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EGO-typical 3

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~Groundlands~

Seán took his hands away from the computer, having just finished the last pre-recording before his flight to LA. His hand felt cramped from holding his computer mouse for too long, and he decided to knead his joint softly to ease the pain. It hadn't been easy, deciding to leave his home for two months while he stayed in a whole other country. But then, this house hadn't really felt like home in a long time.

Boxes were laid messily around, some full and sealed, some half empty. It took all of Seán's will not to heave an emotional sigh. It had been two months, after all. Two months since they'd broken up, but he still clung to the memories and happiness they'd had together before as if nothing had changed.

Pathetic, wasn't it?

Signe wasn't here today- she was out looking for apartments, equally as pained as he was with every moment she spent in this place. Seán supposed he couldn't blame her for wanting to move out- the idea had crossed his mind more than a few times. They'd lived in this house together for years, and Seán couldn't walk through the halls for even seconds without the longing memories bursting forth.

No matter. He would soon be kilometers away in Los Angeles, with Robin, and Tucker, and Mark, and Ethan...

A loud thump brought Seán out of his haze, immediately putting him on alert. Was there someone in his house? Surely he would have heard Signe come in...

He grabbed the closest weapon- which just so happened to be an old microphone, being in his studio- and cautiously headed in the direction he'd heard the sound. It seemed to have come from the bathroom, and now that he was growing near he could definitely hear the sound of running water.

"Who's there?" Seán called out, raising his microphone defensively. He'd never hit someone with a microphone before, but at least he had something other than his fist to rely on.

"Seán?"

Seán dropped his microphone in shock. That voice... Mark's voice, but where had he heard it before?

No, it couldn't be...

"D-Dark?" Seán asked nervously, opening the door to find a scene of absolute havoc.

He'd gotten a new mirror since May- after Dark had shattered his last one, that is. His bathroom had been somewhat restored to its original state, but looking at it now, Seán was taken aback at just how easily it had fallen apart.

Well, at least it wasn't the mirror this time. Unfortunately, the same couldn't be said for anything else.

The tap was broken- bent, lying in the sink as water began to bubble forth from the gaping hole in his basin. The vanity was covered in various soap remnants, their containers knocked aside as if someone had divebombed the structure from directly above it.

And Dark was there- the man he hadn't seen in two months, suit and all. His hair seemed a little longer, his clothes smeared with detergent and suds, his skin the same gray tone as always.

Seán didn't need to hear Dark's explanation to know what had happened. Obviously, Dark had attempted to come here using his mirror, which Seán had gathered was his primary means of travel. He wagered a guess that Dark hadn't accounted for the fact that the mirror was above several objects that were quite painful to fall onto.

"Shit, man, what did you do?" Seán asked, setting the microphone down on a dry patch of floor and helping Dark up. For the first time since Seán had seen him, his eyes weren't blue nor red- they were black, and somewhat teary.

"I... Anti isn't here, is he?" Dark sighed, one hand reaching up to wipe his eyes, the other planted as if holding his stomach. Seán had to wonder if that was the part of Dark's body that had broken his tap, but before he could ask, Dark stiffened in his arms.

"I need a chair," Dark said hurriedly, not waiting for Seán as he stumbled into the hallway, making a beeline towards the living room.

Seán followed hastily, second hand panic coursing through his veins. Why was Dark here? Why did he think Anti was here? Was Anti here, and Seán just hadn't realised it yet?

Why did Dark look like he'd just seen a ghost?

He arrived just in time to see the demon fall limply into a lounge chair, his chest heaving as if he was experiencing some kind of shock. Seán followed worriedly, reaching out to feel Dark's forehead.

Cold as ever...

"Dude, what was that?" Seán asked, feeling something turn in his stomach. He took a seat beside Dark, pushing his discomfort aside and dismissing it as nothing but the consequence of his sudden movement.

Dark reached out to grip Seán's hand, his knuckles turning white. His entire arm was shaking like something Seán had seen in a horror movie once.

"I..." Dark started, "I've just been in counsel with the doctors, and..."

"And?" Seán pressed, the strange feeling in his stomach growing with every breath he took. He began to sweat nervously.

Dark looked him in the eyes, sad and desperate for something Seán didn't quite know how to place.

"I'm carrying a child..." the demon uttered, closing his eyes in pain.

The following silence was thick enough to smother him as Seán gaped at the man before him. Confusion mixed with denial, mixed with panic flooded through him and he couldn't help but fall back in his chair, feeling faint.

"I- you're- you're pregnant?" Seán uttered, his voice barely more than a squeak. "No, how can-?"

Then, Seán remembered. The last day he'd spent with Dark, all those weeks ago, he'd been starting his period. If Dark had periods like regular women, then Seán supposed that there was nothing stopping him from getting pregnant like them as well.

"However unlikely," Dark started, his voice just above a whisper. "However abnormal it is, I seem... I seem to have missed two menstrual cycles, Seán... It scares me, how much I still do not know about the capabilities of this form. Of course, I checked with the doctors before coming to this conclusion- but none of that is important, now. I only wish to find Anti, and I had hoped... I had hoped he'd be here,"

Seán blinked, trying to let the information settle in, but the tingles running through his body were distracting at the very least.

"I..." Seán started, but he couldn't finish his sentence before he found himself knocked back by an internal force, watching the scene unfold as if through someone else's eyes.

"Dark!" his voice scolded, though he'd never told his mouth to say the word. "Vhat are you doing?! Travelling vith a child is dangerous!"

Was that Schneep?!

Dark looked crestfallen. "I- I know, doctor, but I had to find him, he's been gone for a week now and-"

Seán felt his eyes roll, almost as if he was discrediting Dark's worry, when in reality, he was confused and concerned both for the demon and for himself. Was it really Schneep? How had he taken over Seán's body like this- how was he even here?

Seán felt his chest heave as he huffed suddenly. "Zat is no excuse, Dark. Es ist sehr unhealthy to be treating your child zis vay- you could have left zhem behind, und zat vould have killed zhem! You cannot travel anymore, Dark, for ze safety of du und deine kind!"

"But I can't stay-"

"You should have thought of zat before you did something so foolish, Dark,"

Seán suddenly became conscious of his own breathing, his skin tingling all over as if his body was awake again. He flexed his fingers experimentally, finally feeling that he was in control again.

"Gah!" Seán cried, now that he had the chance. He fixed Dark with a scared, confused expression. "What the fook was that?!"

Dark took a shuddering breath, his eyes closed, his hair flowing slightly in the breeze coming from the closest window. He looked troubled, but Seán was absolutely livid.

"Dark, seriously! I don't- I don't know what to do about any of this!"

"I am terribly sorry," Dark uttered, not meeting Seán's eyes. "I... I did not mean for you to be caught up in all of this. I simply thought... I thought Anti might have been possessing your body,"

"Why would he do that, though?" Seán asked, tears of confused bewilderment beading in the corners of his eyes. "He's never possessed me without killing me first!"

"I know that," Dark sighed. "But I haven't been able to find him in the Void, and it's crucial that I do,"

"Why do you need to find him so desperately- couldn't you have just stayed where you live?"

Dark's eyes met Seán's own challengingly. "Because he is the father of my child, Seán. He has as much of a right as I to know that we are expecting, and given that he has been missing for the past week, the knowledge has only fueled me to find him faster,"

Wait.

Anti was the father?

"Oh my Lord," Seán sighed in defeat, holding his face in his hands. "When I said date him, I didn't mean-"

"Do you honestly think I want a child this early in our relationship?" Dark asked incredulously. "Though I will love them unconditionally, the timing could not be more inconvenient- especially since Anti and I are going through a tough place right now..."

"So... so Anti wasn't in your Void," Seán uttered, trying to piece together some form of understanding. "So you assumed he was here?"

"It's not just that, Seán," Dark explained, giving up on wiping his teary eyes as the fluids spilled forth. "His house was gone- he left in a rage and he usually goes to his place to cool down, but when I followed him it- it wasn't there, I... I was so certain he'd be here... I'm such a fool,"

Seán sighed loudly. "No, you're not a fool, you're just way too worried for your own damn good. Now tell me- was that Schneep that just spoke through me?"

Dark bit his lip and nodded grimly. "Yes, it was. He was... concerned about me coming here, to say the least,"

"Yeah, I gathered that," Seán stated. "It's just... he said you couldn't travel back, right? I heard that correctly?"

"When I use mirrors for transportation," Dark started, "my body undergoes a physical change. In the Void, my actions affect my body, but it is not all there... when I came here, I knew something was wrong. I felt... heavier. Less stable. I panicked, and fell, and that's where you found me..."

Dark licked his lips nervously. "I fear he is right- I wasn't thinking clearly when I came here, and it could have cost me the life of my child. I'm not going to put them at risk again, but... I don't want this to impact you, Seán- I'm so sorry I let this happen, I-"

"Calm down, Dark," Seán urged, patting the demon's hand softly. "We'll... we'll find a way to make this work. Except... ugh, I'm meant to be catching a plane tonight, there won't be any tickets left for you,"

"Where were you going?" Dark asked curiously, his other hand never leaving his abdomen as if he was scared someone would hurt the baby growing within.

"Los Angeles," Seán answered. "I've been... I've been going through some shit,"

Dark's eyebrows furrowed. "Is that why there are so many boxes around? Are you moving away?"

Seán's breath hitched in his throat, his already sore eyes beginning to prickle with unwitting tears. "N-no, that's... that's Signe,"

There was silence for a moment.

"Oh," Dark said, rubbing his stomach softly. "I apologise,"

"It's... fine," Seán sighed in response. "It's nothing, don't worry,"

Dark wasn't fooled. If Seán looked hard enough, he could see a tinge of blue in Dark's regretful  eyes.

"If you insist, I shall let it be," Dark replied, though he looked like he had many more things to say. "I can see that I have come at a difficult time for you- I do not have to stay with you if it makes things easier, I... I can manage. Do not let me impose any further on your life, Seán- I've done enough,"

"No," Seán responded, shaking his head. "Don't give me that- you have nowhere to go! You're a pregnant dude- you'll get strange looks and the government will come after you- I won't let you just go out and throw your life away! And- and what if Anti comes looking for you?"

Dark got a pained look, closing his eyes and gritting his teeth. "Antithesis... he won't want me near. Why would he? I've been awfully inconsiderate and objectively horrible with him, there's no wonder he'd want to leave the way he did..."

"Why did he leave?" Seán asked, figuring this was something they should discuss. Dark had already mentioned it twice now- it must be important.

Dark met his eyes, squeezing Seán's hand softly. "It... It's easier to show you. Do you mind?"

Seán had no hesitation in shaking his head, and before he knew it he was plunged into a sea of memories. Though the experience wasn't entirely new, Seán still couldn't say he found it pleasant. It was just like the sensation of being possessed- you could only watch someone take control of your soul's vessel, doing things you'd never do, making mistakes that could have been avoided.

This time was no different, it seemed.

He was lying on top of a large bed, shirtless, it seemed. Above him was a familiar face- Anti, but flushed and heated, blood flowing endlessly from his neck, trailing down his seemingly naked body.

Seán was thankful that Dark had been looking up- though he knew this was a very intimate scene, and he knew exactly what was happening, it was a lot easier to focus on what was important when his eyes were averted.

"You'll be fine, darling," Dark was saying, looking directly into the glowing green irises that stared down at him worriedly.

"You're sure about this? I don't... I don't want to mess this up, or-"

"Oh, Anti..." Dark chuckled breathlessly, and Seán's vision went black. When he could see again, he pieced together that Dark had kissed Anti- the fact was confirmed when Anti seemed to flush a little brighter.

"You've nothing to worry about- I'm here, and it's just us. I won't judge you for anything you're concerned about, I promise you. Don't you trust me, too?"

Anti swallowed, still looking nervous. "I... okay. Um, so I just...?"

Dark suddenly closed his eyes and let out a needy moan, and if Seán still had control of his own body he'd have blushed out of discomfort. As a straight male, this scene didn't appeal to him at all, and he was only interested in knowing exactly what had made his alter ego walk away from his unexpected houseguest. The only thing keeping Seán from leaving was the knowledge that this memory was important- there was something here he needed to know.

Something hidden beneath the obvious sex that the two egos were having.

"Yes, Anti, just like that..."

"Is there... Is there meant to be blood?"

"Just keep going, sweetheart, it's okay,"

"A-are you sure?"

"I'm positive, Anti. I've been with men that are far more likely to break me than you are,"

"I... okay,"

"Doesn't it feel good?"

"Mhm..."

Seán was ever grateful that Dark's eyes were shut- he didn't think he'd ever need the visual to accompany these sounds. Thankfully, the scene soon shifted, but Seán didn't know what it was that he'd really needed to know from that information.

Now, he was standing in a fancy looking room, looking at a large group of assembled egos. Seán recognised all of his own- even Tommy Tickler and Clint Powers, who weren't meant to be egos in the first place, but then... well, had Seán made anyone up with the intent of bringing them to life?

Then, there were Mark's egos- though there were too many to count, a few stood out to him. Wilford Warfstache, the most popular- he had his arm around JJ. Seán vaguely remembered Dark letting him know that the two were an item- but it just seemed so strange to him, looking at copies of himself and Mark acting all loved up.

Was this what fanfiction felt like?

Then, he saw a robot that he recognised as Google, the character Mark had made with Matthias. Google seemed to be doing fine, except that he was notably missing an arm, and he looked fairly bored. Next to Google sat Chase, with an ego that Seán assumed was Bing. He looked fairly different to his appearance in Mark's 2017 spoof, but the logo on his chest didn't lie. Chase and Bing were holding hands, the father sitting in the android's lap, both making eye contact with Dark.

Seán shuddered. He knew that some of his egos were dating Mark's- but surely it wasn't this many...

He decided to tune into what Dark was saying, feeling that that was somewhat more important than just ogling at all of his own creations.

"It has come to my attention that a select few of you are not heeding my warnings regarding the treatment of one Antithesis- do I have to demonstrate the cost of refusing my will?"

"He pulled the knife first!" Jackieboy interceded, looking positively livid, staring at someone who stood by Dark's side. It must have been Anti, though Dark didn't spare a glance at him, instead narrowing his eyes at the superhero.

"But he didn't attack you, did he?"

"If I'd given him the chance he would have-!"

"No I wouldn't have!" Anti interrupted. "I-!"

"I don't care for your prejudice, super. If he is threatened once more by any of you, I will show you just how unforgiving demons can be,"

Dark then turned to face Anti, who looked rather upset.

"What is the matter, my sweet?"

"I could have handled that," Anti huffed, glaring at Dark like a teenager who didn't get his own way. "I thought you weren't going to baby me anymore,"

"Darling, please, it isn't babying. I'm just concerned for your wellbeing,"

"But-"

"Anti," Dark said, brushing some hair from Anti's forehead and planting a kiss there. "It's all resolved now, they won't dare to hurt you again,"

Anti started to speak, but Dark kissed him on his lips, effectively shutting him up. Seán found the experience strange indeed, considering from his point of view it was like kissing himself. But he pushed that train of thought to the side and watched the scene play out to the end.

"You know I care for you, right?"

Anti sighed, smiling, though Seán could see in his eyes that he wasn't really happy at all. "Y-yeah, I know..."

It shifted again.

"Why don't you ever talk to me?!"

It looked like night, and Seán was in Dark's bedroom once more, though the scene he was witnessing was hardly as intimate as the last that had taken place here. Anti was standing, crying, knife in his hand and fresh slits littered haphazardly across his forearm. His eyes were brighter than normal, his appearance glitching slightly as he continued to shout.

"It's like you always know everything about me- things I don't even want you to see, but you never even tell me about you! Don't you trust me? Because I think I trust you too m-much!"

"Anti, please-"

"Please what?!" Anti hissed, holding the knife to his throat. "I'll do it, you know! You may know everything about me, but that doesn't mean you own me!"

Dark was obviously panicked. His vision was patchy, his body rocking unsteadily as if he was going to collapse. Seán couldn't blame him- if he'd walked in on someone close to him holding a knife to their throat and threatening to kill themself, he'd be shocked and upset as well.

"Please, don't hurt yourself," Dark urged, voice feeble and cracking slightly. "I don't want you to-"

"Oh, you don't want me to? How rich!" Anti seethed, eyes flashing. Seán felt chills to his bone as the knife pressed a little deeper, opening the wound in his neck just a little wider. "Do you ever think about what I want?!"

"Of course I-"

"No!" Anti scowled, something in his green aura seeming to throw Dark off his feet. The demon stumbled, the sudden view change almost giving Seán a sense of vertigo as Dark struggled to get to his feet.

"You never ask me what I want! You do what you think I want without even checking with me first! I don't want to be your stupid pet! I want to have my own life- not just follow you around and get kicked down by everyone here, knowing I can't defend myself! I just- I just want to be a person!"

Anti dragged the blade across his throat harshly, the blood barely even having time to spatter before it disintegrated along with him. Dark blinked a few times, looking at the empty space before him, before letting out a choked sob.

Suddenly, Seán found himself back in his own body, and he blinked several times to make the light spots go away. Dark was sitting there without words, staring down at his lap.

"I'm sorry, Seán, I... I couldn't handle seeing that again,"

Seán didn't know what to say. He could understand both sides here- Anti obviously felt like he was being put down, but Dark thought that this was the best way to protect him. There was an obvious lack of communication between them about their wants, desires, and needs.

Having been a victim of such similar circumstances, Seán's heart reached out to Dark. It was hard maintaining a relationship without a balance- especially when there was so much judgment.

"I'm sorry," Seán said, his mouth dry. "For what happened between you and Anti, I... I wish there was something I could do,"

Dark, for the first time since he'd arrived, smiled. It wasn't a happy smile, per se- but rather a knowing one.

"You're a blessing, Seán. To me and to your viewers. But I'm afraid this matter is between me and my lover, not between me and you. There is little you can do to help, rather than giving me your support on my inevitable journey through the joys of motherhood... fatherhood?"

Seán chuckled despite the dreary atmosphere that the room had developed. "Never quite sure with you. But seriously- I know... um, I know it's not much, but I can give you a place to stay, and I'm sure Mark will know what to do,"

"Mark?" Dark asked, somewhat sadly. "Ah, yes... of course. I had forgotten that he lived in the city of angels."

"What's the matter?"

Dark sighed. "I doubt he'll have forgiven me for my misdeeds against you, despite your insistence that it is fine between us."

"Oh, shit, I forgot about that," Seán swallowed, only just now remembering that he had, in fact, become much more closely acquainted with Dark than he perhaps needed to in May. 

"If only I could do the same," Dark answered, squeezing Seán's hand in reassurance. "I notice you seem to want to take me with you to Los Angeles, but you didn't have two tickets?"

Seán sighed. "I'll book two more as soon as I can, but I'm not leaving you here to fend for yourself- you've got a baby for Christ's sake..."

Dark smiled softly, looking down at his stomach again. "Indeed. Though it may not be the case for you, I know that the day of their birth will be worth every moment of turmoil that I have faced..."

Seán couldn't help but smile in return. "Got any names yet?"

Dark scoffed playfully. "I don't even know their gender, and I'd hardly make a decision without Anti... I only hope he will come for me, though he may want to forget that I even exist... I suppose my disappearance must have made it easier for him."

"Hey, he just needs to blow off some steam," Seán said, despite not entirely believing it. Anti had definitely been shown to hold a grudge for years on end. "He'll come for you, I promise,"

Seán didn't like to make empty promises- he only hoped that Anti would eventually realise that he missed Dark more than he loathed his overbearing nature. He didn't think he could survive until Dark gave birth without Anti- didn't want to see the crestfallen look on the demon's face when he should be overjoyed and ecstatic about the promise of a child.

A child... what was this tale coming to?

Seán didn't know how it would end. All he could do was buckle up and try to enjoy the ride.

Chapter Text

~Void~

Dr. Iplier was pacing around his office, each minute passing sending more worry coursing through his veins. The day had been a rollercoaster- Dark had come bursting into the room claiming that he'd missed two periods and something was wrong, and of course the doctors had to cease what they were doing to check on him. They were, after all, the only egos that knew of Dark's female organs in the first place- as well as being the only ones semi-qualified to help him with such matters.

Dr. Iplier recalled the first time Dark had needed his help with something like this- he'd only just come into existence, and there were a few brothers of his own, yet there were no Septiceyes but Anti. Dark had pulled him away from the others and into a separate room, and then he had asked the doctor if he could surgically remove his female reproductive system.

Of course, the doctor had obliged. The demon had taken him in, after all, and it would have been rude to refuse. But once Dark was laid out on the operating table, stripped bare and vulnerable, it became clear that his body couldn't be mutilated- even if he wanted it to be. The scalpel left marks that healed immediately, not letting the doctor get past even the first layer of skin. They'd tried everything- Dark had sat there calmly while Dr. Iplier summoned progressively more dangerous and extreme weapons to try and get to his internal organs, nothing making even a scratch- though the chainsaw almost did the trick.

Eventually, Dark had given up. He'd accepted that he would have to deal with his female body forever, and had conceded to allowing the doctor to run check ups on him every so often to ensure that nothing was wrong.

The doctor had noticed he seemed to be growing weaker in the past few weeks- the manor itself seemed to waver some days like it was a mirage, and he often found Dark sitting when he would usually stand. He knew something was up, but he'd just assumed it had something to do with Anti- after all, the glitch was very high maintenance. Taking care of him and keeping him out of trouble was surely exhausting enough.

But he'd never have thought it was related to Dark's menstrual cycle. That news had certainly come as a surprise. A mildly concerning surprise, albeit.

Before they'd brought out any machines or testing equipment, they'd asked Dark several health related questions to rule out certain diseases and other inhibitions. Truly, this was a new experience for everyone involved- as far as the doctor had been concerned, Dark simply couldn't contract a disease, but he seemed to have all of the symptoms of endometriosis- or perhaps worse, uterine cancer.

"Are you sexually active?" Henrik asked, moving down his checklist. Dark didn't hesitate to nod, not giving any further information regarding the subject. Dr. Iplier was almost inclined to ask who he was with, but the answer was quite obvious. Dark wouldn't sneak around behind Anti's back, after all.

"Does he have any infections, possibly?" Henrik questioned further, also having figured out just who Dark had been sleeping with.

Dark closed his eyes in thought. "I don't think so, doctor. His body is immaterial, after all,"

Henrik made a note of that in his margins, before hesitating, his pen halted on the page.

"How long have you been sexually active, Dark?"

"A little over two months," Dark said, seeming to come to the same conclusion that the doctors had. "You don't think... you don't think it has something to do with Anti, do you?"

"It may," Henrik sighed. "Doc, vhat do you think?"

Dr. Iplier had swallowed uncomfortably. "I'm sorry if this seems invasive, but was the sex you were having anal or vaginal?"

Dark sighed. "Vaginal. I thought it seemed... easier for him to adjust. Less preparation and all. Don't be afraid to ask questions, doctor, please. I'm terribly concerned by how my body is behaving as of late,"

"Have you been bleeding at all?" Henrik asked, pen poised. "Regularly or not?"

Dark swallowed. "The first time... there was a little blood, yes. Irregular. But I haven't bled since, and it's proving quite disruptive to my regular schedule."

"Ve are going to have to test you for infections and diseases, is zat okay?"

Dark nodded with grim determination. "Do what you must, please,"

Dr. Iplier held out his hand, stopping Henrik as he prepared to open a pap smear. "Hen, we should test him for physical signs of cancer or other uterine diseases- that would explain the swelling and abnormal bleeding. The timing could all be coincidental with something greater, and we shouldn't take the risk of waiting for the results of a smear."

Henrik nodded, patting his lover's hand. "Good thinking, Doc. Dark, ve are going to hook you up to ze ultrasound machine und check ze state of your uterine system,"

Dark sighed, but nodded anyway, unbuttoning his shirt. He lay patiently on the bed that Dr. Iplier gestured to as the doctors let their minds fill with predictions of the worst.

If Dark really did have uterine cancer, it was going to be impossible to execute the hysterectomy required to remove the affected organ. Dr. Iplier didn't know if cancer would affect Dark as it affected other humans, but considering his weakness when subjected to whatever was happening, the doctor could only assume it would make him worse over time. He only wished he'd find nothing abnormal on the screen as Henrik smeared some cool gel onto Dark's unusually swollen abdomen.

Dr. Iplier stared at the screen of the ultrasound machine he'd summoned, trying to find something out of the ordinary. So far, all he could see was a mass of blurred grey lines, but as Henrik moved the probe, he found what he needed to see.

Except, why was it moving?

The room then fell silent. Instead of a cyst or any sign of cancer, Dr. Iplier had seen something far more concerning.

A fetus.

"My God..." Dr. Iplier breathed, asking Henrik to hold the probe a little to the left. "Hen, take a look at this, I... I need another opinion to make a proper diagnosis,"

There was just no way that Dark was pregnant. He had to be seeing things. Right?

Henrik had leaned around, flinching, almost dropping the probe in shock. He held it still as he gawked in surprise at the moving image on the screen before him. It seems that Dr. Iplier wasn't the only one who couldn't believe his eyes.

"What? What's wrong?" Dark asked, somewhat panicked. "What did you find?"

"Dark..." Dr. Iplier started, not knowing quite how to word this. "The... The good news is that you don't have cancer,"

Dark didn't look at all soothed by that prospect, clutching his abdomen softly. "What's the bad news, then?"

"I wouldn't call it bad, per se," Dr. Iplier swallowed. He looked to his fiance for support, and Henrik spoke up.

"Zere is a fetus growing inside deine vomb, Dark. You are pregnant,"

The air was so thick you could cut it with a knife. Neither doctor knew quite what to say as Dark lay there, eyes wide and trained on the probe touching his skin.

"Pregnant..." Dark uttered as if the word was foreign to him. "Are you certain?"

"Look for yourself," Dr. Iplier urged, moving the screen so that Dark could see just what had the doctors so concerned.

The look of absolute bewilderment that overcame Dark's features was one that Dr. Iplier was sure he'd never quite forget. Dark didn't seem angry or even concerned, he just looked gobsmacked and taken aback. He stared at the screen a little longer than necessary, his eyes shifting slightly from deep black to a dark blue.

"I'm... I'm a little shocked, I apologise," Dark breathed, unable to tear his eyes from the screen.

Dr. Iplier cleared his throat. "If you wish to abort, it isn't too late, but the method-"

"I don't want to abort," Dark cut him off, sitting upright and letting Henrik remove the probe from his skin. "I've taken enough lives, let alone the one of my child,"

"But Dark- I haven't seen a pregnancy take this much of a toll on anyone before," Dr. Iplier urged. "It's a cause for worry- and I understand that this child must be precious to you, but think of the ramifications of keeping it."

Dark's eyes flashed dangerously. "I will not let you harm them, doctor,"

Dr. Iplier swallowed. "I... okay, it's your choice,"

Dark seemed content with that, though his fingers had begun to twitch as if he was eager to be done here. "Thank you. Was it possible to tell how old the child is, or its gender?"

Henrik shook his head sadly. "Vhile glancing at ze head und ze ear, vhich I could clearly see, ze fetus seems to be between zwanzig und sechsundzwanzig Wochen alt. From ze position, I could not determine ze gender."

Dark cocked his head in disbelief. "But... But I've only been active for the last eight weeks, how can-?"

"Ich weiß es nicht," Henrik sighed. "Perhaps ze child simply grows faster zhan a regular human fetus,"

Dark stood, steadying himself with one hand while using the other to button up his shirt. "Thank you, doctors, your help has been invaluable. I must find Anti and tell him this news..."

"Dark, vait!" Henrik called as Dark strode from the room, following the demon into the hall.

That was the last time Dr. Iplier had seen them, and it had been a long ten minutes they'd been gone. He was about to resume his pacing when Henrik appeared as if from thin air before him, steadying himself on the hospital bed. Dr. Iplier rushed over to help him, and the other doctor answered his unspoken question immediately.

"Ze fool has gone to ze Groundlands," Henrik groaned. "I varned him of ze dangers, und hopefully he vill not return until ze baby is born,"

"But-" Dr. Iplier started.

Henrik shook his head. "I von't let him throw away ze life of an innocent kind, mein Schatz. He is to stay zere until zey are born, und zat is final,"

Dr. Iplier bit his lip. "If... If he's gone again, why is the manor still here?"

Henrik looked around curiously. "I imagine zat Vilford had something to do vith it, especially as Dark vas conscious of his veakness. He likely enlisted Vilford to take over so zat he could rest- I don't blame him. Carrying a child is hard vork,"

Dr. Iplier sighed, holding his lover close to him. "It certainly seems so. I just... I just hope he has some sense about him while he's there,"

Henrik smiled softly. "Do not vorry, mein Schatz. Er ist vith Jack, he von't let Dark get into trouble,"

"I hope so," Dr. Iplier muttered, still holding onto Henrik despite the necessity of his touch having passed. Henrik made no move to leave the embrace.

"Me as vell,"

0o0o0o0o0o0

"Why are you following me?"

Blank scowled as he turned around, seeing the man that had been close on his trail flinch in surprise. He certainly looked familiar, Blank could tell. But no names came forth, and Blank decided that he didn't feel like socialising to find out what the weird guy was called.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to impose," he spoke, his voice eloquent. "I just have this sense of deja vu following me when I see your face, and my curiosity is getting the better of me,"

Blank rolled his eyes, though nothing betrayed the movement but the slight pulse of his eyebrows, given that his iris and sclera were both pitch black. "Well, you can stop following me now, I don't know you,"

The man held out a gloved hand, obviously wanting to shake Blank's hand, but Blank wasn't so trusting. He stared challengingly into the man's eyes, but found that he didn't falter.

"I'm Benjamin," he greeted, and Blank could certainly see that name fitting him quite well. "Though I also go by Xyler. What should I call you?"

"I'm Blank," Blank said, cocking his head to the side. "Now you know my name, so fuck off,"

Blank took pleasure in just how affronted the posh looking man seemed at his vulgar language.

"I don't mean to be rude, but I'm in need of finding a man who goes by the name 'Dark', do you have any hints for me as to his whereabouts?"

Blank sighed. "If I tell you where he lives, will you leave me alone?"

"If that will make you happy, then I shall endeavor to take my leave from your presence,"

"That was a yes or no question," Blank huffed. "The manor is this way. You can't miss it- it's all big and creepy looking, with a bunch of dead trees around it. The only building for miles around here,"

"Would you accompany me?"

Blank sighed in frustration. "What, too much of a scaredy-cat to go on your own?"

Xyler bit his lip. For some reason, Blank felt the need to help him on his way.

Only so that he would leave me alone, Blank reasoned.

"Come on then, you big loser," Blank huffed, grabbing Xyler's sleeve and tugging him in the direction of the manor. "Keep up."

"My thanks to you," Xyler replied, stumbling forward as he tried to match Blank's pacing.

Blank may have agreed to help him out, but that didn't mean he had to be nice about it. Something about the man was charming, in its own way. But Blank refused to fall into the same trap twice. Pretty eyes, a hot body, a few little, lovable quirks- they all led to the same thing. Embarrassment, and segregation.

Blank never thought he'd come by the manor ever again, especially after what had happened there last year. But this time, he swore he'd keep his distance. Being recognised was the last thing he needed.

He felt his hand slip subconsciously into Xyler's own, though the other man paid it no mind. Blank huffed to himself, walking a little faster to conceal his growing blush.

He really needed to stop falling in love at first sight.

~Groundlands~

"Police were called to Laguna Hills early last Thursday to investigate the age old mystery of the murder of Mark Doom, who went missing from his luxury home in California in October of 1935. The actor was best known for his performance in 'Angelica', an arthouse film that grossed over 3.6 million dollars in the box office, but his career came to an abrupt end after the man mysteriously vanished from his manor, his last documented appearance noted as the evening of October 13th, 1935."

Markiplier yawned a little as the television continued to hum in his ears, the patrons of the bar around him paying the tale no mind as it unfolded. He hadn't made headlines in years- oh, how he'd missed the spotlight. Though the event of his 'death' was placed next to such inferior stories as 'sports' and 'cancer treatment', it was a start.

"Another, if you please," he commanded to the bartender, who was watching him with relentlessly curious eyes.

"You look familiar," the bartender said as he mixed Mark another drink. "You new around these parts?"

Markiplier grinned devilishly. "No, I'm no tourist to California. I've lived here for a long time,"

The bartender didn't seem fazed, sliding the drink over to the ridiculous looking man in what looked like a bathrobe. "You want the tab now?"

Markiplier smirked over his glass. "Come, meet me out the back, good fellow. I seem to have left my wallet in my automobile,"

Markiplier had no intent of paying his tab. His money, after all, had been divided among various charities as stated in his will upon his death, and he was no longer entitled to a cent of it. However, he had a plan to remedy this. He couldn't find his way without money, after all, and what better way to acquire quick cash than murder?

One he and the bartender were away from prying eyes, Mark took out his new switchblade (It had belonged to someone who had been renting his old manor- the man wouldn't be missing it. After all, he was the one who had stumbled upon Mark's 'dead' body, and was likely still in hysterics) and plunged it into the man's side, muffling his cry of pain with his own sleeve. Two more stabs and the man was dead, blood covering the ground and seeping into the bushes outside the establishment.

Markiplier was grateful that he had the cover of night, but after having encountered death, nothing much scared him anymore. He roughly removed the bartender's jacket and trousers, deciding that his robe was simply too inconspicuous to wear in a crowd. He was sure to be recognised, and that would only hinder his plans in the long run.

Shrugging away the robe and wincing slightly as air hit his multiple open wounds, he put on the clothes he'd stolen, pleased to find that the tears made by his blade were barely noticeable, the dark jacket hiding the bloodstain remarkably well. Though he'd soon have to change his clothes again, these would suffice for now.

He kicked aside the dead man and wrapped his old robe around the corpse, glancing around for cameras. Satisfied and holding a new wallet with a decent amount of cash inside, he set course for Los Angeles.

He couldn't wait for this family reunion to finally take place.

 

Chapter Text

~Groundlands~

"Sorry, I'm gonna have to cancel lunch tomorrow,"

Seán was picking out a few spare shirts to wear over the next few days, considering that the flight he was packing for wasn't going ahead- for him, anyways. He'd gone online and had booked two tickets for the next flight, which was scheduled two days from now, so it wasn't that much of an inconvenience- but still, he found himself going through his calendar and sorting out which events he could make over which he couldn't.

He'd just gotten off the phone with Robin, not explaining in detail why he couldn't catch his flight, and leaving it up to the man's interpretation. Thankfully, Robin didn't want to pry- he was always content with as much information as Seán wanted to provide. He'd said it was okay for Seán to drop by whenever- at least that call ended well.

Now, he was on the phone with Mark, who had plans to go out for lunch with him, Amy, and Ethan tomorrow. He was also going to spend the first week or so of his stay at Mark's house, though he didn't want to let anyone but the two of them know that. He knew the rumours would be spreading as soon as his explanation video hit, anyway- whenever 'Jack' and 'LA' were in the same sentence, Septiplier fans would freak out and assume they were organising some kind of secret wedding or something, and confirming that he was going to be in contact with Mark was just going to tip them over the edge.

So he wasn't disclosing any information about where he was staying. Really, it wasn't like the fans even needed to know, was it?

"Wait, why not?"

"Because something came up, and I've had to reschedule my flight," Seán sighed to himself looking down at an old graphic tee. "Nothing major- well, actually, that's a lie,"

"What happened?"

Seán took a deep breath. "I might... I might be bringing someone along with me."

"You and Signe are both coming? Does that mean you're back together now?"

Seán sighed heavily, the fact that Mark couldn't see his emotional upheaval doing nothing to console him. "N-no, Mark, we're not... It's not Signe, it's Dark,"

There was nothing but static on the line for a few seconds. Seán worried his lip between his teeth, tensing when he heard Mark's sigh through the receiver.

"Please," Mark started, "Please tell me you didn't say what I thought you said,"

"Look, Mark, what else was I supposed to do? He has nowhere to go,"

"He hurt you the last time he stayed with you, you can understand why I don't trust him-"

"Mark," Seán sighed. "You'll be there if something happens, just use that to soothe your worries. Besides, you don't know his motive, and I do. It's all been resolved, and he's in absolutely no state to attempt anything against me, or you for that matter. He's... fragile,"

More silence. Seán was only able to compose himself by knowing that if Mark knew the full story, he'd be even more confused. It was better this way, right?

"... Fragile?"

"Just..." Seán grimaced, dropping the shirt with a sigh. "You'll understand when we get there, okay?"

Mark groaned on the other side of the line. "Just... just text me when you're about to leave, yeah?"

"Of course," Seán hummed. "Bye, Mark."

He reluctantly put his phone down, letting out a breath of annoyance. It wasn't that he didn't trust Dark around Mark- quite the opposite. He knew Mark wouldn't hurt anyone unless they deserved it, but Dark was trying to atone for everything he'd done, and Mark was just ignoring that. Surely Dark's efforts should be taken into account before his judgment...

Seán looked up when he heard the door open, seeing Dark standing there, looking concerned.

"My suit appears to be... compromised," Dark muttered, holding out his sleeve. It was littered with various light stains- it seemed that the various soaps and detergents Dark had fallen onto earlier hadn't gone out without a fight.

"You can wear something of mine," Seán said with no hesitation, tossing him one of the shirts he was sorting through. Dark smiled gratefully, unbuttoning his own tuxedo and shirt and shrugging them off- and that's when Seán noticed the rather large bump around his pelvis. He couldn't help but stare.

"Is there... a problem?" Dark asked, cocking his head to the side.

"No, no- it's just, how did you not notice that?" Seán chuckled, observing just how much the bump was protruding from Dark's abdomen. Lord knows if he had anything like this happen to him, he'd have figured it out before it got to this state.

Dark looked down, placing his hand above his belly button and keeping it there. "Truthfully, I haven't the slightest. It seems in these matters I am rather unobservant."

"Yeah, no shit," Seán snorted.

"Do you want to feel?"

The Irishman looked up to meet Dark's eyes, seeing something lingering in those black irises that he couldn't quite place. Something akin to mirth, he decided.

What was the harm?

"Sure," Seán decided, letting Dark guide his hand to rest on the bump, the grey skin feeling warm to the touch.

"It's like she's sucking all the heat out of ye," Seán grinned, marveling at the fact that there was an actual tiny person beneath his hand. "This is the warmest you've been since I've known you,"

Dark's eyes crinkled as he smiled, his own hand pressing down on his abdomen as well, feeling around as if waiting for a response. "She?"

Seán then remembered that the gender of the baby was actually unknown- perhaps he'd passed too many mpreg fanfics on the internet lately. They always seemed to end in a female child being born- it was like baby boys weren't cute to the mass of fangirls that read them. He shrugged. 

"Seems like a she,"

Then, he felt something pushing against his hand- like a little fist, but muffled beyond recognition. His eyes widened, and he pressed just a little harder, trying to get the child's attention again.

"She's kicking," Dark breathed, fingers trailing across his skin fondly. "Oh dear, I suppose she's been trying to get my attention all this time... I'd just thought it was new relationship nerves,"

Another kick, this time a little more forceful. Seán let out a bark of laughter.

"Sounds like she didn't like that,"

Dark met Seán's eyes with a smile, looking more relaxed than Seán had ever seen him. "Thank you again, Seán."

Seán waved away his thanks- honestly, how could anyone hold a grudge against someone who apologised so profusely and so genuinely? 

"Don't mention it, man. We're cool."

Dark then pulled the shirt up, over his head, and tried to wriggle it over his bump. He almost succeeded, save for the small amount of skin he was showing where the shirt rode up. He looked down at it with a small sigh.

"That's gonna be hard to hide at the airport," Seán frowned. "You think you could pass it off as a beer belly?"

"Perhaps," Dark uttered. "Though there is a much easier option that I'm sure you will agree is better."

"What is it?" Seán asked, raising an eyebrow.

Dark smiled softly. "Tell me, Seán, have you ever ventured into the maternity section of a clothing store?"

~Void~

Yandereplier looked up at the manor with an overwhelming ache in his heart. He'd just arrived in the Void again after his evident death, and after taking a few moments to adjust, he'd sat down and stayed there.

He'd been thinking. He'd like to say he was thinking about many things, but the one thing that continually crossed his mind was Marvin. What did he do after Yan had died? Did he miss Yan? had he been upset at all? Or did he go about his days without even thinking of the red haired schoolboy? Considering the fight they'd had just seemingly hours ago, it certainly seemed Marvin was glad to be rid of him...

Of course he misses me, Yan tried to tell himself. I was his boyfriend for over a year... surely that means something, right?

Yan just wasn't sure. And even worse, he wasn't sure if he really wanted to see Marvin without knowing what to expect. It could either go splendidly or horrifically, and Yan just didn't want to take that chance.

He sniffled, trying to hold back his tears as he rested his back against a tree- he wasn't sure when the tree had appeared, but there was no mistaking the feeling of hard wood pressing into his shoulders. He let out a long sigh.

Life had been so much simpler when he hadn't had emotions. Before he'd fallen for Marvin. Before he'd let himself become so... vulnerable

Yan shuddered.

"You having doubts about your love life too, huh?"

Yan didn't even flinch at the sound of his killer's voice, closing his eyes and huffing.

"Go away, Anti, leave me alone."

Anti frowned, looking down at the schoolboy with disappointment. "I was trying to reach out to you, you know?"

Yan gritted his teeth, refraining from summoning a blade. He only killed for Senpai. "You killed me. You killed me, and took my Senpai from me for God knows how long, why should I want to listen to you?"

Anti sat beside him, his skin touching Yan's just barely, drawing his knees to his chest. Yan could see that for whatever reason, he didn't have his knife with him. Yan supposed he must have left it buried in some other poor soul's heart.

"You were trying to kill me, remember?" Anti asked as if it was obvious.

Yan huffed in return, shifting so that he wasn't making contact with the glitch any longer. "You tried to hurt Marvin."

"Yes," Anti admitted, not even sounding ashamed. "I did. You of all people should know why."

There was a tense silence. Yan considered summoning a knife to pick his nails, but decided that Anti may see it as a threat. Yan very much liked being alive, and now that he was back, he didn't plan on leaving anytime soon.

"I did kill him, after you were out of the way,"

Yan saw red, flinching, his hands balling into fists. "You what?!"

Anti rolled his eyes. "We've moved past it, now. I see no reason to keep bringing up the battles of the past,"

"I sincerely doubt that Marvin's forgiven you," Yan sighed. "He's just... not the type,"

"Dark didn't give him a choice," Anti stated matter-of-factly.

Yan scoffed. "Right. And why are you here, huh? Didn't Dark kill you when he turned up, for what you did to all of us?"

Anti hummed softly, picking at grass that had risen around their feet. "No. I wish he had,"

"But what happened then?"

Anti looked pained as his glowing eyes met Yan's deep chocolate ones. "I... I let him have his way with me... it hurt even worse than death. Knowing that I loved him, he... he used me. He never loved me in return. He... he couldn't if he wanted to..."

Yan sniffed a little. "Serves you right, you fucking ass,"

Anti grimaced, clenching his own fists in retaliation. "I was here trying to comfort you, you know?!"

"Yeah, I don't need your stupid comfort," Yan growled. "I don't care if you have a half-baked apology from Marvin, I don't need to forgive you for what you've done to him,"

"Well it's a good thing that I don't really care for your forgiveness," Anti snarled. "I didn't even come looking for you- you're just in the way! I clearly can't help you so why don't you just run back home to wizard boy, huh? I bet he'll forgive you instantly,"

"Shut up!" Yan hissed, getting to his feet. "I was here first!"

"Like hell you were!" Anti retorted. "I've been staking this place for the last week! I didn't plan on having anyone here, let alone you!"

"Well I-!" Yan started furiously.

"Stop!"

Both head turned to see two figures rushing towards them- well, one was rushing towards them, the other seemed to want to distance himself as much as possible from the coming confrontation.

"Who the hell are you supposed to be?" Anti questioned, looking at the forward one first. He had curly hair and blue eyes, his suit similar to that of a butler. The other had a hood and blue hair, and Anti couldn't make out his face.

"I am Xyler," the butler introduced. "Not that it concerns you- but I must implore you to cease this argument before one of you is direly hurt!"

The other newcomer rolled his black eyes, placing a hand on Xyler's shoulder reluctantly. Yan let out a little gasp.

"Let them be, Xy, they're not-"

"Blank, is that you?"

The hooded man seemed to shrink a little into his clothes, his cheeks reddening. "Y-Yan... hey. Um... uh, bye-"

"Oh no you don't-" Yan interrupted, grabbing Blank by the arm. "I haven't seen you in ages! Why'd you run off like that? King was so upset when you left- good God, where have you been?!"

"You know these guys?" Anti exclaimed.

"Blank used to date Squirrels," Yan filled in, while Blank looked as if he wanted to melt away.

"Wait... someone actually used to like Squirrels?" Anti asked, head cocked to the side. "But he's so weird and peanut-y all the time, why'd you-?"

Blank, it seemed, really had melted away. Where he'd previously been standing, there was nothing to indicate he'd even been there at all. Xyler looked mildly terrified.

"Oh my... does he often do that?"

"I don't even know who that is," Anti huffed. "Can someone please fill me in?"

Yan groaned aloud. "Don't you know anything, asshat?!"

Anti was about to retort, but Xyler brought his hand down on the glitch's shoulder fiercely. There was a strange fire in his eyes that Anti didn't know what to make of, but he decided he didn't want to test the man's patience.

"Calm yourselves gentlemen, please!" Xyler urged. "Seeing as my guide has somehow disappeared, I will require assistance in getting to the house of Darkiplier,"

Anti stiffened. "Hey, wait, why'd you want to-?"

"It's that way," Yan huffed, still glaring at Anti. "Don't think this is over, glitch bitch,"

Anti bared his teeth and mimed slitting his throat. "Why don't you back off for once? I'll take the guy to see Dark- I'm the pet, it's my job,"

Yan growled in frustration. "I need to get back to Marvin anyway- don't you dare follow me-"

"Gentlemen!" Xyler called, effectively silencing the other two egos. "Please, set your differences aside and direct me to my destination, it is dire that I arrive promptly!"

Anti glanced once more at Yan, who looked away in defiance.

"Fine," Anti spat. "Hurry up,"

As Xyler followed the unlikely pair of egos, he couldn't help but wonder how exactly Blank had just vanished. Though he had seen quite a few strange instances in his long life, he'd never seen anything quite like that. And why had he gone so soon? Was he embarrassed by the red haired man who looked exceedingly like his old master, down to a T? Why? Surely everyone else here had already heard that story.

Was it possible that he didn't want Xyler to know about his previous love interest?

And, if that was the case, why?

Xyler didn't know what to think about his newest acquaintance, but he had to push the stirring of his chest aside for now. He had important news that his old friend Dark would want to hear- news that would probably distress him, knowing that the man they'd thought was dead and gone was walking among the living again.

He stayed quiet and let them lead him on his way. He really needed to find his own way around this seemingly endless Void of darkness.

~Groundlands~

'And in more recent news, a couple that found themselves the center of media attention last Thursday due to their discovery of the body of missing actor Mark Doom have been released from intensive care, still in shock over the event that took place in their destination honeymoon home. The estranged actor has been missing since October 1935, and while the police force had declared him dead within several years of his disappearance, his body was never found. That all changed when the couple entered the home to see the very corpse we've been searching for the last eighty some years- but the circumstantial evidence just doesn't add up. We have esteemed Forensic Investigator Terry Allen here in the studio tonight to discuss the strange disappearance and stranger reappearance of Mark Doom."

Markiplier considered changing the channel, but decided against it- after all, any word about him was good word, right?

A short looking, balding man took the focus of the camera, and Mark scoffed. They'd let anyone on the screen these days, wouldn't they? Where was the drama? The romance? The action that the audience had so clearly craved back in the roaring twenties? Surely the children of these times weren't watching that ridiculous muppet show still- surely they had come to appreciate the culture that proper films brought to society...

"What are your findings, Terry?"

"Well you see, it's common knowledge that human bodies begin to decompose fairly quickly after brain death- that's just common, common knowledge, you see. Ideally, you wouldn't need a scientist like myself to uh, to figure out the corpse, you know, it's- it's just dead, but uh, this case was different to any others I've taken on in the past, Sherry. See, the body was found in a very peculiar manner- you see, it was sprawled out as if it had fallen, but with the ceiling only three meters high, there was no recreation possible that could have indicated such a spreading of the limbs naturally. And, uh, not only that but you'd expect a body of, of a century old by now to have somewhat decayed in the time passed, but the body was fresh. The uh, the temperature when measured rectally was twelve degrees, which was slightly below the measured ambient temperature, which uh, indicated that he had indeed been dead for a while, and the body found was so destroyed, so mangled- you know, you know it had stab wounds, and marks around the neck where it was supposed he'd been strangled, and a gun shot wound above his abdomen, like- this body was dead, but there was no way this was the body of Mark Doom,"

"So you came to the conclusion that it wasn't really Mark Doom's corpse, then?"

"Well you see, uh, it looked exactly like him, and you can't- you can't perform plastic surgery so efficient, so well that it mimics the exact appearance of a man that died almost a hundred years ago- not only that, but there were no scars on the body to show that any- any external changes had been made, so naturally we were stumped for a while, trying to determine who the body actually belonged to because as you know, we were convinced the identity of the man wasn't what they had claimed it was originally,"

"And what did you find?"

"Well we were going through the files, you know, as we do- missing persons, looking for people who were a similar height, when one of our coworkers joined the scene and recognised the man immediately as uh, as an internet personality that was quite popular with her young kids, and you know, she pulled up a picture and you know what? He looks just like Mark Doom, down to the name- this man, you see here- this is a man who goes by his online pseudonym 'Markiplier', which you'll notice is the very same code name Doom used in his second most famous film; 'Beyond the Forest'- so we at first pondered the idea that this was all staged. I mean, with the evidence we'd gathered earlier, it was clear that the murder was orchestrated, so the first thing we did was to check in with Mark Fischbach- you know, to see that he wasn't, uh, the victim- but he was fine, he in fact had no idea of the murder even happening, so we left him to his business and came back to the drawing board,"

"So we've just recieved news that the body has been taken from the O'Connor Mortuary- do you have any possible leads or answers for this?"

"Well we've checked with the morgue and they have no recorded CCTV footage from the hours of six through to nine, so the body was definitely moved within those hours, but aside from that, I can't say we do Sherry, I uh, I wish there was more that we could tell you but we only had the body for a short while before it was gone. If there's anyone out there who can give us any leads or uh, or any ideas as to where the body has gone, it would help the investigation a lot,"

"Thanks Terry, it's been a pleasure,"

Markiplier rolled his eyes, turning off the television and stretching his legs as he stood. He adjusted his jacket and took his wallet, picking up his hotel room key on his way out. He needed more cash- things were so much more expensive in this era, and Mark had barely enough to stay one night in this semi-decent hotel not far away from the mortuary he'd escaped from. He missed the days where you could buy a top of the range automobile for a few hundred dollars- these days, even the ones that looked like they'd been slapped together carelessly sold for over 30 grand.

He looked around carefully before heading out, getting the elevator to take him to the roof. There, he'd find his next paycheck. Smoothing his clothes and changing his once iconic hairstyle, he stepped out and sauntered to the bar.

Hours later, he was back in his hotel room, but he was not alone. No, beneath him was a woman- her face generic and her eyes brown, but she reminded him of a love he'd left behind. She'd sauntered over to him, flashed him some wild eyes, and spilled some nonsense about how handsome he was- Mark had instantly felt a connection. He'd let her lead him to his room, watching the swish of her hips and the way her dress had ridden up when she'd stood from her seat with hungry eyes. 

She'd attached her red lips to his neck without hesitation, slamming the door shut behind them and shoving him onto the bed, and the rest was history.

Mark closed his eyes as he grunted through his second orgasm, wishing for the woman his cousin had stolen away from him all those years ago. Celine, with her raven hair and deep brown eyes, her charm and her gentle lilt. She'd never been the same after Will had taken her, and Mark had noticed it in each and every time she shied away, every time she flinched, every time her eyes had shifted as if she was doing something wrong and she knew it.

Mark gritted his teeth, pushing a little harder despite the somewhat disconcerting squeals and pleas of the woman beneath him. He had to get the Colonel out of his mind before he did something he'd regret- everything about the man who'd stolen his most valuable possessions, his wife and his money, filled him with rage that had never quite diminished over the years.

Mark growled, feeling uncomfortably warm in his own corpse. Having Damien's body had served him well- though he was constantly bleeding through his clothes, that is. It was more important to Mark that his vessel had a pretty face than his vessel being free of external wounds. Otherwise, he'd have hit the mayor in the head, or strangled him to death. That would have been easier to explain away, in hindsight.

It was a shame that Damien's body had burned away in the fire.

But this body was broken, so broken in fact that it was a marvel the woman hadn't noticed his thirty eight stab wounds, let alone the bullet hole in his stomach. She was drunk, and tasted like whiskey when Celine had always preferred red wine. It was another one of those small differences that Mark didn't want to focus on, knowing that he was doing his long lost love injustice by participating in this act, but something he couldn't help but notice as he shared open mouthed kisses full of passion with the unnamed woman.

But it made him remember, oh how it made him remember...

"S-stop," she groaned through her whines of pleasure. "Can't- can't... breathe!"

Mark only thrust harder, deeper, wishing to bury his own pitiful sorrows in this brief moment of weakness. What would Celine think of him now?

She whimpered a few more times, but then fell silent, limp around him, muscles contracting one final time before her body became still. The only. As Mark finished for the third time straight, he was beginning to feel woozy. He collapsed next to the woman, cuddling up to her warmth and pretending Celine was here with him, like nothing had ever happened- like William had never returned from war, and like he'd never let her go.

"We can have children, babe..." Mark uttered, kissing down the woman's unmoving shoulder. "We'll have a life together, me and you... Celine..."

She didn't respond. It would take Mark several hours to notice that she was dead- that her heart had stopped, and that her once radiant cheeks were now paler than his own. He'd wake up to her cold, dead hands and he'd remember that he should be wherever she was now, briefly taking the time to mourn his own lack of mortality before taking her wallet and jewelry, leaving the hotel without looking back.

Some people, he didn't mean to kill. But when comparing death to the sham of a life he was upholding, he felt somewhat envious of his victims. He willed the cameras to wipe his image, thanking the lady at the receptionist desk on his way out of the Fairfield hotel. There was no use aching for a death he'd wanted for the last eighty-six years, not when he had a vengeance to settle.

Perhaps, after all of this, he'd be free again. Free to be judged, and to move to whatever afterlife God had planned- though even Hell seemed a better place than Earth these days.

Hours later, when her body was found in her room, Mark would be miles away on a bus heading to Los Angeles. Hopefully that was the last innocent life he'd take on this journey to destroy the last of his legacy.

Hopefully, when he killed his grandson, he wouldn't be on this planet to answer for it. Hopefully, destroying the one who'd kept his story alive would finally put his soul to its long awaited rest.

Chapter Text

~Void~

Blank clutched his chest as he breathed heavily, his heart racing and his cheeks red with embarrassment. He knew he shouldn't have agreed to take Xyler to the manor- he knew someone would remember him and call him out for leaving last year, but he hadn't really had a choice at the time, not that he'd let anyone there know about it now. This wasn't the first time he'd ignored something serious in favour of another ego- and this wasn't the last time he'd regret it, clearly.

Sighing, Blank pulled at his own hair in frustration. This wasn't fair. Why did something always have to happen that stopped him from doing something he loved? Why did he let himself get enthralled by people he knew would be trouble?

Why couldn't he get Xyler's image out of his mind?

His eyes were so pure, so nice and sweet and everything Blank's weren't, and his hair was stunning, and those lips...

Blank growled to relieve some of his stress. It would come to pass with avoidance, he knew. It wasn't healthy, but nothing he did ever seemed to be healthy in the first place. Though if he could have died because of his anaphylaxis, he'd have been long gone after a single kiss from his ex...

But instead of bringing his death, his peanut allergy had settled for ruining his social life. He'd been overcome with rashes, swelling, redness that spread from his face to his toes, and everywhere else he'd let himself be touched.

He'd loved King once- loved his compassionate nature, and his adoration of animals, and all of his pets that Blank had named when they were together. The way he laughed at Blank's self deprecating jokes, and the way that he'd given Blank his robe when the younger ego was cold. Their soft kisses and smooth touches, their peaceful embraces as they sat by a warm fire, exchanging comments about their fellow egos.

Sometimes Blank felt that some part of him still longed for the affection, though his body resented him for it.

It had been nice while it lasted. Sure, Blank had never felt less able to breathe, but it had been better than living alone like he did now. He'd never actually told King about his allergy- he never really even spoke to the ego again after he left, actually. Blank was just too nervous to go back- too afraid that he'd fall for those caring eyes again, even though their very existence and apparent purpose in this Void was to repel each other.

He didn't know if he could handle it if his allergy seized up again.

One shuddered breath after the other. One blink after the next.

What was going to happen when he finally calmed down? Should he go back?

And even if he should... would he?

Blank had no faith in his own chivalry, knowing he'd rather save his own skin than save another's, knowing he'd do anything to avoid going back and facing his fears. But Xyler had brought him out of his fears, if only for a short while. With Xyler, Blank almost felt able to enter the manor again. With Xyler, Blank felt like he could put his own problems to the side in favour of helping someone who needed him.

What is wrong with me? I can't fall in love again, I can't... 

0o0o0o0o0o0o0

"Here it is," Anti sighed, gesturing to the manor before them. He didn't know whether he wanted to come back or to run again, his feelings about Dark still mixed up from the week before. He knew he still loved the demon- heck, he probably always would. But that didn't mean he wanted to be so restricted. He'd thought Dark would understand, but the demon only facilitated his removal from the others, insisting upon it when a problem was beginning to arise.

Why couldn't he confine any of his siblings away, when they were the cause?

"Come on Xyler," Yan gulped, stepping forward. "Dark'll be in here-"

"Not to pry," Xyler interrupted, looking between both egos curiously. "But why do you two seem so reluctant to be here? I understand Dark can be... difficult sometimes, but surely he isn't a tyrant,"

Yan quickly shook his head. "N-no, I... um, it's my boyfriend. We... we had a fight, and I don't know where we stand yet, it's not Dark,"

Anti huffed under his breath, "Speak for yourself, Dark's definitely the reason I'm reluctant to be here."

"Yeah, from what you were babbling about earlier it seems we have the same problem," Yan retorted. "Whatever you're worried about, I'm sure it's nothing. Dark couldn't hate you if he tried,"

Anti rolled his eyes, but stayed silent. Xyler shook his head.

"Forgive me for asking, comrades. We will continue forthwith,"

Yan knocked on the door with dainty fingers, stepping back in case someone threw the door open (Robbie had the habit of getting overexcited by the prospect of new friends). Thankfully, it was another Iplier that answered- Bim, and he looked rather tense. Yan cocked his head to the side, about to ask what was wrong, when Bim quickly shook his head.

Odd.

"We're home." Yan stated instead, and Bim nodded grimly.

"Right, Marvin's in your room. He's been... well, it's best you see for yourself..."

Yan nodded quickly, rushing upstairs without sparing the other egos a glance. They supposed they should be thankful. Having Yan's attention over Marvin never usually turned out particularly well for them.

Anti fixed Bim with a half hearted glare, daring him to say something about Dark. Bim merely looked away, holding the door open wider and beckoning the two remaining egos inside.

"So sorry my fellow, it seems we haven't yet been introduced," Xyler said, reaching out to shake Bim's hand. "I'm Xyler- though others know me by the name Benjamin, and I was once a butler in the manor of Mark Doom,"

Bim just raised an eyebrow. "I... okay. I suppose you're looking for Dark? That's what all new egos want to do, anyway,"

Xyler seemed confused. "Pardon sir, but... this is the second time this eve that I have been referred to as an 'ego'. I assure you, I am a man,"

"We're all men," Anti interjected. "But we're also not entirely human. The fact that you managed to get here in the first place indicates that you're not human either. At least, not a normal human."

Xyler gulped. "But gentlemen, I was born and I lived in the human world, with human parents. How is it that I came to exist here as someone non-mortal?"

Anti shrugged. "Sounds like a Wilford problem,"

"Yeah, I'll get him for you," Bim offered, about to leave the foyer. Anti cleared his throat, trying not to seem too eager to return to his lover's embrace, and Bim turned to fix him with a curious stare.

"I thought you were going to take him to Dark," Anti said pointedly. He certainly didn't expect Bim to sigh, straightening out his suit.

"Dark is gone," Bim informed them. "I thought you knew- he's been missing since yesterday. Wilford's losing his mind trying to keep this joint in order in his absence,"

Anti's heart lurched in his chest as he flinched at the news, staring at Bim with wide, unbelieving eyes.

"H-He's gone? Where?"

Bim was about to answer, when a deep voice rang out from the top of the staircase.

"Anti! Is that you, m'boy?"

Anti couldn't meet Wilford's carefree and celebratory demeanour as the pink haired ego strolled down the stairs, patting him on the back. Unseen to either of them, Xyler visibly tensed in recognition.

"Will," Anti greeted. "Is Dark really... really gone?"

Wilford grinned, annoying Anti as the glitch realised just how much Wilford didn't understand the implications of Dark leaving.

"Yes- it has come to pass, but don't worry! It will all be fine, and you'll be able to talk to him again in no time, chap,"

"Where did he go?" Anti asked through gritted teeth.

"He's living in the Groundlands,"

Three heads whipped around to see the two resident doctors striding towards them, Schneep reaching out to pull the reluctant glitch into a hug.

Dr. Iplier, who had spoken, cracked a small smile. "There is important, yet happy news to give you, Anti. May I request a meeting with you? It's your right to know, after all, about Dark's condition,"

Anti's eyebrows furrowed worriedly. "Condition? What-?"

Wilford chortled loudly, slapping Anti on the back again. "Go on up, Anti, it's nothing terrible!"

Anti raised a questioning eyebrow. "Why does he know?"

Schneep sighed. "Ve did not disclose ze information to ihn, Anti. He simply knows things he sometimes should not,"

Wilford winked, and when Anti left, Xyler finally found the courage to speak up.

"Colonel? I assume that to be you?"

Wilford turned hastily, eyebrows raising exaggeratedly as he realised just who was standing before him. "Jim? No, not Jim, it's... it's Tom, right?"

Xyler shook his head. "No sir, it seems that your memory has been compromised. My name is Benjamin, though I am also known by the name 'Xyler' recently for reasons I cannot comprehend. I must say, though we have had our differences, it is reassuring to see a familiar face in this strange realm,"

Wilford grinned. "Ben! I knew I recognised you! My, you don't look a day over twenty- how's the family?"

Xyler struggled to hold back the slew of angst and emotional distress he was ready to pile upon Wilford, knowing that the death of his parents was hardly the Colonel's fault.

"Dead," Xyler mourned. "Killed during the second world war- both worked in the military, you see."

"Ah, they were brave souls," Wilford sighed. "I remember serving in the armed forces... I was their best man by far. Every time they tried to shoot me down, I'd get back up as if nothing had happened at all. But some are not so lucky..."

"Indeed not," Xyler agreed, pushing his grief aside. He'd spent long enough mourning for those who had passed in his lifetime, watching as everyone he associated with grew senile and weak while he remained just as young as ever.

"Ah, but we should let the dead be dead," Wilford mused. "What brings you here, friend?"

"I'm afraid I must request an urgent meeting with Dark," Xyler informed, "Something terrible has come to pass at the manor that I'm afraid he is the only one who can stop. Your cousin, my old master, he's... he's back."

Wilford scratched idly at his chin. "Again? My, he just can't take a hint, can he? Well, if you need my help to put the old lad down once again, I'd be well up for the privilege,"

Xyler shook his head in mild annoyance- it seemed some people really didn't change. "No, Colonel. You have done enough in this case, and it is Dark whom I need to speak with. Can you inform me as to when he will return here?"

Wilford shrugged. "Well you can usually tell in these circumstances, but Dark's an odd case. Anywhere in the next two to five months would be my best guess, but then he may wish to rest after the ordeal, poor fellow, and-"

"Months?" Xyler asked, astonished. "What on Earth is the man doing that requires him to be away for so long? This matter simply cannot wait- you know as well as I that Mark was dabbling with evil, he's even more dangerous now that he's back. He's been all over the news channels!"

Wilford grimaced in annoyance. "He always was too self absorbed- but I'm afraid Dark couldn't be here if he even wanted to. You see, my friend, Dark is-"

"He's PREGNANT?!"

