia!" She pleaded before jogging out of the room, only to dash back in moments later and steal the section of The Winter River Gazette that Adam had already finished reading. "It's a secret!"

Then, she was gone in a flurry of black fabric. "Barbara," Mr. Maitland's lips were still firmly set, though the fight had been beaten out of his eyes, "I think we might be in over our heads."

Mrs. Maitland allowed herself a smile. She had come to that conclusion a while ago, but her husband's fatherly inclinations and subsequent crushing defeat charmed her. In a desolate, hopeless sort of way. "You think?"

Chapter Text

"Let's see..." One pale hand flew awkwardly across her keyboard- stopping to bat away her kitten whenever the curious beast came closer to see if she could make a bed out of the keys- while the other held a magically conjured cigarette. "Found it! Thank you, Google. 'Skuon," she read tentatively, unsure of pronunciation, "also known as Spiderville by their international tourists, is famous for its bustling market, where fried tarantulas- considered a delicacy by some- are prepared and sold by the thousands daily.' Is that enough?" Her husband had informed her that he couldn't just poof anywhere. The brief description she once gave him was inadequate. He needed a name, because "names have power, babes."

"That's plenty. Can this Google guy tell ya what language they speak in Spiderville?"

She was typing the question out before he was done speaking. "It's not a guy, Beej, it's a search engine."

The poltergeist eyed the computer suspiciously before poking the thin edge of the screen. "No fuckin' way there's an engine in there."

"Oh my God," she giggled, swatting his hand away when he tried to lift it by the base for a closer look. "You're too much. They speak Khmer," this word was also pronounced hesitantly. "Is that one of the languages you speak?" He grunted, wavering his hand to indicate that he was familiar, but not fluent.

"Lydia!" A shrill Delia called from downstairs and the girl immediately rushed to put out her cigarette, though she knew she was immune from typical parent-child punishments. "Your father's home! Come downstairs, he missed you!" Betelgeuse snorted, as though Delia had just told a somewhat amusing joke.

Lydia gathered the home-schooling paperwork from her dresser's surface, trepidation drawing her brows together. "Here goes nothing." Betelgeuse didn't follow, but she took no stock in this. Just because he wasn't there didn't mean he wasn't there. Charles was found in the formal dining room, holding the empty bottle of scotch that her husband had used to wash down pizza the previous night. There was a twitch in his jaw, a barely contained rage about him.

Her confidence faltered. "Sorry about that." It was only a half-lie. It's not like she told Betelgeuse to stop. She even took a swig for herself, but her father didn't need to know that.

The apology drew his full regard. All traces of anger melted from his expression. "Oh, pumpkin..." The papers crinkled between them as she was pulled into a tight hug. "I messed up. I messed up big. I made a horrible, horrible mistake. I-I-" I threw you away. For nothing.

"Dad, I gave you a heart attack. I think we're even." They weren't, but Charles didn't have the nerve to tell her of how he had been willing to quite literally sell her to her detestable husband. Lydia pulled away, fiddling with the documents, unable to meet her father's gaze. "I, uhm, I need you to sign these and mail them to the Department of Education." Apprehension coursed through her when he took them. When she glanced up, she saw that his navy blues were skimming the pages haphazardly, a vein on his temple throbbing. "I filled out everything else, all I need is your signature. And- and I already have some really good courses downloaded. Stuff that they don't even offer at Miss Shannon's; Psychology, and Poetry, and- and-"

"You did this... on your own?" His lips were thin, pursed. Blood was filtering to his face, coloring him an angry shade of red.

"Yes. I mean, Beej helped-" visible animosity curled Charles' upper lip and Lydia immediately retracted, "but it was mostly me. So... will you sign it?"

No! He can't take you! You're MY little girl, MINE! The roaring protests never silenced, even as he withdrew a pen from his shirt pocket, leaned over the table, and shakily traced his signature. What other choice did he have? "Thank you," his daughter intoned quietly, a somber sort of gratitude in her countenance. "Are... Are you and Delia going back to Manhattan?"

Delia hated Winter River. His attempts to make any real money out here in the sticks had been thwarted by supernatural entities. They no longer had to worry about peers from Lydia's old school teasing her about her attempted suicide. What was left for them here? "Probably," he answered simply, bitter and honest.

"That means... you're selling the house?"

"We can't keep it, Lydia." It just wasn't financially viable. He was probably going to lose money on this whole ordeal anyway, ironically enough. Foolishly, it had been bought above asking price in an attempt to solidify their candidacy. Jokes on me, Charles thought with a sour frown.

"What about Mr. and Mrs. Maitland?" This was their house and they deserved to live there peacefully. How were they supposed to deal with a whole new set of breathers? The amusement Lydia felt at the realization that she had taken to using her husband's term for the living, even in her head, was short lived. Adam and Barbara were terrible at scaring. Their hearts just weren't in it. Betelgeuse's presence was proof of that. That's why he was there in the first place, right? To scare them out? It's a good thing she had been there to distract him, keep him from moving on to more malicious tactics.

"They're dead, pumpkin. They're not like us. They can't- They don't-"

Honey eyes widened, indignant at her father's prejudice. "Don't what? Matter? Have feelings?"

"Of course they have feelings," Charles stressed, struggling to get his point across, "just, not the same way that we do." M'not like you, a gravelly voice whispered across his conscience. Selective memory muted the rest of the sentence.

Pale pink lips trembled. Tiny hands balled into fists at her side. "That's bullshit." Charles winced. Lydia had never had the gall to cuss at him in English before, only Russian. He didn't speak the language, but he knew a string of curses when he heard it. "The only difference between us and them is a heartbeat. This is their house. We didn't have any right to move here in the first place!" Footsteps could be heard echoing down the stairs. It was the Maitlands, coming to investigate the source of Lydia's audible upset.

A miffed Delia popped her head around the corner. "Did I just hear you curse at your father? Your father who just came home from the hospital?"

Guilt weakened Lydia's rigid stature. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to, I just- you can't sell the house! You just can't!" The Maitlands entered the room together and she turned to them, features contorted with distress. "Did you know about this?"

"Oh, Lydia, don't be upset," Barbara began, taking hold of her husband's hand. "We know it's not personal." Lydia was shaking her head, but couldn't come up with a valid argument that wouldn't hurt them. It was personal. Her father's biased statements made that abundantly clear to her. "It's about money. I'm sure you can understand that."

The goth huffed, brows furrowing stubbornly. She knew what it was to be poor, to truly have nothing. Her father had more than enough money to maintain this property, whether he thought so or not. "Fine. If it's about money, then Betelgeuse can buy it."

Both the living and deceased adults in the room blanched at her suggestion. Suddenly, they all jumped back, as though Lydia had just made a particularly rude gesture. Simultaneously, there was a pop in the atmosphere, air expelling from the room to make way for something. A heavy black and white striped arm landed across her shoulders. "You rang?"

Lydia gulped, pretty sure that he would do this for her, but not one-hundred percent. He was not exactly close-mouthed about his disdain for the Maitlands. "They're selling the house."

He rose an unimpressed eyebrow at the top of her head. "Aaaaand?"

Her cheeks puffed up, bottom lip pouting. He knew what she wanted. He was just making her ask, putting on a show for her parents and the Maitlands. "And I would very much like for you to buy it from them so that Mr. and Mrs. Maitland don't have to put up with some other clueless family." She crossed her arms, shifting her weight more firmly against him but still turning her face in the opposite direction petulantly. "And so I can keep visiting." That would just be a fan-fucking-tastic conversation. Hi, you don't know me, but I'm here to visit the nice dead people haunting your house. Oh yeah, and don't mind the poltergeist!

"I dunno, Lyds," Betelgeuse began, stepping away from her and rubbing his jaw in mock consideration. "I'd have ta drop a pretty penny on remodelin' alone. Looks like a bad acid trip in here." The steel toe of his boot clunked against one of the columns that separated the dining room from the sunroom, as though he were testing its stability. Delia's jaw dropped, furious at the blatant insult to her artistic vision. His irate mother-in-law received a lascivious wink before Betelgeuse took the seat at the head of the table and threw his perpetually muddy boots up onto the pristine surface. "Not sure if it's worth the investment."

A furious blush painted her cheeks crimson. She knew what she had to do, what he wanted. "Beej," she began, sickly sweet, and approached the back of his chair to place both hands on his shoulders, "pretty please with sugar on top will you pleeaase buy Mr. and Mrs. Maitland's house? For me?" She added for good measure, thumbs kneading into the back of his neck. Lydia couldn't bear to meet either the Maitlands' or her parents' eyes while she did this, well aware of the kind of looks she must have been receiving.

"Mmmmm," he purred, rolling into her ministrations until the back of his head rested against her breasts. Lidded jade eyes burned up at her, devouring her palpable embarrassment shamelessly. "Well when ya put it that way," he drawled. Then, he surged forward, slammed his feet back to the ground, conjured a contract, and forced his father-in-law to sit at the opposite end of the table with magical restraints. "Let's deal, pops."

"Beej," Lydia admonished, taking the spot to his side. He didn't have to be so rough with her father. His only response was to roll his eyes and wave off her grievance.

Charles grit his teeth, blonde hair strewn across his flaming face from the coarse treatment. His own wife took the spot at his side as well, mirroring Lydia. The Maitlands, feeling that they also had a part in this, followed suit. The Deetz patriarch was painfully aware of how quickly deals with the poltergeist could go south and thus proceeded carefully. While he was inclined to demand an outrageous sum, knowing that the bastard could definitely pay up, he ultimately knew that this would come across as petty spite to his daughter. He had already caused her enough pain.

"I bought it for four-hundred K," Charles began, gritting the words out. The Maitlands gaped at this and began whispering amongst themselves, something about a woman named Jane and butter and her greasy palms. "Was planning on selling it for three-fifty. You can have it for half a mil." Lydia glared at this and Charles averted his gaze, unable to face his daughter's silent judgment.

Betelgeuse snorted, lighting up a cigarette for himself and offering the teenager one. She flushed and shook her head no jerkily, pretending to be surprised that he had made the offer at all. "That's all? Fuck that. I'll take it for..." there was a pause while he considered the best way to humiliate Chuck, "twice as much as you spent, and not a dime less."

Delia gasped. "Charles," one glove-covered hand gripped her husband's while the other shaking palm patted her suddenly hot cheek, "That's- that's almost a million dollars! He doesn't have that much! You don't have that much!" This was said to Betelgeuse directly. "Does he have that much?" To Lydia. The goth only sighed, knowing exactly what her husband was doing, and slipped her left hand onto the table, throwing a pointed glance at the large black diamond on her ring finger. Delia, who had never bothered to appraise her stepdaughter's wedding ring before, gawked, suddenly seeing her son-in-law in a different light. "Oh... my..." The vice grip on Charles' hand tightened. For reasons beyond her comprehension, he openly seethed.

"Pipe down, Ma, the men are talkin'." This earned him a vicious glare and a hard kick from his decidedly feminist wife. "Well? We got a deal or what?" A horrible smirk cut across his face and he leaned forward, resting both elbows on the table in a conspiratorial posture. "I know it's not fifty billion, but it's the best you're gonna get outta me." His tone was low, secretive, as though he and Charles were the only two in the room. Lydia regarded him suspiciously. That was too specific a number for this to be his usual taunting.

"Deal," Charles sneered hatefully. Delia squealed in response, clasping her hands with delight. Betelgeuse's smirk deepened. The Maitlands appeared as though they didn't know whether to be pleased or repulsed by this turn of events. Quickly, fluidly, he scrawled his mess of a signature across the document in front of him. In an instant, it disappeared and reappeared across the table before Chuck. His father-in-law, ever the astute businessman, took his time reading over the paperwork. "Benjamin Geist?" He scoffed under his breath, skimming the name at the top of the deed incredulously.

"Charles," Delia admonished, not understanding why her husband wasn't elated by the significant return they were getting on their property. A bright, placating smile was aimed at her wealthy son-in-law in an attempt to make up for her husband's rudeness. "Don't mind him, he's obviously not thinking clearly." Her joy receded slightly when something occurred to her. "You- you will be bringing Lydia up to visit us sometime, right?"

Betelgeuse took his time responding, adjusting the cuffs of his suit. His erratic mother-in-law was then gifted with a tight smile. "Sure," he exhaled curtly. Lydia was reminded of when she first summoned him, the night of their wedding.

"What's this supposed to be?" Charles spoke up again, having noticed a second official-looking document hidden just beneath their contract.

"Oh, that's nothin'," Betelgeuse replied casually, stubbing his cigarette out right on the table. Delia flinched but said nothing, her smile unwavering. "Just my wife's petition for emancipation." Lydia's brow furrowed, unsure of the significance of this.

Charles practically growled. He was familiar with the law. His best friend was a lawyer. His daughter's marriage alone was enough to emancipate her in most states, but not all. Regardless, this wasn't about Lydia's legal rights. It was symbolic. It wasn't enough that the abhorrent corpse had stolen her from them, that he had gone out of his way to prove him to be an inadequate father. Now, he wanted him to literally, figuratively, and legally release any kind of claim he had over her. It was a dirty, underhanded gesture, made solely with the intention of rubbing it in.

"Fuck you," he hissed, even as his hand formed the signature.

Chapter Text

"I guess this is goodbye. For now."

Betelgeuse was getting antsy. She could tell by the way he was sucking down cigarettes, one right after the other, and the way his eyes narrowed every time her father spoke to her. Lydia quickly decided that it was time they made their leave, before her husband's patience depleted completely. Their business was done here, anyway. Her father had signed all the necessary paperwork, as well as gave his word that he would mail in the home-schooling forms to their local district. Barbara- still humoring the girl by keeping the secret from her stepmother- promised to take care of the yet to be named ball of fluff hiding out in Lydia's bedroom. Betelgeuse even went the extra mile by conjuring up several weeks worth of cat food, litter, and a catbox. Lydia thought it was excessive as she had no intention of leaving her kitten behind for that long, but didn't say so. After all, who knew when they would be returning?

He deserved to bask in the sunlight and she wasn't going to stop him. She got her honeymoon. Now, it was time for his.

Shockingly, it was Delia who moved first, pulling her into a crushing hug and pressing a cheek to the top of her head. "Oh, Lydia," the redhead sniffled even as the goth stiffened, not knowing how to process this show of affection. She pulled back to cup the younger girl's face and Lydia saw that she wasn't hearing things. There were actual tears in her stepmother's crystal blue eyes. "My brave, brave, fearless little girl." Mentally, Lydia rejected the implied possession, the way she always had when Delia attempted to be her mother. However, the sincerity in the woman's tearful parting words killed her practiced defensive cynicism.

"I'm so proud of you. I don't know how you did it and I don't think I want to know, but you've got that- that-" Delia hesitated, unsure of how to refer to her son-in-law. "Him wrapped around your little finger. No matter what he says or does, don't let him bullshit you." Her voice dropped to a secretive timbre as she attempted to impart some maternal wisdom to her naive stepdaughter; insight into her power as a woman. "He will do anything that you ask. You are in charge here."

Betelgeuse snarled at his mother-in-law's preceptive, indisputable observations and tugged Lydia away by the back of her dress. "And you!" The redhead continued before he had a chance to form a decent rebuttal, unintimidated by his deep scowl and aggressive posturing. "You bring her to visit us soon and often!"

"Oh-ho-ho you're askin' for it, Red," the poltergeist jeered, abandoning his hold on black fabric to get in his mother-in-law's face. She faltered at his close proximity, but the stubborn set of her brow refused to smooth out. "Chuck, you better put a leash on your bitch before I do!"

"Beej," Lydia called to him uncomfortably, simultaneously trying to get him to lay off and yet not wishing to undermine him in the wake of such blatant disrespect. His sneer deepened impossibly but he still fell back, vicious glower never wavering even as he curled an arm around his wife. The feeling of her hip curved beneath his palm calmed his ire, but only just so. Then, Mr. Maitland whispered something into Mrs. Maitland's ear. It was inaudible, but he could make out the term leash. Barbara slapped a hand over her mouth, muffling the giggle that threatened to escape.

"THAT'S IT!" He exploded, unable to stand their company a moment longer. If he didn't get out of there soon, he would have to destroy them all. "Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, n' FUU-huh-HUUCK YOU!" He did his rounds, gesturing an accusatory middle finger at each guilty party. His father-in-law was the recipient of the last, most spitefully spoken "fuck."

Then, he got to Lydia. "You." He drew her in close before spinning around and dipping her low. The kiss she received was uncomfortably long and deep. Charles fucking Deetz even had the gall to clear his throat, as though the half-hearted interruption would somehow separate the ghoul from his daughter. Lydia squeaked against him at first, surprised by the rapidity of his actions, but inevitably melted under his attention; grasping his shoulders and returning the kiss with a restrained passion, painfully aware of their audience and yet unable to push him away. Good girl.

"You," he repeated, tearing himself from her sweet lips before it could become impossible to do so, "I'll be fuckin' later." A deep color settled in her cheeks. With that, he set her back upright and gifted her backside with a slap and a squeeze before departing for the porch. The color spread to her neck as she turned her attention back to her parents and the Maitlands.

"Told you so." There was a victorious smirk curling Delia's red lips. It seems she was immune from Betelgeuse's attempts to perturb them with the vulgar display. Her next comment dripped with a mocking sense of superiority. "Wrapped. Around. Your little. Finger."


Skuon's market was everything the internet told them it would be and more. Spiders were clearly the main attraction as a variety of different breeds were sold by nearly every vendor, but the smorgasbord didn't stop there. There were cicadas, silkworms, giant crickets, centipedes, and- to Betelgeuse's delight- a plethora of beetles. The larger bugs were served on skewers while the smaller ones were deep fried to a crisp, lightly salted, and set out in tubs to be bought by the scoop.

Lydia followed behind him, taking pictures as he flocked from stall to stall like a child in a candy shop; sampling products and haggling with the sellers in a gravelly combination of English, Vietnamese, and Khmer. The locals, impressed by this tourist of European descent's varied tastes and competent use of their dialect, allowed him to partake of whatever he wished before buying. Surprisingly enough, Betelgeuse did not appear to be taking advantage of this.

A large black and white striped parasol shielded her from the harsh sunlight as she tagged along, acting as his shadow. She had yet to have the fortitude to actually try anything. Her interests laid with observing the chefs as they worked behind the scenes, in the buckets of critters that crawled all over each other in their haste for freedom. Morbid curiosity held her in rapt attention as hordes of live insects were poured into vats of oil- along with heads of garlic and whole onions- only to be scooped out and tossed with dry seasonings moments later.

"Mmm," Betelgeuse grunted, sucking residual salt and bits of exoskeleton from his fingertips. "Babe, ya gotta try this." He waved a skewer her way. A shiny, steaming giant centipede was pierced through the wooden stick.

Lydia's stomach churned. "Uhm," she faltered, pretending to be extremely interested in her latest polaroid, "maybe later."

"Whatever you say," he shrugged and slid the anthropod from its rod, "chicken." His neck tilted back until his face was parallel with the sky and the entire thing could be coiled into his mouth, like a college kid eating ramen noodles.

"You can't just call me a chicken every time you want me to do something!" She admonished, even as she yanked the burlap sack from his hand to peruse. He hadn't bothered keeping his haul organized, so they were all lumped together. Nothing in there looked the least bit appetizing... but it smelled good. Like seasoned meat and exotic spices.

"I recommend the scorpion," he suggested, choosing not to acknowledge her silly retort. After all, if he pushed back too much it might not keep working so beautifully. He watched, enthralled, as she picked through the lot, eventually following his advice and settling on a glossy black one that fit in the palm of her hand.

Lydia thought it was pretty. Almost too pretty to eat. She kept this thought to herself, knowing that her husband would see it as her getting cold feet. "So I just... bite into it? Any part? Just like that?"

"Yup," he grunted, simple and blunt. Flecks of bug carcasses flew this way and that as he scarfed down handfuls at a time indiscriminately.

She flinched as she snapped one of the pincers off, hating to destroy such a beautiful thing. It was a necessary evil. The hard shell exterior was tougher than she was expecting it to be considering how easily the sharp limb had been removed. Once it finally cracked beneath her teeth, a surprisingly fishy, starchy flavor exploded over her tongue. It was like eating a lobster flavored potato chip. Luckily, Lydia enjoyed seafood. "This is good!" Initial trepidation gone, she tossed back the second pincer without any hesitation. "Any other suggestions?"

Grinning enthusiastically, Betelgeuse joined his wife under her parasol, all too eager to introduce her to the delicious world of entomophagy.


"Don't tell Ginger about this," Lydia requested with an impish smirk as he tore the leg from a tarantula and traced it against her lips. "I don't think she would take it very well."

It was uncanny. The scene could have come straight out of his fantasy. She was even wearing the little black bikini. It was miniscule, barely more than triangles and string. With the death of the sun, she had discarded the parasol and stripped off her sundress, allowing her pale flesh to soak up moonbeams like a flower would sunlight. Consequently, his human skin was shed.

Skuon was behind them, forgotten in the dust. Aside from its exotic market, the smallish village didn't have much to offer in the way of entertainment. Instead, they spent the majority of the day touring Doomie across the Cambodian countryside, occasionally stopping whenever something caught Lydia's photographic eye. Betelgeuse didn't know where he was going and frankly, he didn't care. Everything he wanted was at his fingertips.

Power, unhindered by limitations.

Freedom to wreak havoc, though he was finding himself in merciful spirits lately.

Victory, over the bureaucracy of death, over the Royal Family, over any and all of the forces that sought to bring him down a notch- whether for revenge or out of fear of what he was capable of.

Last, but far from least, he had Lydia. His wife. His kind, beautiful, impeccable little songbird. His delectable creampuff who just that morning had begged him- in tears- to violently fuck her. In short, his afterlife was looking more and more like Heaven every day.