~Groundlands~

"You ready?"

Dark looked up from her lap to see Seán holding out a hand, ready to help her up and off the seat. They were at the airport now- Seán had been approached by some few fans that had all asked who Dark was and if they were together, but Seán had waved them off from that train of thought with reassurances that he wasn't looking to have a child any time soon. No mention of Signe. No mention of the breakup. The fans didn't even think to ask.

After they got their pictures and autographs, and with a few congratulations to 'Diane', which was Dark's false persona, they'd left the Irishman and the demon alone to their own devices.

Dark was in her female form, deciding that her baby bump was simply too inconspicuous to hide as a male. She'd dressed in maternity clothes that Seán had bought at a local Target, and she felt much more free without the constant burden of her restricting suit. The dress was a nice deep blue, and it matched her eyes as she smiled, accepting Seán's assistance as she got to her feet.

It seemed that once she'd discovered she was pregnant, she felt the weight of it more than ever.

"Ready," Dark swallowed. She'd never much liked planes. "We have seats next to each other, yes?"

"Yep," Seán agreed, keeping hold of Dark's hand and holding his suitcase with the other. He wasn't bringing much, knowing that he'd be able to sustain himself in Los Angeles just fine, especially with the new merch dropping soon. "You... alright?"

Dark sighed as they began to get lost in a crowd of people, all heading towards the gate. "I must confess, I... I don't like heights. I am very much more comfortable on the ground,"

Seán shuddered. "Me too, man, I'm terrified of heights,"

Dark smiled beneath her grimace. "Anti loves air travel. I can't understand it myself, but then, I suppose he hates the ocean when it's my favourite place to wind down..."

Seán nodded in agreement. "Yeah, fuck the sky. The sea's where it's at,"

"Agreed," Dark grinned, letting the attendants scan her ticket before they stopped her and one of them took the pair aside.

"What seems to be the problem?" Seán asked worriedly.

The attendant shook his head, waving away their concerns. "No problems, sir, I was just wondering how far along the missus is?"

Dark met Seán's eyes nervously. They'd discussed how strange the circumstances of Dark's pregnancy were, given that he wasn't even sexually active at the estimated time of conception. They would have given a simple answer and then moved along, but Seán figured they needed to keep the story straight in case anything escaped to the media.

"Three months," Dark replied coolly, though she gave the attendant a kind smile.

The attendant grinned in return. "I'm happy for you. My wife and I have been trying for a baby for the last year or so, but we've had little success,"

Dark stepped forward, slowly hugging the attendant. Seán's eyes widened. He'd never seen Dark willingly engage in an affectionate touch before.

"Try again," Dark urged. "I'm sure you'll have a child one day,"

The attendant grinned as they made to enter the plane, waving at them. Seán fixed Dark with a curious stare as they found their seats and buckled themselves in.

"What was that?"

Dark blinked a few times, before sighing. "I had forgotten that demons in this era are viewed as creatures of malice... no, it was demons who brought the first gifts to humanity, as well as the first flames of disharmony. It's just that the powers that be wish for demons to be removed from the grand scheme of human activity. It's nothing, Seán, I just blessed the man with enhanced fertility. He will have a child soon, I am certain of the fact,"

"That was... very nice of you," Seán commented, still grasping Dark's hand in his own. He'd have pulled away, but he was fairly sure that they'd be clinging to each other again once they were actually taking off, and he didn't really see the point in disconnecting just yet.

Dark chuckled. "Once, I was a nice person. And that message, Seán, comes from every fiber of my being."

'I hate planes...'

'I as well, Celine, trust me, but what other choice do we have?'

'I know we need to stay near  Seán, Damien, but we could easily have gone by yacht...'

'How much money do you think he has?'

'Enough to fly first class, apparently,'

'Either way, we cannot avoid air travel. If you are amicable, we could close our eyes,'

'My eyes aren't going to open again until we touch the ground, Damien!'

'Now I see why Mark left you behind at the manor whenever he had to film... the prospect of travelling with you in this state is certainly unnerving,'

'Oh hush, Damien, you whimpered like a child whenever mother and father brought you with them to Venice via plane,'

'I must admit that to be true... I hope that the turbulence does not affect our child negatively,'

'I've got no doubt they're as energetic and reckless as your boyfriend, they'll probably enjoy this.'

'I hate to entertain that idea...'

'I know.'

Dark gritted her teeth and her grip tightened on Seán's hand as the plane took off, neither making any attempt to recoil. In twelve long hours, they'd have to face Mark and tell him everything about the pregnancy, the fact that Dark and Anti were involved, and maybe even the reality that most of Mark's egos and Seán's egos were together as well. But that was then.

For now, both acrophobics were quite happy to put in ear plugs and try to forget just how high they were flying.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

'And in other news, 32 year old woman Carly Davis was found dead in her hotel room this morning after the hotel's cleaners entered the room to prepare it for new guests. Miss Davis' key had been handed in the night before, and it was presumed she had left the building, but that conclusion evidently could not have been more wrong. It was originally determined that the widow had died from a heart attack in her sleep, but upon closer investigation it was concluded that she had been engaging in sexual relations at the time of her death. The man seen handing in her room key the night of her death is the prime suspect, and if anyone has any leads regarding his whereabouts or motive they are urged to give their information to the authorities,'

I'm not a killer... I'd never... I'd never kill her... I'd never kill anybody unless they deserved it...

Markiplier took a deep swig of the bottle of unnamed spirits as he turned off the television, rolling over in his bed. It had been a long day of masking his trail, moving north and trying to book somewhere that wasn't completely stuffed with celebrities and upper class citizens. He refused to settle for a place with a rating below four stars- he may be dead, but he still had standards.

He didn't care for the weak-minded tools that the media called talented these days- oh, what a joke! Those children couldn't act to save their lives, and their films and movies were lazily edited and lacking drive. Even the adults couldn't rely on carefully crafted props and artwork to make their films memorable, instead favouring the ever advancing digital manipulation, that made the work of the cameraman utterly useless.

But then, he supposed that something must be better about them, given their millions and millions in revenue. Perhaps he was just too old fashioned to appreciate the newest generation in the film industry.

It didn't matter. His films weren't on 'Netflix' or 'Stan', and they were considered utterly irrelevant in this era. His lifelong dream of becoming a famous actor, dashed before his eyes.

He took another drink.

I wouldn't have killed her... I wouldn't have killed Celine...

But he would, and he had, and he knew it. That's why it hurt so much.

"I don't deserve this," Mark grimaced, setting his bottle down shakily. "I didn't deserve any of this... not the Colonel stealing my wife, or my fortune, or my dignity... how dare he? How dare he?!"

There was a mildly annoyed knock at his door. He groaned heavily, getting to his feet.

"Sir, it's me again! I'm going to have to ask you to leave, you're disturbing the rest of the guests with your shouting,"

Mark muttered several obscenities under his breath, wrenching the door open and looking upon the young man with a drunken look of contempt. The boy defiantly glared back at him, beginning to move on his way, when Mark grabbed him by his shoulders and shoved him into the closest wall. The boy's eyes rolled back as he fainted, crumpling to the ground without another word.

That would cease his yapping.

Mark yawned as he staggered back into his room, collapsing onto his bed without turning his light off. His headache was only growing with every denial of his actions, every moment without repentance bringing him splitting pain. But he wouldn't repent.

No, he'd carry on with this plan like it was the last thing he'd ever do.

And if he had his way? It would be.

Chapter Text

~Void~

Yan stopped just outside the door, listening in to find out what exactly Marvin was doing. It didn't seem like much, whatever it was- at least he wasn't in bed with another ego. Yan would hate for there to be blood on their sheets this early into his new start.

He gulped, knocking softly on the door, his mind spinning insecurities . He heard a groan from the inside.

"Tommy, I told you I'm not making you a-"

Marvin had opened the door mid-rant, expecting to find the annoyingly energetic salesman he called his brother there for the third time this morning, but what greeted him instead made his heart do a flip in his chest.

Red hair, short skirt, his feet shifting nervously and his eyes gleaming in the light. Yandereplier fiddled with the end of his necktie, warily meeting Marvin's cat-like eyes with the air of uncertainty.

Marvin couldn't breathe. He flushed, but his mask hid it from view.

"Hi..." Yan greeted, offering Marvin his hand. The magician took it, not shaking it but rather letting it sit there, encompassed in his own. He shivered at the touch, having missed it for so long.

"Y-You're back," Marvin uttered, before mentally bashing himself over the head. Wow, that was stupid. Of course he was back!

Yan smiled nervously, not making an effort to take his hand back, but not furthering the touch as he normally would. It was clear that he didn't understand Marvin's boundaries as well as he might have liked to, and he was determined to find out if Marvin was still okay with him before he let himself do what he wanted. Even if Marvin wanted to break up with him, it would be fine, as long as Marvin didn't date another ego. That was where Yan's grace hit the line.

"Yeah..." Yan uttered. "I... I've been back awhile, I just... needed to cool off,"

Marvin's breath hitched in his throat and guilt began to pile up in his stomach. "Okay,"

"Okay..."

There was a tension filled silence in which both egos averted their eyes, unsure of where they stood. They weren't fighting- but did that mean they were really alright again? If they were alright again, surely Yan wouldn't hesitate before embracing Marvin? Surely Marvin wouldn't be refraining from holding Yan close, breathing in his scent, enjoying his warmth?

"Normally you'd have jumped into my arms by now," Marvin finally spoke, his voice barely above a whisper.

Yan gulped softly, trying to be subtle, but Marvin could hear everything. The lilt in his voice, the shuddering breath, the hesitation upon his lips. But Yan didn't acknowledge that anything was wrong as he replied, "Yeah, I would..."

Marvin wanted nothing more than to hold Yan close to him, collapse together onto the bed, and stay there until someone forced them apart, but how could he do that if Yan didn't want the same? Surely the distance he'd kept had to mean something. Had Yan given up on Marvin? Had he found a new person to call Senpai- one who would embrace the title, and flaunt it, and do everything Marvin wished he wasn't opposed to? If so, Marvin would be happy for him. Yan deserved much more than Marvin could give, and though he'd be distraught, he supposed he'd been living without Yan for months now...

What am I thinking? I don't want to give him up!

Marvin let out a choked sob, bringing Yan in for a hug and burying his face in the crook of Yan's neck, breathing in the unusual mix of cherry blossoms and blood that he'd become so accustomed to in the past two years. Until their recent break, he hadn't realised just how much he'd missed it. He felt a surge of warmth in his chest as Yan hugged back just as tightly, feeling wetness against his neck and knowing Yan was crying tears of relief.

They were going to be alright.

"I've missed you so much," Marvin sobbed, his tears clinging to the inside of his mask, mixing with the condensation caused by his warm breath.

Yan whimpered something like "I've missed you too," in return, but Marvin could barely make out the words. The sentiment was still there, however, and Marvin supposed that with how he was carrying on he probably hadn't sounded clear either.

"I love you," Marvin stuttered out, lifting his mask so that it didn't get ruined by his weeping. It slipped through his fingers, falling onto the ground as his hands made their way to Yan's fluffy hair, tousling it as their embrace continued. The two egos detached momentarily before Marvin leaned in again, kissing Yan deeply, ignoring the muffled 'mmph' that sounded from his lover's lips.

Marvin wasn't aware of how he came to be lying fully clothed on his four poster bed, limbs entwined with Yan's, but he was sure he wouldn't regret any of it if he could remember. By the way his lips tingled and his arms ached, he guessed they'd kissed again and again, barely managing to break apart for air between each touch, and now that he thought about it, a recollection of such happy memories couldn't have happened any time in the last three months. He didn't think he'd ever get used to this as he pressed his body firmly against Yan's, letting his lips graze over Yan's own a few more times before kissing him again.

When they broke apart, Yan giggled softly, hands caressing Marvin's bare cheeks.

"What?" Marvin breathed, the smile never leaving his face.

"You never gave me the chance to say I love you too," Yan chuckled, kissing Marvin softly again. "I don't want to give you up ever again,"

Marvin grinned as he let himself rest gently upon Yan's breast, content to lie here and bask in his lover's presence for eternity. Yan's hands found their way into Marvin's hair and he laughed under his breath, threading his fingers through the green locks fondly.

"You've grown out your hair..." Yan noted, twirling it round his pointer finger. "I love it,"

Truly, Marvin hadn't even noticed, but he supposed it did feel a little more out of control lately. But if Yan really loved it, he wouldn't change it back. He could get used to the sensation of Yan's fingers running smoothly across his scalp.

Suddenly, they stopped.

"Oh my god, Marv, you just purred," Yan giggled. Marvin blushed a little, but felt deep down that he really wasn't ashamed of it at all.

"Did I?" Marvin asked, a little short of breath. Yan made to respond, when-

"He's PREGNANT?!"

Marvin groaned aloud, biting his lip. That sounded very much like Anti, and if the sentence was anything to go by, he guessed now knew what was straining Dark so much lately.

"We should go see what that's all about," Yan breathed, but didn't make to leave.

Marvin let his eyes close in relaxation, resting his head once again on Yan's breast. "Mhm,"

There was a comfortable silence, in which neither ego really wanted to move, but eventually Yan spoke up again.

"You don't really want to go, do you?"

Marvin smiled softly. "Nope,"

Yan snorted. "Me neither, I want to hear you purr again,"

If Marvin could purr on demand, he'd do it in a heartbeat, but given that this revelation was fairly new to him, he decided that Yan probably knew what to do better than he did. He left his eyes closed as Yan's fingers made themselves at home in his hair, his mask long forgotten on the floor, his arms feeling at home again, wrapped around the love of his life.

He knew they couldn't fix this alone, but he also knew that Yan was willing to try. And if they both put in the effort to make things right again, it would be easier than counting to three. Right now, Marvin could care less about Anti's problems. All he wanted to do was to lie here with Yan, enjoying their closeness until they grew sick of the pain in their backs.

Marvin smiled contently as he purred again.

0o0o0o0o0o0

"... did I hear that correctly?"

"Afraid so, chap,"

There was no doubt that Anti's shout of alarm had reached throughout every inch of the manor, but somehow Xyler knew the others who resided here were probably as mad as the Colonel, and wouldn't think much of the exclamation. While the man Xyler had once catered for simply winced at the noise, Xyler was reeling at the very idea of what Anti was reacting to.

Pregnant? But how? Well, it was obvious that Dark wasn't entirely human, but that wasn't justification enough for Xyler. As far as the butler had known, Dark was human enough for the laws of reproduction to apply to him.

Apparently, I was wrong in that belief...

"But... how?"

Wilford chortled loudly in response. "Well I'm sure you've heard about the birds and the bees, haven't you?"

Xyler sighed a little. "Yes, but-"

"WILFORD!"

Xyler jumped as the sound of running footsteps echoed through the manor, barely moving aside in time to avoid being impaled by a knife.

The glitch, Anti, was pinning Wilford to the wall and holding him at knife-point, but the eccentric man with a pink mustache simply wasn't perturbed. Xyler, meanwhile, was trying to find his stomach.

"Well I must say this isn't the reaction I thought you'd have," Wilford commented, raising an eyebrow. "Don't you want to be a father?"

"Why didn't you tell me that Dark could have kids?!"

Wilford shrugged carelessly. "Well how was I supposed to know he could have children? I've never topped with him, he always takes charge of me!"

Anti's features paled. His grip on the knife tightened, and it began to feel sharp against Will's throat.

"He WHAT?!" Anti snarled.

Xyler very much wanted to be excluded from this narrative.

"Oh dear..." Dr. Iplier uttered, fists clenched together, knuckles pale. "This isn't a good first impression,"

Xyler shook his head, but backed away from the unfolding chaos all the same. "We've met before,"

Dr. Iplier's eyes widened in disbelief, turning to face Xyler with an incredulous expression. "You've met Wilford before? Where?"

"I once served as a butler in a manor he owned," Xyler explained. "Though the first time we became acquainted was the poker night... he was in the military, you see? He wasn't often home,"

Dr. Iplier ran his fingers through his hair. "So sorry- I haven't introduced myself yet. I'm Dr. Iplier. How come you aren't dead yet? Are you dying?"

Xyler shrugged. "It baffles me as well, doctor. Time seems to have escaped me, and all others that once resided in that cursed manor. I'm Xyler, it is nice to meet you,"

"Likewise," the doctor replied. "This is my fiance, Henrik. I must say, you seem rather... sane. Well, compared to the two other people from your time period, that is."

Xyler shuddered. "I left the manor and sought work elsewhere the night after Mark's death- but when the police came looking for me as a murder suspect, my name became tainted. I couldn't find anyone who wanted a butler, but I hardly wanted to join the armed forces. You see, this was during the Great Depression..."

"I see," Schneep hummed. "But vhen did you notice you veren't aging normally? Truly, Vilford hasn't yet discovered it,"

Xyler opened his mouth to answer, but was cut off by Anti shouting, and the three egos were brought out of their conversation to realise that Wilford was still being held hostage in the room with them.

"HOW LONG HAVE YOU TWO BEEN FUCKING?!"

"Whoa, calm down there," Wilford said, not the least bit worried about how close Anti was to ripping out his throat. "It was a long time ago,"

There were fresh tears of hatred in Anti's eyes as he scowled, pushing Wilford roughly against the wall.

"How can I trust a̕n̨yth̵i̢ng͟ you say?!" Anti cried. "Just... just leave me a̢̡l̛҉o͢n͢͞ȩ͢..."

Anti turned and fled the room, slamming the door behind him on his way out. If the layout of this manor was anything similar to Mark's own, then Xyler assumed he was on his way to the theater.

"Is this an everyday occurrence?" Xyler queried. Dr. Iplier shook his head solemnly, while Schneeplestein sighed, folding his glasses. There were small tears in his eyes.

"I vill talk to ihn, Doc. Er is just having pre-parental panic, zat is all."

The doctors kissed sweetly, before Schneep left in the direction of the kitchen to find Anti. Dr. Iplier ran his fingers through his hair again, turning to Xyler with a tired expression.

"I must apologise once again for the antics of my fellow egos," the doctor sighed, gesturing for Xyler to follow him. "Now I've gathered you wanted to meet with Dark?"

"Yes sir, it is of utmost importance that I meet with him sooner rather than later," Xyler started. "Though I understand he is not present at this time,"

"No, I'd assume he's still in Brighton with Seán," Dr. Iplier muttered. "Oh, sorry- you wouldn't be familiar, I suppose. Seán is the original of the Septiceye egos- Henrik and Anti included, though there are many more. Henrik checked in on them yesterday,"

Xyler let out a distressed sigh. "Brighton... I will be unable to follow him outside of the states, this is... unfortunate, to say the least,"

"I apologise for the inconvenience," Dr. Iplier responded, taking Xyler through the entrance to the main sitting area and gesturing for him to sit. Xyler settled himself on a pristine white sofa, almost identical to the one he'd spent months caring for back in the '30s. It felt more than eerie to be treated as a guest in a manor so alike to Mark's- almost as if the doctor had taken the role of butler in this house.

"If I may- what business did you want to speak to Dark about?"

Xyler pondered briefly if he should be concerned about sharing this information- but quickly came to the conclusion that it didn't need to be a secret. In fact, the more people that knew about it, the better, in this case.

"I've mentioned Mark," Xyler started, and the doctor nodded along.

"Yes, though the Mark you are referring to is not the original of me, nor my brethren, I assume,"

"I had wondered how you looked so familiar," Xyler muttered. "Yes, the Mark I reference is a man I used to work for- an actor, who orchestrated his own murder to take revenge on those who had wronged him. I had thought he really had perished that October eve- but it was not so. In the year 1976, I believe it was, I came upon the man himself. I was waiting at a restaurant with my associate, Robert..."

"Benjamin! Get this steak outta my sight before I stick that bow tie where the sun don't shine!"

Benjamin took the order valiantly, picking up the plate and setting it on a tray that was already lined with napkins and cutlery. He prided himself on doing well at his job, after all, and this was his first and only chance. He'd rather deal with that insufferable chef's nasty attitude than live another long decade on the streets, begging for food he didn't even really need- at least this way, he could afford an apartment above the restaurant.

He hadn't been able to acquire a driver's license, given that he couldn't claim to be twenty-six years old while his records stated he was born in 1909. But then, he couldn't really pass for sixty-seven years old either. Each attempt at forging a license or certificate of birth had landed him in jail for an extended period of time, and with no way of clearing his record, he hadn't been employed in what felt like decades.

Really, he was so thankful to Robert for letting him work at this three star restaurant that he was willing to take every insult the man could dream up in his stride.

He walked out into the main dining area, setting the prepared tray of food down at a wealthy looking woman's table. She offered him a smile, which he returned warmly, his lips a little strained as he tensed with recognition.

"Now what's your name, young man?"

"I am Benjamin, madam," Benjamin introduced. "I hope you enjoy your meal tonight,"

"Oh, I'm sure it will be just lovely," the lady beamed. "My, you do look familiar. Have we met?"

Benjamin bit his lip worriedly, but hid it as a smile. "I'm afraid not, madam, I'd remember someone so lovely,"

She chuckled heartily through her dentures, sweeping her grey hair aside as the pearls around her neck twinkled in the golden light. She looked every bit as gorgeous as she once had been, standing alongside her wealthy husband in the newspapers of old.

"My old mind must be playing tricks on me again," she chortled. "Well, dear, I suppose I'll leave you to your work then. Have a tip, you've provided this old lady with brilliant service,"

Benjamin tried not to feel to guilty as he took her generous tip, walking away and entering the kitchens upon seeing there were no more orders to be taken.

Robert eyed him dangerously. "I thought you were meant to be waiting tables, Butler,"

Benjamin closed the doors behind him, glancing around to make sure the other chefs couldn't hear.

"I just served the mayor's mother, Chef," Benjamin gulped. "She's aged well, but I can't shake the feeling that something is terribly wrong. Why is it that you and I have not grown old as she has?"

Robert flexed his muscles, flipping some bacon over in the pan he was holding. "I dunno, Benjamin, but these tables ain't gonna wait themselves,"

Benjamin sighed in frustration. "Don't you understand where I'm coming from, Chef? It's been decades and you still only care about working, working, working... I'm concerned- they never did find the mayor, you know? Would he have aged as well?"

"Look, Butler, I gave you this job because time dicked us both over, and I was better at covering my tracks. We're making it work, but it'll all go to shit if we get one bad review on this place, you get it? I could give two shits about where that uppity fuck went- that's behind us now,"

"No, Chef, it isn't!" Benjamin snapped. "Look at us! We should be grey and old, but we're not! We're trying to fit in in this changing world, when we should be in retirement!"

Robert snarled. "This bacon is going to burn before I stop looking out for myself, Butler. You wanna burn with it?"

Benjamin growled in frustration, walking aside and setting yet another tray with cutlery and napkins, waiting for a complete order to take out. He could hear growing commotion from the other side of the door, and opened it to make sure nothing was wrong.

He dropped the tray in shock- luckily, he'd ventured onto the carpet before the recognition really hit.

It was the mayor- but something seemed... off.

The lady Benjamin had just served had her eyes open in disbelief. She shakily stood from her seat, making her way over to the man, who hadn't even noticed her.

Wouldn't Mayor Damien recognise his own mother?"

"Damien?" She called, walking over. A few guests started at the noise, but none cared too much to eavesdrop. Benjamin, however, was gobsmacked. He took a few steps forward, not bothering to fix the mess he'd created.

'Damien' had looked up when the name had been called. He fixed the woman approaching him with a cold stare, one that bit Benjamin to the bone. The lady stopped a few feet short of his table, clutching a spare chair to steady herself- Benjamin was worried she may faint.

"It's really you," she stated, weeping tears of what seemed to be relief. "Oh, my dear, it's been so long, we thought you were dead..."

'Damien' flinched as she tried to get closer to him. His mannerisms seemed oddly familiar to Benjamin as he watched the scene unfold, transfixed.

"I'm sorry, ma'am, but I'm not the man you think I am," 'Damien' tried to evade, but there was no denying it. Though Benjamin had only seen him in person once, he was certainly not a forgettable face, especially when he hadn't changed at all in the last forty-one years.

"Oh, Damien, please, don't give me that..." the lady pleaded. "It's been far too long to keep up this charade any longer- please, you don't have to hide anymore. The case is closed,"

'Damien' stiffened, and Benjamin did a double take. That movement was one he'd seen his previous master fall into, each time Benjamin had informed him that his wife was not at home.

But surely it wasn't Mark- the man was dead, right?

"No, please, leave me to my business before I call security,"

The lady's eyes brimmed with tears as she choked out a gasp, running to him and engulfing him in a desperate hug.

The chaos seemed to unfold immediately.

Before Benjamin could process the situation properly, the woman was on the floor, still as a statue, while 'Damien' regarded her body with a cold glare. There was no visible wound and there was no blood, but the collapse caused an uproar in the seated customers, with people rushing to her aid and calling for medics.

Benjamin rushed for the restaurant's phone, calling for an ambulance, but part of him knew that it was too late. If he wasn't mistaken, the old woman he'd known as the mayor's mother was turning ninety soon, and she was on her way out already. As he ended the call, he made eye contact with 'Damien', and felt his blood run cold. Recognition mixed with malice greeted him, and 'Damien' left the restaurant without another word.

The next day, the restaurant had burned to the ground.

"I've no doubt it was Mark that did it," Xyler continued solemnly, Dr. Iplier hanging on his every word. "He knew that I recognised him, and he knew that I wouldn't be quiet about it. I managed to escape with a few scraps of clothing, and together Chef and I decided to look for work elsewhere. But as we were going through the rubble to see if we could salvage anything, I saw him- Dark. It was like deja vu, seeing the image of the mayor walking through the charred remains of the restaurant, sitting where Mark sat. His skin was grey and his hair unkempt, but it was more Damien than Mark had been, yet somehow not Damien at all. He sat there, holding his hand to the ashes, weeping. To this day I haven't the slightest idea why he was so moved,"

Dr. Iplier sighed deeply. "So that's how you came to meet Dark... but why would you need to meet him again?"

"Because the last time, we banded together to bring Mark down," Benjamin explained. "I created a distraction, and Dark delivered the justice by burning him alive. The second time I witnessed him crying was that day, looking at the burned body. We both knew he wouldn't be coming back- but I fear our celebration was short lived. I saw on the news that his body had been discovered again, and I couldn't sit idle. I tried contacting Dark on the phone line he used to use, but it had been disconnected. I wandered far and wide, until a disgruntled looking fellow directed me here, but it seems I have just missed him,"

"I... I don't know what to say, Xyler," Dr. Iplier uttered. "Why is it so bad that Mark has returned, exactly?"

Xyler looked astonished. "Sir, forgive me, but you must be mad. Mark is a murderer- He made two attempts on my life, and I have reason to believe he is behind the disappearance of the mayor and his wife as well- not to mention that he committed several cases of arson, and that he is quite possibly the reason I haven't met my end yet. I will not let him roam free any longer than absolutely necessary- have I made myself clear?"

"Of course," Dr. Iplier reasoned. "But I'm sure you know that pregnancy is damaging in some cases, and Dark is no exception. Why, in the brief time that he was here, he experienced fatigue and weakness, and the child is barely half its full term size in his womb,"

"Surely there must be something we can do," Xyler sighed, not wanting to give up.

Dr. Iplier shook his head. "It is not something we are equipped to handle- you're right, you know. Dark would be a great help to your cause, but he's barely even fit enough to walk around, you'd understand if you could see him. Aside from perhaps Wilford, I can't think of anyone else who could possibly help you along,"

"Wilford..." Xyler grimaced. "Presuming he is still alive,"

Dr. Iplier waved Xyler's worry away immediately. "Oh, Anti won't kill him. He's just shocked about having to be a father- but Wilford really is your best hope. I'd go and recruit him before he finds himself castrated,"

Xyler blinked. "I... I can't seem to tell if you're joking,"

Dr. Iplier only sighed again. "If only, Xyler. If only... in the meantime, I'm sure Dark won't mind if you take up residence here in the manor- really, it's the least I can do to make sure you have a room-"

"Oh- you need not worry," Xyler interrupted, getting to his feet. "I know this house like the back of my hand- I will use the servant's quarters,"

"Ah- you can't," Dr. Iplier interceded further, standing as well. "There are many more guests here than you must be used to, I'm afraid all of the living quarters are occupied. The rooms you speak of- first floor in the east wing, yes? They belong to King, my brother. But not to worry, I'm sure at the very least you can bunk with someone here. I promise you, we don't all carry knives and guns,"

Xyler was about to say something, but stopped himself. It was clear that despite his knowledge of how the manor runs, he had no idea of the current residents.

"How many people reside here?" Xyler asked curiously.

Dr. Iplier sighed. "I've stopped counting- fourteen, give or take,"

Xyler gulped. The rooms in the original manor had only been designed to hold up to eight people, not including the maid and the chef. He resigned himself to walk behind the doctor, wondering just how hard it would be to make his way to Brighton alone.

0o0o0o0o0o0

"Man, having four arms sucks,"

The complaint slipped from Halter's lips easily, but as soon as he realised the company he was with, one of his aforementioned limbs clamped to his mouth in embarrassment.

Septiplier only chuckled in return, shrugging with two of his arms raised, the other two supporting his chin as he rested them on Halter's table. The two fusions had hit it off immediately, much to Halter's delight, and they'd spent nearly every day together since they'd first been introduced. It was partly because Halter was so curious about how Septiplier managed to go about his day without ducking or hitting his extra limbs on things, and partly because Septiplier hadn't felt this attached to someone in years that they'd spent so much time together, but even now that most of the questions were answered, the fusions couldn't help but linger, feeling more at home together than they ever had apart.

"Yeah, it really does," Septiplier agreed. "I can't go a day without thinking it, you're not alone,"

"It's just... why would you need more than two?" Halter continued. "Sure, it looks epic on someone like Opal, but I'm not a totally awesome gem fusion,"

Septiplier scoffed under his breath, "Who says you're not an awesome gem fusion? You're literally Rhodonite,"

Halter raised an eyebrow, feeling his cheeks pinking at what he took to be a compliment. "Rhodonite? Uh... thanks?"

Septiplier rolled all four of his eyes. "You're always so nervous and worried you'll do something wrong- wondering if you've overstepped boundaries, concerned about whether or not people like you,"

Halter reddened as he realised that every one of those statements about him were true. How much had Septiplier been paying attention to his quirks and habits?

Probably as much as you've been paying to his...

"That'd be my inner Dan," Halter noted, trying not to get tongue tied in his state of heated exhilaration.

Septiplier smirked. "You're also very protective, especially of misfits like you. You tend to flex between referring to yourself as 'me' and 'we', and you're constantly having a crisis about who you really are. But you're kind and caring, and that's your inner Phil,"

Halter smiled. "Sometimes I forget you've met part of me before,"

Septiplier shrugged. "You're something entirely new, Halter. You're not Dan. You're not Phil. You're something more, you just don't know it yet,"

"Aww," Halter grinned, deciding he may as well embrace the blush that was now making its way to his neck. "Well you know who you remind me of?"

"Who?"

"Sardonyx,"

Septiplier raised an eyebrow again. "Sardonyx? Really?"

Halter gently placed two of his hands on Septiplier's own, holding them to the table as he spoke.

"You tend to think of yourself as a separate being- you don't see yourself as two different parts that make up a whole, unlike me. Mark is extravagant- he's honestly got the personality to match Sardonyx, but Jack's there too. He's easy to forget, but he's there. You can hear it in the accent you've got, and you can see it in the green hair, but it really comes in with your genuine nature. You don't lie to people- you tell them straight and to the point if there's a problem, and you're always upfront. You don't let others see what's really going on until it's too late, and you care probably too much about everything. That's your inner Pearl talking,"

Septiplier snorted, but made no move to detach their hands. "I guess I really am like Sardonyx, huh? I honestly thought you were just going to leave it as conceited but I was pleasantly surprised,"

Halter smiled softly, reaching out one of his hands to caress Septiplier's cheek comfortingly.

"Well, you could've left my similarities to Rhodonite at compulsive worrier but I figured I'd give you the same treatment you gave me,"

Septiplier grinned. "We're surprisingly different for being the only two egos with four eyes and four arms,"

Halter shrugged. "Well, not all gem fusions are the same,"

Septiplier smiled contently. "No, I suppose not. But you know what? All gem fusions, even toxic ones, are beautiful in their own way,"

Halter snorted. "This metaphor has gone on long enough- all I complained about was having too many arms, but..."

Halter inched a little closer. "I guess I wouldn't be able to pull this off with two arms, huh?"

Septiplier looked down- their hands were entwined on the table, and Halter had a hand on either side of his face, beckoning him to look into those brilliant brown and blue eyes.

"No," Septiplier agreed, mirroring Halter's embrace as he slid his fingers gently across Halter's pale skin. "You wouldn't,"

There they sat for a few moments, before Septiplier broke the silence.

"Can I kiss you?"

Halter blinked a few times. "Uhm... sure?"

Septiplier took a deep breath. "I mean, it's just- I've never actually done this before but god dammit, you look so kissable right now,"

Halter couldn't help but break into a grin at that, chuckling slightly, welcoming the embrace and enjoying the brief feeling of another's lips on his own.

Septiplier pulled away worriedly when Halter didn't react. "Wait, was that okay?"

Halter smiled softly. "Yeah, I quite liked it. Seems I'm not the only one that overthinks, huh?"

Septiplier reddened, hiding his face beneath his hands. "Sorry, I just... I didn't want to freak you out,"

Halter only smiled again, using his extra arms to bring Septiplier closer to him. "It takes a lot to freak me out, mister, I've got vivid memories of certain fics involving hats, chairs, and skin,"

Septiplier shuddered. "Let's not delve into fanfiction, I've got my own share of embarrassing stories,"

"Okay," Halter agreed, and that was the end of the conversation.

They held each other in silence for a few minutes, enjoying how simple their romance really was. While Halter had confided in Septiplier weeks ago about his feelings, he hadn't thought they'd really act on them so soon- if at all. He just liked there to be full disclosure between them, and romantic attraction certainly seemed like something he'd want to bring up.

Septiplier hadn't even minded, which was something Halter had been worried about. The fusion had simply smiled and returned Halter's outpouring of emotional drivel with a nod and a "me too".

Halter supposed he didn't really need a flashy revelation to come about because of this- really, if the first kiss was considered a milestone enough, shouldn't the first touch also be worthy of remembering? Even that was something forgotten, lost, because it simply didn't matter to Halter when these things happened. He'd known for a while that his feelings were returned, and he knew that this kiss wasn't going to be their last.

Halter rested his head on Septiplier's shoulder as they sat back on the couch. One day, they'd have to leave Halter's house to visit the others, but that moment hadn't yet come.

For now, Halter and Septiplier were free to forget the relationships they represented in order to nurture their own.

"Do you think anyone ships Rhodonite and Sardonyx?"

"Oh my god, shut up,"

Chapter Text

~Groundlands~

"How long do we have left, Seán?"

Seán quickly checked his watch for the time- he hadn't changed it to LA time just yet, but he could still tell that it had only been five hours. Now, that might seem like a decent amount of time, but Seán knew they had over seven hours of the flight left to go and even though he was already restless, he was barely halfway through.

"Ages," Seán sighed, sitting back in his seat. "Shame you couldn't sleep for longer, huh?"

Dark shrugged in return. "I usually have no need for it, but since I started carrying this child I've been able to do nothing else,"

Seán winced in response, his own nerves tingling with empathy. "She's taking all the energy out of ye, huh?"

Dark smiled. "Something like that. Thankfully, I don't believe the Void will be in too much disrepair in my absence- truthfully, I had already handed my reigns to Wilford long before I left. I was simply in no state to be holding it all together..."

Seán patted Dark's hand softly. "Hey, maternity leave exists for a reason,"

"True," Dark sighed. "I cannot wait for this travel to be over- this form is certainly convenient, but I much prefer my male body,"

Seán snorted. "But dude, most guys would kill to have a girl's body!"

Dark rolled her eyes, but smiled in return. "Yes, but most guys don't understand just how painful being a woman can be. Sure, a kick to the crotch hurts, but you can avoid that by being a nice enough person. It doesn't matter how a woman leads her life- at least once monthly she'll feel like hell."

"Gah," Seán shuddered. "Okay, nevermind, I'll keep my dick,"

Dark let out a small sigh, readjusting herself in her seat yet again. She couldn't sit still for long anyway, much less with this extra weight to worry about. She felt the baby start to kick again, pressing her hand to the child's apparent favourite place to be in the womb- settled just below her right breast.

"My, she seems to be just like Anti," Dark mused, her expression of sadness slowly fading with every time the child's feet made contact with her hand.

"How do you mean?" Seán asked curiously.

Dark smiled, beckoning him to feel her stomach again. The baby seemed to know it was getting extra attention, because Dark felt them move within her womb to kick at the other side of her stomach. She wasn't quite sure if that was something special, or if all babies had another sense for these things. She supposed she'd have to read up on pregnancy when they touched down.

"She's, quite literally, bouncing off the walls," Dark sighed contently. "Oh, I do wish he'll want her as much as I do..."

Seán was about to ask what was wrong, but then the haunting image of Anti slitting his own throat appeared in his mind. Right. That happened.

"I'm sure he'll love her too," Seán smiled, believing wholeheartedly in his words. Months ago, he'd thought of Anti as a stone-hearted killer, but now? He was certain that he and Anti weren't so different after all. "He loves you, you know?"

A pained expression crossed Dark's features. "I'm very aware of that, Seán. But that is not the dilemma. What I'm truly concerned about is if he really should love me, when I've wronged him this way,"

"We've been over this, Dark," Seán interceded, before Dark could worry herself further. "Everyone deserves happiness,"

"I have not forgotten," Dark explained, "I've merely... had a change of heart. I want to love him in return, trust me, but there are certain habits I seem unable to break that cause fractures between us,"

"Like?"

Dark swallowed. "Mind reading- I can't seem to stop it, but that's not the worst of it. Anti fears that I don't talk to him enough, but... I truly do know what he's thinking, he just isn't aware... I just get so busy with my position of power that I forget communication is important, and he certainly feels neglected, I... I just wish I could see him again to apologise. Perhaps then my conscience will leave me alone about it,"

Seán patted Dark's hand again. "I... I'm sure when he realises you're expecting he'll be here in a flash, Dark,"

Dark sighed in distress. "I don't- agh, don't you get it, Seán? It's wonderful that we're having a child, but I don't want Anti to come back just for her. Not because he feels obligated to be a part of her life, simply because of how she was conceived. I want... I want him to come back for me... I want him to return only if he truly wants to be a part of this growing family. Not because of the pressure this will put on him if he refuses,"

Seán was silent for a few moments, trying to comprehend the weight of what Dark was going through. The fear of Anti wanting to leave, mixed with the idea he seemed to have that he didn't deserve the glitch. The desire to keep Anti from the burden of having a child, while still considering that Anti might want the child, while also feeling guilty of forcing him to come back to their tainted relationship. Seán hated that there were no words he could say to dismiss Dark's worries.

"I... okay, this is getting nowhere," Seán admitted, mostly to himself. "We'll... we'll cross Anti's bridge when we come to it. How about we talk about... um, I don't know, uh... the egos. Yeah, how are they doing?"

Dark seemed grateful for the excuse to get her child off her mind. Her body instantly relaxed, her eyes gaining a slight glimmer, turning deep black from their previously consistent shade of blue.

"Ah yes, those... manifestations,"

Seán frowned. "I thought this would make you happier,"

"It's just that... my relationship with many of the egos has been strained, as of late. They cannot seem to stop involving themselves in my personal matters, despite my warnings to stop. I'm afraid to admit that I might have resorted to silencing them myself if they had continued- I'm not sure if that's me or the increased hormones talking, mind you,"

Seán sighed to himself. It seemed Dark was just a walking puddle of angst, no matter what he did to fix it. Pregnancy really was a wild ride, huh? "Okay, who hasn't been a dick about it?"

Dark was silent for a few seconds. Then, "I suppose the only ones who haven't been vocally opposed or congratulatory are Bim, King and your two newest ones... their names escape me,"

"You mean..." Seán had to wrack his brain to figure this out, feeling somewhat embarrassed that he'd forgotten the names of two of his official egos. "Tommy and Clint?"

"Ah, yes," Dark affirmed. "They just don't live in the manor, while most of the others do. Why, I believe that the only one who has not yet made it his residence is your superhero- everyone else is close friends or in a relationship with one of my brethren,"

Seán blanched. "Everyone except Jackieboy?!"

Dark smirked at Seán's obvious surprise and discomfort. "Yes, though many have only become official recently. Hmm, I remember telling you about some of them, which were you aware of, again?" 

"Well, I thought it was just Jameson, Marvin and Schneep," Seán sighed. "They're... they're all dating Mark's egos?"

"Well, except for Tickler and Powers," Dark supplied once again. "They don't fit with our crowd."

Seán groaned heavily, sinking even further into his seat. He was afraid that if this continued, he may sink so far he'd fall through the floor and into the ocean. "And why isn't Jackie dating one of them?"

Dark shrugged. "I assume it to be because many of Mark's egos tend to be... morally inconsiderate, at the very least. He has his own place somewhere in the Void, but he often stays over to check on the rest of his family. It's common knowledge, in fact, that he doesn't trust any of us with his brothers,"

Seán found the images of Wilford Warfstache and Yandereplier appearing in his mind, and figured he knew where Jackie was coming from.

"Right. So who are they dating, and why, and should I act like a concerned father about this?"

Dark flashed him a small smile. "Well, you of course know Marvin was in a relationship with Yandereplier. Unfortunately, they both perished in a fight with Anti a couple of months ago. Marvin has returned, but Yan hasn't to my knowledge. He isn't very popular compared to the other egos, so it isn't very surprising that it's taking him this long, but... well, it's obvious that Marvin misses him."

Seán felt a tug in his chest as he imagined losing someone he loved like that, having to live with himself every day knowing they'd come back, just not knowing when. That, he decided, would suck even more than the knowledge they weren't coming back.

"Right..." Seán sighed. "And how did they get together?"

Dark smiled fondly in remembrance. "A few days after Marvin became an official ego and arrived, Anti and Jackieboy brought him around to meet the Ipliers. Yan had existed for a year now, waiting for his Senpai, and as soon as he saw Marvin he realised just who he'd been waiting for,"

Seán blinked. "Wait... so Marvin's only with Yandere because Yandere thinks he's his Senpai?"

"Oh, Yan knows Marvin's his Senpai," Dark corrected. "And from what I've seen, Marvin is very attached to him in return. At least, that's what I've been forgiving his attitude for. Trust me, Seán, none of your egos are in a relationship they don't want to be a part of- despite some of them having strange judgment of character,"

"Okay, so Marvin's got a boyfriend," Seán sighed. "What about Robbie, then?"

"Ah, the zombie. Ever since he arrived, he's mainly kept to himself, not even talking to his brothers," Dark began. "One of Mark's egos, The Host, had taken it upon himself to become Robbie's personal narrator. Somewhere along the line, they got a little too close to be called friends anymore, though I don't think they consider themselves a couple either. They're a strange pair,"

When Seán had asked Robin to edit that thumbnail, he hadn't expected the fans to make up another ego and include him in the roster with Jackie, Marvin, Schneep and Anti. He wasn't really opposed to it, but he certainly hadn't seen it coming. He'd been careful only to use normal enough pictures in his thumbnails after that.

But it brought him some measure of happiness that the zombie was alive and well, and with someone who cared about him. Despite the fact that it was another of Mark's countless egos.

"And Chase?"

"Brody and Bing have been best friends since Bing arrived," Dark sighed, eyes closed. Seán was pleased to see him relaxing a little despite the occasional creak and groan that told them they were on a plane miles high in the air. "Mostly because their personalities are so similar. Bing has always been very protective of him, more worried about Chase's wellbeing than his own. Chase has told me that sometimes he forgets that Bing isn't human. I don't know when- possibly after Anti's fight- but one of them proposed the idea of being a couple and now they can't go an hour without making out in public. It's... quite disturbing, actually,"

Seán shuddered. "I thought... I thought that Chase was still hung up on Stacy,"

Dark sent him a meaningful look that seemed to tear through Seán's very being. "He was, for a time. Though recently, with a form of closure, he has started to make a remarkable recovery from his depression. Tell me, Seán, why did you create an ego from a dead man?"

Seán sighed. "Ah fook, I didn't think... I didn't think he'd really come to life as an ego. My neighbour showed me a newspaper clipping from a few years back, told me I looked like the man that used to live nearby, and he just... he looked so similar to me that I had to make a video about it. But I didn't want to make a boring old lookalike video where I explained that he'd murdered eight people, so I... I made a skit of it."

Seán looked down at his hands, ashamed. "I didn't think he'd really have to live with any of it,"

Dark closed her eyes again, finding Seán's hand and grasping it reassuringly. "It isn't me you have to explain yourself to, Seán. It's him. But I insist we move on from this topic- wasn't the whole aim of this conversation to lighten the mood?"

Seán gave a half-hearted bark of laughter. "Yeah, I guess it was... well, anyway, who else is there? Oh, right, Jameson- what's the story behind that?"

Dark stiffened a little, but passed it off as discomfort from sitting still for too long. She wasn't about to admit to Seán that she had a history with Wilford, one that made looking at the pair of gentlemen as they spent time together painful for her. She pushed her distress aside.

"Wilford sleeps around- it's no secret. He just doesn't think about the consequences of his actions, and acts based on a whim. It's a flaw we can't blame him for, as the things he's seen in the past have all contributed to his madness today, but we deal with it in different ways. When your dapper man arrived, something was very obviously different. Wilford went to great lengths to get Jameson to notice him, much greater than he's gone for anyone since... but that's not important,"

Dark winced at her mistake, trying to compose herself to continue the tale. She hated that part of her still clung to the memories and happiness she'd been able to find with Will by her side.

Seán frowned, clearly noticing Dark's lapse of speech, but said nothing about it. "So what, Wilford courted him instead of just fooking and leaving him?"

Dark's lips twitched a little. "Not quite. I'm sure Wilford thought Jameson was going to be a brief fling, but he seems to have grown attached to the man. It's been half a year now, and he's always with Jameson, but it's no secret to anyone of the house that he still sleeps with who he wants to. It's just that now, he's got someone who'll forgive him for his infidelity, but... I must bring my concerns to light. Jameson has been feeling hurt, he just doesn't let it show. I fear that if this behaviour continues, their romance will come to a painfully hard stop,"

Seán grimaced. "Why does Jameson still stay if he knows about this?"

Dark shook her head with a sad smile. "He's in love, Seán. He's holding out hope that Wilford will change for him, but love can't change a man. Wilford must find a way to fix himself, but he isn't entirely convinced there's even something wrong with him in the first place. It's... not the best love story, but... well, he's not the best person, I'm afraid. But I have hope too, Seán. He was once a good man, and he can be a good man again. He's been twisted by the same forces that I have... but I digress. We've left out one very notable couple."

Seán didn't want to pry, but it was clear to him that Dark had some kind of romantic history with Wilford, and extra clear that Dark still wasn't over it. He remembered from the mini series Mark had filmed last year that Wilford- or William, as he'd been known, was involved with the very same Celine that was now a part of Dark, but... the way Dark spoke of the madness Wilford had let consume him, it sounded as though they'd been together even after the events of the series had ended.

He shook his head. "Right, the doctors. How did they meet?"

"It was a dreary day for me, I'm afraid," Dark sighed unhappily. "Anti was growing ever distant from me, and my mood was sour. I had locked myself away, grieving for a love I hadn't thought to pursue. For as you know, by then it was already known to both of us just where Anti's feelings lay. But you already know that- the point is, I was absent the day that Henrik was introduced to my family. In fact, he was introduced to me by Dr. Iplier the following day. With their shared profession, it was undoubtedly obvious that they'd be close friends, but so soon after Marvin and Yan had gotten together, nobody was expecting something similar to happen,"

"But it did," Seán gathered. Dark smirked.

"Yes, it did, but they didn't want to take away from the attention Marvin and Yan were getting for their relationship, so they kept it a secret. Well, a secret from everyone but me. Unfortunately for them, the events that followed- with Henrik dying at Anti's hand along with his two older brothers, then Chase's arrival, they found themselves with their hands too full to focus on romance. Until the proposal, they hadn't really officially come out as a couple, but by then, everyone already knew,"

Seán found himself gasping, sitting up in his chair, exhilaration flooding his veins. "Proposal?!"

Dark cocked her head to one side. "Oh dear, it seems you were spoiled for the ending of the tale. Yes, Seán, the doctors are engaged to be married, but they will have to wait until I become officially ordained before they are wed- I have searched far and wide across the Void, but there seems to be nobody officiated to perform a wedding. But I am in no state currently, with my emotions and physical body being unpredictable- it seems they will have to wait until I am fit to pursue the title,"

"Wait, why do you have to perform the wedding?" Seán asked, still reeling from the discovery that his goddamn doctor ego was getting married before he was. 

"Wilford and I are the only ones capable of leaving the Void," Dark reminded. "But as you may gather, I am less likely to get distracted by women in flashy garments while being here. Unless they were to somehow manifest physically in this world, they would have to wait for me. It is simply unfortunate timing that has befallen us,"

"Uh huh..." Seán uttered, mind racing. "Okay. That's everyone? Nobody else is dating anybody else?"

Dark sighed deeply. "Well, this doesn't concern your egos particularly, but Bim and King have decided to fake being in a relationship recently and I've been fairly unsure of how to respond to it,"

Seán blinked. "They're faking being together? Why?"

"It has to do with Wilford- though he always needs consent and he never really gets it from those in a couple, Bim has been one of his go-to one night stands since he first arrived. It's like the damn show host just doesn't know how to decline. He's clearly gotten sick of being used, and instead of facing Wilford like a man and saying it to his face, he's decided that by pretending to date King he'll avoid the confrontation. I haven't been there recently to see how it's been going, having been searching for Anti, but Wilford doesn't seem to care, and I think..."

Seán swallowed. "You think?"

Dark grimaced. "I have reason to believe that Bim is experiencing a case of one sided attraction- it wasn't noticeable when he was still casually involved with Will, but since he's been in this false relationship it's been so obvious that I'm surprised even Wilford can't see it. He's been absolutely pining for Wilford's attention, and Wilford's just oblivious to it. He only has eyes for Jameson now, and somehow Bim feels he's been wronged. It's... complicated, to say the least. Not to mention what effect this could possibly be having on King- the man hasn't been right since his last breakup,"

Seán felt a surge of pity for Dark, while also trying to get the image of Mark kissing himself out of his mind, and shuffled a little in his seat. "You shouldn't have to hold it all together, Dark, you've got your own little dramas to deal with. Maybe... maybe it'll all sort itself out while you're gone,"

Dark sighed. "I can only hope, Seán,"

With that, the conversation seemed to end. Seán didn't know what to make of the strange love triangle evolving from Jameson and Wilford's relationship but he was still thinking about the notion that a part of his being, a weird part albeit, was engaged and hoping to be married- but there was nothing he could really do to help, was there?

Well wait just a second, he thought. Schneep can obviously possess me, and it's fookin terrifying. What if Dr. Iplier can do the same with Mark? Maybe they can take control of our bodies, and...

And what? Get married? The idea seemed so ludicrous that Seán thought Mark just might agree. It wasn't like it was actually them, right? Just personifications of their skit characters, playing out roles in their bodies, right?

Seán sighed, noticing that Dark had once again fallen asleep. There was nobody else to talk to on this horrible aircraft that would even begin to comprehend what was going through his mind. He supposed he'd just have to leave it- there were other things he should be thinking about right now. Like how he was going to prevent Mark from hurting Dark while they were at his house, or how they were going to do checkups on the baby, or where Dark would ultimately end up staying.

He grimaced to himself. This was going to be a long seven hours.

Chapter Text

~Void~

Anti slammed the sliding door that led to the manor's theater with enough force to pull it off its hinges, startling Bim and King, who were doing something in the corner with a jar of peanut butter. They both looked guilty, but Anti just didn't have time for their stupid fake relationship right now.

He fixed them with steely eyes. "Get the fuck out and fake your love life in your own damn rooms,"

"W-what?" Bim stuttered, "We're not-"

"I SAID OUT, TRIMMER!"

Anti pointed harshly to the open doorway, glaring at the pair until they decided to comply. They shuffled out with their peanut butter covered hands and there was the sound of a collision in the hallway. Normally Anti would be curious, but right now? He was lucky he hadn't destroyed the entire manor with his emotional upheaval.

He stormed to the end of the room, drawing the curtains closed around the octagonal seating area and focused on his erratic breathing, trying to calm himself.

"Anti!"

The glitch gritted his teeth. Somewhere, something inside him knew that the doctor was probably here to help, but Anti couldn't stop the sharp remark that tumbled from his lips.

"What the fook is it?!" Anti hissed. "Can't you just leave me alone?!"

"Nein! You are going through a period of high stress, mein Bruder! I vant to assist!"

"Assist what?" Anti sniffed, his voice cracking a little because he hadn't yelled like this in so long. Until now, Dark had insisted on fighting all of Anti's battles for him, after all.

"Ze news, obviously,"

Schneep moved the curtain aside as forcefully as it was placed there, placing his hand roughly on Anti's shoulder. The glitch didn't move to swat it away, instead fixing his tearful eyes on the doctor he'd killed once before, folding his arms and pointing his chin defiantly.

"I don't need help-"

"Komm, Anti," Schneep scoffed. "Zat is a lie. You are barely able to handle yourself- sit, I insist,"

Schneep pushed Anti into the chair he'd been aiming for, taking up the remaining seat and eyeing Anti carefully. "If you leave, I vill chase you,"

Anti groaned, hands in his hair, tugging at it stressfully. "I know."

Schneep sighed, folding his hands in his lap. He wasn't expecting to have to deal with Anti this way- he'd been talking with his estranged brother for the past two months, and they'd worked up enough of a bond to trust each other, but Anti was fragile now. One wrong word could mean the end of their friendly relations, and Schneep was not willing to give up on him yet. "Now, vhat seems to be your main concern, hm?"

Anti took a few long, shuddering breaths. "I... I'm not ready to be a father,"

Schneep gave a humourless chuckle. "Vell of course you aren't- but ze reality is, it is happening. Dark has chosen to keep ze baby, und ze matter is out of our hands,"

"Shouldn't he have told me?" Anti sniffed, hands moving down his face to cover his eyes. He began to rock a little in his seat, growing restless. Schneep had already determined that Anti was a destructive worrier, for both himself and his surroundings, but now didn't seem like the right time to take notes on his behaviour. Anti clearly already felt threatened in some way. "Don't I h-have the right to know?"

Schneep reached out hesitantly, placing a reassuring hand on Anti's own. "Anti, calm yourself. You need not vorry- Dark had every intention of telling you. I vas ze one who told him he could not return,"

"Y-you? Why? H-how could you-"

"Anti," Schneep cut him off. "It vas dangerous for him to return- surely even you have seen how veak he had become. Ze child vould not have survived ze change vhile still in ze vomb, I vas certain of it. But I did not do zis to harm your relationship in any vay- it vas simply unfortunate zat he couldn't find you before he resorted to venturing to ze Groundlands,"

Anti sat back in his chair, a little stunned. "He's... in the Groundlands? Alone?"

Schneep tutted. "Nein, Anti, you must really stop zis talking before you think, it is annoying. He ist nicht alone, he is vith Jack,"

Anti scowled, and Schneep gave him a pointed look.

"Komm, Anti, er ist not zat bad,"

"I don't care," Anti spat. "He gave all of you special treatment, while I was left alone, not even knowing who I was. I don't trust him with Dark."

Schneep was about to retort, but settled back down. As much as he hated to admit it, Anti had a point. He couldn't discredit the glitch's worries, because they were based upon his own experiences, and that would be like denying the issue even existed. No, Schneep wasn't one to play into a trap waiting to be triggered.

"Vell, vould you rather him be fending for himself out zere, hm? You should be thankful to Jack, for taking him in,"

Anti shivered. "What, so they're friendly now? That's perfect."

"Anti," Schneep grimaced. "Stop acting like a childish brat und listen. You have unresolved anger, questions you want answered, but you have to put zat all aside now- for heaven's sake, you have a child to vorry about!"

He cautiously stood, offering Anti a hug. Anti looked warily at him with eyes that glowed brighter than ever with frustration, flickering from Schneep's outstretched arms to the ego's concerned expression.

"I don't want to forgive him without talking to him first," Anti huffed, but accepted the embrace begrudgingly, much to Schneep's delight. "I... I'm sorry, Schneep. I know I'm overreacting, but... come on, you heard Wilford too. The... the baby aside, w-why didn't Dark tell me about Will?"

Schneep blinked a few times, not expecting the question. "I am certain zat Dark vould never cheat on you, if zat is your concern-"

Anti shuddered, letting out an angst filled sob and pushing Schneep away roughly. "N-no, that's not what I mean! B-before we were together, before you all even arrived here, when we were close... was he with Wilford all along? I just... those moments are all I have, even though recently we've been together, it just hasn't been the same..."

Schneep looked upon the glitch with worry, rubbing his back in effort to help him calm down.

"Zere zere, mein Bruder..." Schneep whispered, letting Anti's grip on him tighten. Apparently, this entire thing was going on long before the news of his unborn baby. The confusion, the anger, the regret... it was just this revelation that had tipped him over the edge. Wilford's words couldn't have helped the matter either, come to think of it.

"Vould you like to talk about it?"

Anti met his eyes again. This time, the anger had retreated and in its wake left fear, hurt, and a hint of sadness.

"Y-yeah," Anti sniffed. "I uh... I'll start at the beginning..."

0o0o0o0o0o0o0

"Blank!"

Blank jumped, turning to face someone with a face identical to his own. Someone that he didn't particularly like, for she always came to Blank for advice about general things like how to operate a television (how she'd summoned one in the first place was beyond Blank) or how to use twitter (not that they could- Google and Bing were the only wireless internet providers in the entire Void).

"H-hey, Mrs Thompson," Blank stuttered.

"It's a good thing I've found you! I can't seem to find my granny flat and my FPS isn't working!"

Blank groaned aloud, holding his head in his hands. "You mean your GPS? There's no geography here, Mrs Thompson. Your house is gone because you faded,"

"I've still got a few years left in me, I can't believe you'd say such a thing!"

Blank grumbled something unintelligible under his breath. Why couldn't this woman stay dead? It was common, for Ethan's egos anyway, to experience brief fades due to lack of a following. Blank was the least fortunate of them all, in his opinion. Because more people knew about him due to Anti and Dark's presence, he was almost always awake and conscious. He wished he could be like Mrs Thompson, Mad Mike and Father Ethan. They all would just appear again one day, not knowing they'd even been gone, and could disappear again within hours.

Except Blank sometimes wished for something a little more permanent.

"Sure, Mrs Thompson," Blank grimaced, rolling his eyes. "I'm not helping you again, one day you're going to have to be independent,"

Mrs Thompson scoffed at him. "Where's that rodent boy, he's certainly more of a gentleman than you..."

Blank tensed, the memories of Yan's question still fresh in his mind. The turmoil he'd faced, the tears he'd shed, coming back up for more. He sniffed, holding his oversized sleeves to his eyes. "I... I don't have to be here,"

"Blank! You get back here!"

Blank didn't listen to the old crone, speedwalking as far away as he could possibly manage with his tiny legs. She wouldn't follow. With any luck, she'd fade within the day and Blank could go back to moping about the shameful moments in his life. 

But it seemed today wasn't his lucky day at all.

He bumped into someone for the second time today, falling to the ground and praying to whatever god had condemned him to this life that it wasn't the Postman.

"Oh dear- are you alright?"

Fuck. Fuck, not you!

"F-fine!" Blank snapped, turning on his heel again and trying to get away from the man he was currently becoming infatuated with. Xyler pursued him, concern written all over his face, and that did nothing to help Blank's anxiety. He walked a little faster, but Xyler was younger than Mrs Thompson by a mile. He caught up to Blank and gripped his arm tightly, though not hard enough to hurt. 

Blank sniffed once more. "G-go away, Xy..."

"Blank... you're not alright, are you? Let's get you inside-"

"NO!"

Blank wrenched himself free from Xyler's grip, breathing heavily as he stared at the taller man's confused expression. He couldn't go back there- not after leaving so suddenly, and definitely not with Xyler! The last thing he wanted to do was to offend King by acting all loved up next to another man when their breakup hadn't even been official!

"Blank, please," Xyler started, inching forward while Blank took a step back. Why wasn't he running? He should be trying to get away.

But he stood still, transfixed, hating every minute as Xyler drew ever nearer.

After what seemed an eternity, yet also too quick to realise, Xyler's glove touched Blank's cheek, and the young ego looked up nervously.

"Are you scared of me?" Xyler asked innocently. Blank took a deep, shuddering breath.

"I don't want to go back," Blank uttered.

There was tense silence for a few moments, before Blank felt himself encompassed by warmth. He opened his eyes, not having realised they'd been closed, and found that Xyler was hugging him.

Blank hadn't been hugged in a long time.

"G-get off," Blank spat half-heartedly, feebly making an attempt to push Xyler away. Of course, he didn't really want Xyler to stop, but he didn't want Xyler to think he was a freak.

But that's what you are, isn't it? Someone who falls in love quick as breathing? Someone with black eyes, when even Anti has green in his? You're not worth it, why delude him into thinking you are?

Blank sniffed again, instinctively burying his face in Xyler's shoulder, before proceeding to berate himself for accepting the gesture. Xyler gave him a small squeeze, before loosening his grip.

"It seems you didn't want me to leave, after all," Xyler smiled softly, while Blank averted his eyes, biting his lip.

Xyler's gaze quickly turned worried. "I'm terribly sorry if I offended you, I simply wanted to calm you down, you seemed to be in an awful state. But if I'm honest I... I do have the feeling we knew each other once. I'm not usually so forward, but... something about you just seems so familiar..."

Blank didn't want to speak. He didn't want to say that he felt the same because that was like justifying his sudden attraction and that was something Blank knew wasn't right to do. He closed his teary eyes and broke the embrace, missing it sorely after his torso met the chilled atmosphere of the Void.

"N-no," Blank stuttered. "We haven't m-met, and... and I don't want your help,"

This time, Xyler didn't follow Blank when he broke into a run, willing to take even Mrs Thompson instead of this. A part of him sunk as he ran, feeling somewhat more devoid of hope than usual. He wondered for a while what had caused it, before coming to a halt with the realisation that he'd really wanted Xyler to follow him after all. He really wanted to be worth it to someone, worth it to himself, and he had nobody else in his life before today that would ever even break a sweat for him. Xyler had been willing, but he'd stopped, and somehow that hurt Blank even more than the idea of facing King again.

He'd had hope. He'd had another chance, and he blew it.

Why couldn't he do anything right?

~Groundlands~

"Oh my god, is that Mark?"

"Go talk to him!"

"No way, what if it isn't him?"

"Who else has a jaw like that, Linda? Come on, we should just go and say hi..."

Two girls crossed the busy street, arms laden with groceries, to say hello to a rugged looking man in a dark coat and jeans. He wasn't looking their way, but they were so certain of his identity that they were willing to take the risk. Though they didn't see Amy or Ethan, or anyone nearby, with his face and his build, he had to be Markiplier.

Linda and Sophie rushed over, nearly dropping their week's supply of food on their way to meet the man who had saved their lives, before noticing something odd. Was Mark... smoking?

"Is that a really cheap cigarette or am I just getting nostalgia?" Sophie asked Linda, crinkling her nose in disgust. She'd smoked all through high school before quitting, and now she couldn't stand the stench of tobacco. She couldn't believe she'd ever wagged class for this.

"Huh, you'd think he'd at least have Kents on him, he's definitely got the cash,"

"Linda!"

"Shh, Sophie, he's looking at us! Okay, go say hi!"

"No, you do it!"

"Is something the matter, ladies?"

Linda and Sophie shared a brief look. On one hand, he and Mark were almost identical. This man's jaw was a little high and his eyebrows a little far apart (Linda would know, she'd drawn enough fan art to fill ten sketchbooks), but that could all be put down to camera angles, she supposed. His voice was a little deep, but perhaps he was just coming down with something. Though Summer wasn't a common time to catch a cold...

"H-hi Mark, we're huge fans," Sophie gushed, her cheeks heating up.

"Yeah, I can't believe you're in Irvine, where's Amy?"

Mark looked taken aback for a moment, but Linda supposed she could chalk it up to the fact he'd been approached by two strangers who probably wanted his autograph. Definitely wanted his autograph.

"Linda!" Sophie chastised. "That's personal! Um, sorry, we're just so happy we saw you! You saved me when I was at my lowest and I can't believe I'm finally meeting you I just..."

Linda tsked and patted Sophie on the back, silently fangirling just as much as she was. "Sorry, Mark, we're a mess,"

Mark only smiled, seemingly shaken from whatever funk he'd fallen into. "It's no problem, no problem at all- did you two want an autograph?"

"Oh, I haven't got anything!" Sophie sighed. "But can we have a selfie?"

Mark blinked for a few moments, as if he didn't truly understand what a selfie was. But that was absurd- most of his pictures were selfies with Chica, weren't they?

Linda frowned. Something about this situation seemed off.

"Sure," Mark answered after only a little delay, and both girls posed for a quick picture before their bus pulled in. Then, they regretfully picked up their bags and started to board.

"I still can't believe that happened," Sophie grinned. Linda couldn't help but smile in return, but was quick to notice something strange.

"Hey... is Mark getting on the bus?"

Sophie met her gaze, frowning. "Wouldn't he have brought his van or something- I thought he didn't do public transport,"

"I don't know why he'd be in Irvine, of all places. Compared to LA, it's hardly a hot spot," Linda sighed, observing Mark as he took a seat at the back, seemingly unaware of the fact that at any point in time he could be mobbed by other, less considerate fans.

When he noticed them, he shot them a small smile, but didn't make any conversation.

Sophie sighed wistfully. "What filter should I use?"

"For my face? Eugh, the puppy one,"

"Ooh right! That'd be so cute, oh my god,"

"Are you going to post it?"

Sophie grinned. "Only on every platform- I can't help it, Linda, you know me. I'm an attention whore,"

Linda rolled her eyes fondly. "Okay babe, let's get the ice cream home before we melt it with our cringe,"

Sophie scoffed with a smile, leaning into Linda's side as the bus began to move. "You mean your cringe- I'm sexy and I know it,"

Markiplier watched the two giggling girls with a small frown. It wasn't the fact that they were a couple that bothered him- no, Mark was many things but a homophobe was not one of them. It was the idea that perhaps, they knew too much. The brunette certainly seemed to think something was up, and Mark just couldn't have anyone raising suspicion. He was still a wanted man- corpse, whatever- after all. He gritted his teeth, letting a single tear fall before hastily wiping his face. He hated to do this, but he really had no choice.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

"The bodies of two young adults were found beaten and bloodied this evening in an alley in Irvine's western suburbs. The girls; Linda, 22, and Sophie, 24, had been seen earlier in Irvine's shopping district where they were reportedly carrying bags of groceries which were not able to be located at the scene of their death. The parents of these young women were notified immediately, and their input has brought some disturbing theories about their murder to light."

The screen cut to a woman, sobbing, a man presumed to be her husband sitting beside her. Her title, as listed on the screen, was 'Hannah Glenwin- mother of the victim'.

"My sweet Linda was always kind hearted," the woman sobbed, the death of her only daughter still fresh in her mind. "We were always very supportive of her, and her decisions, you know? When she told us she liked girls, we stood by her because we knew, we knew even though we're a Christian household that our faith in her is greater than our faith in God, we'd never betray her trust,"

"So you believe it was a hate crime, then?"

"Yes, that is my belief," Hannah shuddered. "When we got the autopsy reports back and it was noted that both the girls were missing their engagement rings, that's when I thought it must be more than a simple hit and run robbery- they still had their iPhones with them, you know? A robber would've taken them. I... I think this attack was prompted by their displays of affection. With so many people still around who despise same sex relationships, it's all too possible, isn't it?"

The screen cut once again to the initial reporter. "Any leads on who these girls might have been seen with before their deaths will be much appreciated, and we here at Fox News urge all young men and women to be cautious. Until the killer is found, the streets shouldn't be considered safe,"

Chapter Text

~Void~

"Do you think anyone heard?"

King looked around the noticeably close rooms- it was a good thing they were only under Dark's quarters, not anybody who was actually going to call them out. If anyone had heard Anti screaming about how they were faking their relationship, they'd be doomed. Ridiculed.

"No," King said, though he was only half certain. "We should be fine, just... quick,"

Bim sighed as he looked at his peanut butter covered hands, feeling dirty in more ways than one. "You really think walking around with peanut butter on my ass is going to convince them?"

King rolled his eyes. "Who else has peanut butter here?"

"Yeah, but it's not on your hands," Bim huffed.

King looked him up and down, noting his poor posture and the rings around his eyes. "You haven't been sleeping, have you?"

Bim flushed. "I- I don't need-"

King sighed. "That's bullshit, Bim, you're not as strong as you used to be. You could fade at any moment and you wouldn't even know why- you need all the rest you can get,"

"But-"

"Bim, listen to me," King commanded. "I'm older than you, I know what's best,"

Bim scoffed. "Right, of course you do. Dark would kill me if I sat down anywhere knowingly with peanut butter on my ass,"

"Well it's a good thing he's not here," King responded. "Look we don't have to do it, we can just say we broke up or something-"

"No!" Bim interrupted, fiddling with some chunky pieces of spread between his fingers. Eugh.

King raised an eyebrow. "No...?"

"I-I... I don't want to stop. Not yet,"

Bim didn't know why he'd disagreed in the first place. It would all be so easy to move on and forget this happened, seeing as he clearly wasn't happy with how Wilford had reacted, and that had been the only point of this, right? But no, something within Bim didn't want this to end. Was it that he liked the company? Was he holding out hope that Wilford would finally confront him so he could get closure? He wasn't sure, but he couldn't back out of it now.

King didn't look very convinced, but he nodded anyway. "Okay. And seeing as you're not going to do anything with that peanut butter, can you wipe it back into the jar? Dark would kill me if I spilled any,"

Bim met his eyes challengingly. "You just said-"

"What was that, Peanut?" King smirked.

Bim looked horrified. "Don't... don't bring me into your weird nut fetish, Squirrels, I swear-"

King only laughed. "I was just teasing, it doesn't take much to get you to turn red, huh?"

Bim flushed further. "Sh-shut up,"

"Make me," King teased, sticking his tongue out cheekily. Bim sighed, turning even redder as he wiped away the peanut butter from his hands- was King meaning to be so flirty? He didn't want to comment on it- King was one of his closest (and only) friends, and he didn't want things to become awkward between them.

Well, isn't that ironic. At some point, you're going to have to start kissing in public- how long are you going to keep up this charade, Trimmer?

"This stuff is nightmare fuel," Bim groaned. "I need a sink- King, can you come open the door for me?"

"Sure thing, sweetheart,"

Bim stopped himself from sighing aloud. King was probably only talking like this in case people were listening- he shouldn't be frustrated because of that. They made their way upstairs and down the hall, all the way to the room Bim shared with Silver. The superhero was currently lying on his bed, reading a book. He didn't spare the two a glance as they made their way to the ensuite, where Bim got the first good look at himself in days.

"Dear God I look like death," Bim moaned aloud. King patted his back, before realising that his hands were still covered in peanut butter, and now Bim was covered in the stuff.

"Whoops," King commented, licking his finger and trying to wipe it away, to no avail. "Sorry Bim, I've got nuts on your suit,"

"Don't nut on my-"

Bim stopped halfway through his sentence, and King was surprised he had blood anywhere else in his body at this point- he was redder than Yan's hair, and that was saying something.

King couldn't help but snort. "I'll only nut where you want me to, then,"

"Oh my god, stop," Bim groaned, but even he cracked a smile. There was a harsh knock on the door.

"Whatever you two do in there, clean it up afterwards!"

Bim was about to answer, but King shushed him with a nutty finger to his lips.

"Sorry, Silver!" He called cheerily. "We'll be quiet next time!"

Bim licked his lips to get rid of the excess spread, shaking his head in embarrassment. "Dear God..."

"Hey, it's all helping the idea that we're together, isn't that what you want?"

Bim didn't really know what he wanted. But he knew that despite how much of a trainwreck this was turning out to be, some part of him didn't really want it to end.

"Sure," Bim sighed. "Sure- but now he thinks we're fucking in here, what do we do?"

"Well, you need a new outfit anyway, so you might as well take off your tux," King suggested.

"I didn't think you'd ask me to strip, I'll be perfectly honest with you," Bim sighed further, shrugging away his peanut covered tuxedo and moving to summon a new one.

"No way, you're not doing anything extra until I say you can, I don't want you to fade," King warned, swatting at his hand. "Besides- there's more peanut butter here,"

King gestured to a section near Bim's collar that was smeared with pasty brown, and Bim grimaced.

"Alright, but... what am I supposed to wear?"

"I'll get you something," King promised. "I keep a collection of outfits so I don't fade trying to make more when I need them."

Bim unbuttoned his shirt and balled it into a pile with his tux, leaving his pants on. There was no need to expose himself any further, after all- though Mark's egos were all similar enough, some were taller than others, some were fitter, and they were all different in their own way. Coming from a time before Mark had dedicated himself to working out, Bim was fairly self conscious of his own form when he compared himself to his brethren. He didn't get the chance to see many of them without a shirt, but he knew Dr. Iplier was buff, and from the time he'd walked in on Marvin and Yan he knew Yan's body was nothing to scoff at.

He'd been up close and personal with Wilford many times, but the man had never really changed. His muscles and smooth skin had been there for as long as Bim could remember, even before Mark got into shape.

Bim shook himself out of thinking about Wilford shirtless. Somehow, being in the same room as King made him feel even dirtier about his strange attractions. Every other Iplier had fallen for a Septiceye- well, except King, but none had been attracted to one of their own before. He couldn't help but wonder if the others thought he was weird and unnatural because of this- after all, the Ipliers always referred to each other as brothers.

Well, Bim could say for certain that the line between brother and lover had been crossed between him and Wilford before, and nobody seemed to have an issue with it. But then, the fact that Wilford liked to use Bim in his sexual exploits wasn't really highly publicised either.

"Hey, Bim? You alright there buddy?"

Bim blinked, bringing himself back from his thoughts. Peanut butter. New shirt. Right.

"Okay, let's go," Bim sighed, opening the door. Silver looked up from the book he was reading, fixing them with a strange look. He didn't say anything as Bim walked from the room, head held a little in shame. He didn't like exposure.

"Come on," King said soothingly, wrapping an arm around Bim's waist. "You remember where my room is, right?"

"How could I not? I trip over acorns in that hallway all the time," Bim scoffed. King grinned in response.

"That'd be Molly- she's a forgetful one,"

"Molly?" Bim asked uncertainly. "She one of your pets?"

"Yeah," King sighed wistfully. "She's the oldest of the bunch- I've never figured out how to keep them young like us. Blank helped name her,"

Bim felt his heart sink a little, but he couldn't explain why. He wrote it off as second hand sympathy, and glanced to his side, watching as King smiled sadly.

"Blank, huh?"

"Yeah, I miss him sometimes," King shrugged, though Bim could tell he cared a lot more than he was letting on. "Gets a little lonely. But it's fine, I... I'd rather he live his life happy somewhere else than stay here. He mustn't have liked it if he ran away,"

"Sorry," Bim uttered, snaking his own arm around King's waist to give him a squeeze of reassurance. "I know... I know how much it hurt you when he left,"

King sighed. "There's no point dwelling on it- to be honest, I've forgotten most of what happened between us. I'd rather spend time with you than mope about something I used to have,"

"Right," Bim said uncertainly. He knew he shouldn't push King to tell him anything, especially when he didn't know the details as well as he should. He really had no grounds to even make the assumption that King was hung up on him at all.

But then why did he feel the urge to make King happy again?

"Okay, where are your shirts?" Bim asked, entering King's room-turned-greenhouse, and looking around. All he could see was greenery, mixed with various hordes of squirrels.

"Oh, I don't wear shirts," King supplied, tossing Bim a large, thick piece of fabric. "You can have a robe,"

"A... robe?" Bim said in surprise, looking it over. Truthfully, he'd never worn anything but the occasional bedclothes and his suit, and shuffling it around, he couldn't even find where his head was supposed to go. "How do I...?"

King looked over and tsked. "Really, you're not that hopeless, you'll make it work."

Bim sighed. What was this all coming to?

0o0o0o0o0o0

"I see," Henrik muttered, making notes in a pad of paper he'd summoned about halfway through Anti's recount. "So you've been feeling zis emotional pain for many years, ja?"

"Ever since The Author first arrived," Anti sniffed, wiping his eyes. His face had become red and blotchy with every memory he'd recollected, every time he'd had to remember a moment he felt disconnected and shunned by everyone around him. "I'm sorry, I... I didn't mean to keep you,"

Henrik waved the apology away. "Now now, none of zat. Ich bin ein doktor, es ist my job to listen und care for you. I vant you to get some rest, Anti- you're weak at ze knees vith vorry und heartache. Vhen you awaken, I vill speak again vith you."

Anti bit his lip, giving a halfhearted nod.

Henrik's eyes narrowed. "Anti. Don't hurt yourself- not to get to Dark, und especially not to punish yourself. You deserve better zhan you think, am I clear?"

Anti's slumped slightly. It seemed Henrik had predicted his next move perfectly.

"I... okay. I trust you,"

"Good," Henrik said, giving Anti one last hug. "I imagine Dark vouldn't mind if you used his bedroom, given zat zere are no other vacancies. I vould offer you mein own bed, but I share vith Doc,"

Anti swallowed as he nodded fresh tears streaming from his eyes and mixing with the blood weeping from his neck. Henrik patted his back softly as he sent his older brother off, looking over his notes with a prolonged sigh.

Oh, Anti... I knew it was bad, but I never thought it would be this bad...

"Hen?"

Henrik didn't even smile as Dr. Iplier entered the room, looking worried.

"Hen, you've been in here for five hours- I had Google keep time, I was worried,"

Henrik sighed again, beckoning his fiance closer. "Und you vere right to be worried- I fear Anti's condition is far vorse zhan ve previously thought,"

Dr. Iplier's face fell. "Oh, no..."

Henrik tittered. "Unfortunately so- ve had a lot to talk about, und zis vas barely ze beginning. I have only learned a little, but I gather zat he has severe depression und mild agoraphobia, adding onto his generalised anxiety disorder. I also fear zat he is bipolar- though I vill have to complete further sessions vith him to confirm zat. He could just as easily be written off as schizophrenic- perhaps he even has both. I assume zat similar to ze rest of us, he has ADHD und he also seems to have a lot of obsessive compulsive behaviours,"

Dr. Iplier sat back, stunned. "Christ... and that isn't all, is it?"

Henrik shook his head sadly. "Nein, I vish it vere ze case. He has told me he hears voices vhen he is stressed- zhis is vhat clued me in on his possible schizophrenia. He self harms regularly- from vhat I have gathered, at least vonce daily, und zat is including ze kinky things he und Dark do in ze bedroom. I trust you vith zis information, Doc, though he vouldn't appreciate it getting out- he doesn't harm himself as punishment, at least, not always. It is... sort of a fetish for him, you understand? It's an addiction I am hoping to curb over time, as it is unhealthy when combined vith his current mental state,"

Dr. Iplier swallowed as he nodded. "Do you think he'll let me look over the notes?"

"I vill ask him vhen ve next meet," Henrik decided, letting Dr. Iplier approach and embrace him. He set his paper down.

"Trust me," Henrik sighed, running his hand through Dr. Iplier's hair in effort to soothe his stiff fingers. "Though it is important to know for us to help him, it... it's very sad. He has been at var vith himself as vell as us for ze past five years at least, vith nobody to turn to. He has been very... alone,"

"I hope he'll get better," Dr. Iplier put forward. Henrik smiled against the brief kiss they then shared, easing himself into a more comfortable position, sitting in his lover's lap as they occupied the theater's plush chairs.

"Me too, Doc," Henrik agreed. "I am tired now- vould you like to come vith me und accompany my day nap?"

"Just a nap?" Dr. Iplier smirked a little suggestively. Henrik snorted in response.

"Vhatever happened to vaiting for marriage?"

"That's not what you were saying last night,"

"Vell, I suppose it can't hurt... you know, unless you vant it to,"

Dr. Iplier leaned in for another kiss, picking up the notepad before any other ego could get to it. Though he was curious to know about Anti's condition, he would wait to see if the glitch trusted him at all before he even asked about it. He slipped it into his lover's pocket as their coats swiftly came off, their shirts soon to follow. They fell into a heap on the doctors' bedroom floor, to be forgotten until duty once again called.

0o0o0o0o0o0

Anti opened the door to Dark's quarters, feeling empty and numb and sore all over. His head had begun to pound, his eyes felt like sandpaper, and his voice had become hoarse. The house seemed to echo how he was feeling, soundless until Anti stepped forward, hearing the door creak as he pushed it a little farther.

The room was never this uninviting. Back when Dark and Anti were still friends, before everything had fallen apart, he'd used to sit and read with Dark in here. The room was lit by candlelight and it smelled of rich wine and dark chocolate, and the books they'd read told stories of forbidden romance, and great adventures, and castles deep in the woods.

Anti missed those days. Even these past two months had felt strangely unfamiliar, like he was living with someone else entirely. There was no time for chocolate or wine, no time for reading. The brief moments they'd spend together were taken up by sex, and by the time Anti had awoken the next day Dark had gone. He knew Dark didn't mean to be away. He knew that there were way more egos, way more people here to keep track of than there used to be.

That wasn't the problem.

He felt he was the problem- not Dark, nor the others. It could all be traced back to him, couldn't it? It was all his desire to get closer, his own selfishness, his own disgruntled behaviour when Dark left him alone, wasn't it? It was all his own temper, his own reactions, his own goddamn self pity.

Fookin look at yourself, you're a joke. You're not ready for a baby...

And then there was the matter of the baby. The baby. Even now, it hadn't seemed to have sunk in that Anti was going to be a father. His mind skipped over it, accepting it, postponing his crisis in light of the news that Dark had slept with Wilford multiple times before. At the time, Anti's rage had overcome his worry, but then, that was all his own fault as well, wasn't it?

A child... I hope they're nothing like me.

Anti was very aware that he was a problem. He didn't want anyone to go through what he had, especially since he had very little reason to feel so down in the first place. Not only that, but the very traits he possessed would be a nightmare to tame in a child- with his over activity, his terrible sleep hygiene, his tendency to shout to get his point across. He had a bad temper and he knew it, and he only wished he'd thought to ask if Dark could get pregnant if only to save him from the burden of raising someone just like Anti.

Because, it all boiled down the the fact that Dark had already had to deal with Anti once. If Anti trusted himself at all with caring for a child, he'd insist on being the sole parent. Dark didn't deserve any of his shit. Why was he still here, when he had a house of his own, waiting for him? Why did he let himself slip into the bed as if nothing was wrong, when each time the fabric brushed his skin he felt even worse?

Did Wilford sleep in this bed once?

Anti didn't know who to trust anymore. Schneep? The man seemed insistent that Anti was innocent, but how could that be true? There was blood on his hands, blood from years ago, murders he wished he could have prevented. Ties he wished he hadn't broken. Lives he wished he hadn't ruined. How could all of that be true, while Schneep was right? No, he was only feeding Anti positivity, hoping to keep him from making any more stupid mistakes.

Wilford? The man was untrustworthy anyway, given his complete lack of a moral code, but since finding out that Wilford slept with Dark- possibly still was considering his wording of the phrase, Anti didn't know what to do about him. He'd wanted to hurt Wilford- he'd wanted to slit his throat and leave him there to die a slow, painful death, but he hadn't.

But the fact that you wanted to is bad enough. You're a monster.

And Dark- how could he trust a word that came out of his mouth? Dark had always sworn he was beautiful, amazing, his closest friend, but if he and Wilford were together, surely that had to be false. Every whisper, every compliment, everything Anti had lived by- did any of it matter?

You're horrible, you barged in on his life, got him pregnant, and now he has to live away from home because of you. Your siblings are always fighting because of you. It's all your fault.

Anti clutched the pillow beside him desperately, fresh tears escaping before he could even fix his previous dehydration. Could he do anything right? All he wanted was for Dark to come back, so he could hold him, and hug him, and kiss him, and apologise, and fuck, he wanted to see his baby too.

He just wanted all of this to go away.

Selfish.

Disgusting.

Worthless.

Victim.

Chapter Text

~Groundlands~

"Have a nice sleep?" Seán asked as Dark rubbed her bleary eyes, stirring finally after five long hours of stiffness. The plane had just landed, and though Dark wasn't entirely conscious for it, she could still feel the upset she associated with air travel beading up inside her, crawling within her skin. She grimaced.

"It wasn't terrible," Dark sighed, stumbling slightly as she left her seat, desperate to get off this terrifying machine. How had they managed to become even more fear-inducing than the ones in the thirties? She caught herself on another, vacated seat, noting that most of the passengers had already left. She figured she couldn't blame them.

"Sorry, I should've-"

"No, Seán, don't forget that I'm still an otherworldly being," Dark huffed. She stumbled again as she attempted to weave through the airplane seats, breaths becoming increasingly more rapid. Seán dropped the bag he was holding, rushing to her side just as she collapsed. Her eyes were closed in bitterness, clutching Seán's hand despite herself, looking angrier than Seán had ever seen her- but he had a feeling her malice wasn't directed at him.

"I hate being this weak," Dark grumbled, hoisting herself up.

"Just... just let me help you, man," Seán sighed. "I know you're independent and all, but I don't want you to hurt yourself, or your kid,"

Dark begrudgingly let Seán assist her as they left the plane, collecting their luggage and making for the closest seat. After Dark's dizzy spell, Seán wasn't sure he was going to let the man- woman- demon out of his sight again. She was clearly in no state to be out and about- he only hoped Mark would be kind enough to let her stay, given that Seán planned to hop from place to place within California and he wasn't sure he should take the demon with him.

"Thank you for putting up with my nonsense," Dark voiced her gratitude, sitting carefully on the bench. Part of her hated to admit that wearing this maternity dress made her feel comfortable- Dark had been opposed to wearing dresses for years, after all, but her old suit just wasn't cut out for this body type.

"You're welcome," Seán muttered, scanning the crowd. "I don't see her- maybe she's running late,"

Dark cracked a small smile, waving at someone Seán couldn't see. "She's right here, Seán, you're stressing too much,"

Seán whipped around- sure enough, Amy was approaching them, Tyler by her side. He smiled warmly, though he was a little embarrassed that he hadn't been able to spot them- how did Dark even know them?

"Amy," Seán grinned in relief, pulling Mark's girlfriend into a hug. "How've you been?"

Amy smiled in return, but Seán could see the lines of worry on her face. Not that he'd mention it to her, of course. You never tell a girl she looks like death, even when she does.

"Today's been a weird ride," she shrugged, clearly not willing to talk freely about the matter. "But I've been fine, how about you? You settling into the single life okay?"

Seán rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. "I mean, I haven't really been out of the house to take advantage of it, so hopefully that'll change sometime soon. What about you, Tyler?"

"Mark's been pushing us all lately," Tyler sighed. "He's really getting himself worked up about those two girls,"

Dark and Seán shared a hasty glance, fixing the two with an alarmed glare each. If the situation wasn't so dire, their mirroring might have been humourous.

"Wait, what? What girls?" Seán asked, praying for anything but what came to mind. Was it girls that had started rape rumours again? Or girls that had leaked his private pictures? Or girls that... that did anything else to cause a scandal? Seán didn't know what the daily tea was, and it was very clear to everyone he spoke to.

"Oh... sorry, I forgot you've been on a plane," Tyler apologised, looking uneasy. "Last night's news- a murder in Irvine, people are saying Mark was the last person that saw them, but Mark's been here the whole time,"

"What, so they're trying to start drama? In wake of someone's death, that's- that's horrible," Seán frowned.

"No, no, the weird part is that a picture went viral- it was uploaded by one of the victims, and it's Mark taking a selfie with them. I'll show you when we get back, I forgot my phone,"

Dark felt someone tap her shoulder, looking up to see Amy smiling at her. That was certainly a welcome, if unexpected turn of events. She'd expected some form of verbal assault, and she'd have taken every word of it, knowing that her crimes against Seán were far too great to be forgotten with one apology.

She blinked, a little off guard. "Amy?"

Despite knowing who she was and what she looked like, Dark had never been formally introduced to Amy before. It was a wonder the two even knew who she was, given that she'd never met Tyler as a woman before- and she certainly didn't resemble the woman that Mark cast to play Celine in his little skit. Sure, she bore almond eyes and raven hair, but her chin was more defined, and her face was less round.

Amy's eyes twinkled with mirth. "Yep, in the flesh. Dark, right?"

"Correct," Dark smiled softly. At least she was treating Dark with enough respect not to garner unwanted attention. Tyler seemed to do a double take, eyes flickering again to Dark, suddenly seeming to figure out who she really was. The man hadn't changed much since he was a child, it seemed. Always the last in on the joke.

"Wait, you're Dark? I thought he was in the bathroom or something, you look... different,"

"That is because I'm not the Dark you knew," Dark started, glancing around nervously- there were at least three internet personalities here, and they were bound to gather a crowd if they didn't leave the airport now. "I feel it might be best to continue this conversation elsewhere, away from prying ears and eyes,"

"Yeah, that'd be best," Seán agreed.

"Well, we got a taxi here so I guess we're going back the same way," Tyler sighed. "Ready, Amy?"

"I'm fine," Amy agreed. She linked her fingers with Dark's and helped pull the heavier woman up, not questioning the extremely obvious bump that was protruding from Dark's abdomen. Did she already know? How could she, when Seán hadn't even told Mark yet? But with a quick scan of her current thoughts, Dark knew that she suspected, at the very least, that Dark was carrying a child.

"Thank you," Dark commented, steadying herself before letting go of Amy's arm. "I've been finding it difficult as of late to stand, it is much less convenient than usual,"

Amy chuckled. "I can imagine. So, you're bigender then?"

Dark contemplated it for a moment. She'd never really cared for her gender identity- after all, she never really showed her female form to the people she associated with. Even before the other egos, she'd never found the courage to let Will see her looking so similar to Celine.

"I suppose I'd call it genderfluid," Dark sighed. "Though often my body changes to match my current gender. It's... complicated, to say the least,"

Amy seemed content with that answer, moving on to talk about how Mark might react to Dark's presence.

"He knows you're coming, obviously," Amy explained, "but he's been stressed, like Tyler said. With the whole Mark Doom thing, then this murder- he's been called by the police several times, and now he doesn't hear his phone go off without cursing, it's driving him nuts,"

"...Dark?"

Dark had stopped as if she'd been smacked. "Did you say... Mark Doom? As in the actor, Mark Doom?"

"Yeah," Amy filled in, looking concerned. Well, everyone but Tyler had the emotion written all over their faces, if Dark was honest. "He used to own the place we filmed Who Killed Markiplier in- you knew him, or something?"

Dark grimaced. "I'm his ex-wife, actually. It's a long story,"

"You mean everything from Who Killed Markiplier was actually true?" Tyler asked, confusion blossoming across his features. Dark continued walking, thinking that they could at least have this conversation productively, though her mind was reeling. Mark Doom... there was a name she hadn't heard in many years. Why had he graced the news again? She'd have to ask Mark about it, once he got over the initial shock of her appearance.

"Yes- I told Mark the whole story, and he decided to build upon it. I am a being comprised of two souls and a demon, though Mark left the force behind our presence up to the viewers to decide. I'd hoped it would bring Wilford back from insanity, but... if anything, it made him worse,"

"Right," Amy sighed. "Sometimes I forget that you're both real people too. That sucks,"

"Indeed," Dark replied, waiting patiently as Tyler hailed a cab. "My... I suppose I should get in first,"

"Wait," Seán interrupted, holding out his hand to stop Dark from getting into the vehicle that had just pulled up. "Let's be logical- Dark's uncomfortable and doesn't know a thing about modern society, she shouldn't sit with the driver."

"She's very obviously pregnant, Seán, you'd rather her sit in the back?" Amy argued. Tyler blanched.

"Wait, you're not, right?"

"That is neither here nor there," Dark grimaced. "I would rather avoid the small talk, actually. I will take the back seat,"

"I'll take the front," Seán said, greeting the cab driver. "You two should probably adjust to the fact that Dark's having a baby before we even begin to get Mark involved,"

"But how can... you know what, nevermind. I don't need to know,"

Amy tsked as she allowed Dark to get in, climbing across to the middle and letting Tyler sit next to her. "Mark's not gonna be happy. He tells me all the time about how fanfiction isn't real but if it was, he'd definitely be the top,"

Dark cracked a small smile as the statement became lighthearted. For a second there, Amy really had him worried.

"You approve, then, of my interest in men?"

"It's 2018, Dark, you can be who you want," Amy urged. "Though I must say a 3D special effects demon isn't the top of my list,"

"I'm still just lost as to who the father is," Tyler sighed.

"It's..." Dark began.

'Should we trust them?'

'Well, it's not hard to piece together. Seán would probably tell them anyway,'

'As long as you're alright with it,'

"Anti," Dark spoke with a hint of fondness. It seemed even when he was apart from the glitch, his heart was warmed every time he was mentioned.

Tyler started in his seat- thank God Seán was distracting the driver enough that the man didn't notice. "No... I refuse to believe that you, Warfstache, and Antisepticeye are all real, it's not true,"

"Tyler," Amy warned. "He had to get the kid from somewhere- why would he lie? Hey, Seán!"

"Yeah?"

"Is Dark really with your weird brother?"

"I don't... oh. Oh, uh, yeah. I'll explain later,"

"You see?" Dark questioned. Tyler didn't have a response, other than to hold his head in his hands. He let out a long groan.

"Mark won't like that either," Amy stated. "But he'll get over it- um... sorry for asking, but how come you're here with Seán and not with Antisepticeye?"

"He prefers Antithesis, as that is his true name," Dark corrected. "It's... also complicated. It concerns matters that shouldn't be openly discussed, but to put a long story short, we had an argument."

"Oh," Amy said quietly. "Did he... did he not want the baby?"

Dark sighed, resting her head in her hands. "I never got the chance to tell him- I only found out three days ago myself,"

"That doesn't look like something that can go unnoticed," Tyler pointed out. "How far along are you?"

"I am not sure," Dark replied honestly. "The doctors had proposed a date, but considering that I couldn't possibly have conceived at that time, I am left to wonder. I suspect this isn't an ordinary child by any stretch of the word- in fact, she seems to have doubled in size since I discovered her,"

"Doctors...?" Tyler asked, looking a little sick. Dark patted his shoulder reassuringly.

"I'll give it to you straight, Tyler. Each and every one of Mark's egos, as well as Seán's egos, are real. Though they cannot all use physical forms as Wilford and I have, they exist in a parallel plane to this world. But don't worry- only myself and Wilford can transcend dimensions. You're safe,"

"That's not..." Tyler sighed. "It's just a lot to take in,"

"Well, we're about to have to explain it to Mark in a second so get ready," Amy warned, and Dark supposed they must be approaching Mark's house. She'd never been outside- only inside, and even then only briefly. She was curious to find that there were gardens out the front- well maintained, too. She doubted it was Mark that kept them.

"Thank you for being so understanding, Amy," Dark thanked again, but Amy simply smiled at her in return. It seemed that despite their opposing roles in Mark's life, they could get along with each other just fine.

"I'll talk to him first," Tyler offered, opening the door and giving the driver his payment. Seán held out a hand to help Dark from her seat, and Amy helped steady her when she got to her feet. Dark smiled in gratitude, letting Amy engulf her in a little, friendly hug.

"It'll be fine," Amy reassured her.

"God, I hope so," Seán sighed, waving the cab off. "This house the one?"

"The very same," Amy agreed. Tyler and Seán made for the door, while Amy hovered behind in case Dark needed her help. Dark herself wondered if she should transform back to her male form now, or wait until she was out of the public eye. She decided she could handle it for a few moments longer.

Ethan answered the door, looking somewhat paler than Dark had seen him. Though maybe her memory had been marred by the image of Ethan's ego, Blank, and his insistence to date King despite his severe peanut allergy. It was a miracle the ego wasn't dead before he left- and good for him, Dark felt. Though King was certainly upset, she knew she'd have had to step in herself if Blank got any worse.

But she hadn't spoken to Blank in almost a year now, and the ego was far from the most important thing on her mind as of late. She let herself be shuffled in the door, before stepping aside and making her long awaited change. She made an effort to hide herself as her shoulders grew wider, her jaw stronger, her suit materialising beneath the suddenly suffocating dress. Dark shrugged it off without a second thought, straightening his tie. Though his shirt barely buttoned over the bulge in his stomach, it would do for now. He didn't see Ethan and Tyler's horrified looks as he turned, only having eyes for the German-Korean man now entering the room.

"For the last time, mom, I told you- look, I wasn't even there, I was here with Tyler the whole time,"

"Then how did they get the picture? It was photoshop?"

"I don't know!" Mark cried, a little frantically. He hadn't seemed to notice Dark's presence yet, too focused on the conversation he was having. "Maybe- I've had enough of the police calling, news channels requesting interviews, I just want to live my life! Yes, look, I know- I know it's all suspicious, but I'll be fine- I can handle... fuck. Sorry! I uh, I have to go,"

Mark ended the call, looking up at his newest guests. His hair was disheveled, his eyes dark and baggy, his shirt on backwards and his skin pale. If Dark thought Amy looked bad, Mark was a whole new level of disorder.

"Seán? Dark? Sorry- I just... things have been hitting the fan. We're going to brunch, right? NOT you, you demon bitch,"

Dark raised an eyebrow. "I honestly expected as much- nor do I care to join you on your lunch date. I am quite exhausted,"

"You sure you can handle it?" Seán asked, and Mark was definitely concerned about just how much Seán appeared to care for Dark's wellbeing.

Before Mark could start speaking, Amy elbowed him in the stomach. "Don't you dare,"

Mark looked at her, flabbergasted. "A-Amy? He's a-"

Amy sighed heavily. "Look at him, Mark- really look at him. Notice anything?"

Mark squinted, but he couldn't really see the difference that Amy was trying to get him to spot.

"What?" Mark asked.

Amy sighed once more. "Just... I'll tell you at brunch. Seán can explain his side, and I'll explain what Dark's told me, and we'll sort this out somewhere you won't take your anger out on him."

Mark didn't look like he wanted to leave the matter alone, but he digressed with a scowl sent in Dark's direction. Dark took a seat in the nearest chair, resting his tired legs. How had this trip taken so much out of him?

"Don't fuck anything up while we're gone," Mark threatened. "Wait, should we bring Chica? I don't know if I trust-"

"Mark," Sean interrupted. "He wouldn't kill a dog- he's not trying to hurt you,"

"How do I know that?"

"Mark, please," Amy pleaded. "Just... go get real clothes on and we'll talk about it, alright?"

As Mark left the room, Seán turned to the tired looking demon. "Hey, uh... did you want me to leave anything out when I tell them or...?"

Dark shook his head simply. "No, I've nothing more to hide than my sexuality and my pregnancy, he's free to know and understand all that I've told you. If he can let his frustration go and truly listen, that is. Don't threaten him- dealing with the police is certainly stressful on its own, and if Mark Doom has truly made a reappearance... I don't even want to think of the mess he's making. If it's alright with you, I will have a day nap. Carrying this baby is turning out to be much harder work than I had assumed it to be,"

"Come with me, I'll get the guest room ready," Amy offered. She helped Dark to his feet again, and he gave a goodbye wave to Seán, Ethan and Tyler as he disappeared round a hallway.

"You have any cravings?" Amy asked. "We might be able to pick some things up from the mall,"

"Not yet," Dark confided. "But I do have quite the taste for chocolate- not to impose at all, please, only do what you feel you must. I don't deserve to be pampered,"

Amy gave him a sad smile. "Maybe, but you don't deserve to be shunned either. I'll get you some chocolate, just have a good rest. If having a baby is anything like people tell me it is, you're gonna need it,"

"Thank you again, Amy, you've been a brilliant help,"

Amy chuckled as she left, flicking the light off after making sure Dark was seated on the bed. "It's no trouble- really, get some rest. Mark might want to hear the news from the source, and I don't need two tired men arguing today,"

Dark offered her a small grin in return. "I shall rest quite deeply, trust me."

When Amy had left, Dark sighed to himself, shrugging off his top layers and removing his trousers. With his regular clothes folded neatly beside the bed, he held his stomach as he rolled beneath the sheets. His palm never left his midriff, and he rubbed it softly as he felt himself drifting off to sleep. She kicked a few times, though she also seemed weary. She must have exhausted herself on the plane- not that Dark was complaining.

Maybe, she'd inherit Anti's sleeping habits. He supposed he could only hope. But he'd love her with all his heart no matter how she turned out, he knew.

'Are you so confident that the baby is female?'

'It's stuck- though when we can hear her thoughts, I am sure she will tell us who she is,'

'It's just a child, Damien, it's not intelligent enough to convey thoughts in our language until we teach it,'

'Her, Celine. Her.'

'If you insist...'

Chapter Text

~Void~

"So you're a robot, then?" Xyler asked the android ego that sat before him- one that looked like another version of his old master, Mark. Most of the residents of this manor seemed just like him, in fact, and Xyler found himself having to stop his immediate reaction to shove them aside and light them on fire, though the scares were starting to affect him less and less. He'd never have guessed that the man's foolish plans and decisions would continue to haunt him this way- but with him alive and kicking again, perhaps Xyler's fears were justified. Truly, what was stopping Mark from stepping out of the shadows and finishing the job?

Google blinked instinctively, flexing the fingers on his newest arm. He'd never had to be repaired after a fight before- usually, he just let himself fade and returned brand new, like nothing had happened. But the two months he'd spent healing after Bing had thrown him around had brought him some much unwanted perspective. Bing had allowed his quick mind to become clouded with real thoughts, and emotions, and now Google was growing more and more aware that his mannerisms hadn't really even changed at all- and that's what was maddening.

He'd always had emotions. He'd always had feelings. He'd always displayed affection, but he'd justified it as part of his programming. But it wasn't.

How, then, if he was no different from the egos he'd sworn to protect, could he continue to degrade himself? Part of him knew, deep within the code that maintained his form, that he was useless. But he'd never call a living, thinking, feeling human worthless.

He'd never call Bing worthless.

Was he worthless?

Was he even an android at all?

"Yes," Google answered the newcomer bluntly, not speaking aloud the inner turmoil of his newly discovered mind. "I am a machine."

"Right... uh, the doctor told me that you were the only way to get a message to Earth, and I must correspond with my associate,"

Google raised an eyebrow. "Earth is not the word you mean. This place, this Void... it's all connected to your Earth, it's just hidden away in the psyche of those willful enough to use it. But yes, my nature as an android allows me to send messages over the internet. To whom shall I address the email to?"

Xyler rattled off Chef's gmail account, observing with a start as Google's eyes lit up unnaturally. A screen was projected before him, from the logo on Google's chest, and the android seemed to go motionless. Xyler didn't know if this was how technology worked in the era he'd left behind, but given the recent smart tech explosion, he supposed anything was possible.

"Please type your message," Google urged after a few moments of Xyler's baffled silence.

"R-right then," Xyler agreed. He moved his fingers to touch the light, still unsure of how to proceed, feeling startled when his hand went right through, the button darkening under his touch. He took a breath.

Chef-

It's me, Benjamin. I'm terribly sorry for my hasty exit, but I couldn't sit idle while Mark Doom was in the media's eye once more. I am writing this from a remote area that I don't entirely understand, like space without stars. It's a pitch black void, from what I can gather, it's the home of the man I told you about- Dark. The one who helped me to bring down Mark back in '76. I decided I had to enlist his help once more, but I may be gone for an extended while. In the meantime, I urge you- find a safe place. Mark may come for you again, and you won't be so lucky to survive the fire twice.

-Benjamin

"Hopefully that will suffice," Xyler sighed, pushing the 'send' button and watching with relief as Google resumed his human-enough form.

"If I might ask- why do you go by a name that isn't your own?" Google queried.

Xyler shrugged, shaking his head. "I'm not entirely sure, sir. I know that Benjamin is my birth name, and the name I have carried until the recent years, though something within tells me that Xyler is my true name. I will respond to either, but Xyler feels more natural now than ever before. Something about this Void really establishes it,"

"You seem upset."

Xyler looked up, and into Google's deep blue eyes. It was true- his earlier encounter with Blank had left him with some very mixed messages, and even messier feelings. He couldn't shake the idea that he'd met Blank before, yet the younger looking man denied it wholeheartedly, and though he wanted to get closer he knew that he'd have to wait until Blank felt the same before sating his strange new desires.

Xyler couldn't really explain it. His desire to reach out to the ego, to embrace him, to hold him close and protect him from harm. The very idea was irrational, so bewildering and exhilarating that Xyler might once have called it love.

But in this day and age? It was simply absurd. Love at first sight, while it may have been prevalent in his time (as it had needed to be, given the raging wars) simply didn't exist in this modern society. He'd met couples who'd been dating for several years without thinking of marriage, and people who were afraid to confess their feelings because their love might be refused. In conditions where procreation was not needed, why should people rush into committed relationships? Xyler had never been married, nor would he ever be, he supposed. But these feelings, these heartwarming thoughts... was it unjust to possess them so soon after meeting the blue haired boy?

"If I might confide in you," Xyler began, "I have been having some... difficult thoughts."

Google didn't seem fazed at all as he nodded. "Proceed. I am well equipped with the experience to handle anything that you will throw at me, if you consider the love triangles and parabolas that exist in this house."

"Indeed, my problems seem silly compared to what I've seen here," Xyler admitted, thinking back to the green haired man that was Dark's apparent boyfriend. "I've come to meet a nice young fellow, and he's somehow enraptured me- though we've barely spoken. I only met him within the day, but I already feel as though I know him well... is that crazy?"

Google shook his head. "Hardly, I've seen it happen again and again. Each Septiceye has ended up with an Iplier so far- whether it was due to the insistence of the fans or the close friendship that Mark and Seán maintained, they drifted to each other because of the pre-existing chemistry of their originals. It's less of a game of chance now, and more of a waiting game to see who a new ego will latch onto. I'd say that your original maintains a close bond with the original of the ego you're attracted to- that would explain your seemingly misplaced memories."

Xyler bit his lip. "Sir, I'm not sure I... Well, I'll put it like this. I'm not an ego- I'm a physical, living person,"

"Maybe," Google countered. "So are Wilford and Dark, yet they are also egos, in a sense of the word. Their distant relative, Mark, brought them to life, though they still retain memories and physical bodies from their time in the Groundlands. Do you know of a man named Tyler Scheid?"

Xyler frowned. "No sir, but the name seems eerily familiar. Who is it?"

Google's eyes lit up again, startling Xyler unwittingly, and a screen projected from his chest. Xyler felt his eyes widen in a strange sort of recognition- but how could it be?

"That's... that's me," Xyler stated.

"No," Google said, satisfied now, that the ego before him belonged to Mark's childhood friend. "That's your original, Tyler. He is close friends with Mark."

"But I..." Xyler began. "I'm much older than he is, in reality, though my appearance hasn't changed in these long years,"

"Tell me, Benjamin," Google addressed him by his original name. "Is the ego you've grown attached to, in any way, reminiscent of this young man?"

The image shifted, and Xyler could now see a man he recognised as Blank staring at him- but at the same time, it was hardly Blank at all. This man, while he had blue hair and an identical face shape, had white sclera instead of black, and wore a smile wider than Xyler had ever seen on Blank's cheeks.

"I... yes, but how?" Xyler asked.

"His name is Ethan Nestor-Darling," Google explained. "He's also very close with Mark and Tyler- so close that one of his egos has dated Mark's before."

Xyler swallowed. "Yes, that'd be him. The ego, that is- his name is Blank. I assume you know him, judging by your lack of shock,"

Google looked thoughtful. "Interesting... last year, he vanished from the manor sporting terrible rashes and even bleeding from several places on his skin. The man he was consorting with at the time was devastated, to say the very least. Until now, we've been under the impression that he had faded, but clearly that is not the case,"

"Faded?" Xyler uttered, even more concerned than ever for Blank's wellbeing. The term 'faded' just didn't sound good. "What do you mean?"

"When an ego doesn't recieve enough attention, or they exhaust themself to the point of total fatigue, they simply cease to exist," Google replied. "It happens as a result of injury, or mental illness most of the time. As Ethan's channel is much smaller than Mark and Seán's channels, it is not uncommon for the majority of his egos to fade in and out of this reality. It is not painful, Benjamin, don't worry."

Xyler bit his lip. "But sir... it sounds horrible,"

Google blinked. He found he couldn't help but agree. Objectively, of course.

"I've personally faded a number of times," Google opened up. At Xyler's shocked expression, he made quick work to explain.

"Fading is not permanent- when we make a comeback in the community, often we will return stronger than ever. I faded once due to lack of a following, though my brothers have faded more often than I have. I also use it as a healing mechanism- when I am damaged beyond repair, I allow myself to fade from existence, making my quote-unquote "death" insignificant."

"That's terrible," Xyler frowned. "Wouldn't you keep on fighting death, with everything you've got?"

Google shook his head. "I am a machine- my value is not significant. But in Blank's case, he suffers depression to the point where he sees no payoff in trying anymore. This is a habit King had hoped to curb, but now he never will. I can only give my condolences to you, Benjamin. It must be devastating to have feelings for someone who won't ever accept them completely. It's a phrase often represented through pictures on the internet- You will never find love until you learn to love yourself."

Xyler bit his lip and nodded. "Alright... Thank you, Google. I will... I will look for something to clean,"

Google cocked his head to the side. "You do not need to clean- it is part of my primary objective to serve the egos that live here,"

Xyler sighed. "With all due respect, sir, cleaning is my escape from reality. Forgive me for infringing upon your daily tasks, but... I will start with the servant's quarters."

As Xyler left the room, Google found himself worried. Worried. What was this coming to? Without consciousness and thoughts, his tasks had been so easy to complete. Now, he found himself questioning every step of the way- his moral code, his feelings, his duty. He was designed to accomplish a task- not to allow the new guy to take over.

Without his cleaning job, Google was lost on what to do. His immediate thought was to protect the egos from harm, but they all had a significant other to watch their back. The ones that didn't? They'd have scoffed if he offered them help.

But there was a man out there, someone who really could use his help. Someone he hadn't served in a year- but then, Blank hadn't really given him many orders. Seeing how worried Benjamin had seemed when faced with the possibility of Blank fading, something within Google had clicked.

"My tertiary objective is to protect, serve and save," Google whispered to himself. He stood, flexing his fingers out of habit as he strode from the door with a purpose. He would find Blank, and put an end to the misery Benjamin would surely face- before it even began. 

He told himself it was purely because he needed another task, and Wilford was too busy screwing everything that breathed to give him orders. He told himself he didn't care for the blue haired boy, who had never been unkind to him, who had never purposely left his mess around like Ed and Silver.

He didn't care. He was a robot.

Why did that sentence sound less real and more fabricated with each time it passed through his system?

~Groundlands~

"Nice place," Seán commented, looking around at the cafe the group had found. It was quaint but not too quiet, and Seán could hear the frantic rush of the employees as they served the customers, barely having the time to mind that there were five moderately famous people dining here, and for that he was somewhat grateful. The coming conversation he was going to have with Mark was going to be hard enough without potential eavesdroppers.

He still didn't seem to be over the fact that Dark was in his house when their lunch arrived- Seán had a chicken sandwich that he gratefully devoured, having been too nauseous to eat on the plane. Mark, however, was still staring at his hands, his plate of food forgotten. Amy, too, had noticed, and she reached out to wrap an arm around Mark's shoulder. Seán was worried to see that he flinched upon contact.

"What?"

"Mark, you've barely touched your food- and you didn't eat breakfast," Amy said, concerned.

"You should really eat something, it's not healthy to skip meals like that," Tyler pointed out, and Ethan nodded with a mouth full of vegetables.

"I'm fine," Mark stated a little harshly. Amy frowned.

"Stop biting our heads off, we're just trying to help," Seán interceded, and Amy shot him a grateful look. Seeing as he was finished with his meal anyway, Seán figured now was as best time as any to talk to Mark about just what had been happening in Brighton the past few months.

Mark bit his lip, looking remorseful, but remained silent. It was as if he didn't trust himself to speak without letting his anger consume him. Whether it was anger about Dark, or anger about the constant harassment of the police, or even anger directed toward himself- Seán knew just how badly Mark tended to handle himself when he was overwhelmed.

The Irishman supposed he was probably doing the best he could in this situation, but even that wouldn't suffice in these conditions.

"So, before we talk about any of the weird stuff, is it alright if Dark stays with you until he's fit to go back to the Void?" Seán began.

Mark fixed him with a stare that Seán didn't quite know how to place. Whatever emotion was behind it, the glare was intense, and Seán's tone wavered as he elaborated, seeing that Mark wasn't convinced.

"You know- 'cause I've got a big two months planned, and I can't drag him around with me when he's like this, and-"

"You still haven't told me what's wrong with him," Mark frowned. "You just said he's fragile, what's that even supposed to mean?"

Tyler sighed. "Mark, he's... I know it's strange, and you won't want to believe it, but I've seen a lot of weird shit today. He's pregnant."

Mark didn't even seem surprised- rather, annoyed. He rubbed his temples softly, sighing to himself as he stared at his untouched plate of lukewarm food.

"Of course," Mark breathed, "of course he is. And why is that my problem?"

"Mark!" Amy scolded.

"Technically, it's my problem, I guess," Seán admitted. "I brought him here, but seriously- he's almost fainted at least twice since we got off the plane, and he's going to get weaker, I... I can't let him travel like this."

"Why is he even here?" Mark scowled. Seán knew that he was tired and stressed, but that didn't stop the way something in his chest tightened at the harshness of the sentence.

"Does it matter?" Amy chided. "Really, Mark? I know you're upset about the girls and the whole Mark Doom thing, but that's no reason to be snappy,"

"I'm not snapping!" Mark huffed.

"Yeah, you are," Ethan said, wiping his mouth on his sleeve. Seán might have accompanied the action with a throw away comment like "dirty boy" but that hardly seemed appropriate now.

"Look, Mark, I'm sorry you've been having a shitty time, but that shouldn't affect this at all! Dark's one of your egos, you should be responsible for him- I know that if Anti somehow materialised in the world and he needed my help, I'd do it in a heartbeat, and the man's killed me more times than I can count,"

"Yeah, but you're a nice, generous, forgiving person," Mark groaned. "I'm not. Maybe I'm being selfish, but I just- I don't trust him, Seán. Not with you, not with me, and not with my friends. Especially if he's going to have even bigger mood swings than usual, I just can't... I can't handle him right now,"

Amy sighed. "I'll take him,"

Four pairs of eyes whipped to face her, as she shook her head.

"I get it, Mark, but... please, just try. I'll look after him with Kathryn until you stop being an ass, whether you mean to be or not,"

"Well I'm just saying, if Seán's the dad, he should take care of it," Mark argued. "He wanted to forgive Dark after what happened, right?"

"Mark, it's not-" Seán began, but something in his mind clicked. Something that couldn't dismiss Mark's statement as a lie. Dark had only just found out about the baby, and he'd assumed it was Anti's, but... was it? Dark told Seán himself that the timelines just didn't add up, and considering that Dark said he was approximately two months pregnant...

"Oh... fuck," Seán uttered. It really could be his child, couldn't it? The dates couldn't be coincidental, and besides- Anti was just a figment of his imagination, how could he procreate?

"What?" Ethan asked, concerned and oblivious. It seemed, he was still the only one left out of the know, as every other occupant of the table had looked down at Mark's words.

"I... shit, I never thought it could be me," Seán grimaced. "He... he really thinks it's Anti's, though, wouldn't he know who the father was?"

Mark just looked at him incredulously. "Anti? Wait- no, I refuse, there's no way your stupid glitchy ego is fucking Dark,"

"He's not stupid," Seán began, "And yeah, they're together. If you'd listened to me on the phone in May, you'd know that Dark had feelings for him- it's one of the only things I'm certain of,"

"But how can you be sure?" Mark sighed in frustration. "It's not like you can trust a word he says, Seán."

"Mark- I have seen his memories," Seán argued. "I lived through it- just, we're getting off topic here. It doesn't matter if it's my kid or not, he's your damn ego, and he's too sick to follow me out of the house,"

"Look, Seán, I'll take care of it," Amy interceded. "You know Mark, he'll deny it even if he believes it because he doesn't like admitting he's wrong."

"I do not!" Mark huffed.

"Case in point," Tyler snorted.

"Okay, let's just get back to the point of the conversation," Amy said, giving everyone a pointed glare. "Please. We should probably get back before we get noticed, anyway,"

"Right," Seán sighed. "Mark, sooner or later we're going to have to get this out of the way. Our egos are all alive and real- I mean all of them, even the ones I made recently, Dark's told me so. Not only that, All but one of my egos are dating yours. This, I only just found out, and I'm still getting over it, but... I don't doubt it. Considering the egos are kept alive by the fans and all, and you know how they get,"

Mark looked flabbergasted, but Seán wasn't done yet.

"And before you doubt that- the other day, Schneep possessed me and took full control of my body- it was no hallucination, and I found it terrifying."

"He possessed you-?" Mark started, but Amy shot him a warning glare.

"Yeah, it sucked," Seán shuddered. "The point being- this is real. All of this, the characters we created, they all live lives of their own. We have a responsibility to them- we're like their parents, you know? They wouldn't exist if we didn't make them real,"

"But Dark's not even an ego," Mark fumed. "He's my goddamn grandfather,"

"And I didn't create Anti," Seán agreed, while everyone but Amy looked surprised at Mark's confession. "But I'm still responsible for him, whether he likes it or not."

"Wait, Dark's your grandpa?!" Ethan choked.

Mark let out a long sigh. "Yes, he is. It's a long story- basically, Damien's body was possessed by Mark Doom and he had a kid- my dad- in the sixties. Technically that makes me Damien's grandchild, and of course, Damien is now part of Dark. It makes my head hurt, and I hate it, but... I can't deny it,"

"Something like the fact Dark can get pregnant in the first place, then," Seán offered.

"Yeah, it's not normal but Dark's anything but normal, isn't he?" Mark grimaced. "Fuck... well, I'm sure he won't want to be in my house for longer than a week anyway, but I don't feel comfortable with him staying at yours,"

Mark looked pointedly at Amy, and she raised an eyebrow.

"Mark, you forget I live with Kathryn, I won't be alone. And there's no way he'd come onto me- he's pretty hung up on Anti at the moment, and it's clear he likes guys. I'm in no danger, why are you so hesitant?"

"I don't want to lose you," Mark huffed. "You're really important to me, and... honestly, it wouldn't even matter if his intentions were good. The guy's like a bad luck magnet- I just don't want to put you in danger,"

Amy hugged Mark around the middle, kissing his forehead. "I'll be fine, Mark. You're welcome to check in with him and see how he's doing, if it'll make you feel better,"

"I'll check in too," Seán said. "I'm the one who got him into this mess, anyway,"

"Hey... are you sure you're the dad?" Tyler asked, still looking a little shaken by the fact that Dark was Mark's relative.

Seán shuddered. How was he going to break this to Dark? The man would be absolutely heartbroken, and then there was telling Anti. He shook his head, folding his arms and looking at Mark with approval when the man finally started on his food.

"I don't know," Seán said honestly. "But I'd be there for him anyway. That's what friends are for... plus, he's dating Anti, so he's sort of like my son-in-law... oh shit, I just remembered,"

All heads snapped up to meet his gaze. Seán had a smirk on his face- Mark hadn't really reacted to the news that his egos and Seán's egos were romantically involved, but this information was probably going to make him implode. 

"Mark, the doctors are getting married," Seán said seriously.

Mark choked on the piece of meat he was eating. "Huh?!"

"Wait, really?" Tyler asked, leaning forward a little in his seat.

"Yeah, Dark told me," Seán agreed, watching Mark and Ethan's crises unfolding with a triumphant smile. Amy's cheeks had split into a wide grin as she watched Mark try to process the information he'd been given. Strangely, she was the one who seemed the most on board with this whole ego business.

"Dude... how?" Ethan uttered, placing his cutlery on his now empty plate.

"Well I imagine one of them popped the question," Seán said matter-of-factly. "I knew they were dating- but Dark told me on the plane that they recently got engaged, isn't that wild?"

"You're telling me," Mark started, having managed to stop coughing. "That not only are our egos dating, but two of them are getting married? Before either of us get married? That's baloney!"

Seán snorted. "Trust me, dude, I had the same reaction. But that's not all- see, Dark was going to get ordained to perform the wedding, but obviously, he's in no state to be doing much but sleeping at the moment. I was thinking, what if we let them take control, just for a day, and-?"

"No," Mark interceded. "No no no no, I don't want to watch that,"

"But Mark, it'd be fun!" Amy urged. Mark stared at her incredulously.

"Out of everyone here, out of literally anyone- you're the one that's okay with this?"

"Yeah," Amy agreed. "When you came up to me last year with one of your weird thought processes that involved you having multiple personalities with different girlfriends, I said I wouldn't mind. Why is this any different?"

"Well I-" Mark began, but came up short of words. "I don't- I'm straight,"

Seán rolled his eyes. "Me too, but I'm just looking out for my own, okay? We don't have to do it if it makes you uncomfortable,"

"Not only that," Mark sighed. "But what if they get recognised? People will think we're actually together, they won't want to accept whatever crazy theory we propose to cover it,"

Seán could see it now- "Oh yeah, that was us but we were just acting. Oh by the way, our egos are married, it's canon!"

"Look, even if they only possess us to say their vows and then leave, it'll be worth it, right? They want to get married, Mark, we should let them," Seán pleaded.

"And there's literally no other way," Amy supported, shooting Seán a grin. "Come on, it's not like it's actually you,"

"Seriously, I don't think that's a good idea," Mark frowned. "Like- I wouldn't care so much if I didn't have to witness it, because it would be so weird, but if you can remember every detail of being possessed..."

Seán shuddered. "Really, I... I don't much like being possessed either. But, maybe we can ask them! I'm sure Schneep will want to come back to check up on Dark himself, he is the good doctor, I mean, maybe there's more to possession than we think there is,"

Amy patted Mark's shoulder excitedly. "It's worth a shot,"

Mark sighed to himself. "I... I'll think about it,"

Ethan coughed a little. "Yeah, that's not a solid confirmation, especially from Mark,"

Mark sputtered. "Well, what if I wanted to make you and Tyler get fake married!"

"You already did that," Tyler pointed out. "Anyway, we're all waiting on you. Hurry up,"

Mark grumbled to himself as he began to pick at his cold plate of food once more. Seán was about to speak, but something in his stomach suddenly turned. He caved in on instinct, bumping the table, and immediately everyone gave a shout of alarm.

"Seán? Are you-?"

"I'm fine," Seán gasped, suddenly feeling very constricted. "I just-"

"Seán!" Mark shouted in concern, as Seán's hand reached for a steak knife and began to move toward his throat. Seán had no control as he watched the blade grow ever closer, feeling the muscles in his arm trying with all their might to push past the grip of Tyler and Amy, keeping him from slitting his throat.

All at once, it stopped. The knife fell to the plate with a clatter, and Seán could breathe once more, his fingers shaking and his skin even paler than before. All four of his friends looked at him like they'd seen a ghost- which, if that had happened any differently, might have been the case.

"What the fuck was that?!" Ethan asked, looking shocked and mildly horrified.

Seán licked his dry lips, pushing the plate and his cutlery far away on the table. "I... I assume that's Anti, but... why would he stop?"

"Come on," Mark urged, standing and leaving his plate. "We have to go, quickly,"

Seán had no time to try and comprehend what had just occurred before he was swept away from the table and into Mark's van, his fingers still shaking. He supposed that was the closest he'd come to a near death encounter in his life, and he was absolutely shitting himself.

Why had Anti spared him? Why had he done this in the open- he'd only ever killed Seán when he was alone in the past. What was he trying to do so desperately that he threw all caution aside?

His heart sank as he came to a possible conclusion. 'Fuck... he came to see Dark. That has to be it...'

"Don't let him near anything with an edge," Mark ordered Tyler, who was sitting by Seán's side. The stone faced man nodded seriously, keeping his grip on Seán's arm, though Anti was long gone.

"S-sorry, guys," Seán uttered.

Tyler squeezed his arm softly. "Just keep breathing, you'll get through this,"

That wasn't what Seán was worried about, to be fair. But he sat through it, knowing his friends had the right to be cautious. If Anti could possess him like this, what was stopping him from killing them along with Seán next time? He was almost scared to go visit Robin, and Tucker, and all of his other friends in case something awry happened again.

Please, Anti, stay calm... He'll be home again soon.

Chapter Text

~Void~

KNOCK KNOCK!

"Hey, uh, guys? Doc? Schneep? You in there?"

Henrik groaned under his breath as the sound registered in his brain, shifting uncomfortably under the sheets. He'd been having a nice dream- a very nice dream might he add, until he'd been rudely interrupted by someone he assumed to be Chase, knocking on his bedroom door. He closed his eyes in denial, holding the sleeping form of his lover close to him, silently wishing that there wasn't a serious problem so he could bask in this warm embrace just a little longer.

"Um... it's kinda urgent? I think?"

Henrik sighed in defeat, already beginning to rise unwittingly. "Ich komme, Chase, vorry nicht,"

He slowly untangled his body from Dr. Iplier's, tucking the sheets back over his fiance as he reached down to pick up some clothes. He shrugged, deciding that a coat would suffice. He had no plans on being awake for longer than half an hour at the most.

When he opened the door, he found both Bing and Chase standing there, looking incredibly flustered. Having not heard the android at all, Henrik was surprised by his presence- usually, the noise these two made preceded them. What was the matter? Both of the egos seemed to be in perfect health, if a little quiet...

"Vhat is ze problem?" Henrik asked them, and Chase bit his lip nervously in response. He seemed as though he didn't really know where to start, looking at Bing, most likely for reassurance. Finally, he spoke.

"Um... so Bing's got a... problem,"

Henrik sighed in mild frustration. "Spit it out, Chase,"

"He's got a robo-dick," Chase uttered hastily, and Bing reddened even further, hiding his face in his hands.

Henrik stared at the pair incredulously. Was this really an urgent matter? "And?"

"W-well, he didn't have one before," Chase muttered, a blush overtaking his features with each hurried breath. "We were wondering what to do about it,"

Henrik sighed, pressing his fingers to his temples. "You're together, bist du nicht? Go und jump on it or something,"

"But Schneep-"

"I am not trained to handle emotionally capable dildos, Chase, you must figure it out for yourself!"

The pair quickly scurried away before anyone else could hear the conversation unfolding, and Henrik sighed to himself, adjusting his coat. He didn't mean to snap like that- he was just feeling out of sorts today, what with Dark being gone and Anti living with that burden. He supposed that while he was up, he should probably check on Anti. Trying to shake the conversation from his mind, he wandered down the long hallway to visit Dark's bedroom.

On his way, he noted the noises coming from the individual rooms of the egos- it was hardly an invasion of privacy. After all, as their doctor, he knew them best. Plus, if they'd really wanted to keep secrets, they wouldn't be so loud in the first place.

Bim and Silver's room was oddly quiet, but Henrik walked past it, not the least concerned with what they were doing with their time. It was more Marvin, Jameson and their respective partners he was listening for. He was greatly concerned about how his younger brother's little love affair was playing out, especially now that Jameson had let his true feelings show for the world to see. Henrik hadn't felt the need to pressure Jameson to leave Wilford before, but now...

Henrik sighed. He'd check with Marvin and Yan first- they seemed to be happy now that they were reunited, but Doc wouldn't have suggested couples therapy for nothing.

He knocked gently on their door. The giggles he'd heard came to a soft halt, and when the door opened Henrik could see that his brother was beaming, his mask lying on the bedside table, wearing some blue pajamas for a change. Henrik couldn't help but smile back.

"Hey, Schneep," Marvin smiled in greeting. "Did you hear? Yan's back,"

Henrik grinned in return. "Yes, mein Bruder, I am glad to see ze two of you together again,"

"Hey!" Yan waved, sitting cross legged on the bed, also in pajamas. Was there some secret event going on that Henrik was unaware of?

"Guten Abend," Henrik returned, decidedly more cheery than before. "I am happy to see you in such good spirits again, Marvin."