"Sing me a song," he purred contentedly, laid out in the sand, tracing the contours of her back while she looked out over of the Gulf of Thailand. The moon was impossibly large tonight, its image reflected clearly upon the calm waters. "Please," he added- barely audible- so that she knew it was a request and not a demand. Her torso expanded and decompressed beneath his fingertips as she took a deep breath. When the pure silvery lilt of her soprano joined the harmony of ocean breeze and nightcrawlers, he relaxed completely; eyes closing, arm going limp at his side.

"Somewhere, beyond the sea,

Somewhere, waiting for me,

My lover stands on golden sands,

And watches the ships that go sailing,"

There wasn't any nervousness in her tone this time around. It was like before when he eavesdropped on her somber shower song. This was different from that, though. That had been aching, haunted, and full of pain. Now, she was reverent, a different kind of longing in the nostalgic lyrics. The familiar tune was slowed down some, her angelic voice savoring the notes, unobstructed by instrumentals.

"Somewhere, beyond the sea,

He's there watching for me,

If I could fly like birds on high,

Then straight to his arms, I'd go sailing,"

Again, the siren's call was gone before he was ready for it to be. When he could finally find it in himself to crack his eyes open, he saw that the spot where she had been before was empty. Upon further investigation, his momentary panic fled. She was across the way, drifting toward the serene depths of the gulf as though some other fabled creature was out there, luring her to her death with a song of its own. She gasped, jumping against him in surprise when his bare arms wrapped around her middle, pulling her back flush against his similarly naked chest.

"Sorry, babe," he hushed, lips brushing her ear. "Can't let ya go deeper than this."

The water wasn't even up to her knees yet. Even in the dark of night with only the moon and stars to light her way, she could still see her feet clear through the shallows. "Why?" She breathed quietly in response, not understanding why he would deny her this experience. Still, she relaxed into his embrace, tilting her head to the side so that the expanse of her neck was bared to him.

"S' dangerous," he growled against the offered flesh, tightening one arm around her while the other drifted down to trace patterns on her lower belly. The sweltering heat and punishing humidity were not enough to halt the goosebumps left in the wake of his touch. "Sharks. Rockfish. Stingrays." Too many swimsuit-clad residents of the Neitherworld had met such a fate. She was safe here, in his embrace, but he couldn't make the same guarantee if she were to venture too far out. As much as he hated refusing her, it just wasn't worth the risk. "Can't have ya dyin' on me."

At his clarifications, she turned in his arms, wrapping her own around his neck. To anyone else, she would have raged in protest, told them to stop being such a stick in the mud and to let her live her life. But, again, this wasn't anyone. This was a man who had spent an unfathomable amount of time- to her, anyway- surrounded by death and decay. How could she blame him for seeing danger everywhere?

The traces of moss that grew up his neck were back, uncaring of how she had picked at them curiously earlier in the day. With his current state of undress- this was more of him than she had ever seen at one time- she could see that the sporadic growth plagued his chest, arms, and legs as well. Absent-mindedly, she raked her fingers across a patch that kept some of his chest hair matted together, though she knew it was a futile effort. The sight of his striped swim trunks brought a tiny smile to her lips. She would give him this; he was consistent when it came to fashion.

"Sharks are repelled by black and white stripes," she began with a mischievous intonation, tracing the fear-inducing design lightly. "Lots of marine life is, actually. Biologists think it's because the pattern mimics a common venomous sea snake's."

The remorse he felt moments before from denying her faded away completely, to be replaced by wicked glee. He could now add genius to her continually expanding list of desirable qualities. "I know I've told ya this before, but I'm gonna tell ya again in case ya forgot..." Grimy yellow teeth began to elongate, forming fangs, and his irises contorted into thin predatory slits. Her breath caught in her throat, honey eyes growing impossibly large as she stepped back from his embrace to witness his transformation fully.

"You're fuckin' perfect."

Chapter Text

He was a monster.

Lydia had never had any illusions about this. Murder was his first inclination to almost any slight. For Christ's sake, he kept a torture chamber in his home. Though there was no way of proving it and she was sure he would lie to her anyway, she was fairly certain he had gone behind her back to threaten or intimidate her father somehow. Badly enough that he was shaken into silence. This savageness, this unforgiving quality is part of why Lydia continued to be baffled by the dead man's adamant devotion to her. Despite her better judgment, she never could bring herself to fear him- not the way that she knew she should.

The reality of his malignant nature came crashing down around her with startling clarity as the beast he truly was presented itself to her. He looked more himself with scales and fangs than in that human costume he seemed to love so much. Once before she had seen him like this. When he attacked Otho and her parents, taking them out one by one before finally, inevitably cornering her. She had been so certain that death was imminent, so absolute in her assessment of the situation, so ready. Now? She didn't know what to expect.

"Wanna go ssswimmin', babe?"

The creature hissed down at her, its massive body coiled into a mound of stripes. A grotesque smile exposed a crooked row of long, jagged teeth framed by gray gums. Lydia was speechless. Betelgeuse, pleased by her silent awe, lowered to her level, closed what he knew were intimidating, carnivorous eyes, and waited patiently for her to approach. It would be better if she came to him on her own. He knew she would. This was her idea.

Still, he was shocked when she touched his fangs before anything else. Bulbous yellow eyes popped open and his forked tongue instinctively darted out to kiss her inner wrist- inspiring a giggle and retreat. "Those look pretty sharp. Promise you won't bite me?"

Little fucking tease. "PromissseWouldn't wanna make ya bleeeeed."

The hungry gleam in his eyes at the mention of her blood made it race. A warm hand traced across the side of his face, over his wiry mass of hair, finally stopping to splay flat against a black strip of scales. The muscles flexed beneath her touch and he moved, curling half around her and lowering himself even further until he was treading water. When the sea grew deep enough to where he could slither along at hip level beside her, he veered off, bumping into her purposefully. She almost lost balance but caught herself before she could topple over. "What? Am I supposed to ride you like a pony?"

"That'sss the idea, baby." She didn't expect an answer from the submerged serpent. "Hop on."

"Is this-" She hesitated, adjusting her legs around him and carefully grasping the cord of icy muscle beneath his head. "Is this right?" He didn't answer. When she tried to lift her feet from the sand he streamed forward, and she fell with a splash. His cackle was clear through the ocean water rushing her eardrums. "Jerk!" She sputtered as she ascended, flipping wet hair from her face.

"Try again, babe," a gravelly voice chuckled from behind her. Then, he was between her legs, nudging them apart and situating himself as he saw fit. "Grab my hair." She was too polite to do such a thing without prompting unless in the midst of sexual torment, and then who could blame her? His obedient little wife did as she was told. This time, when he glided across the water she stayed in place; a warm, pleasant weight across his back. He kept his pace slow at first, letting them both adjust to the foreign experience. As it was, he had never actually let someone ride him like this- like a circus animal- and she most certainly had never straddled a giant snake- not unless she counted his cock.

"Sorry," she gasped when he sped up a bit and her grip on his hair reflexively tightened. "Did that hurt?"

His speed increased with renewed vigor, forcing her fists to clench again. "That'sss my line."

A fierce blush painted her cheeks at his implication. "You could have just said no." Lydia was feeling comfortable enough to sit upright, thighs firmly banded around him. The water on the surface was warm, but she could feel where it got colder at the tips of her toes. "Do you see differently when you're like this?" She could still see him clearly through the water but everything beneath his bold stripes and beyond was black. Where before the current had been calm and lapping, it now splashed against her stomach and breasts carelessly as he darted along at a smooth rate.

"Oh, baby... If you could ssseee what I'm ssseeein'..." the serpent she rode chuckled before jumping up to catch an incoming wave of average height. In response, she tightened her thighs and arched her upper body in a retracting counter, leaning her hips into him to maintain the position. "You'd beg me ta take ya back ta sshhore."

At his remark, she spared a glance back to the beach. It was still within sight, but wouldn't be for long at this pace. "Did you just try to knock me off? Do you know where you're going?"

"Nah, jusss like makin' ya sssqueeze me." He took on a larger wave and she was able to read his anticipation. Prepared for it this time, her fluid balancing movement was easily replicated. Lydia had never ridden a horse before, but she imagined it was probably something like this. With presumably less innuendo. "And no."

For a split-second she feared for his car, her camera and photos- sitting on the beach, yellow doors wide open. Then, she remembered that those kinds of uncertainties were petty, arbitrary, human problems that she no longer needed to concern herself with. With that thought, caution was thrown to the wind. "Beej," she began with an insidious, false innocence, hoping to skip the banter and get straight to the point, "can you go any faster?"

Hidden from her, the serpent's inhuman grin deepened, crudely contorting its already frightful features. She nearly screamed for him when he accelerated rapidly, changing pace and surging with the flow of the current rather than against it. Impressively, she managed to maintain her upright position. What Betelgeuse would give to see her at this moment. His Queen; perched proudly atop her serpent, scouring the seas, damp raven locks whipping in the wind behind her, stars in her eyes and a smile bright enough to outshine the moon. She must have been fucking glorious.

Wanting to see her again, he took on a considerably large wave, hoping to shake her sturdy symmetry. Unfortunately, her resolve was just as dogged as always. Those creamy white thighs pulled him even closer and she remained intently astride him.

"You are trying to knock me off!"

"Only ssso I can sssave ya."

"There's a name for that. It's called Munchausen by Proxy. Freud could probably tell you a thing or two about it. Want to go ask?" Unexpectedly, he halted. The abrupt break in their rhythm surprised her, making her slip from his back roughly. When she emerged and finished rubbing water from her eyes- the sting wasn't all that bad- she could no longer see his stripes. "Ginger's right. You are a bully." There was no response from the depths. "Beej?" Silence.

The sea was coarse and broken without her husband to smooth it out for her. Lydia was able to tread the surface, but it took effort and concentration. The water below her shoulders was cold against all her flesh but the bits that had been branded by her husband. Numbness from acclimating to Betelgeuse's chill and fatigue from expending energy keeping hold of him made the current feel stronger than it truly was. She had to use her oxygen wisely, choose her words carefully. "If you're trying to scare me, it's not work-"

Mockingly, the sea interrupted her, filling her mouth with salt water and sputtering the end of her sentence. Drawing in deep breaths, Lydia centered herself. She turned steadily, searching for something, anything other than ocean. She saw land. An island. It was close- within swimming distance- and definitely hadn't been there when she was still astride him. Well. She knew how to take a hint. As badly as she wanted to yell out, call him every filthy name in the book and curse him to a sexless eternity- every breath counted. It could wait.

The island wasn't as close as it originally seemed. A heavy weakness tugged at her limbs minutes into her determined, evenly paced breast-stroke. She pushed through it until, unbearably, inescapably she had to stop and take a breath. Significant distance had been traversed, but she still couldn't have been more than halfway there, if that. The waves were less forgiving here than they were earlier. "Beej-" she gasped as she broke free from a vault of water; eyes clenched shut, curtain of hair covering her face, obscuring the flow of air into her mouth. Instinctual panic crept in as she struggled for equilibrium. A short wave crashed over her and pulled her down from the surface.

He wouldn't actually let her drown. Did something happen to him?

Just as her oxygen-deprived panic began to evolve into real fear, she was captured. A thick rope of pure muscle slung itself around her waist, leaving her arms and legs free. Then, she was lifted clear out of the water- a drowned ragdoll with its bum in the air- by his tail. He slithered along toward the island with an infuriatingly natural dexterity, a triumphant gleam in his yellow orbs. "You-!" she screeched, attempting to wriggle out of his locked hold with little success. "Grebannyi- mudak-!"

He froze. Slowly, she was reintroduced to the water, though he maintained his bounds. As he turned, bringing his front end closer to her, his tail continued its exploration of her body. It slid and coiled down her hips. The firm, blunt tip shamelessly batted the globes of her ass cheeks- with impressive force considering the watery barrier. Then, it settled high on the back of her thighs. Sporadically, it alternated between wavering upwards to squeeze her rear between the other rope of muscle coiled around her hips, and slipping between the seam of her thighs to lightly stroke the sensitive flesh covered by her swimsuit.

"You know what talkin' like that doesss ta me..."

It was a warning. The only one he would give her, judging by the dominating, explorative nature of his tail. "Schitaesh, chto eto sekaual'no... da?"

The cord of icy scales around her middle tightened crushingly- stealing the breath from her lungs- before releasing her completely. "Ssswim," the creature ordered. Then, it sunk into the depths, disappearing from sight.

Anticipation paired with adrenaline killed all the ire she felt from his previous game. Really, it had been kind of fun up until the very the end. Not as fun as this, though. Summing up the strength necessary to make it to shore without his help would have been impossible. Luckily, he was there to urge her along. Involuntary, second-nature bites of panic hit her every time she felt a scrape of scales against her belly or thighs, forcing her to swim faster, push her body to the limit. She knew he was swimming along beside her, or beneath her, or behind her. At a snail's pace, undoubtedly. Certainly, he would be smiling that shit-eating-grin of his while toying with his prey.

The mental image thrilled her.

When she broke free from the tides, her frenzied swim fell into a sprint and then she was gone, flying across the sand and through the thicket. The chase was endless. She ducked under branches and jumped obstacles, taking sharp turns through undomesticated patches of jungle as though an erratic pattern might somehow throw him off her scent. A stray branch snagged her bikini top and- frustrated- she yanked it off, throwing the useless scrap of nylon to the dirt. Inspired by her impromptu scandalous behavior, the bottoms were left behind as well.

Tragically, her legs could only carry her so far. The aching limbs refused to obey her orders as she attempted to gallop through a stretch of thick green grass that grew tall over her head. Instead, they threw her to the ground and she- helpless to do anything about it- rolled into the inevitable fall so that she was splayed flat on her back. The foliage caught her lovingly. Again, each breath was precious. They were deep and painful and necessary and how could he not need to do this?

The grass rustled and she pried her long shut eyes open. The rate of her breathing did not increase or decrease. The hunt was over. She was caught. The imminent and unavoidable was surely coming to pass. Nevertheless, she was still somewhat taken aback when her husband walked through the growth as if he were strolling down a sidewalk. Grimy hands sat in his pockets, a cigarette hung out of the corner of his filthy mouth, which was twisted into its signature cocksure smirk. Despite his casual gait, there was an unmistakably bestial glint in the jade eyes that paused to soak up the sight of her.

"Havin' fun, baby?"

"Da," the short, rebellious reply was barely more than a puff of air.

The grass squeaked beneath his boots as he crouched beside her. Cracked, pale lips split at the seam, revealing his blunted teeth. "Still think you're ready ta fuck with me?"

"Da," this one was softer, pleading. She was able to find the motivation necessary to arch her depleted body up to the moon, presenting herself to him. Betelgeuse, not one to ignore such a gracious offering, swept the pads of his fingers up the valley between her breasts, tweaking each nipple once- appraisingly, as if testing their hardness. There was no need. The pale pink points had been throbbing and tender since he first threw her into the sea.

"Lookit that." A sort of warmth took over his dark, feral features as he traced his hand lower. Frigid knuckles brushed against her cleanly shaved pubis. "That's just fuckin' beautiful. You do that for me?"

"Da," this was practically a mewl. She lifted her hips into the barely-there caress, seeking further contact, but he withdrew.

"Goddamnbaby," he wondered aloud, stubbing out his cigarette, "ya even realize how cold you are?" Her lips were ruddy and darkened, blood rushing to their surface as she bit at them and shivered. Goosebumps covered nearly every inch of her alabaster flesh, slick with sweat and ocean water. Still high off the chase, his fickle bride was careless in her lust and didn't seem to notice how much her body was actively rejecting his touch. He was kicking himself for experimenting so callously with her human fragility.

"No," Lydia pouted. She wasn't cold, she was burning. He was obviously an imbecile who didn't know anything about anything. Regardless, he didn't wait to hear her objection, drawing her into his arms and carting her off deeper into the jungle. Shortly- and she knew it couldn't have been very long because she had still yet to normalize her breathing- he stopped. She opened her eyes, withdrawing from where she had tucked herself against his chest.

It was beautiful here. A perfect oasis. Like something out of a traveling catalog, but better because there was no one else around, the sun was down, and Delia wasn't tirelessly fawning over every last detail. The scene was comprised of a moderately sized grass hut- complete with a beaded curtain- a full bar, two beach chairs, and a comically oversized umbrella. A crystal clear lake glistened at one end of the meadow, perpetually fed by a gushing waterfall. The cliff looked to be the perfect height for climbing and jumping- provided the lake was deep enough for such activities. Lydia suspected that it was.

When he carried her through the hut, she saw that the dwelling was nothing more than a room for a large bed. It was round, black, and without a frame, laying flat and inviting on the ground. An array of variously sized, darkly shaded pillows lay strewn across the cushy surface- some toppling onto the dusty floor- as well as a single blanket and a smattering of rose petals. They were of the deepest, bloodiest shade of red. Butterflies fluttered in her stomach.

He may be a monster, but he was her monster.

"Now," he grunted, carrying her through the similarly beaded back entrance so she could see what hid behind the grass shanty. There was an actual hot spring. Smooth gray stones framed the steaming pool. Fragrant steam rose from the milky shallows. Lydia was suddenly painfully aware of exactly how cold she really was. "I can fuck you all day, every day, all night long- no fuckin' problem." To her surprise, he stepped straight into the spring, boots and all. She tensed, half expecting him to drop her into the scalding pit, but he didn't. He turned and knelt, setting her down at the edge of the pool very gently, as though she would break into pieces if he were to handle her in his usual brutish manner.

"You're the soft one. So I gotta apologize for playin' too rough with ya. S'no excuse for it, I know better."

He never relinquished his hold on her. As he slipped down into the heated mineral water, his hands slid along her gooseflesh until he had a thin ankle encircled within one of his rough, grubby palms. Carefully, he extended the limb across his chest, holding it out over the warm vapors until just the tips of her toes kissed the water. Lydia gasped, the arch of her foot curling away from the painful, needling sensation. He shushed her, icy lips brushing her knee.

"Let's get you warmed up, baby."

Chapter Text

It didn't take much to coax Lydia into the spring. The tropical climate quickly warmed her ocean-chilled flesh. Simultaneously, her husband's tender urgings heated her from the inside out. Once he had her fully inside and seated in his lap, she relaxed completely, eyes closing and head lolling back to rest against his chest. His hands never stopped their roaming all throughout the process, not once. Rough palms lightly mapped out her silhouette, fascinated by the way the tiny bumps on her satiny flesh smoothed as she acclimated to the heat, turning buttery again beneath his fingertips. Ragged nails drew a line up her belly from her hipbone. This caused her to shudder and sink deeper into him, legs drifting apart.

Smoothly- as though he were doing it to unwind from a long day- he shifted, leaning his weight against the back of the pool and drawing a knee up, right between her parted legs. There was a hitch in her breath when the scratchy material of his trousers pressed on her nether regions. She recoiled a bit before repositioning herself against him torturously, hind end cushioned on his groin. When one of his hands began its lazy descent down the side of her body she joined him in exploring, tiny fingers running a line of their own along the sopping wet material of his suit.

"I don't think there are any monsters in here... None that need scaring, anyway."

The hoarse, cheeky quip was all the prompting he needed. In an instant, he was just as bare as she. In truth, he hadn't even thought about disrobing, too preoccupied with feeling up his wife. However, he very quickly realized that shedding his clothes so soon was probably not the best idea. Lydia reveled in his nudity. She turned her cheek to press against the wiry hair on his chest. Soft curves slid against him, curiously testing the newly exposed flesh. One arm banded around her, grasping her hip and stilling her as best he could. His free hand, unable to help itself, slid from her outer thigh to her inner. Involuntarily, his previously light touches increased in pressure.

The stubborn nymph refused to be still and continued grinding her perfect ass against his painfully hard cock. "Baby," he growled warningly into the top of her head. The arm around her middle tightened as his hips disobeyed his orders and rocked up, making his shaft slide between her cheeks. "Can't keep movin' like that," he rasped, forcing himself not to repeat humping the motion. "S'drivin' me crazy. You're not ready-"

"I am!" She insisted, rebelliously continuing her gyrations and preparing for an argument.

"That's not what m' talkin' about," he cut in before she could go on. Finally, the roaming hand between her thighs ventured close enough to stroke her folds. The rough pads of his fingers brushed along her delicate lips, careful not to part them. A tiny whimper escaped and she pressed the side of her face closer to his chest. "You're not ready."

"Oh," she faltered in realization, feeling childish and immature. Obediently, she halted all movement.

"Good girl," he purred in response, arm around her waist slackening so that he could free his other hand to fondle her breasts. Her arms, needing to do something other than float there, came up over her head to wrap around his neck.

"I'm not a do- og-" The end of the sentence stumbled when he unexpectedly pinched her nipple. It might have been painful if it didn't feel so damn good.

"I know," he drawled, still lightly running his fingertips along her petal-soft lower lips. "You're more like a lil pussycat," he drew out the provocative word as if its double meaning wasn't already achingly obvious. "Runnin' around causin' mischief, gettin' yourself in all kinds o' trouble. I oughta get you a collar n' lock you up indoors where ya can't get inta nothin'." Though his voice held a teasing lilt, the nefarious suggestion had more than once crossed his mind during the first few days of their marriage. Higher reasoning- not to mention his crippling inability to deny her anything- saved her from such a fate.

Lydia did not need to know any of this.

"Beej," she whined, flustered. The mental images he was painting for her with his lewd threat, paired with his teasingly subdued strokes, hindered her ability to formulate a decent comeback. "Please," she breathed, leaning her hips into his hand.

"Please what?" He called back softly, barely more than a whisper, while keeping up his frustrating rhythm.

"Please touch me," she breathed out harshly, begging.

A secret, triumphant grin was flashed down at her raven crown. "I am touchin' you," he assured, patronizingly innocent.