Marvin chuckled. "Never a dull day with Yan, you know that. From the fact you're practically naked, I can see it's the same with you and Doc,"

Henrik flushed a little, folding his coat in self-consciously. "Vell, ve are engaged to be married, Marvin- it's not a secret zat ve are intimate. Zhen again, I don't think any of our extended family here are very subtle vith zeir romances,"

"You're right there," Yan sighed, shuffling a deck of cards that he and Marvin must have been playing. "Bing only just left- he came in here half naked, freaking out about growing a dick- poor Marvin was scarred for life,"

"So es ist true," Henrik pondered. "I sent zhem on zeir vay- I had thought it vas nothing to vorry about,"

Marvin shrugged, still looking a little shaken from the mention of Bing's freak attack. "I dunno, Schneep, you grow an extra body part and see how you react to that,"

Henrik rolled his eyes. "Honestly, es ist nicht like Chase doesn't know how to handle it, I've seen enough of his search history. But I digress- I just came in to see how you vere doing,"

Marvin smiled softly, walking back over to the bed and sitting there, dealing another set of cards to what looked like UNO. "We're fine, Schneep, don't worry about us. I'd worry about Jackie- he's been losing his mind over Dark's new regime,"

Henrik sighed to himself. "Oh dear... You know it is not unreasonable to request such privacy, right?"

Marvin nodded reluctantly. "He's respected every other rule, but... I think his problem is Anti. Heck, when is his problem not Anti? I... I've made my peace with him, but Jackie hasn't, and I don't think he will anytime soon. The wounds are just... still fresh, you know?"

"Ja, but vounds vill always heal over," Henrik advised. "Anyway- good luck beating Marvin at cards, he's quite handy vith zhem. I vill leave you now,"

The couple smiled and waved Henrik away as he shut the door, proceeding further down the hall. The house was large, the passages long and twisting, and it was easy to get lost in here. If all of the bedrooms weren't on a single stretch of hall, nobody would be able to find their way.

He slowed as he walked past Wilford's room- it was closest to Dark's, and Henrik knew it well simply because of how often he'd found his brother outside, staring wistfully out of the window. Jameson was there now, in fact, leaning on the railing that overlooked the entrance foyer. Henrik startled him when he placed a hand on the dapper man's shoulder, and the doctor could see tears in his eyes. His mood immediately turned sour.

"JJ, are you alright?" Henrik asked, determined.

Jameson blinked a few times, signing a word that didn't reflect his sorrowful appearance at all.

'Fine.'

"Do not lie, please," Henrik interceded. "Look at yourself- you have cried a river from deine Augen,"

Jameson sniffed a bit. 'I don't want to worry you,'

"Nonsense!" Henrik retorted. "Ich bin ze good doctor- I vant to help! It is Vilford again, is it not?"

Jameson nodded shakily. His hands shuddered as he tried to sign a sentence, not trusting his lips to stop quivering.

'It is my own problem.'

"Vhy von't you let me help, Bruder?"

Jameson met Henrik's eyes with sadness, tears falling steadily from them as he patted his heart a few times. It wasn't a recognised sign, but Henrik could understand what his brother was trying to tell him, however much he found himself disagreeing.

"Zis is ridiculous," Henrik growled under his breath. "Look at you, JJ- you are a mess! If you do not have ze vits, vill talk to him."

Jameson's eyes widened, but Henrik had already opened the door to Wilford's room. He could make out two figures in the corner- one was very obviously strapped to a bondage swing, and the bright pink mustache the other bore was noticeable even in the dim lighting. Henrik didn't even want to touch the light switch, knowing that to cast light on this scene would only hurt his brother more.

"I assume zat to be Kinkiplier," Henrik stated dryly, catching Wilford's attention as the two stopped their daring sexual play. He was well aware that Jameson's little sniffs were fading, and he knew that the ego must have walked away, but standing up to the man who kept breaking his brother's heart didn't need any witnesses to have an effect.

"Can I help you?" Wilford asked, rocking Kinkiplier a little in the swing as he spoke. The ball-gagged ego let out a quiet, needy moan, and Henrik closed his eyes in frustration and anger.

"How can you stand zere und throw Jameson's love for you away like zat?!" Henrik fumed.

"Well I asked him if he wanted to join in!" Wilford exclaimed, as if that somehow made up for it. "But he's not into threesomes!"

Henrik grimaced. "Ach, es ist no vonder zat Anti does not trust you!"

Wilford cocked his head to the side. "And why wouldn't he trust me? I'm incredibly reliable, you know-"

"You are cheating on ze man who gave you his heart," Henrik spat. "Und admitting to Anti, right now, zat you had vonce slept vith his lover? You'd be lucky if mein Brüder ever speak to ze likes of you again!"

"Whoa, calm down, I see no reason to get aggressive," Wilford frowned.

Kinkiplier shifted uncomfortably in his swing, probably having noticed that the wild sex he'd been having had stopped.

"I do!" Kinkiplier whined through his gag, moving his hips against Wilford's like he craved the attention the pink haired man gave. What was it about this man that had all of the egos falling over themselves to sleep with him? Henrik had lost count of the people listed in Wilford's little black book, even before Jameson entered his life, but he was sure the numbers kept on piling up to this day.

Wilford shushed the other man, not moving from his position. "Hush, Kinkiplier, or I'll pull out the whips,"

Henrik could only just make out Kinkiplier's eyes crinkle in the darkness, watching his already open mouth curl into a sly grin.

"Anything but that," Kinkiplier returned, his voice muffled through the gag that Wilford apparently didn't feel like removing. Wilford chuckled lowly, and they would have continued on with their little affair if Henrik didn't proceed to cough loudly to get their attention.

"You're still here?" Wilford groaned in annoyance. "Look, I'm not sure if Doc would let you join in, but-"

"Ich- I am nicht hier to join you!" Henrik growled. "You are despicable! Zat is it- I have had enough of zis. Jameson vill not be seeing you anymore- I don't care how much he despises me for it,"

"Pfft," Wilford scoffed, and Henrik was forced to look away as they started to go at it again, like rabbits in mating season. "He'll come back to me if he wants to, you're not his father."

Henrik shot Wilford one last glare, one that the pink haired man probably didn't even notice.

"I may not be his father, but damned if I let him get hurt by zat whore again..." Henrik muttered furiously, looking around for Jameson but the man was long gone.

He almost excused himself to wander the grounds and let off some steam, but then remembered- Anti. That was the whole reason he'd even left his room, right?

He turned again, letting his footsteps drown out the painfully obvious noises coming from Wilford's room, knocking harshly on Dark's bedroom door. He heard a small sob coming from inside, and immediately, his already low heart sank. He wrenched the door open quickly, moving past the door to Dark's en-suite bathroom to find Anti, sitting hunched in a half-made bed, knife in his hand. He was already bleeding, but Henrik was startled to see Anti holding the blade to his throat, just... holding it there.

Henrik rushed to his aide, forcing the knife from Anti's grasp and tossing it aside. The ego before him looked so torn, so broken that he could hardly believe it had only been hours since he'd left their therapy session, drying his tears.

Anti didn't even seem to notice that the knife was gone as he sat there, shaking, not even blinking away his tears. For the first time since Doc had proposed, Henrik felt truly worried. Like something serious could happen if he didn't treat this situation carefully, but he couldn't imagine what.

"Anti- Anti listen, you promised me zat you vould not hurt yourself!" Henrik spoke, looking over Anti's slashed and bloodied arms as the glitch continued to sob. It was as if the ego wasn't entirely there, eyes unfocused, trembling, not acknowledging Henrik's presence at all.

"Anti!" Henrik called again, snapping his fingers in front of the glitch's face. Thankfully, that broke Anti from his apparent trance, and he fixed Henrik with devastated, hurt eyes.

"Sch-Schneep," Anti sobbed, burying himself in the doctor's arms. Henrik was startled, but quickly his doctor instincts took over, and he found himself holding Anti close, scared to match the glitch's strength in case he somehow hurt his eldest brother. What the hell had happened to him?

"Shh, Anti, calm yourself," Henrik urged, not noticing that there was blood soaking through his coat until warm, wet crimson touched his skin. It was uncomfortable to say the least, but Henrik had much greater concerns than just the cleanliness of his garments.

"I- I... I'm so s-sorry," Anti hiccuped, clinging to his brother like there was nobody else he could trust. "I didn't... I- I didn't mean to, I just..."

"Deep breaths," Henrik advised, noting that Anti's shallow breaths seemed to be inhibiting his speech. "Breathe, Anti, breathe..."

Anti tried, he really did, but within seconds he burst into tears hotter than flames, the sobs drowning out his pitiful mumbling.

Henrik found he could do nothing but stay there, holding Anti, hoping that this tiny amount of comfort would be enough to soothe him from whatever terrible nightmare he'd faced.

"Vas it a night terror?" Henrik asked, though he had a feeling Anti's condition was caused by something much deeper than a dream.

Anti managed to shake his head between choked gasps, his eyes red with moisture as he wiped away the mucous that had begun to pour. "I d-didn't get to sle-ep," Anti explained. "Th-the voices were too l-loud,"

"Voices..." Henrik repeated, silently berating himself for forgetting that Anti was never truly alone. "Vhat did zey say to you?"

"Th-the usual," Anti sniffed. "That I w-was worthless, a-and terrible, I... I had to see h-him, Schneep, I couldn't- I couldn't just-"

"Zere zere," Henrik soothed, his grip on Anti never faltering. "I am here for you, Anti, do not forget zat,"

"B-but-" Anti began, but Henrik interrupted him with another "Shh."

"N-no, you don't... d-don't understand, Schneep, I... I heard things, terrible things, and... and when I tried to s-see Dark, all I saw was M-Mark, and Xyler's original and B-Blank's original too, a-and they said... They said it's not my b-baby, it's Jack's..."

Henrik paused. Jack's? How could the baby be Jack's? He'd known that Dark was with Jack just before he returned- the demon himself had said so, but he'd left this apparently crucial detail out of his recount. He couldn't believe Dark would do such a thing- he'd been in love with Anti for as long as Henrik could remember, after all. But then, why would Jack discuss such a thing if it were not true?

"I... I do not know vhat to tell you," Henrik mumbled truthfully, feeling as though he'd been hit in the head with a bomb called 'Knowledge'. "Es ist... certainly startling. I do not blame you for reacting zis vay, mein Bruder,"

Anti sniffled a little, meeting Henrik's eyes with hesitation. "Y-you don't?"

Henrik held him a little tighter, bringing him so close that he could catch the scent of frazzled wires that followed Anti when he was upset over the stench of fresh blood that had encompassed them. He wanted nothing but to show Anti just how much he cared, given that every other person in his life had failed him so far.

"Nein, Anti," Henrik whispered. "I am also shocked. I know Jack, und he vould not speak a lie, but... I just can't see him sleeping vith Dark either,"

Anti blinked away some fresh tears at the mention of Dark, slowly retreating from the prolonged hug and holding himself tightly, his wounds sealing up again with nothing to show but the blood.

"I..." Anti uttered, still seemingly unsure of how to address the situation. "I just... I don't know how to f-feel,"

Henrik shook his head, taking Anti's hand and clasping it softly. "Feel vhatever comes naturally, Anti- don't bottle it away. Emotions exist for a reason, und having zhem does not make you veak,"

Anti bit his lip as he nodded, his efforts to dry his eyes becoming more futile as his silence reigned. Henrik was unsure if he should stay or leave, but eventually Anti broke the silence himself, standing from his space on the bed. His face was still wet with tears, but he wasn't even trying to hide them.

"I... I'm going for a walk," Anti uttered. Henrik gave him a proud smile, patting his hand softly as they parted ways.

"I hope you vill feel better," Henrik wished as Anti left, and the glitch sent him a troubled smile.

The room was a mess- the knife was still lying, bloodied, on the ground where it had landed, and the sheets of Dark's bed were doused in crimson fluid. Henrik sighed as he resigned himself to wearing his blood red coat back to his room- there was no point in summoning another just yet, anyway. Wilford's room was remarkably silent- perhaps Henrik's words really had hit home.

More likely, they've found some other surface to defile.

The giggles and laughter that had once emanated from Marvin and Yan's room were now replaced with soft murmurs that Henrik couldn't quite make out. He couldn't help but smile, knowing that at least one other couple in this house was happy.

He stumbled a little on an acorn that was now in the hallway, knowing that King must have been the culprit. He sighed and put it in his pocket- it was a tripping hazard, after all. There was a thumping noise now coming from Silver and Bim's room, but Henrik simply didn't care to investigate.

If he had to walk in on anyone else's love life today, he might just take a leaf from Dark's book and start yelling until people learned to back off.

He peeled his coat away from his skin once he was back in his room, mouth turning in disdain as he observed how the crimson of Anti's blood had stained his skin. He couldn't go to bed like this- it was hardly fair on his fiance, let alone himself.

Speaking of the other doctor, he then walked over in nothing but a towel, wrapping his tired arms around his lover. Henrik positively melted into his arms, wanting nothing more than to collapse into his soon-to-be husband's embrace and forget the troubles of his countless brothers that somehow all managed to involve him.

"Good evening," Doc mumbled, pressing soft kisses down Henrik's neck and across his shoulder, not perturbed at all by the copious amounts of blood now being shared between them.

"It has been a long hour, mein Verlobter," Henrik sighed, leaning back a little into Doc's chest.

Doc smiled regretfully, hugging Henrik a little closer. "I'm sorry to hear that... you're... you're a mess, darling,"

Henrik chuckled despite himself, something about the dryness of the statement triggering his stress response- laughter. He laughed and he laughed, until he was crying and he couldn't determine why. It could have been for Jameson's sake, or Anti's, or just relief that Marvin's breakup had resolved itself alright, or even the stress that Dark's pregnancy had caused him the past two days, all coming out in a choked, teary mask of joy.

Doc wiped away Henrik's tears, kissing him tenderly a few times before taking his lover's glasses off. He removed his towel and tossed it aside- it was smeared and red and ruined, now. They stood together, bare but not sexually. It was nice to hold each other like this, despite the stickiness and overall terrible sensation of being covered with someone else's blood.

"Should we have a bath?" Doc suggested, letting his fingers entwine with Henrik's own. The green haired man gave his hand a firm squeeze in response.

"Ja, zat sounds vonderful," Henrik sighed, his muscles aching for a nice long rest. "I just... sometimes, I vish ve could retire."

"Retire?" Doc questioned as they made their way slowly to their en-suite bathroom. "We're barely twenty-nine, darling,"

Henrik gave a half-minded laugh, though it sounded little more than a rasp after what he'd been through. "It feels as though I have aged three decades, just zis past Wochen,"

Doc chuckled lowly, running the hot water as he held Henrik close, gazing at their reflection in the mirror. They were tired, stressed, and frustrated. But at least they had each other.

Henrik clasped their fingers together again, leaning into Doc's touch as he gazed at the blood-covered doctors in the mirror. "Zat is not us, mein Schatz. Zis constant fighting, zis struggle... I just vish it could be simple. I just... I just vant to relax."

Doc kissed him a little longer this time, tangling his fingers lazily in Henrik's hair as they took their time waiting for the bath to fill up, leaning against the basin like they hadn't a care in the world.

"For now, we've got a bath," Doc sighed. "I wish I could give you more, Hen..."

"Nonsense," Henrik chided under his breath. "A bath is more zhan velcome, Doc, now come in and join me,"

It was almost a waste to taint this lovely water with crimson, but it simply had to be done. Henrik climbed in first, and when Doc followed, Henrik let the older doctor lay his head on his chest. The water was hot and it scalded them, but when the blood washed away and turned the water deep maroon, it was all worth it. It was all worth it.

The fights, the shouting, the infidelity, the pregnancy, the magic and the seemingly constant headache. Neither doctor would trade this feeling for anything else.

"Ich liebe dich," Henrik muttered softly, closing his eyes as his body slowly grew accustomed to the heat of the bath.

Doc closed his eyes too, mirroring his lover though he couldn't see his face. "I love you too, Hen..."

~Groundlands~

"Dark? Hey, wake up,"

Dark opened his eyes groggily, his poor vision focusing at last on the one who had come to rouse him from his slumber. Amy was there, hand outstretched, tapping his arm insistently. Dark didn't want to move, but he knew that was only a sign that he'd slept for far too long. The way his bones cracked and his stiff joints seized when he made to sit up only solidified his thoughts.

"Sorry to wake you, but..." Amy began, giving a small sigh. "It's been a day, and I don't know how ego pregnancy works, but I assume hibernation isn't part of it,"

Dark blinked his tired eyes. "I appear to have overslept... again. I'm terribly sorry, it won't happen again,"

Amy gave him a warm, welcoming smile, despite how rude it must have been for him to sleep for so long. "Don't worry about it, Dark, I get it. I just didn't know if... if that was healthy. Well, considering what I've made you for lunch, I suppose that's not very healthy either,"

Dark cocked his head to one side, as if the word was foreign to him. "You... prepared me lunch?"

"Yeah, you need to eat something," Amy said, offering a hand to help him up. As he did so, the blanket he was wearing fell from his lap, and exposed his bump for all the world to see.

Amy couldn't help her look of surprise as she gazed at the protrusion, eyebrows furrowed.

"Am I seeing things or is that thing bigger than it used to be?"

Dark grimaced. "It may be my lack of activity talking but she certainly feels bigger than before,"

He pressed his palm to where he could sense the child was sleeping, rubbing his skin softly so as not to wake her. Amy didn't make to feel the baby, instead eyeing Dark up and down.

"We bought you some clothes, but I'm not sure if they'll fit," Amy said, making sure Dark could stand properly before she reached for a few bags that had been brought in during the night.

She held up an oversized tee and some tracksuit pants, and Dark felt a little ill in his stomach. He tried to speak, but found himself dry retching instead. He fell back onto the bed with a small cry of alarm, gagging though nothing was coming up.

Amy quickly dropped the clothes, climbing onto the bed and helping him sit up again.

"Damn, that'd be the morning sickness," Amy fretted. "I guess it's a good thing you haven't eaten- yet. Do you think you can stand strongly enough to come out, or do you want me to bring it to you?"

Dark's throat felt painfully constricted, each heaving sensation coming closer to sending dizziness through his body again. Truthfully, he didn't trust himself to stand, but he didn't want to sit here and do nothing while others slaved for him- especially others who had no obligation to him.

"I..." Dark started, before he let the sentence drop with a sigh. "I don't... think I can walk just yet... But I'll be fine soon!"

Amy didn't look so convinced. "Yeah... I'll get Seán to bring it to you. You two have some things to discuss,"

When she left the room, Dark found his mind spinning out of control. What did he and Seán have to discuss? If anything, Dark had thought they'd be asking for his own recount of whatever Seán had told them, but that apparently wasn't the case. He almost stood and followed Amy outside, but something inside of him felt it would be a bad idea to stand.

When the next wave of nausea hit, Dark was thankful for his own intuition. He didn't think he'd ever appreciate the taste of bile in his mouth, and had only just finished retching when the door opened again.

"Hey, it's- what the- Jesus Christ!"

Seán hastily shoved the plate of whatever he was holding onto the bedside table, clattering a lamp to the ground as he climbed onto the bed as Amy had done, immediately patting Dark's back with enough force to break the choking grip of his developed bile-induced cough.

"Shit, man- do you need a bucket?"

Dark swallowed and his nose crinkled in distaste as the acid followed his digestive tract all the way back to where it belonged. He coughed a few more times unwittingly, before turning to face Seán.

The Irishman was wearing something different today- though that was understandable. It was a printed grey tee with the word 'CLOAK' written across the torso, and it looked freshly bought considering the fold creases were still present. He looked mildly concerned as Dark continued to hack into his palm, something not settling quite well in his throat.

"No, I'm f-fine," Dark shuddered, head pounding. "I'm just feeling a little u-under the weather, that's all. Just a bit of m-morning sickness,"

"Dude, you look like death and all his friends gang raped you," Seán frowned. "I mean, Amy made you some waffles but I don't think you'll be able to keep them down."

Dark couldn't lie- he liked the sound of waffles. The aroma enough was enough to make his stomach rumble, aching to be filled, while his throat was sending signals like 'No, stop! I'm hurting!'

"I smell chocolate," Dark said, licking his lips subconsciously.

"That's because they're chocolate waffles," Seán explained, holding the plate in front of Dark. It certainly looked delicious- a plate of steaming hot waffles drizzled with chocolate sauce and topped with strawberries. It was enough to make Dark weak at the knees, but he still felt the sick coming up again.

He turned away as he gagged, not wanting Seán to be disgusted with him as he was sure the Irishman was. He felt pressure on his back, rubbing it in circles, and though it did nothing for the ache Dark found himself thankful nonetheless.

"Okay, I'm getting you a bucket," Seán decided. "Stay put, alright? I'll only be a minute,"

Dark didn't have time to respond before he coughed again, desperately wishing that Seán had brought him some water, at least. He was thankful that before long, the door creaked open once more, but it was neither Seán nor Amy who had come to his rescue this time.

"Okay buddy, just breathe through it,"

Mark handed Dark a cooking pot, and the demon hadn't realised just how pale he was until he saw the complete lack of pallor in his knuckles as he retched again. This time, instead of holding what little fluid his stomach was rejecting, he allowed it to dribble from his lips in what he was sure was a disgusting manner. He felt a little guilty for ruining this perfectly good cooking pot, but before he could apologise, he felt another wave coming.

Amy frowned as she walked in again, holding a few towels. "This is bad, Mark, should we take him to hospital?"

"He can't go looking like that," Mark denied, gesturing to Dark's male body. "And besides, he has no records- no birth certificate, no citizenship, certainly no private health care-"

"So what should we do?"

Dark coughed once more, feeling something in his chest turn over when the dark crimson began to dribble from his lips.

'No...'

'What's happening?!'

'I wish that I knew, just- stay strong with me, don't let-'

"Okay, that's not normal," Mark admitted, the only thing betraying his stress being that his voice raised a few octaves higher. Dark blinked hazily, his short term memory escaping him. What had Damien been about to say? He found himself slipping from his seat slightly, the pot tipping over in his now pale white fingers.

"Seán! Tyler!" Amy called, poking her head through the door. "Look, even if we just get the emergency hotline-"

"Just- hold on!" Mark grimaced. "Dark, you gotta keep it together, man, alright? Keep it together, we're gonna get you some help,"

Dark choked again, and this time a dark clot of blood flew from between his lips to settle in the grotesque mixture sitting in the cooking pot. He felt himself pale considerably.

"Holy shit," Seán gasped, rushing immediately to his side. "Is this because of the pregnancy?"

"I don't know!" Mark said frantically, snatching up his phone. "Um- uh, Amy, what's the line for the hospital?"

"But you said-"

"Look, I may not want to trust the man but I don't want him to die!" Mark cried. "Especially not at my house, I'm already suspicious enough without-"

"Okay, just, hold on," Amy said, her voice shrill with adrenaline as she scrolled through her phone with lightning speed.

"Dark? Hey, you still here? Stay with me, Dark, please,"

Dark felt woozy, to put it mildly. He could hear the sound of everyone talking, everyone's concern, but he couldn't string together what they were saying in his mind. It was like he'd lost all functionality, blinking his half-lidded eyes, looking at the man next to him as if he'd never seen him before. Why couldn't he remember? He couldn't feel his arms, and he couldn't feel his legs, and his head was pounding like nothing else. He became aware of himself falling backwards, though he never felt himself hit the sheets of the bed.

The ringing in his ears faded into nothingness.

~Void~

Anti wasn't looking where he was going- he'd thought everyone else was inside, and he knew these grounds like the back of his hand, but he still managed to hit something warm and solid on his way out to the pool. He was fortunate enough to have carried the most force when the collision occurred, but he'd pushed the other ego to the ground instantly and now he was worried for them.

Especially worried to see that the other ego was crying too.

Even more worried to see that the other ego was none other than JJ, Wilford's newest fling and one of the ever-growing family of Septiceyes that Anti found himself a part of. Despite his connection to Anti's eldest (and most obnoxious) brothers, Anti hadn't yet found a reason to dislike the dapper man, even if he was exceedingly quiet.

"Shit! Sorry, JJ," Anti winced, leaning down to help up the mute man as he brushed himself off. Jameson waved off his apology, wiping his eyes dry with a handkerchief he pulled from within his vest, and Anti was led to question just what had left him so teary in the first place.

"You okay?" Anti asked, feeling more than a little awkward. He'd never really spoken to JJ before, having spent most of his time with Dark, but those thoughts were all painful now.

Jameson shook his head hesitantly. He tapped his chest twice, before mimicking cracking an egg on his arm. The tears began again, streaming from Jameson's round eyes, and Anti hadn't realised that he was crying as well.

"Sorry! I didn't mean..." Anti trailed off, realising just what JJ had meant by that motion. "Oh... fuck, dude, I'm sorry,"

Jameson shook his head with a small smile, mouthing something that accompanied his signing though Anti couldn't understand either mode of speech. He flushed in embarrassment, berating himself for not going the extra mile and learning ASL like the rest of his brothers.

Aren't you just the worst?

Best big brother in the world, huh?

Bet that's why Dark left you.

Nobody will ever love y u.

"I- I'm sorry, James, I can't... I can't understand you," Anti admitted, ashamed, his mind spinning so fast that he couldn't tell his left from his right. The voices were pushing him so close to breaking that he wondered why he was still standing.

Jameson tapped his chin thoughtfully. He pointed to the pool, miming freestyle swimming in the air. Anti met his gaze, wondering exactly how the other ego knew what Anti was setting off to do, while also pushing down the nauseating feeling that something was horribly wrong.

"Yeah, do you want to go swimming too?" Anti asked softly. "It... It helps to hide the tears,"

Jameson smiled sadly, but placed his hand firmly in Anti's and began to pull him along the well-worn pathway to the other side of the grounds.

Keep up, idiot.

Can't you run?

Don't you have a brain?

Don't you like having him  rou d?

Something about this embrace, something about this motion, it hearkened back to the days of old. Long before Jameson existed, back when Anti and Dark used to stroll the grounds, marveling at the gardens and wading in the fountains. Now, the gardens were nothing more than a black tumble of weeds, and the fountains had stopped working years ago, but walking with Jameson just now... the place seemed to come to life again.

It's beautiful, isn't it?

Much better than Dark ever was, isn't it?

I͇̫̮ͅs̜͖̘̭͓n̥͚̬̱̻̹̫͡͠'̴̤̮̪̯t̗͇̰ ̶̫̲̹͟͠i͖͙̖͙͚̮ͅt̨͍̞̮̠̳̳̬̰͞?͓̠̰̤̗ͅ ?

Anti felt as though he'd been hit by a hammer, stumbling as he tried to keep up with JJ's fast pace as the younger ego tore through the grounds until they were at the pool's edge, tantalizingly close to the water. Anti was almost hesitant to jump in, wondering at his own feelings- his own heart, for how Jameson seemed to remind him so mind-breakingly of his love.

Maybe, he just missed having a hand to hold. Maybe, he just needed a hug.

When he closed his eyes and felt Jameson drift closer to him, part of him knew he shouldn't be here. He shouldn't be doing this, it felt so wrong to be spending this time with somebody else, but why did he feel so guilty?

Part of him knew that Jameson's hands were smaller than his own, and they'd never fit like Dark's did around his slim fingers. Part of him knew that Jameson's scent of violets and old cologne could never compare to Dark's own enticing aroma, but Dark didn't want him now.

Not when he had somebody else. Not when he had Jack.

Jack's twice the man you'll ever be.

Dark won't ever want you back.

To think you were starting to warm up to the idea.

Of having a child?

Nobody wants to have yo̸ur child.

You're too  w̴e̕͝a̢̡͢ķ̵̸ .

Part of Anti knew that when Jameson kissed him, he shouldn't have kissed back.

But here they were, Jameson pinning Anti down to the cobbled ground with their lips pressed together, eyes closed in temporary bliss. The feeling in Anti's gut only grew stronger, the sinking sensation, the premonition that something was very wrong indeed.

He frowned as he forced their embrace to end, already missing the closeness when he pulled away. So many thoughts wandered his mind- so many that he wasn't sure which ones were his own.

Dark would kill you if he found out.

You're disgusting.

Do you deserve this?

Do you deserve him?

"Wh-what about Wilford?" Anti asked, his voice barely above a whisper.

The look in Jameson's eyes seemed to say in return, 'What about Dark?'

Part of Anti knew that when Jameson kissed him a second time, he really had no excuse not to pull away.

Then why didn't he?

You're a cuck, Anti.

A slut.

You'd really give up on Dark that easily?

You should be ashamed.

You should be punished.

Don't you want this too?

And part of Anti definitely knew that he shouldn't be letting Jameson undo his buttons, but he made no move to stop him.

It's better now, isn't it?

I̷̢̫̠s͇̙͍̥̳͇̪͕̞͠n̛̞͙͇͈̱̲̕'͖̣̩̪͚͘͟t͚̙̥̟ ̟̗̬̪̗̭̙̗̜i̷͙̺̻̞͇͜͞t͓̮͎̗̤͖͈̕͝?̛͙̞͈͖̯̲͉͎͢͡ ?

Chapter Text

~Groundlands~

Markiplier shrugged away his coat, setting it down on the dank floorboards as he stared around at the abandoned apartment complex that had used to be his home. He'd lived here with his mother after his father had died, and then again for a brief time during the early forties, when he'd been on the run in Damien's body, and had nowhere else to go.

It was also where he'd returned just days before he was murdered once more, burned to death in his nightclothes by that insufferable butler and a strange man known only to him as 'Dark'. Though Mark had never heard the man speak, he knew within himself that it could only be Damien, out to get his revenge on Mark for stealing his body.

There was just something so familiar about Dark, something Mark didn't know how to place. It was more than just the energy radiating from Dark's form, the same energy that was keeping Mark alive to this very day. It was all in the way Dark wore his hair, the way he walked, the black clothes that reminded Mark of the two people in his life he'd always miss.

Damien, his dear friend, who hadn't lifted a finger to harm him until just moments before he died. And Celine, his wife, whom the Colonel had stolen from him in spite.

Mark found himself tearing up a little, pulling up a chair and slumping like the sack of muscle and fat that his mind was possessing. It was all the Colonel's fault- everything, from the death of his friends, to the money trickling from his vaults, to his beloved Celine's infidelity. And though the case of his mother's death had closed years ago, sometimes he still wondered if somehow that was William's fault as well.

He'd loved his mother, so much that he'd cried at least twice weekly in her memory, walking around that cold and empty house. She was a good woman- and his father was a good man, but Mark had barely known him before he was whisked away by the cold hands of death on the front line. He'd only been eight years old, and his father had been at war for a year by the time it had happened, and though Mark had cried for him as well, the place held in his heart for his mother was far greater than even his love for Celine.

His mother had been there for him, comforting him, working to keep him happy and healthy despite her grief. Even when they'd moved in with Mark's wealthy uncle and cousin, she'd always put Mark's happiness before her own. And in return, Mark knew he couldn't follow the same path his father had- he knew he couldn't go off to war and leave her behind with nobody else to love.

So as soon as he was able, he'd sold his soul away to become an actor. He was a ripe twelve years old, and he had ambition and drive like his family had never seen before. He wanted nothing more than to make his mother proud, so he took the backlash and the criticism, the pain, the advances- anything to make Hollywood believe he could be the best there truly was. 

He remembered coming home from filming on one fateful day, his back sore from standing for so long. His lips were swollen and abused, concealer rubbing away from the obvious finger-shaped bruises on his arms and thighs, and he was ready to fall into his mother's arms and sleep the pain away before he had to face his director and fellow actors again. He wanted to tell her everything- about the abuse, the growing pit of despair in his stomach, the tightness in his throat- but it wasn't meant to be.

No, instead he returned to a crime scene, with yellow tape and police sirens, a man in a long brown coat stopping him at the front door. The neighbours were crowded around, in their expensive looking nightclothes, while his cousin and uncle stood to the side, answering questions.

His mother was nowhere to be seen.

"And who are you meant to be, boy? Aren't you too young to be wandering this neighbourhood at night?"

Mark's fists clenched, remembering how the man's hand on his arm felt so wrong, and unwanted, and disgusting. But he'd only been thirteen, and he'd thought nothing of it, explaining that he lived in the manor that was being investigated so that the uncomfortable feeling would go away.

He didn't know at that young, young age that what his supervisors were coercing him into after the long days on set was hardly legal. He didn't realise that when he was commanded to sink to his knees, he should have run as far away as he could. He didn't know until he married Celine that chastity was important, and that he'd given his away before he'd even known how to protect it.

His mother would have told him what to do, he was certain of it. She wouldn't have let this happen- she was always there to tell him right from wrong. But she was gone.

Though the detective that had stopped him told him about his mother's passing, Mark hadn't wanted to believe it at first. He'd cried aloud, his hurt and confusion doing nothing to distract him from the anguish, the knowledge that he'd never again feel her warm embrace. Her body, when she was revealed in an open casket funeral funded by his uncle, was cold and unwelcoming, and Mark's heart sank knowing he had nobody else to turn to.

His uncle was sympathetic- of course, he grieved as well. Mark's mother was his sister after all, and though she'd never mean as much to him as she did to Mark, the man was quite upset by her death. Mark had worried himself thinking that he was going to be cast out of the house, but in hindsight he knew that his uncle would never abandon him like that. He continued to live with his cousin when he wasn't working, until the day that William dropped out of school to join the army.

They were only seventeen, and Mark was making a small fortune from his career (though it didn't nearly match his uncle's riches, it was certainly enough to keep him stable), and William had been training for this moment since he was fourteen. Unlike Mark, who had spent his teen years trying to sculpt his body to become handsome and plastic without the need for surgery, William had been staying back after school with the scouts, getting into shape, preparing himself for the years of fighting for his country that were soon to come. 

And Mark hadn't known exactly when Damien had joined them- the son of the wealthy businessman who lived just down Oroville Place, but the three had grown up together since Mark was around nine. He'd known Damien had a sister, but as he hadn't attended public school since he was eleven years old, he wasn't acquainted with her until one lonely night, when he'd hosted a dinner party with his fellow actors.

He'd just been copying out a section of his uncle's will, as the man was suffering from a cancerous lump on his chest and wouldn't make it to Christmas, and he had hopes of sending it to William so that his cousin could come home and say goodbye, and request any changes to the will if he felt it was unreasonable. The man who'd taken Mark in at his lowest was sickly and yellow, and even as Mark had written out the letter he found himself realising that William wasn't even going to make it in time. Regretfully, he discarded the letter. There had simply been no point in sending it.

He invited Damien over, as well as a few stars he'd become acquainted with over the years, and he'd expected to spend the night drinking away the hurt- he had no idea he'd meet the love of his life there.

But there she was, Celine Pechman, looking stunning in a midnight black dress that contrasted her pale skin wonderfully, lips dark and eyes twinkling. Mark hadn't been able to take his gaze off her all night, not even bothering to listen to his associates as they used the seclusion of the lounge to trade their designer drugs. Something about her called to him, something that reminded him of the mother he'd lost, something that told him she was the one.

They'd wed within the year.

Mark gritted his teeth in remembrance. Of course, William hadn't been all too happy when he returned from war, littered with bruises and healed over cuts, only just having escaped with the news of his father's death. They were twenty-three years old.

Mark had tried to welcome him home, but William had been livid. He'd shouted at Mark, calling him a cheat and a liar, accusing the actor of wanting William gone so that he could keep the house for himself. Of course, Mark had refused. Of course he'd been offended. This was William, his dear friend and cousin- why would Mark do anything that he was suggesting?

The argument escalated. Bottles were smashed and names were called. William left the house in a drunken rage, and he didn't return for months, but Mark wasn't so certain he wanted William back in the manor at all after that. 

He'd tried to tell himself he wasn't jealous. He'd tried to say he was just concerned about Celine's safety.

At the end of the day, he couldn't even convince himself. He knew where William was coming from- at least, he did then- but he still didn't reach out to his cousin to help him through it.

It was harsh, Mark knew. But harsh was all that he'd known since his earliest days as an actor.

Damien brought him around one night, knocking on Mark's door and giving him a lecture about how insensitive and rude he'd been to cast William out upon the news of his father's death. Apparently, the then Private had been staying with the mayor, and Damien was growing sick of hearing his angry babbling.

Mark found he couldn't blame the mayor for feeling this way. Already, it seemed that William was growing mad.

But then, he was forced to let William back into his house, no matter how paranoid it made him. His footsteps were heavy, his voice loud and gloating. Mark often heard his cousin talking fearlessly with Celine, and found that it hurt him even more to know that they weren't even talking about him. The Chef, Robert, had been employed by Mark's late uncle and had no kindness for Mark, taunting and teasing him about his wife laying with another man. At the time, Mark had thought it was just horrible slander, but he couldn't let the chef go. The man was horrible, but he knew too much about Mark's private life for Mark to feel comfortable letting him off.

So he endured, like he'd always done. Taking the words, the taunting, hoping that one day he'd be able to show them all what he was made of, just as he'd done with every single sexual predator who'd brought him down before.

But, looking back, Mark supposed it hadn't happened that way at all. Celine was dead, Damien was dead- and the Colonel was still out there, living every moment just to spite Mark like he'd done ever since they'd shared the same house.

He wiped his tears, knowing that he was probably red in the face by now, and decided to make himself at home. As of now, he didn't know where his long-forgotten grandchild even lived, let alone the entity that called himself 'Dark', or the mustache-wearing fiend he called family. He didn't know why he'd recounted his tale again, knowing that it only made him hate himself more with every rendition. His mother wouldn't be proud of him if she saw what he'd become.

But he had to wonder, if his mother knew what he'd become by the time he was twenty, had she ever been proud of him at all?

~Void~

Wilford had been thinking long and hard about what that doctor was telling him yesterday- between the shouting and the foreign obscurities, that was. Thankfully, his time spent as 'Wingleheimer' in Frankfurt had taught him much about the language of the German people, and he was able to understand most of what the old fart was saying. 

Something he couldn't quite wrap his head around was the idea that he was breaking Jameson's heart- of course, he'd do no such thing! Wilford Warfstache was a kind man, and Jameson was his closest and dearest friend- well, perhaps aside from Dark, but still. And what did old Schneeple know anyway? Wilford knew for a fact that Jameson wasn't troubled by how he lived his life...

He'd said goodbye to Kinkiplier a few minutes after they'd been interrupted- the mood had definitely been killed, and though the bondage-loving ego was left frustrated and bitter, Wilford was left all alone with his thoughts.

Could it be that Jameson was having doubts?

No, of course he wasn't. He'd have let Wilford know if he was upset, right?

Wilford groaned aloud, pulling at his hair in frustration. Why did he even care? It wasn't as if he loved the man, right? He loved Celine, and Celine was gone, but his heart didn't want to listen to reason. In fact, Wilford didn't know what to trust anymore, as sometimes his heart would leap into his throat just observing Dark, but Dark was hardly the woman he'd once fallen for- why couldn't he get past his feelings for her? Why did he find something so similar to her in each of the egos he courted?

Bim, with his confident expression and dark clothes, so similar the the way Celine looked and dressed in the days of old. Kinkiplier, with his otherworldly desires and obsessions, much like Celine's. And Dark, who seemed sometimes so similar to her that Wilford began to doubt the reality that they were different people.

Even the others he'd find himself thinking about if he dwelled on their presence too long- Marvin, with his fiery attitude, and Jackie, whose opinionated arguments really lit up a spark in Wilford's mind. Though those two had never accepted his advances, he saw something in them that was just so familiar to a love he'd once known.

But Jameson? The man had nothing in common with Celine. He was shy, quiet, intimate and caring, while Celine had been outspoken, determined, and untouchable. Wilford often saw Jameson close to tears, while Celine wouldn't dare let her weaknesses show.

What on Earth did he see in the aqua-haired man that made him keep coming back?

Well, Wilford supposed that he was always a cuddler. None of his other partners in this manor really cared for the pillowtalk, and neither, really, had Celine. Though he'd always tried his best to save her from the idiot he called a cousin, even the last time he'd met with her she seemed reluctant to speak to him. Their time together was amazing while it had lasted, though it was all filled with mindless chatter, wine and sex. And really, other than his forgotten high school fling, that was all Wilford had ever known love to be.

But Jameson loved to cuddle- and that's how they spent the most of their time together, whether it be cuddling on the sofa, or cuddling by the pool, or cuddling in Wilford's bed after sex. Wilford found that's what he liked most about the nights spent with Jameson- when he woke up the next day, Jameson was the only one who wanted to remain by his side. Jameson was the only one who wanted to let their relationship show, while Wilford's other interests preferred to be kept in the shadows.

Celine had preferred to keep in the shadows, too.

And how could Wilford forget? Jameson was more accustomed to a time before cellular phones and devices, before fancy cars and jet planes, before convenience killed the drive of the new generation. He was delightfully old-fashioned, and Wilford could appreciate the simpler things with him, like he'd never been free to do with even Celine.

But he didn't love the man. No, that was absurd, even if he wished it were true.

Even if he wished he could stop thinking about her, even if he told himself he didn't love her, even if he sometimes broke down crying because it had been years and she hadn't come to see him.

He loved Celine.

Maybe that's why he found himself so prone to ending up in the wrong bed. Maybe that's why he was afraid of spending too much time with Jameson. Maybe that's why he pursued these people he didn't even admire physically, just wishing for another chance with the one he missed with all his heart.

But what about Jameson?

Surely, Wilford was falling. He should have noticed it sooner- heck, he should have noticed it the day he'd let the dapper young man walk into his life, but he'd left it so late that he didn't know what to say. It had been seven long months of an unconventional, broken relationship he'd fought himself maintaining, and for what? To have a sudden moment of realisation like this one, while the room he'd left still smelled of infidelity and forgotten promises?

He licked his lips, conscious of the tears he must have been shedding, the bitter taste of salt on the tip of his tongue. He really was falling, wasn't he?

"I... I love him..." Wilford uttered, as if the words weren't right. "But... I love her too..."

It was mind-boggling, to the point where Wilford would usually give up and let nature take its course, but something inside him wanted to fight it. Something inside didn't want to sink further into madness.

Something inside needed Wilford to make a choice.

He rose from his seat, glancing at the broken fountains and the weed-filled gardens, around him. The manor used to be so beautiful, but now... now it was desolate like Wilford's hopes. 

He shook his head. He needed to find Jameson. 

With each step, Wilford seemed to remember a moment where Jameson had made him happy. A moment he'd laughed at a throwaway comment, or he'd chuckled at a joke, or their closeness had brought him warmth and mirth. As he climbed the staircase, he got his hopes up. He'd... he'd return with a bouquet, and he'd pick all of Jameson's favourites- ooh, and he'd sweep the man off his feet, he'd like that. He walked past Dark's bedroom and through the hall, his heart pounding at what felt like a thousand times a minute, stopping just outside his door. He was sure Jameson would be there- he wasn't in the library or the kitchens, nor out by the pool.

He remembered that Jameson had an affinity for peonies, so he summoned a nice bouquet of the lovely pink flowers, adding a few yellow roses for a nice effect. Surely, Jameson would love them, right?

He knocked. Of course, he'd get no answer, but it was polite to do so anyway. He opened the door, and-

"Jameson, I'm- oh, dear, are you alright?"

Jameson looked up from the bed, where he'd been sitting alone in the dark. He'd been crying, but Wilford had grown accustomed to the tears over these past two months, and was only concerned about Jameson's posture. The man never hunched over like this- something must have been horribly wrong.

Jameson wiped his eyes, looking warily at Wilford as he approached the bed. Wilford sat beside him, wasting no time bringing him closer as he realised that he never went out of his way to comfort his other partners like this when they were down.

"Hey, look at me," Wilford urged, but Jameson's eyes had already fallen back to his own fingers, fidgeting nervously. Something seemed off overall, what with Jameson's tense behaviour, not even mentioning the scent of singed wire and battery acid that seemed to be coming from his lover. But for the life of him, Wilford couldn't determine what was wrong.

Jameson sniffed a little, his muscles tensing when Wilford brushed against him. A part of the pink-haired man seemed to die a little inside, suddenly hurt. Did Jameson not want him near?

Wilford then remembered- he had a bouquet to give the man. Surely, that would bring the smile out of him? He brought the collection of bright flowers out and showed them to Jameson, not anticipating the slap that was coming his way.

Wilford was so shocked that he forgot how to speak for a moment. Jameson was never violent- never, and he often reprimanded Wilford for being violent as well. What had he done to deserve this? Wilford didn't know, and when Jameson turned tail, running from the room, it still hadn't occurred to him.

He found himself crying, weeping for yet another love he'd lost. Jameson didn't want him anymore. Wilford had been so eager to change, to try again, to talk to Jameson and discover what was wrong- but what was the point, now? It was too late, much too late for forgiveness.

He tossed the bouquet aside, bursting into hot, wet tears once more. Why did the people he loved always leave him? Celine, Damien, now Jameson...

He shuddered. His heart had wanted him to choose a side, but now there was only one side to choose. Wilford found that he didn't know just how much he'd wanted the other option until it was lost to him.

He loved Celine. And he loved Jameson, but if Jameson didn't want him in return, what was the point in pining for him?

It didn't matter that he chose Celine, it seemed. His heart would hurt either way.

At least like this, Celine would never be able to break him more than he'd already broken himself.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

Anti barely had time to hear the knock on his door before it flew open, letting the one ego he didn't really know how to talk to inside Dark's quarters. Somehow, it felt wrong to be with Jameson in Dark's room- especially after what had happened last night. He supposed he deserved to feel guilty- it had taken him years to warm up to Dark enough to trust him with his body, yet he'd given it all away to Jameson when they barely even knew each other. He wasn't sure what had clouded his mind yesterday- the fear, the regret, the knowledge that Dark's baby wasn't even his... he didn't know why he'd let Jameson touch him like that, the way only Dark should have been allowed to touch him.

But he had, and he'd touched Jameson in return, and then they'd done a lot more than just touching as the night progressed. He supposed his hormones must have taken over at some point because it all felt like a haze, like it had never even happened, but he knew it had. And he knew he shouldn't have liked it the way he did.

But he'd liked it. He'd liked it a lot. And he didn't know what that meant. Did he really love Dark, if he'd enjoyed every moment of yesternight's affection, the intimacy, the sensations he'd craved for so long in his lover's absence?

But of course he did- he'd loved Dark for years. Even now, when he felt broken and used and disgusting, he yearned for Dark to return and make it better. Like he wasn't even at fault at all.

Like he hadn't blatantly cheated on the man he'd given his heart.

But he had no time to process his emotions before Jameson pulled him into a hug, the tears falling from his eyes in little rivers of despair. It was tight, and close, and Anti felt like he understood more than anyone what was happening, even though Jameson hadn't said a word.

He realised that he wasn't the only one who had rushed into this mess. He realised that he wasn't the only one with a committed relationship. He realised that he wasn't the only one that needed love so desperately that they sought to find it in another.

He found himself hugging back tightly, tears he'd been pushing back for hours now flooding his cheeks and dripping to his chin, sliding down his neck. 

He realised that he wasn't the only one filled with regret.

"Shh, hey, c-calm down," Anti tried to soothe, but the truth was that he was no better. He was one wrong word away from losing his mind, and it was obvious to both of them. But he felt like he had a duty to Jameson now, a duty to help him pick up the pieces now that they were involved in such a stupid, intimate way.

Jameson's sniffles died down a little, but the tears still came, and- oh, his handkerchief must be in his vest somewhere. That's where it had been yesterday, right?

But Anti felt wrong as his hands roamed Jameson's torso, his mind filled with images of ripping away these clothes and tracing the muscles beneath Jameson's modest button-up shirt. He closed his eyes as he found the elusive handkerchief, balling it in his fists as he felt Jameson's hand brush against his own.

The touch was sending him wild, but he didn't want it. He didn't want to fall further into this- he was with Dark! He loved Dark, and he didn't want to throw what he and Dark had away, but he couldn't stop himself as he inched that little bit closer, brushed that little bit harder, getting blood from his neck wound all down his one-time lover's chest.

"I'm sor-ry," Anti hiccuped, knowing this wasn't the first time he'd messed up Jameson's clothes with his own bodily fluid. "F-for everything, JJ, I..."

And Jameson seemed to understand- at least, Anti was sure he wasn't trying to fight it. The mustached man held him close as the sniffles died down, and all that was left was the shuddering of their bodies, their hearts thumping loudly with adrenaline and their heads pounding with memories of last night's sins.

Jameson was tracing something onto Anti's chest, but Anti didn't know how to interpret it- he could only pull away, red faced and solemn, and shake his head nervously.

"N-no, I can't... I don't know w-what you're saying..."

Jameson gave him a patient smile, one that Anti felt sure he barely deserved, and summoned a little whiteboard with a marker. Why hadn't Anti thought of that earlier?

Because until now, you two let your bodies do the talking, didn't you?

Jameson turned the whiteboard around and let Anti see what he'd written- he had very nice handwriting for someone who didn't need to write all that often, but though the message was written beautifully, it still cut Anti in places he'd thought he'd fortified against.

'I'm not sorry'

"Wh-why?" Anti shivered, holding himself around the middle to stop his fidgeting. "We shouldn't b-be together like this, JJ, we... we're spoken for,"

Jameson frowned, and Anti knew that he was right. No matter how free he'd felt while in the moment, all that awaited when he looked back was regret and fear. Fear for how Dark might react- fear for how Wilford might react if he knew Anti was messing around with his man- and regret because Anti couldn't see how giving his love away like this was anything but damaging.

The mute rubbed away what was written on the board, scribbling a new message. Anti waited patiently for the reply, wondering just how he was going to break it to the man before him that he didn't want this- he didn't want any of this.

Jameson revealed his message.

'Not together anymore'

"Oh..." Anti uttered. He'd thought Jameson had finally caught on and found out about Wilford's other partners last night, but he hadn't thought they'd broken up. Were they even really together in the first place? Anti hadn't cared much about a relationship that wasn't his own, but now he was kicking himself for sleeping with a man who might well have been taken at the time.

"Why?" Anti asked, wondering if this was a little too intrusive.

Only you would worry about talking after literally having sex.

You secretly liked it, didn't you?

You want m҉or̶e, don't you?

I wonder what Dark would think?

Maybe he'd fuck both of you.

Bet you'd like that, w̴o҉͘u̧͢l͝͠d͡n̷͢͞'̡̕t̷̵͏ you?

You little  s͏̙̗͎͖̕l̗̘͚̩̲̮u̝̙̮͕̮̫͎̦͠t̨͙̠͓͘͠  .

Jameson squeezed Anti's arm reassuringly, and the glitch found himself relaxing a little, wiping away some of the more persistent tears as they streaked down his face.

'He doesn't love me'

"B-but..." Anti sniffed. "I... I don't love you either..."

Jameson didn't look shaken at all. He didn't wipe away his previous message, but he added to it at the bottom of the little board.

'I know'

"But then why-?" Anti started, but was interrupted by the door slamming open. Startled, he jumped a little farther away from Jameson, scared that they might be caught- of course, they weren't doing much other than talking and crying, but his conscience was still weighing deep in his chest. He turned to see who had barged in without knocking, expecting it to be Schneep or his fiance, only to find an upset-looking Robbie standing in the doorway.

Beside him was the man that scared Anti the most in this manor- Author. Or as he preferred now, 'The Host'. The glitch couldn't help but bite his tongue in fear that Dark's brother would expose him and his lies, but Host didn't seem very spiteful. In fact, right now he only seemed concerned.

The blindfolded man seemed to stare right through them as they hung their heads, both seeming to know that there was no getting out of this one.

"The Host heard everything," Host muttered grimly. "And The Host had accidentally let the information slip to Robbie, who had been sitting and watching the sports channel with The Host."

Robbie rushed forward to engulf both of his brothers in a hug, not even caring that his striped blue and white shirt was getting filthy with blood and tears. He cared about Jameson a lot, and he'd come to care deeply for Anti as well. Knowing that both of his brothers were in emotional peril, he couldn't stand to remain silent- he had to help. He had to help them through this in any way he could.

"You... two... no... date," Robbie sounded, though he was very grateful for the translation being offered by his significant other, Host. "You... don't... belong,"

Anti nodded, though he still looked incredibly upset. "Yeah, Robs, I... I know..."

Jameson nodded as well, but the mute man seemed even more troubled than Anti was. Robbie squeezed him a little in reassurance, smiling when Jameson's lips twitched despite himself. Even if he couldn't solve their problems, he could make them smile through the pain.

There was a resounding crash coming from the next room, and even Robbie flinched, all of the gathered Septiceyes looking to The Host for some kind of explanation.

The Host's lips turned until he was frowning. "The Host can no longer narrate Wilford's doings, and so he must assume that the man has left the Void."

Anti locked eyes with Jameson, seeing the hurt and the worry even beneath his tough exterior. He couldn't stop himself from reaching out and holding him, trying to make him feel just that little bit better. He could put aside the feelings of betrayal and upset that threatened to spill, if only to console his family member.

Now, both of their lovers were gone.

Now, there was nobody stopping them from being together.

But that was never what they'd wanted, not really. All they'd wanted was love from the ones they craved the most.

And now, after everything, they were stuck together with a bag of mixed feelings and nobody else to turn to.

Anti sniffed bitterly. He'd find a way to fix this, and help Jameson get back to Wilford. He knew that the mute man still loved him, and still wanted to be with him, and Anti would be there to fix the puzzle he'd managed to fall into. Even if Dark would never forgive him.

Even if he could never forgive himself.

You're just his little t͝o͞o͠l̷, Anti.

You don't want that, do you?

He's us̷i̢ņg you.

Dark used you, too.

You don't mean a̸n̡͝y͠͠ţ̶h͏͘̕in͢͠g.

Why believe you're making a difference?

~Groundlands~

"So you say he's a hermaphrodite?" The doctor asked, somehow remaining calm despite Mark, Amy and Seán's panicked expressions. Dark was lying on a hospital bed, unconscious, looking paler than ever. After he'd collapsed like that, the friends knew that they had to get him to a hospital, quick- they'd called 911 and had given away their address, pacing as they waited for an ambulance to turn up. Dark didn't stir, and he didn't even move when the paramedics had carried him on a stretcher to the automobile, remaining unconscious for the entire trip.

Seán had demanded that they all be allowed to come along, and maybe it was the fact that one of the paramedics was a fan, but regardless, he succeeded. Amy and Seán had ridden in the ambulance with Dark as they ran a few checks on their way to the hospital, while Mark drove with Tyler to the emergency parking zone. They'd all met up in the hospital lobby, and after a few gruelling hours, they'd all been allowed to see the doctor for a proper diagnosis.

Mark was terrified of any questions they'd ask him about Dark- he was hardly a normal human, after all. He had strange auras (that appeared to have subsided during his pregnancy, but they were there if you squinted) and grey skin, and not to mention how extremely heavily pregnant he was.

And the way the doctor looked at them when they entered told them that he wasn't quite sure what to make of the man in his care. He looked like he'd seen a ghost, which was very alarming. Mark didn't want to have to break out of here with Dark's body because the government was going to cut him up and probe him, but he knew that it would be Seán's immediate reaction, so he had to be prepared for anything.

Thankfully, the doctor didn't seem to have alerted anybody else to the strangeness that was Darkiplier. He'd beckoned them all to sit as they looked at Dark's immobile, lifeless body, even Mark getting worried for his wellbeing.

Tyler had left to catch Ethan up, who was still at their house and would have remained there if nobody told him something was happening. That left just Mark, Seán and Amy to deal with the onslaught of questions to come. Though having Tyler here wouldn't serve as any kind of help, Mark still felt a little vulnerable without him around.

"Yeah," Mark gulped, not really sure himself about the nature of Dark's gender identity. Amy had said he was transgender and genderfluid, but generally transgender people had to go through a hell of a lot of surgery to get to where Dark was now and it was better to avoid bringing up medical history that was nonexistent. If they didn't fix this now, Dark may not ever be around to take offense to being misgendered, anyway.

"And are either of you the father of his child?"

Both Mark and Amy looked at Seán, wondering if he was really ready to put it out there and accept that there was really no other option. The Irishman licked his lips nervously, as if he was still uncertain, but he spoke anyway. 

"Yep, that's me..."

The doctor didn't seem fazed by the fact that he had an apparent non-straight couple in his surgery, so that was a major plus. He flipped through his notes, possibly to find more questions. Mark was hardly going to believe that looking over Dark was any sort of easy task.

"And he has no medical history?"

This time, the doctor looked pointedly at Seán, who was beginning to sweat.

"I... uh, not that I know of," Seán evaded. "We uh... we've only been together two months,"

The doctor shook his head. "Then I'm afraid the child is not yours at all- judging simply by the size of his abdomen and the results from the ultrasound, the fetus has to be at least six months old."

"Six months?" Seán asked incredulously. Mark's eyes had widened, and Amy's brows had furrowed. They'd only been able to put together that Dark's baby wasn't Anti's by elimination, but now it couldn't even have been Seán's... who else had Dark been sleeping with?

"Mark?" Amy whispered while the doctor was preoccupied with Seán. 

"Yeah?"

"I'm worried for him," Amy muttered, biting her lip as she looked over the unconscious man before them. "He just seemed so... so alive yesterday, and now he looks worse than death,"

Mark swallowed nervously. "I... I know, it's weird, I... I didn't even know this could happen,"

"And are you related to him in any way?" The doctor asked Mark, having seemed to finally grasp that Seán knew next to nothing about Dark's state of being.

Mark didn't quite know how to answer this. Dark very obviously bore his resemblance, and they could be written off as siblings- but he also knew that the doctor would then want to ask him about Dark's medical history, and he wasn't nearly prepared to make up any bullshit for that when they needed a proper diagnosis.

"No," Mark decided. "Just a crazy doppelganger,"

The doctor didn't look entirely convinced, but he moved on anyway. He flicked through a few more pages, before settling on one. He looked up at them, confused and concerned.

"The nurse who first checked over his body was not sure what had caused him to faint," the doctor started.

"Wait, there's nothing wrong with him?" Mark asked. He was sure that couldn't be right- Dark had never showed any signs of illness before, and he was sure the demon was powerful enough to persevere through it if he had. Whatever had caused him to faint so suddenly was definitely serious.

The doctor sighed. "If only- in fact, there seemed to be innumerable problems that at any moment could have caused it. Remarkably, the man remains alive and breathing through this- especially when he has all of these defects. Our first prognosis was a stroke, and this was supported by the amount of blood clots that were picked up by the ultrasound, as well as the recounts you three provided,"

"He was coughing up clots of blood," Amy agreed, looking rather pale. "But... I thought stroke happened when a blood vessel burst in your brain,"

The doctor nodded. "Yes, but there are many different ways in which a stroke can be triggered- besides, the clots were quite numerous and in various parts of the body, some immobile and some free-flowing. We have injected him with Heparin that will hopefully clear those up, but don't let him hurt himself on any sharp objects during the week- it will cause his body to behave similarly to a haemophiliac, as the blood will not be able to clot properly at the site of the wound,"

"But what else could it have been?" Seán asked, looking even more worried as the conversation progressed.

The doctor shook his head. "After looking at the body in detail, the nurse listed everything that could be considered abnormal. But what frightens me the most is that he seems to have a bullet wound just below his ribcage, and by the look of it, it's fresh."

Mark swallowed nervously, having had a suspicion this would be brought up again, while both Amy and Seán started in their seats.

"Bullet wound?!" Seán asked incredulously, somehow forgetting that if he was trying to keep up the charade of dating Dark he'd have obviously seen the man shirtless.

"The nurse couldn't believe it either," the doctor agreed. "She checked, but there doesn't seem to be any evidence of a bullet entering his body- no increase in adrenaline, nor any disruption of his stomach and intestines. She doused it in antiseptic and continued her survey without a second thought, but I thought I should bring it up to you in case it rang a bell,"

The three exchanged wary looks. This was panning out to be much worse than they had expected.

"And that's not all, I assume," Mark broke the silence, not really wanting to have to explain how he knew about the bullet wound.

"You'd be correct," the doctor sighed. "Did any of you know of self harming tendencies, or have you witnessed a situation that would give insight to the multiple slits on his arms?"

Seán looked incredibly disturbed as he shook his head. "No, but... how long has it been going on?"

The doctor shook his head. "It's impossible to determine, but the wounds were numerous. We had suspected that if not by stroke, he fainted due to anaemia."

"Shit..." Seán sighed, running a hand through his hair. "Please say that's the end,"

"Hardly," the doctor continued. "It's almost as if every disease known to man decided to attack him at once. I hate to be the bearer of this news, but... he's got stage four breast cancer. Quite a vicious cancer as well, it seems- being incredibly generous, I'd say he's got about three years to live. And that's if anything else he has doesn't kill him first."

Mark's heart seemed to shatter, his grip on Amy's hand loosening and his lips trembling.

"C-cancer... fuck,"

Amy patted his back, though she seemed close to tears, looking at the man who was barely covered in his hospital gown. Seán didn't seem to be taking the news any better, looking to his feet, small tears beading up in his eyes.

The doctor suddenly seemed very empathetic. "I'm sorry to have caused such a shock- I lost my mother to lung cancer four years ago, it's quite... painful whenever I have to diagnose it in my patients,"

Mark sniffed, not knowing he'd been crying until now. "I lost my dad to cancer when I was eighteen... I never really liked Dark, but... damn it. I wouldn't wish cancer on anybody,"

Amy held him close, but she was really concerned about Seán right now. He didn't have anybody to hold as he tried to process this news. She knew he was close with Dark, and he must be feeling the worst of this revelation, but he managed to sit up and compose himself, if only for Mark's benefit.

"Nothing else?" Seán asked hopefully.

The doctor offered him a sad smile. "I'd saved the worst for last, so there's nothing more major- though with what we've just discussed, I would keep a close eye on him and his child. I'd recommend that you take him to monthly checkups, just to keep track of him and make sure nothing else like this happens again, as well as to monitor the cancer- unfortunately, we have nobody here equipped to handle cancer treatment currently. I'd say he'll be fine- at least for the duration of his pregnancy. Please note that the risk of stroke and other afflictions due to his blood levels will only increase postnatally- I wish you all the best of luck."

Mark nodded, knowing that since he didn't have the private health care for Dark, he'd have to take the man home before long anyway. Considering he wasn't in need of surgery, there was really no reason for him to stay here anyway.

"Would you like to rent a wheelchair for him?" The doctor asked kindly. "Stroke victims may experience temporary paralysis, and I wouldn't want you to have to carry him everywhere while he recovers,"

"Paralysis?" Amy asked, barely believing it. "How... how is he not dead?"

"It escapes me," The doctor responded truthfully, handing Seán a few scripts for Dark's new medication. "Please, take care of him,"

"Trust me," Seán shuddered, looking at Dark carefully. "I will."

They'd left the hospital with Dark still limp and cold, Seán holding his hand on the drive back to Mark's house. He couldn't help but feel as though he was responsible for this- though within him, he knew that he couldn't have been the cause of the clotting or the cancer, and fuck, the cancer... He hadn't expected that curveball. It was bad enough that Dark had a stroke, but now he had very serious breast cancer to go along with it, and shit, how was he going to explain this when Dark woke up?

If he woke up...

Seán shook himself out of it. Of course Dark would wake up- he's Dark! He'd brought himself back from apparent death the day Signe had returned from visiting her family, and from what he'd seen it wasn't the first time he'd evaded mortality. He just had to believe everything was going to be okay.

Even if deep down, I know that it won't be.

Chapter Text

~Void~

Google felt himself stumble as the ground shook beneath him, turning just in time to see the manor begin to crumble behind him. He'd just left to accomplish his first ever self-assigned task- to locate and retrieve Blank from wherever he was camping out, but that was the last thing on his mind as he realised the implications of what was unfolding.

Chunks of stone loosened and fell from the walls and shingles broke free from their places, all disintegrating before they hit the ground. Slowly but surely, Darkiplier Manor was coming down.

Wasting no time, Google leaped into action- he was designed to protect people, right? He was entirely sure that this act fell under that category as he rushed forward, reaching out to the house to try and prevent its inevitable collapse for just a few minutes longer. It took up most of his memory, but it was a sacrifice Google was willing to make as the egos began to pour out by the number, looking increasingly more shaken as the time played out.

First came Marvin and Yandereplier, both looking shocked and pale, beckoning Bing and Chase to follow them out. Bing halted a few feet from the door, locking eyes with Google.

'Assist me,' Google sent over their shared network, and Bing immediately went slack as he too focused his mind on keeping the manor stable.

After a few moments, Chase stopped trying to get Bing to move, finally noticing that the android was helping Google, and ran back inside to assist what looked like the doctors stumbling from the wreckage.

The moments passed in a blur, and Google found himself growing faint. If he kept this up, he'd fade within minutes, but he had a duty to his fellow egos that he wanted to honour with his newfound life. He gritted his teeth and held his own against the tide of weariness that threatened to overcome him, not even noticing that everyone had vacated the manor until he was forcibly shaken from his trance.

"Google! Stop, you're hurting yourself!"

Chase was there, tugging on Google's arm as the android focused on his surroundings again. Every ego except for Wilford was accounted for, and Google lowered his hold on the manor, watching it crumble and fade as if it were never there. Instantly, sensory overload hit him like a blow to the nose and he crumpled, falling to his hands and knees.

"Google!"

Google found himself panting out of some learned habit, letting someone he recognised as Bing lift him to his feet again. He caught himself on Bing's shoulder, steadying himself again as his systems slowly recovered from the massive energy drain.

"I am not wounded," Google huffed. "Let me be."

"No way," Chase frowned. "You can't just overexert yourself like that-"

"Are you happy that I saved your pathetic human lives or not?!" Google snapped, glaring at the mass of egos that had come over to see the catastrophe that was unfolding. He took pleasure in the way they squirmed under his threatening stare.

"Hold your tongue, Google!" Dr. Schneeplestein commanded, running over and examining him carefully. "Gott im Himmel, ve vere only looking out for you!"

"I don't need-" Google began, but a message sent from Bing cut him off.

'Don't bother. They won't get it.'

Google huffed again, meeting Bing's gaze curiously. He knew that the others, with their human beliefs and values would never understand what it's like to know that you're worthless. But he'd always assumed that Bing had never truly felt like a machine.

Could he possibly have been wrong about the younger android? Or was Bing just showing him empathy?

Google groaned in frustration, not knowing what to trust as the doctors checked him over.

"You seem to be fine- but don't do zat again," Dr. Schneeplestein chided.

"He's right, Google," Dr. Iplier agreed. "We did need you then, but we may need you further yet. Calm yourself and stand down, where is Wilford?"

"The Host informs his brother that Wilford has left the Void," The Host spoke, arms crossed and frowning. "The Host does not wish to disclose the reason behind his vacation,"

"And why not?" Ed Edgar all but shouted. "That there house nearly crushed me flat, right Silver?"

Silver nodded, also looking quite disgruntled. "Yes, it did."

"I'm sure zat Host has his reasons," Dr. Schneeplestein interceded, before Anti piped up.

Google had forgotten that he lived in the manor now- he hadn't been around for over a week, after all, but here he stood, looking quite upset, but Google couldn't determine why. He decided that it must have something to do with Dark- Anti didn't really feel much for any of his fellow egos, Google had previously concluded.

The glitch shuddered. "Drop it, guys. It's personal."

Next to him, Jameson Jackson nodded vigorously, crying a little from those bright blue eyes. Surely if anyone had an idea of what had happened, it would be Wilford's favourite muse. But Google hesitantly digressed. However much he didn't trust the glitch, he supposed it really was a personal matter.

Observing the way Jameson's hand was wrapped tightly around Anti's to the small gap between their shoulders, all the way down to the red that was seeping through Jameson's shirt, Google didn't have to look far to determine a possible personal reason that fit the bill. Wilford was a rather hypocritical man- he could dish but he couldn't take it, to use a common metaphor. Even if it wasn't obvious to everyone else, Google had crystal clear vision and scanners in his optics. Those two had infidelity written all over them.

But he remained silent. It would only inhibit the progression of his primary objective to reveal what he'd determined to the rest of the egos, who were now discussing where exactly they were going to live until Wilford returned.

Two months ago, when the doctors had banded together to make a house, it had been living hell. There was hardly any room, everyone was knocked out with exhaustion trying to help, and it had fallen to ruin by the end of it. Google supposed he could attempt to build one in a pinch, but given how hard his system had taken the task of holding the manor stable for a few minutes, he decided maybe he wasn't the best option either.

Anti cleared his throat, interrupting the doctors as they planned out another living arrangement, and everyone turned to look at him expectantly.

"I've got a place," Anti put forward. "It's... a little ways walk from here, but it's a building, at least. Maybe Halter will take in a few of you if it gets too crowded,"

Dr. Schneeplestein smiled warmly at the glitch, apparently not noticing the wince that left Anti's lips when he hugged the older ego.

"Danke, Anti," Dr. Schneeplestein thanked him. "Komm, egos! Ve must escape ze darkness before something foul happens,"

Google walked alongside the others, deciding that his mission to help Blank could be put on hold in light of finding the others a safe place to live. He didn't trust Anti as far as he could throw him- though to be fair, Google could throw him farther than any of his brethren. His own metaphor had turned against him, and he scowled, growing evermore frustrated with learning how to use these literary devices.

Bing shot him a smile, as if he could see the anger on Google's face. Google only glared in return.

These feelings, these emotions, these expectations to learn and implement slang and metaphors into his daily conversations... was this truly going to be worth the trouble?

'Trust me, Dude. It's so worth it.'

Bing acted as though nothing had occurred, but Google found that the words were somewhat reassuring. Bing had gone through all this before, he reasoned. Even if it had been long ago.

Google could get the hang of this lifestyle, he was sure of it. He was always changing, always improving. Surely he could improve upon at least some of his social skills.

So he looked up and memorised a few phrases to put into practise, his foul mood forgotten as he walked with the others. He could do this.

He could become human. Even if sometimes, he didn't want to be.

~Groundlands~

"Seán!"

The Irishman turned upon hearing his name, almost dropping the bowl of mashed potatoes he'd been holding onto the staircase, but thankfully he caught it just in time. He glared mockingly at Mark, but even he could tell his heart wasn't in the humourous response.

"Staahp, I could have dropped my cousins," he tried to joke, but his voice was just a little too strained for comfort. Mark didn't look any better- remarkably, the news that Dark was dying seemed to have knocked some empathy into him, and though it shouldn't have taken this long, Seán supposed he should be happy Dark had a place to stay. Especially when he was recovering from a turn like this, with no telling when he'd get better.

Despite the macabre scene, Mark gave Seán a sad smile to show that his efforts to lighten the mood were appreciated, if not successful. "Take some water with you, don't let him get dehydrated,"

"Will do," Seán replied, catching the bottle Mark tossed to him and tucking it under his elbow. He was glad that Mark was trying to forgive Dark, no matter what the circumstances were, and there was nothing to do but be grateful for it right now.

After all, between what happened with Miranda just last month and how many people Mark had lost in the past decade alone, Dark's ill health and inevitable death was probably hitting far too close to home for his comfort. The man was his grandfather, after all, and Seán remembered all too well just how hard losing family really was to heal from.

But he shook those troubling thoughts aside. Dark needed him now, and he had to be ready to answer all of the questions that the demon could think of- it was the least he could do. But then, with the amount of problems that Dark was exhibiting, it was probably the best he could do as well.

He knocked gently on the door. "Hey buddy, you up?"

A harsh cough sounded from the other side of the door, solidifying Seán's suspicions that the man was awake, but his eyebrows furrowed when the coughing didn't stop.

To hell with privacy- his health has to come first.

Seán opened the door and set the plate aside, feeling a major sense of deja vu from yesterday morning as he rushed to Dark's side, giving him a recently-hosed cooking pot to hack into. He didn't understand how Mark didn't own any damn buckets- how the hell did he mop the place? But a cooking pot was doing the trick just fine as Dark keeled over, little black beads of blood dribbling from his chapped lips.

Seán couldn't help but feel worried, even though the doctor had said this would happen- it just wasn't right to see the man who had absorbed his sprained wrist without batting an eye in May suddenly fall prey to most afflictions Seán could name. Dark's last few coughs were accompanied by choked sobbing sounds as he continued to shudder, letting his body reject the clots of old blood that had most likely caused his accident yesterday.

Seán placed a hand on Dark's shoulder. He hated how useless he was being during all this, wishing there was something he could do to help ease the pain, but knowing that there was nothing he could really do but provide emotional and physical support in the long run.

Dark spat into the pot, clearing his mouth of the excess blood as the clots coming up had appeared to stop. Seán met his eyes, so devoid of hope and happiness that the Irishman felt like crying himself.

"H-hello," Dark rasped, and Seán cursed aloud.

"Fuck, I forgot- here, drink this, you must be parched,"

Seán handed Dark the bottle, and the demon tried his best to open it- it was hard for Seán to watch as Dark's knuckles turned white trying to shift the lid, but anyone could tell Dark wasn't going to succeed at this. After a few seconds, Seán took the bottle and uncapped it with ease, feeling even more worry begin to knot in his stomach. How weak was Dark really?

The demon closed his eyes in pain and embarrassment. "Thank you, Seán..."

He took a long sip, then another. It seemed to go down fine, but Dark was soon choking again, his hair matted with sweat and his eyes sunken despite his hours upon hours of sleep.

This wasn't good.

"Do you remember anything about what happened?" Seán asked him.

Dark's brows furrowed and he sat back against the mountain of pillows they'd used to prop him up. "I only remember... patches of it. Even then, I only remember patches of... everything. I feel like part of me is missing... Amy told me you were bringing in some food, and..."

Dark frowned. "I don't... I don't recall any further,"

Seán sighed, holding his head in his hands. "Shit, Dark, I didn't think it'd be this bad..."

Dark looked fearful- an emotion Seán hadn't really seen him express before. His eyes were wide and weary, glazed over and red. He didn't look well at all. In fact, Seán could argue that he looked like more of a zombie than Robbie probably did up close.

"Please," Dark pleaded, holding onto Seán's hand weakly. "Tell me,"

"I..." Seán began, not really knowing where to start. "I mean, it's very... wait. You... you can read my mind, can't you? Wouldn't you already know by now?"

Dark blinked uncertainly. "I'm afraid... I'm afraid that my otherworldly abilities seem to be non-functional. I can't... I can't hear a thing..."

"Hey," Seán interrupted Dark's incoherent rambling, noticing that he was nodding off again. "The doctor said we have to keep you awake, don't go to sleep on me,"

Dark blinked lazily, his eyes slightly unfocused. Seán regretfully tapped him on the cheek a few times, before biting his lip and resorting to a soft slap.

Dark's eyes fluttered open again, though he still seemed dizzy. He winced, holding his hands to his head as if there was some kind of cacophony happening in the room.

"You okay?" Seán asked, feeling incredibly guilty for having to resort to violence.

Dark made an incoherent grumbling sound, but Seán didn't feel like it was meant in a mean way. He was probably experiencing a migraine of some kind- the doctor had told him that migraines were common after suffering a stroke.

"Dark," Seán said, nudging the demon's arm. "Dark, come on,"

Dark finally managed to find his focus again, eyes snapping up to meet Seán's as he looked at the Irishman, apparently baffled.

"Seán? I don't... I don't feel so well,"

Seán patted his back softly, nudging just a little closer to him as he sat with Dark on the bed, trying not to make too much contact in case it became too painful for the demon.

"You had a stroke, Dark," Seán finally admitted. "It was... it was terrifying to watch,"

Dark's breathing slowed a little as he blinked softly, not seeming to truly understand the implications of what Seán had just revealed.

"I... I imagine that it would be..." Dark uttered, and Seán grabbed his hand sharply when he saw that Dark's eyes were closing again.

"Dark, no- stay alert, please, we don't want to lose you," Seán pleaded, watching as Dark slowly lifted his head, as if it was taking every ounce of his energy not to collapse.

"You seem to forget..." Dark began, his voice barely more than a whisper. "I'm part demon, I can... I can heal..."

"No, don't give me that," Seán interceded, not letting his hand leave Dark's as he proceeded to explain the rest of what the doctor had told them. "It wasn't just a stroke- you have cancer, like, really bad cancer. And blood clots everywhere, and a bullet hole- and Dark, listen, you didn't have a bullet wound when you were putting on clothes before, and there's no other explanation. You've gotta be- I don't know, losing your touch or something, because so many things have gone wrong in your body that you don't even know about and-"

"Shhh...." Dark urged, his voice a little slurred. "Too much talking... I know... I know about the cancer..."

Seán started a little, but stopped himself from jumping, not wanting to hurt Dark any more than necessary. "You knew?!"

Dark winced once more, and Seán quickly apologised for causing so much noise, silently berating himself for forgetting just how fragile Dark really was right now.

"Yes, I knew..." Dark breathed. "I... I've known for years... but I had contained... contained it..."

Seán sighed in frustration, but knew that Dark was trying his best. If he was even half as scatterbrained as he sounded, of course he wouldn't have comprehended that what he thought was a contained area of cancer cells was now a fully-fledged stage four irreversible chronic disease.

"No, Dark," Seán said patiently. The doctor had also warned him that stroke victims are often aware of just how slow and annoyingly incapable they were, and most developed severe depression and beliefs of being a burden on their caretakers because of this. He didn't want Dark to feel like a burden- but he supposed that normal victims of cancer and stroke didn't usually try to deny they happened like this, either.

Seán licked his lips, realising that he'd been talking for so long that they'd begun to dry out. "It's not contained, it's widespread and it's killing you,"

Dark blinked a few times, his glassy eyes leaking tears that Seán knew weren't even related to the emotional shock this would normally cause. He pressed the bottle once more into Dark's hands, but the demon didn't take another sip.

"That's... that's okay," Dark swallowed, coughing again. Seán grabbed the discarded cooking pot, but Dark pushed it away, his coughs subsiding within moments.

"Just a tickle," Dark explained. "It's okay... because I can just... I can just..."

Seán felt the first tear begin to slip from his eye as he fought back a sob, suddenly reminded so very much of watching his grandmother's last months on Earth. The scattered speech, the memory loss, the slowness... though Seán knew that Dark didn't have Alzheimer's (or maybe he did, Seán didn't trust anything anymore) it was the same feeling in his stomach that welled up, full of repressed memories and wishes and regrets.

"F-fuck," Seán shivered, unable to stop the coming waterworks. "Dark, listen to me, please- you're dying, and it's p-pretty bad, please..."

Dark gave Seán's hand a feeble squeeze, as if that would somehow make up for the horrifying ordeal this was turning out to be.

"Bullet... hole?"

"Yeah, right... right here," Seán said, gesturing to the spot the doctor had pointed to, while also being careful not to touch it. Regardless of whether it was actually a bullet wound or not, having a chunk of flesh missing must really hurt.

Dark frowned a little. "But I... I haven't been... shot since..."

He paled, and Seán's breath hitched in his throat, wondering if he was going to faint again.

"Dark? Hey, listen, tell me what's-"

"Since I found... Wilford..." Dark finished, tears rolling unwittingly from his eyes. "Dear... it's been... decades..."

"You need some more water?" Seán asked warily.

Dark declined, shaking his head slowly. "I will be... fine... is my daughter... alright?"

Seán let out a relieved sigh as the conversation took a happy turn. "Y-yeah, Dark, she's all good. She's... she's actually a lot bigger than we'd thought she was..."

Dark cocked his head to one side, and Seán put himself on high alert in case Dark's body fell limp and he hit the side of the bed. Good Lord, he was glad he never became a medic. Even someone with ADHD like himself would have a hard time watching everything, making sure his patient didn't harm himself with anything lying around.

"What... what do you mean...?"

"Doctor said she was at least six, maybe seven months old," Seán explained, sighing with relief when Dark straightened up, no longer at risk of hitting his head. But he just couldn't be too careful after what had already happened.

"But that's... impossible..." Dark countered. "I can... I can pinpoint the... the day she was conceived... it has only been... nine weeks..."

"At first," Seán swallowed not knowing if either he or Dark were really ready to acknowledge this yet. "When you said she was around two and a half months old, I... I thought maybe it was... somehow my child."

Seán had been wary of telling Dark this information, knowing his reaction couldn't possibly be good, but he didn't expect Dark to give a quiet chuckle in return.

"Don't be... don't be ridiculous, Seán..." Dark waved him off. "She is Anti's... baby..."

"But he's not-" Seán started, "He's not corporeal, Dark, how can-?"

"Shh..." Dark said again, holding a hand to his own head as he grimaced in pain. "Turn out the lights, Seán,"

Seán blinked. "Why?"

"Just... do it..."

Seán had figured that Dark was just oversensitive or something- after all, he had just woken up after experiencing life-threatening trauma. He was wary to leave the demon's side, even to venture a few feet to the switch, but he did so at Dark's insistence, worrying his bottom lip as he walked.

FLICK!

"There," Seán sighed, turning around. "Now what-?"

He found himself knocked speechless by what the darkness had uncovered. Though it hadn't been noticeable in the light, Dark seemed to be... glowing. Really glowing, but- no, it wasn't Dark. Rather, it was the moderately sized bump on his abdomen, that was emanating a dim green light- just above the belly-button. It wasn't bright enough to cast shadows, but it was definitely visible as Seán walked over to see.

"Whoa..." Seán trailed off. He didn't know quite what to make of it.

He saw Dark smile softly in the green light, resting a hand near the source of the faint glow. "She has his eyes, Seán."

Well, she sure as hell didn't have Seán's eyes, that was certain. The Irishman couldn't help but reach out, touching the smooth skin as he felt a kick, then another. She certainly seemed... stronger than the last time he'd felt her. And considering that was only two days ago, he found himself deeply concerned.

Was it because of the baby that Dark was feeling so weak?

"Until now, I could..." Dark began. "I could... hear her... Thinking... Dreaming... Feeling..."

"Oh, that's another thing," Seán remembered, not meaning to cut Dark off. "You were right, Dark- it's a she. We saw on the ultrasound,"

Dark scoffed knowingly. "Of course she is... I'd know..."

Seán let out a small sigh of happiness. It had been all he could really muster during this time, knowing that beneath the ghost of a smile on Dark's face there must have been a grimace of intense pain and numbness.

"Yeah..." Seán agreed, deciding not to voice his thoughts aloud.

The baby kicked again.

"Have you... no, I forgot I'd already asked you," Seán cut himself off with a sigh.

Dark's eyes twinkled in the darkness. "Asked me what...?"

"If you had a name picked out yet,"

Dark closed his eyes in thought, and Seán was worried he'd fallen asleep again until he felt the familiar squeeze on his arm, demanding his attention once more

"Of course, I'd... I'd have to take it up with Anti... but I'd like... Desiree... after my mother..."

Seán smiled warmly. "That's a nice name, I like it,"

Dark smiled too, but it quickly fell from his face as he went a little slack. Seán tapped him softly a few times, nudging him awake again.

"I'm sorry..." Dark whispered when he came to. "I just feel... exhausted..."

"No shit," Seán agreed. "Just... I'll go tell the others, and we'll see if we can get you-"

Dark shook his head. "No, I... I just want to sleep,"

Seán sighed reluctantly. "Dark, come on... you know I can't let you do that,"

"I promise you, I'll be fine," Dark spoke, trying to sit up just a little further. "I won't... I won't even lie down..."

"No," Seán said with the air of finality. "No, the others want to see you, Dark, they want to know you're okay,"

Dark closed his eyes again. "Can't they... can't they just come up... up here?"

"No," Seán repeated. "The doctor said we need to get you up and out of bed before you sink into a depression,"

Dark rolled his eyes. "Seán... can't you tell? I'm already... already depressed..."

Seán swallowed once more, thinking about the revelations of Dark's self-made wounds that the doctor had presented. It wasn't anything recent, otherwise Seán would have noticed- but considering he had a bullet wound from apparent decades ago showing up on his body, the slits could have come from anywhere.

"That's no excuse," Seán huffed. "Come on, I'll drag you if I have to,"

Dark reluctantly let Seán pull the blanket away from him, fidgeting softly with the edge of the once oversized shirt that now hugged his curves. He let Seán wrap his arms around his body and pull, feeling more than a little dizzy, but coming to acknowledge something that felt unusual- horrifyingly so.

"Seán...?" Dark whispered as he sat by the bed's edge. "I can't... I can't feel my leg..."

Seán bit his lip. "I... I don't know what to say, Dark, you had a stroke... The doctor said you might get temporary paralysis,"

Dark shuddered. "I don't... I don't like this..."

"Me neither," Sean agreed, offering Dark a hand. "We got you a wheelchair, it's over here..."

As he walked, he felt a little nauseous, but he swallowed it down forcefully. He couldn't be sick now- not while Dark needed him. Luckily, the feeling seemed to fade away as easily as it had come on, and he was feeling better by the time he wheeled the chair over to Dark.

"Come on, do you want to take a blanket?" Seán asked as he picked up the heavy man, setting him down gently in the wheelchair.

Dark shook his head. "No, it's... much too warm. Let's... let's get this over with,"

~Void~

"What happened?" Dr. Iplier asked, concerned when Henrik returned from possessing Jack within moments. The egos had all settled into Anti's house (he'd been forced to add a few extra rooms, but the ones who absolutely detested his presence stayed next door anyway), and Henrik had decided that Dark should know about Wilford's hasty exit. The doctor looked paler than usual as he faced the group of concerned egos that had gathered around, alarmed at why he could possibly be back so soon.

"Dark ist very unwell," Henrik uttered, looking down. "Er ist... He must use a vheelchair, und he looks much, much rounder,"

"A wheelchair?!" Anti blanched, holding himself tightly around the middle. "What?!"

"I can only assume that his weakness has continued to grow worse," Dr. Iplier frowned, deep in thought. "That must be why... but how large was his abdomen, Henrik?"

"He looked to be almost full term," Henrik answered disbelievingly, and the other doctor's eyes widened.

"What?!"

"You mean..." Anti swallowed. "You mean he looked like he was close to g-giving birth?"

"Ja, but it vas dark in ze room, und es ist impossible to tell vithout an ultrasound," Henrik explained. "Zere is always room for error, but... It concerned me all ze same. I knew zat ze baby vas growing faster zhan usual, but... zis is certainly excessive,"

Dr. Iplier placed a hand on his lover's shoulder, paling a little as he shook his head. "No wonder he's in a wheelchair, his body probably hadn't accommodated to the rapidly growing fetus- Hen, what if he's broken his spine?"

"WHAT?!"

Both doctor turned to see a very frightened, guilty and helpless looking Anti, his heart racing and his neck bleeding out, dripping onto his tiled kitchen floor.

"Anti, please, you must remain calm," Henrik advised, but Anti was livid.

"N-no, I can't- I can't deal with all of this, Schneep, I hate sitting here and being unable to talk to him, and I hate..."

He trailed off, his features scrunched up in some kind of pain. 

Henrik frowned. He met his fiance's eyes and they seemed to come to a silent agreement. Anti wasn't alright, and the last thing they needed was the only other person in this Void who could protect them to run off in tears.

"Anti, vould you like to talk to me? ... Privately?"

Anti nodded bitterly, and Henrik waved his farewell to the rest of the egos as he let Anti lead him into a secluded, office-like area.

One the door was closed, Anti seemed to break. He sat down before he could faint with anxiety, letting out tears mixed with sobs and pleas to help.

Henrik walked over, concerned, drawing up a chair of his own. "Anti, vhat's-?"

"I ch-cheated on him," Anti hiccuped abruptly, still holding his head in his hands.

Henrik was rather taken aback by this. He was certain he'd misheard Anti- surely, the glitch wouldn't do such a thing. He was infatuated with Dark, and he had been for as long as Henrik had known him, possibly even longer. Why, then, would he cheat on Dark? And what did Anti mean by that- was it something so simple as spending time with another ego, or had he really gone the whole nine yards with someone?

For the first time in his entire career, Henrik was at a loss for words.

"I... vhat?" Henrik decided to ask again, certain that he couldn't be right.

Anti shuddered. "I cheated, Schneep- I f-fucking, slept with JJ, a-and now Dark's going t-through hell and I'm h-here fucking around w-with someone else, and I-"

"Mein Gott, Anti, calm yourself," Henrik urged, head spinning with the revelation that his thoughts had been correct. "I am sure you are overreacting-"

"I'm not overreacting!" Anti all but shouted. "I'm horrible, that's w-what I am..."

Henrik placed his hand on Anti's shoulder, desperately trying to determine the best approach. Anti had slept with JJ, apparently- JJ, of all people. If he didn't trust the glitch with all his heart, he wouldn't know what to believe. But Anti wouldn't lie about something like this, especially if he thought he was at fault for it, and Henrik made a mental note to discuss the topic again with the mute himself.

"Anti..." Henrik breathed. "I... I don't know vhat to say. Vhy did you do it?"

"I d-don't know," Anti sniffed. "I j-just... I was walking, and th-then I bumped into h-him, and the next thing I knew we w-were making out, I just..."

Henrik frowned. "Vas zis yesterday, vhen you left ze room in tears?"

Anti nodded through the unwitting cries coming from his slightly open mouth. "Y-yeah, I just felt... I felt so l-lonely..."

Henrik sighed, kneading his forehead with his thumbs. "Zhen zat's vhy, Anti. You felt lonely, because Dark left you here alone, and you vere confused and hurt. You probably didn't know vhat you were getting yourself into- ach, und I bet JJ vasn't at his best either... have you spoken about it since? Do you know vhy he vanted it?"

Anti shook his head no, biting his lip so hard it was beginning to bleed. "N-no, we... we were talking earlier, but then t-the manor collapsed... he said... he said he didn't regret it, b-but... but I do regret it. All of it, I... I hate that I even l-let it happen..."

Henrik tsked, his annoyance growing. He didn't want to tell Anti that it was fine, because it wasn't. Dark probably wouldn't be too happy if he found out that Anti had slept with another ego in his absence, but then, Henrik supposed Dark had surprised him before with how lenient he could be. Still, this wasn't a case of misbehaviour- this was Dark's lover, his reason for being- surely the demon would be upset.

But then, Henrik also wanted to console his brother, and comfort him. He was an expert on mental health, after all, and knew that sometimes people made poor choices to heal the wrongs others did to them. Really, with the way Dark and Anti's relationship had been strained as of late, and with the idea planted in Anti's head that Dark had slept with another man... he supposed it was only natural for Anti to seek the love and comfort he craved from somebody else.

That somebody else just so happened to be JJ, however unlikely the pair had seemed originally. Henrik supposed they did seem closer than usual earlier when the manor had collapsed, but he'd been too worried about how the others were faring to really notice just how close...

What was Jameson playing at? Wasn't this the man that had hated Wilford's infidelity?

Henrik felt it all click into place. The manor crumbling, Wilford's disappearance, it was all lining up.

Wilford must have found out.

"I... I appreciate you telling me zis, but... I don't have any answers for you," Henrik swallowed. "I am sorry, mein Bruder. I feel zat zis is a matter you must discuss vith Jameson... und... und Dark, vhen you finally see him again."

Anti sniffed again, looking up with teary eyes. "I j-just... I'm so s-scared of what he'll say..."

Henrik brought Anti in for a hug, patting the ego's back softly. "Zere zere, I am sure he vill not be mean about it. I am sure he vill understand-"

"N-no, that's the problem," Anti shuddered. "I know he'll f-forgive me, but... I don't f-feel like I d-deserve it... I could have... I could've said no, b-but I didn't, and-"

"Und neither did JJ," Henrik pointed out. "Do not forget zat he is as much at fault as you are concerning zis. Vould you like me to fetch him so zat ve can talk about it here, or are you comfortable speaking vith him on your own?"

Anti paled considerably. "I d-don't... I don't w-want to talk with him alone, I... I'm scared I'll do s-something I'll regret..."

Henrik didn't know what exactly Anti meant by that- if he was concerned that he'd cheat again, or if he was worried he'd hurt JJ in some way, but it was clear that the glitch didn't particularly want to be left alone with the other ego either way. Henrik nodded grimly, standing from his seat.

"I vill get him now," Henrik stated. "Remember, Anti, you are going through a lot of emotional blocks und feelings right now. Whether or not you vant to believe it, you are not in your right mind, und I have reason to suspect zat he is not either. Please, don't hurt yourself vhile I am gone- I only vant to help you,"

As Schneep left the room, Anti found himself sobbing uncontrollably into his fists. Why was Schneep forgiving him like this? Sure, Anti knew it wasn't the doctor's place to abscond his sins, but he had to have been angry about it, he had to be. Anti hadn't just lashed out and hurt someone with a knife this time- this burden ran so much deeper than its physical implications. Anti had cheated- he'd knowingly cheated, whether he was hurting or not. He needed to be punished... put back in line, and he knew Dark wouldn't do it.

He knew that Dark would just forgive him and try to move on, and Anti didn't want that. He wanted to be sorry for what he did. He wanted to be so scared of doing anything like that again that every time he thought about it he'd shiver on impulse.

He couldn't help it. He needed to hurt.

He summoned a blade and began to count the strokes, wanting to end on nothing short of infinity. Dark was out there, hurting, while Anti sat here defiling the promise that their relationship had formed.

One swipe, then another. Blood began to pool on the ground.

You deserve every bit of this and more.

It's the least you can do to match Dark's agony.

You're we͘ąk.

Pathetic.

Self-absorbed.

He doesn't l͏o͘͠v҉̨͡e͟͡ ͏y͝ǫ̸u̕͏.

Keep lying to yourself.

You know it's ţr̸ue͢.

Go on, Anti. Fight it.

Fight us.

We're not going a͡n̸y̕҉w͡h̵ȩ͡͠r̶e̡̡.

Chapter Text

~Void~

"Bim?"

Bim opened his eyes to see King standing over him, nudging him awake. After the fairly short walk to Anti's house, Bim had dozed off on one of the glitch's uncomfortable lounges, wondering if the damn ego had a really high pain tolerance- but he'd been too tired to really think about it, and he'd fallen asleep within moments.

But here his friend was, shaking his shoulder as if he'd slept through the night. Really, it had only been a few moments. Bim rolled his eyes. If they hadn't stayed up last night playing cards with Marvin and Yan, he might not have been so sleep deprived in the first place, but King had a certain affinity for poker, apparently.

"I'm up, Squirrels, I'm up..."

"Good," King replied, grinning as he watched the show host struggle to get up. "Septiplier's here asking for us,"

"Septi-? Oh, right. Forgot he moved in with the other fusion," Bim sighed aloud. He let his fingers curl reflexively around King's as he yawned, not even realising that Wilford was gone, and they didn't technically need to keep up the charade anymore. The movement was just instinct at this point- an instinct that Bim wasn't quite sure how to end.

King didn't comment on it as he helped Bim stand, brushing down his robe and taking the ego's hand yet again as they stood. "They're not technically moved in together yet, you know?"

Bim scoffed, rolling his eyes yet again. "Septiplier's been sending him 'fuck me' eyes for weeks, King, it's going to be permanent."

King chuckled. "Well, I'm just happy he's found someone to love. Now come on, they've got tea ready for us,"

Bim raised an eyebrow. "Tea?"

King shrugged, his robe creasing on his shoulders. "I mean, I took it literally. Halter is British, after all- you drink tea?"

"No, only coffee," Bim sighed. "I wonder if Septiplier likes tea,"

King snorted. "Not likely- He's part Jack, remember?"

Bim smiled in agreement, though his lips quickly turned in a frown as he looked himself over.

"Do I look stupid?"

King shook his head, something like a smirk lighting up his features. "Not any more stupid than usual- hey, it's just Septiplier, who are you trying to impress? Trying to ditch me, huh?"

King elbowed Bim playfully, but Bim was struck with a nerve-wracking feeling brewing within his gut. Who was he trying to impress?

Bim could feel his cheeks redden. "I just don't like looking stupid, alright?"

King tsked disbelievingly, and Bim worried he'd been a little too defensive. "Whatever you say, Peanut,"

"I told you not to call me-"

"The Host asks Trimmer to keep it down, as he cares deeply that Robbie's slumber is not disturbed," Host interrupted, mouth twisted into a frown as he seemed to stare right through Bim's soul. The show host shuddered.

"Don't worry about him, Bim," King urged, leading Bim by the hand to Anti's front door. As they passed one of the locked doors, they Bim could hear the sound of static, but he didn't linger very long on the thought of what was happening, too focused on the feeling of his hand in King's.

It had only now struck him that there was no need to keep doing this- Wilford was gone, and he'd almost taken the other egos with him- and surely nobody would notice or care that Bim and King had 'broken up'. He should really remind King of this, he thought to himself, but the right words never came to him. Truthfully, the hand holding felt rather nice, but Bim would never admit that aloud.

He kept quiet. If King had a problem, they'd stop. But until then, what was the harm in enjoying the company?

"It's convenient that they live next door, huh?" King asked, and Bim felt a tightness in his chest as he fumbled out a reply, berating himself mentally for losing his focus like that. It was just such the little differences in their relationship that Bim didn't know if he should embrace or question. But he pushed his thoughts aside. There was a time and place for everything, and this was not the place. Whether it was the time, however, was certainly up for debate.

"Well, I guess if I had no friends I'd probably build my house next to the first person I met, too," Bim shrugged.

King slapped him playfully on the arm. "You have friends, though- you have me!"

Bim couldn't help the smile that worked its way onto his face. No matter what, even through the drama that was Wilford, even through the strange, affectionate touches they were sharing as of late, Bim was King's friend. That was something that would never go away, for better or for worse.

Septiplier was there, waiting for them- a fusion that had once towered over everything he passed, now dwarfed by an even larger four-armed man that stood beside him. Bim hadn't ever had time to get acquainted with Halter, having only seen the fusion briefly in recuperation at the manor. And even then, he'd been so absorbed with his internal crisis of being Wilford's on and off partner that he'd barely even noticed when Chase and Bing became a couple.

Until he'd walked into the kitchen and found them making out against the counter, that is. Bim would always remember nearly falling over himself in surprise, whether he liked it or not. And right now, it was a strong not.

He smiled in greeting, parting his fingers from King's to shake hands with the fusion he knew and loved, Septiplier, who looked absolutely ecstatic to see them. Bim didn't think he'd ever seen the fusion so happy before- and he was sure it had everything to do with this new company. The other fusion smiled at Septiplier's happiness, and offered King a handshake as well.

"Welcome to my place," Halter greeted, opening the nine-foot-tall door wide and allowing the egos to pass through. Bim had never felt so short- and that was saying something.

Everything here- from the television, to the table and chairs, to the house plants dotted around- it all seemed just that tad bit too large. Like a jumbo drink from a fast food restaurant- it just seemed so oversized, and so unnecessary.

Though considering the height of the fusions who lived here, Bim supposed it was quite necessary indeed.

"I love your house," King gushed, dragging Bim by the hand to examine the terrariums laid on the table.

Halter chuckled. "Thanks, Squirrels. Septiplier's told me all about your indoor garden, I bet it's really pretty in there,"

King beamed. "Yeah, it's pretty nice, and it's so open as well. That's where all my squirrel friends live- I've got..."

Bim watched King's face scrunch up in concentration, fighting down the thought that the image was frankly adorable. Was he a narcissist? Is that what was going on here?

Though Bim didn't think he looked twice as good as King did, the fact that he was attracted to literal copies of himself was saying something to him, right? First Wilford, then King... but- no! Bim refused to admit that he had feelings for Squirrels, he... he didn't. Right? He was only projecting his own insecurities in a way that made him feel better about his image... right?

"Forty-eight!" King said suddenly, and Bim couldn't help but wince at the harsh sound. One thing he'd never been able to understand was how loud his brothers could get- he was rather quiet in comparison, he found. He really needed a microphone to get his point across.

"Oh, sorry honey," King simpered, and Bim was torn between flushing and making a face of disgust. Honey was possibly even worse than Peanut, but he wasn't going to tell King that. The ego was already having too much fun giving him nut-related nicknames, and Bim decided it would be better not to reply at all. He didn't trust himself to speak his thoughts aloud, knowing he'd come off as either too eager or too nonchalant.

Halter's eyes widened. "Forty-eight? How on Earth do you keep track of those things?"

King shrugged. "They're like my children- oh, or should I say, our children,"

Bim gritted his teeth. Yeah, he liked the affection and the attention, and it had taken him long enough to admit that to himself, but this over-the-top flirty stuff had to go. Bim couldn't stand being red-faced all the time. He squeezed King's hand in warning, but he couldn't help but feel like the nut-loving ego took it another way.

Septiplier snorted, looking at the two egos before him as Bim tried to hide his blush. "When did you two get so loved up, huh?"

"We've been dating for over a month now," King smiled, pulling his reluctant friend in for a hug. "He's still a little shy,"

"No, I'm-" Bim started, but gave up halfway through his sentence. King would shoot him down anyway. He supposed he'd just have to live with whatever King was spinning about them, and try to remember it in case they needed to get their facts straight.

Straight. Heh. That's ironic.

"See?" King grinned, ruffling Bim's hair playfully. "What a cutie. Anyway, come on and sit down, Bim,"

King patted the bar-stool-height chair, and Bim shot him a halfhearted glare as he sat, their hands still entwined under the table. They didn't need to be doing this right now.

But it feels nice.

Just a little while longer, Bim decided. He wanted to see how far this could go before one of them had to back out. He knew that sooner or later, some way or another, it would grow to be too much. But until then, he could enjoy this while it lasted.

The comforting embraces. The hand holding. Regular friends didn't do things like this, but regular friends didn't fake-date either.

He coughed, breaking himself out of his thoughts yet again. He just needed to relax into this, he figured. Being so tense and aware of what was going wrong all the time was really not helping him keep up the facade.

So he slumped a little in his chair, already feeling much better.

"So, Septiplier, what've you been up to?"

As the fusion rambled on about his time spent with Halter, Bim felt a reassuring hand on his thigh. King was looking at him... proudly? He didn't think too much of it, but he was thankful for the touch nonetheless. Even if it was borderline too close for comfort.

I can do this, he thought. Piece of cake.

Piece of leftover fruitcake, more like it. He didn't know when King would call it quits, or when it would become too real for both of them to bear- and it was going to be hard to focus on maintaining this false relationship around the others, but he was committed to it now whether he liked it or not.

And this, Bim felt he liked just a little too much.

0o0o0o0o0o0

Blank was getting tired of summoning stones to kick. It was the only thing he could think of to pass the time, but he'd tried several other things in the past- of course, he hadn't given up immediately. He'd tried singing (he felt like a toad having an orgasm), art (his paintings only looked like blue splotches of regret), and sport (he could do a mean backflip, but with nobody here to appreciate it, it got quite lonely). It just seemed like he didn't have any talent at all. It shouldn't have been that much of a surprise, really- even with King, he'd spent his days teaching their pets how to flip and roll over, but he didn't know if he could see a squirrel again without bursting into tears. He thought about summoning a dog, or even a lizard, but decided against it.

King's pets were just so full of life and colour, like he was. Blank's would only be sad, cold and blue.

He kicked another stone. At this rate, he could build himself a wall from the piles of rubble that were scattered around him. But why would he build a wall, when he already had walls within his heart?

The image of Xyler's concerned face came to mind, and Blank kicked the next stone as far as he could, blinking back the tears. He refused. He absolutely refused to let this happen. He just... he just needed to isolate himself even further. He needed to take a walk.

As he rose, he heard a distinctly feminine voice call him from behind.

"Well, well, well, if it isn't Blank Gameplays,"

Blank felt himself groan aloud, though a part of him still winced in fear. Really? Surely she had other things to be doing- surely he hadn't wandered too far yet again, into the territory of foreign egos and demons, away from Dark's looming, protective presence. He didn't think he'd walked that far...

"What do you want, Peevils?" He grimaced, fighting back a stutter. He wasn't afraid of death anymore, after all. At least he now knew what kind of monster was hiding behind that sweet smile and those warm yellow eyes.

The ego walked slowly into his field of view, her hair a shocking pink instead of her previous blonde. She wore a different outfit to the last time Blank had seen her- this time, she was wearing a black spotted dress that fell just below the knee. It was a damn sight better than that leather jacket had been, anyway, in the brief moments Blank had seen it before he met his untimely end.

"New look?" Blank asked, not wanting to get on her bad side so soon this time. Peevils smirked in response, her arms folded gently across her middle. She didn't seem very aggressive, but Blank could never be too sure with her.

"Oh, you noticed? I'm so glad. What brings you to this neck of the woods again, hm?"

Blank shrugged nonchalantly, not really wanting to explain, and knowing that deep down, Peevils really just didn't care. She was probably trying to incite a reaction from him, he figured. After all, demons and malicious egos didn't care why you were in their territory- they just wanted you out of it.

"Not talking, huh?"

Blank started at the new voice, whirling around to see another, unfamiliar woman emerging from the darkness. She held a blade similar to the one belonging to the ego Blank had encountered earlier, Anti, though instead of blood it was stained with a dark ooze. Her wavy brown hair was tied neatly in a bun, and her eyes were silver with a black sclera.

If Peevils didn't make you run for the hills, this new girl would certainly take over the task. Blank inched slowly away, remembering all too well his last encounter here and not wanting history to repeat itself just yet.

"Relax, Blanket," the woman cooed jeeringly. "It's only me,"

Peevils sighed heavily. "Wiish, he doesn't know you,"

The woman, Wiish, clutched her heart sarcastically. "Oh, well isn't that awful? You're right, I guess I haven't made a good first impression yet,"

Wiish hissed, showing a silvery forked tongue, and Blank gulped audibly. This was bad. He may not have had a will to live, but he certainly didn't have a will to die. Especially not at Peevils and her freaky friend's hands. He slipped as he fell backwards on one of his many stones, cursing his own stupidity as he scrambled to escape the approaching egos. Was this how he died? Well, again?

Then, they stopped, breaking out into giggles just a few feet from the quivering ego. Blank didn't trust the distance, still maintaining his guard as he watched the two women laugh as if they were just normal girls at the mall. As if they hadn't just been within moments of destroying Blank. The charade almost seemed convincing.

"Okay, for real, why are you in our territory?" Peevils asked through her laughter.

"You're not taking this seriously enough, Peevs," Wiish said, rolling her eyes. "Besides, why do you always have to butt in like that?"

Blank didn't know what to say. "W-wait, you're not gonna beat me up?"

Peevs snorted. "That was, like, an entire year ago, Binkie-Boo. Times have changed,"

"Oh, I sincerely doubt-" Blank started, but cut himself off with a cough upon seeing Wiish's defensive glare.

"Look, pipsqueak, I don't care who you are, but if I find you here again, you know what's coming for you,"

She dragged the blunt edge of her blade across her neck, her dark eyes flashing dangerously.

Peevils rolled her eyes, apparently undisturbed by her friend's threat. "Don't worry, Blank, she's all talk and no action."

"How did I even end up here again?" Blank huffed, folding his arms now that he knew he wasn't in any immediate danger. "I didn't think I walked that far..."

Peevils sighed nonchalantly. "Oh, I dunno, but at least you don't look like chicken scratch this time."

Blank reddened, remembering the circumstances he'd met this fierce ego in before. He'd just left King, running away because his allergies were so persistent, and he'd barely been able to see through the pain. He'd stumbled far and wide, until he'd come across a nice-enough looking girl- but she wasn't so nice up close. After a few nasty words, she'd crushed his skull underfoot, and Blank had faded away.

He supposed he should have been thankful for the mercy-killing, but it had hurt so much that Blank didn't even want to remember it. Unfortunately, he was here now, with not one- but two dangerous-looking women who could whip him into a pulp if they really wanted to. Sometimes, his head still ached inexplicably, and Blank had a feeling he could figure out why.

"I'd suggest you run back home, Blanket," Wiish hissed at him. "This is girl world,"

"Don't misgender him, Wiish," Peevils smirked. "He can be a girl if he wants,"

Blank groaned aloud. "Fuck off, I'm going now, alright?"

He willed his stones to disappear and he turned on his heel, walking back the way he'd come. He really couldn't get out of that situation quick enough in his opinion. Territories were strange in the Void- there was no telling where they started, or where they ended. An ego or demon could turn up and murder you on the spot, claiming you were in their territory, and you'd never really know if it was true or not.

But all the same, the air seemed a little colder in Peevils' neck of the woods than it did back home.

Home?

Well, Blank supposed there was nothing else to call it. Dark's territory extended way further than the manor, and he must have gone quite the distance to have passed through another's. Whether it truly belonged to Peevils, he didn't know.

And he didn't know when Peevils had gotten friendly with that Wiish woman. Though he hadn't seen the ego in a year, word was spreading like wildfire since her appearance in 2015, and he'd managed to catch most of it. Though from what he'd heard, Peevils always worked alone.

He just didn't see her letting someone else share her territory like that. She was possessive, at least according to Dark.

Blank shook his head. What was he thinking?! He didn't give a damn about that woman, or who she associated with. He supposed it had served as a nice distraction from the inner torment of his mind, but he was frankly over the speculation. Names had power around here, and though he had yet to speak their names aloud, he was paranoid that they'd find him and kill him if he thought about them too much anyway.

He sat himself down again once he was sure he was in Dark's territory again- though it had lost the warmth, he could see two houses that fell inside the perimeter just up ahead, and he knew he must be safe now.

He shivered. It seemed that no matter where he went, he always found a way to make the situation turn sour.

He summoned another stone. It was going to be a long existence.

~Groundlands~

Wilford Warfstache stood on the edge of a dingy street in Los Angeles- one he'd used to know quite well. Back in the sixties... or was it the seventies? Wilford just wasn't sure of when, but he knew that this street had once been home to him.

He had, of course, lived in the apartments here before they were renovated and turned into separate flats, and he couldn't very well come back here- the home he'd once known had been demolished, his belongings scattered, a smiling couple now making the bed in a place Wilford had once laid with Dark.

Dark... oh, how Wilford hoped he was doing alright. Despite leaving the Void, Wilford hadn't forsaken anyone there, least of all his previous lover and dearest friend. Though they'd ended their shenanigans only a short while into their life together, they still remained closer than Wilford had even allowed Jameson to get to him.

Closer, than even Celine...

He shook himself out of it. He could see it now- Celine, with her dark hair, holding him close to her and whispering about how proud she was of him. He didn't know when he'd gotten this memory, but it was all he could think about now as he stood lazily on the street corner. He wanted to find her again- if only to settle the aching of his heart. Even if she didn't want him- though it would sting, to be sure- Wilford needed that closure. She'd left without a trace and he'd tracked her for years before Dark had come along to sweep him off his feet.

He almost regretted running away to live in the Void with Dark- he'd never succeeded in finding his lost friends. Celine, of course, but also Damien. But that was going to come to a close now. He was tired of fooling around with Dark and the other Ipliers- tired of lending his heart to others.

Or maybe he was just tired of the pain.

It didn't matter now. When he found Celine, surely she'd come back to him. She wouldn't go with Mark, anyway- he knew for certain that she despised him, so at least that was in his favour. But he hadn't a clue where she could be- he'd searched every country, every continent looking for her before. He'd wandered alleys, boarded flights, trudged through muddy swamps and stayed in every hotel he passed, but she still remained out of his reach.

This time, Wilford knew it would be different. He needed to find her- it wasn't just a meaningless, nagging desire anymore. It was vital. Without her, Wilford didn't know how he could live on.

Everything he'd done since he'd returned from the war had been for Celine. She was his purpose, his entire reason for being... if she didn't want him either, he'd crumble. Even just thinking about the possible rejection, he found his knees shaking in fear.

He couldn't let that happen. He needed to find her, before she fell for another man.

He adjusted his suspenders, looking out to gauge the traffic before crossing the street.

Deep down, he knew that this was all a big distraction from what had happened earlier. Deep in his heart, he knew that finding Celine wouldn't make him feel any less guilty. But it would be fast-paced, and sensual, and everything it had been during those long, long nights after the war.

He took a deep breath. Perhaps his old friend, Abe, could give him a lead. The man used to live around this neighbourhood, right?

Chapter Text

~Void~

Henrik sighed to himself, hardly trusting Anti not to hurt himself as he left the room, closing the door behind him. He shouldn't be leaving the ego unattended like this, he knew- but he wouldn't have left him behind if he was certain that the glitch wouldn't lash out at the others in his destructive emotional state. He just needed to move quickly, to find JJ and bring him back before it got too serious. Even if death didn't mean the same thing here, it was no joking matter.

Even now, his heart sank, knowing that there was nothing he could do to help Anti through this but bring him more pain. Seeing JJ again... especially after so much regret, was surely going to make Anti quite upset. And Henrik himself had his bones to pick with the mute.

Sure, Anti shouldn't have cheated, but regardless of how Jameson's life was panning out, he shouldn't have come onto a taken man. Was it some kind of payback for Wilford's countless sexual endeavors? Was it because he needed a rebound, and Anti was the easiest target? He'd need to talk to Jameson as well, but sorting Anti out was one of his top priorities. After all, Jameson was hardly likely to hurt himself or others if his apparent issues weren't resolved.

But then, Henrik hadn't thought Jameson was capable of just using someone like that, either.

He grimaced, tapping the blue-vested man on the shoulder, having found him in a secluded corner of the house.

Jameson had been standing alone in a corner of Anti's place, trying to get away from all the noise. Some of the egos had gone next door to visit the fusions, and others were playing card games in the small lounge. Some had even gone to the newly created rooms above the main floor to settle in, knowing that Dark wouldn't be back for a decent while.

Jameson had felt... lost. Confused. Hurt, but he couldn't determine why.

Well, of course, he'd been hurt by Wilford. It was something his brothers had been warning him about almost every day since he'd started dating the man, but Jameson hadn't listened. They just didn't understand, these newer generation egos. It was common, almost expected of men to have affairs with others during Jameson's time.

He'd just never have thought he'd be this pained by it. He'd scolded himself for his weakness, persisting despite his heart telling him no, drawing the line at inclusion. It was bad enough for Jameson knowing that Wilford slept around, let alone being part of it. But now, after everything that had happened... they'd used to be so close. Maybe he should have said yes. He was sharing the man anyway, but... maybe things would have panned out differently if he'd let Wilford coerce him into threeways.

What am I thinking? Jameson thought bitterly. The problem wasn't me, it was him. I see that now... but why do I still want him back, after everything?

Jameson didn't know. He didn't know why he'd lashed out, he didn't know why he'd pressured Anti into this strange relationship, and he didn't know why he didn't even feel an ounce of regret after it.

When his older brother, Schneep, tapped his shoulder, Jameson felt a pool of guilt sinking into his gut. The way the doctor's eyebrows furrowed, the faint smears of blood on his coat... he'd been with Anti. He knew. He knew about everything.

Jameson had the decency to hang his head in shame when he turned around, staring solemnly at his feet. It must have been bad if even Schneep was upset over it.

He'd never meant to hurt Anti. But if he had, he'd do anything he could to fix the mess he'd created.

'Yes?' he signed, though he knew exactly what the doctor had called him for.

"Komm, JJ, ve have much to discuss," Schneep sighed, leading him through the house in the direction of the front door.

Jameson folded his arms around his middle as he tried to ignore the stares he was getting from the other egos. Most of them must have put together that Wilford had left because of him- at least, Google definitely had it figured out, and he could feel the android's glare on his back as Schneep opened a door, letting out a concerned, upset sigh.

"Anti, stop. Es ist doing you no good,"

Jameson followed the doctor into the room, eyes widening at the scene before him. Anti's left arm was marred with blood, a few dark slits visible beneath the crimson wash, though Jameson could tell there were far more strokes than the ones he could see. Immediately, not even thinking, he rushed to Anti's side, giving him the already tear-stained handkerchief he'd collected just before the manor had crumbled.

Anti flinched at his touch, and Jameson felt his heart sink. Oh...

He reluctantly distanced himself, summoning another chair and giving Anti the small square of fabric. At least without Jameson distracting him, Anti could wipe away the blood and tears.

Had they been his fault? Jameson dearly hoped not.

Schneep looked between the both of them with an accusatory glare. "Right. Now zat I have both of you here, vould vun of you please explain vhy zis affair happened in ze first place?"

Though the question was technically directed at both of them, Jameson felt like Schneep was making this personal. He already knew about the affair, it seemed- that meant he'd been speaking with Anti. Just what had the other ego said to make the doctor so upset?

The glitch himself was currently inconsolable, choking back his tears as he wiped his arms with the already ruined handkerchief. The guilt grew even harder to handle as Jameson squirmed within his seat, frantically signing an explanation of his side of the story to Schneep, who grimaced in return.

"JJ, I thought you vere better zhan zat," Schneep frowned. "Especially considering zat you have suffered having a cheating partner long enough. How do you think, regardless of Anti's emotional state, zat Dark vould feel knowing about zis?"

Jameson looked at his feet once more. At the time, he hadn't been thinking clearly- he hadn't recognised that Anti was happily taken. He'd just been upset, and lonely, and looking for someone to love. He'd thought he'd found that in Wilford, but he was clearly wrong, and all of that pent up desire, affection and loathing had to be directed somewhere.

He didn't mean to drag Anti into all of this- he wouldn't have even thought of trying to drag one of his brothers into this, but he supposed that some part of him didn't think of Anti as a brother quite yet. Their relationship was still new and tender, and now Jameson was afraid it would be impossible to recover what they'd once had.

If the flinching was anything to go by, Jameson was nervous that Anti wouldn't ever forgive him enough to let him near again.

But then, Jameson felt he couldn't blame him. While he shouldn't have let himself lose control like that, it was clear that Anti had needed what they'd done just as much as Jameson had. Otherwise, he'd have pulled away, and they could have walked away on a simple misunderstanding instead of taking it way too far.

Jameson supposed he deserved every part of this lecture. After all, Anti would hardly have sought him out if he hadn't instigated the touches.

'I am sorry,' Jameson signed to Anti, though he knew it was hardly going to make a dent in the hurt that he'd caused.

"He says he is sorry," Schneep translated, realising at Anti's lost expression that the glitch didn't understand.

Anti sniffed. "I-I'm sorry t-too... I couldn't b-be the one you needed, JJ, I... I've got my own problems to deal with. I've got Dark, a-and his baby, and... and I can't be with you,"

Jameson held up his hand, signing his response while trying to convey his point through his eyes to help the message get across.

"He says that he shouldn't have brought you into this, and that he wishes you the best of luck with your child," Schneep said, his words growing a little softer when he realised that JJ was really, genuinely sorry for what had happened.

He didn't expect Anti to sniffle in response.

Schneep sighed. "Anti, please... next time I talk to Dark, I vill ask him upfront about ze father of his child. If it really is Jack, zhen... zhen ve'll cross zat bridge vhen ve come to it."

"H-he's... he's not going to w-want me anymore," Anti shivered. "Not a-after this..."

Schneep shook his head. "Anti, please, listen to me. You do not know vhat Dark vas like vhen you vere gone for zose years. Er vas... distressed. Sad.  Lonely. Und very, very angry. But I think zat he vas angry at himself, Anti- not you. If he lost you again... Ach, I don't even vant to imagine it. You haven't seen how broken he vas,"

"B-broken?" Anti uttered, like he'd never thought Dark could feel pain. "B-because of me?"

Schneep sighed in frustration. "Nein, Anti, nicht because of you. It vas because he'd been unable to help you vhile you vere still young und happy. It vas because he felt like it vas his fault zat you felt unloved und unwelcome,"

Anti sobbed again, covering his mouth with his trembling hand. "I-I... I don't... It w-wasn't him, though, it was m-me... all of it,"

Jameson hesitantly placed his hand on Anti's shoulder, relaxing a little when Anti didn't immediately shrug him away. He could do this. He could help this.

He could help Anti pick up the already broken pieces he'd stomped all over last night.

"I must return to ze Groundlands shortly in any case," Schneep began, standing from his seat. "As you know, Dark is not as vell as ve vould like to think. But if you vould like, I could... I could ask Jack to let you in. Just to see Dark. I'm sure he vould not mind,"

Anti shuddered, clenching his fists as he bit back more tears. "J-Jack? Of c-course he'd mind, Schneep, it's useless..."

Schneep gave the glitch a small, sad smile. "Vun day, you vill trust him. I am sure of it. I must go now, but I vill return momentarily. Please, consider it. I am sure he misses you as much, if not more than you miss him,"

Jameson watched as Schneep seemed to fade, but he knew that the doctor wasn't going anywhere permanently. The ghost of his figure was still present, after all- it was what happened to all of them when they possessed their original.

Jameson reached out again, patting Anti's arm reassuringly. Anti met his eyes, and though they were teary and green as ever, Jameson saw no hatred burning within them.

He leaned a little closer.

"JJ?" Anti whispered, as if he didn't trust himself to speak. "D-do you hate me?"

Jameson's gaze was pitiful. He shook his head, deciding that signing would be useless, and he gently clasped their fingers together.

Anti sniffed, giving the mute a little smile despite his clear emotional disrepair. "T-thank you... that makes one of us,"

~Groundlands~

Dark was hardly listening to the drone of the television that Seán had parked his wheelchair in front of, knowing that none of it was making sense to him anyway. The yellow people running around were making far too many cynical references to modern society that flew way over Dark's head. He was much more interested in the conversation unfolding between Mark, Amy and Seán on the sofa, where they thought he couldn't hear them.

They seemed to think that this cancer was terminal. Well, in any normal person, Dark supposed it would be- but he had healing magic running through his veins. He may have had a little slip, but he was fine now- albeit just a bit slower than usual. He couldn't hear thoughts, and he couldn't hear Damien or Celine, but the thing he was most saddened about was that he couldn't even hear his child.

He'd heard her before- on the plane, and while he was going to sleep the day he arrived in this house. She hadn't been able to formulate words quite yet, but it was more... emotions. Happiness. Fear. Exhilaration.

Dark placed his hand on his stomach once more, feeling her kicking happily again. He was ever grateful that she was happy, even if he was not. It meant that despite everyone insisting that his various illnesses couldn't be good for the baby, she wasn't being affected.

And that was the one thing putting a smile on Dark's face right now.

Even if he knew that his body would eventually recover, this sinking feeling of hopelessness was weighing in on him. The what if's and the why's were building up, and Dark was growing weary of shooting down his own insolence. He hadn't known just how double-minded he could be on his own until he'd lost contact with the other souls that maintained this form.

He could still hear them sometimes- just not always. They drifted in and out of his ears, away before he could determine what they were talking about. But he knew that as scatterbrained as he currently was, he wouldn't be able to retain the information for long anyway.

He craned his neck to see his grandson and the others, and Amy was the first to notice him looking, smiling in his direction.

"Hey, guess you're not much for The Simpsons, huh?"

Dark shook his head lowly. "It seems... not. But I don't... have an idea of... what I'd rather watch..."

Amy squeezed his hand reassuringly. "It'll be fine, Dark. Just... just keep holding on. You can go to sleep soon,"

Dark sighed softly. He wanted nothing more than to collapse and rest his eyes, but he knew that the others wouldn't let him get away with it for long. He was fine, really. He hadn't had a stroke- he'd just been exhausted. Surely it wasn't as bad as they were making it out to be...

Seán let out a surprised gasp, which had both Amy and Dark turning their heads to see just what was going on.

Mark looked concerned, grabbing his wrists and forcing them down, as if he'd been waiting for something like this to occur. Amy left Dark's side, helping Mark hold Seán down as if they were going to perform some kind of exorcism.

Seán groaned aloud, but... that voice...

"Ach! Unhand me, es ist Schneep- Ich bin ze good doktor,"

Amy let go, but Mark wasn't so convinced. Dark, meanwhile, was feebly moving his unresponsive hands to his wheels, trying to get closer. It was Henrik, back again to check up on him- but he supposed that the others wouldn't know that.

"Let him go," Dark commanded weakly, wheeling himself over and feeling his arms growing tired within moments. "He means no harm,"

Seán sat upright- but no, it wasn't Seán. At least, not now.

The doctor locked eyes with Dark, immediately getting a panicked expression.

"Mein Gott, Dark- vhat have you done to yourself?"

"He's gone and had a stroke," Mark huffed, finally letting go of Schneep's arms. "Hopefully he'll listen to you when you tell him how serious it is, because he's sure as shit not listening to us about it."

Schneep blanched. "You vhat?! Dark, tell me es ist nicht true,"

Dark swallowed, his head beginning to pulsate due to the noise. "Apparently... it is... so. But I am fi... fine,"

Schneep looked at him doubtfully. "I do not believe zat for a second- vhy are you in zat locomotion device?"

Dark closed his eyes, but the doctor smacked him awake.

"Look alive, Dark!" Schneep hissed. "You know better zhan to doze off like zat- tell me vhy you are unable to valk,"

"His leg's paralysed," Amy supplied. "The doctor said it might be temporary, but it could even be permanent. It's because of the stroke,"

Schneep groaned. "Right, zat is just perfect. Is zere anything else I should know?"

Mark coughed. "He's... he's got breast cancer he hasn't told any of us about."

Schneep's eyes narrowed. "Zat... Zat I knew about. I located some cancer cells in his blood vhen I vas running a test a few years back, but... something tells me zat it is more serious zhan I feared,"

"Try stage four," Mark huffed. "Chronic. The doctor said he'll have three years max to live, but Dark doesn't want to listen to reason,"

Schneep looked absolutely murderous. "Dark! How long have you known about zis?!"

Dark winced at the noise, holding a hand weakly to his forehead. "S-since the 1970s... when I had it tested... it was only stage two, but... but I had it contained..."

"Vell, you clearly did a botched job containing it," Schneep deadpanned. "Dark... I do not know vhat to say. Is zere anything wrong vith ze baby?"

Dark sighed, holding his abdomen once more. "Not that... I know of... she seems happy..."

Schneep looked to the others, not trusting Dark's word. Reluctantly, they nodded.

"Apart from the fact the baby was conceived months before Dark was active, apparently," Amy admitted, looking rather confused. "Dark told us three months, but the doctor seemed convinced that he was six or seven months along,"

Schneep nodded. "Ja... It seems zat ze fetus is growing faster zhan even I had accounted for... zat is likely vhy you have taken so ill. Doc und I varned you, you know? Ve told you ze risks,"

Dark felt a tear fall from his eye, blinking it away before he lost too much of his dignity. "I know... the risks, Henrik. I... I would die for this child... And if it comes... to that... I will... in a h-heartbeat..."

"No," Schneep grimaced. "No, you vill not. How could you do zat to Anti? He loves you vith all his heart, Dark, und you know it,"

Dark blinked back a few more tears. "I know..." he started. "I know he does... but... he shouldn't. Besides... I won't die... I have survived... much less likely circumstances... than this one. I will... prevail..."

Schneep shook his head once more, not even able to find words to express his thoughts on the matter. Dark was being a stubborn fool- the fact that he was feeling weak at all was reason for concern, and now he had terminal cancer? And a stroke? It had only been three days...

He pinched the bridge of his nose. "Anti vants... needs to see you right now. Er ist in... a bad state, to say ze least. He is inconsolable und I feel zat... zat you are ze only vun who can force him to see reason. Should I let him through?"

Dark swallowed. He wanted to see Anti- of course he wanted to see him, there hadn't been a spare moment that Dark hadn't filled with the need to see him again. But... he wasn't sure of what to say. He hadn't spoken to Anti since their fight, and for all he knew Anti still hadn't forgiven him for how he'd acted.

But he nodded anyway. Schneep looked satisfied as he melted away, the eyes that sprang open belonging to the original that had been taken over.

Seán looked at everyone wildly. "Okay, you believe me now?"

Mark shivered. "Yeah, but don't get too comfortable. Schneep said he was letting Anti through,"

Seán sighed. "I know, I could hear- wait, oh God..."

He stood and shivered a little, closing his eyes and letting his hands fly to his head as if there was something fighting him to get inside. Dark blinked a few times, hoping that Anti wasn't being too forceful with the man- he didn't think Anti had ever possessed his original without killing him first.

But it subsided. Seán's arms fell slack and his face turned peaceful, and his eyes opened- bright, glowing green.

Dark melted.

"Anti?" He breathed, hardly believing that his lover was right here with him after so long spent apart.

Anti's eyes snapped to him, taking in his appearance. Dark could see the open wound on his neck despite having not heard Seán cry out, but didn't have much time to comprehend anything else before he was engulfed in a warm, glitchy hug.

Anti couldn't help but sob into his shoulder, it seemed, and Dark held him as best as he could in return. It hadn't been very long at all, but to Dark it seemed an eternity since he'd felt Anti against his skin. He could feel the baby kicking happily again, apparently wanting to reach out for her other father. Anti broke apart from Dark with surprise, looking down as if he only just noticed the rather large bump. 

"W-wow..." Anti whispered, holding his hand close to Dark's abdomen. In the dim light of the room, the glowing aura that the child was producing was quite visible.

"You seem shocked," Dark noted. "Did... did Henrik not tell you we were expecting?"

Anti sniffed a little, wiping the tears from his eyes. "N-no, I knew, it's just... I didn't think... she's huge, Dark,"

Dark chuckled in response, bringing Anti closer and hugging him again. Mark and Amy were being remarkably silent during the exchange, and Dark hoped that this wasn't making them uncomfortable.