"Betelgeeuuse," she moaned with a combination of pleasure and indignation, unintentionally arching against him in the way he had explicitly told her not to. He didn't have the fortitude to stop her this time. "Please! I want- I need- I can't-"

"Tell me what ya need, baby." The hushed, gruff quality of his demand gave away his own longing. The hand that was lovingly massaging her breasts- switching back and forth between the soft, floating mounds indiscriminately- plucked her nipple once more, sharply.

"Make me-" she hesitated, biting her lip bashfully. "Make me... cum. Please." The dirty word was softly spoken, barely audible. It was almost enough to make him blow his load right then and there. Eager to obey, he pressed down on her, allowing his middle finger to slip between her folds and brush her pearl. That was all it took. Suddenly, she was letting out broken, high-pitched cries, enthusiastically rocking her hips back and forth to ride the oncoming waves of pleasure. The unexpected display was too much for him. With a guttural groan, he grabbed hold of her hips and helped her along, thrusting against her soft, creamy flesh to increase the intensity of his own orgasm.

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"Did you...?" She queried once they were both motionless again, suddenly aware of how heavily he was breathing.

"Yeah," he choked out, head falling back to rest on the edge of the steaming pond as he came down from the aftershocks of his peak.

"Really?" She seemed surprised, as though she didn't think it possible to evoke such a response out of a man without more effort.

"Oh, yeah," he repeated, a smile in his voice. He might have been somewhat embarrassed were it not for her charming naiveté. "So fuckin' sexy," he rumbled absent-mindedly- more to himself than her- while one hand resumed stroking her at a lazy, inurgent pace, "got me shootin' off early... can't fuckin' remember the last time that happened... think I was still breathin'..."

His inadvertent praise stoked the dwindling fire in her belly. "Does that mean... that we can't...?"

The shadow of disappointment in her shy line of questioning simultaneously insulted and appealed to his ego. On one hand, she was clearly upset by the prospect of not consummating their marriage tonight- an unnecessary fear. On the other, she thought he was a two-pump-chump. That wouldn't do.

"I said all night long, didn't I?" Once more he thrust against her, letting her feel how hard he still was. "I ain't done with you yet."

Suddenly overheated, Lydia pressed herself flush against him, soaking up as much of his coolness as she possibly could through the water. "I'm hot, Beej-"

"Yeah, you are," he interrupted with a growl, the graze of his palm becoming more insistent.

"Stop," she dithered, still moderately uncomfortable with this kind of bold, candid flattery. "Seriously, it's too hot." She removed herself from his lap, standing on shaky legs. Traversing the sea, running a marathon through the jungle, relaxing in a hot spring, and an intense orgasm had done a number on her limbs' stability. "Woah," she wavered, knees buckling and arms flying out to steady herself. Betelgeuse didn't give her the chance. Again, she was hefted up into his arms before she knew what was happening. There hadn't even been a splash to indicate him standing.

He sighed deeply down at her blinking, disoriented features before rolling his eyes and making his way toward the hut, as though she had just requested he do some horribly inconvenient chore. "Weak little humans. Too cold, too hot, too hungry, too drunk. Always got some problem needs solvin'. Dunno what I'm gonna do with ya."

"You could always kill me," Lydia joked cynically, choosing to remain unoffended by his obvious teasing. A scowl was his response to her macabre solution. Then, she was flying through the air as he tossed her unceremoniously to the bed. A shrieking laughter tore from her lips as she bounced on the cushy surface, rolling over and landing on her tummy. The sound of it softened his annoyed expression. "Then you could teach me magic tricks. I could be the ghost with the second most."

Though the truth of what she was suggesting was absurd and would normally fill him with vehemence, he couldn't help the smile that curled the corner of his lips. "That's cute, babe."

Teeth dug into her bottom lip as she watched him, illuminated by the candles bordering the perimeter of the hut. If Lydia didn't already know with one-hundred percent certainty that there was no possibility of there being any pyro-technical errors- unless he wanted there to be- she might have pointed out what a horrible idea that was. "Are you going to ravish me now?" She half-teased as he circled the mattress until he was out of her line of sight. There was a tug, the soft sheets pulling against her, and she knew he had joined her. The anticipation was nerve-wracking so Lydia busied herself by toying with a rose petal- sliding it across her lips and cheeks, as though she might be able to transfer some of its softness to her own skin.

"Oh, no," he mumbled finally, kissing a trail up her leg. "I'm gonna make sweet, sweet love ta you." His point was accentuated with a sharp nip to the curve of her ass cheek. Then, he grabbed her hips and flipped her, placing her newly shaved nether regions just beneath his face. Immediately, her legs parted for him, giving him access to do whatever he wanted to do.

"Maybe I want a hard. Fast. Rough. Fuck," Lydia parroted petulantly, remembering the way he had threatened her in his kitchen once upon a time. A short, high-pitched sound escaped her when his tongue darted out, lathing the bundle of nerves just above her entrance. She was still engorged and sensitive from her previous orgasm.

"Don't tempt me, Lydia," he warned with complete seriousness, slowly slipping a single finger within her- testing. Despite the slickness he met, she was still so fucking tight. He had no desire to hurt his masochistic little psycho. If he were to indulge her mindless, wanton insistences there would surely be pain- more than he was willing to allow her to experience. No, she was still in need of more preparation. He sucked his finger clean, not wishing to waste a drop of her nectar, before wrapping his arms around her hips and flipping over so that he was on his back and she was above him.

Lydia jolted awkwardly at the sudden movement before gathering herself and sitting up straight, scooting back some so that she was settled high on his chest. "What are you-?"

"Sit on my face," he commanded, licking his lips.

His wife's cheeks turned a lovely shade of red. "People actually do that?" She had read things, but the concept seemed more like a pornographic fantasy to her than anything real. It just didn't sound like it would be comfortable for anyone involved.

"C'mere n' find out," he drawled, hungry eyes locked on his impending feast. Long, cold fingers curled around her hips, urging her forward. With complete trust, she shimmied forward, holding herself a few inches above him, not having the gall to lower her weight completely and literally sit on his face. It was just so... dirty. Betelgeuse, starving and provoked, had no patience for this kind of needless trepidation. With a swift deliberate motion, she was pulled down to his awaiting mouth and his tongue was thrust deep within her. She screamed for him, arching her body up and away. His tongue, undeterred, extended to follow her. With little effort, she was pulled back into place, his appendage penetrating her further as he did so.

It wasn't long before she was undulating her hips, riding his tongue in a mimicry of traditional sex. From Betelgeuse's perspective, she made for quite a sight. One cold hand came to grasp her tit- a bit rougher than he usually would- while the other squeezed at her ass cheek, encouraging her wild rhythm. Simultaneously, his tongue thickened within her, stretching her inner walls and preparing her for what was to come. The sensation was too much for her. "Beej," she gasped, breathy and wanting, "I'm- I'm gonna cum."

He thought it cute that she felt the need to warn him. She never had before. It must have been because she was on top, splayed over him. Encouraged by her throaty muttering, he squeezed both cheeks and ground her down on his mouth, fucking her with his tongue like he really meant it. In turn, she transformed into a hellcat above him, tossing her head back and crying out nonsensical words as she rocked her hips to meet him thrust for thrust. When her climax subsided, she fell back weakly; knees bent and spread on either side of his head, thighs elongated over his shoulders, back curved around his gut, a curtain of ebony hair flirting with his member. Damn. He knew she dabbled with ballet, but had yet to consider how this affected her flexibility. Reverently, he savored the moment, dragging his hands along the glowing alabaster flesh draped taut over him. Perfect.

Out of his view, a pale arm reached above her head, fingers grasping where she knew his erection was. "Am I ready now?"

She was teasing him. Again. The little brat had absolutely no sense of self-preservation. He would have preferred to keep doing this for at least another couple hours or so before even considering penetrating her in the conventional sense. As it was, Lydia was determined to seduce him. Who was he to turn her down again? He only had so much self-control. She was already rearranging herself properly, positioning her hips over his straining shaft before he could spin a smooth answer for her. He drew himself up so that he was resting on his elbows, watching intently as she began the process of impaling herself.

"You're so fuckin' beautiful," he intoned huskily as she rubbed the head along her slick pussy lips, aiming. This type of intimate talk was not exactly his forte, but he couldn't deny the urge to praise her, encourage her. Lydia bit her lip chastely in response, looking down at where she held him. Then, she descended. He gasped, eyes rolling back, even as she stiffened. It took him a moment to compose himself. Only his head was buried inside of her, but his poor bride was trembling, frozen, features contorted with discomfort.

"Oh, baby... you feel so fuckin' good," he growled reassuringly, drawing his hands across her tense form in light caresses. "So tight, so hot..." This inspired her to sink lower, take a bit more of him. A soft cry spilled from her lips and her eyes clenched shut, sweat beading on her forehead. "Oh, honey," he cooed, sitting up- very carefully, so as not to jostle himself within her- and pulling her close, tucking her head beneath his chin. "You got it, baby. You can take it." Against his will, his hips flexed upward, seeking out more of her torturous heat.

"I love you," she whispered into his chest- shocking him. Then, black-painted nails bit into his shoulders and she slammed herself down, forcing herself to take every last inch. Tears balled in the corner of her eyes and she cried out, the pained sound muffled into his frigid flesh.

"Lydia!" He admonished with a gasp, clutching her tight as stars shot across his vision. "Why did you do that?! Stupid!" He busied himself with stroking her back, trying to focus on how she must be feeling instead of the suffocating, blistering heat wrapped around his manhood. Of all the tests Lydia had subjected him to in the past, this one was the most challenging. It was all he could do not to flip over and pound into her until she bled, sobbed, and begged for mercy.

"It was taking too long," she moaned, trembling around him. "I thought this would be easier."

"We got all the time in the world, baby," he reminded her gently, very still with the exception of his roaming hands.

Awkwardly, she repositioned herself, adjusting her legs so that they were wrapped around him. "Please move," she begged after awhile, shifting her own hips impatiently. "It's not that bad. Just- just move. Please." She was so thoroughly wrapped up in his hold that it was difficult for her to make the proper motions on her own. Carefully, he rocked up, face locked on hers to read her expression for any signs of pain. Honey eyes still shone with moisture, but the wince she gave in reaction to his rocking could have been either pleasure or pain- it was impossible to tell. Determined to make her cry out in rapture again, he brought a hand down to where they were joined, pressing against her pearl in time with his cautious, slow thrusting.

"Oh," she gasped, rolling her hips to match his as discomfort began to fade into pleasure. This was all the motivation he needed. The intensity of his rhythm increased; both in force and speed. "So- big- ungh!"

His ego swelled to gargantuan proportions. That's right, he thought with a crooked grin, pressing against her clit more fiercely. "C'mon, baby," he rasped, thrusting harder as he lost a bit of his composure, "cum for daddy. Lemme feel that sweet lil pussy squeezin' my cock, milkin' me dry." Not that it wasn't already- it was taking a great deal of concentration not to lose himself and shoot off early again- but he still longed to know how it would feel to have her splinter into oblivion while wrapped around him.

His taboo reference to himself should have disgusted her, especially considering how she knew he felt about her father. Instead, it gave her a forbidden thrill, tendrils of heat blossoming out from her center and shooting up her spine. Her arms curled around his neck, her face finding a home in the hollow between his throat and shoulder. The position made it difficult for him to keep stroking her so he withdrew his hand from their conjuncture, opting to grab hold of her ass cheeks again and move her as he saw fit. The tempo he set was slow, deep, and grinding. Having driven her over the edge enough times by now to recognize the signs, he could tell that she was close.

"That's right, baby girl," he urged, growling into her neck as his movements became shorter and faster, less of him leaving her with each withdrawal. "You're doin' so good. So- fuckin'- tight- so- sweet!" A frenzied thrust accompanied each gargled word. The dam broke. Pale legs tightened around his waist. Black fingernails raked down his back. Were he alive, she would have left marks. A string of senseless shrieks that sounded unsuspiciously like his name tore from her lips, staccatoed by the erratic rhythm he was setting to push himself over the edge. Gasping for breath, they separated, falling bonelessly to the large mattress.

Betelgeuse came back to reality before his wife, lighting a cigarette for himself and placing one between her shuddering, ruddy lips. After taking a long drag and stretching the tension from her muscles, she turned, fitting herself against his side so that she might steal some of his chill for her heated flesh. Juices leaked from her, dribbling down her thigh. There was a comfortable silence while they basked in the afterglow, wordlessly finishing their smokes.

"Still?" Lydia questioned breathlessly, disbelievingly. The burning end of her cigarette was handed to him so that he could dispose of it safely. Meanwhile, she side-eyed his phallus. It stubbornly stood at attention, glistening and ready for more.

A deplorable smirk curled his mouth, eyes glinting devilishly in the candlelight. With that, she was pinned beneath him, hips settled between her spread legs. "How many times I gotta tell ya?" He grunted, driving himself home with a single vicious thrust. The combined evidence of their love-making blunted any pain she might have felt. Still, she screamed for him, the euphoric sound echoing far throughout the jungle.

"All. Night. Long."

Chapter Text

"Honey, I'm home!"

Light as a sprite, she floated through the entryway of the kitchen to greet him at the door with a kiss before taking his jacket and hat to hang up on the hook. "How was work, daddy?" That was a weird... sexy thing for her to say. He couldn't bring himself to question it when she ushered him over to the clean couch, urged him to lift his feet up onto the spotless coffee table, knelt before him, and began unlacing his boots. "I bet you scared some breathers really bad, didn't you? Nobody's scarier than you."

"Oh yeah, baby," he conceded with a moan as she began digging her thumbs into the arch of his heel. If Lydia wanted to play, then he would play. The "doting housewife and hardworking husband" was a charade he had yet to act out in any of his numerous sexual escapades. "What'cha cookin', good lookin'?" The question rolled off his tongue when he noticed that all she wore was a tiny apron decorated with flattering vertical black and white stripes. Nothing else. How did he not see that before? He was sure she was wearing more earlier. Oh, well. He wasn't about to complain.

"A pie." This was said bashfully, with a sly smile; like it was a dirty secret. "Beetles and blackberries- your favorite."

Oh, she was a good girl. She was a very good girl. He would reward her for this. "Oh, God." The blasphemous title slipped from his lips easily, before he knew what he was saying. Where did she learn how to do this? Had she massaged some other man's feet before? He would kill himThe background blurred around her. Colors darkened and brightened until there was only red- no, crimson. Crimson velvet, like the kind that lined his coffin. The apron melted away. A surprised gasp parted her lips as she fell back into the oak box, his own little living porcelain doll.

"What do you want, Lydia? Anything in the world. Name it. It's yours." He would shrink the moon and pierce it through a chain to choke her delicate throat if that's what she wanted.

Her mouth closed. Then opened. Then closed again. "Beej..." It was a plea. Her features were contorted with distress. The light, airy scent of vanilla that cloaked the air around her deepened nauseatingly, permeating his senses with its sickly sweet aroma whether he wanted to breathe it in or not. Rosebud lips were moving, but he didn't- couldn't- understand what she was saying. It was fast and harsh, breathy and begging. The velvet beneath her grew dingy and gray. The fireplace that lit up her beautiful face before intensified in brightness, turning into a flickering bulb above her head and flooding ugly fluorescent light on the tears that rolled down her face. Pale arms were thrust up over- no, he was yanking her arms up over her head, closing iron shackles around her breakable wrists. "Nyet, Beej!" He could understand that. "Nyet!"

"Tell me what you need, baby," he mocked, even as he drew his favorite knife across her collarbone. It was a light, shallow cut but she still bled for him beautifully- as if she could do it any other way. A fountain of red cascaded down her breasts and stomach, painting the flawless milky flesh and adding color to his damp basement. Ever his brave little bird, she didn't flinch or scream or struggle. She just kept crying her pretty tears and whispering her foreign words. Unable to help himself, he drew his tongue across the cut, drinking straight from the source. Another string of garbled Russian pleas echoed in his ears. "Ya know what talkin' like that does ta me."

"Nyet!" Why wouldn't she just ask him to stop? Maybe a deeper slice would make her open up. "Nyet!" He would do anything for her. All she had to do was ask. "Betelgeuse!"


The poltergeist awoke feeling colder than he had in centuries. The abrupt journey back to reality was jarring and disorienting. Dark golden light filtered through the beaded curtain, marking the late hour of the day. He hadn't allowed Lydia any rest until the sun crept over the horizon, after all. Apparently, he followed right behind her. Sleep was a past time he hadn't indulged in for decades. Dreaming... that was something he thought was reserved for the living, if only because he never experienced them anymore. But this was not a dream. It was a nightmare and it was vivid.

He could still taste her fear- thick and heavy- on his tongue, dripping down his throat and clogging his decrepit airways. Could still see her strung up in his dungeon, pale flesh ripping open beneath his blade, exposing bone and muscle tissue. The graphic images plagued him whenever he closed his eyes. In an effort to dispel the horrible apparition, he shot up in bed, forced his eyelids open, and spun his head around in a rapid circle, as though he might be able to physically dislodge the memory of what her blood looked like dripping onto his suit.

"Betel... geuse... Nyet..." The soft whisper drew his regard. Lydia was at the opposite end of the mattress; tangled in the blanket, drenched in sweat, tears streaming down her face, twitching and muttering. He wasn't hallucinating. That really was the scent of her fear in the air, so thick it was choking him. He was over her in an instant, brushing damp bangs from her forehead so that he could lay his hand there and soothe her with his chill. Before he could give her some of his juice- to calm her nightmare and deepen her sleep- a disturbing possibility occurred to him and he hesitated. She was calling his name. What if... what if she was having a nightmare about him? Something not all too different from the one that just tore him from his rare slumber?

No. That was simply unacceptable.

He wouldn't cheat this time, take the coward's way out. He would wake her up, talk it out, and face the problem head on like a fucking man. "Baby," he called to her, stroking her face and neck. "C'mon, wake up, babes. S'just a bad dream." Eventually, she came to with a start, blinking wide terrified eyes up at him. Then, she crumbled, pressing her tear-stained face into his neck and clutching him to her as though her life depended on it. "Hey! It's okay! Calm down, kitten," he urged, rubbing circles on her back even as monumental relief flooded his being. He couldn't have been the monster of her nightmares, not with the way she was clinging to him, seeking comfort from his embrace. The sheen of sweat coating her pale flesh displeased him and so with a pointed glare, a ceiling fan materialized overhead, defying reality to hang from the flimsy grass roof and offer her its comforts.

Lydia didn't speak until her tears subsided and her breathing evened. "I was calling for you," she whispered, voice hoarse with sleep. "Like before. Three times, but," there was a catch in her throat and he held her tighter to banish the onslaught of fresh tears she was threatening to shed, "but... you didn't come." Despite his best efforts, several more drops of moisture leaked out, burning against his wintry flesh like acid. The tearful admission painted a grisly picture for him; his wife, writhing in pain, screaming out his name while an indistinguishable figure- that thankfully no longer resembled him- painted a room that looked suspiciously like his dungeon with her blood.

The curse was broken, thanks to her sacrificial generosity. Were something like that to happen, she wouldn't be able to summon him. "Why were ya callin' me?" He questioned gently as his fingers sunk and curled into the base of her disheveled mane, choosing not to acknowledge the abysmal truth of her aberration.

"I was at my old house in New York, with my mom, but I wasn't a kid and she wasn't strung out. It was nice. We were making a pie. But then-" she cut herself off, trembling as she recounted her vision. "- everything changed. It was dark. And she was gone. And he came in and- and-" a horrible sob distorted any further attempts at speech and then she was breaking apart again, losing herself in hysterics.

Betelgeuse's expression hardened, becoming cold and calculated as he stared up at the spinning blades of the conjured fan. Lydia didn't seem to notice the change, too far gone in her despair. Thatwas what she was visioning? This is why the scent of her fear had been able to take his beautiful, impossible dream and twist it into that grim, convoluted nightmare?

Someone had to pay.

His features never softened, even as he hushed sweet nothings to her, tracing the ridges of her spine until she regained a semblance of tranquility. "Beej," she mumbled after a while, pulling the thin blanket back up around her shoulders and tucking her face into his ribs.

"Yeah, baby," he intoned tenderly, voice smooth and sugary even as gruesome fantasies kept his gaze dark and his lips twisted with contempt.

There were a few more beats of silence before she spoke again. "Do you remember when you made me sleep?" When he didn't immediately respond, she kept on in a vaguely jittery fashion, almost as though she were embarrassed. "In my parents' room, when you were touching my hair, after... after I- I... hit you...?" The memory of how poorly he had taken it when she tried to apologize for the incident in the past kept her from trying again now.

"I remember," he answered simply, only half paying attention. The bulk of his focus was spent blocking the venom from his voice and actions so that his shaken little bird could be wooed back to sleep.

"I had a good dream when you did that. I don't remember it, but I know it was good." More silence. "Beej?"

"Yeah, baby," he repeated, as meticulously honeyed as before.

"Can you do it again?" The apologetic request was little more than a whisper. "I promise I won't-"

"Anytime, baby girl," he purred, cutting her off before she could begin her stupid assurances that she would never, ever ask him to use his juice for something so silly ever again unless she really needed it. The fingers tracing circles on her back increased in pressure, his magic seeping into her sore muscles and forcing them to let go of their tension. A breathy mumble that sounded like "I love you" warmed the flesh at his side where she was burrowed, her last parting goodnight before giving herself over to the haze and letting his magic carry her to Elysium.

He continued injecting her with the drugging delirium long after her breathing became even and her slight form sunk lax and pliant against him. Her sleep would be long and deep and she would dream of impossible things that would make her happy- whether she remember them or not- and absolutely nothing else. Nightmares were for peasants and ordinary people, not her. From now on, he would keep his guard up. She would always be the first to sleep- if he ever slept again after this- and he would always be there to sweeten her unconscious fantasies.