Anti pressed more firmly against Dark's skin, as if he was trying to communicate with the baby. Dark was rather intrigued to see if Anti also had an empathic connection to her- it would make sense, in a way.

Anti let a smile grace his features. He'd almost asked if the baby was his straight off the bat, but he'd been distracted by the green glow- the same one that followed him around, brightening up the Void. The baby couldn't have been anyone else's- and that made Anti squirm in half relief, half embarrassment. He'd actually considered that Dark had cheated on him. He'd actually thought that Dark would do such a thing.

He let out a breath he hadn't known he was holding, pushing his thoughts about the baby aside. Dark looked terrible- worse than Anti had ever seen him. Sure, Schneep had warned him about how serious Dark's condition was, but he hadn't expected... this.

"Are y-you okay?" Anti asked, concerned.

Dark coughed a little as he smiled, seemingly unperturbed by his sudden fit. "Better than ever... Anti..."

Anti frowned. "Why is your voice so gravelly and slow, Dark? Don't... don't lie to me, please, you're not okay..."

Dark closed his eyes as he held Anti close to him. "No..." Dark agreed. "But I am not... terrible. In fact... you being here gives me... the will to go on. For you..."

Anti swallowed, as if he'd just remembered something he wouldn't like to admit. Usually, Dark would know already what was troubling the younger ego, but since his mind had become quiet, the suspense was paining him to bear.

"What is the matter, dear?" Dark asked softly.

Anti shuddered, leaving Dark's lap and scrambling to sit on the sofa. "I... I cheated on you,"

Amy let out a little gasp and Mark looked torn between anger and a snide remark. Thankfully, the both of them decided to remain separate from the conversation, as Dark looked into Anti's chilling green eyes, searching for an answer.

"Why?" Dark asked simply.

It may have been because he wasn't feeling well- perhaps he was especially emotionally detached today. He knew that the words had hurt him, deep down, but he also knew that he was better than that. He knew Anti well- perhaps even better than he knew himself. The man wouldn't cheat for nothing.

Though this was certainly something they needed to address, Dark didn't think it needed to ruin their relationship. The fact that Anti had gone to someone else for something Dark couldn't provide only proved that there was something between them- some rift that needed to be mended.

Dark didn't want to give up. Not when he could fix what he already had.

Anti shivered, scratching his arms instinctively, though Dark was too far from him to chide. "I... I suppose I was just... l-lonely, but- damn it, I don't want to say that! That makes it seem like y-your fault, but I know it's m-mine! You weren't the one who s-slept with someone else to forget your feelings, it's not f-fair..."

Dark went silent. In fact, he found he could relate quite heavily to what Anti was going through- at least, from what he'd heard. Because, after all, wasn't that the entire reason behind his escapade with Seán those two months ago? Wasn't that the reason he'd come back to Wilford thrice after Anti had arrived? Hadn't he tried then to forget his feelings, to forge new ones, to run away from the hurt?

He swallowed. It seemed there was no time like the present to divulge his secrets. He'd already lost his dignity, and his pride. Now, he would lose his honour.

But he'd give anything in his power to make Anti smile once more.

"Er... That is not... entirely true..." Dark muttered, though everyone could hear him. Mark and Amy already knew, of course, but they hadn't known a thing about Wilford. He prepared himself for the volume of the conversation to grow much, much louder.

"You are not... the only one to... have used others to their advantage..." Dark continued.

Anti blinked disbelievingly. "H-huh?"

Dark beckoned him closer, entwining their fingers when Anti sat on the sofa next to him. He looked deep into those green eyes he'd once tried so hard to run from, and he let his greatest fears be realised.

"I am unsure if... you know already, but... I had once a lover in Wilford..."

Anti seemed to tense a little, but he nodded anyway. "Y-yeah, I... I've been told,"

Dark felt a little part of his heart aching in memory, but pushed the wave of regret aside. "This was a long time ago, Anti... certainly well before your... your arrival, but... but after you came to be, I..."

Dark trailed off, feeling more than a little woozy, but found himself opening his eyes harshly as Anti squeezed his hand.

"Thank... you," Dark replied, smiling feebly in return. Anti looked absolutely fear-stricken, but Dark wasn't worried. He kept talking as if nothing had happened, the pauses between his words growing even longer as the conversation progressed.

"I found myself... confused," Dark explained. "I... I had not thought it was possible... to love in this form. But growing closer to you, I... I certainly felt... something strong. Something... beautiful. But it was also scary, and I... I found myself visiting... visiting Wilford to... to take my mind off it..."

Anti sniffed a little. "So it's true... that really was going on when I was... not this,"

Dark frowned. "Please, Anti... It was not at all at... at your expense... I simply didn't... know how to deal with... my feelings... I am sorry..."

Anti sniffled as he shook his head. "D-don't worry, I'm just b-being stupid..." Anti shuddered. "We w-weren't even together, you weren't even ch-cheating..."

Dark shook his head. "We may not have been... officially affectionate quite yet, but... I had considered it a crime... against you. If I had... been honest with myself earlier... I could have stopped..."

Dark let his fingers trail over to Anti's throat, tracing the transferred cut with his thumb.

"I could have stopped all of this... this suffering..."

Anti swallowed. "B-but... it wasn't you, Dark- it was never you. It was m-me, and my own stupid issues- you didn't kill them. I d-did..."

Dark brought him just that little bit closer, his skin feeling cold and stiff, wanting Anti's warmth coursing through him. "That isn't what... what I'm sorry for... Anti,"

Anti inched closer still, sensing that Dark wanted to hold him, but knowing that there was simply no room on Dark's lap for the two of them- that being Anti and their child.

"I'm sorry for... for letting you down..." Dark breathed, looking sickly pale. "For... that day... when you asked me if... I'm sorry I didn't tell you..."

"Shh," Anti urged, seeing that Dark was growing wearier by the minute. "You-you're not alright, Dark, you need rest,"

It was at this moment that the charade of the personal conversation ended. Mark intervened with a "The doctor said he has to stay awake for at least five hours between naps-"

Amy looked at her watch. "No, Mark- he's right. Dark looks like all hell right now- it's been four and a half hours since he woke up, I'm sure he'll be fine,"

Dark shot Amy a grateful look.

Anti looked incredibly nervous, fidgeting with Dark's fingers because they were the only things close to him. Dark reached out, cupping Anti's cheek.

"I know you must be... worried," Dark breathed. "But I promise you, I will be... fine... please, will you stay? Just for a few minutes... more?"

Anti looked warily at the other two occupants of the room, sighing in relief when neither objected. Amy wandered over with a hot water bottle and some ice packs.

"Here," she said, pressing them into Anti's arms. "In case he gets too warm or cold up there- he's been getting really bad fevers,"

"I... okay," Anti accepted.

Amy took charge of the wheelchair, helping Dark make his way up the stairs as Anti trailed behind, holding various supplies that Dark might need as they went to the spare room, flicking on the light.

"Thank you, Amy." Dark smiled.

Amy smiled in return, satisfied that having Anti here was really making it easier for Dark to settle down. The demon hadn't wanted to stay awake for anyone else so far, but now he seemed almost reluctant to sleep. She wondered to herself if they could have Anti here all the time- but that was absurd. After all, Seán was here for a reason- he couldn't go on tour or hang with his other friends if he spent all of his time being there for Dark.

She smiled. "I'll leave you two alone now, just holler if you need me,"

"Okay," Anti breathed, still seemingly unsure of how to manage taking care of Dark on his own.

Amy brought the glitch in for a quick hug, patting him on the back. "You're doing great, Anti, trust me."

Anti smiled a little despite himself. "Okay," he repeated with more certainty.

Amy closed the door on her way out.

Dark reached out to take Anti's burden, setting the various piles on the ever-cluttered bedside table.

He reached up, freeing his arms from the wheelchair. "Could you... give me a... hand?"

Anti hoisted Dark up from his middle, sitting him down on the bed, hesitantly making to remove his arms when he saw that Dark was steady.

Dark didn't let that happen. He leaned in until they were inches away, before kissing Anti gently on the lips. Anti didn't fight it, relaxing into the embrace as if it was the only thing he'd ever known, all of his doubts seeming to melt away.

Dark pulled away after a few moments, feeling lightheaded but he couldn't tell if it was the kiss or his apparent illness that had caused it. Either way, he definitely needed to lie down. He kissed Anti swiftly once more, before he brought his unresponsive leg up to meet him in the bed, rolling over so that he was lying on his back.

Anti crawled over, propping Dark up with pillows nestled in the small of his back and behind his neck. Sleeping with a tummy that size didn't seem like the most comfortable experience, but Anti thought that having these extra pillows would help.

Dark shimmied under the blankets. "Anti... could you pass me... the water?"

As Anti did as Dark asked, he felt like this was a little unnatural. He'd never seen Dark drink anything but wine before, but he supposed that Dark could drink water if he really wanted to. In fact, being in Jack's body for long periods of time gave him headaches if he didn't drink water, but he could feel in his heart that he couldn't stay for long this time anyway.

He put the bottle back on the table, subconsciously sliding into bed with his boyfriend, before realising that maybe Dark didn't want him in there as well.

Dark opened his closed eyes wearily. "Anti...?"

"Yeah?" Anti breathed, wanting nothing more than to kiss Dark again, but also knowing that they hadn't even moved past the cheating yet- let alone whatever Dark had been about to bring up before he'd gotten too tired to speak.

Dark patted the space next to him softly. "Please... don't leave me like this..."

And Anti couldn't help but comply, not even caring that the clothes he was wearing were hardly suited for bed. With Dark's permission, he crawled into bed alongside him and wrapped his arms around his weary lover, nestling their unborn child between them.

Dark let out a contented sigh. "Hmm... she's happy,"

Anti couldn't help but grin. "She?"

Dark smiled, kissing him gently on the lips once more. "Yes, she."

"What'll we call her?" Anti whispered, seeing that Dark was beginning to drift off.

"I like... Desiree..."

Anti let out a little chuckle as Dark began to snore, nestling his head between the pillow and Dark's softly beating chest.

"Desiree it is then..."

Chapter Text

~Groundlands~

When Dark awoke, he felt... calmer. More well-rested than ever, though when his limbs shifted he could still feel the stiffness and the ache that haunted him without reprieve. He was tucked gently under the sheets, lying on his side with his arms around someone familiar.

Anti?

Dark knew that figure well- but when had Anti arrived here? He tried to look back through his memories, but they seemed broken and detached, hovering just out of his reach, taunting him. His mind was filled with low muttering, sounds fading in and out as he drew Anti's body closer, closing his eyes against the morning light as he nestled between Anti's shoulder and his soft brown hair.

Brown hair...

Dark sighed in disappointment, realising that it wasn't Anti at all. It was Seán, but he'd been so convinced... He withdrew his arms, knowing that Seán wouldn't be comfortable with him getting this close, especially since he was asleep. Dark was surprised that the man didn't have trust issues because of the way Dark had taken advantage of him in May... he supposed he should feel honoured that Seán was even here with him at all.

He rose, just so that he could prop himself up on the pillows that were still arranged neatly on the bed. It was no easy feat- not with a bump this size, and especially not with a dead leg. The pins and needles had yet to come, and Dark was losing his faith ever so slowly in his recovery. He'd brought this body back from death once, had he not? Why, now, was it being so uncooperative?

No matter. He couldn't very well fix it, and he was alone in a bed with a sleeping double of the man he loved... He seemed to remember seeing Anti recently. Something told him that the fight that happened between them, the animosity he'd feared... it was all at rest now. He let out a long breath, feeling his daughter kicking at the walls of his womb again. Desiree... Anti had liked that name.

He couldn't quite recall how he knew that, but he was certain of the fact. This baby seemed to be wild-spirited, if the bouncing around she was doing was any indication. The name seemed to fit her like a glove already- it reminded Dark of his own mother, whom he'd lost to the very man who'd taken everything else from him.

His brows furrowed as the bitter train of thought continued. Mark... Mark Doom. Why was the name at the top of his lips, when the last time he'd heard it was the fifties? It felt like there was something urgent, something important that he needed to do, but for the life of him he couldn't figure out what.

It was mind-boggling, and Dark was growing ever more frustrated, and soon he found himself literally shaking with grief. Grief for his own afflictions, and grief for his mother, and grief for both Damien and Celine, though he hadn't been able to hear them for quite a while.

He blinked back the tears. Why was he so weak, all of a sudden? He never cried- not because he didn't want to, but because the demon had to choose exactly who to show his weakness to and it had only ever picked four people... Wilford, Seán, Anti and...

"Phil..." Dark breathed, running a hand through his hair. That's right- it was easy to forget that he'd been charged with taking care of the young man a few months back, especially since everything that had unfolded afterwards tended to drown that event out in significance. He'd been stuck here in the Groundlands, and then he'd finally reconciled with Anti, and now he was having a child... had it really only been three months?

Dark resolved to meet with the man again- even if only for a brief chat and a catch up. It wasn't like he had any other friends in this realm- even though both he and Daniel's original might well be on another continent, due to their tour...

He absentmindedly tapped at his stomach as he pondered, and he heard a faint giggle that reverberated through his mind. It was almost alien, a sound that Dark would believe belonged to a grown man pretending to be a young girl- peculiar to say the least, but his already teary eyes snapped down to the place his hand was holding.

"Was that you, dear?" Dark breathed, tracing his stomach fondly. He of course didn't expect a response, but he found himself filled with a rather happy feeling as the baby somersaulted around, jiggling Dark's skin slightly. He smiled. He had no clue how she'd done that- but really, who else could it have been?

"You're an intelligent one..." Dark cooed, enjoying the second-hand exhilaration coursing through him. "I can't... I can't wait to see you..."

She seemed happy, though she didn't respond with words- she was only seven months old, after all.

Seven months... She'll be all grown up before you know it, huh?

Dark looked to his side as Seán stirred, dislodging the sheets and knocking his pillow out from beneath him. He looked up into Dark's eyes blearily, blinking away the sleep.

"Hi," Seán simply greeted, rubbing his face. "Dear Lord, how early is it?"

Dark shrugged almost mechanically, his shoulders still stiff and sore. "I am not sure... quite early, I'd wager. I am sorry... if I woke you,"

"It's fine," Seán yawned. "Really, I'm probably just jet-lagged still. How are you feeling?"

Dark smiled contently. "Much better... I do believe that... whatever happened yesterday... did wonders..."

Seán's dazed morning face quickly turned into a concerned frown. "You mean, you don't remember? Any of it?"

Dark blinked. "I had thought... it was something so generic... that it was easily forgettable..."

Seán sighed, groaning under his breath. "No, Dark, we got Anti out here for you. You guys... you guys talked about some pretty heavy stuff- you really don't remember?"

Dark cocked his head to one side. Had Anti really come by? Well, he supposed that was why he suddenly felt so free- if Anti had come to the Groundlands and they'd talked about what happened, that would explain why he felt like everything was okay.

But why had the memories escaped him? This didn't normally happen...

"I do not... remember," Dark agreed, frowning. "What kind of... heavy stuff?"

Seán bit his lip worriedly. "Well I didn't really catch all of it but he said... he said he cheated on you,"

Dark blinked. Why would Anti do that? And... how would Anti do that? He wasn't nearly as close to the others as he was to Dark, and he didn't know of anyone but Wilford that would let it happen- but he refused to believe Wilford would do such a thing. Not after Dark had threatened him after he'd tried to make a move all those years ago...

"... Did he, now?"

"That's what he said," Seán sighed, looking a little ashamed for his counterpart's sake. "I don't... I don't see why he'd lie about something like that, but you seemed to be handling it pretty well. Or maybe you were just... just tired, or something- you had to go to bed pretty soon afterwards,"

"It appears... so," Dark uttered, closing his eyes briefly. "With... whom?"

Seán shrugged. "The conversation kind of ended before he could explain, sorry... you were trying to make him feel better, I think. I caught that you and Wilford were a thing for a while, but... then you guys started making out so I tried my best to ignore what was happening,"

"Oh, dear..." Dark sighed, rubbing his temples in annoyance. Really, how could he have let the notion that they weren't alone slip like that? "I do apologise... it mustn't have even... crossed our minds... that you were still there..."

"No, no, it's fine," Seán insisted. "I get it, you're a couple, it's just... weird to watch. Without really... telling myself to do what I'm doing. Seriously, it's fine, just don't do anything crazy sexual,"

Dark chuckled despite himself. "Well... if you insist," he agreed. "But I am... concerned... about my memory... problems..."

Seán tsked worriedly. "The doctor said you might have permanent brain damage, but they didn't want to X-Ray you because you were pregnant. It might not be anything but your memory that goes, but... watch out for it, okay?"

Dark nodded solemnly, not really wanting to admit that there was something seriously wrong with him, but he was running out of excuses for himself. "Right, I... I will... do you think Mark and... Amy are awake?"

"You hungry?" Seán asked, acting as though he should have asked immediately as he scrambled to his feet, smoothing out his crumpled clothes and making his way to that damned wheelchair that Dark loathed.

Dark felt his stomach growl. "Yes... the baby wants her food,"

Seán snorted. "Yeah, the baby, of course... come on, I'll see what's cooking,"

Seán helped Dark into the wheelchair again as the demon stretched out his arm, the loosening of the muscles only straining him more, but it had to be done sooner or later. The baby bounced excitedly in his womb, perhaps aware enough to know what the word 'food' meant. Dark wouldn't put it past her. She was turning out to be quite the witty child indeed.

"I do believe she's talking to me," Dark breathed on their way down the stairs.

"Really?" Seán asked, sounding more than a little surprised. "You can hear her thoughts again? What does she say about me?"

"You fool," Dark teased, "Not with words... not yet, anyway... I heard her... laughing, earlier. Like she was... trying to imitate me... it was... adorable..."

"You're sure it wasn't anything else?" Seán asked.

Dark shook his head. "No, Seán, it was in my head... who else could it have been?"

As if in confirmation, the baby giggled again, the sound sending shivers down Dark's spine. He couldn't wait until he heard her real voice.

He wagered that she felt the same way.

Seán must have noticed his smile widening and put two and two together. He knelt beside Dark's bump, pressing a hand to the place Dark usually held his. Before long, he felt the baby kicking him, and he let a grin break out on his face too, looking up with sparkling eyes to meet Dark's own.

"Come on, Desi, what do you think of me?" Seán practically begged.

Dark tried to bite back a laugh, but it escaped him anyway. "She's... she's not a magic... 8 ball, Seán..."

But still he felt... warmth. Comfort, but also longing, all shared through the strange empathic bond that was being shared between him and his child. As if Desiree knew that the man talking to her, while he sounded like her father, really wasn't the man her instincts told her he should be.

"She's not quite... sure about you," Dark said, smiling down at the two of them. "Perhaps you... remind her of her papa,"

"Papa Anti..." Seán mused, getting to his feet. "Imagine the fanbase getting wind of that one... though they already call you Daddy Dark, I suppose it's probably been done at this point,"

Dark groaned in annoyance. "Is that where... Wilford picked up... that phrase? Oh, I could have slapped him... for degrading me like that... but I suppose anything is better than..."

He trailed off, shuddering at the memory. Of all the things to retain in his mind- his moments with Anti were nowhere to be found, but the recollection of what had unfolded between he and that ego Peevils...

He'd been a little hesitant when he met Amy for the first time, simply because he'd already been forced to banish her ego from his manor and from being part of the lives of his family. But he soon found that he'd really had nothing to fear. Amy was nothing like her ego- she was sweet, kind and caring. Peevils was crazy, stubborn and sadistic, and perhaps that's why he never used those words to refer to Anti.

His love didn't belong in the same bracket as that wench.

"What?" Seán asked. "What happened?"

Dark shivered in remembrance. "Amy has an ego, too... though hers isn't openly... acknowledged. She seemed... convinced... that we were made... for each other."

Seán's eyes widened. "Wait- really? When was this?"

"It was a few years... back," Dark explained. "Before Anti had... left. Before your... egos arrived. She was pretty... but she wasn't my... type..."

Seán snorted in response, despite Dark's sour tale. "Yeah, I don't think I've heard you admit to liking anyone but dudes just yet,"

Dark smiled softly despite himself. "You'd be... correct. I told her I wasn't... interested... but she persisted..."

"I can only imagine how Anti must have felt," Seán sighed, remembering that Anti was around long before Mark and Amy even met. Of course, Anti would have felt horrible knowing that someone was trying to take Dark from him- maybe that was part of his insecurity.

Maybe he was scared that Dark would leave him for someone better.

Dark shrugged. "At the time... I don't believe Anti had... truly discovered his... feelings. Though he was certainly... jealous. If Yan had been... been around to teach Anti... how to use a knife... I am sure it would have ended... much differently,"

"Well, how did it end?" Seán asked, raising an eyebrow. "Was it anything like with Anti?"

Dark shuddered. "No... if only. If Peevils had half the urge... to stay away that Anti... had... my life would be... simpler. I was... forced to banish her," Dark sighed, folding his arms as the unpleasant memories burst forth in his mind. "With the promise that... if she ever returned to my territory... she would be given a fate... worse than death..."

"Sheesh," Seán winced. "Wasn't that a little harsh?"

Dark shook his head. No, especially after what she'd tried to do to Anti, she deserved every bit of that banishment and more. "Come, watch... I may just be able to... show you..."

Dark gripped Seán's arm tightly as the memory spiraled forth, being shared between the two minds as one. Nobody was there to see the grimace of pain that Dark wore as his hold on consciousness slipped, but he regained his will and soldiered on. He would not be beaten by this insufferable ailment.

"Did you get my texts?"

Peevils had opened the door, her dark jacket unzipped to her collar and her heels clacking menacingly on the marble floor of the manor. Her hair was blonde and her eyes a fierce yellow, and she tapped her foot impatiently as Dark rose from his seat to face her.

He appeared to have been sitting with Anti and The Host, along with Googleplier. They'd been playing some kind of scrabble game- but it was forgotten now, as Dark approached the copy of Amy that Seán had never seen before.

"Yes, Peevils, I recieved your texts," Dark grimaced. "All 900 of them. You mustn't have roamed far, as Google is our only network provider. I must insist that if you want to talk to me, you do it in person, as I am currently very busy- it will also remove the fear of finding unsolicited pictures when I use my devices,"

Peevils rolled her eyes, ignoring that Dark had basically just accused her of sexting him. "Well you didn't text me back,"

"Dark?"

Dark's head whipped around to face Anti, brown hair, a tiny amount of stubble and round cheeks that so resembled Seán's very own when he was just a little younger. It was like a different person to the glitchy mess that had overtaken him recently, and Anti stepped forward, interlacing his fingers with the demon's as if it was normal for them.

Sheesh. And they'd waited how long to become official?

"Just ignore her," Anti scowled in jealousy, sending Peevils a sharp glare that she returned with fervour, before Dark snapped his fingers.

"Eyes on me, Peevils. I have had just about enough of your shenanigans- I have told you again and again that I am. Not. Interested."

Peevils scoffed, walking over and disentangling Anti's hand from Dark's, putting her own in its place. Even Seán felt his blood boil a little at that, and he could tell that Anti was positively fuming behind Dark. Couldn't she see that they were an item?

Or maybe, that was why she did it. She wanted Dark for herself...

The demon remained inexplicably calm. He snatched his hand away, looking at Peevils with what Seán could only imagine was contempt.

"You repulse me," Dark seethed.

Peevils gasped aloud, before shaking her head furiously. "Dark, this is just our first fight!"

Dark growled, suddenly letting what must have been months of anger loose on the woman before him.  "And it will be our last."

"Oh my God, Dark!" Peevils whined. "Why are you being such a lousy boyfriend?!"

Anti stiffened a little, but there was nothing Seán could really do about it now. Dark seemed to have a handle on the situation, however, and he stepped forward angrily, his game and friends forgotten.

"Don't you get it, you crazy bitch?! I'm gay!"

"Well choose not to be gay, then!" Peevils screeched, her teeth elongating as she snarled, her form beginning to waver as if she wasn't sure what to be. "You're meant to be with me!"

Dark was positively livid. He reached out and grabbed her by the arm, forcing her to look into his eyes. Seán was pleased to see a glimmer of fear shining from the bright yellow of the offending ego's gaze.

"If you do not cease causing trouble in my manor, I will be forced to use violence,"

Peevils gnashed her teeth in retaliation, suddenly seeming inhuman and unstable. "Uh-uh, no way, no how- a man shouldn't threaten his woman!"

She slugged him in the jaw, and while Seán hadn't expected Dark to react at all, he found himself surprised when the memory blurred, Dark's head having been knocked back, focusing again on Peevils' rude hand gesture as she paraded out of the front door.

"Dark?!" Anti called, and Seán soon noticed that the glitch was checking Dark over for any signs of physical harm. "W-what happened? I thought you couldn't get hurt?!"

Dark calmed him, running a hand through his hair, and resting the other on his cheek. "It's okay, Antithesis... I was not hurt. I let her believe that she had succeeded so that she would leave us be,"

Anti looked down in embarrassment, his cheeks flushed deep red. "Oh..."

Dark brushed Anti's cheek affectionately again (seriously with the PDA? Seán didn't even think Mark and Amy were that bad...), taking his hand and leading him back to the game that was still unfolding in the lounge.

"I didn't want her to hurt you, Anti," Dark explained, rearranging a few of his letters- he had a terrible set, in Seán's opinion- three E's, two A's, a Z and a set of T's. But that wasn't the important information he was really here to obtain.

"That bitch? She wouldn't have-" Anti started, but Dark cut him off.

"Yes, Anti, she would," Dark said with finality. "And I'd take any hit if it meant protecting you, and all of the other egos that reside here,"

Anti sighed, snuggling into Dark's side as the demon looked at him, eyes crinkling disapprovingly.

"Are you satisfied now that you've seen my unfortunate arrangement of vowels?" Dark asked humorously.

Anti grinned cheekily, sitting back up in his seat. "It's only fair, you can read minds! And Host already gave it away, and besides, Google's been using a word finder for the last three rounds. You three suck to play with,"

The memory faded, Seán finding himself sitting back in the living room with a somber, sadder looking Dark.

"I am sorry," Dark muttered. "I was... reminiscing,"

Seán clapped him on the back. "Hey... it's okay. I get like that sometimes. You really miss them, huh?"

Dark smiled weakly. "Yes... yes, I do. But... that's enough dwelling..."

Seán nodded, standing from his seat, satisfied that nobody else was awake yet. "Right, I'll make you some food. French toast sound good?"

Dark licked his lips wistfully. "Marvellous,"

0o0o0o0o0o0o0

"Ah, there you are! Abe!"

Wilford had arrived at the bar he'd agreed to meet his old friend at, and was pleasantly surprised to find that he didn't need to wait at all for the man to show up. The former detective's eyes widened, and he looked around nervously as Wilford approached, though the mustached man didn't know what he was so worried about.

"You can't just draw attention to yourself like that!" Abe hissed, setting down his glass of whiskey. "How the hell did you survive the fifties acting like this?!"

Wilford shrugged, pulling up a chair and gesturing for the bartender to make him a juice on the rocks. "The fifties weren't so bad, now, were they?"

Abe blinked. "The fifties... Colonel, you were in Korea during the damn civil war, and you're saying it wasn't that bad?!"

Wilford shrugged, and Abe grimaced, pinching the bridge of his nose.

"Right, right, forgot who I was talking to- hey listen, why did you want to meet now, after all these years?"

Wilford took a shaky breath, silently berating himself for feeling that insistent pang of regret when Jameson crossed his mind. When would his heart realise that he was moving on now? It had been so easy with Bim, Kinkiplier and Dark... well, perhaps less so with Dark, but Wilford didn't need eyes to see how infatuated the man was with that young lad Anti. He wouldn't take that away if someone offered him a million dollars and a new wife. "I've been... busy. But not anymore. I need to find them, Detective, and you're my only hope. You've been keeping tabs on them, right? On Celine? Damien?"

Abe stomped harshly on Wilford's foot under the bar, glaring at him when a woman turned to eavesdrop. "Shut it! Haven't you heard about how they found Mark's body again? That damned house is cursed, and who knows what else will go wrong if we bring it up... Don't say their names, people will pay attention and we don't want that, got it?"

Wilford chuckled despite Abe's serious demeanour, naturally not having a grasp on how dangerous the situation really was. "I didn't think you were one for superstitions, Abe. Besides, what happened in that house can stay there- I need to find Celine, have you seen her?"

Abe rolled his eyes, resigning himself to the fact that they were going to be overheard. "I should've known you just wanted your old mistress back. Well, I hate to break it to ya but she's long gone,"

Abe took another long swig of his whiskey as Wilford cocked his head to one side, confusion evident on his face.

"Gone?" Wilford asked disbelievingly. "Where, out of the country?"

"No, you idiot," Abe groaned. "Dead. Just like Mark and the mayor are dead, everyone's dead and gone- it's 2018 for crying out loud, you were born in the 1900s. Our generation doesn't exist anymore, Wilford. They're all either buried under dirt or on fifty different meds trying to stay alive,"

"But then how are we still alive?" Wilford asked the detective, who sent him a fierce glare.

"Yeah, speak for yourself," Abe muttered darkly, unbuttoning his shirt just enough so that Wilford could see the ever-bleeding bullet wound in his heart. Like he could have forgotten...

"Like I said, place is cursed. I'm not going to go back there and figure it out for you, just so you can have your old fuck buddy back. Best to leave it be- don't you have someone else to screw? I mean, you've been gone fifty-odd years, I'd thought you'd finally settled down,"

"I..." Wilford started, but shook his head, denying himself the pain. "No. Not anymore- he left me, and... and it doesn't matter. I love Celine with all my heart, she's not dead. How can she be dead, when we're still here? Do you have anything that can help me find her, Abe? Please?"

Abe groaned under his breath. "I have... a hunch. But I don't have any real information, I only have contacts,"

"Well, who is it?" Wilford asked desperately.

Abe put some money on the counter and gestured for Wilford to follow him, finishing his drink in a single swig. They made their way outside, away from the drunken chatter filling the building and out onto the quiet enough street.

"I'm sure you remember your old buddy Robert," Abe sighed, hailing a cab as he explained. "The Chef. He's still around and kicking- which makes no sense to me, but... then, really, nothing does anymore. Anyway, I found him a few months back, he runs a diner on the waterfront- if anyone has a lead on where the mayor and his sister went, it's those two,"

"Two?" Wilford asked. "What do you mean, two?"

"The butler," Abe said simply, gesturing for Wilford to get in the cab. "They're business partners now,"

Wilford frowned. "But... the butler is in the Void, Abe- the place I've just left... are you telling me that he might have a clue as to where she-"

"Shh," Abe commanded harshly. "Take us to Harbor Boulevard,"

"Right," sighed the cab driver, a woman who looked to be about forty. "Suppose you two aren't much for talking, huh?"

"You're not an Uber, we don't have to rate you," Abe replied with just a hint of snark in his tone. "Just take us to where we gotta go, alright?"

The cab driver sighed again, taking off. "Customers these days... well, suppose I shouldn't be complaining. The last guy didn't even pay for the ride, just ran out of the car at that abandoned apartment complex down the road..."

"How strange," Wilford agreed, not even bothering to wear a seatbelt as he leaned on the back of the driver's seat. "Say, are those earrings vintage Chanel?"

Abe shook his head, leaning back in his seat. "Unbelievable..."

~Void~

"Vell? Vhat did you say?"

Anti fidgeted with his fingers, not trusting himself to use his blade lest he have another unfortunate relapse. It was sitting, confiscated on the table behind his brother, Schneep. He'd just returned from possessing Jack in the Groundlands, and he was saddened to find that he really hadn't been there for long at all. In fact, both Schneep and JJ hadn't even left the room while he was gone.

"I t-told him I cheated," Anti started, looking to JJ for support. He was slowly getting used to having him around without fear of being caught doing something they shouldn't be- he guessed it was sinking in that he didn't really want JJ at all, but being this close was still making him a little uncomfortable.

But he'd have to move past that sooner or later. He didn't hate the silent man- in fact, he felt that what happened between then had brought them closer than they really needed to be, but he supposed he shouldn't be complaining. Jameson was being so kind about it that Anti felt like a douche for losing faith in him earlier.

"Und how did he take zat?" Schneep pressed on.

Anti shrugged, not really knowing the answer himself. He'd tried to elaborate, but Dark had done what he always did- he'd told Anti that he wasn't alone, that Dark had done much worse, as if that made anything that Anti did redeemable. If Anti stabbed someone? Dark had helped kill three times as many people. If Anti lost his temper? Dark had one much worse that could burst at any moment. If Anti had dishonoured the definition of love by sleeping with another man? Dark had slept with more.

There was no winning, was there? Anti didn't care that Dark felt he was worse- because Anti thought Dark was amazing. Because Dark rose up above all of the self-worth and judgment issues, and Dark could live with himself- Anti still didn't know how to do that, and it had been nearly three years since he'd hit rock bottom.

"He just..." Anti sniffed, "He just said... I wasn't the only one."

Schneep seemed to soften, standing and pulling the glitch into a half-returned hug. "Oh, Anti... but you returned so happy! Tell me, vhat else happened?"

Anti shuddered as the memories danced before his eyes. "It was W-Wilford... Dark confirmed it. A-and... and it was still h-happening when... when I was here."

Schneep nodded grimly, while Jameson reached out to hold Anti's hand in reassurance.

"Ja, unfortunately zat vas almost certain already..." Schneep sighed. "So did you find out who ze father vas?"

Anti broke his sad demeanour to crack a smile, hardly believing what he'd seen with his very eyes earlier today. What he'd felt, and what he'd heard...

"She's mine," Anti smiled proudly, more proud of this fact than most other things he could name. "She... she's got my eyes. You should've seen it, Schneep, he was glowing! I'm... I'm gonna be a dad... fuck."

Schneep snorted. "Fuck indeed, mein Bruder. I am very glad zat zis issue has been resolved- though... did er mention anything about Jack?"

Anti shook his head. "No, no he didn't... he just... he barely spoke a few words to me before he passed out. He isn't... he isn't well, is he?"

There was a pregnant pause.

"Nein," Schneep sighed, taking his glasses off and wiping them solemnly with his lab coat. "Er ist nicht vell, Anti. I did not tell you zis before you saw him because I did not vant your time to be taken up by vorry, but... er ist dying. Slowly but surely. He... he has stage four cancer, Anti, und zat is incurable. I don't... I do not know if he vill make it, but ve have to believe zat he vill. I have seen zat man spring back from surgery vithout batting un eye, but it seems zat carrying zis child has taken a lot out of him. Ich... I cannot say for certain zat he vill live or die, but... you must be prepared to be zere for ze baby, Anti. Dark vould vant zat,"

Anti had started to cry- cancer? He didn't know what it was, but he'd heard about it and he knew that it was definitely a bad thing to have. And if Dark couldn't get rid of it, Anti didn't like his chances of pulling through. But... but he couldn't die, right? Anti had killed him before, and he always came back, right?

"He can c-come back if he fades, r-right?" Anti asked, voice cracking a little with doubt.

"I think so," Schneep swallowed, "But Anti... er ist pregnant. I do not think... I do not think ze child vould survive if Dark vere to die, even if he could return,"

Anti blinked away some more tears, becoming increasingly aware of just how tightly he was holding Jameson's fingers in his grip.

"Sh-she could die?" Anti hiccuped. "I... I've only had her f-for a few hours, I don't want to g-give her up, I..."

Schneep patted his back comfortingly, though he hated to be the bearer or bad news.

"I know zat, Anti. Dark feels ze same- rather passionately, too. He has told me... zat if it comes to ze vorst, he vould die so zat you could have ze child, not even realising zat ze baby could die as vell. He must be careful, Anti- I am going to see him at least vonce daily to make sure zat er ist not doing anything unvise."

Anti nodded, biting his lip as the tears continued to fall from his eyes. All of this... Dark, the baby, his new life... he'd barely had it for two months, and considering the decade or so he'd been aware, that time was nothing. He wasn't prepared to let either of them go, but he had a sinking feeling that the choice would have to be made eventually. He'd seen Dark himself, that man just didn't look like he was going to last... but he couldn't bring himself to sacrifice one or the other. On one hand, he'd known Dark forever- he was sure he could live happily forever with the demon, and yeah, maybe they'd have a few arguments on the way but he was sure it would work out in the end.

But his daughter... Desiree... how could he justify giving her up like that? He hadn't met her, but he already loved her with all his heart and he couldn't knowingly harm her, just to save Dark from a death he would probably have had to face anyway.

Schneep patted Anti's shoulder again. "Nobody is asking you to make ze choice, Anti- besides, es ist too late to abort ze child. Not only is she too large, but Sie ist already conscious und alive... it vould not be right. I can only hope zat you von't have to lose either of zhem,"

Anti nodded, sniffling as he wiped away his tears. God, what a mess...

"T-thank you, Schneep," Anti stuttered out. "I... I'll be f-fine."

Schneep frowned, eyeing the pair of egos disapprovingly. "Now, ze last time you said zat, it didn't vork out so vell, did it?"

Jameson hung his head, and Anti nodded grimly.

"I p-promise, we'll behave..." Anti uttered feebly.

Still looking a little wary, Schneep closed the door on his way out, and seemed to be heading upstairs when Anti's field of view was blocked by the face of a hauntingly familiar figure.

Jameson lingered there for a few moments, their breaths mingling ever so slightly as their foreheads bumped, feeling all too reminiscent of an embrace they so wanted to forget. Jameson hesitated briefly, before leaning in and giving Anti one last, parting kiss.

It wasn't short, but it wasn't enduring either, and Anti found himself missing the feeling of Dark's kiss even more as he let Jameson attempt to fill the slowly healing cracks in his heart.

But Jameson had already done what he could. He'd showed Anti the places he missed Dark the most, so he could build up his relationship with the demon even stronger than before. Even if Anti could never fill Jameson's own empty heart, at least the mustached man hadn't ruined everything. Anti might not know it, but Jameson was very proud of him for bouncing back so quickly after being knocked down.

Jameson envied him in that respect. He'd sought someone else to fill the place Wilford once had, but Wilford was still there. And by the look of things, he wasn't going anywhere either. If only he could have seen that before he tried to shove Anti into a place he didn't want to be. A place that couldn't accommodate him if he tried. His own heart...

They parted, and Jameson licked his lips before pressing a crumpled sheet of paper into Anti's hands, swiftly walking out of the room. His task here was done, but his own quest for realisation was only just beginning.

Anti sat there, stunned. He hadn't expected that, but he hadn't exactly expected the opposite, either. The kiss wasn't lasting, and it was barely more than a touch, but Anti knew that it meant the end.

He carefully opened the paper, being greeted by Jameson's elegant scrawl. He began to read.

Anti-

The night we spent together was no mistake, even though it has caused us so much worrying. Do not misunderstand me, please- it wasn't the right thing to do, and I am sorry from the bottom of my heart for putting you through all this trouble. But there is a lesson to be learned here, and that is why I do not regret it. When I found you, I was hurt and angry. I wanted to inflict my pain on someone else. I wanted to get back at Wilford for the countless times he's cheated on me since our relationship began, but I failed to realise that what I started with you was just as bad, if not worse than what he had done to me. I have not forgiven him- and I don't plan on doing so until he shows me that he is truly sorry, but in the same way, I do not expect you to forgive me.

Do not beat yourself up because of this. You wouldn't have consented if you weren't in pain, and I know from experience that pain is more powerful than any drug or liquor when it comes to making poor decisions. And because of this, I do not consider it consent at all. If you need someone, anyone else to pin the blame on, I will take it. Even if it's just to make you feel better. I want you to be happy- and you will be happy with Dark and your baby girl, you don't need this to linger any longer than necessary.

So this is me forgiving you, even though you really don't need forgiveness from me- I was hoping it would help soothe your mind. After all, it sounds as though the only one who hasn't forgiven you is yourself. But don't dwell any further on what we were, please. Enjoy your time with Dark and your baby before the worst comes.

I will always be here if you need me,

-Jameson

Chapter Text

~Void~

"Hey, Septiplier,"

Anti had been sitting on the couch in his living area, cross-legged and tired-looking- if his slumped torso and yawns were anything to go by. When the fusion in question entered the room, Anti sat up a little straighter, willing the television to turn itself off and facing Septiplier with bleary red eyes.

A note fell to the floor.

"You dropped something," Septiplier said, frowning a little at Anti's troubled demeanour. He knew that sustaining all of the egos couldn't be very good for his energy levels, but this seemed a little excessive. After all, Dark and Anti had been pretty evenly matched as far as Septiplier could tell. Why was Anti having such trouble keeping this place up and running, when Dark had managed to sustain the manor all these years? 

"What's up?" Septiplier asked, voicing his concern aloud. He knew Anti wouldn't tell him unless he said something- for someone so emotional and empathic, Anti certainly kept his feelings bottled away unless he felt comfortable sharing them.

Anti scooped up the paper, tucking it into his pocket like he didn't want anyone to see it as he shook his head. Septiplier could respect his privacy, even though he wished Anti trusted him enough to say what was bothering him- but that wasn't why he'd come here.

Anti sighed, brushing his hair back from where it had fallen into his face. It was growing out like Marvin's, but Anti didn't seem like the type to let it go on for long. He was probably too distracted looking after the other egos in Dark's absence to really have a look at himself, Septiplier mused.

Anti took a deep breath. "You know... you know how me and Dark are together now?"

Septiplier blinked, uncertain as to where this was going. "Yeah... why? Did something happen with you guys?"

"I guess you could say a lot of things have happened," Anti breathed with the shadow of a smile, beckoning for Septiplier to join him on the couch. Beside him were Robbie and The Host, who were snoozing softly together, not at all bothered by the conversation happening next to them. Anti must have trusted them immensely to be letting them sit with him while he spoke his mind. The Anti that Septiplier had known was certainly nice and friendly enough to those he trusted- it just so happened that the most vocal ones in the manor were people that the glitch didn't feel comfortable with.

"Well, start from the beginning," Septiplier said, trying to be helpful. How much had he missed in these past two months? Anti certainly didn't look like he was coping with whatever was happening, so it must have been pretty huge- was this part of the reason why Dark was missing, and maybe even Wilford too?

"Well, we're... we're having a baby," Anti sighed, as if he still couldn't believe it himself. Septiplier cocked his head to the side, looking Anti up and down to try and determine if he was joking. Because he didn't think it was possible- really, on every level. They were only egos, right? They didn't have real bodies... not to mention that they were both male. But Anti didn't make any move to indicate that his words weren't the truth.

"You... are? Really?" Septiplier uttered, his confusion giving way to mild excitement. A baby? Here, in the Void? He could only imagine how it would be with a child around here- Dark running around after them, threatening anyone who got too close, and Anti sneaking around with them to play jokes on the older egos. It sounded... fun.

But why did Anti look so troubled as he nodded, biting his lip and running his hand through his hair?

The glitch sighed in distress. "Yep, she's a girl. That's why Dark's been gone all week. He... he tried to find me in the Groundlands, and now he's stuck there with Mark and Jack,"

Septiplier sighed in recognition, knowing that Anti didn't entirely trust the man who created him, despite the fact that he was part of Septiplier, and Septiplier was his friend. He supposed that if he'd arrived here without a clue of who he was, he'd be spiteful as well. 

"Ah... that can't be good for your health, huh?"

"Oh, you should see D-Dark," Anti tried to joke, but he sniffled a little toward the end of the sentence. He wiped a tear from his eye, breathing deeply, and Septiplier braced himself for the worst.

"What about him?" Septiplier asked, concerned. "Is he okay?"

"H-He's..." Anti sniffed, his hold on Septiplier's hand growing tighter. "He's dying, Septiplier- really dying, and it w-wouldn't normally scare me but the baby could d-die with him and she w-wouldn't come back, and-"

Septiplier pulled the hysterical man into his arms, patting his back and trying to console him despite really having no grip on the situation or how it could possibly feel to be in this position at all. Dark was dying? How come he was only hearing about this now? Surely Schneep or Doc would have figured this out sooner than Anti would- he may have been a smart ego, but he was still fairly clueless sometimes, after all.

"Hey, it's alright," Septiplier muttered, knowing deep down that it was only false hope he was giving. If Dark really was going to die, and the life of their child was going to be lost... well, that's not something you can really sleep away overnight, no matter how much reassurance he could provide. "How... how is he dying? What's wrong?"

"He's got c-cancer," Anti hiccuped, wiping his nose. "Schneep said he... he has stage four breast cancer, and... I don't know w-what that really means but f-fuck, he didn't look good at all,"

"Cancer...?" Septiplier asked, his voice cracking just a little at the end of the line. "I thought... I thought he couldn't even get sick,"

"So did I," Anti agreed. "But... but I don't know anymore... I'm worried,"

"Of course you're worried, Anti," Septiplier affirmed. "He means everything to you- I... I didn't expect this kind of news, I'll be honest... I just came over to tell you about me and Halter,"

Anti smiled through his tears, looking like he was happy to change the subject. "T-that you're a couple? Yeah, I know... It's... pretty obvious,"

Septiplier let out a breath he hadn't known he was holding. "You mean you don't think it's weird?"

Anti snorted, patting Septiplier's back reassuringly, not even noticing that their roles had practically reversed within a few sentences. "No way- have you even seen anyone else around here? You and Halter are hardly the most abnormal lovebirds in this place, just look at me and Dark. Or Bing and Chase, or- heck, even these two,"

Anti gestured to the sleeping forms of Septiplier's two brothers, Host and Robbie, as they continued their blissfully ignorant dreaming. The fusion couldn't help but smile.

"Yeah, that's true... sorry, I've just been... wondering,"

"About what?" Anti pressed.

Septiplier was a little shocked at just how invested Anti seemed to be in his love life right now, but then he realised that it was probably the glitch's way of getting his mind off the trouble that was unfolding within his own life. Septiplier guessed he was happy to be a distraction- maybe Anti could even help him out here.

"Well... it's only been around three months since Halter arrived, and I've just turned four years old, and I just don't know if that's a great start when it comes to having a relationship- isn't that kind of age difference... strange, to you?"

Anti rolled his eyes, clearly thinking that it was hardly strange at all. "What does Halter say about that?"

Septiplier sighed fondly in remembrance. "He just... he just says that Phan's been around since 2009 and that he's actually five years older than I am, which... I mean, I get it, but that's also not really the point. It's not him that's been around for that long- he's still young and impressionable, and I'm just old and boring and depressed..."

"Oh, shush," Anti insisted. "You're not boring, you're probably the most exciting one here- there's a reason he likes you, and it's not just because you're both fusions. I know him, Septiplier, trust me. He wouldn't date you for the heck of it,"

Septiplier let out a breath of hot air. "Heh... okay. I... alright. Guess I was asking the wrong person about an age thing, huh?"

Anti snorted, remembering that Dark had told him he'd lived with Wilford in the Void since the late 1970s. Even though he had no clue of exactly when he'd arrived here in the Void, Anti had determined that he was probably less than ten years old. He really was the last person to talk to about an age gap, but... remembering Wilford and what Dark had told him really put a damper on his carefree mood.

His expression soured. "Hey... did you know that D-Dark and Wilford used to be together?"

Septiplier bit his lip. Well, he knew they'd been a fling, but he hadn't known how serious it really was- only that he'd overheard a hushed conversation between the offending pair that seemed to indicate that they were sexually involved. He hadn't thought much of it at the time- Wilford was known for getting around, and it wasn't really his business, but knowing how lovestruck Anti had been at the time...

He gulped. "Um... yeah, I knew. You... just found out, huh?"

Anti sighed in frustration. "I just... yeah, I just found out. He just told me, and he said it was all because of how he didn't want to face his feelings, but that's... that's gotta be bullshit, right? The way he talks and acts around me... it just feels so fake sometimes, so over the top and sappy and that's what I loved about it but... Septiplier, what if he's only saying that to make me feel better?"

"I..." The fusion started, at a loss for words. "I don't know what to tell you, Anti... he might be. I don't... I don't know for sure what Dark's feelings for you are really like, but I do know that when I heard him talking to Wilford about... them, he brought you up quite a bit,"

Anti's eyes widened a little. "He... did? Wait, you heard this?"

Septiplier nodded grimly. "That's how I knew in the first place- I was wandering around the manor looking for Google, and I found them talking in the kitchen..."

Septiplier jumped, startled by the sudden volume of Wilford's voice, booming from the kitchen. He stopped in the hall briefly to catch his breath, resting against the wall. He'd just been about to go upstairs in his search for Google, wanting to know more about the two people he was comprised of, when he started to feel a little anxious. This seemed like a very private conversation...

"Ah, Dark! Where did you disappear to last night?"

Septiplier could see them standing there, with Wilford leaning on the counter over a hot cup of tea, and Dark looking in the oven, busy shovelling peanuts out of the bottom. The demon looked quite annoyed to be interrupted like this, and he seemed rather... frazzled. Septiplier couldn't quite place what was wrong, but something about him just seemed off.

"I had business to attend to," Dark replied coolly, sending Wilford a meaningful glare.

Wilford snorted in return. "Oho, business, eh? Without your clothes?"

Wilford held up a hand with what looked like one of Dark's button-up shirts spinning on his finger. The demon glowered at him as his features darkened, indicating a blush as he snatched his shirt away.

"Wilford!" Dark hissed harshly, and Septiplier could see him straightening his tie, looking flustered as his eyes darted around. "Do you have no sense of discretion?"

Wilford rolled his eyes. "Well, I didn't know it had to be a secret! You should've told me that when I was screaming out your name last night Darky-"

"Do not," Dark interrupted furiously, "call me 'Darky', Will."

Septiplier didn't know Dark was opposed to the nickname- after all, he let Anti use it all the time. He shook his head in bewilderment- why was he still here? He wasn't meant to be hearing this, that was clear. But if he made any move to leave, the other egos would know he'd been here listening. There was nothing to do but stay put and hope that they left via the balcony instead of going upstairs...

"You didn't seem to mind yesterday," Wilford grinned, apparently enjoying watching Dark squirm. "In fact, you seemed to enjoy it a little too much..."

Dark swatted Wilford's creeping hand away, standing up again and taking a few steps back. Septiplier took a hasty breath, knowing that Dark could easily see him standing there from his position, but he was too focused on Wilford to notice. At least, that's what he assumed...

"I don't want this," Dark growled. "Not here- not like this... You know exactly what last night meant to me, Will. Do not overstep your boundaries,"

"You're one to talk about 'boundaries'," Wilford muttered, retreating reluctantly. "You didn't even ask me for a safeword,"

Dark's eye started to twitch in annoyance. "Do you really think you'd need a safeword, Will? Especially for the level of touching I permitted? This isn't the seventies, Wilford, I don't... I'm not invested in you. You're just a fling. I thought you of all people would understand that,"

"You know, for someone who every woman out there falls over for, your interests are very vanilla," Wilford countered, taking a sip of his tea.

Dark groaned aloud, tugging his hair in frustration. "You're just as arrogant as always... that wasn't even part of the discussion. What do you want with me, Will?"

Wilford cocked his head to one side, and suddenly, he was standing closer than ever to Dark, almost as close as Septiplier had seen Dark and Anti get in the past, but this time Dark didn't look like he approved of their proximity.

Wilford let his arms rest around Dark's middle, pressing their foreheads and their chests together, as Dark averted his eyes. Septiplier was puzzled- were these two a couple? Well, Dark had said it was just a fling, but he certainly didn't seem opposed to the affection that Wilford was giving him.

"I thought you liked it," Wilford muttered, swaying them slightly on the spot. "Being close... me calling you Darky, letting you have your way with me..."

Dark tensed. "Stop. Please..."

Wilford put his hands on his hips, stepping away from the flustered-looking demon. "Oh, I see. Maybe next time we should invite Anti along, hm?"

Dark, if possible, flushed even deeper. Septiplier knew that Dark and Anti were close, but he never suspected that Dark actually had feelings for the other ego. In fact, what he'd just seen seemed to contradict that notion, but the way that Dark reacted to Anti's mention was too strange not to note. The demon growled, suddenly fierce and determined, towering over Wilford with a glare that would make anyone nervous.

"You will do no such thing!"

Wilford laughed aloud despite the situation, clapping the demon on the back. "I knew it! Oho, wait until I tell the doctor, he owes me a blowjob-"

"You know nothing," Dark insisted, folding his arms, the lights starting to flicker. "Do not forget your place,"

"I know that you've got a desperate crush on Anti," Wilford teased, batting his eyelashes as the lights finally overheated and blew. Smoke began to trickle from the ceiling, but Septiplier didn't dare to move. He feared for his personal safety, and he couldn't understand why Wilford wasn't doing the same.

"I do not have time for 'crushes'," Dark huffed, eyes narrowed. "And even if I did- he doesn't deserve to be corrupted by your lascivious advances,"

Wilford let out a loud chortle, not bothered at all by the fact that Dark could blow up this entire kitchen in moments. "Oho, my advances? And who was it that practically threw himself at me down by the pool last year, eh? Who was it that came to my room drunk off his head and started to-"

"In case you haven't noticed, Will," Dark seethed, "I am not 'throwing myself' at anyone else. You know exactly what you mean to me, nothing more and nothing less. Now this conversation is coming to a close whether you like it or not,"

Wilford laughed softly to himself, finally deciding to back off a bit. Septiplier watched with bated breath as the mustached man approached Dark, whispering not-so-quietly into his ear.

"You know, next time, you should just ask the lad out,"

"That will be all, Wilford," Dark insisted, and Septiplier felt his heart jump in his chest as Wilford sent him a sly wink, leaving the kitchen and heading to the lounge. How long had he known the fusion was there?

Septiplier was about to leave, when Dark let out a frustrated sigh, and all the hope drained from the fusion's chest.

"Septiplier, please come in,"

Septiplier hung his head in fear, walking slowly into the kitchen to see Dark pacing worriedly on the spot. The demon caught his eyes, glaring up at him with some kind of intensity that Septiplier hadn't seen before. He wisely closed his mouth, deciding that asking questions was probably not the best course of action here.

"Not a word, do you understand me?" Dark threatened. Septiplier hastily nodded, and suddenly, he could breathe freely again. He hadn't realised just how constricted his throat had become, and he rubbed at it softly as Dark finally dismissed him, all thoughts of finding Google lost to him.

Anti was quiet as Septiplier finished explaining, but then, he let out a pitiful sigh. "I... I don't understand. Why didn't he want me to know? I th-thought we had no secrets back then, I just... I trusted him, you know?"

Septiplier didn't know how to respond. He could see where Anti was coming from, of course- he was definitely feeling betrayed and lost, but Dark had his reasons for keeping the truth a secret as well. He didn't want to hurt Anti- it was clear now, though it hadn't been for a while, that the demon truly did care for the green-eyed ego. Septiplier could understand that Dark didn't know what he was really going through when this happened- he certainly seemed confused and angry the day Septiplier had caught him, but the fusion hadn't really known any better at the time.

"He... he didn't lie to you because he hates you," Septiplier voiced, looking Anti in the eyes. "He just didn't want you to get hurt. He... he obviously had feelings for you that he didn't understand. He must have... used Wilford as a release,"

Anti bit his lip again, tears rolling from his eyes despite his calm demeanour. "It doesn't hurt any less..." he shivered. "I just... wish I could have figured it out sooner..."

Septiplier sighed, feeling like he was trying to explain this to a child. "No, Anti- you don't understand. To him, you were still young. Childlike, and happy, and free from emotional pain- he didn't want to corrupt that. He felt like he wasn't good enough for you, because he was so much older and wiser, and he'd seen how easy it is to fall if you don't handle your life carefully..."

Anti gripped tighter on his hand, trying to butt in, but Septiplier wasn't done talking quite yet.

"And he knew that if he hurt you in any way while you were together it would break you, and he didn't w-want that for you, Anti- that's why he took it out on Wilford. Because Wilford's a damn man-slut who's been around just as long as he has, and he knew that Wilford could handle the rejection b-because he was older and more broken than you were-"

"Stop making this about the fucking age gap!" Anti growled, finally letting his frustration get the better of his patience. "I swear to God, Septiplier, if you're this upset about dating Halter then maybe you should go and talk to him instead of asking me for advice I can't give you!"

The room fell quiet, and all that could be heard were the little lapses of the snores coming from Host and Robbie. Septiplier had almost forgotten they were here.

"I... you're right," Septiplier sighed. "Sorry. I'm just... worried that it's not the right thing to do,"

Anti let out a groan. "Septiplier, this is the first time I've seen you happy since... since fucking Jackie arrived, alright? He's good for you, why can't you see that?"

"It doesn't matter how good he is for me," Septiplier insisted, pinching the bridge of his nose. "It matters how bad I am for him-"

"Oh for fuck's sake," Anti grimaced. "Get up, you idiot- we're going over there to get you laid so you can stop obsessing over nothing,"

"I- what?!" Septiplier hissed in surprise. "We're not- I'm not- we've only been dating for a week, Anti!"

"Well, then we're going over there so you two can do something else to take your mind off it," Anti retorted, willing the door to open. "I don't know why you came over here, but you guys have my blessing, or whatever. Seriously, don't make unnecessary issues for yourself, Septiplier- dealing with the ones you have to live with already is hard enough."

Septiplier sighed in defeat. "You're... you're right, I know I'm catastrophising, but..."

Anti patted him softly on the arm. "You've got this, man. I think that dating Halter is probably the smartest thing you've ever done,"

Halter came to the door, opening it with a puzzled expression.

"Um... hi?"

"Hey Halter," Anti greeted. "Long time no see- but we'll catch up later. I'm leaving Septiplier here so he can get over his irrational fear of hurting you, don't let him out until he gets that he's only a danger to himself,"

Septiplier turned, but the glitch had already gone back to his house, leaving the two fusions alone in the cool Void. Septiplier rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly.

"Uh... hi," Septiplier said meekly.

Halter raised an eyebrow. "Not the age thing again, is it?"

Septiplier sighed. "I just... don't trust myself to be there for you. I can't even be here for myself half the time,"

Halter took his hands, pulling him closer and holding him around his middle. "You spork... I'll be here for the both of us, then."

"But that's-"

"You haven't hurt me yet," Halter insisted. "And I don't see any point in thinking about ways you could, either. Just... come inside, Septiplier, we'll watch a movie or something,"

Septiplier sighed as he nodded, knowing deep down that Halter was right. But this sinking feeling, this depression... it may be better when he was with his new lover, but sometimes he couldn't help falling into it again. He wanted to be better. He wanted to be normal, with normal emotions and normal limbs and a normal voice... but he wasn't normal. And he was a fool for letting himself be so caught up in that idea that he didn't even realise how pathetic the entire thing was. Halter wasn't normal either, but that didn't stop the man from being amazing.

Jackieboy was here, having a heated discussion with Marvin about veganism (Septiplier had never understood why Jackie hated the idea of eating animal-based foods so much, but he'd always respected his lifestyle), and they were accompanied by Yan, Silver, Clint, Tommy, Bim and Squirrels, who looked like they were organising a game of truth or dare.

Halter nudged him softly. "You alright?"

Septiplier smiled, feeling the sudden urge to kiss him, and when he found his fingers tangled in the other fusion's hair, holding him close, lips pressed together and moving in time... this was nice. This was new, and exciting, and happy, and nice.

Halter broke the kiss, letting out a little giggle. "What was that for?"

"Because I really, really like you," Septiplier breathed, smirking as he tapped Halter's nose. "That's all,"

"I really really like you too," Halter snickered, and they might have kissed again if Jackie didn't call out to interrupt them.

"Hey! You two in the game or not?"

Halter shrugged, looking at Septiplier for an answer.

Septiplier shrugged. "I'll join in... but I haven't played truth or dare before. All my fics just involve a lot of unnecessary smut so that's really unrealistic,"

Halter chucked aloud, entwining both his left hands with Septiplier's rights. "Don't worry- it's not like a fanfiction at all."

And as they sat, Septiplier thought to himself, wondering if he'd ever have found the courage to leave his room without Phil's kind words... but he supposed it wasn't quite fair on Halter to keep likening him to Phil. He was, after all, part Dan as well, and Septiplier quite liked that cynical, melodramatic side of him. Though he didn't think he'd ever have the chance to meet Dan, he felt that having Halter here was enough of an indication of how he acted, and Septiplier couldn't help falling for both of them. Halter was so sweet and kind, and so quick-tempered and philosophical that everything he said had meaning. Everything he did lit up Septiplier's heart, and he only wished that with his goofy personality and deep Irish brogue, he could do the same.

He held his boyfriend a little closer as Marvin took the first turn, asking Clint if he'd ever made out with someone before as part of his truth.

It wasn't very surprising when he said he didn't, but something about the atmosphere was telling him that this game would uncover many secrets. He was just glad he had nothing to hide.

"Squirrels, truth or dare?"

"Dare, I ain't no wimp."

"Okay... I dare you and Bim to have seven minutes in heaven,"

Septiplier opened his eyes just in time to see Bim let out a small squeak of surprise.

0o0o0o0o0o0

Robbie's eyes fluttered open, the game of soccer that had been playing on the television having long stopped running, the room dark and quiet. He nuzzled a little closer to The Host, who was holding him around his middle as he slept. Robbie relaxed into the embrace, not really knowing when they'd fallen asleep, but happy to see his lover at peace. Host didn't often sleep, Robbie knew- he was always so intrigued in the story, so obsessed with his predictions and theories that he stayed awake constantly, just to see how the narrative would play out. Robbie had always admired his dedication to his role, but being here, calm and quiet... it was kind of nice.

Robbie smiled happily, playing idly with Host's fingers in his hand. He wasn't sure what they were- they never really discussed it, but they kissed and cuddled and fell asleep together, like most friends would never do. The zombie was confident that he loved Host, and he felt certain that the feeling was mutual. Though he couldn't see Host's eyes, the smile that spread across his lips when they spent time together was telling of it all.

But having no label meant that he wasn't entirely sure where the boundaries stood between them. He'd been only a little hesitant when they'd shared their first kiss two months ago, and Host turned out to enjoy it quite a bit- but that was only a simple touch. Like holding hands, or pressing their legs together on the couch, or holding each other in a hug. It was just body part to body part- but where did they have to draw the line separating the simpler things like kissing and reading together with the heavier, more sensual, more meaningful acts that real couples did?

Robbie wasn't sure if Host would be comfortable with an advance of this kind just yet- after all, since his appearance last August, it had taken them nearly a year to get to the point where they could share open mouthed kisses and hold hands in public. Was it too soon to be taking it to the next level? All Robbie really knew was that he didn't think he'd mind getting that little bit closer to the man he was all tied up with.

But he'd respect Host's decisions regardless. He should've known that at some point, they would have to set some rules. But for now, he was content to sit here and wonder. What would it be like? The Host's brothers had a well-known reputation among the rest of the egos, one that Robbie had picked up on a while ago when he'd listened in on some Septiceye gossip. Marvin, Schneep and Jameson all had partners that acted like they were tough and felt they were in charge, but in the bedroom it seemed a completely different story.

And Robbie was aware that Chase and Bing were now together, but he hadn't seen just how close they'd gotten- perhaps this elusive milestone hadn't even crossed their minds yet. But, he doubted that. Chase was rather well-known for his exploits, after all, and Jackie wasn't exactly breathing down the ego's neck about abstinence.

Jackie... Robbie could only sigh when he thought of his older brother's insistence on keeping him young and innocent forever. It was just so unrealistic- everyone grows up at some point, right? Though he was barely a year old, it's not like Marvin and Schneep waited this long before having a relationship. Heck, even JJ, who was two months younger than Robbie, had been with a man notorious for his sexual prowess for the past half a year. He was sure that if Clint and Tommy had any sort of desire to find a partner, nobody would stop them.

Why then was Jackie so dedicated to making sure that Robbie and Host never got too close?

And JJ... oh, when Robbie heard Host narrating what was happening in Dark's bedroom, he couldn't help but cry. He'd been worried about Jameson for a while- he and Host had spoken about how Wilford was being a bad influence, and an even worse lover, but Robbie had never expected it to get this out of control. He'd never expected to hear that Anti and Jameson were involved in such a way, one that should only have been reserved for couples who decide they're ready for it. Even Jameson's relationship with Wilford had fallen into that category, despite how horrible JJ had felt when Wilford grew intimate with others.

But Robbie shook the thought from his head when he noticed he was tearing up. He didn't want to get upset, not while he could be here enjoying this brief time without being watched by all of his older siblings.

He shifted, crawling into Host's lap and entwining their hands, pressing small kisses to his lover's neck. He loved the way that Host's heart would speed up when he did things like this- loved the way he could make Host turn red under all those bandages, even when he wasn't awake.

But his slumber only lasted a little while longer, and Robbie became aware that Host was  conscious when the older man gave a little grunt of acknowledgement, shifting to accommodate Robbie on the couch with him.

"The Host is pleasantly surprised to see that Robbie is awake," Host breathed, his head lolling back as Robbie nestled into the crook of his shoulder, hugging him warmly. Host let his fingers trail from Robbie's unresponsive hand to the younger ego's purple hair, brushing it softly as he mused to himself.

"The Host enjoys moments spent like this, with Robbie in his lap and his arms around the young ego. He enjoys the brief moments of relaxation that focusing on Robbie gives him. He is quite glad to take a break from narrating the events of Antithesis' troublesome present, and would much rather devote his time to making sure that Robbie is happy and satisfied,"

Robbie smiled, bringing his head up so that he could kiss Host on the lips, letting his hands slowly roam the man's shoulders and upper body. In return, he could feel Host's fingers dipping into the smooth skin of his side, trailing down just enough to hold the ego steady by the back of his thighs.

They'd grown just a little more adventurous with their touches recently- since their first kiss, Robbie was definitely aware that he wasn't holding back as much with his thoughts and movements. Lips smacked with lips, and tongues brushed together, and Robbie felt shivers running down his spine as he rocked slowly in Host's arms, keeping a slow pace but maintaining his motion, all the while just wondering what it would feel like for Host's hands to ride that little bit higher on his figure.

He felt uncomfortably needy like this and he let out a little whine, his grip on Host's shoulders tightening as he moved a little closer, legs planted either side of Host's lap, trying to abolish the incomplete feeling that was growing inside. It was like he needed something, but he didn't know what- like a craving, or a need to get up and move after a long day sitting down, but at the same time Robbie had never experienced this feeling before. He didn't know what was happening to his body, but Host was there, and even when they broke apart the man wasn't letting go of the younger ego.

Host looked troubled. He was mumbling to fulfill his narration curse, but his voice was barely a whisper, and Robbie looked desperately at him, just wanting to hear an explanation. They were close as they could be, and usually he'd be content with this, but he felt like he needed more.

His heart began to sink a little when he realised that what he was feeling- this welling up inside of him, this intense need to be relieved... did Host know he was feeling this way?

Was Host aware of the boundaries of their relationship? Had Robbie made things awkward, just by being present in this state of discomfort, which had prompted Host to determine what was wrong?

He buried his head in Host's neck, letting out a deep sigh. He didn't want to push this on Host- he was happy to sit here with him, really, and take it slow. Perhaps, Host would never be ready for this- perhaps, Robbie wasn't either.

But he finally heard Host speak again, and the words sent trembles across his skin.

"The Host... The Host understands what it is that Robbie desires, even if the zombie doesn't, but... The Host is concerned that it is too soon for this."

Robbie's heart hit the bottom of his chest unwittingly. Even though he'd told himself he'd be fine as they were- something wasn't settling right inside him. Something wanted more than he was getting, something that knew tonight might be his only chance to really get to know Host better without Jackie being concerned about it.

The Host stiffened a little, before holding Robbie tighter, speaking softly into his ear. "The Host does not say that because he isn't willing, he elaborates," Host breathed quickly. "The Host has nothing against the idea of being intimate with Robbie, but he fears that in light of the recent and hasteful wrongdoings of Robbie's two brothers it might be considered unwise to become involved in such a way,"

"But..." Robbie started, closing his eyes as Host's fingers trailed down his back. "They... aren't... together..."

Host pressed a kiss to Robbie's forehead, giving him a small smile as they came face to face again, letting Robbie crawl just a little bit closer, until they were inches apart once more. He cupped Robbie's cheek, being unable to see through his blindfold but being aware of Robbie's presence as indicated by his warm breaths.

"The Host agrees that the circumstances are quite different," Host breathed. "And while others may consider this relationship to be disarranged and unconventional, The Host loves being a part of it with Robbie,"

"...Really?" Robbie asked, unable to prevent himself from smiling at Host's kind words. Host smirked, kissing the tip of Robbie's nose and chuckling quietly when Robbie curled in on himself, being rather ticklish among his facial structures. The Host didn't need to see him to know that Robbie was smiling too.

"The Host promises it," Host whispered.

Robbie kissed him again, sending dizzying tingles through Host's veins as he leaned into the touch, threading that soft purple hair with one hand while the other was pressed into the small of Robbie's back, holding him in place.

Host was very aware of the thoughts careening through Robbie's mind, but he wasn't entirely sure how he should react to them. They weren't overtly sexual, of course- no, the man simply wanted another level of intimacy that Host would normally think nothing of providing, doing it in a heartbeat to please his lover. But Robbie was beloved by more people than just Host, and Host knew it. He knew that the man was babied excessively, just because he was slow, and Host was always very careful to reassure Robbie that he was just as mature and intelligent as the rest of his family.

Host also knew that Robbie's patience was wearing thin with his family members- they'd been interrupted several times these past two months by Jackieboy and Chase alike, both being upset at how affectionate Host and Robbie were getting in public. Host knew it was nothing personal- they'd be overprotective with Robbie no matter who he was with, but it still made his blood boil to know that his life, his story was being influenced by egos who had no idea what he was going through.

Host knew that Robbie felt the same. The two were similar, but very different at the same time- a perfect juxtaposition. Yes, Host rather liked that term in relation to his romance with Robbie. Out of all of the pairings that had come to life in this Void, Host felt that his relationship with the younger ego was the most unprecedented- the doctors were obviously made for each other (though Host had quite a few shenanigans with the man he'd come to regard as a brother back when he was The Author) and the day Marvin had been introduced, he'd paired off with Yandereplier leaving no time for speculation.

When it came to Dark and Anti, Host allowed himself creative license- after all, they'd existed long before he had, and their smitten behaviours could have taken a long time to develop, but by the time he existed he could tell that their romance was inevitable. And how Wilford had seduced Jameson- well, that also happened quite soon after Jameson's arrival, but given how similarly they dressed, all of the egos expected them to get together at some point.

But when Robbie arrived, there was speculation as to who would latch onto this one, as the previous Septiceyes had all paired off splendidly- save for Jackieboy. Though after a time, the speculation died out. Host wondered if it was because they believed nobody would love a zombie, but he closed that train of thought fairly quickly. Everyone loved Robbie, after all- though it was only Host that dared get this close.

And he loved every moment of it.

As he sat here, basking in Robbie's presence, he found himself pondering. His lips twisted and parted as the ramble of his mind was spoken aloud, breathing against the zombie's neck, visions and images swarming him as he was forced to recount them. Robbie's body tensed a little at some of the finer details, but he relaxed quickly, giving Host short, sweet kisses in between the run on lines.

One thing struck Host again and again, as he spilled the inner workings of his mind to his patient lover. Like a plot bunny that wouldn't leave- a paragraph just itching to be written, but in this case it was skin just itching to be touched. A man just itching to be loved.

And he was loved, he knew it. But this, he meant differently.

"The Host is frustrated," Host muttered, forming a definitive sentence for the first time in minutes. Robbie blinked up at him.

"...How?"

Host sighed, running his fingers through Robbie's hair yet again- it was one of the most calming, relaxing motions he could muster, but the bitterness and yearning still boiled away inside him. He wanted to speak to Robbie, of course he did- he wanted to tell the man everything, but he knew that even in his blind state, it would be impossible to say no to those pleading white eyes.

Host gritted his teeth. And just why couldn't he express his love for his significant other in this way? Because some overprotective jerk felt he had a say in what they did together? Because Robbie was somebody else's stand in for a child they lost?

Robbie was his lover. If anything, it was himself and Robbie that had a real say here. It wasn't as if Robbie was considered underage, otherwise Jameson would almost certainly be like an infant to them. It wasn't as if Host was a harmful creature, and it wasn't as if Robbie didn't know all this before they got together in the first place.

"The Host has decided that the opinions of others no longer matter to him," Host stated, smiling at the sensation of Robbie squirming slightly in excitement. He truly didn't need eyes to feel the love pouring out of the other ego as he gripped Robbie's arm, steadying him. He aligned his head so that he could be staring Robbie in the eyes, though they both knew that was a reality they could only wish to be a part of.

"The Host tells Robbie that if he wishes, they can take their relationship to the next level, whichever level it may be,"

Robbie hugged Host tightly around his middle, the smile never breaking from his lips as he mouthed repetitious 'thank you's into Host's shoulder. The way that the younger ego was so thrilled at the idea of something that should have been freely allowed brought a hint of sadness to Host's mind, but he pushed all that aside. He would make it up to Robbie when the time came, now that he was certain the time would come at all.

"...Tonight?" Robbie asked pleadingly.

Host smiled, only hesitating for a moment- after all, he hadn't expected Robbie to want this so soon, but then he nodded. He couldn't deny he was getting a little excited as well, though he didn't wear the emotion nearly as well as Robbie did.

"Tonight," Host agreed, kissing Robbie softly again. "The Host insists, however, that he and Robbie find their way to their room first,"

Host had never seen Robbie so agile as he stood from the couch, pulling Host to his feet and giving him a firm hug. This experience was certainly going to be new for both of them- though Host was by no means a virgin, it had definitely been a long time since he'd even thought of sharing this level of intimacy with someone. But seeing how excited and happy Robbie looked, Host let all of his worries melt away. He smiled.

Tonight would be one to remember, and not just for him.

Chapter Text

~Void~

Blinded from the dim light of the room, Robbie sighed contently as he lay sprawled on the cotton sheets, his insides fluttering with excitement. He was sure that if his heart still pumped blood around his body, it would be beating right out of his chest- his fingers and toes tingled in anticipation, his cold skin slowly warmed by the room's heated atmosphere as he waited for Host to return to their bed.

His senses were telling him that Host was already here, but that was only because of the bandages that were wrapped loosely around his head, the faintest trace of blood still clinging to them despite Host's best efforts to cleanse them. Robbie knew that Host didn't quite understand why he'd asked for his bandages- but he'd given them to the zombie without a second thought, his blood-covered sclera shining in the vague light, curiosity knitting his eyebrows together. It was adorable in Robbie's opinion, but he understood that Host was very self-conscious about letting others see his eyes, so he never pushed his lover to remove his bandages in public. He settled for letting his hands roam during their quiet nights, pressing softly into the dips either side of Host's nose, peeling back the soaked fabric to lay cool kisses on his glabella.

But Host had complied, and Robbie had fastened them tightly around his head, not trusting himself to keep his eyes closed in the following hours- it wasn't that he didn't want to see, but rather that he wanted to focus on how it would feel. It took a lot for Robbie to feel some things, after all, and he thought it would help this along if he wasn't distracted.

Host had made a small fuss about how tight the bandages were, growing closer to Robbie and reaching around to loosen the folds of the bandages-turned-blindfold, and Robbie's breath hitched at the touch. If something so simple could elicit such a response from him, he couldn't wait to feel what else Host had in store for him.

His mind wandered to Jackie and Chase momentarily, as he lay alone on the sheets- they wouldn't want him to do this. They both wanted Robbie to stay pure forever, but Robbie didn't think that tonight would really change him like they feared. Just because he was letting Host explore him, just because he was finally allowing his hands and fingers to roam places he'd never touched before... why did they think that would change how he felt around them?

Perhaps, Robbie pondered, they were simply jealous. Jealous that Robbie had something with Host that they couldn't get on their own. Jealous, because while even Chase had a partner, Jackie hadn't found love quite yet. Jealous because even though Chase did have a lover, they couldn't be together like the others could.

Robbie had pity for them. But he was tired of letting their inhibitions get in the way of his relationship. He wasn't a month old anymore, and he deserved love just like the rest of his brothers did- and tonight, while Jackie was away and Chase was busy with his own love life, Robbie was going to let himself enjoy being closer to Host than ever before.

He jolted a little as he became aware of a familiar presence- lips trailing across the side of his neck, catching slightly on the dry skin before sealing Robbie's lips with a tender kiss. He let his hands rise to greet his lover, the smooth bumps and crevices of Host's torso feeling like hills and valleys beneath Robbie's slim fingers. He felt the bed dip beneath him as Host climbed on- and the trench coat that he always wore was nowhere to be found, and Robbie hissed a little as he felt Host's brilliant warmth against his chilled skin. It was a good kind of surprise- rather like climbing into a pool on a hot day. No matter how much the initial change in temperature is dreaded, the sensation of being engulfed in the wash of cool was delightful, and Robbie wouldn't trade this close warmth for anything.

Robbie found himself leaning into the touch, trying to absorb the heat instinctively, before Host pushed him back down to the mattress softly, the thinnest string of saliva still connecting their lips.

"The Host does not want Robbie to hurt his back," Host mumbled, tenderly kneading Robbie's chilled thighs to give him a little extra warmth, though he'd already asked Anti to install a thermostat. The room was much warmer than usual, and although Host had started to sweat a little, he knew it would be worth it in the end. Robbie, after all, couldn't create heat on his own. He was an ectothermic little creature, like a moth, though Host would never say that aloud.

He couldn't see very well what was happening- contrary to popular belief, he still had eyes, but they were so constantly bleached red with blood that no light could really pass through them. His vision was blurry and dark, and he could barely see the outline of Robbie's body beneath him, even though he'd left all the lights on. He was conscious of the blood droplets leaking from his eyes, dripping onto Robbie's abdomen, but the zombie didn't seem to mind at all. Host took a deep breath, wondering if this really was too soon, but he digressed quickly. Robbie wanted him, and he wanted Robbie, and that was all that mattered.

The real question he figured he should be asking was how Robbie wanted him. How far did the zombie plan on this going? Was it going to be a night of simple, innocent enough touches shared on skin the sun never reached? Was it going to be a little more serious than that? Host had prepared himself to satisfy whatever Robbie wanted of him, and some of the things he'd found himself discussing with the likes of Schneeplestein and Kinkiplier were enough to make him flushed and uncomfortable, but when he thought of bringing Robbie happiness, he found he was willing to do almost anything for even a smile in return.

He shifted a little, wondering briefly if Robbie was disturbed by the fact that he was already a little worked up, flush against the zombie's pelvis while Robbie remained cold and flaccid. But it didn't seem to be the case, and Host figured there was no time like the present to lean in and kiss his lover, thinking to himself that they would take it from there.

He trailed his fingers from where they'd come to rest on Robbie's thighs, all the way up to his cheek, feeling his way around. He was well acquainted with Robbie's upper body, as he could often feel the curves of Robbie's ribs and spine through his thin striped shirt, tracing them now as he passed them. His fingertips brushed Robbie's nipples and the younger ego let out a breathy groan, but Host would wait just a little longer for consent's sake.

He finally found Robbie's jaw again, smiling as he leaned down and kissed him gently, the blindfold itching just a little against the bridge of his nose. Warm, wet crimson was dripping everywhere- Host could feel it sliding down his cheeks, beading up along his neck, dripping down to Robbie's pearly white chest. He reached blindly for a box of tissues he'd summoned earlier- though he'd thought they'd be used for a different kind of mess- accidentally knocking the box to the ground. Robbie must have noticed the way Host slumped a little in defeat, as the zombie reached out to grasp the writer's hand, rubbing at the nooks between his knuckles reassuringly.

"... Nervous?" Robbie asked him, and Host found his breath caught in his throat, having forgotten how much he'd missed that gentle rasp. He sighed, trying to relax himself for Robbie's sake, but it was far easier said than done.

"The Host is nervous, yes," Host muttered. "The Host... has not been with anyone for many years,"

Robbie smiled in understanding and sympathy, guiding Host's hand to his still, lifeless heart. He enjoyed the warmth more than anything, and though he couldn't see through the folds of his bandages, the thought of Host being all red and flushed brought him a fluttery, happy feeling that welled deep in his stomach.

Host licked his lips, savouring Robbie's taste before it faded, deciding to finally speak his mind.

"The Host asks Robbie... he asks what Robbie wants from him tonight. He tells Robbie that he is willing to go to all lengths to please him, and wishes for Robbie to indicate where his boundaries lie,"

Host knew the answer as soon as the question left his lips, but he paused and waited to hear those low tones emanating from Robbie's mouth. Even if he had all the answers to everything that was happening around him, nothing would stop him from enjoying Robbie's little mumbles and whispers.

Robbie cracked another little smile, letting Host relax a little as he stopped applying pressure to the writer's hand, shifting down on the bed so that they were chest to chest.

"I... want..." Robbie began, his bandages creasing slightly as their foreheads pressed together softly. "To... feel... you..."

Robbie trailed his hands down so that he was resting them against Host's thighs, well aware of the blood that was rushing to a nearby region, swelling by the second. He could feel Host straining against his skin, and they'd already come this far- he wanted to feel that warmth inside him. He wanted Host to make love to him.

And when Host kissed him again, Robbie found that he'd relaxed a little more, as if hearing the confirmation had soothed his busy mind.

"Then The Host will oblige," Host breathed, sitting up and gently prying Robbie's legs apart, setting them on either side of his shivering body. He really was nervous- the last time he'd done anything of this sort had been with Dr. Iplier in the year 2015, easily three years prior, and at the time the two had been partners for a small while. It had ended mutually, and the fact that the relationship occurred was hardly the problem- no, Host was mainly concerned because he'd been rather rough with Doc during their lonesome nights, and he had no idea of how Robbie would react to his strength. He didn't want to hurt the zombie, but at the same time he didn't want to leave him unsatisfied, and he didn't want to face that the only way they could reach common ground was to start this and go from there.

He fished some lubricant from within the sheets, having placed it there so that it would warm to room temperature, and as he fiddled with the cap he felt Robbie's figure quivering beneath him, practically begging for affection. Host felt a little guilty, but he knew that Robbie would appreciate it if he hurried himself to prepare the zombie instead of using these moments to shower him in kisses. As far as Robbie was concerned, they were being timed. Host knew that they could easily evade Jackieboy and Chase during regular hours, but Robbie just didn't seem comfortable knowing they could interrupt at any moment, no matter how Host would threaten them away.

Host decided it would be best to let this happen tonight, away from prying eyes. After all, Robbie was never so relaxed around his family members- and the fact that he was relaxed was helping wonderfully as Host smeared some gel-like fluid on his fingers, tracing the unfamiliar bumps and wrinkles of Robbie's lower body as he slowly pushed a finger inside.

Host shivered a little at the cold, feeling he should have expected Robbie's insides to be just as temperate as the rest of his pale figure, but he didn't remove his hand as Robbie let out a little sigh, hips moving reflexively, his still-unresponsive organ flopping helplessly to one side. Host found himself curious. Robbie didn't have blood- he was animated in a strange, otherworldly manner that allowed his muscles and joints to move, but it seemed that without the red fluid to help him out, he was unable to get a rise. Though just by observing the way Robbie was squirming with delight beneath him, it was clear that he was quite aroused.

Host didn't mind at all that Robbie couldn't get it up- and neither, it seemed, did the ego in question. Robbie subconsciously rolled his hips, pressing Host's fingers even further into his anus as he groaned out desperately, "...More,"

"The Host asks if Robbie is sure," Host uttered, licking his lips again to stop them from drying out. He could still taste Robbie on his tongue, the bliss of their small kisses coming to mind as the zombie nodded, humming affirmatively when he realised that Host was just as blind as he was. Host breathed out, his fingers twitching a little as he uncapped the lube again, knowing that he hadn't used nearly enough to accommodate three fingers yet.

With another shaky breath, Host pushed a third finger in, stretching out Robbie's walls and finding that they were already quite loose- much more relaxed than he'd ever found the doctor to be, anyway- but he didn't trust himself to stop now, pushing a little deeper until he was up to his knuckles, and then Robbie clenched around him.

Robbie's breaths were heavy and drawn out as he felt his muscles tighten at the stimulation, though it felt like barely enough as Host trailed his free hand up, resting it on Robbie's abdomen firmly. Robbie reached out to grasp it, bucking his hips again, still craving something more.

Host sighed softly, interlacing their fingers as the blood continued to stream from his eyes. "The Host understands, but Robbie needs to relax before they can continue. The Host does not want to hurt Robbie,"

Robbie let out an unwitting whine, frustrated at his body's refusal to calm down. It was tense and shaking, and Robbie tried to relax his muscles to no avail, eventually letting his arched back sink into the sheets, deciding to start back at square one. Host frowned, slowly removing his fingers and leaning over, dripping crimson into the bandages he'd let his lover keep.

"The Host asks Robbie if he is certain that they need to continue this," Host breathed, waiting for Robbie to respond as the zombie's breathing grew steadily heavier.

Robbie groaned, shifting to try and relieve some of his tension, not wanting to give up on Host and this night because of a simple problem like this. He let out a breath, before answering with a timidly drawn out, "Don't... use... fingers,"

Host's red eyes widened in mild disbelief. "Th-the Host asks again if Robbie is sure," he mumbled quickly, feeling Robbie squirming underneath him restlessly. He wanted to cut to the chase as much as his lover did, but he knew firsthand how much it could hurt to have sex without preparing for it first- he'd never knowingly subject Robbie to that kind of sensation, not after how Doc had reacted after their first time together.

"Please..." Robbie begged, squeezing Host's hand as if he understood what was going on in his mind. "Want... you..."

Host let out a shaking breath, uncapping the lube again with trembling hands. Robbie was far too tense for this- whether he wanted it or not, there were lines that Host didn't like to cross. Especially when he considered that Robbie was rather naive in the boudoir, not having experienced anything remotely sexual before. He used his lube-free hand to trace soothing lines across the ghost of Robbie's abs, occasionally venturing further down to tangle his fingers in the small patches of hair that the zombie possessed in his nether regions. He knew he couldn't keep stalling forever- Robbie would grow tired of the simple touches, and wasn't the point of this night to explore all the possibilities they'd never be able to think of in the long, arduous day?

"The Host warns that this will hurt if he doesn't prepare Robbie first," Host explained, rubbing his hands together with a reluctant sigh. "Is... Is Robbie really willing to take that risk?"

"Yes..." Robbie moaned aloud. "... Please..."

Perhaps he was just too eager. Perhaps, Host shouldn't have let his desires take control at that moment, but his mind was a haze of unwritten pleasure as his hands found their way to his sex, stroking softly to lather it with lube. He'd need a lot if he was really going to do this, no matter how naturally loose Robbie was, and he wouldn't dream of doing anything that could cause either of them any measure of pain.

He crept forward when he was satisfied, though he was still a little nervous as his hands reached to grasp Robbie's hips, holding him firmly in place. A deep breath in, and then out.

"The Host asks-"

"Yes..." Robbie groaned in frustration, seemingly growing tired of the reassurances. "H-Host... Please..."

Host took a final, shuddering breath. His fingers found the tip of his cock, guiding himself slowly so that he was pressed up against Robbie's cheeks, before swallowing his worry and carefully pushing himself inside.

He made it about an inch before Robbie began to shiver, and Host looked up instinctively, briefly forgetting that he could no longer see. But Robbie didn't seem to be in pain- no, if the zombie's long, blissful moan was anything to go by, Host would assume he rather liked this sensation. But the rest of the way was hardly going to be as easy as this, and Host let them sit there a little longer, getting Robbie adjusted to his size. It was taking all of his will not to thrust further, to satisfy his own desires and to ruin Robbie's composure- but Host found that with each moment he was still, fighting his instincts, he felt calmer. Robbie felt calmer.

"The Host asks if it's alright to keep going," Host grunted softly, not having realised just what an effect this proximity was having on his libido.

Robbie was too dazed to speak, but his intentions were clear in his body language as well as his thoughts, so Host moved further in, and then further still, until Robbie was taking three inches and panting heavily underneath him, skin a little clammy with cold sweat.

Robbie hadn't thought it would feel this good- he'd thought it would be great, yes, but he hadn't quite been able to imagine such an intense reaction coursing through his body. Host was warm- unbelievably warm as they collided softly, each movement drawing the writer closer into Robbie's chilling embrace. Why had they waited so long for this?

"More..." Robbie pleaded again, rocking back, trying to fill himself up completely with Host's heat, sending shivers down his spine as he realised just how cold the rest of his body was in comparison to his lower half.

"The Host reminds Robbie of patience," Host shuddered, pressing just a little deeper and feeling some resistance from Robbie's gluteal muscles, indicating that Robbie wasn't stretched enough to take any more. "The fear of hurting Robbie is invading his mind,"

"Won't... hurt..." Robbie insisted, though he knew that he was no expert in matters like these- it's not that he liked pain, because really, he was no masochist. He just wanted to feel this for what it was, and if pain came with it, that was fine by him. Because Robbie knew that it would be the best pain he'd ever experience, and he'd be experiencing it with a man he trusted with his entire afterlife.

"The Host does not think Robbie understands the danger," Host muttered worriedly, blood mixing with salty tears as it leaked in droplets from his eyes. He sighed. "The Host... The Host apologises for creating such a mess,"

"It's... fine..." Robbie mumbled, his fingers creeping softly along Host's arms as he wiped some stray, sticky fluid from his lover's eyes. "Don't... mind..."

"The Host knows," Host uttered in return, the sensation of Robbie's muscles clenching again around him sending ripples of pleasure through his veins. "The Host... feels that they should try something less intense,"

"No..." Robbie grunted, pulling Host closer to him. "Can... take... it..."

"Is-"

Robbie groaned, arching his back and forcefully grinding down on Host's crotch, pushing Host even further inside of him as pleasure coursed through his body in waves. He bit back the pain, focusing instead on the sizzling heat that was spreading from his pelvis to his bosom, instinctively moving his hips so that he could feel Host thrusting in and out of him, though the writer was currently too overwhelmed to even speak.

Host felt like he'd had all the air knocked out of him- woozy and dizzy in his head, his fists clenched on both the headboard and Robbie's waist as the zombie fucked himself on Host's cock. His mind was whirring foggily, his vision black, his hips reflexively bucking forward and burying himself further inside Robbie's soft, cool flesh. Robbie was taking all of it now- much more than the three inches he'd managed earlier, and Host wanted to tell him how proud he was, but found himself tongue tied by his curse.

"The Host was inundated with the sensation of Robbie's walls surrounding him as his hips drove his sex further inside, his skin starting to tingle and flush deeply as Robbie reached to tangle his fingers in The Host's hair," Host mumbled through his gasping and grunting, feeling Robbie draw himself closer into Host's body heat, wrapping his legs around the older ego's tentatively.

Robbie tugged at the strands of blonde and black hair that he'd grabbed in fistfuls, trying to bring Host closer to him, getting high on the heat Host provided for him as he finally felt his knees relax, the tension melting away. He felt Host's lips on his chin, exposing his neck as he felt the affectionate kisses start to trail down, losing his fingers in Host's tangled locks as the thrusts kept on coming.

Host was holding back. As much as Robbie loved this new sensation, he could feel it in the way Host's legs shuddered, his feet digging into the mattress to stop himself from going too fast- he may have finally relaxed himself, but his partner was still far too tense to be enjoying himself like this. 

Robbie gyrated harder, the knot in his lower abdomen feeling pressured as Host's lips found their way to his breast, nipping and sucking softly at little patches of skin before meeting the zombie's mouth again, getting lost in the passionate embrace. The thrusting slowed, until it was only a gentle push against Robbie's muscles, but the zombie wasn't ready for this to end yet.

He broke the kiss, panting heavily as his legs started to slide from their position on Host's lower back. He was pleased to find that Host was almost equally as breathless as he was- Robbie had been a little insecure knowing that Host had done this before, but he was pleasantly surprised to find that they seemed to be having a much similar experience here. Host's skin was warm and soft and slightly clammy as he leaned forward, slipping ever so slowly from Robbie's behind so that he could kiss the zombie's forehead. Blood dripped from his eyes to fall and soak into the bandages that were coming undone slowly but surely, though Robbie no longer cared if the rest of his experience was inundated with sights and smells.

He was sure that Host's scent was all over him at this point, anyway.

Host breathed heavily, his exhales heating Robbie's cheeks as the younger ego kissed him again, then again, eventually finding his way back down to the mattress. His skull hit the headboard softly, causing him to let out a little whimper he'd been holding in ever since Host pulled out, but the sharp gasp Host made sounded much more worried than it needed to be.

Host cupped Robbie's face, concerned. "The Host asks if that was too much for Robbie to handle at once,"

Robbie felt a little guilty, sensing that Host felt ashamed of how he'd reacted- but surely he understood that Robbie had wanted everything that had happened between them just now, from the kisses to the touches, to the collision of their bodies in time. He kissed Host briefly in reassurance, mumbling his words with a hint of exhaustion.

"Was... good..." Robbie uttered breathlessly. He felt Host smile against his lips.

"The Host is glad to hear it," Host sighed in relief, resting their heads together softly. It was almost as if he was out of stamina, but Robbie knew him better than that- he was only pretending so that Robbie would feel less troubled about feeling tired.

Robbie shivered at the gradual cold, craving Host's warmth inside him again. He bucked his hips feebly, but he knew that Host was taking this time to rest with him. As if in affirmation, Host chuckled softly, lacing his fingers with Robbie's and laying their hands to the side.

"The Host wants Robbie to know how proud he is of him," Host mumbled to him, pressing little kisses to Robbie's jaw. "Taking all that stimulation at once... The Host is astounded at how well he has managed himself,"

Robbie grinned in response, holding Host closer and letting the older man suckle softly on the skin of his neck. Even if he was holding out for more of what Host could do to him, he could never turn down the ticklish feathery feeling of Host's teasing lips on his sensitive areas.

Robbie groaned in a sudden burst of arousal, tensing as Host found one of his sweet spots, and shifted his hips again on instinct.

Host let his hands roam Robbie's pale figure, slowly sitting up again on the spot. His dick came to rest on Robbie's groin, but Host wasn't so sure of what to do next. Obviously, he wanted reprieve- but he didn't want to push his already tired partner for another bout of rough, missionary-style sex if the zombie wasn't ready.

But Robbie reached down, grabbing hold of the offending organ and observing how it felt in his palm- slick with lube and pulsing with heat, and Robbie couldn't help but glide his fingers along the shaft, not even noticing how it was affecting Host until he tried to guide the older ego's cock into his opening again.

Host sighed reluctantly, moving his hips back despite all of his instincts telling him to rut forward. He couldn't do this- not unless he was sure Robbie wanted it. He'd been straining so hard before to keep from hurting his lover, and he didn't know if he could handle it much longer. He was only a man, after all- an intelligent, intuitive man but a man nonetheless. 

"The Host questions if Robbie is really up for a second round," Host panted, not even having realised that he was getting so worked up again. "The Host does not want to push this too fast,"

"Want... more..." Robbie insisted, seemingly invigorated with new energy at the idea of this continuing. He stroked Host softly, the smooth hardness of his cock being like nothing Robbie had ever known. If Host had denied him further intercourse, he might have been content to sit here and admire it just a little longer.

But he couldn't wait for Host to be inside him again- it had felt so wonderfully hot and intimate, and the shivering sweats that were breaking out on his cool skin were only telling of the marvellous sensations sweeping through his bones.

Host gave Robbie another kiss, lips trembling with anticipation as the zombie felt pressure against his lower half, rocking slowly into the pink flesh that was teasing his hole.

Robbie's toes curled instinctively and his head fell limp against the headboard again as Host thrust in again, just a little rougher- and Robbie almost melted at the searing heat.

"More..." Robbie moaned, letting Host's movements shape the path of his rhythmic rocks and shuffles. He was almost in the man's lap at this point, with his back shoved gently against the headboard of the bed, holding Host's hair in fistfuls. He was overcome with an intense prickling sensation that spurred from his head to his toes as Host quickened his pace ever so slightly, the little grunts emanating from his lips falling softly onto Robbie's collar. He could feel their chests bumping each time Host thrusted, but Robbie needed more.

"Harder..." Robbie hissed, feeling his back hit the wall with more intensity, not sparing the energy to wonder if the others could hear what was happening. Host seemed to have finally gotten the message that Robbie knew what he wanted, and so the thrusts became deeper, stronger, the bandages that had held for so long finally unravelling and slipping just enough for Robbie to see the intense expression on his lover's face. Eyes closed and still leaking, his lids a deep purple as his teeth gritted together, eyebrows furrowed, flushed and warm and beautiful.

The Void seemed to stutter and give way around Robbie as he cried out, his body writhing and his hips bucking, falling apart in Host's arms. His mind was foggy, his eyes dazed, his body still jolting in time with Host's though he was hardly conscious- and Host kept going, hands keeping Robbie from falling, slamming them both into the wall with all he had.

Robbie loved it. This feeling, this fulfilled and happy sensation crawling through his bones... he was definitely tired out now. But he wouldn't dare think of sleeping while his body was spasming, limbs jolting, the rough sex giving him pleasure even after he'd burned himself out. His skin was on fire, his legs scalding, his lips tingling with the taste of salt and blood as Host grunted out a slew of incoherent sentences, not even caring who was listening.

"The Host... inundated with pleasure... slows his pace as he reaches... his breaking point... nggh... R... Robbie..."

An explosion of heat erupted inside Robbie and he let out a deep, shuddering moan as Host's thrusts became few and far between, riding out the last of his arousal while warmth spread all through Robbie's muscles and across his skin. This... Jackie and Chase be damned, Robbie was going to do this every night...

He felt himself dropping to the bed, colliding softly with Host's sweaty body as the last one still standing collapsed at the knees. The mattress shuddered under their weight and bounced in little waves for a few moments, jostling the two lovers together as they panted out their stimulation, resting after what Robbie would consider the best ride of his life.

Literally?

"The Host... forgot to ask," Host breathed shakily, caressing Robbie's cheek as he removed the blindfold that was now hanging limply from one ear. "If... Robbie was okay with... that..."

"Of... course..." Robbie replied, smiling through his dizzy haze. "Was... amazing..."

"Even... the rough parts, Host questions," Host muttered, looking a bit guilty.

Robbie rolled his eyes softly, leaning in and kissing Host sweetly on his spent lips. "Like... it... rough..."

Host chuckled tiredly, feeling around briefly for the sheet's end before tucking it over them, holding Robbie close to his heart.

"The Host should be more surprised," Host smiled, nuzzling just that little bit closer. "But anyone that witnessed what just occurred would see it,"

Robbie smiled again, eyelids fluttering closed. Before he fell asleep, Host nudged him gently on the shoulder, wondering how it had come to be that they were so rough in bed, but so soft in all their other embraces... No matter. Host wouldn't trade what he had with Robbie for the world, and there was no point in questioning it.

"The Host loves Robbie very much," Host reminded, pressing a gentle kiss to Robbie's shoulder when the zombie hummed in agreement.

"Love... you... too..."

Chapter Text

~Void~

"W-with me?" Bim squeaked, looking frantically at the others before clearing his throat. "I- I mean, aren't you meant to do this to p-people who aren't together?"

Smooth, Trimmer. Smooth.

King's posture seemed to echo his thoughts perfectly as he stood, dragging the younger ego up with him as they were linked by the hand. King wore a mask of indifference, but Bim could tell that as soon as they got to the damn wardrobe, he'd be in for a bout of teasing.

Halter laughed at the pair, probably thinking that Bim was just joking around when he'd acted so surprised, but next to him, Yan was catching on. Bim's brother sent him a sly wink as he retreated, and he wasn't entirely sure if Yan meant it like "I know what's up" or "yes, get some"- he decided neither were really good options.

He shuddered as he made his way into the wardrobe, King following him and closing the doors behind him. This structure must have been summoned by Halter- Septiplier didn't summon things, and the others had already had a few drinks. Well, except for Yan, Bim supposed- but Yan wouldn't make the inside of this thing have faded lemon colouring on the back of the mirrors- Was that a British thing?

Regardless, another dead giveaway was that the wardrobe was about three feet taller than Bim was.

"Smooth," King whispered with a smirk, folding his arms despite the small enclosed space. "Real smooth,"

"Well how was I supposed to react? I'm not an actor!" Bim hissed under his breath, knowing that everyone in the room was probably listening in on the conversation.

"You could've at least pretended you want to be in here," King stated sarcastically. "Now- ah, Molly!"

Before Bim could question what was happening, he became aware of little rodent feet scampering up his leg. His eyes widened, reaching down to brush the squirrel away- where did it come from?!- when King stopped him.

"Shh, Molly, it's okay," King cooed softly, picking up the terrified-looking squirrel and holding her close to him like it was his child.

Bim looked between them, confused and horrified. "How... but... huh?"

"Well I couldn't let them be crushed in the manor," King said as if it were obvious, holding out an arm. To Bim's surprise (and mild terror), he was greeted with around eight pairs of glimmering eyes, staring back at him from within the folds of the sleeve.

"But... in your robe?"

"It's like a clown car," King advised, letting Molly scamper up his sleeve to join the others. "Don't question it- now before Molly interrupted us, I was going to say-"

"Oh, hell no," Bim interceded, crossing his arms as well and hitting an elbow on the side of the wardrobe- ouch. "You're not gonna do this with squirrels in your damn robe, are you?"

"Look, Bim, we don't have to do anything," King whispered pointedly, before raising his voice. "I mean, you know my branding,"

Bim was puzzled for a moment before he realised that King was playing it up for the listeners outside. His shoulders slumped in defeat.

"Fine..." he sighed, half acting and half serious. The antics of this one... sometimes, he wondered why they were even friends in the first place.

King smiled. "Good. Now..."

Bim tensed as he noticed King approaching him, their limbs already squashed in this damn wardrobe without the added pressure of moving forward. King's hand trailed across Bim's cheek, causing the show host's breath to catch in his throat- but not because he liked it or anything. That was absurd. He didn't like the way King smirked as he teased him tauntingly, or how his thigh had accidentally brushed Bim's leg, or how his skin shivered and tingled in anticipation...

He was bright red by the time King stopped the touches, and he wanted nothing more than to hide in this wardrobe until everyone else fell asleep- but King was prodding him gently in the shoulder, trying to get a rise out of him, and Bim was worried there'd be a different kind of rise happening if he didn't lay off.

This was normal... right? Wilford had always turned him on, and King looked just like him- save for the fact that King had no facial hair and was covered in peanut butter, that is. For some reason, the image of a naked, sweaty King was invading his mind, cleanly shaven and glistening with sweat... but he shook it away furiously. No. Not today.

"You really need to get laid," King snorted under his breath, apparently having noticed just how his touch was driving Bim wild. "But I guess that works in our favour- did you even notice how worked up you were just getting?"

Bim flushed brighter, feeling the heat radiating from his cheeks as his fears were realised- King knew he was secretly enjoying this attention, no matter how the idea should have put him off. "N-no..." he stuttered out, feeling like that was the safest answer, though he definitely knew this proximity was making him unnecessarily aroused.

King glanced at the door, curious, before turning back to face Bim, a telling glint in his eye. Bim swallowed nervously.

"Don't hate me for this," King sighed, and Bim had but a moment to look surprised before his lips parted in an audible sigh, shivering with pent up tension as King's hand trailed across the raised tent in his trousers.

"K-King..." Bim uttered, feeling a little embarrassed at how needy he sounded. "What are you doing?"

"Giving them a show," King replied, giving Bim a little squeeze. "You're... okay with this, right? I mean, I'm not gonna take it any further, you're just a really shitty actor and I needed this to sound genuine,"

Bim laughed ironically under his breath, still half scared that the others would hear him. "Y-yeah, it's genuine alright... Jesus, King..."

Why wasn't he pushing him away? This wasn't something friends did together- but then why did it feel so good?

Because it's a hand on your dick, Bim, of course it's going to feel good. It doesn't matter whose hand it is.

That's what he told himself, anyway, when King leaned in and smeared some peanut butter along his neck. "Just... hold on a sec,"

Bim didn't know why he closed his eyes, but the lips that found their way to his neck were soft and sticky and fuck, how far was King willing to go to make this believable?

Before it got too serious, there was a knock on the closet door. Thankfully, they were still fully clothed, as the one who had interrupted them flung the doors open wide.

It was Yan, and the smug smirk he wore quickly fell to a surprised frown.

"... Huh," Yan said simply, blinking at the pair curiously.

King raised an eyebrow, pulling away from Bim's neck, where a decent few developing hickeys were visible. "What?"

"Oh, nothing..." Yan smirked again, turning and walking back to sit with his boyfriend once more. Even Marvin looked a little surprised that they'd appeared in this state- wasn't this what they'd expected when seven minutes in heaven was suggested? 

"It's just... nobody's seen you two actually kiss before, we were all wondering if it was just a joke, but... wow, those are really something," Yan whistled, shooting both his brothers a thumbs up. Bim, if possible, reddened even further.

Bim didn't want to be here right now. Not with his hand clasped in King's, his shirt unbuttoned to his chest, his hair falling into his face- especially not with hickeys and peanut butter covering his skin, and definitely not while he was aroused.

He shot King a meaningful look. "I... I've got to go to the bathroom,"

"Wait for me," King replied with a cheeky grin, winking at the others suggestively as Bim vacated the room with lightning speed.

Why was he doing this? Why was he running from them, when they wouldn't have thought twice about a couple coming out of that wardrobe with a few hickeys? He knew he was only making it worse for himself, but damned if he cared as he slammed the door behind him, breathing heavily.

"Bim?"

"I'm busy," Bim grunted through his teeth, trying to ignore how the seam of his trousers was digging further into his skin. 

"Look, just let me in-"

"No," Bim replied, gulping down the thought that had sprung to mind. No, no- they weren't actually together, they shouldn't be doing this, he shouldn't even be contemplating it...

"I can help-" King argued quietly, not wanting anyone to hear their disagreement. "Look, I'm sorry- that was uncalled for,"

"You think?" Bim hissed, knowing that this conversation was going to have to end soon. There was no way his dick was going to go back to sleep after what had just happened, and he'd rather get this over with before it got too out of hand.

Pun slightly intended.

"But, look- we're friends, right? We trust each other, and I can help you out, just-"

Bim shouldn't have opened the door. He should've said no- he should've just ignored King, because now he was standing in the doorway looking like a damn lost puppy, and how could Bim say no to those eyes?

King was there, meeting his eyes worriedly and then he was looking down, and oh, fuck, Bim had never let anyone but Wilford see him like this, and he didn't know how King was going to react.

Like he can really judge you though, he's the one that started it.

Bim swallowed nervously, fingers twitching a little as the arousal buried in his gut started to flare. "Just... just get in here so I can close the door,"

King hurriedly rushed inside, letting the door close softly behind them, looking at Bim with a curious expression. 

"Do you want my help or not?"

"W-what do you mean?" Bim stuttered out, knowing exactly what King was suggesting, but not wanting to believe it. When they'd started fake dating, Bim had never thought they'd have to do much more than hold hands for a while- but this? This felt wrong, and perverted, and... not right.

"You know," King sighed, nodding his head downwards. "I mean, I started it- the least I can do is finish it,"

"You want to get me off?" Bim groaned, hands in his hair. "That's... that's weird, King,"

King raised an eyebrow. "You get off with Wilford all the time, why am I any different?"

Bim flushed deeply. "I don't- no, it's- but you- ugh, it's just... not the same, King,"

"Is it because of your feelings for him?" King pressed, and Bim knew he wasn't really offended, but he felt he needed to clarify yet again that he and Wilford had nothing more than a sexual relationship. It didn't matter that he still thought of Wilford whenever his mind jumped to romance, or that he imagined the man visiting him in his less-PG dreams, or that each and every time he was faced with Wilford's mention he'd blush and change the topic.

"I don't-" Bim started, but King interrupted him with a steely glare.

"If you don't have feelings for him, you shouldn't be reacting this way. If it's just friends helping out friends, me doing this would be fine- but you don't want that. Why?"

Bim tugged at his hair again in frustration. "It's not... It's not that I have feelings for him, King, but... I don't know. I guess it's because I... you're my friend, King, I don't want to wreck what we've already-"

King, much to Bim's surprise, chuckled aloud. "Oh, that's not it. I know it," King challenged. "Why don't you want to be intimate with me, Bim? There's something here you're not telling me and if you really don't have feelings for Wilford, then you'll let me know what's bothering you,"

"Right now what's bothering me is the fact that I got hard for my best friend," Bim muttered aloud. "It isn't a good feeling, you know?"

"And?" King replied, rolling his eyes. "Look, we all get hard for dumb reasons sometimes, Bim, I'm not judging you. I literally tried to get you to make suggestive noises- it's my fault."

Bim sighed. "I know it's your fault, that isn't the problem, Squirrels. The problem is that I have to deal with it and now you're here, and we can't... we just can't, okay?"

"If you really don't want to, we don't have to," King started. "But I'm just saying- we've got the same physiology, and if I had a chub like that, I'd take all the help I could get,"

Bim flushed even deeper, resting his head in his hands. He hated that they were essentially the same person- that King knew all of his little quirks and habits because they were shared between them, and that King knew way more about his body than he might have liked, but there was nothing he could do about it now. His mind was split on this matter- on one hand, this was Squirrels. Bim's trusted and close friend, possibly his closest in this manor- he couldn't take advantage of that.

But on the other, King had been asking for it the second he'd deliberately attempted to turn Bim on.

Bim sighed in frustration, not meeting King's eyes. "You... you're sure it's not going to be weird?"

"If you managed to fuck Wilford for this many years without it being weird, I'm sure you'll be fine," King snorted. How was he being so flippant about this? "That reminds me- you're clean, right?"

"I don't... I can't get diseases, King, I'm an ego," Bim grimaced. "Just... just hurry up if you're doing this, okay?"

"Okay," King agreed, fingertips trailing down Bim's messy shirt. "I just had to make sure- I mean, Dark's managed to get pregnant, so maybe we're in more danger of diseases than we'd thought,"

Bim shuddered, and he tried to tell himself it was because of the thought of carrying an STI, and definitely not because King was hitching up his shirt, his slightly sticky fingers catching on Bim's stomach.

An unzipping sound filled the air, and not another word was spoken.

0o0o0o0o0o0

Anti stared down at the Scrabble board with a mixture of contempt and longing in his heart. He'd played this game a lot when he was younger- with Dark and Wilford, of course. He'd even played a number of games with the other egos, before he'd moved away and out of their lives. His memories were half sweet and half sour, and he looked at the arrangement of letters in his bar with mild distaste.

He was no expert, but even he could tell that this many 'E's was excessive.

He looked up to see his fellow egos, all sitting around and just... relaxing. Anti had never seen them so quiet- well, it may have had everything to do with the fact that King, Bim, Jackie, Marvin, Yan, Clint, Tommy, Silver, Ed and the fusions were away. Anti had found that those were the ones that made the most noise and uproar, anyhow.

But here he had the ones he was most comfortable with- his friends. Schneep was here, playing Scrabble with him- but he was in a team with his husband-to-be, Dr. Iplier. They were, in short, whooping his ass- but Anti knew better than to let himself be upset over such a small thing now. In the past, he may have had a fit because of the blatant cheating.

But now? Why would he give himself more to worry about, when he was already having a breakdown? When Dark was dying, and his baby was in another plane of existence, and he had a puddle of guilt hardening in his gut that he couldn't seem to shake... yes, he definitely had bigger fish to fry. It wasn't like he could have beaten either of them if they weren't paired up, anyway- they were much smarter than he was, in his opinion.

Next to the engaged couple were Bing and Chase- and Google was here too, and he was the one actually engaging with the Scrabble board, but Anti had known Google for ages. He hadn't really changed since they'd been introduced- still as stoic and unmoving as ever. Bing and Chase, however, were new to him- though he'd heard of Bing in the fights he'd had with Dark in the past, he'd never actually seen the ego until that day on the battlefield.

Bing and Chase weren't much for Scrabble, apparently- Anti had offered, but they seemed content to sit down and talk, which... Anti could appreciate. It was one of the things that some part of him wished he could be doing right now with his lover, but thinking about Dark brought him a measure of pain when he realised that they still hadn't discussed what had happened with Jameson. When he realised that Dark had admitted to sleeping with Wilford all those years ago. When he thought of his daughter, growing up without him in the Groundlands, with his traitorous original...

Anti felt his eyes prickling, but he was determined not to cry as he rearranged his letters, trying to come up with a decent word to play. The effort on both fronts was futile- he had a slew of one-point letters and most of the board was taken up at this point, and the tears slowly began to fall despite himself.

But nobody said anything about it, and Anti felt... validated, somehow. Like it was normal for him to cry. Like sadness and anger and fear were completely acceptable emotions for him to be feeling right now...

Jameson was here too- snoozing on the loveseat Anti had summoned when he realised that his one sofa wasn't going to be enough to seat everyone. Though he'd quickly realised that everyone was either some kind of enemy to him or they loved to sit on the ground, so it hadn't had much of a use until Jameson had grown tired of their conversation, curling up under a blanket that Schneep had summoned.

Either way, he was here, and he was at peace. Anti only wished he could make peace with himself that easily- he knew Jameson had forgiven him for participating in their act of indecency- hell, even Dark had forgiven him, though he wasn't in much of a state to think straight at the time. But how could Anti forgive himself for this? He was the one that had torn this relationship apart, not Dark...

Anti sighed, clearing his mind as he added the word 'EERIE' to the board. Longing to change the past wasn't very productive, even he knew that.

"Nice vone," Schneep commented. "Ah- have ze Jims returned yet?"

"No, I've got no idea where they've gone," Dr. Iplier sighed. "Probably off to visit the others. What about Host and Robbie- are they still upstairs?"

"Yeah," Anti replied, glancing at the ceiling. He knew all too well what kind of 'privacy' Host had wanted when he'd asked Anti to install the thermostat earlier- and Anti hadn't really felt good about keeping their secret until he realised that pretty much everyone but Chase and Bing were already in the know. It wasn't that he had anything against them or their being together, he just didn't feel the need to be held accountable for anything else right now.

Anti snorted as he counted up his total. "Nice one? I got seven points from that shit, you guys got sixty-eight from 'QUESTION',"

"Vell, ve are intellectuals," Schneep smirked, nudging his partner in the side.

Anti rolled his eyes, a rare smile gracing his features. "Yeah, that or you guys got all the high-scoring letters..."

Dr. Iplier chuckled under his breath as he gestured at the tiles he shared with his fiance. "I do believe you're rather salty today, Anti,"

"Always," Anti smirked. It was kind of nice to be here with everyone, not worrying about Dark or their relationship- not worrying about offending his older brothers, or the less-forgiving Ipliers. To just have some time to himself, where he wasn't obligated to start conversation or to stay out of the way. Where his interactions were really... him.

He'd missed this.

"I hate to admit that you're kicking my ass right now," Anti sighed, checking the score sheet over. "Google's 112 points ahead of me and you're 23 points ahead of him... And all I have is an 'R',"

Google looked at the gathering of egos with expressionless, bored eyes. Something seemed to be jarring him, but Anti couldn't determine what. He wondered briefly if it was due to the fact that Xyler had left without him- he seemed to recall that Google was on his way out when the manor had collapsed. Perhaps they'd been planning something together, though Anti certainly had enough to worry about without wondering what it was. 

"I grow tired of this unstimulating game..."

"Zat is because you are using ze internet, Google," Schneep pointed out. "Your turns are over vithin seconds,"

Google glared at the doctor like his robotic mother had just been insulted. He looked weary and frustrated, his eyelids twitching as his gaze burned into Anti's brother. "Well I can't just disconnect from the internet, now can I?"

Dr. Iplier rolled his eyes, not the least bit concerned about his android brother's attitude. "Wow, what crawled inside you and died?"

"My will to live," Google sneered. "You all expect me to be a model human- but I'm a machine, and that fact hasn't changed."

Bing placed a reassuring hand on the android's shoulder, his eyes flashing in sympathy.

"Google's having a hard time transitioning," Bing supplied to the rest of the egos. "Dude- calm down, I'm not judging you. I think... I think it's really brave of you to try deviating like this,"

Google buried his head in his hands, drawing his knees close to his chest. "This isn't bravery. This is idiocy. This is choosing weakness and futility over power and prosperity. This is... the opposite of human nature."

"Weakness is normal," Chase scoffed, rolling his eyes as he clapped Google on the back. "Come on Googs, live a little. What game do you want to play?"

"I do not want to play anything," Google huffed. "I am only here because Anti requested it of me,"

Anti had been silent for the duration of this conversation, firmly believing it wasn't his place to tell Google what he could and couldn't be- but at the mention of his name, he decided he may as well embrace the chance to speak his mind.

"Yeah, I invited you because we used to play together," Anti explained. "I don't... I don't think you should push yourself, Google. I mean, I didn't even know you could even get stressed but here we are,"

Google eyed the glitch warily, as if he didn't quite trust him. "You knew I was more likely to beat you... but you invited me anyway?"

"Yeah, it's not about winning," Anti shrugged. "It's about the experience. Have you seen the company we used to keep playing these games? You had internet access, Host commentated the entire game, and Dark can read minds, Google- I don't care that you cheat with the internet. I care that you're still here after what happened in May. All of my friends may be cheaters but at least they're my friends..."

Schneep chuckled softly. "Zat sounds like something zat Dark vould say- always living in ze moment, zat vone,"

Anti couldn't help the slump of his shoulders as Dark was brought back into his mind again. "Yeah... sounds about right,"

"Was ist los?" Schneep questioned, reaching out to touch Anti's shoulder. "Vhat is ze matter?"

"It's just..." Anti sighed, fiddling with his one remaining letter somewhat guiltily. "We haven't... we haven't talked about what happened. I get that he's forgiven me- but that's... that's not the point. I need to talk to him. I need... I need to spend some damn time with him that's not taken up by shouting or fucking, you know?"

The doctor nodded in agreement. "Ja, communication ist very healthy. Have you tried contacting ihn since?"

"I... I don't know how to possess Jack without... without hurting myself," Anti muttered, glancing around nervously. The others hadn't really known about his self-harming habits, even when they were fighting all those weeks ago- but it didn't seem that they were going to judge him for it. Considering it was Chase, two robots, a sleeping mute and a pair of very understanding medical professionals... well, Anti felt they didn't have much desire to judge anyway. "I mean- yeah, I did it yesterday, but... but you guided me, and..."

Schneep patted him softly again. "Zere zere- perhaps in ze Morgen ve vill try it again- Ich bin sure zat er ist also vorried about ze both of you..."

Anti bit his lip as he nodded, letting the scrabble board vanish as they had finally finished with it. "Now what else do you guys want to do?"

"Well, it's getting to be quite late, but egos don't necessarily need sleep," Dr. Iplier yawned. "I wonder what they're up to in Halter's place..."

"Probably sucking each other's dicks," Anti muttered, rolling his eyes in distaste. "I think I caught something about truth or dare when I brought Septiplier over- but I've never played it before,"

"Truth or dare sounds lit," Chase piped up, causing everyone in the room to send him a mild glance of disapproval.

"Dank truths," Bing chuckled, trying to lessen the shame that was being cast on his lover. "I'm up for a game if you want,"

"No, that would be copying," Anti interjected. "Besides- we're not as giggly and young as they are. We've all seen some shit. Except maybe you," Anti added as an afterthought, looking at Bing.

The android in question shrugged. "I'm cool with whatever, man,"

"Well, how about Monopo-"

"No," Anti and Chase spoke in unison, cutting Dr. Iplier off. Anti had once made the mistake of letting Wilford drag him into a heated game of Monopoly, in which Anti witnessed probably his biggest near-death experience. Yan had been there, threatening Wilford with a knife, and Wilford had his gun out (but when didn't he, really?). Even Dark seemed more frustrated and dangerous in that setting- and Anti didn't feel like receiving medical death threats tonight.

"You two just got engaged, you don't want to ruin your relationship before it begins," Chase shuddered. Anti supposed that he must have had some bad memories with the game as well.

"Screw the board games," Anti yawned, just wanting to be able to go to sleep. He was growing tired of all of these distractions, anyhow- if he wasn't worried about his house collapsing, he'd have gone to bed long ago.

"What about-"

There was a thumping noise, and everyone turned their heads to see Host stumbling blindly down the stairs, having hit a wall in effort to catch himself. Anti could see he wasn't wearing a blindfold- he'd never actually seen Host's eyes before, but the image was hardly pretty. He looked rather messy, less composed than usual, with his trench coat draped over him and buttoned over his chest- not even wearing any shoes.

Anti smirked a little as Dr. Iplier stood to help him. His 'private time' with Robbie must have finally come to a close.

"Host- stop, you'll hurt yourself," Dr. Iplier sighed aloud, grabbing Host by the arm and steadying him. Host looked a little out of sorts, blinking, blood running from his eyes to his chin. Come to think of it, he looked like he had blood smears all over the place... just how kinky had that situation managed to get?

"The Host is guided by Dr. Iplier to the kitchen sink, where he allows the doctor to wash his skin free of blood," Host muttered as he was led to Anti's kitchenette, leaning against a counter as Dr. Iplier summoned a wet rag.

Dr. Iplier tsked at him, looking him up and down disapprovingly. "You didn't get it all over him, did you? Where is he, anyway?"

Host smiled briefly, though Anti could say for certain that it was much less unnerving with the blindfold. "The Host tells Dr. Iplier that Robbie is asleep upstairs- The Host would have cleaned him, but in his current state The Host was... not efficient,"

"Yeah, I see why," Dr. Iplier snorted under his breath. "Did you two use a water based-"

"Ja," Schneep interceded, calling out from his place in the living area. "I supplied zhem vith some,"

Anti didn't know how Schneep managed to look so calm- especially considering that Dr. Iplier and Host- or, Author as he was called then- were in a long-lasting committed relationship that only ended a few months prior to Schneep's arrival in the Void. He didn't doubt that Dr. Iplier was faithful, but Schneep didn't seem bothered at all by the fact that they were still so close.

Why couldn't Anti act the same around Wilford?

Ever since he'd learned that Dark and Wilford had been involved, he'd been reading much too far into the interactions of his past. Putting pieces together, rethinking the flirtatious jokes and advances, realising that Wilford had been entirely serious that night when he offered to suck Dark off after having a few drinks. How many times had Dark and Wilford hooked up behind Anti's back?

Dr. Iplier nodded. "Good- I swear, if only we had Henrik when we were younger, huh? We could've avoided so many problems..."

Host smiled a little as if he was reminiscing. "The Host agrees- though The Host knows that if Dr. Schneeplestein had been around at the time, Dr. Iplier wouldn't have bothered with The Host at all,"

"Hey," Dr. Iplier returned playfully. "I wouldn't have dumped you just because some other doctor walked in,"

"The Host is glad, however, that the eventual split was mutual," Host mused, smiling as fresh bandages were wrapped gently around his eyes. His movements relaxed a little, but he was still absolutely covered in blood, and Anti had a feeling there was much more hidden under his coat.

Bing sputtered and choked on the thin air- he'd been so quiet that Anti had almost forgotten he was there. "Wait, what?! I didn't know you two were together!"

"It was a long time ago," Anti explained, jumping in before the doctor could. "Long before you were born, anyhow. They split up sometime after Google arrived- I'd already moved out, but it was before... before Jackie arrived. Sometime around there. But yeah, they dated for about a year,"

"Well, we really had no way of telling the time," Dr. Iplier shrugged. "Could've been longer. But it doesn't matter now- we're both taken men, and we both have amazing, lovely partners we'd die for in a heartbeat,"

Schneep smiled from his place on the ground, a faint blush tinging his cheeks as he met Anti's knowing gaze. The glitch smirked.

"You've got it bad," Anti teased.

Schneep laughed. "Zat, I cannot deny. Vhat can I say? Er ist mein Vertlober, after all. I vouldn't marry him if he did not drive me vild,"

"You two just seem so..." Anti started, sighing as he tried to think of the right word. "Put... together? Complete? You know what I mean- you trust each other completely, and you aren't bothered by spending time apart, and when you guys are together it doesn't need to be... a big thing, I guess."

Schneep smiled in return. "Ve have gone through exactly vhat you und Dark are going through, mein Bruder- ve vere not always perfect. Ve have had our fights, und our disagreements. Sometimes, ve have even called it off completely. But fighting... vhile es ist hardly enjoyable, is sometimes necessary to understand vhat ze other is going through. Do not be afraid of ze conflict, Anti- after all, conflicts are made to be resolved,"

"The Host agrees with the doctor, and tells Antithesis that every good literary plot has a conflict,"

"Yeah, if you don't let him know what's bothering you, he'll keep doing it," Chase advised. "Neither of you want that to happen,"

"The general consensus on the top web articles is that arguments are an inevitable part of a new relationship," Google added, trying his best to be reassuring. Anti gave him a warm smile in return. Google was a nice guy- he just didn't know how to convey his thoughts without sounding like a dick. Anti, at least, felt he could sometimes relate.

"Thanks, Google," Anti smiled, feeling a little tingly inside as the others' reassurances and hope rushed through him. "And thank you all, I'm just... a little worried about how this is going to end,"

"Having a kid is never easy," Chase smiled, reaching out to put his hand on Anti's arm. "But damned if it's not worth it. I remember feeling so panicked and anxious the day Stacy went into labor, but... man, seeing Emma's little body and her tiny hands curling around my fingers, her wide eyes... that moment, when you realise it's all happening. It's amazing,"

Anti felt tears prickling at the sides of his eyes, but he didn't bother to wipe them as he looked around, feeling almost suffocated by everyone's love and support. He'd... he'd never felt anything like this before.

"Oh, komm hier," Schneep chuckled, pulling Anti in for a warm hug, wiping away his tears. "You are nervous, Ich weiß es, but it vill all vork out in ze end, Anti. I am sure of it. Vhatever... vhatever may happen to Dark, or to ze child, Ich bin sure zat ve are catastrophising,"

"B-but the cancer," Anti sniffed, burying his head in his brother's coat.

"Er hast had cancer for many jahr, Anti," Schneep confided. "Und er hast lived for zis long already... Es ist right to be cautious, but zis is Dark. I believe zat he vill work through zis, as he has always done."

"Though The Host cannot confirm that Dark is going to remain well, he also wishes to give his best wishes to Antithesis. The Host knows that Dark has survived much worse afflictions than this."

"He's stronger than we doctors give him credit for," Dr. Iplier mused, sending Schneep a meaningful look as he unbuttoned the front of Host's trench coat, wiping some blood from his ex's torso. Schneep didn't even seem bothered by it- but Anti supposed that getting mad about something like that would be kind of petty, and the doctors were anything but.

"Yeah," Anti breathed, his heart surging a little inside. "Yeah, he's... he's a tough son of a bitch,"

"I'll say," Bing agreed. "That reminds me- have you thought of a name yet? Is is a boy or a girl?"

"Whoa," Anti chuckled. "Someone's got baby fever,"

Bing reddened slightly. "Dude, it's not my fault all Chase does is talk about his kids- I've never actually seen one in real life before, I'm excited!"

Anti snorted. Really, Bing was alright- if a little too excitable. "Well, I'm pretty lousy at names, but he's thought of calling her Desiree, after his mother... I didn't even know demons had parents,"

"Dark ist no ordinary demon, mein Bruder," Schneep shrugged. "Zere is a lot zat ve do not know about ihn. If zat Daniel character vas around, perhaps he could shed light on ze subject- but er ist dangerous now,"

Anti shuddered as he remembered what had unfolded between he and Blaze's partner, Daniel. He'd never really liked that demon- Dark had consorted with him for a few matters in the past, but Anti had never come along for the ride. When Blaze had appeared and they'd been friends, Anti had run into him a few times, but he had the feeling Daniel didn't quite trust him with that fire ego.

Well, considering Anti had stabbed that fire ego back in May, he supposed Daniel probably had good reason. But if Anti was honest, he regretted killing Blaze in that moment. He may have set out to bring the man down all those weeks ago, but that was a heat-of-the-moment thing. Before he had Dark. Before he had friends.

Before he had Halter, and Schneep, and all of his family back.

Now, it all seemed so petty and childish. Such a stupid thing to want revenge over. If Anti could go back and rethink his decision to engage in a fight with that fusion, he'd do it in a heartbeat- but it was done, and he had to deal with the consequences.

If Blaze never wanted to be his friend again... well, Anti supposed he had good enough reason.

"That creep isn't welcome here," Anti shivered. "I don't need to know that desperately, anyway. But Desiree, it's a nice name, huh?"

"It's certainly not your average name," Dr. Iplier agreed. "But not so outlandish as others. I believe it suits the both of you wonderfully,"

"Yeah, we can call her Desi for short," Chase grinned, seemingly excited as Bing was about the new baby. "Oh please, please can we babysit?"