For now, there was the matter of punishing the guilty party.

To steal such a sweet unobtainable dream from him- not to mention his wife- was an unforgivable crime, only overshadowed by the atrocities the vermin was already serving time for. How dare that worm sneak into his honeymoon suite like a thief in the night and infiltrate her dreams, violate her privacy, and disrupt his sleep? It was simply impermissible. There had to be retribution.

Carefully, even though he knew a horde of dragons couldn't wake her at this point, he untangled himself from her sleep-heavy limbs and the mess of cushions. With a pop of his neck, he was dressed to the nines in signature stripes. A snap later and a note materialized on the pillow beside her head, as well as a bright, bloody rose to add a touch more romanticism. It was the least he could do considering he was about to take off and indulge in some light torture mid-honeymoon.

Lydia really deserved better.

"Sweet dreams, kitten," he whispered against her temple, as though it were possible to wake her, and brushed stray hair from her shoulder to press one last lingering kiss on her neck. She shivered. Again, his countenance darkened. "It's showtime."

Chapter Text

"I got a guy who's always late,

Every time we have a date.

But, I love him.

Yes... I love him"

She was so beautiful. She didn't think so, but she was. Ginger didn't need immaculate blonde curls or picture-perfect Hollywood skin to keep her head bartender enamored. The triumph that lit up her crystal blue eyes whenever she nailed a particularly troublesome routine, the way she always laughed at his jokes, no matter how corny or how many times she'd already heard them... That was enough for Lou.

Alas, it was never to be.

Ginger was a movie star. A legend. The belle of the big screen. There had never been anyone like her before and as far as Lou was concerned, there never would be again. Him? He was a loser, a putz, a rookie gambler who got what he deserved when he made a stupidly ambitious bet and stiffed the wrong bookie. It was a wonder she even gave him the time of day.

"Ahem." The delicate clearing of a throat brought the enraptured bartender's attention away from the crooning arachnid to a petite cloaked figure at the end of the bar. Hesitantly, he moved to service the shadowy patron. He hated to tear himself away. This was his favorite number of hers, though he couldn't fathom what kind of a fool would leave Ginger fuckin' Rogers high and dry for a date.

"What can I getcha, sweetheart?"

"Chateau d'Yquem."

The order was so confident, so automatic that for a moment, Lou questioned his decades of bartending experience. "Sorry, my French is shit. Could you slow that down a bit?"

An exasperated scoff escaped from beneath the hood and a lavishly adorned hand waved through the air, marking the figure's intolerance with his ignorance. "Sauvignon blanc. Can you manage that for me, barkeep?" If it weren't for the large jewels decorating the customer's condescending limb- teasing a generous tip- Lou might have had some less than gentlemanly words for the woman.

"I am going to walk right up to his gate,

To see if I can get it straight,

'Cause I want him.

Oh, yes, I'm gonna ask him..."

"Here ya go, honey." Lou gifted the patron with a considerate helping of their house favorite, making sure to force a hospitable smile. The cloaked figure called out, halting his departure as he moved toward his favorite stakeout spot, where he had a full view of both the bar and the stage.

"Tell me, barkeep," the woman spoke with such natural authority that Lou suspected he would have submitted to her whims with or without the promise of wealth. "I've heard tell that the poltergeist Betelgeuse frequents this establishment. He and his wife." Lou paled at the mention of the sadistic ghoul and his living bride. This mundane exchange had very quickly gone from pedestrian to potentially fatal. If he said the wrong thing and word got back to Betel, there would be hell to pay. Fear kept Lou's tongue tied long enough for the strange woman to become impatient. "Speak, peasant. I don't have all day."

"Is you is or is you ain't my baby?

The way you're acting lately makes me doubt.

You have always been my baby, baby.

Seems the flame in your heart has gone out."

"Look, lady," Lou started up once he finally had his bearings, no longer seduced by the prospect of a hefty tip. "I dunno who you think you are, but you're barkin' up the wrong tree if ya think I'm gonna tell you anythin' about-"

The woman shifted forward, allowing light to seep past the threshold of her hood and illuminate her regal features. The ugly sneer twisting sapphire lips only managed to make her slightly less stunning. "Is that any way to speak to your Queen, you wretch?"

Lou's initial trepidation evolved into sheer horror. He was going to spend the rest of eternity rotting in a dark, damp little dungeon. Whether his executioner was Betelgeuse or the Royal guard was irrelevant. In either case, every move made from here on out was wrong. He was doomed. "Your-your majesty! I didn't realize-!"

"If you value your ability to speak you will hold your tongue." Violet eyes glanced side to side shiftily, checking to see if anyone noticed the bartender's slip. "Now," she began again, once she was satisfied that she remained unrecognized, "I demand you confirm the stories I've heard; that the poltergeist has been tamed by a dark-haired witch, a seductress who wears his ring, and that the witch brings her pet here so that she may fraternize with that... defector." There was a holier-than-thou hiss in the beautiful monarch's snide reference to Ginger. If she wasn't allowed to escape her eternal fate, then the starlet shouldn't have been able to either. "Is this true?"

"Well, a fellow is a creature,

Who has always been strange.

Just when you think you're his,

He's gone and made a change."

"Yeah," Lou choked out hopelessly, already able to feel the noose settling around his neck.

All traces of irritation vanished from his Queen's expression and she smiled pleasantly. The proverbial rope tightened. "Lovely." A powder blue hand retreated to the confines of her dark cloak, reemerging moments later. When slender fingers uncurled, a tiny vial filled with clear liquid was revealed. "The next time the witch and her pet poltergeist make an appearance, you will slip this into her drink."

Fear and honor inspired Lou to stammer out objections, even as he shakily inched his hand forward to accept the poison. "But-but Mrs. Geuse ain't never hurt nobody! She's just a kid! You sure you wouldn't rather I give this to Betel-?"

"No," Anatasia cut him off, slapping tiny fists down on the bar petulantly. Hastily, she dipped her head, cloaking her face in shadow once more. This was not the palace. She could not allow herself to keep speaking so candidly. Were she discovered, they would drag her back to that gilded cage before she could finish her imperative task. "The girl must be the recipient." When the bartender continued to hesitate, the Queen decided it was time to move onto more brutal tactics. "I see the way you gaze upon the insect." Where before her tone was sharp and impatient, it was now honeyed and full of mocking understanding.

"Love is a fool's game, you know? I love my son. My son loves the witch. You love the defector. The defector..." Lou's gut twisted with revulsion every time the Queen referred to his boss. There was just such a deep-seated hatred in her voice, more than sweet Ginger could have possibly done anything to earn. "Well, she loves dancing, doesn't she?" Had the bartender had any blood, it would have frozen in his veins. "I suppose she is quite talented. It would be a shame if anything were to happen to those eight hairy legs of hers."

The small glass vial felt heavier in Lou's hand than it had any right to.

"Is you is or is you ain't my baby?

Has my baby found somebody new?

Or is my baby still my baby too?"


The prisoners of Rikers Island had left their toy unrecognizable. The vermin was decapitated, all of his limbs amputated. Where the disembodied head had once had eyes there were now empty rounded pits, skull fucked seven ways from Sunday. Gone were his teeth and tongue. All that remained of his mouth was a mutilated mess of gum and semen. It took some aggressive convincing to get one of the crazed lunatics- moaning throatily, thusting madly into the bodiless cranium- to relinquish his hold on it.

"ALRIGHT, WHERE'S THE REST OF 'IM?!" Betelgeuse called out, simultaneously pleased that his instructions had been heeded so thoroughly, and annoyed that he was having to go through the trouble of collecting body parts. One by one, his subjects came forward, offering up their bounties.

Cueball was the last to step up, sheepishly retrieving a hand from the waistband of his trousers. The way the fingers twitched in pain proved that Gregory was indeed making use of his deceased nerve endings. "I ain't no fuckin' faggot, boss," Cueball insisted, jaw set stubbornly. "Jus', y'know, ain't any dead bitches around here. Womens' prison's too far away. S'nice to-"

Betelgeuse waved him off, uninterested. "Whatever helps ya sleep at night, bud. OKAY, WHO'S GOT HIS DICK?! COUGH IT UP!"

"He does," Cueball answered, gesturing down to where Gregory's mangled torso lay convulsing on the cellblock. "Made 'im eat it."

Needless to say, Betelgeuse was satisfied with their work. "Nice job, boys! Don't worry, I'll bring 'im back soon- in one piece. Gregg n' I just need ta have a lil talk, that's all."

His favorite prisoner spoke up once more, stepping forward and lowering his voice imploringly. "Boss, I uh- I can't ask ya for a favor, can I?" Betelgeuse's expression went flat and he rose a single eyebrow, waiting for the mammoth to go on. "S'just, we did what ya wanted- made him hurt real bad- and uh... It's been a long time since anyone around here's seen a woman." An amused smirk curled Betelgeuse's lips. If the boys wanted some porn, all they had to do was ask. Cueball perked up, emboldened by the poltergeist's encouraging nonverbal response. "You ain't gotta picture o' this wife o' yours, do ya?"

His pleasant demeanor deteriorated, twisting into a teeth-bearing expression of fury. In an instant, the mammoth was flung across the way, his massive body slamming into a cell and making the bars shudder in their concrete encasing. Consequently, the living prisoner locked in the cage jumped, spooked out of the book he was reading.

"I like ya, Cueball," Betelgeuse admitted through the cigarette clenched between his teeth as he stalked toward the disenfranchised spirit. "Don't fuckin' talk about her ever again, n' I'll keep likin' ya. Ask me for any more dumb favors, n' you can take Greasy Gregg's place. Do we have an understandin'?" Humbled, the disoriented ghoul nodded. A puff of smoke was expelled from Betelgeuse's nostrils in a satisfied huff. "Good. Now, because I'm a reasonable guy n' somewhat sympathetic to your plight, I'mma give ya a lil Christmas present." A snap later and a vintage copy of Sports Illustrated materialized on the behemoth's lap, a busty bikini-clad model kneeling seductively in the sand. "Keep doin' what your told n' maybe I'll have somethin' a lil more X-rated for ya next time."

Betelgeuse and Gregory Green's maimed spirit energy disappeared from the halls before he could witness to the violent riot that broke out just seconds later as derelicts tore themselves to pieces in a wild effort to claim the best pages of the magazine for themselves.


"You remember me, Gregg? Or is there too much spunk cloggin' up that portion o' your brain?" There may have been a light of recognition in the traumatized vermin's dead eyes, but it was difficult to tell in the darkness of the oubliette. The two had only been acquainted for a brief period, after all, before Gregory began his sentence. His naked body was stitched back together with invisible bandages- so that the poltergeist could have a clean slate to work with- and hung limply against the dingy concrete. A choked whimper was the tortured soul's only response to Betelgeuse's taunting. The prisoners had done quite a number on the maggot. He would have to be creative if he was going to get any kind of a response.

"My wife had a nightmare 'bout you," the ghost started up again, expression grim while he perused his tools. True, it had been a few years- mere moments to him- since last he indulged in inflicting this brand of torment, but he remembered it as being fun. This was decidedly not fun. The memory of his wife's blood coating his blade while she hung from the exact spot that Gregory currently occupied was too fresh in his mind.

"Ya know what really gets me, though?" The heretic's fork was briefly considered before being vetoed completely. It would impede the worm's ability to speak and Betelgeuse was curious to hear what- if anything- he might have to say for himself. "She knows about me, about this-" the poltergeist lazily gestured to his strung up victim as well as the torture chamber as a whole, "- n' she don't give two shits. Doesn't scare her at all. She ain't scared o' snakes or spiders... heights... burnin' or drownin'... she ain't scared o' me." A frustrated growl tore from his lips and he slapped his hand down on the tray, causing instruments to clatter and fall to the ground. Nothing was good enough, painful enough. Dual pairs of green eyes finally met; one wild and gleaming with bloodlust, the other dull and sunken, the barest hint of perplexion in their shallow depths. "But she's scared o' you."

Something he said must have struck a cord with Gregory because his lips parted. However, no sounds escaped the vermin's mouth. "You got somethin' ta say? By all means, go ahead! I'm all ears."

Moisture was gathering in the corners of his eyes. If Betelgeuse didn't know any better, he would say his victim was suddenly overcome with guilt. "...Lyddie never was scared of anything..."

The sound of the nickname had the poltergeist across the room in a second, both hands wrapped tight around Gregory's throat as though he might be able to choke the life from him for a second time. However, just as puke green eyes were about to pop from their sockets, unable to withstand the pressure they were under, something occurred to Betelgeuse. Pedophiles were predictable creatures. They stalked their prey obsessively; preening and beguiling, painstakingly earning their trust before moving in for the kill. Their foul lusts were irrepressible and all-consuming, making them a fetid pestilence that could only be stopped through the will of others. Lydia couldn't have been Gregg's only victim. How did he know that she was his wife?

"Explain yourself," Betelgeuse growled out as he stalked to the other end of the room and lit a cigarette, allowing the vermin the freedom to decipher the cryptic demand any way he saw fit.

"I-I didn't mean to," Gregory whimpered, barely audible, violently flinching back with every step the pacing poltergeist took. "Y-you won't believe me," he sobbed pitifully, forcing his eyes wide open despite the grisly sight of the dungeon and its master. Even this gruesome view was better than going back to the horrible, horrible shadows of blindness. "But... but I like womenAdultwomen! With tits and curves and- and-" The rest of the sentence was lost to hysterics.

Gregory was right. Betelgeuse didn't believe him. "Two years is a long time ta go around accidentally stickin' your dick in little girls."

"God, I'm sorry!" The vermin wailed, more to himself than to his tormenter. "I swear, I promise! I really, really am! Lyddie-" Betelgeuse growled, but the vermin was too lost in his frenzied confession to notice, "-was the only one. She was," he sniffled, feeling a pang of desire at the memory of his old girlfriend's child and hating himself for it, "she was special."

The worm's use of that particular word brought a startling comprehension down on Betelgeuse's shoulders. Lydia was special. She was a necromancer, a fabled being that up until recently he did not believe existed. She was one in a hundred fucking billion and she was cursed- to lead a short, wretched life, all for the sins of her tyrannical ancestor.

Ba'Gul did this to her.

Gregory Green had no more of a choice in the matter than she did. If it wasn't him, if it wasn't this, it would have been something and someone else. Of course, this revelation wasn't going to save Greasy Gregg from eternal misery. The maggot was still guilty, regardless of his motivations. Nonetheless, Betelgeuse was disturbed to realize that he was concentrating his efforts on the wrong person. Ba'Gul was out there getting away with it while poor, doomed Gregory suffered all of the penalties by his lonesome.

That wouldn't do.

The vermin was still weeping his confessions, but Betelgeuse was no longer interested. A few artful slices later and the tearful mutterings were easily manipulated into howls of agony.

Chapter Text

Sexy, beautiful, fine piece of ass wife O mine-

Running errands. Be back soon. Sunscreen, your bikini, and a robe are in the bathroom, but I think the world would be a better place if you were naked when I came back.

Instead of signing it with his signature or an initial, her husband had drawn a little cartoon beetle with heart eyes. Lydia melted. A stupid grin split her lips and she pressed her nose deep into the rose he left for her. This one was a keeper. She would have to save the note and flower for the photo album she intended to dedicate to him.

It was dark out. Rutting all night long- literally- and succumbing to Betelgeuse's magic caused her to sleep the day away. Perfect. Even the most concentrated of sunscreens tended to be useless against her heliophobic skin, though she appreciated the thoughtfulness of the gesture. The bathroom he referred to could be reached through an easy to miss door that blended seamlessly against the grass walls. By all rights, it should not have been there. The bungalow didn't appear to have any extra rooms when viewed from the outside, and there were no signs of pipes or modern plumbing anywhere else on their private island. Lydia suspected it was an afterthought, conjured last minute to sate her "weak little human" needs.

Sore muscles ached in protest when she made to sit up. A soak in the hot spring was in order. An angry growl erupted from her stomach and she grimaced at the half-eaten sack of fried bugs laying limp on the floor. He had summoned it to their side to snack on in between fucks. Apparently, they were an aphrodisiac. Lydia was taking this information with a grain of salt considering the source. While she found she enjoyed a select handful of different breeds when prepared this way, the salty crunch of exoskeleton currently seemed an unappealing breakfast. She would just have to wait until he returned to see about food, then.

It was a chore to summon the motivation necessary to remove herself from the large bed, brush her teeth and hair, and take a shower. Once she was done tending to her disheveled appearance, Lydia sunk right into the depths of the steaming pond without bothering to dry off or put on her bikini first. Modesty was overrated, she decided, lolling her head back to rest on the edge so that she could gaze up at the night sky. It gave her a thrill to imagine his reaction upon returning. For her to obey his suggestion so boldly, without question.

To find her bare and weak and waiting... vulnerable...

A chill swept over her unsubmerged flesh, arousing the baby hairs at the nape of her neck and raising goosebumps on the top of her breasts. She knew before hearing him speak that he had returned. "I could get used ta this." The gravelly drawl came directly across from her. He leaned against a palm tree several yards away, adorned in stripes and sucking down a cigarette as per his modus operandi. His aura was particularly smug, even more so than usual.

"Where did you go?" Lydia did not expect a straight answer but asked anyway in case he felt like being honest with her. If he wanted her to know what he was doing, he would have included it in his note.

"Jus' takin' care o' some business. Nothin' ta worry your pretty lil head over."

The side of her mouth twitched. Honey eyes closed and she slipped further into the heat. "That is a horribly condescending response." She couldn't find it in herself to be genuinely upset, though was aware that she probably should have been. "I've been waiting for hours."

It was a petty lie. She couldn't have been awake for more than thirty, maybe forty-five minutes. Really, she was just curious to see if extended exposure to his nonchalant dishonesty had improved her own fibbing skills. It was imperative her eyes remained shut to preserve the illusion of sincerity. If he were to look into them, he would most certainly catch on to her treachery. Of course, this also meant she couldn't gauge his reactions in return.

"Oh, yeah?" There was no way of telling if the lie had landed successfully.

"Mmmhm," she hummed, nodding once slowly and sliding deeper still into the liquid heat. The entirety of her chest and shoulders were hidden from view in the process. "I thought I might die of boredom."

"That would be unfortunate." He sounded closer, his voice more hushed- feet away instead of yards. No splashes rippled the water to indicate him joining her, though Lydia knew there wouldn't be any if he didn't want there to be.

"If you say so."

A displeased sound, more of a growl than a grunt, met her ears. "How'd ya... entertain yourself for so long without me? Musta been fuckin' awful." The way he managed to tie both sympathy and conceit into such a sarcastically lewd insinuation impressed her. It was still impossible to tell if he had caught on to her minor deceit. Hopefully, he would blame the vibrant color in her cheeks on steam from the spring. It was pretty hot.

"I managed." The temperature dropped. The scent of smoke, his brand, itched at her nostrils. He was so close. Despite valiant efforts to suppress it a nervous smile began to curl the corners of her lips, shattering her indifferent facade. Rebelliously, her eyes remained closed. "...but it wasn't easy."

"Show me." The gruff demand was hushed directly into her ear. He was calling her bluff. Fine. If he wanted a show, she would give him one. Lydia arched her back up, reintroducing steaming flesh to the chill that suddenly permeated the air around her. The peaks of her breasts had hardened before ever breaching the surface of the scalding pond. Hesitantly, she traced one hand down her collarbone, unsure of where to begin- how to do this properly. Her breasts felt sensitive. If he were touching her, that's where she would want him to start.

Kneading felt good. It was a completely foreign experience, touching herself in a way meant to induce pleasure. The girl was no stranger to exploring her own body, but had always done so in a passively curious way; practical and anatomical. This was pure exhibitionism. She attempted to copy things that he had done, but his rough caresses felt entirely different when channeled through her smaller, softer palms and shorter fingers. It was decidedly not unpleasant. Lydia inhaled slowly, legs sliding forward and slightly apart, more of her torso floating up and into view as she did so. All the while, her unoccupied hand inched its way toward her nether regions.

When it finally reached its goal, a shorter, sharper intake of breath passed her lips. The skin there was tender and abused, slick with a silkier substance than water. She wasn't sure she would be able to handle it if he were to so much as brush the calloused pads of his fingertips along the raw area. As if hearing the thought, cold hands- muted from the heat- slid around the back of her thighs. Unable to bear it any longer, she wrenched her eyes open.

"Don't mind me," he rumbled, arranging her so that her knees were hooked over his shoulders. One strong arm stretched across her back to help support her body as he drew her out to float poised on the surface of the spring. His free palm contented itself with sliding along her silhouette, careful not to get in the way of her own exploring limbs. Nevermind that she had stilled completely; waiting to see what he was doing, what he would do. He was bare, a ravenous gleam in his gaze that sent a shiver of trepidation down her spine. With the way he was holding her- spread and exposed- he couldn't have missed it. "Jus' wanted a closer look. You go on n' keep doin' whatcher doin'."

True to his word, he didn't go any further than to ply lingering pets across her hips, back, and legs, occasionally pausing to massage whenever he encountered a particularly rigid muscle. Obediently, she continued. Lydia found it nearly impossible to focus on the task at hand when his own stare was burning down at her like that and so let her eyes drift shut once more. She dared to slip a finger within herself, but it was shorter than she was used to, unable to reach the spot within her that was calling out for attention. Pale legs tensed, pulling her closer to him so that her bottom and the backs of her thighs were pressed flush against his chest. Her inexpert touches managed to stoke embers in her belly, but nothing close to the roaring flames she knew he was capable of inspiring.

"So," he began after several more minutes of watching her try and fail to bring herself to completion. "This is what you did. All day." It was an accusation, not a question. His roaming hand came to cup the breast she wasn't currently attending to, but it did little more than gently squeeze at the soft mound.

He knew. Unwilling to submit, Lydia kept up the charade. "Mmhmm," she hummed her affirmation, still stubbornly kneading at her own breast and pressing against her clit, trying to find the Nirvana she knew he would give her- if only she asked.

Stubborn wife, he chided mentally. Betelgeuse could watch her torture herself forever. It was out of love and pity that he deigned to relieve her of that burden. "Liar," he growled, shoving his middle and index fingers into her without warning. She cried out at the rough treatment and he hooked them, pushing his hand harder against her to prolong the exquisite sound.

"How did you knooww?" There was an adorable pout at the end of her moan. He drew her in closer, shrugged her knees from his shoulders and let her weight sink back into the pond until she was straddling his thigh, his hand still wedged between her legs. She clutched at his chest while his other arm kept her arched against him.

"You blush different when you've been cummin'."

As if to prove his point, he ground his palm against the bundle of nerves at her entrance, forcefully dragging her across the peak of euphoria. Once the choked, high-pitched mewls crawling up her throat quieted, he withdrew his fingers from her tight, pulsating walls and she slumped against him- spent. However, when he began to arrange her legs around him as though he meant to take her again- as he had the previous night, vigorously and without repose- she tensed and voiced her concern. "Beej, I don't- I don't know if I can-"

Tender, icy kisses to her neck stuttered her half-hearted objections. "Aw, you sore, baby? Did I fuck you too hard?"

"Uh huh," she responded thoughtlessly, leaning into his coaxing touch, before revising her answer. "I mean no. I mean, it felt good, I just-"

"I'll be gentle," he promised cheekily, grabbing hold of her ass- Lydia was quickly discovering that this was his favorite place to grab her- and sliding her glossy, sensitive folds along his cock without penetrating.

"No, you won't." Not for lack of trying on his part. Betelgeuse was inherently savage. It just wasn't in his nature to patiently coddle. No, he was much more accustomed to ruthlessly plundering, taking what he wanted when he wanted it. Now that he had her blessing, she was at the mercy of his insatiable gluttonies.

There was a devilish twist in his lips that gave way to the accuracy of her dismissal. "Ya won't care once we get started." It seemed he had a few astute truths of his own up his sleeve. Jade eyes remained locked on her, searching diligently for any further shows of protest even as he positioned her properly over him and began the arduous task of impaling her. At the very least, he was patient with her here, allowing her brief moments to readjust to his considerable size. It was the sweetest kind of pain.

Suddenly, his hips snapped up, closing the last few inches of distance between them and hitting something inside of her that made her shriek. A horrible grin cracked across his face at the sound of it. The fragments of pleasure in her involuntary cry confirmed for him that he was right. She didn't care. From here on out he was wild in his abandon, taking everything that she had to give and repaying it tenfold. Where the water had been still before, it now splashed around them, searing waves sloshing onto the bank and against their undulating flesh.

With an abruptness that startled her, they separated, and Lydia hissed at the sudden stinging emptiness. The sensation didn't last long. Betelgeuse surged forward, situating her so that she was on her knees, chest mashed against the embankment and bottom perched in the air. One cold hand pressed down on the middle of her back, keeping her firmly in place- as though she would have been able to get away even if she wanted to- while the other grabbed hold of himself, aiming. A few torturous, teasing moments were spent sliding the fat, blunt head along her sleek lips before he plunged into her once more, filling her to the brim. She would have slid forward from the brunt force of it were it not for his unyielding weight pushing down on the center of her back, making sure she took it all. Simultaneous groans- one sultry and feminine, the other hoarse and dry- filled the night air.

Then, he was pumping away again, hunched over her and curling his free hand in her mop of wet, clean hair. He pulled, using just enough strength to separate her face from the ground and arch her back, but not cause discomfort. "This 'kay?" He grunted, short and curt, slowing his rhythm to allow her to reply unencumbered. Lydia thought it sweet that he asked. He had done so several times the previous night, whenever the intensity of his lust got the better of him. Her husband was an impulsive creature, single-minded in his pursuit of indulgent gratification. For him to be to be able to find the wherewithal to curb his baser instincts, to draw himself back from that edge just to make absolutely certain that she was still enjoying herself touched something inside of her.

"Da," she breathed softly, well aware of the reaction such a response would evoke in him. True to form, Betelgeuse did not disappoint. Suddenly, his hips were slamming against hers with supernatural rapidity, drawing one, two, three more orgasms from her already depleted body. Exhausted, she sagged bonelessly to the bank, shaky arms giving out beneath her. Undeterred, he continued rutting against her, grabbing hold of her hips and pulling her to meet each of his pounding thrusts with a brutal urgency. The cries he forced from her swollen, bruised lips were barely human. After an eternity, he came with a guttural shout, filling her so completely that a milky substance seeped out from where they were still joined, dribbling down her inner thighs in cool rivulets.

"You okay, baby?" There was a touch of concern in the amused inquiry.

Lydia blinked before snuggling back into his chest where she suddenly realized she was nestled. They were settled on one of the beach chairs and she was in his lap, limp and pliant in his arms. When had they moved? She couldn't remember. "Mmhmm," she hummed, drowsy and content. "Need a break."

A low chuckle rumbled in his chest, shaking her slightly. "Won't be easy," he parroted in a mimic of her earlier lie, taking advantage of the opportunity to tease her novice attempt at trickery. Her tongue wasn't nearly as sharp after a good hard fuck. "But I think I can manage."

"Beej?" She questioned, physically incapable of becoming annoyed by him at the moment.

"Yeah?" He returned lazily, stretching back in the chair and tracing absent-minded patterns along her spine.

"I need to eat something other than bugs."

The obnoxious, grating cackle he gave in reply proved her wrong. Even fucked beyond consciousness, he could still find a way to push her buttons.

Chapter Text

"Why did you leave the palace without guard or reason, my naughty, naughty dove?"

Anastasia's lavender doe eyes blinked up at him from the book she was reading; the image of innocence. "I haven't the foggiest idea what you're going on about, darling."

The King scowled down at his Queen, who sat propped against the trunk of a tree with bark the color of coal and leaves the color of blood. The foliage was so thick it served to shield them from the torrent of rain that poured down over the gardens- a constant these days, though thankfully the Prince's storms were less violent now than they had been the past couple weeks.

The tree bore a tart fruit that Anastasia enjoyed because it reminded her of something she ate in her lifetime, the name of which she had long since forgotten. Anton wasn't sure why he knew this. Perhaps she told him decades ago when they still indulged in the occasional small talk. Maybe he overheard it from one of her gossiping relatives. They skulked the halls like roaches. He couldn't turn the corner without running into a treacherous, wide-eyed, pale-skinned wench. "Lying snake," he hissed, black eyes narrowing.

"Prove it," she returned just as pleasantly. Then, she blinked once more, flashed him a cold, brilliant smile, and returned her full attention to the confines of her fictional text.

"I can't," Anton began with a feigned sense of defeat and ripped one of the bright green fruit from the branches. He wiped raindrops from the surface of its skin until it shined before taking an avaricious bite and chucking the rest of the fruit into a patch of flowers. The Queen's brow twitched at the waste but otherwise, she remained unaffected. "But Lyra and Leda can."

There was a hesitation before Anastasia's flippant scoff that belied her doubt. "The twins are little more than children. None would take the word of those two blathering chits over that of their Queen." If the right parties were to discover that she had broken one of their insane, meaningless rules, she would be punished. Publicly. That could not be allowed to happen.

"True," Anton nodded in agreement, crouching until his superior height and mass forced his Queen to recoil with discomfort against the trunk. Stubbornly, she remained glued to the pages of her book, refusing to acknowledge him with her gaze. "... but they have more than words- and my do they have plenty of those. They have your tattered cape, muddy shoes, and a coin purse lacking a few coins."

The girls would no longer have the privilege of preparing her baths, of that Anastasia was certain. Were they not blood of her blood, the punishment for their betrayal would have been far more severe than what she intended. "What do you want?" The Queen conceded blandly, countenance stony and eyes unfocused. It became impossible to process the words on paper as the weight of failure pressed down on her.

"Fancy a fuck for old time's sake?"

The way he asked, as though she had a choice, invoked sharp daggers of rage in the back of her skull. "Why?" She spit out venomously, genuinely not understanding why he would request such a thing from her.

"A curiosity," he shrugged, reaching out to grasp her jaw and force her face up toward the light, turning it side to side appraisingly, as one might check the ripeness of a fruit. He caught her wrist when she jerked back and made to slap him. With a rough tug, they were both standing, she was pinned to the bark of her favorite tree, and the book she read lay abandoned in a puddle beneath an upturned root. "I overheard a guard talking about how very much he'd like to bend you over the throne and stick it up your arse."

No one would help unless she was to call out, and she would not. She could not. As foul as this was, it was better than a public show. This way, her humiliation would be secluded to the walls of the castle and the lips of servants. The King probably saw himself as merciful. "You are vile."

He beamed in response, as though she had just gifted him with great praise. "It made me jealous," he continued without acknowledging her, a pout in his voice while he undid the fastening of her cloak so that it too would flutter forgotten to the ground. "I thought I'd see what all the fuss was about. It has been over half a century…"

When he rapes her against her favorite tree in her private gardens, he is just as rough as he wants to be. There are no blood or bruises. There is no physical pain. Anastasia lived up to her reputation as the Ice Queen beautifully by refusing him even a single blink of a reaction to his brutish touch. The furthest her emotions deigned to show themselves was to glare in warning at the attending guards when they began to openly jeer at the humiliating display. The King appeared to grow increasingly frustrated by her cold demeanor and was unable to finish. He parted from her roughly, almost throwing her to the ground- but not, as that would be overstepping his own bounds- and tucked himself away.

"Your grandmother is better," he quipped childishly, as though she had somehow inconvenienced him with the experience, before leaving her naked and disgraced in her own gardens.

Lyra and Leda, mousy brunette twins who met their death on the cusp of adolescence, are found in her chambers later that evening; drawing her bath, laying out her nightgown, and giggling fiendishly between one another. The twins, though technically older than their Queen, maintained a youthful quality that gave them the illusion of innocence. "You are banished from this portion of the castle until another Queen says otherwise," Anastasia informed listlessly as she slipped from her gown without any of their help and sunk into her quarter-full tub, not having the mental energy required to force them to submit to the mercy of her full wrath. "Away with you."

The porcelain pool was full, steaming, and coated with a thick layer of bubbles when Vincent came bursting into her chambers. "Mother!" He stood across from her at the lip of the tub, fists clenched and body trembling. Outside, a storm raged. "Is it true? What the guards are saying? That he- he-"

"Oh, my love," her voice was soft as a bird's wing, as was her normally hard expression. Anastasia allowed herself a moment of vulnerability, unable to handle the sight of her Prince so upset. "I'm fine. Please don't worry about me. It hurts me so to see you ache."

Lightning struck the stone walls, making the palace rumble. "Why… would you allow him to do such a thing?"

The disgust in his question broke her heart. "I left the grounds without guard or reason and he had proof. This was the price of his silence."

In an instant, there was a different kind of worry in the prince's shadowy gaze. "Ana… why? It's dangerous! Are you not aware how many spirits out there want your head on a platter?! Why would you do something so stupid?!"

"Come," she hushed, beckoning him to her side, "help me with my hair. I've dismissed the brats indefinitely." Obediently, he came to kneel behind her and began the task of unpinning long spools of silver hair from their clasps- gems as cool and blue as an ice dragon's freshly spilled blood. "The girl… the poltergeist's wife…" The long green fingers twined in her hair hesitated and the dull ache in her chest sharpened, though she knew what she was about to say would please him greatly. After an agonizing moment, she was able to place the foreign emotion; jealousy. "Because of my little venture, you can expect her to be joining us here shortly- minus her husband."

While the filthy ghoul would doubtlessly be able to tear them apart individually, there was no way he would have the gall to attempt breaching the palace walls single-handedly. Such a feat was unheard of. "Oh, mother! Really? Truly?"

How quickly he forgot about her with the prospect of a shiny new toy. "Now, Vincent," the Queen tutted, "remember; I know you say you love her, and you are entitled to treat her well and give her a room separate from the harem if that is what you wish- but that is where it ends. She will never wear a crown and you will never again remove yours. Are we agreed?"

"Yes," he replied reluctantly, despite the roar of protest in his chest at the prospect of Lydia being regarded as little more than a whore. This was the only way to have her and she was something he absolutely had to have. "Yes, of course." There was silence for a bit while her ears were submerged as he helped rinse suds from her scalp. When she came up, he spoke again. "Why did you not simply have me do… whatever it is you did?"

"Your soul is gentle," she whispered, head resting over the edge, a wet mass of silvery hair spread out over the marble floor so that the Prince could massage a sweet-smelling balm into it. "You could not have done what needed to be done." Sweet Vincent would never have even noticed that the bartender cared for the spider, much less would it have occurred to him to use such a thing to his advantage. His romantic heart would sympathize with the love-sick fools rather than seeing it for the weakness it was. "It is a dark thing we are doing; to separate two souls entwined against their will. Wicked passions have wicked ends, my love."

"The poltergeist will never stop coming for her," he agreed once her words of caution stopped bouncing around the cavernous chamber. "We will have to do something about him when the time comes."

"Is she really worth all the trouble?" Anastasia wondered aloud, more to herself than her son, well aware of the answer he would give.

"Oh, yes."


"Okay, Beej! Watch this one!"

He probably shouldn't be letting her do this, but as it had been firmly established in the past, Betelgeuse had trouble telling his wife no. She was good and tipsy- he had the sense to cut her off before she could ruin her own good time- and was making her way up the side of the short cliff that bordered their oasis, using vines and branches to support her drunken endeavor. His gaze was steady on her climbing form, ready to manipulate gravity to her advantage in case she lost her bearings.

"I'm watchin', baby," he assured with a smooth grin from his bright green tubular floaty. A cold beer rested on his gut, clasped in his left hand while the right held a cigarette. The black and white striped swim trunks were back. Sunglasses covered his eyes, despite the fact that the sun was long gone from the sky. However, once Lydia reached a point where she was no longer in his line of sight, he moved the overly large bright green shades out of the way to rest on his receding hairline.

Mere moments later, she rushed forward, running parallel to the waterfall that spilled over the peak and into the lake. With a natural grace that masterfully disguised her intoxicated state, she swan dove through the air and down into the recesses of the pool, hardly making a splash as she breached the pond's surface. He could see her clearly through the crystalline water as she took advantage of the momentum the fall gave her, using it to glide her body across the lake until she was closer to him. Then, she emerged, glorious and gasping for breath. "How was that? Was that one good? It felt good." The first few had been terrible, but Lydia was a quick learner.

"Mark Spitz ain't got shit on you."

She paddled closer and wet fingers stole his cigarette. "I don't know who that is."

He groaned and ran a hand across his face, pulling his sunglasses back into place in the process. "Fuck. I forget how young you are."

A playful smile curled her lips and she swam backward, taking his cigarette with her as he made a swipe for it. "I'm not that young. Maybe you're just a dirty old man who watches too much tv and is, therefore, more knowledgeable about certain aspects of pop culture than I am."

"You are that young," he grumbled, put out by the accuracy of her retort, "n' gimme back my smoke."

"Beej," she questioned as she placed it back between his lips, holding onto his arm to give her legs a break from treading water, "do you remember our wedding kiss?"

"How could I forget?" He drawled, leering at her over the edge of his ridiculous shades.

"Stop," she blushed, not wishing to provoke him into another mindless romp. Then, her question would never get answered. "I'm serious. I've been wanting to ask for awhile and keep getting distracted."

"Ask what?" He returned, suddenly fully invested in the conversation.

"Did you… feel something, too?"

"My dick was hard if that's what you're askin'."

Instead of becoming flustered or indulging in more flirtatious banter, she simply frowned. "It's not."

"Look, babe," he began reassuringly, misinterpreting the reason for her disappointment, "I didn't feel a spark or any of that pussy bullshit, but if it's any consolation I woulda stripped ya down butt ass naked n' fucked ya right there on the altar if I coulda-"

"Ew!" She cried out suddenly, features twisted with disgust. "I wasn't talking about anything like that. Do you really think I'm that mushy?"

"I was hopin' you weren't." It amused him to no end that the portion of his admission that detailed him fucking her in front of the Maitlands and her parents was not the part that garnered her revulsion. "If that ain't what yer goin' on about, then you've lost me, babe."

Her frown only deepened. She was so sure that he would have an answer for her. "It hurt. I couldn't breathe. It's part of why I freaked out so much when we showed up at your house… that, and I thought you were going to rape me." The last part was muttered, as though she was embarrassed to admit that she had once thought of him in such a poor light. Betelgeuse almost reassured her by telling her of some of the darker urges he'd had during the earlier days of their marriage but thought better of it. If she wanted to see virtue in him, he would not actively disillusion her.

"It was prolly just your change."

Lydia blinked once, then again before replying. "My… change…?"

"Yeah, the whole not-agin'-or-gettin'-sick anymore thing- hangovers excluded, as you've learned the hard way. Every mortal takes it differently. I'm surprised yours wasn't more dramatic."

"How do you know all this?" Suspicion was beginning to creep into her tone and she let go of his arm, opting to swim without his aid. "I'm not the first girl you've tried to marry, am I?"

Betelgeuse chose to remain unannoyed by his wife's doubt and stretched lazily along his inner tube, very much enjoying his honeymoon. "We've had this conversation before, ya know."

There was a long silence, broken only by Lydia's intermittent splashing. "Are you trying to gaslight me?"

He chuckled, tossing his cigarette butt and lighting another one, all in one motion. "Baby, all I gotta do ta drive you crazy is stick my tongue up your tight little-"

The rest of the sentence was lost to her as she dove beneath the surface, filling her ears with water, censoring his obnoxious filth, and cooling her hot cheeks. The dirty grin that marred half his face when she emerged told her that he was quite satisfied with himself. "When did we have this alleged conversation?"

"You were drunk off your ass on some goddamn delicious Johnnie Walker- thanks, by the way, you're a doll- cryin' n' feelin' insecure n' askin' dumb questions. Ya wanted ta know why you n' I told ya it's cause I love ya. Then you called me crazy and pounded back some more whiskey. Honestly, it was kinda sexy. I dunno where ya put it all-"

Suddenly, his inner tube flipped, dunking him beneath the water, spilling the rest of his beer, and wetting his cigarette. Unburdened by the need to breathe, he was able to find his bearings quickly and capture his guilty wife by her ankle as she tried to swim away. "The fuck was that for?!" He snarled as they resurfaced and dragged her toward him with a splash, pinning her slippery form against his chest.

Lydia giggled, unintimidated, and continued slithering against him in a feeble attempt to escape. "You lied!" She huffed, wrapping her legs around him in a misguided attempt to push her weight off his torso and slip from his hold. "You said nothing happened! Scout's honor, remember? You told me you love me, you jerk! That was so long ago!" The laughter that tore from her throat was hysterical, marking her supreme amusement with the entire situation.

"Eh," he shrugged, making a game out of letting her almost escape before catching her again, his fingers dancing along her side to tickle her ribs and weaken her resolve further. "Ya didn't remember, n' it wouldn't have been half as romantic to say it again when ya had vomit drippin' down your face."

"I," she huffed, struggling for breath and freedom, "did NOT- have VOMI-HAHAHAHAdripping down- my FA- heeheeHAHAHA-!"

Eventually, he relented and her laughter faded away into deep relaxing breaths as they floated along peacefully, wrapped up in one another. "Beej?" She asked, slow and sweet, with a soft hitch in the end- the way she knew he liked it.

"Yeah, baby?" The rumble in his chest and sugary drawl of his prolonged response denoted his pleasure.

"How long have we been here?" With all the fun they had been having sleeping the days away and staying up all night to swim in the lake, soak in the hot spring, drink their fill from the open bar, and all the voracious sex in between Lydia had not had the good sense to keep track of time. All the nights were blending together in a haze of perfection.

"Uhhh…" he began, before checking his arm which was suddenly covered with watches up to the elbow. "It'll be... two weeks n' three days in just a couple hours."

"Two weeks?!" She exclaimed, no longer floating along peacefully. "We've got to go back! I need to start doing my school work or I'll be really far behind in the new semester! And Barbara's still taking care of Luna-"

"Who's Luna?" He cut her off casually, not in the least bit concerned with her petty school troubles.

"My cat," she returned, just as casually, before delving back into a state of anxiety. "Oh, I hope Delia didn't find out. Delia! Are they even still there? Probably not. I hope not. It was really awkward last time-"

"You really need ta quit worryin' so much, babe," Betelgeuse interrupted with a sigh before she could dig a deeper pit of angst for herself, tugged her back into his arms, and planted a deep, toe-curling kiss on her.

Tiny hands tangled in his hair and she pulled back after several passionate lingering moments, offering him a sigh of her own as her forehead pressed against his. "You need to worry more."

A cold tongue darted out to lick her nose and her face scrunched in protest- if only because of the memory of Delia doing such a thing to her father. "When shit starts hittin' the fan, I'm more of a 'take action' kind o' guy than a 'sit around n' hope for the best' kind o' guy. Worryin' ain't never done fuck-all for me before n' it's not about ta start now. 'Sides, I ain't got shit ta worry about. Everything I want is right where I want it, ya get me?" His point was punctuated with a sharp pinch to the curve of her ass.

Instinctively, she gasped and pulled away at the lewd gesture, before resettling in his arms seconds later. "If you are who I think you are, then we can come back here whenever you want, right?"

"Right," he grunted, resting both hands on the curve of her backside above her bikini, thumbs playing with the hem.

"Then let's go home, Beej."

Again, his heart thumped in his chest, shocking him. "One more night," he growled against her neck- a plea- as the rest of his fingers slipped beneath the black nylon to cup and squeeze the cushiony flesh there, pulling her up against his hard length in the process. He wasn't ready to go yet, to return to sharing her with the rest of this world- and the next.

"One more night," she agreed with a lidded, knowing smile, and tucked one hand between them to grasp him through his tented trunks.

They remained on their private island for the next three nights.

Chapter Text

Their homecoming was not nearly as disastrous as Lydia was expecting it to be. That's not to say that it wasn't tense and the ghosts weren't at each other's throats as soon as they stepped through the door. Just, nobody got hurt and only some glass was broken.

She knew she had taken liberties by having Betelgeuse buy Mr. and Mrs. Maitland's house without even discussing it with them beforehand. At the time her husband had moved the process along so quickly that she didn't have an opportunity to consider their feelings on the matter until everything was said and done. Lydia had been assuaging her guilt by telling herself that it was better for them like this, that she and Betelgeuse probably wouldn't be around to bother them very often anyway.

As it was, the ghostly couple was found in high spirits upon their return. Delia, in an attempt to make amends and leave things on good terms, had purchased back all of their old furniture and personal items from the local Goodwill before she and Charles departed for Manhattan. It was a thoughtful gesture in theory. In practice, Barbara and Adam's cozy, downhome country style clashed horribly with Delia's stark, modern design. Mrs. Maitland's rocking chair, an antique oak heirloom that once belonged to her grandmother, looked so wrong settled next to the skinny, cold, gray railing of the staircase. Mr. Maitland's collection of play horses, a relic leftover from his boyhood ambition to become a cowboy, appeared tense and cramped atop the thin stone mantel of their fireplace.

"Oh, wow," Lydia cringed as she and her husband stepped through the front door and the changes assaulted her gaze. Barbara was laying across the couch, kitten fast asleep in her lap. It was a lush, comfortable looking, L-shaped monstrosity that Delia would sooner have burned than allowed inside her home. Adam floated mid-air above the entrance, in the process of rehanging family portraits and photos from him and his wife's wedding.

The sudden interruption broke Adam's concentration. With a thump and crash, he and several frames fell to the floor. Glass shattered, scattering across the polished hardwood. The ruckus snapped Barbara out of her tranquil daydream and startled Luna, causing the kitten to bristle and make a hasty retreat up the stairs.

"Sorry!" Lydia exclaimed, rushing over to Adam's collapsed form. "Are you okay? I didn't mean to-"

"He's fine," Betelgeuse assured unconvincingly, stepping right over Mr. Maitland on his way through the foyer. "Unlike my house. Blegh! This is worse than before!"

"Your house?!" Barbara began ferociously, standing to meet him in the center of the living room. "In what universe is this your house? That's not even your real name on the deed! If anything, it belongs to Lydia!"

The poltergeist's eyes rolled dramatically before settling on Mrs. Maitland in a stony, bored fashion. "She's my wife, whether you n' shit-for-brains down there-" Mr. Maitland bristled at the insult and hastily scrambled to his feet, pride too wounded to accept Lydia's help, "- like it or not. What's hers is mine. How many times I gotta remind ya? Fuck, I just spent the last couple weeks fuckin' her brains out all over the Gulf o' Thailand! It doesn't get much more consummated than that, toots!"

"Betelgeuse!"

He winced at the metallic bite in his wife's voice, anger dissipating. Fuck, he had just crossed some sort of unspoken line, hadn't he? Slowly- fearfully- he turned his head to find Lydia glaring at him with shocked outrage, jaw dropped. Her gaze shifted from side to side and he realized suddenly that both Maitlands were staring at her as well. Blood filtered to her cheeks, coloring them a deep crimson and marking her shame. Her mouth opened and closed several times, but it appeared she was unable to find the right words to punish him. Humiliated, she followed her kitten's lead and stormed up the stairs, slamming the door to her bedroom shut so loudly that all three deceased individuals flinched back from the sheer force of it.

"Smooth," Adam Maitland spoke up for the first time since their arrival, smug at having had an opportunity to bear witness to the poltergeist's shortcomings first hand. "Real smooth."


"Lyds," a gruff voice called to her through the wooden barrier of her door hours later. It was a testament to his character that he didn't just phase through or pop into existence on the bed next to her the way she knew he could. "Ya still pissed?"

Lydia chose not to answer him, dangling a long ribbon over the edge of her bed to entice the kitten hiding underneath into play. She would have liked to go speak with Mr. and Mrs. Maitland, but didn't want to see her husband and was far too mortified to face them at the moment. It was one thing for her sex life to remain this awkward, obvious, unspoken thing- the way she preferred it. It was another thing entirely to shout it from the rooftops for all the world to hear their business. She supposed she couldn't blame him, not really. He'd never been ashamed of anything before. Why would he start now?

Betelgeuse took her silence as a resounding yes. "Cause if ya are," he drawled alluringly, "my ex Cleo was mummified with a real nice set o' bracelets that I think would look much better on- OOF-"

The rest of the sentence was lost as Lydia opened the door. As he had been resting the entirety of his weight against it, he fell right to the floor in a heap of stripes and mold. A miffed Lydia scowled down at him, hands on her hips. "Stop grave robbing dead queens and learn how to apologize properly. You can only bribe me so many times before it loses its effectiveness."

"Too late." He grinned up at her, fishing around in his jacket pocket before thrusting a handful of golden, emerald-encrusted bangles in her direction. Lydia gasped despite herself and took them, cradling the precious pieces of history against her chest. Then, she scurried to her vanity and placed them very carefully in the drawer that housed Catherine the Great's breathtaking artifacts, as well as the rest of her jewelry. As exquisite as the treasures were, Lydia didn't think she would ever find it in herself to actually wear them.

Once they were safely tucked away and the drawer was shut, she turned on him again, scowl firmly in place. Though, the harshness of it was markedly dulled. "My point still stands. You don't honestly expect me to believe that you actually dated Cleopatra, do you?"

He was standing now, smirking in a pompous, self-satisfied manner, as though he had already earned his wife's forgiveness. "Eh, it didn't work out. We're both doms. No sexual chemistry, ya know? She wanted ta tie me up, I wanted ta tie her up, neither one of us wanted ta be tied up- somethin' had ta give eventually."

"You are so full of shit," she mumbled to herself, sliding passed him to shut the door so that their conversation could remain private. A rebellious blush tinged her cheeks at the implication of his ridiculous lie- that they did have sexual chemistry because she was a sub. "Even if you did date Cleopatra- and I don't believe for a second that you did- what on Earth makes you think it's a good idea to give me your ex-girlfriend's jewelry?!"

The abysmal quality of Lydia's truth radar never ceased to amaze him. She was constantly misconstruing his lies as truth and his truth as lies. In this particular instance, it was probably better to let her believe that he was posturing. As tragic as her self-esteem was, it was sure to take an unnecessary hit if she thought he had once been involved with the voluptuous Queen of Egypt. "Ya took it, didn't ya?"

"Only because I know you would have just chucked them in the trash instead of putting them back where they belong if I didn't." An accurate prediction on her part, Betelgeuse mused with a crooked grin. Lydia made to confront him once more, arms crossed stiffly over her chest and a hard frown on her face that said she meant business. "I really don't appreciate you being so- so-"

"Charming?" Her husband offered, waggling his eyebrows. "Devilishly handsome? Quick-witted?"

"Vulgar," she corrected, entirely unamused, "in regards to our sex life! Especially with Mr. and Mrs. Maitland!" The last bits were hissed out quietly, as though Lydia feared the deceased couple was pressed up against the opposite side of her door, privy to everything they were saying. "It's embarrassing. You embarrassed me."

"Aww, c'mon, babes," he pouted, appearing quite put out. "Ya sayin' I don't get any braggin' rights? That's no fun."

Unfortunately for Lydia, her husband was charming, devilishly handsome, and quick-witted. His downtrodden expression softened her ire and inspired a change of tactics. With an airy sigh, she closed the distance between them, resting one hand atop his shoulder and fiddling with his tie with the other. Immediately, his own hands came to curl around the curve of her hips, pulling her in close.

"Beej," she began sweetly, breathily, just the way he liked it, "you can be just as filthy and nasty with me as you want." Warmth furled in her belly when she glanced up and noticed the heat in his narrowed gaze, felt the way his fingers tightened over her hips. "In private. In public, I don't think a little… tact is too much to ask for. Do you?"

"You want tact?" He growled, turning so he could crowd her against the door and lower his mouth to her neck. Rough hands slid back and down to squeeze and knead at her ass cheeks. "I can be tactful. Real fuckin' discrete. You're not wearin' any underwear, are ya?"

"That's for me to know and you to find out," she teased, pleased that her efforts at manipulation had yielded such instant and positive results, and pushed him away gently before he could become overly excited. "Later. For now, I want to go talk to Mr. and Mrs. Maitland and hopefully salvage the last remaining shreds of my dignity."

"Pft," Betelgeuse derided, pulling back so that she could open the door. "You ain't gotta worry about them. They're not gonna say shit."

This ominous promise did nothing to ease Lydia's current mortification in regards to her dearly departed roommates. "What did you do- Oh!" What he did became clear as soon as she entered the hallway. The floral wallpaper that Delia hated so much was back! Upon further investigation, Lydia discovered that the entire house had been restored back to its original state- with a few distinct differences. There was an enormous flat screen TV in the living room now, as well as an obnoxiously red lazy boy, a large ashtray on the coffee table, and a mini-fridge stuffed with beer. There was a handwritten note taped to the door of it that said NOT YOURS, DON'T TOUCH. The message was punctuated by a childish drawing of an angry beetle holding an oversized mallet above its head, ready to deliver justice to any would-be thieves.

Betelgeuse floated after her, filing his nails into points as she flocked from room to room assessing the changes. The only area that hadn't been touched was hers- which Lydia was grateful for. Delia had afforded her the freedom to dictate her own decor after all, so the bedroom was a creation of her own making. Suddenly, she stopped before they could reach the kitchen- where the sound of clanging pots and excitable chatter told her Adam and Barbara were residing. It smelled like Barbara was cooking… but… they didn't need to eat, right?

Betelgeuse can't get drunk and that doesn't stop him from drinking, she thought with a wry grin, turning abruptly to grab his tie, pull him back down to her level, and plant a quick, smiling kiss on his mouth. "I cannot believe you did this for them. Literally. I can't believe it. It's out of character."

"Them?!" Betelgeuse appeared affronted by the suggestion. "Fuck them! I did it for me! I ain't no fuckin' interior decorator. If I gotta pick between Pee Wee's Art Deco Playhouse and Auntie Em's farm, I'mma go with the lesser o' the two evils."

"So," Lydia smirked knowingly. "I'm to understand that this is all about you. Under no circumstances should I misinterpret this as an attempt to make nice with Mr. and Mrs. Maitland."

Her husband nodded once, firmly. "Damn straight."

"As long as we're on the same page."

"C'mon," he grabbed her hand and began tugging her toward the kitchen, "got one more thing ta show ya."

Not only was Barbara cooking, she was wearing an apron while she tended to a bubbling pot of marinara, the picture of domesticity. Adam sat at the kitchenette, nursing a bottleneck beer that looked suspiciously like Betelgeuse's brand while he perused this week's issue of The Winter River Gazette. "Lydia!" Mrs. Maitland exclaimed joyously upon their entrance, flashing a brilliant smile over her shoulder. "I'm glad he finally got you out of your room. Are you two staying for dinner? I'd love to see some of your pictures from Cambodia."

"Uhmm…" Lydia faltered, taken aback by how perfectly content they both seemed at the prospect of sharing a dinner with the filthy poltergeist. "Sure," she finally spoke after taking a few moments to gather herself. "I got some really nice landscapes of a temple ruin. Thank you for taking care of Luna for me," she added, remembering that she had yet to extend her gratitude. "That's, uh, that's what I decided to call her. Luna."

"I think that's a lovely name," Barbara returned with warmth. "Much better than 'fluffy little monster'."

"Not nearly as accurate, though," Adam chimed in, an amused quirk at the corner of his lips that told Lydia her kitten had not been very well behaved during her absence.

Mrs. Maitland called out as Betelgeuse made to open the cellar door and escort his wife down the steps- for what, Lydia had no idea. "Uh, Betel?" It appeared Barbara was uncomfortable with calling him by his full name, something Lydia understood. She herself only reserved its use for when he was being particularly incorrigible. It was just so dirty sounding on its own that it was practically a curse word.

"Yeah?" He deadpanned, slow and suspicious, at a loss for why the Maitland woman was addressing him so directly and informally.

"Would you please take the garbage out to the edge of the driveway for pickup?" She seemed physically pained that she had been driven to asking him for a favor, especially in the wake of the enormous one he had already done unprovoked. "It's been building up. Adam would do it, but... Well. You know."

"Yeah, yeah, you'd be sandworm chow."

Lydia was taking turns staring at the three of them as if they had all spontaneously grown second heads at precisely the same time. What the fuck? What exactly happened during the hours she spent locked away in her bedroom? More importantly, what in the everliving fuck was a sandworm?

"Fine, whatever. Consider it done," Betelgeuse grumbled finally after several moments of consideration. With an impatient wave, the pile of black garbage bags stacked up next to the storm door vanished. Then, he pulled her down into the darkness of the cellar, mumbling grouchily to himself. "...fuckin' bullshit… next thing I know I'll be mowin' the goddamn lawn… ain't no fuckin' errand boy..."

"Beej," Lydia questioned sweetly, charmed by his attempts to keep things civil with Mr. and Mrs. Maitland. It was clearly something he was doing for her benefit, no matter what he might say if questioned. "Why are you leading me into a dark basement?"

"Gonna cut ya up into a thousand tiny pieces," he joked darkly, jade eyes flashing through the shadows. "Obviously."

She was fondly reminded of the time he teased her and called her insane for refusing to leave his bedroom for an entire day. As they approached the end of the stairs, he turned to offer her a hand to ensure that she wouldn't trip over her long skirt on the last few steps, then drew her through a thick, dark curtain that hadn't been there before. Now, they were cloaked in complete darkness. With a dramatic flourish of his arm, the room was bathed in crimson light. Lydia's breath caught in her throat.

"Figured, ya know, since my basement's already kinda full…"

It was a dark room. Just like the one her father said he would build and never did- another empty promise in a long, sad line of empty promises.

Several twines of cotton ran across the ceiling from one side of the room to the other, hung low enough so that she could reach them to hang photos up to dry. Consequently, Betelgeuse would have to duck or phase through them if he wanted to venture any further into the cellar. A sizable double sink had been installed in the concrete nearest to the entrance. Two of the walls were lined with work benches which appeared to be well stocked with professional photography equipment; several beakers of varying sizes, thick stacks of all different kinds of photographic paper, a glass thermometer that wouldn't react poorly with developer or stop bath, multiple processing trays and printing tongs- so that she could safely transfer photos without mixing chemicals, and literally everything else she might need. There was even a top of the line enlarger nestled in the corner, brand new and gleaming under the blood red safelight.

"Beej," she breathed in wonder, words escaping her. "I… How…?"

"So ya like it?" He seemed a little twitchy, almost as if he was afraid he had messed something up. As if. It was impeccable. Couldn't have been better if she had put it together herself. "Wasn't sure if-"

"I love it!" She cried, interrupting him, and practically jumped into his arms to pepper kisses across his stubbly cheek and convey her deep appreciation. "I love you! It's- it's perfect! How did you do it- I mean, nevermind, don't answer that, I know you have your ways- but- but- Thank you! Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

"S'nothin, babe," he replied low and cocky, arms snaking around her waist to pull her up higher so that the territory of her sweet kisses could be expanded. A rumble of satisfaction hummed through his chest as he basked in Lydia's affection, gratitude, and praise. Her love was so heady he was nearly drunk on it. "All in a day's work."

Heaven was for chumps and dreamers. Who needed it? This. This was what he had lived and died for.

Chapter Text

Lydia was wrong. There, in fact, was a new addition to her room. It was so small, so subtle that she didn't notice it until much later on, just as she was settling down for the night. Freshly showered, teeth brushed, and hair braided, she made to turn off the ceiling fan- Betelgeuse produced more than enough chill on his own- only to pause. There was a second switch next to her usual one, the one that had always been there.

"Beej?"

He was floating mid-air while her laptop levitated at his behest in the space before him, typing very slowly with just one finger. The horrifying threat of an entire month without sex if he broke this one kept his magic's grip on it firm. He had been playing with it for the last hour or so while she prepared for bed, trying his damnedest to locate the porn that Lydia promised he would find if he looked hard enough. "Hm?" He grunted distractedly and tried typing yet another filthy word onto the blank white virtual sheet of paper that popped up when he clicked on the little W.

"Does this switch do what I think it does?" There were two settings etched onto the foreign cover plate. It was currently set to up, or Outerworld. If it were to be flipped down, it would be set on Neitherworld.

"Huh?" He mumbled without lifting his eyes from the screen, well-invested in finding the elusive pornography. He was in too deep to give up now. At this point, it was more about the principle of the matter than anything else. There hadn't been any deception in Lydia's voice when she told him of it, so he knew it had to be here somewhere. That Google guy could probably help him out if only he could find the useless motherfucker.

Lydia sighed, eyes rolling as he grumbled something about a "lazy son of a bitch sleepin' on the job" and decided to sate her curiosity. What was the worst that could happen?

Nothing.

Nothing was the worst that could happen. "It doesn't work."

This, at least, earned Betelgeuse's attention. The prospect of his juice failing at something was so insulting he could not allow it to go uncorrected. "Gotta shut the door, babe," he purred, throwing her a wink before returning to his imperative task.

"Oh," she blushed, feeling silly for not thinking of it. Sure enough, when she shut the door the world was imbalanced for a moment and there was a sinking sensation in the pit of her gut as though she were descending in an elevator. Bright orange light peeked through the edge of her curtains and when she opened the door back up garish lime-green and yellow stripes greeted her. Lydia proceeded to repeat the process half a dozen times before the novelty of being able to travel from the realm of the dead to that of the living at such whimsy wore off.

Betelgeuse would be busy for a while at the rate he was going. She perished the thought of him ever getting to the bottom of his hunt for free, endless pornography. He was already a hopelessly corrupt deviant. He didn't need the encouragement of the internet.

Much too excited to sleep now, she scooped up Luna- who had been clawing her way up the drapes in her impatience to get a look outside- in one arm and her venus flytrap in the other and departed for the living room. Upon approaching the couch, the kitten made a daring leap from Lydia's shoulder to the headrest before darting off to explore the rest of her new territory.

The carnivorous flower fit perfectly on the end table next to her side of the couch. His couch. Their couch. What was his was hers in accordance with his tenet. Almost immediately, a nickel-sized beetle climbed up over the edge of the stand, drawn in by the enticing aroma the flora emanated. Lydia watched on enthralled as it traipsed the side of the clay pot in looping circles and eventually made its way onto the soil, marching to its own death. "I think I'll call you… Aphrodite," she whispered, gently tracing the ivory petals of its flower after a third night crawler met its demise within her bright red jaws. "After your Greek counterpart. You're every bit as lovely as her."

Aphrodite would need sunlight if she was going to reach her peak. "Beej?" No answer. He just continued typing, completely lost in his task. His eyebrow might have twitched, but she couldn't be sure. "Beeej?" She tried slow and sweet with a hint of wanton. Again, nothing.

Her lips pursed and nose crinkled. "Can we go to the store tomorrow?" There was an edge of irritation in the inquiry.

"Hng."

So he wanted to be like that, did he? She would have to up her game. "The Prince and I have fallen madly in love and are going to run away together," she dramatized, falling against the doorframe and throwing an arm across her forehead as though she were suddenly overcome with emotion. "Please don't try to stop us. It will only end in heartache."

Still, she was ignored. He didn't even blink. She might as well not have been standing there at all. Honey eyes narrowed and her nostrils flared. Why the nerve of that...!

"I'm going to go burn all of your dirty magazines," she deadpanned, loudly and clearly, already halfway down the hall toward his room. Initially, she had meant it as a bluff, but then he continued to ignore her.

Something fiery and awful burned to life inside of her and the door to his bedroom was slammed open with just a bit more force than was necessary. As if daring her to, his fireplace roared awake upon her dramatic entrance, casting an angry glow across the room. In the center rested his coffin, wide and inviting and comfortable- the last was remembered with a jolt of heat that just barely toed the line with the other passionate emotion she was feeling. The last time she lain there had been her wedding night when she fainted in his arms and he wrapped her up in white silk.

The distracting softness of the memory only lasted a moment before Lydia saw something that hardened her resolve. Directly across the room, on the other side of his coffin, stacked neatly atop his dresser sat a pile of vintage Playboy magazines. The perfect symmetry of the stack only served to pour gasoline over her rage. With a vindictive snarl, she grabbed the one on top, tossed it into the flames, and watched as it burned.

Of course, Lydia didn't know that it was special, a collector's item, and extremely hard to find. Fury blinded her.

Approximately three seconds later, a shock of horror and regret washed over her and she lunged forward to save it, stopping just short of meeting the flames. Oh, no, she bit her lip, eyes wide. She should not have done that. It was an unequal response; childish, immature, and opened the grounds for all sorts of creative retaliation.

The temperature in the room dropped further than was natural for the Neitherworld, prickling the baby hairs at the nape of her neck. His bedroom door slammed shut. She flinched, eyes trained on the floor, riddled with guilt and shame. "Beej… I'm really sorry-"

"Zip it," he growled, glaring at her through the shadows, thoroughly incensed. He didn't think she was actually going to do it but had not been able to resist the pull of baiting her. This was just as much his fault as it was hers. She was lovely when she was mad. Culpability aside, the truth stood that this was an uncharacteristically rash reaction on Lydia's part.

Cringing, she turned from the fireplace to face him, still unable to meet his gaze. He had never spoken to her like that before, just as up until now she had never so blatantly disrespected him. Another apology ached to tumble from her lips but the harshness of his command muffled it. Still, he didn't speak. Though she couldn't bring herself to look, she could feel his furious glower piercing the air between them, scorching her to the bone. The silence was killing her. She wished he would yell, scream, call her names. Anything but this.

"Please, I-"

"I said," he cut in sternly, tone leaving no room for argument, "quiet."

Another cigarette and a half were burned into the air before he spoke again. "You are so fuckin' lucky you're my wife." She didn't feel very lucky. "C'mere." Her feet turned to stone beneath her. "Now, Lydia."

Heavily, she trudged to her doom, feeling very much like one of the beetles she watched Aphrodite devour earlier. Once his boots were in her line of sight, she stilled completely and awaited his wrath. Lydia knew that he would never hurt her, but he was a ruthlessly savage being and there was no mistaking the depth of his ferocity. Who knew what he was capable of at this moment?

Two long, cold fingers curled beneath her chin and tipped up. His scowl had softened. The way the flames from the fireplace reflected so clearly across the surface of his eyes inspired conflicting imagery of bloodshed and eroticism in her mind.

"Do you trust me, baby?" As laced with venom as his voice was before, it was now sugary sweet, coaxing and gentle. Without missing a beat she nodded, bottom lip trembling, wide-eyed and heartbreaking. "Say it. You can speak."

"I… trust you, Beej." There was an aching hurt in her admission that he would even question it. As if she would lie to him about something like that.

The displeased turn of his mouth finally twisted into a semblance of a smile, a single fang poking over the edge of his lip. "Strip." His living bride gasped, cheeks flushing at the audacity of the command. He was bewitched to recognize that she was still innocent enough to not have yet fully realized the game they were about to play. With trembling hands, she obediently pulled at the tie of her robe- this one was thin and silky, with long flowing sleeves. Betelgeuse liked it much better than the plush one. In the cold, her nipples poked through the flimsy fabric, begging to be licked and nibbled.

Shadowy silk pooled on the ground around her ankles. She was entirely bare beneath it. A ravishing pink tinge was leaking down to the tops of her breasts and she still couldn't bring herself to meet his gaze. Betelgeuse was forced to pierce his talons through the palm of his hand and allow himself to feel the pain. If not, the overwhelming urge to throw her to the ground and fuck her raw would ruin all the fun they were going to have.

Rules needed to be established. After all, his wife was young and untried.

"Babe," he rasped carefully after taking a moment to gather himself, "lookit me." With resignation, she pushed through her embarrassment to follow his direction. Honey and jade tangled in a clash of opposing wills. It wasn't her nudity so much as the way he demanded it of her, robbing her of choice that brought her humility. Indecision was not an option. "If at any point you don' like what I'm doin', or you want me to stop…" Jade eyes roved over her bare form hungrily. Then, his fist clenched tighter and he winced, gaze returning to hers. "Just say sandworm n' I'll stop. Now say it." It was critical that she understood everything that happened from here on out was, at the heart of the matter, under her discretion.

"Sandworm," Lydia whimpered, the strange word feeling silly on her tongue.

"Good girl." The butt of his cigarette was crushed beneath his boot and he conjured and lit a new one, all in one smooth, practiced motion. "On your knees."

Immediately, she sunk to the ground before him, ready to accept her punishment. The swiftness with which she obeyed his whims- eager to please, craving his approval- was enough to make him positively glow with satisfaction. Slowly, he circled her, drawing a cruel pleasure from the way she shivered at his feet.

"That was a naughty thing you did," he scolded, a genuine frown in his voice. "Took me a long time ta find that one. 55' Bettie Page issue."

Lydia's unease deepened and she felt a pang of loss for the antique. Guilt weighed down on her, melting her further into her bow. When he came to a halt before her, she grabbed hold of his pant leg. Genuine remorse flooded through her and it showed in her plea. "I'm really sorry, B. I didn't mean to-"

Cold fingers curled and sunk into the thick base of one of the braids and he jerked her head back to force eye contact. "Did I say you could talk?" Not expecting this kind of violence from him, her breath caught in her throat. It hurt, but only just so. As threatening as his demeanor was, there was a reassuring warmth in the flames reflected in his gaze. It consoled her frazzled nerves enough to manage shaking her head No, his rough fingers still tangled within her hair. "Speak," he ordered, driving his point home.

"No."

His grip tightened briefly, drawing a gasp through her teeth, before slackening entirely. "That's 'no, Sir' ta you, lil girl." A horribly barbaric grin cracked across his face and his previously cruel hand flattened over the top of her head, petting and soothing away the memory of his brutish touch. Lydia couldn't help but derive comfort from the caress and pressed her cheek close to his thigh, nuzzling. "But I think I can let ya off with a warnin' this time."

The honest flow of remorse pouring out of her almost made him break character and offer his forgiveness, but then he would have been deprived of the joy of punishing her. He allowed her several more moments to cuddle against his leg, nonverbally displaying her contrition, before cupping her jaw and tilting up. Her eyes were wide and glassy like she might cry, but he didn't smell any fear. With a flick of the wrist, his free hand produced a black strip of cloth out of thin air and her eyes widened impossibly further upon sighting it.

"Eyes closed. Hands behind your back," he dictated, letting her know how he wanted her. She hesitated, lips parting as though she meant to argue, but a deliberately quirked eyebrow swiftly reminded her of her current station. He won't hurt me, Lydia reasoned with herself as the fabric was tied snugly around the back of her head, effectively blindfolding her. All I have to do is say 'sandworm' and he'll stop. The mental reassurances barely served to calm her quickening breaths, the titillation of letting him have this kind of control over her sinking in. When her wrists touched behind her back, as per his command, another soft-feeling strip of fabric snaked up from the floor to coil itself around her arms, binding them together.

The ground was cold and hard, digging into her knees. In an effort to relieve some of the pressure she parted her calves and shifted her weight back to rest on her bottom. Then suddenly, she couldn't feel him anymore. His heavy aura wasn't clouding the air around her. There was a metallic scraping sound and a whoosh of cold air across her kneeling, shivering form- as though he had just left the room. He wouldn't leave her like this, would he? Lydia only had a brief moment to worry about his intentions before the door sounded again and his imposing presence could once more be felt permeating the atmosphere.

"Chin up," he commanded, and immediately her slouched posture straightened. "That's a good girl," he praised pointedly, as though she had just done something extremely gratifying. "Jus' like that."

The next thing she knew, an extremely familiar click and whirr hissed through the air, followed by the flutter of a sheet of paper falling to the ground. Lydia startled in realization, rising back up to her knees and pulling fruitlessly at her restraints. "Are you taking pictures of me?!"

"Gotta replace the ones you burned," he explained unrepentantly, before clicking his tongue in disapproval. "N' that's three times now you've spoken out o' turn. Ya know what they say, babe." A cold hand banded itself around her bicep and she was yanked roughly to her feet. "Third time's the charm."

For a fraction of a second, Lydia was almost alarmed enough to call out their safe word, but the thrill of the game kept her curiosity piqued. Unwilling to prove herself weak, she held her tongue, remaining silent with apprehension as he escorted her to where she knew his coffin was and ordered her back down to her knees. Once she was settled in, an unyielding hand splayed flat between her shoulder blades, pushing down until her cheek and chest were mashed firmly into the soft lining; face down, ass up. The cushy, crimson material was a great deal more forgiving than the ground had been.

He didn't touch her again for a bit, and Lydia felt her face burn with shame as the whir of her camera hissed several times in quick succession. With how firmly he had tied the blindfold, it was impossible to discern which direction the flash was coming from. She wasn't sure yet how she felt about him having access to such lewd photos of her but as he had already established, she was not exactly in a position to voice any complaints.

It was silent. Lydia bit her lip, muffling the questions at the tip of her tongue that would surely get her into more trouble. Then, a sudden, stinging slap to her backside made her teeth release her lip, a pained cry slipping out. Immediately, he hushed her, sliding his cool hand over the tender flesh in a soothing gesture.

"That was jus' my hand, baby," he informed with a chuckle. "Thought 'bout usin' my belt. Maybe next time." The muscles he was fondling tensed at the threat. "You good?" She hesitated, unsure. "That's a direct question. You can answer."

"Yes," she gulped, "Sir."

"Mmm," he purred in satisfaction at the honorific. If she kept being such a good girl, it was going to make punishing her problematic. Betelgeuse allowed himself one more squeeze to her luscious backside before drawing his arm back and striking the opposite cheek- harder this time. Again, his icy petting soothed away the sting of it until her breathing evened and she was leaning into his touch, as though he wasn't the one who had struck her in the first place.

Over and over again this process was repeated- Lydia lost count- until the cheeks of her ass were just as red, just as rosy as the ones on her face. Click. Whirr. One last slap was delivered, this one feeling sharper and more intense than any of his previous blows, and she was unable to stifle the resulting shriek of pain. Just as before, his chilly hand came to her rescue, alleviating the burning flesh with loving caresses.

"Ya know I don't like hurtin' you, baby." The perverse lilt of his growl suggested that this was far from the truth. "But you've been a bad girl today. Can't have ya disrespectin' me like that. Gotta set some boundaries, know what I mean?"

"This is your idea of setting boundaries?" Lydia panted sarcastically into the crimson velvet, taking advantage of the opportunity to speak that his question gave her. "Sir," she added sweetly, placatingly, not looking for another spanking.

Finally, the hand on her bottom slid between her thighs. Lydia drew in a sharp breath at the contact and Betelgeuse stifled one of his own, unprepared for how fucking wet she was. She was dripping for him, riled up by their rough play. It was all he could do not to say fuck it and bury himself to the hilt right then and there. That wouldn't do. Judging by her cheeky quip, his naughty little deviant had still yet to learn her lesson.

Savagely, he plunged two thick fingers into her weeping heat without giving her time to adjust to the intrusion. Once, twice, three times he pumped his hand against her, drawing out the breathy mewls she was giving in reaction. When he withdrew, he took a moment to deliberately swipe his fingers along her folds and collect some of her sweetness.

"Sit up."

Awkwardly, she obeyed, fumbling somewhat without the use of her arms. As soon as she was settled upright, slick fingertips pressed against the seam of her lips and she realized with gasp exactly what he was doing. Exploiting her surprised intake of breath, the fingers pressed deeper into her mouth and she instinctively closed her lips around them, letting her tongue roll against his calluses and the sharp points of his nails. Nope, she thought as the saltiness of herself swept over her taste buds. Definitely not cotton candy. It wasn't bad. It just wasn't the sugary syrup she knew he was capable of producing.

"That's right," he urged, pleased by how quickly she complied with even his unspoken demands. "Suck em' clean. Taste good, don't it?" This was clearly a rhetorical question. Once he was satisfied with her work, he removed his hand, trailing damp claws down her front until one of her nipples was pinched between his calloused fingertips. "C'mere," he demanded with a sharp tug that made her thighs clench and her abdominal muscles flutter. Shuffling, she inched forward on her knees until they met the border of his coffin and could move no further.

Without the mercy of sight, Lydia found that her other senses were drastically heightened. Each of his touches, unpredictable as they had been, electrified, drawing goosebumps to the surface of her flesh. Under the harshness of the cigarette he was smoking, she could smell the indelicate, earthy scent of grave-dirt that followed him around everywhere. Her hearing was enhanced as well. It would have been impossible to miss the snick of his zipper's teeth unfastening, even over the crackle of the fireplace and the pounding of her own heartbeat. Unbidden, her tongue darted out, wetting her lips and cleaning them of any residual sap.

"I like these," he confessed darkly and tugged on one of the long, twin braids that hung over her shoulder until she was forced to lean forward, arching her back. "Nice n' convenient."

His other hand cupped the side of her face, running a thumb along her bottom lip. Automatically, they parted for him in her eagerness to replace the taste of herself with the sweet taste of him. Lydia had not attempted going down on him since the night Adam interrupted them- still not quite bold enough to propose such a thing. Additionally, Betelgeuse never pushed the matter or made any explicit desires known. Until now.

"Oh, you wanna suck my cock?" He mocked, playing dumb. It was then that Lydia realized she had been sitting there with her mouth open a bit wider than was necessary for an embarrassing amount of time. Blushing furiously, she snapped her lips shut and nodded her head up and down. "We might have a problem, then. See, only good girls get ta suck Daddy's cock."

"I am a good girl!" She insisted somewhat desperately, remembering all the times he had condescendingly referred to her as such. Then, she realized what she had just done and sunk in on herself, biting her lip. "Please don't," she implored, small and quiet. Her backside was still sore and stinging from his assault. Sitting was going to be a chore tomorrow. "Sir."

Oh, she begged so pretty. If she had not brought it to his attention, he would never have even noticed that she spoke out of turn yet again. He was too distracted by how determined she was to get his cock into her mouth. "Tell me why you burned my shit, n' I'll think about it." His tone was biting, marking his lingering irritation. In this regard, he was genuinely curious. Lydia had never lashed out at him so recklessly before and he was fixated on pinpointing exactly what it was that triggered her misbehavior.

"I don't know," she admitted demurely, ashamed of her actions. "You were ignoring me and I just-" Her breath hitched and she worried at her bottom lip. "I just got so mad. I didn't think. Everything stopped making sense and I just wanted to hurt you and- and it was awful of me and I'm so sorryBeej!"

With a startling urgency, he hushed her, caressing the side of her face in a comforting gesture. He didn't want to make her cry and was horrified that she sounded like she might have already worked herself up to that point. It was impossible to tell with the blindfold. Everything came together for him in an instant. The last time Lydia snapped and committed arson was when her parents abandoned her to him, ignoring her to a monstrous degree. What he had intended as a joke to see how far she would go- make her angry and lust over her fury- ultimately correlated to a form of abandonment in Lydia's beautiful, ravaged mind.

Betelgeuse's blackened, decrepit heart fractured to pieces and he resolved to find a creative way to torture the in-laws next time he darkened their doorstep. "Nah, kitten, none o' that," he coaxed, calm and soft, urging her distress away. "I shouldn'ta ignored my best girl like that when all she wanted was a lil o' Daddy's attention. It'll never happen again. Promise." The poltergeist could count on one hand how many authentic promises he had both made and kept. This would be one of them.

"Sir," Lydia sniffled, nuzzling her cheek into his palm, "may I please suck your cock?"

Who the fuck was he to say no to that?

Her perfect mouth was already dangling open, waiting to be filled. Slowly, he guided the flared tip of his raging hard-on passed her satiny lips, groaning audibly when her searing tongue swirled around it, eager to taste his precum. Her wet little crevice was so tight and hot that he might have likened it to a pussy if he didn't already know that the pink slice of heaven between her legs was the source of all that was good and holy in the universe. Without hands to steady her or eyesight to guide her way, she was forced to act on pure instinct. Voraciously, she worked her mouth along his length, sucking as much as she possibly could into her small orifice.

A slim line of saliva dripped down her chin. This was an intensely erotic sight to him because he knew that had she full use of her hands, Lydia- prim, proper, polite Lydia- would have taken a break to delicately wipe it away before returning to finish the job. As it was, she was forced to be a dirty girl and place his pleasure above her own ideals of cleanliness.

Unfortunately, she got a bit too excited- egged on by his harsh breathing and the guttural noises he was making- and overshot her drawback, accidentally popping him out of her mouth. Blindly, she darted forward, trying to capture him again, only to end up missing completely and bumping her nose against his shaft. A delightful crinkle of frustration marred her nose and he chuckled, taking hold of her head with both hands to keep her still.

"Don't laugh at me," she frowned, small and out of character, his mirth making her painfully self-conscious.

"Don't be so cute," he returned, grinning fiendishly.

Her nose crinkled even further with distaste at the endearment. "I am no- mmf-"

"You are," he insisted with a moan, using his cock to muffle her backtalk. "You're an adorable," he slid deeper, stopping when he encountered resistance, "mouthy," she inhaled deeply through her nose and he ran his thumbs along each cheekbone, savoring the moment, "lil brat."

A furious sound crawled up from her throat and vibrated right through him. He cracked his head back with a groan, simultaneously ripping her blindfold off. He needed to see her eyes. They didn't disappoint; wide, wild, and burning, still wet with moisture from the few tears she shed and dilating from sudden exposure to light.

However, instead of sinking her teeth into him which she very well could have done, she sucked down, cheek muscles tightening around his cock in a way that made him want to fuck her throat. Lydia really was glorious when she was mad. Rather than give in to that violent urge, he kept her head very still and rocked shallowly, setting a slow rhythm that gave her freedom to be creative with her tongue. Care was taken to read her reactions and never push too far. He wasn't an idiot. He had a big cock and Lydia had a tiny mouth and fuck was she doing beautiful things with it.

Somewhere along the way, the harsh bite of rage that hardened her gaze softened, as did the muscles in her mouth. With love and adoration, she stared up at him as he sunk deeper into this passage than he ever had before- even when she had been in control. Her lashes fluttered as she momentarily lost the ability to breathe and all at once the silky, lush tissue wrapped around his cock tightened back up again.

It was all much too much. Whether she wanted to swallow or not wasn't even a question. Of course she did. How could she not with the way she was milking him like that, looking up at him like he could do no wrong?

Shuddering, he busted down her throat and his lips moved without his permission, growling out mindless vows of eternal love and declarations to her incomparable beauty- or something like that. What was truly said he would never know. It was impossible to concentrate on anything other than how fucking beautiful she looked swallowing his cum. Hopefully, she got the gist of the message despite all the filth and expletives she would have to wade through.

As soon as her plump, red lips released him the ties that kept her wrists bound together dissipated into nothing, freeing her. At once, she reached for him. Unable to deny her anything, even now, he obliged; hooking a knee over each arm and banding them around her back before hefting her out of the coffin and against him. Fuck, she was flexible. With the way he was holding her at hip level- grinding her along his length without penetrating, soaking himself in her juices, massaging her most sensitive place- she was unable to wrap her arms around his neck. She settled for grabbing onto his suit jacket and clinging to him just as tightly as possibly she could. There was no need. Even if she were to go limp and boneless in his arms, he would not drop her. No, this move was not bred of self-preservation but of a desire for intimacy, closeness in the wake of the emotional rollercoaster their tryst was turning out to be.

The finale was upon them. Things were coming to a close. All that was left was the big bang. In typical villainous fashion, Betelgeuse couldn't let the moment pass without taking advantage of the opportunity to torment her.

"Beg for it," he demanded hoarsely, holding her poised at the head of his desire. "Say 'Daddy, I've been a naughty girl and my pussy deserves a good, hard fuck.'" He imitated her voice with obscene perfection, speaking with more indecency than she ever had her entire life. It was shamelessly vulgar in a way that Lydia could never be. Unable to replicate her sinful doppelganger, she instead took the path that she knew with absolute certainty would snap his leash.

"Papa," Lydia breathed in one last act of defiance, gasping when his hips jerked in response, his fat, blunted tip pressing against her, trying to squeeze its way in, "ya vela sebya kak plohaya devochka-"

She was not permitted to finish. A groan of pure desperation gurgled from the back of his throat, not unlike the sound a starving man might make if presented with a juicy slab of steak, and his grip slackened enough to allow gravity to impale her. A torturous moan was muffled into his chest and black-painted nails dug into his frigid flesh, clawing through his button up. It always hurt a bit more when he didn't dedicate as much time to preparing her, but the pain never lasted long… and Lydia was able to admit to herself that she didn't mind it too much at all. In fact, she liked it.

Betelgeuse definitely drew some modicum of sadistic pleasure from it, though he never voiced this aloud. She saw it in the insincere quirk of his lips when he hushed her tension away; the smirk of a shark who had just scented blood. Just like the one he was wearing right now as he used the strength of his arms alone to lift her up and down on his cock at a leisurely pace.

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"That's my good girl," he praised and craned his neck down to kiss the top of her head, right before snapping his hips in a way that made her twinge and gasp. "You take it so fuckin' good, baby. Never complain, always ready for more-" this was more of a grunt than a word. The intensity with which he pumped her up and down against him increased ever so slightly with each passing second. "Eager to please. I like that."

Without warning, he stilled. His hold weakened, allowing her to sink down until he was entirely encased within her. The prolonged break in rhythm was so unexpected that Lydia had no choice but to abandon the safety and comfort that cuddling against his chest provided. She peeled her face away and glanced up, freezing at the particularly menacing expression he wore.

"What I don't like are dumb jokes about my fuckin' wife-" he ground himself impossibly deeper while saying this, as if securing that this was her rightful place, "- runnin' off with some scrawny, pansy ass, royal mama's boy." He was practically snarling by the end of his complaint.

Oh.

Not only did he hear her taunt, he was evidently highly offended that she had even dared to crack wise on the subject. Before she knew what was happening, Betelgeuse was kneeling down in his coffin, hunching over her much smaller frame, still intimately joined with her. He shifted her legs up and together between them, tucking them away to rest on one shoulder. Thin, delicate ankles kissed the moss on his neck. One filthy, rough, calloused hand gathered her wrists to hold them pinned above her head while the other- very gently- came to rest atop her throat, encompassing it entirely with its mass.

"You're mine, Lydia," he whispered with dangerous intensity, as if she needed a reminder, and momentarily closed the distance between them to brush his lips across her forehead- one last kindness before he attacked.

Lydia thought he had been rough with her in the past. Apparently, he was holding back. This was violent. He fucked her like a man depraved, like he had nothing to lose. The coffin groaned under the force of his assault, though neither ghost nor girl could hear it over the animalistic howls he was siphoning from the depths of her soul.

With skilled precision, the long fingers wrapped around her throat tightened, pressing down just enough to only slightly hinder the draw of air into her lungs and constrict her flow of blood. She could still try to speak if she wanted to, cry out their word and make him stop. He would notice the effort, even if she found it difficult to incorporate the silly-sounding word into her senseless shrieking. There was no way he could miss any potential attempts. Not with how his stare was trained unblinkingly on her face while it contorted into a mesmerizing combination of agony and bliss, devouring her every reaction to his brutal violation of her person.

But... Lydia didn't want to make him stop. She liked the way the oxygen deprivation burned her lungs, making her head grow fuzzy and warm. She liked the stretch of his girth filling her to the brim and then some, giving her more than she should have been able to take. She liked the throb that reverberated throughout her tense, coiled muscles with every honed, powerful thrust- each of which were immediately followed by a balming influx of pleasure.

This, Lydia now recognized, was the hard, fast, rough fuck that he had more than once threatened her with. Somewhere in the back of her head, whispering through the haze, a judgemental voice scolded her. It told her that she was a dirty slut for liking the things he was doing. That she deserved it. That it served her right to lay there and take it like the disgusting little freak she was. But then, the world stuttered on its axis and the insidious voice was drowned out by an ear-splitting screech that she distantly identified as belonging to herself. It was a good thing they didn't have any neighbors.

Betelgeuse fucked her right through this orgasm and into the next. When he finally deemed it necessary- as Lydia was clearly never going to give him the signal- he removed the pressure on her windpipe and she was permitted to breathe normally again. Leaning back on his haunches, he wrapped his arms around her legs and hugged them to his chest, never breaking rhythm through the change in position. Without him there to hold her down, the force of his pounding bounced her off of his hips, jiggled her breasts, and pushed her back and forth across the lining of his coffin. Surely, her back would be discolored and raw with rug burn by the end of their rut. As with the rest of his abuse, she couldn't bring herself to care.

His peak came and went with a blur. A carnal roar delved through the miasma of sensations to scratch at her ears. "Shit," she heard him spit out hatefully once she became cognizant of her surroundings again. She was turned onto her side while he stood outside of the coffin surveying the damage, just barely running the tips of his fingers across her back.

A string of curses tumbled from his mouth while he gathered her prone form into his arms, carried her to the bathroom, and carefully deposited her inside the jacuzzi- which was already filling itself with water and bubbles before they entered. The heat stung the irritation on her back and she arched away from it fruitlessly, whining. "I already took a shower," she pouted, well aware that there was no point in arguing.

"Too bad," he grumbled, wetting a washcloth with cool water in the sink and returning to her with haste, kneeling beside the tub. "Turn around."

Clearly, he was still in a mood to give her orders. As with all of the others, this one was obeyed as well. She turned, offering him her back. A small, agonized sound echoed from behind her. Under the brighter lighting in the bathroom, he could clearly see the marks left in the wake of his passion. An angry red discoloration speckled all across her shoulder blades and traveled sporadically down the length of her spine. Her posterior was camouflaged by bubbles, but he was sure that the flawless flesh there was similarly besmirched.

The abrasions would heal within days and would not scar, but it still disturbed him that he lost control enough to damage her in such a way. He was supposed to be better than that. He was supposed to be better for her, because of her. To harm her in any way was a cardinal sin and how dare he break his own fucking rule. He really was garbage.

"Fuck, Lyds," he choked, gently laying the cool washcloth across the redness on her upper back. She sighed contentedly at the contact, shoulders untensing and torso slumping forward so as to give him better access. "I'm sorry."

The overwhelming guilt coloring his plea plucked at her heartstrings. She turned back around, ignoring his displeased grunt, and took the washcloth from his hand, setting it aside. Then, she grasped that same hand and placed it back on her throat. Compulsively, the fingers flexed to draw back but she wouldn't let him. As always, she got her way. The memory of the wicked pleasure he delivered by choking her into submission with this very hand brought a simmering heat to her gaze. She leaned passed the threshold of the tub, keeping his hand plastered to her throat, and met his lips in a soft kiss. It was short, as Lydia could only stay poised on her knees for so long, but packed full of meaning. It said everything that she didn't have the courage to; I liked it. I'm a freak. I'm just as filthy as you are.

"Don't be." It was an order, spoken softly and accompanied by an impish half smile. Just like that, Betelgeuse was granted his absolution.

Chapter Text

This was nice.

Nearly two months had passed since returning from their honeymoon, and things were positively cozy. Lydia was such a good wife. Perfect. He'd done well trusting his gut with that decision. They settled into a tentative routine. On nights that she didn't indulge the Maitlands by letting them parent her, she cooked him dinner. In truth, she cooked herself dinner and indulged him by making enough so that he could eat as well, even going the extra mile by serving him before herself- like a proper wife.

The worst parts of his day were the several hours she dedicated to her education. Most of the time it wasn't that bad. She would curl up next to him on the couch and seamlessly divide her concentration between him, the television, and her laptop. Other days, she would find it all too much of a distraction- locking herself up in her bedroom for the privacy it provided to complete her schoolwork- and Betelgeuse was forced to find entertainment elsewhere.

Today was one of the nice days. It was her bleeding time, to his delight and her discontent. That morning, he cleaned her with his tongue before she could even wake and discover her monthly vexation. Then, he drew her a bath, joining her for this one, and fucked her the way he wanted to the last time he tasted her blood. Currently, she was lying across the couch in her plush bathrobe, leisurely popping down truffles one at a time. The laptop sat forgotten in her bedroom, education momentarily deemed unworthy of her time and consideration. Sensing her mistress' discomfort, Luna had curled herself up into a ball on Lydia's belly. The kitten's pitch-black fur blended flawlessly with the robe. A persistent purr and the occasional flash of viridian were all that gave away her presence.

Lydia's head rested on his thigh. His fingers pet across her hair; air dried, unbrushed, and sprawled across his lap in a sweet-smelling heap. When a smidge of white chocolate dried above her upper lip, she absent-mindedly extended her tongue to rub it away, right before pushing another little white ball passed her perfect pink lips.

"Beej?" She questioned, slightly garbled with a mouth full of melting chocolate. If she wasn't careful, he was going to have to fuck her again.

"Yeah, baby?" He drawled, catching her gaze as it flickered up to find him watching her. She swallowed, licked her lips, and held yet another round piece of chocolate up to her mouth without blushing. He couldn't tell if she was oblivious to his want or if she was doing this on purpose.

"I don't feel like cooking," she informed simply, twisting around until she was laying on her back, staring straight up at him, "and I don't want to bother Barbara." He didn't interrupt her to say that the Maitland woman would probably relish the opportunity to play mom. "Or go anywhere. Or get off the couch at all. Would you poof dinner please?" She hadn't asked him to conjure food for her since they were on the island, but she always did it so politely that he couldn't help but indulge the request with vigor.

"Abso-fuckin'-lutely! Whatcha feelin', babes? Sushi? Lobster? Steak? Escargot?" A silver platter materialized on the coffee table before them, its contents changing with each rapid-fire suggestion. Lydia laughed, reaching out to examine a steaming snail curiously.

"Maybe some other time." After returning the unfortunate mollusk to its place and settling her head back in his lap, she considered him intently, teeth digging into her lip. When she deigned to request food of him, her suggestions had become increasingly elaborate and precise, purely to test him. He had yet to fail meeting her exact specifications. "How about… a wood-baked flatbread pizza… with goat cheese, sliced golden cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, and porcini mushrooms… and raspberry lemonade to go with!" She finished with a rush as if this was some kind of challenge.

Angling an eyebrow down at her, the requested meal appeared with a quirk of his finger. There were even whole raspberries in her lemonade, pinkish red bleeding into the fresh-squeezed pale yellow. "Anythin' else, your highness?"

Now she flushed, sitting up to dig into the tempting meal. Luna scurried away at the movement. "You can't blame me," she returned after swallowing her first bite of pizza. "It's neat seeing what you can do. Us puny mortals have to work and go to the store to get the things we want. I can't just blink and make things appear." She smiled and glanced at him through her lashes, knee pressing on top of his thigh as she settled into a cross-legged position. "It's cool." Lydia didn't often comment on his ability, but when she did, it went straight to his head. "If only you used your juice to wash the dishes sometime," she muttered as an afterthought, killing his musings of self-glory.

Lydia had made good on her promise to keep the roadhouse clean. Though he never asked her to, she took it upon herself to delegate an hour or so of her time every day to tidying their home. Few sights were more arousing than that of his wife in a pair of dirty jeans, on her hands and knees scrubbing the floor. The living room and his bedroom were nearly spotless now. The garage was going to be her next big project. She didn't ask for access to the basement, for more reasons than that she had correctly inferred he would deny it.

Betelgeuse had responsibilities of his own to attend to. After a nasty letter from the Homeowners' Association entitled to one Benjamin Geist showed up on his porch in the Outerworld he discovered that yes, he did have to mow the lawn. Lydia had begun as though she meant to, but he shut that down real quick. He couldn't allow her to stain her fair complexion with such a gruff chore, especially when she was seeing to her wifely duties so diligently. So it commenced that every Sunday morning, sunglasses adorned and beer in hand, he rolled a disguised Doomie back and forth across the expansive property, quickly growing a reputation for owning the fastest grass cutter in Winter River. Accordingly, Lydia thanked him with a sandwich and fellatio whenever he finished.

She was sweet like that. It wasn't uncommon for her to surprise him with excessive shows of affection- whatever she thought would make him happy. Not only him, the Maitland chumps as well. When she noticed that Adam was running low on the type of paint he used on his little buildings, Lydia went out of her way to ask her husband for a substantial amount of money. Of course, Betelgeuse took great pleasure in both giving it to her and teasing her for why she wanted it at all. His fiendish joy quickly deteriorated when she finally imparted that she wanted to buy Maitland Hardware out of all their paint- the Maitlands' paint- and anything else they might want or need.

"Fuck that, babe," he'd told her, scowling darkly at the favor he was being forced to do. "Let's cut out the middleman."

And that's how Benjamin Geist became the owner of Maitland Hardware. As staff was already established and the Maitlands were all too eager to manage any paperwork involved with running the business, Betelgeuse was the owner in name only. It was a fair exchange as far as the poltergeist was concerned. They got to have something that resembled control over their life, even in death, and he got to gloat that he was the real boss.

To celebrate what a success he was as a living man- having collected a wife, job, and house all in the span of just a couple months- he took the missus on that coveted trip to Vegas. She humored him for a while; trailing after him, taking photos, gambling a little herself. She even indulged his fantasy of sitting on his lap through a game of poker that he knew she found exceedingly boring. After day two, however, she was content to stay cooped up in the hotel room while he reveled, worn out from exposure to so much noise and people. She didn't have to complain. He could tell. Didn't bitch the whole week. As a matter of fact, she didn't gripe when they were on the gulf either. Not that she didn't have a good time there, but sun, sand, and heat did not necessarily appeal to Lydia's predilections.

As it was, he found himself bored without his creamy little wife at his side mere hours sans her presence. Pathetically, he was forced to carry out the week pretending to have fun gambling alone before joining his introverted bride in their suite at night. He couldn't have her knowing just how thoroughly whipped he was. It wasn't good for his image. Every time, she welcomed him with a kiss, asked him if he had a good time, and pulled him into bed to sleep with her- the meaning of the word changing depending on how tired she was.

He had her every day, in some way, at least once. At least. Lydia only ever turned him away if she was tired or sore. When she was tender, he would please her with his tongue and take pains to be gentle with her the following days... unless she did something to try his patience. In those instances, he was rather certain she was looking for the abuse.

She didn't complain then, either.

His thoughts were disrupted when she stretched, moving as though she meant to get off the couch.

"Where you goin'," he growled into her mess of hair after grabbing hold of her hips, pulling her back down into his lap, and grinding her backside against his erection. It was maintained by her show of lip licking and his own deviant thoughts. Even through his suit, her robe and nightgown, he could feel how fucking hot she was. There was just something about her when she was like this. Her scent was deeper, her taste sharper, her aura more vibrant. It made him want to swallow her whole.

"The bathroom," she giggled, squirming out of his reluctant grasp, "and to get some ice cream."

Ice cream? Lydia's sweet tooth apparently peaked around this time, especially in regards to chocolate. So much sugar didn't usually appeal to her. "Eye scream," he whispered aloud to the empty room, the notion hitting him like a slap to the face. Why hadn't he taken her to see more of the Neitherworld? It wasn't as though she hadn't earned it. She'd shown more than enough patience for his wanderlust, dedicating herself to her self-appointed schoolwork and chores, submitting to his insatiable libido, not once voicing the desire to explore her kingdom that he knew she had. What a selfish ass he had been.

"Beej," her sweet voice called from the kitchen, once again knocking him out of his reverie, "do you want a strawberry shortcake bar or a fudge pop?"

"Sure you don't wanna go out tonight, babe?"

She frowned at him from around the edge of the freezer door, an unopened fudge pop dangling from her fingers. "Not really. I think it's daytime up there."

The way she assumed he meant to take her above twisted the knife of guilt further. "Nah, not there. Here."

That grin he loved, the one that never failed to knock stagnant oxygen from his inert lungs, spread across her face. "Why? Where do you want to go?"

With a gesture from him, the frozen treats she held returned to the freezer and her appearance shifted. Unruly raven tresses detangled and straightened until they fell passed her navel in a glossy cascade, as though they had been run through with a hot iron. The dress he put her in kept both their needs in mind. The light, flowing fabric would caress her skin like water and leave her sensitive midsection unencumbered. Its Grecian design offered a deceptive modesty. When she stood still, only her arms and shoulders were bared to the eye, but when she walked, plum silk would part to reveal milky legs up to the thigh. Gold and emerald gleamed from her wrists and upper arms where Cleopatra's bands had found their home. As usual, a shroud of magic protected her from the Neitherworld's chill.

Lydia marveled, running fingers through her hair. She hadn't bothered with straightening it in years, not up for the hassle. It was perceptively longer like this. Meanwhile, Betelgeuse was appraising her regretfully. It was painful how lovely she was. Couldn't he have dressed her down some? Not that it would have mattered. She could drown herself in one of those black shrouds she favored and still turn heads. Ultimately, his greed to have her ornamented like the Queen he knew she was trumped his distaste for letting others see her this way.

"Beej," she chastised lightly upon sighting the bangles and fingered them bashfully, as though she meant to take them off.

"Nope!" She startled at his abruptness, eyes widening a fraction. "Don't you dare! You're gonna wear em n' you're gonna like it cause they're pretty n' all girls like pretty things- don't gimme that face, they do- n' all that aside, you know that deep down inside ya really wanna." After a beat, her hands fell away from the baubles and settled on her hips, a tiny smile curling her mouth.

"... and why can't I have my fudge pop?" She queried, keeping up a show of feigned indignation and choosing not to comment further on the outfit. Betelgeuse had taken liberties with her appearance enough times now that she didn't question it. He had decent enough tastes, if vulgar. At least this one left a little to the imagination. Some of the cocktail dresses he summoned for her in Vegas had required alterations upon her insistence. Even then, the short hems and dipping necklines hindered her need to flash her brand new fake I.D.

"Cause then ya won't have room for the triple scoop sundae I'm 'bout ta buy ya."

"Buy?!"

Betelgeuse scowled. She didn't have to look so shocked. "Shut up, pipsqueak, n' go get in the car."


The Shocking Mall was everything Lydia hoped it would be in the wake of the sneak peaks she'd been getting from watching Neitherworldian television- with several added surprises. Curious honey eyes scanned the storefronts, soaking it all in with avid interest. There was a shop called Spines & Spirits that appeared to sell alcoholic beverages, as well as spare bones. From what Lydia had gathered from her time here, misplacing one's bones was apparently a common problem. The beauty salon, Curl Up and Die, catered to all different types of clientele; rewraps for mummies, fang-bleaching treatments for sharp-toothed damsels, and waxing packages for even the hairiest of gals. Lydia was enchanted. Absently, she wondered if Ginger frequented an establishment like that and what kind of treatments she got if she did. A mental note was made to ask the next time she saw her.

She tried not to appear overly interested in any one item she saw in the shop windows, not wishing for Betelgeuse to ruin their rare outing in a misguided attempt at gallantry. However, she was unable to keep her eyes from lingering on a blood-red cloak adorning a skeletal model- the Neitherworld's alternative to mannequins. It graced the front of Terrifyingly Intimate, what appeared to be a boutique for high-brow couture and lingerie. Crimson fabric draped bleached white bones, an intricate webbing pattern curling down toward the hem in delicate tendrils. The stitching was immaculate and precise, obviously spun by limbs that homo sapiens lacked. Hastily, Lydia tore her eyes away, but not before her ogling was noticed.

"Want it?"

"No," Lydia lied insistently, grabbing his hand and dragging them toward the Eye Scream Shoppe before he could be tempted. Alas, the damage was done.

"Hello," she greeted the girl behind the counter brightly, anticipating her husband's impending rudeness and overcompensating with her own natural charm.

"What can I getcha, honey?"Did everyone in this part of the Neitherworld talk like that? Or was it a side effect of being dead for a certain number of years? The dead girl returned Lydia's infectious smile, only sparing Betelgeuse a cursory, wary glance. It was immediately apparent to Lydia that she not only knew who he was- she was scared of him. "We've got rotberry sneezecake, cooties n' scream, malted roach crunch, snail slime ripple, death by chocolate-"

"That one!" Lydia pounced on the first safe-sounding option. "I'll have that one, please!"

"No. Ya won't," Betelgeuse cut in, drumming his claws on the counter and twitching an eye at the shop girl as though she were somehow responsible for his wife's ignorance. "That's prolly the only thing on the menu that could actually kill ya, babes. The missus'll have a triple scoop cooties n' scream sundae, extra whipped scream on that, n' I'll be wantin' a malted roach crunch in a hot sludge dip, double scoop… er..." He hesitated, glancing shiftily from his wallet to Lydia to the eye scream girl. Finally, he grumbled inaudibly, passing a handful of oddly shaped coins and some crumpled purple bills across the counter. "Make that last one a single."

Lydia started, tugging at his cuff. "Beeeej! Get a double, I don't need a triple! I won't eat it all anyway, it's not a big deal."

"You're gettin' a triple," he asserted, before sneaking a pinch to her backside that made her yelp and flush. "Now sit that sweet ass down 'fore I bend you over my knee n' give ya a spankin' right here for all that sass."

Lydia's face screwed up in annoyance and she stuck her tongue out at him in a particularly childish gesture. She was not sassing him. Well, now she was, but she wasn't before. "You're full of shit," she retorted petulantly but obeyed the order nonetheless. "Beej," she questioned once they were seated in a corner booth, "do you have any money left?"

"Ya just saw me spend it all, the fuck you think I'm made o' dough-"

"No," she interrupted his rant before it could derail. This was a sensitive subject for him. "I don't want anything. I just want to look at it. Do you have a penny? Or… I don't know, whatever passes for a penny here."

The line of his mouth wriggled uncomfortably and he started searching his pockets, dropping various rodents and scaled creatures on the table as he went. Curiosity he could work with. Inadequacy, however, he could not. "There ya go." He slid an octagonal platinum coin her way hastily, silently apology for snapping at her.

Lydia examined it attentively, carefully tracing the ridges. "Who is this?" A regal woman adorned the face, the phrase mors vincit omnia engraved above her head. "What does that mean?"

"You're full o' questions today, ya know that?" Betelgeuse shot back dismissively. The way she angled her brow at him, lips pursing, told him that she wasn't about to let this go that easily. "Death. Conquers. All," he drawled, throwing her a wink. "'Cept you, o' course. That," he reached over, scratching his claw across the woman's stunning, cold face, "would be the Queen. Don't let that pretty face fool ya. She is one nasty piece o' work."

"The Queen…" Lydia breathed, mind racing. "So… The Prince's mom? Does that… how does that work?"

Betelgeuse's head was running circles of its own, though he was careful to school his expression into one of abject boredom. "Weelllllp," he droned, turning out his trouser pockets until the stained inner lining was pulled taut, "would ya lookit that? I'm fresh outta answers. Damn shame."

"BJ," she whined her newest nickname for him. It was his personal favorite for obvious reasons. "Quid pro quo?" She tried hopefully, batting her eyes.

"Nope," he popped back without a moment's hesitation, shocking her. He'd never turned down that offer before.

"What do you mean no?" This was not an answer Lydia was accustomed to hearing from him. Despite her insolence, he found it satisfying to see the results of how very thoroughly he'd spoiled her in action.

"I meeeaaan," he slipped an arm around her shoulders and scooted further in toward her side of the booth, "N-O. Nein. Votch. Nyet, my darlin' lil creampuff pumpkin pie." That last pet name was one he used sparingly so she wouldn't catch on to his subtle game. The greedy bastard wouldn't allow her father to keep any part of her, even this inconsequential thing.

Their eye scream arrived, but even Lydia's fickle attention span would not distract her from her goal. She poked at the "eyeballs" with her spoon, inspecting him distrustfully over the exorbitant frozen mound. She knew they were safe to eat or else he wouldn't have brought her here. No, her suspicion stemmed from his unexpected denial of her whims.

"Why not?" She pouted, scooping up a spoonful of cooties- a gelatinous pink ooze that sparkled with edible glitter and tasted like raspberries. "Don't you still find me interesting and mysterious? Isn't there aaanything else you want to know about me?"

Betelgeuse lit up a cigarette, having already downed his single scoop in one bite, and leveled her with a deadpan from the other side of the table. "Uh-uh, Lyds. You ain't playin' that card. Ain't gonna work on me."

She huffed, nostrils flaring, and popped an eyeball passed her lips rebelliously. When the fleshy, slimy, sweet treat popped beneath her teeth, a high pitched scream released inside her head. It was brief, but jarring, and served to distract her from her dangerous line of questioning. "What was that?"

Her eyes were big, both hands covering her ears as she looked about, searching for the source of the sound. Betelgeuse chuckled, used a gritty claw to pierce one of the wriggling peepers right through the pupil, taking Lydia up on her unspoken offer to share. The manufactured shriek wasn't as satisfying as the real thing, but the sound of it still brought a nasty grin to his face.

"Eye. Scream."