"I have ze feeling zat Anti von't vant to let her out of his sight for at least a few Wochen," Schneep chuckled. "Er ist rather possessive zis vay,"

"Hey!" Anti retorted, though he knew it was true. He really was possessive around those he loved, and he imagined how he acted around his daughter would be no different. "I... shut up!"

"Very effective," Google smirked, sitting back. He was the only one that seemed not to be majorly affected by the fact that Dark and Anti were expecting, but Anti was just happy he was here. Google met his eyes, giving him a small smile- which considering this was Google, was actually quite a statement indeed.

"The name 'Desiree' means 'desired', or 'wished'," Google supplied, his eyes flashing blue momentarily as he accessed the internet. "It is a fitting name, I feel."

"It's definitely sticking to me," Anti agreed, giving a little sigh as he remembered Dark giving him his own name all those years ago. "It's... a little strange. I almost feel as though I'm too young, too... immature to have a baby, but then... these past few weeks, everything's changed,"

"Vell, if it is any consolation, I feel as though you have matured greatly," Schneep offered. "At least- you have come very far from ze first time I saw you, Anti. I am sure zat if Dark could be here, he vould agree,"

"Really?" Anti breathed. "He would?"

"He'd definitely agree," Dr. Iplier smiled. "I'm terribly sorry, but I have to excuse myself- I imagine Robbie is quite a mess up there as well,"

"Es ist no issue, mein Schatz," Schneep waved him off, "Do not forget to examine ihn for any injuries- I doubt zat ze Host could see vhat he vas doing, despite his good intentions,"

"You're a good man, Schneep," Anti sighed, moving his shoulders a little to stop the stiffness from settling in. They'd been sitting here for hours, just talking and lazing around, as if the Void wasn't falling in on itself.

"What were they even doing up there?" Chase asked, eyes on the ceiling. "That could have gotten blood everywhere, I mean..."

Schneep chuckled under his breath, sharing a knowing glance with Anti and Google. "Vell, I guess you vill have to vait until our Bruder returns from his slumber to find out,"

Chase groaned aloud. "Alright..."

Anti smirked as he imagined Chase's reaction to Robbie finally losing his virginity- though nothing would top Jackie's, he knew. That superhero cared way too much about other people's business, in Anti's opinion. Maybe, he needed a damn love life of his own so that he could stop worrying about everyone else's.

He almost felt sorry for the man.

Almost.

But maybe it was finally time to bury the hatchet between them- this rivalry, this unneeded fear of setting him off... Anti was growing tired of it. He had other things to worry about now.

He didn't even notice that the wound on his neck had ceased bleeding, wiping it mindlessly with a rag as he got to his feet. He needed to take a walk- he only hoped that his earlier prediction of dick-sucking wasn't what was actually happening over there. That would certainly be more awkwardness than Anti was equipped to handle.

He knocked on Halter's door, breathing a little faster than usual. But this needed to be done- it had needed to be done two years ago, really. But Anti was famous for being late to the party.

The door opened.

~Groundlands~

Markiplier could have kicked himself for getting out of that taxi when he had- but how was he supposed to know that the very man he was looking for was just a little further down the road, until he'd seen that ridiculous pink hair and mustache combo that couldn't have belonged to anyone else? Then, as if to add insult to injury, his old friend Abe had followed the Colonel out of the bar, and the two had gotten into a cab together.

Was Abe really changing sides like this? Mark thought he'd known the man- thought that he'd never see someone so loyal. He'd thought that any chance of friendship between his cousin and the detective had been dashed away when Abe finally learned the truth, but here they were, eighty-some years later, chatting like old pals over a drink. It made his blood boil

Why did everyone leave him? Was he not good enough? What was he thinking- of course he was good enough! He was the best. If the Colonel hadn't stolen Abe away, Mark was sure he'd be on his side. He had to be... right?

He hadn't a clue where they'd driven to, but he was determined to follow them- to wrangle his answers out of Abe, and to bring the Colonel down after all these years. To find his grandson and put an end to this ridiculous story he was spinning, bringing Mark back to life again after so many years... he wished he could have stayed dead.

No, his namesake had to go. Only then would he have peace. Only then would his spirit finally move on. Only then would he be reunited with Celine, and his mother and father, and even the Colonel's own father, his uncle, in heaven.

Mark gritted his teeth. Any street, any establishment- he'd search high and low. He would find them. He had to.

There was no other way.

Chapter Text

~Groundlands~

It had only been a week since Dark found out he was pregnant- but somehow, the news had settled so quickly that waking up to the soft kicks against the edge of his uterus wasn't even worrying him anymore. Though he'd found the experience uncomfortable and even nerve-wracking at first, he'd relaxed into it over time, and now he greeted his hyperactive child with a soft smile, pressing his hand to hers through the thin walls of Dark's womb.

Though he wasn't entirely used to waking up wet and clammy- that was certainly new. Had he sweated through the night? He hadn't thought it was that warm, but apparently he was mistaken. He was just about to sit up when there was a knock on his door, his head swimming a little and aching slightly as he inclined it to one side. It seemed as though in seconds, the room had gotten a lot louder.

"Come in, Amy," Dark yawned, before starting a little as he realised just what had happened. His mind reading, the ability to sense others' presence... it had returned. He was omniscient again.

Were Damien and Celine there, too?

'I was wondering why nobody could hear us...'

'At least he can hear us now. That... that scared me more than I'd like to admit,'

Dark let out a breath of relief, clutching his stomach close. This... this was a good sign. He was getting better. He'd told them he could, hadn't he? He was part demon, he could come back from a fate worse than death- why had he let himself get so worried? Aside from the unpleasant, sweaty, sticky mess he was currently in, he felt right as rain.

... And aside from the fact that his leg was still unresponsive. But Dark had no doubt that it would be better soon, just like the rest of his temporary afflictions that had faded away.

Amy walked in with a tray of cereal and milk, closing the door behind her as she took in Dark's appearance with a small frown.

"You look like you had a rough night," she told him, sitting beside him on the bed. "Are you feeling okay?"

"Never better," Dark smiled, taking the food gratefully. "Thank you, Amy."

"Well, you certainly sound like you're recovering," Amy breathed in relief, though she still looked a little worried. "But I'm not sure it's meant to happen this quickly- anyway, it's good that you're feeling better. I have a feeling we're going to have to run you a bath today,"

Dark raised an eyebrow. "A bath?"

Truthfully, Dark hadn't had a bath in what felt like years. He'd been far too stressed with the appearances of new egos, and dealing with Anti's emotional struggles, and making sure that nobody ripped each other's heads off... he usually only showered, and even that was when he noticeably started to smell.

He licked his lips nervously. "A bath sounds... nice,"

Dark had concerns that he didn't really want to vocalise just yet, in case they seemed ridiculous. He was never quite sure when he abstained from something for so long, if the memories were going to be just as unpleasant when he was forced to relive them. He vaguely remembered a time where he'd almost drowned in Mark and William's swimming pool as a child, having to be saved by William's late father. Though it wasn't him at all- it was Damien. Sometimes the lines blurred a little too much between them, Dark had noticed...

"Okay, eat your breakfast," Amy urged, setting the tray down next to Dark and standing up. "I'll go run one now- do you want me to be there with you?"

Dark let out a small sigh of relief, letting his irrational fears of being completely submerged in water be swallowed down. "You wouldn't mind?"

He'd been more than slightly afraid of drowning in the tub without anyone there to help him out. He hated how paranoid this monoplegia was making him, and wished that it could all be over- but there wasn't much point in complaining about it now. Until he found a way to make it work again, he'd have to live with only having three functioning limbs. He guessed it could always be worse.

Amy smiled warmly at him. "Of course I wouldn't mind- in fact, I insist. I don't want you to hurt yourself, I just didn't want it to be weird,"

Dark chuckled softly, closing his eyes, though he didn't have such a strong need to sleep today. "I think we're past the point of it being weird, truly,"

"Yeah, I suppose you're right," Amy smirked. "I'll text Seán and tell him you're getting better- maybe he'll swing by later on,"

Dark cocked his head to one side. "Where is it that he has gone?"

"He went out with Robin today," Amy explained. "You know, catching up with old friends- but don't worry about taking up his time, because he didn't want to leave you here for long anyway- he cares about your safety, and even though he's terrible at conveying it, so does Mark,"

Dark nodded begrudgingly. "Yes, I know... He inherited his stubborn streak from me, so I must sympathise..."

Amy chucked. "That's true. Now finish your food- we've got a big day planned, and I wanted to get your input on a few things,"

Dark didn't really have any idea what Amy was talking about, but he felt like he shouldn't pry- not that he really could, as she left the room fairly swiftly upon finishing her sentence. Dark resigned himself to sit and wonder, picking up his chunks of cereal and swirling them around thoughtfully with his spoon.

The child seemed to shiver at the chill of the bowl as Dark rested it on his tummy, smiling when her little bumps and kicks caused ripples in the milk. He patted the other side of his stomach, hoping that she would find her way over, but she seemed rather interested in investigating the sudden temperature change. The bowl wobbled slightly but Dark caught it, chuckling softly at her antics. She really was Anti's child...

She seemed to echo his laughter, the sound echoing in his mind as he ate, not knowing how hungry he really was until he'd started. Damien and Celine, who had been rather quiet these past few days, started talking again. But this time, Dark felt it wasn't directed at him...

'You're beautiful, darling... such a sweet little angel,'

'Can you hear us, Desiree? You're a strong little girl, aren't you?'

Dark felt happiness swelling inside him, the little thumps growing more frequent as the siblings continued to coo and laugh with his baby. Damien sounded ecstatic- in awe, and delighted, and Dark felt the second-hand excitement coursing through him with every one of his little messages of praise. Even Celine, who had been wary of having this child at first, seemed to be warming up to her- giving Damien encouragement, sending her love to the baby that was now giggling softly, kicking gently at the walls of the womb.

'If only we could talk to your father...'

'Perhaps later, Damien. I... I still worry he's being too hard on himself for cheating on us,'

'Well... I suppose it's never really a good feeling, is it?'

'Oh, it was for me, but... well, you know that Mark was abusive and unpredictable. I didn't love him, and it was... easy to stray. But he still loves us, Damien, and you know what he's like- he beats himself up for silly things and tiny errors, imagine what he must be feeling knowing that he might have hurt us...'

'I wish I could speak to him... to tell him everything...'

'Damien?'

'Yes, Celine?'

'Did... did it hurt you, when he told us he'd slept with another man?'

Dark felt himself stiffen a little as he tried to hold back tears, suddenly feeling extremely fragile- moved by Damien's thoughts no doubt...

But the kind-hearted soul remained quiet. Dark could hear Celine's tsk echoing through his mind. Damien wasn't fooling anyone with his silence, it was clear.

'It's normal to feel that hurt... Damien, listen, I know what it's like. At least, on a smaller scale... I used to get... jealous, of sorts, when Mark was forced to be intimate with other women on set. Though I know it's not really the same, but I... I understand,'

'I'm not hurt by the fact that he slept with another man, Celine. I'm hurt because... because we weren't good enough for him. He's so upset with himself, so disappointed, so hateful... but it's not entirely his fault. We left him alone, we didn't even say anything to him- and not to mention that fight... I just... I'm hurt, because I know I could have been better,'

'Damien-'

'It's true, Celine. I want... I want to be there for him, but I let our other responsibilities get in the way, and now...'

Dark bit his lip as the hot tears rushed down his cheeks, wiping at them softly as he continued to eat his steadily sogging cereal. Desiree seemed to whimper a little in sympathy- at least, the sound that echoed through Dark's mind sounded similar to her laughter- and he reached for her, curling his fingers protectively around his stomach.

'No matter... we will discuss this later, Celine. Our baby needs us,'

'It sounds... strange when you say it's 'our' baby, Damien... I think... I think you've earned the right to call her yours,'

'But Celine, that's hardly fair- I am carrying this child just as much as you are,'

'Yes, but she was never  my  child, Damien. She's Anti's, and that's... that's all you. I'll just be... the aunt, or something,'

'That will undoubtedly get confusing with us being in the same body, Celine,'

'I suppose, but... well, I guess we'll both be her dad, if she decides to call us that,'

'I find it quite amusing to think... all those years ago, you'd hardly have thought you were going to end up a father, would you?'

'This is hardly the strangest thing I've experienced in this form, Damien, don't worry about it,'

The conversation seemed to cease, and Dark resumed his cereal. Then, he heard a voice. One that didn't belong to anyone he knew, yet one that was somehow strangely familiar...

' Ɖᾄ ...'

Was that...?

'Yes- yes, darling- it's your Da... oh, she's so smart, Celine,'

'I think she's just repeating our voices in her mind, Damien,'

'V ὄἷƈἔ ṩ...'

'That may be true, but- oh dear, was that her first word?'

'Damien, it's not a first word unless she speaks it out loud-'

' Ɖᾄ !'

Dark choked a little on his laughter, tears of disbelief and happiness streaming softly from his eyes and replacing those of bitter remorse he'd left drying on his cheeks. This... this was actually happening. She was here, speaking- laughing, getting along with her family...

If only Anti were here as well...

As if on cue, Amy opened the door again, holding a small pile of towels. Immediately, her features grew concerned.

"Oh, shit- Dark, are you okay?"

Dark sniffed, wiping his eyes, unable to cease smiling if he tried. "I... I'm fine, Amy. I'm perfect..."

"So... it's good tears?" Amy asked for clarification, relaxing her posture when Dark nodded.

"She's speaking," Dark gushed, still high on exhilaration. "She's really- really talking to me, to her Father and her Aunt and... she's amazing, Amy..."

"Well, I'm sorry to interrupt," Amy smiled sheepishly, "but the bath's all ready- here, I'll help you up. Do you think you'll need your wheelchair?"

Dark shook his head as he got to his feet, wobbling a little at the unusual feeling. He hadn't walked around in days, after all- but he caught himself just fine, letting Amy hand him a pair of crutches that they'd bought for him yesterday. He couldn't express just how glad he was to be free of that contraption- even if he needed another walking aid. Perhaps when he got used to walking with support, he'd use his cane... yes, that seemed like it would help. It had certainly helped Damien in the years following that particularly nasty fractured kneecap...

"Thank you," Dark smiled, still feeling over the moon with elation. He was certain that nothing could happen today that would bring him down.

"So she's really communicating with you, huh?" Amy asked, watching Dark carefully as he made his way down the stairs. She could never be too careful- it had only been a few days since his stroke, after all, and she wasn't sure she trusted him to be alone just yet. But he seemed to be making a smooth recovery, and who was she to tell him he was invalid?

"She's repeating our voices..." Dark breathed in response, sounding rather giddy. "But her own voice... it's so distinct, and clear, and unique. She won't grow into it for a while, and it's less of a sound, more of an... energy, if you will, but it's heavenly. She... she's really something else,"

"I'll say," Amy agreed, opening the bathroom door. "So, sorry if it's a weird question, but are you and Mark really... identical? I mean, only to reassure you it's nothing I haven't seen before, if you're worried,"

"You don't need to explain yourself to me, Amy," Dark mused, shaking his head as the door was closed behind them. "Technically, my body is more akin to Damien's, but you may have gathered that he and Mark looked very similar. Truthfully, I wouldn't know- you may imagine that Mark wouldn't want me to get too close while he's naked."

Amy chuckled, helping Dark to a seat and lifting his shirt. "I suppose not," she agreed. The fabric was tossed aside.

"But to answer your question- I haven't been maintaining my male form as of late, aside from in my torso and facial structures. It's simply much too taxing on my strength- my privates are quite female today, I assure you,"

"Okay," Amy smirked. "Mark wanted to know if you had a bigger dick than he did, I'll just tell him you do so I can watch him squirm,"

Dark snorted under his breath- he rather liked this one. Much more of a sense of humour than that Peevils wench, anyway. "He won't like that, it's brilliant... though as it isn't technically a natural part of this form, I suppose I could make it as big as I wanted it to be, thus making his discomfort and deflated ego invalid,"

Dark shimmied down his bottom layers, sighing in frustration when his dead leg needed to be lifted, but Amy patted his shoulder reassuringly, helping him to his feet again. His chest felt sticky and warm, and his skin was oily with sweat. This bath was certainly long overdue.

"Dark, are you... are you lactating?"

Dark met Amy's eyes curiously, having to take a moment to remember what exactly lactation was. Then upon realising, his eyes flickered down to his chest, seeing the unusually expanded curvature of his breasts, looking rather out of place on his male upper body. Granted, he's always known he could lactate- he'd just never thought much of it, and he usually reduced the fat in his breasts even when he was in his female form, but now it seemed that his efforts were futile.

Small breasts- small enough to get away with not wearing a bra, in any case- were present, poking out just a little more than usual, his usually small areolas now around an inch wider, and shining deep grey with stray translucent fluid weeping from them.

Oh.

Dark curiously pinched one of them, jolting a little in surprise when warm, wet pre-milk dribbled from his nipple, the touch sending sharp pain through his chest. He hadn't realised just how sensitive he'd become, and now his skin was throbbing, tingling as if the simple act had broken several blood vessels. No doubt a bruise would be forming soon...

"It seems so," Dark mumbled, shaking his head in mild disbelief. He'd forgotten entirely about the changes his body was going to go through in pregnancy- only focusing on the ever-expanding nature of his abdomen as his daughter continued to grow.

"We'll have to get you some breast pads," Amy sighed, taking Dark's hand and lifting him to his feet. "Okay, right leg first,"

Dark shot her a wary look. "Are you certain you've got my back?"

"Well, I've got your arm, but I guess that's a decent analogy," Amy chuckled nervously, trying to lighten the mood. Dark was no light creature, after all.

Reluctantly, Dark brought his good leg off of the ground, sinking slowly into the warm water of the bath. It was almost graceful- until he swung his other leg over the side of the tub, splashing water over the edge. He looked at Amy sheepishly.

"Don't worry about it," she smirked, handing him a cloth. "So, do you want to hear about my secret plan?"

Dark chuckled under his breath, sinking beneath the suds as he closed his eyes. As much as he hated being fully submerged in water, the heat was doing wonders to his tense muscles. He hadn't realised just how on edge he was until the knots in his arms and legs had started to come undone.

"Go on," Dark affirmed when he returned for air.

"So you know how the doctors want to get married, right?" Amy grinned, a sparkle in her eyes.

"Of course," Dark mused, wiping the sticky pre-milk from his chest and feeling more than a few hard spots within his skin, but he ignored them. They were probably built up sacs of milk- it was especially likely considering he was apparently producing the stuff now.

"Well, seeing as you're not really up for it, I was thinking... well, Kathryn knows a guy who does weddings, and if we can get the doctors to possess Mark and Seán, they could get married here,"

"They'd like that," Dark smiled softly. "Well- I suppose Mark wouldn't, and maybe Seán wouldn't either- but have you discussed the matter with them?"

Amy nodded. "Uh huh, Seán was actually the one who suggested it in the first place- but Mark took a bit of persuading. Though it isn't like we forced him into it or anything- I think it was his pride coming through. He didn't want to seem like a wuss, but he also... he knew it would take one less thing off your plate, and even if he acts douche-y sometimes, he's really a good guy. I think the fact that you have cancer really helped him figure out that you're not as omnipotent and above it all as he feared,"

Dark closed his eyes, ducking under the water briefly so that he could wet his hair. It could have been his memory escaping him again, but it seemed... thicker. More substantial.

"Good..." Dark muttered simply. "I am glad. But they still would not be happy by the end of the night, even if they were willing to swallow their pride for Henrik and Doc's special day... possession is a joint effort, Amy. Both personalities are present, whether they like it or not,"

"Oh," Amy said, coming to the same realisation Dark had. "Yeah... I guess I'd have a hard time convincing Mark to give up his body for that kind of tomfoolery. Though some part of me is thinking that Seán wouldn't mind as much... maybe it's just wishful thinking."

"Possibly," Dark acknowledged. "But there is someone I've been meaning to contact, and he has experience in this matter that even I do not. Do you have any way to speak with Phil Lester?"

"Yeah, Mark's got Phil and Dan in his contacts," Amy affirmed, pulling out her phone. "I don't know the full story, but I do remember that something to do with them was the reason you stayed with Seán the other month,"

Dark nodded. "Yes- there was a strange chain of events involving Phil's alter ego, Blaze. Somehow, he had managed to possess Phil's body with enough force to knock him into the Void, and Blaze assumed his identity for a little over a week. As if that wasn't enough to deal with, Anti was also acting out at the time- I found myself... spilling my secrets to Phil, when he stayed in my manor. We became good friends in our time together, but then there was the issue of Anti killing and possessing Seán, and trying to kill Blaze in an act of revenge... truly, it was complicated. So much so that you could write a book about it,"

"Well, it sounds like a good idea to look into it," Amy said, shrugging her shoulders. "I've put down Phil's email and his phone number, but I'm pretty sure they're on tour at the moment- I can't guarantee they'll have time to visit,"

"That is fine, Amy," Dark smiled warmly." Thank you again. You truly are a credit to your friends... though I remember that the act of possession Blaze performed was risky, it was solely due to his inexperience. But the doctors have been possessing Mark and Seán for years- the next time I meet with someone who can pass on the message, I will do so,"

Amy grinned. "Sounds great. So in other news... you remember Robert, right? Robert Rexx?"

Dark rolled his eyes with contempt, memories swirling like soapy suds before his eyes. "Yes... that man. When Will and I... that is to say, William and Celine were involved, he became rather ill-tempered and crude towards us,"

"Well, he's a nice enough guy," Amy defended. "I mean... I guess times have changed. Mark didn't tell me he was really the same Chef when he cast the part- I don't even think Mark knew. But looking back at how he acted on set... he had definitely been in that house before,"

"You mean to say that he is still around?" Dark queried, giving a little sigh. "Of course, what else should I expect... and what of young Benjamin?"

"The Butler?" Amy asked, cocking her head to one side. "Well, we didn't know much about him, but Robert told me that they're business partners,"

"When did you find this information, if you don't mind me prying?" Dark questioned, finding it awfully strange that both the Butler and the Chef that had survived living in the manor were being brought up in this conversation. He hadn't told Mark about anyone but himself and Wilford being alive- so how did they know the truth?

Amy shrugged. "I got in touch with Robert yesterday- well, I was mainly looking for a nice restaurant that we could host the wedding in, and I knew that Robert owned one by the waterfront, so that's the reason I called in. But he wanted to know about you- it was... kind of crazy just how much he seemed to know about what was happening,"

Dark's eyebrows furrowed in thought. "What exactly did he know?"

"Things like where you came from, and who you spend time with, and the fact that you're having a baby," Amy explained. "Too many guesses to be a coincidence, in my opinion, but maybe you weren't the only one given weird powers in that manor,"

Dark tensed a little, but no. That was ridiculous. She was trapped there, locked away where she couldn't hurt anyone anymore... besides, she wouldn't have stayed attached to Robert if she had used him to escape that awful place. Dark was probably overthinking this. It had been almost a century now, surely she wouldn't still hold a grudge... But then, hadn't she always hated everything he'd embodied?

"Non, c'est impossible," Dark shook the very idea away. "Il n'est pas possédé par un démon,"

Amy looked confused, to say the least. "Um... I... I didn't know you spoke French,"

Dark looked at her curiously, not understanding what she was talking about. "I speak a lot of languages, but how... oh. Dear, I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to sink back into that tongue..."

"It's okay," Amy soothed, watching as Dark shivered in the tub. The water was still warm, so he definitely wasn't cold- what had she said to upset him so? "I just... didn't catch any of that,"

"I simply said that there was no way he could have otherworldly abilities," Dark swallowed, looking rather shaken. "The only reason I am this way is because of the demon who inhabits this form. And I... I refuse to accept that Chef has been possessed by a demon."

"Right," Amy said, but she didn't look convinced. "Well, I didn't really know anything more than he did, so you don't have to worry about that, but if he knows things he shouldn't... maybe we should look into why,"

"I agree," Dark shuddered. "I will have to have words with him..."

Amy's phone pinged, and she smiled softly. "Hey, do you think you'll be able to hang tight until Kathryn gets here? I got her to swing by the store to get some breast pads for you- you don't want to ruin your clothes,"

"Of course," Dark replied. "I wouldn't dream of it- though I don't have any suitable brassiere items to... keep them there,"

"You can borrow one of my boobtubes," Amy offered. "Though it might be a bit... tight,"

"I will manage," Dark sighed. "Really, if it comes to it, I can make myself female in all aspects of appearance. I'd just... prefer to remain male when I'm around Anti,"

"Is that because he only likes men?" Amy queried, looking rather curious about Dark's reasoning.

Dark shook his head softly- he was, after all, fairly sure that Anti identified as bisexual. "No, it's... it's because Damien prefers to be male when around him. It makes him feel more confident,"

Amy smiled knowingly. "Ah- it's Damien that likes him, huh?"

"Oh, Damien loves him," Dark corrected with a small smile. "More than anything... except maybe Desiree."

"That's understandable," Amy chuckled. "Well, how about we change the topic- the conversation's been serious for long enough. Do you like chocolate? Kathryn's bringing some fondue over,"

Dark's lips twitched in a smile.

~Void~

"Hey, is Jackie here by any chance?"

"Yeah, of course," Halter replied, looking at Anti curiously as he let the glitch inside. "Why?"

Anti shrugged, placing his hands in his pockets. "I just... need to get something off my chest."

"Well, he's had a few drinks so I don't know how out of it he'll be, but go ahead," Halter advised, biting his lip as he closed the door behind them. The room was oddly quiet- most of the egos must have burned themselves out and gone to sleep- that or they were upstairs sucking dick. Anti was only half-joking when he'd made that statement, and considering that Marvin and Yan weren't obviously present... there was definitely something sexy happening in another room.

But the man Anti had come to see was there, sitting in the living room with Septiplier and Silver. Halter hadn't been kidding when he said Jackie had a few drinks- in fact, Anti would wager he may have had more. He'd just never seen the man this pissed before- but perhaps that would make it easier to talk to him.

Anti walked over to the gathering of egos, sitting on the sofa beside Septiplier and shooting the superheroes a meaningful glance.

"Hey Anti," Septiplier greeted, clapping him on the back. "Thanks for the pep talk earlier, I... I don't know what I was thinking,"

Anti smiled softly as he waved away Septiplier's thanks. "Don't mention it- we all have days like this. Just ask Chase,"

Septiplier snorted, and Anti could see that he was also a little tipsy- Septiplier was a strange case when it came to alcohol tolerance. As he was half Jack, he had a certain affinity for liquor- but as he was half Mark, he sometimes had a bit more of an allergic reaction to the stuff. Some nights he could chug several pints of beer, and others he vomited upon taking a single sip, but tonight he seemed to be in a comfortable middle area.

"Heyyy Anti," Jackie greeted, a little more friendly than Anti had first anticipated. He supposed he hadn't seen enough of his older brothers to make a judgment, but he figured that Jackie was a happy drunk. Why else would the contempt and the glares be vacant?

Calm down, Anti... You're here to make peace, not start a fight.

"Hey Jackieboy," Anti replied, sending him a warm, if a little strained smile. "Having fun tonight?"

Jackie, to his surprise, seemed to pout. "No... 'vryone's gone to go fuck their boyfriends but me 'n Silver here... jerks."

Anti couldn't help but chuckle a bit at the tone of the super's voice- who knew Jackieboy Man could whine like this?

"Everyone?" Anti queried, looking around. "Even Bim and Squirrels?"

He was no idiot- he knew what those two were playing at with this fake relationship, but if it really was a farce, why would they be off in some room together? Perhaps they weren't dating, but they had certain... benefits.

Whatever. He'd only really pried because it was easy conversation.

Jackie nodded. "Mhm, they're in the bathroom... I don't know what they're doin' in there, but... fuck, they're loud,"

Silver snorted in agreement. "Couldn't be more right there- ooh, King! Right there! He's got a set of lungs, that Trimmer..."

"Right," Anti said, wanting to move swiftly on from that topic. "Anyway- I just came over to say hi and... and apologise for how I acted when we first met, Jackieboy..."

Anti had mumbled the last part of the sentence, and he was worried Jackie was a little too drunk to hear it correctly, but Septiplier patted his shoulder reassuringly. At least someone in here knew what was happening...

Jackie leaned over. "Yeah... I 'ccept it... 'm sorry too. I was... I was a bit of a dick, wasn't I?"

Anti... wasn't expecting that kind of response. He'd thought he was going to have to grovel at the super's feet if he wanted forgiveness, but here he was, just offering it to him? No catch?

Anti was more than a little wary.

"I mean... I guess," Anti agreed, watching cautiously in case this somehow turned on him. "But really- I was... I was a jealous kid at the time, and you were so fresh and new and exciting... I thought they'd all forget about me and start hanging out with you, and it felt... It felt shit, I won't lie. But that's not your fault, I... I know that now,"

Jackie shook his head, shifting over so that he was sitting beside Anti. The glitch could almost taste the alcohol in the air, but Jackie soon pulled back to take another swig.

"I was... a bit of a jerk too, Anti," Jackie admitted. "I didn't... want to listen to you or your cries for help... in my head, you were a problem, and I... I'm sorry for not givin' you a chance. Schneep's been tellin' me, you know? About... about how you had a fear of abandonment, and I was threatening to you... really made me think, you know?"

"It did, huh?" Anti asked.

"Yeah," Jackie agreed. "Made me want to... you know, try again. But you don't have to, I know, it's just... I'm a superhero, Anti, and I don't wanna be a superhero that facilitates bullying... that's not me... I'm sorry..."

Anti smiled a little- bullying? Well, he wouldn't have called their actions bullying... after all, they were justified enough in Anti's books, but something about these genuine words and sentences spilling forth... it was nice. Anti didn't think Jackie had ever been this nice to him before.

"I'm sorry..." Jackie repeated, sobbing a little. "I'm so s-sorry, Anti, I..."

"Hey, shh," Anti soothed, awkwardly wrapping his arms around his little brother and pulling him in for a hug. He'd been so happy before- how had this turned so sour so quickly?

"I'm sorry f-for being overbearing and hateful and judgmental a-and, and for driving you a-away like that," Jackie sobbed, crying into Anti's shoulder. "And I- I'm so fucking sorry for how I spoke to Y-Yan when he broke up w-with Marvin, and I'm sorry for keeping Host and R-Robbie apart, and... and I'm sorry for being so s-selfish..."

"Jackie, hey," Anti tried to speak in between the muffled crying. "I don't think you're selfish,"

"B-but everything I do... everything I say here, it's... it's because of m-me, Anti. W-what I want, and how I f-feel, and... it's not just about m-me..."

Septiplier gave Anti a look of sympathy. "Wow, you really stuck yourself in this one,"

"Yeah, I see that," Anti said, rolling his eyes. "Look, Jackie, I... I don't know what to say about the others, but... if you want to bury the past, and I want to bury the past, let's just... move on. You don't have to be a douche, and I don't have to retaliate, see? It'll be fine,"

Jackie sniffed a little. "T-that easy?"

"Well, unless you want to be my personal slave for a month," Anti joked, but he had a feeling Jackie took that far too literally. What the hell kind of guilt drip had Schneep dragged him on to make him feel so shitty?

"Heh... in your dreams," Jackie returned. "I... okay. Just... remind me again when I'm sober, okay?"

Anti smiled at his sibling, finally feeling like he could admit he was related to this man and be proud. All this time he'd thought Jackie was nothing but a judgmental, arrogant prick, but... well, Jackie had probably thought the same of him. Now, it was behind them. At least, until the next day when Jackie would likely forget that this conversation even happened- but hopefully, Anti would be away from the Void, spending time with Dark in the Groundlands tomorrow.

This was all coming together. One thing at a time, one apology after the next... Anti was getting better.

But it's a known fact that the hardest person to apologise to is yourself.

Chapter Text

~Groundlands~

Dr. Iplier held Host's hand reassuringly as they ascended the flight of stairs leading to the new bedrooms Anti had summoned for them. It was strange- after four years of having limited vision, Host still wasn't entirely used to walking around on his own. He was usually alright, Dr. Iplier knew- because he inhabited the office that sat on the ground floor of Darkiplier Manor. It was really just stairs he had trouble with, but considering the circumstances of Host and Robbie's escapade, Dr. Iplier knew that sharing the same floor as the other egos might have been less desirable for the pair than just navigating the stairways.

He was content to let Host use him for support now, however- hopefully when Robbie awoke, he'd be able to help Host down the stairs again without letting him break his back.

"So it's the first one on the right?" Dr. Iplier queried, and Host nodded, scratching idly beneath the bandages above his left eye. Really, if there was any other way to avoid blood dripping everywhere, Dr. Iplier was certain Host would take it. He used to get the most awful rashes under those things...

"The Host affirms Dr. Iplier's idea to be the truth,"

"Right..." Dr. Iplier smiled a little. "You've always had a certain way with words, huh?"

Host smirked. "The Host supposes that is true."

Dr. Iplier opened the door that led to the room, the central heating Anti installed having made the room stuffy and hot- but Host didn't seem to mind all that much. Neither did Robbie- who in fact looked like he wanted more warmth, being snuggled deep underneath the blankets. The blood... oh, wow.

It was everywhere. Little droplets soaked into the carpet, massive smears on the blanket- it was covering the zombie where he slept, dried on his pale skin in a way that mustn't have been very comfortable.

Though it was hardly the reason they'd split, Dr. Iplier knew that the feeling of being coated in blood during sex wasn't one he'd particularly desired. He groaned slightly, bringing his palm to his face as he pondered telling Anti to write this room off. "Are you sure you had to take off the bandage?"

Host frowned in response, folding his arms. "The Host assures the doctor that he only did it because Robbie asked it of him,"

"But did Robbie know the room would look like a slaughterhouse afterwards?" Dr. Iplier grimaced. "Christ... guess I should be glad I don't have to deal with this mess. Er... why don't you take a seat? I'll... help him out,"

Host, instead, walked over to the bed, sitting beside his lover and brushing some hair away from his eyes. Though Host couldn't see, he could feel the coagulated blood, still half-warm and runny in some places, crusted over and clotted in others. In Robbie's once purple hair, flecked onto his cheeks, dripping onto his eyelids as he slept peacefully... Host almost didn't want to wake him.

But he knew this was necessary. Host knew that if he didn't shower twice daily, the blood drove him mad- he could only imagine what it would feel like for Robbie if it dried to his skin.

"The Host nudges Robbie gently awake," Host muttered, using his hand to jolt Robbie's arm softly. Thankfully, Robbie was a light enough sleeper. Host stopped shaking him as soon as he felt Robbie tense underneath his fingers, relaxing as the zombie sat up, wiping his bleary eyes.

"... Itchy,"

"I'd imagine so," Dr. Iplier mused, and Robbie whipped his head in alarm to face him, not having known he was here. But he didn't evidently mind, as he went back to rubbing away the crusty mess on his cheeks.

"Hello... Doc," Robbie greeted with a small yawn. "How... you?"

Dr. Iplier couldn't help but smile as he walked over, gently pushing Host's hand aside so he could bring in his damp towel. "I'm doing well, Robbie- how about you? Was Host too rough with you?"

Host knew it was all in good fun- it had become, what did the kids call it these days? A meme? It was an... inside joke among the other egos, that Host was rather tough for most of them to handle. And really, it wasn't like he'd been with anyone but Doc and Robbie- but word travels fast, especially when Wilford gets involved in the mix.

The blinded man smiled at the joke, and Robbie chuckled softly under his breath, letting Doc get close enough to wipe some congealed blood from his lips and chin.

"Just... right," Robbie retorted cheekily, causing Dr. Iplier to raise his eyebrows in what looked like a show of respect.

"Well, you're certainly more strong-willed than I was," Dr. Iplier chuckled. "Really- he almost had me in tears once. Was he holding back with you?"

Robbie nodded without hesitation, giving Host a small pout and smiling in defeat when Host's hands entwined with his own. Really, he wasn't holding back by much- Robbie just hoped that next time Host would trust himself not to be so careful. He'd proven he could take it, hadn't he?

"The Host did not want to make the same mistake of hurting someone he loved," Host mumbled, squeezing Robbie's fingers between his own. "Besides- The Host was not holding back as much as he had wished to. The Host eventually found that Robbie seems to like the pain,"

Robbie would have blushed if he had blood- but instead, he seemed to duck his head shyly, burying it in Host's chest as the older ego let out a hearty chuckle.

"I'm glad you found someone to love you for who you are," Dr. Iplier smiled, patting Host's hand softly. "Both of you. I think where we've ended up after all these years has been worth every single moment of doubt, would you agree?"

"The Host indeed agrees," Host spoke up, letting go of Robbie's hand so that the doctor could clean in between his fingers. "The Host truthfully did not know if he could ever feel true happiness again after he awoke blind and cursed, but... The Host is glad that he found Robbie. Robbie is also glad that he found The Host,"

"And I'm glad that you found me before this blood dried," Dr. Iplier snorted. "Jesus... okay, I don't know how comfortable you are with me washing the rest of him. If you'd like, I can get Henrik to come up and-"

"It's fine, Doc."

Three heads whipped to face the door, where a familiar green-eyed glitch was standing, smiling at the occupants.

"... Anti?" Robbie asked, lips spreading into a grin. Anti cracked a larger smile in return, walking further inside yet leaving the door open just a crack.

"Yep, it's me. I've... I've brought someone who really wants to talk with you two, but I'll tell him to wait until you're decent,"

Host's brows furrowed. "The Host knows that Jackieboy Man is standing outside the room, and wonders why Anti thought it wise to bring him here?"

Robbie looked warily at his older brother, inching closer into Host's side as if he were scared Host would be taken from him. Anti supposed he couldn't blame the guy- he'd been nervous that Jackie would take Dark from him once, too.

Though, in a slightly different context...

"I'm sure you two will be fine," Dr. Iplier reassured them, standing again as he draped the towel over his chair. "Let me know if there's any trouble,"

With that, the doctor left. Anti sighed, walking over and sitting next to Robbie, looking over the bloodstained carpet and the crimson sheets... well, it wasn't anything new around here, at least. He picked up the warm, wet rag that had gathered some blood residue already, pressing it into the small of Robbie's back.

"You're alright with me helping?" Anti asked before he started, and Robbie hesitantly nodded. But Anti could guess that the problem was hardly him- it was more that Jackie was outside, looming, and the pair had a certain fear of being caught doing anything by that super.

Robbie stood awkwardly, letting Anti dip the warm rag into the crook of his back, washing away Host's large handprints that had rubbed partially away on the sheets. He turned Robbie slowly around, wiping up his thighs, then his stomach. It seemed that the most blood was really only on his upper half- and that made a certain kind of sense in Anti's brain. After all, that's where Dark's eyes usually were when they were doing something... intimate.

He sighed deeply as Robbie pulled on some old clothes, letting the old rag drop to the floor. Dark... no, that was another day's worry. Right now he should be concerned by defusing the coming conversation before it got out of hand. Though he now knew that Jackie really meant no harm, his words still had the tendency to sting- Anti knew from experience.

"Host? You alright?" Anti asked delicately. After all, he had just been a certain kind of close and personal with a part of Robbie that Host had probably claimed as his own, and he didn't exactly have the best representation for his faithfulness right now... but Host didn't seem to be bothered by him at all.

The blind man crossed his arms and his coat, still watching the door blankly. "The Host is ready for Jackieboy Man's assault of words,"

Robbie nodded as well, resting his head on Host's shoulder as Anti swallowed a gulp of air, calling his eldest brother into the room. Was this really the right thing to be doing? Sure, he didn't entirely trust Jackie to do this sober, but was it really his call to force this interaction so early on?

"Hey..." the superhero greeted nervously, fidgeting with his suit as he walked into the blood-covered bedroom. "Um... Anti told me everything,"

"The Host had assumed so," Host replied, not seeming angry, but more... irritated. Anti guessed he could understand that.

"Well, I... I just wanted to say that... it's not you, Host- I mean, you're probably not the best person out there but you're not terrible, and I- I'm sorry if it felt like you were the reason I disapproved of... of you two,"

Robbie's fingers tightened around his lover's. "Then... why?"

Jackie took a deep breath, running his red-clad fingers through his hair. "I... I don't know, Robbie... I just... maybe I was jealous. Maybe I... I dunno, I thought we'd be... the only two innocent Septiceyes for a while? I just..."

He let out his breath. "I didn't w-want you to leave me l-like everyone else, okay?"

Anti paused- he hadn't heard this side of the story before. Sure, Jackie had been blubbering about a lot of things earlier, but a fear of abandonment certainly wasn't something Anti had known about. And the fact that Anti was coming to terms with his own irrational fear of losing people he loved... well, it definitely changed a lot of how he saw his eldest brother.

The first day they'd met- the first other Septiceye Jackie had seen... well, Anti had walked away from that situation pretty fast- it couldn't have been nice on Jackie's end. Then when he got Marvin, he was almost immediately snatched up by Yan, and- oh, and Schneep hadn't stayed with Jackie since before Anti had left, no wonder he felt neglected...

Despite everything- every emotion, every outburst, every snide remark... Anti felt sorry for the guy. That... that was rough.

Robbie met Jackie's eyes sympathetically, standing and walking awkwardly over to him to give him a hug.

"I... won't... leave... you," Robbie promised, holding the superhero tightly around his middle.

Jackie sniffed, returning the embrace strongly, only letting go at the small wince that left Robbie's lips, though the zombie was still smiling.

"It's j-just," Jackie hiccuped. "F-first Anti, and then M-Marvin... Now Schneep's getting m-married, and Chase is always with Bing and... and JJ... he's never lived with m-me, and... am I just unlikable?"

"No..." Robbie replied. "Like... you. So... do... they..."

"B-but..." Jackie sighed. "They j-just... they just spend time w-with their boyfriends a-and I... I get so l-lonely... I'm sorry, Robbie, I... I didn't mean to be a fuckwit about it..."

"If The Host may?"

Anti's gaze snapped to his side, watching as Host stood up shakily, making his way over to the shivering mess that was Jackieboy.

"Y-yeah," Jackie shuddered, wiping his eyes underneath his mask. "G-go ahead..."

"The Host appreciates that Jackieboy Man is coming clean about his emotional distress," Host spoke, resting a hand on the super's shoulder. "The Host recognises that it is not always easy to speak the inner troubles of your mind aloud. But The Host can sense an underlying message of hope unfolding in the narrative- an open ending. A possible interpretation, saying that the superhero won't be as lonely as he thinks he is condemned to be. The Host cannot say if it is love or companionship, but something is looming on the horizon for Jackieboy Man- he just has to take the chance when it comes. The Host... is sorry, but that is all he can say. The Host thanks Jackieboy Man for not overreacting to the news of The Host and Robbie's new advancement in their relationship,"

Jackie stepped forward, engulfing Host in an equally warm hug as he sniffed a little into the blind man's shoulder, muttering 'thank you's just as he had done with Anti just moments ago. The guy must be really beating himself up about it, but... Anti almost felt like that was justified.

"I'm r-really happy for you," Jackie promised, pulling Robbie into the hug as well. "I swear, I- I want you to b-be happy too, but I... I'm so fucking prideful t-that I... fuck, I'm sorry..."

Host reached out his hand, beckoning Anti to join the hug, and Anti almost hesitated... but then, he caught himself. Nobody here was actually his enemy anymore- It was... it was perfectly normal to hug them and make them feel better.

He complied.

And yeah, it was a little gross- Robbie's skin was damp and blotchy, and Jackie was still sobbing uncontrollably, and it was hard to ignore the fact that Host was naked under that coat- Anti was just happy that his neck wound was behaving itself today. While usually he'd be wiping blood from it every half hour, today it almost seemed... sealed. Healed?

No. Not quite yet. But he was getting there.

Anti held his family a little tighter. Knowing that he'd brought Jackie here, that the situation had panned out wonderfully... it filled him with a kind of happiness he'd missed having. The kind of happiness he'd get from improving Dark's arduous day, or helping out Author with his stories, or being the one happy ego in a manor full of depressed and psychotic creations... he liked bringing comfort, and happiness, and that's really all there was to it.

"The Host apologises for the mess," Host muttered, and Anti took another long look at the room. Sure, it sucked, but could it really be helped? He didn't know much about Doc and Author's sex life after Author had become Host, but he was certain there was at least some spillage involved. He ended up shaking his head.

"Don't worry about it," he urged, patting Host on the back. "It's... not the first time my house has been covered in blood, you know?"

And Anti hadn't meant to turn the conversation to his self-harming tendencies, but now Jackie was latching onto him, crying, and Robbie was fixing him with an empathic stare... was this love? Family love, like he'd never let himself know?

It was almost like the fulfillment that Dark's happiness brought- except instead of warm tingles, Anti felt... elation. Promise. He felt like he had someone that cared.

He smiled, the scab on his neck seeming to harden as he realised just what he'd missed out on for all these years.

It may not have been the first time blood had coated the rooms, but Anti had a feeling this would be one of the last.

~Groundlands~

"I don't trust him," Wilford muttered, fixing his beady eyes on the retreating form of the chef. That bloody chef... Wilford had never liked him. He'd worked for Will's father for as long as he could remember, and he'd never been particularly nice to himself or to Mark. In fact, the only one he really seemed to like had been Damien, but clearly those days were over...

"What don't you trust?" Abe questioned as they sat on the bench outside the restaurant. "I don't see a reason why he'd lie to you about anything,"

"He could be hiding them!" Wilford argued, and Abe was just thankful he wasn't carrying his gun. The last thing they needed right now was to be arrested- Abe, after all, was the only one with an actual ID.

Though he supposed that Wilford had his ways of getting out of things- just thinking of the time he'd first seen Wilford use his strange teleportation abilities- surely the man could bust out of whatever cell they put him in.

Even if they then threw that cell into a lake.

"I doubt he'd be hiding the ex-wife of his old boss, Wilford, that's not something people do," Abe groaned in frustration.

Wilford scoffed. "Well, how would you know? Didn't you see the look in his eyes? He knows something, Abe, I'm telling you... my, she looks awfully familiar,"

Abe raised an eyebrow. "Oh no, if you're just going to run off and flirt with another woman you can consider us done... talking,"

"No," Wilford huffed. "Why would I do that? She looks like someone I've seen back home, in The Void... Peevils, her name was?"

Abe met his gaze- sure enough, there was a rather pretty-looking woman with dark hair, just walking into the restaurant they'd come from. Abe didn't know who she was- but Wilford seemed to be lost in thought.

"Could she be Peevils' original?" Wilford asked himself, getting to his feet. "I wonder if she knows Mark-"

"Mark?" Abe asked in disbelief. "What, you're working with him now?"

"Now friend, it seems we're on different pages here," Wilford replied. "Not the Mark we know- but the original of my dear friends back home. Now are you going to come along or are you waiting here for me?"

Abe grimaced. "You know I don't trust you alone- but dammit, Warfstache, do you have to chase every woman you see-"

The mustached man was already gone.

0o0o0o0o0o0

"Darky!"

Dark opened his eyes just in time to see what he could only presume to be Anti (nobody else would dream of calling him 'Darky') lunging for him, pulling him into a hug. He prided himself on his quick reaction time as he hugged back, letting Anti sit on the edge of his lap, facing both he and his child.

After Dark's bath, he'd spent a lovely day with Amy and Kathryn- discussing baby names and gifts (though he'd asserted them, they didn't need to bother) and talking about the wedding. He'd found himself getting more and more invested in planning this celebration than he'd have thought- though he supposed that they'd needed to go through him to really determine what the doctors would like.

But it had been mildly exhausting to sit there and talk all day- Dark had been relaxing in the lounge, and Mark had been talking to Tyler on the opposite sofa, and the girls had gone back to their home after a long day of wedding-planning. Dark had gotten so used to Amy being here that it was almost sad to see her go- but he knew she'd be coming back soon. Even if he told her he was good as new, she'd still insist on checking in to see how he was doing.

He guessed that maybe the excitement of the new baby was rubbing off on everyone. Even Mark had approached him today, asking if he could feel the baby... in a way, this child would be Mark's aunt, and Dark had brought this fact up to him, watching with mirth as Mark's cheeks turned red with denial.

It was all coming together. And with Anti here, that thought was only solidifying itself in Dark's mind. They were going to be alright...

Anti kissed him in greeting, short and sweet- really, he wasn't much of an exhibitionist. It was Dark that usually dragged out their embraces, wanting to make sure everyone knew what was happening- and more importantly, that there was nothing they could do to stop it. But Mark and Tyler were watching now, and Dark felt more than a little awkward under their scrutinising glances. He broke the kiss reluctantly, settling for holding Anti in his arms, but Anti wasn't complaining.

"Good evening," Dark chuckled heartily, blinking when Anti pressed a gentle kiss to his nose. Perhaps he was just overly affectionate today- though Dark couldn't imagine why.

"Is it night?" Anti asked, cocking his head to one side. "Huh- I'd thought it might have been later, but that doesn't matter. How was your day- are you alright? Do you feel better?"

"Anti, hush now..." Dark smiled, though his heart swelled just knowing that Anti cared about him enough to ask. "I'm fine- better than ever, really. As for my day, I've spent it planning out our doctors' wedding celebration, what about yourself?"

"They'll be happy to hear that," Anti smiled, beaming. "I helped Septiplier get over his stupid age gap problem- that was pretty neat,"

"Oh dear," Dark mused, shaking his head. "Not again..."

Mark blanched, audibly choking a little as he realised what they were talking about. "Septiplier?!"

"Oh, you don't know, do you?" Dark sighed. "Septiplier is the personification of yours and Seán's relationship- he's a... fusion, of sorts. He carries extra appendages, but otherwise he is just like a regular ego,"

Mark looked a little pale. "You mean... in that sketch..."

"Oh, he was alive long before the sketch," Dark advised. "He arrived shortly after Google, in fact- I believe he came to be when the two of you started to gain fame as an internet duo,"

"But..." Mark sighed in frustration. "That's... ugh, okay. I can live with that, I guess..."

"Good," Anti said. "Because he's had to deal with your shit for the last four years-"

"Anti," Dark said, a little more firmly. It simply wouldn't do to have a fight break out between his lover and his grandchild.

Wait... did the fact that the two were together make Anti Mark's grandfather as well?

Perhaps Dark needed more sleep than he was getting. Just a hunch.

Anti pouted, but he resigned himself from making further commentary, for Dark's sake. "Okay..."

"I assume this was about his affinity for Halter," Dark sighed, getting back on the topic of the conversation.

"Yeah, I shot down his stupid agenda," Anti smirked. "Really- I'm pretty sure the day that Schneep arrived, he was on his hands and knees in Doc's office, and that's a three year age difference at least,"

"So it is," Dark smiled fondly.

"And then there's you and me- and I know I'm older than they are but you're way older than me, so our age gap is probably monumental,"

"Agreed," Dark grinned in response. "But if it came to our child- what would be a suitable age gap if someone wanted to date her?"

Anti crinkled his nose. "Dark, she's a baby, nobody wants to date a baby. But if she's mature enough, and she knows what she's getting into... I mean, I guess she's free to date whoever,"

"I'm glad you have this much faith in her already," Dark mused, his heart swelling as he thought of the nice, domestic life he could have with his lover and their child. Birthdays and presents and valuable teachings... he could hardly wait.

Anti snorted. "Well, she is half you, she has to make some smart decisions,"

"I'm flattered," Dark smiled again, letting Anti bring him in for another hug.

He certainly seemed... spritely, today. Dark wondered briefly what else he had done to get him so chipper- especially since the last time Dark had seen him, he was in tears.

That reminded him- they still had to talk about the whole cheating thing...

"Anti, dear..." Dark said, unsure of how to word this. "The other day, when... you told me you'd cheated, I never... caught whom,"

Anti sighed under his breath, fidgeting with his fingers. "I... sorry, I guess I should've told you before jumping into this like we were really fine again, I-"

"No, Anti, do not misunderstand me," Dark pleaded, reaching out to take his lover's hand. "I didn't wish for your delightful mood to cease- I was simply curious. Truly, I'm not mad at all,"

"Well..." Anti muttered, biting his lip nervously. "It was... It was JJ,"

Dark blinked softly. "Jameson... and Wilford as well?"

Anti shook his head. "No- God no, I wouldn't tap that if you paid me, but... then I didn't really set out to sleep with JJ either, it just kind of... happened... sorry, that's such a dumb excuse-"

"No," Dark refused again. "It's a perfectly adequate excuse- emotional upheaval is dangerous to the brain, Anti, for this exact reason. It is obvious to me that you were hardly thinking clearly when it happened. Now tell me, why did Wilford allow this to take place? He is rather sensitive about his... property,"

Anti shivered. "Wilford was... well, he was fucking around with Kink, and JJ was really upset about it, and... I was upset because... Well, I thought it wasn't my baby and that you'd slept with someone else, and I was... well, I felt sucky. I bumped into him outside, and then we were kissing, and then he had his dick out and we were... fuck, I hated it,"

Anti was looking down at his hands, frustrated. "I fucking... I didn't even like it, but it was a distraction so I... I went along with it... but it isn't his fault, Dark- he was upset and in pain, and he..."

Dark brushed his fingers through Anti's dark green locks- they seemed almost faded in comparison to what they once were, but it was a nice look. It made him seem more... mature.

"Now, Anti," Dark chided softly. "If you are willing to give him the benefit of sadness and pain, why won't you forgive yourself on the same grounds?"

Anti sniffed a little. "H-huh?"

"You weren't at your best either," Dark noted, pulling him closer. "I know how hard it can be to forgive yourself after something like this... which brings me to my next point. I assume you heard the slander about our child being another's from a conversation you found yourself unwittingly part of?"

Anti sighed. "Y-yeah... I tried possessing Jack so I could talk to you, and... that's the first thing I heard. I... I heard it was his,"

Dark rubbed Anti's fingers soothingly in his palm. "I can understand why they would believe such a mistruth... for you see, Anti, it wasn't only Wilford that I've found myself entangled with in the past. More recently, when I was... trapped in this mortal realm, I slept with Seán in a desperate attempt to fix myself- though I only succeeded in making it worse, truly..."

Anti was silent for a moment. He didn't look angry, but he didn't look very pleased either.

"... So you did sleep with Jack?" Anti muttered. "I... I didn't want to believe it, but... oh, it doesn't matter. This was b-before I even..."

Dark caught him when he collapsed slightly, falling into Dark's arms with a pitiful sob.

"You two okay over there?" Tyler asked, concerned.

"I can handle this," Dark smiled reassuringly, though inside he wasn't so sure if he could mend this rift as easily as it seemed. Though Seán was nothing but a temporary fix to him- Anti didn't know that. And Anti had always felt inferior, lesser, more pathetic than his human counterpart...

"Antithesis, please," Dark whispered softly, running his fingers along Anti's scalp. "You must understand- you are not my rebound, he was... I've loved you since the second I saw you, truly,"

Anti shuddered a little in disbelief. "Y-you're just saying that..."

"No," Dark replied with a small smile, bringing Anti's face up to meet his own. "I mean it, Anti- Damien has loved you for your entire life, and... though it was only recently that he convinced the rest of me to pursue you, I have always been... infatuated with your presence. You are dear to me, you understand? I must admit that I'm terrible at conveying my feelings, but-"

Anti shushed him quickly with a kiss to the lips, small but effective. It seemed that he had wanted Dark's rambling to cease so that he could ask the question burning on his mind- Dark had never mentioned Damien before, after all.

"Damien?" Anti asked aloud. "Who... what?"

"You never told him?" Mark asked disbelievingly. Dark shot him a small glare, but turned his attention back to Anti. He didn't need to explain himself to Mark, after all.

"Yes, Damien," Dark agreed, feeling part of him swell when Anti said his proper name. "He's one of the two souls that are trapped in this form. The other is his sister, Celine- she was... less agreeable when it came to giving you our heart, but I am glad she gave in in the end..."

Anti looked momentarily stunned. "You mean..." he started, licking his lips. "That the Damien and Celine that Wilford keeps talking about... that's you?"

Dark nodded wordlessly. He'd almost forgotten that Wilford still mentioned their names occasionally, and that Anti might have picked up on them beforehand. The poor glitch looked like he didn't know what to make of himself right now.

"Yes," Dark affirmed sadly. "It was... a terrible turn of events that led to this,"

"Why didn't you tell him?" Anti asked, eyes shining with tears. "He... he fucking cries himself to sleep some nights thinking about them- about you, Dark why wouldn't you say something?"

"Because he doesn't see me as a culmination of beings," Dark interrupted, hanging his head lowly. "He... he knows me as Dark, and... I can't split into who I used to be, Anti. It's... complicated, to say the least. Why did you think I kept this from you for so long? I... I didn't know how you would react,"

"I..." Anti swallowed. "I don't... it doesn't make much of a difference, right? I can just... I can call you Damien now, right? That's..."

He sighed a little. "A nice... name..."

Dark felt part of him flutter. "Thank you, Anti... but you shouldn't call us Damien, even though I am residing within. It wouldn't be right, considering that my sister is here as well- we had adapted the name 'Dark' because it was what the demon called himself, and it seemed... easier,"

'It is hardly what I called myself- but what I had grown accustomed to, you insolent fools...'

"D-Damien?" Anti whispered uncertainly. "Is that... I mean, can they... you... ugh, this is weird,"

Dark chuckled softly despite himself. "This is... this is why I didn't want to tell you... it gets confusing even for me sometimes, you know? I didn't... I didn't want to scare you away..."

"Oh, Darky," Anti sniffed, holding him around the middle. "I'm not going anywhere, not unless... unless you want me to,"

"I wouldn't dream of such a thing," Dark promised. "And... though you know the truth now, I implore you... do not feel obligated to cater to either of our needs separately. To... to call our individual names, or to ask us about ourselves, because... truly, we are one now. Who we once were is lost to us..."

Anti bit his lip as he nodded sadly. "But... it's Damien that has f-feelings for me, right?"

"He adores you with every part of his soul," Dark promised again. "He hates seeing you upset, and he hated every night we spent with any other man... he loves you, Anti. More than anything,"

Anti smiled through his tears, resting his head on Dark's chest. "I... I love him too. I love you, too..."

Mark had stopped talking to Tyler in favour of looking at the pair of egos that were currently sitting together on the sofa, giggling softly and exchanging sweet nothings as if they weren't dangerous demons bent on destruction... or was that something Mark had decided they were?

Truly, it escaped him how the man he'd known in his childhood- strange, reality-distorting and creepy- was actually so... nice?

No, nice wasn't the word. Part of him knew that Dark could be pleasant enough, but he'd just always seemed so brooding and careful, that seeing him smiling and laughing with Anti just seemed so... unnatural.

"You alright there, bud?" Tyler snorted, noticing that Mark had ceased speaking to him.

"I'm just... trying to wrap my head around it," Mark frowned. "I mean- Dark's always seemed so inhuman, and scary, and dangerous, but... fuck, Tyler, that's precious. Dark isn't a precious guy,"

"Well, I know for a fact that you're a different man around Amy," Tyler teased. "You're not trying or anything either- you just seem... happier, I guess. Maybe Dark's the same. Look at them- you'd tell me that isn't love?"

Mark wasn't so sure his previous assumptions about the two egos were even right anymore. The Dark he'd thought he'd known wouldn't have tolerated cheating- wouldn't have let anyone use 'Darky' as a nickname, wouldn't have let anyone get this close...

But fuck, it was getting hard to deny. They were kissing again- but it wasn't like they were trying to make anyone else uncomfortable. It's like they were doing it just for the sake of doing it, just because they wanted to... and Dark's swollen abdomen was resting between them, and he was becoming aware of the way Anti's fingers were tapping Dark's skin softly, and... those two really did seem to be in love.

"I'm confused," Mark groaned aloud, causing Tyler to laugh in response.

"Love is confusing," Tyler advised. "Whether it's yours or not. But what matters is that they're both happy, right?"

"Right," Mark agreed, feeling a weight lift off his chest. "Right..."

Chapter Text

~Groundlands~

"Fuck, that was a long show..." Dan sighed, running his hands through his mildly-sweaty hair. It was bloody hot in Connecticut- a strong 80°F is what they'd been told as they made their way back to their tour bus, shrugging off their jackets. It had been a high energy turnout tonight- a theater full of young people of all shapes and colours, wearing their merch and bopping to the beats... really, it wasn't terrible. But it was exhausting.

"It wasn't that bad," Phil laughed, though he shuddered a little in sympathy for Dan. He hadn't been right since that whole ego thing happened, but... well, Phil guessed he couldn't blame him. If he'd died and come back to life as if nothing had happened, he'd be feeling detached as well. He only wished Dan could move on from what had occurred in time- he hadn't uploaded in a long while and the fans were starting to get worried.

"You've got an email from Mark," Dan frowned as he checked their phones, head cocked to one side in confusion. "What do you think that's about?"

"Beats me," Phil shrugged, throwing on a clean shirt. He'd gotten unusually sweaty in that damn building. "Maybe he wants to collab now that we're in the country,"

Dan shivered in remembrance. "The last time someone wanted to 'collab' with us, I ended up stabbed. You don't think it's actually Darkiplier trying to kill my ego in an elaborate ploy that involves possessing Mark's body and sending us this to lure us into a false sense of security-"

"Dan, shut up," Phil snorted, shoving Dan in his side and leaning over his shoulder. "You're overreacting- just read what it says,"

Dan sighed deeply as he opened the email, though he didn't look entirely convinced that everything was going to be okay. If he was honest with himself, neither was Phil. But he knew Dark- at least, he knew the guy well enough to trust him not to come after Dan's ego. Dan hadn't experienced anything he had in that Void, and even when Phil tried to share the details, Dan didn't really want to hear any of it.

So he guessed that Dan's fears were justified enough, in his own head...

"It's from his girlfriend," Dan said aloud as he read the short message. "She says... wait... okay, come here, I don't get it,"

Phil raised his eyebrow. "What do you mean you 'don't get it'?"

"It says that Darkiplier wanted to reach out to you because he's living in America currently," Dan frowned. "But then she also says that Dark can't travel in his current condition- she wants to know when we're going to be in LA so we can meet with him,"

"Ooh, really?" Phil asked, excited at the prospect of seeing Dark again. Having Dan around was still more than he could have ever asked for, but maybe Dark could bring a little more... life, to his experience. "I mean- I don't know why he wouldn't be able to travel but I think we should do it,"

Dan fixed him with a grim look, clearly thinking the opposite. "Really, Phil? This is a literal demon,"

"So? I made friends with your demon," Phil countered. "He's not bad, Dan, he's actually really nice,"

"I mean..." Dan sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. "I... I guess we can see him, but we're not going to be in LA for another two weeks, Phil. Should we tell them we'll drop in on the day of the show, or should we risk missing Seattle by visiting them the day after?"

"I guess it depends how long they want to catch up for," Phil sighed, not really having an answer. "Look- why don't we call them and find out?"

Phil called the number that Amy had given them, waiting patiently for a response. Before long, there was an answer- he'd panicked briefly about timezones before he realised that it was actually much earlier in Los Angeles than it was on this side of the country.

"Hello?"

"Hey, Amy, right?" Phil asked, just to make sure.

"Yeah- is this Phil?"

"Right," Phil smiled in relief, "Dan's here too- we just got your email, and we were just wondering when a good time for visiting would be- because I'd really like to catch up with Dark, but the tour's a bit hectic right now, so..."

Amy laughed nervously on the other end of the line. "I thought you might be busy- you don't have to come if it's a bother, it's just... well, I didn't want to send too much information in case the email was leaked but... Dark's having a baby,"

Phil's eyes widened in shock, and Dan sighed in disbelief. "He's having a baby? Here? Whose is it?"

"What?" Dan grimaced, confused.

"It's Anti's baby," Amy explained, and Phil met Dan's eyes with a start. Anti's baby? But... who was carrying the baby, and how did they even get to this point, and... what?

"Um... how?"

"It's... complicated," Amy sighed. "But he's the pregnant one- he's pretty far along too, which is why he can't really visit you. What are your Cali tour dates like?"

"We've got San Diego on the eighth of August," Dan sighed, looking like he was still trying to wrap his head around the pregnancy. "Then we've got LA on the ninth- but we've got Seattle on the eleventh and that's going to be hard to work around,"

Amy winced a little in sympathy. "Sheesh, guys... that's rough. But... well, Dark's not the only reason we wanted your help. You see- Mark and Seán have these other egos too, and Dark said you might be able to shed some light on possessing their real bodies,"

"Yeah," Phil muttered, not entirely trusting himself to speak. "I... I guess we've got experience with that. But... why would they want to be possessed? Who wants to possess them?"

"It's the doctors," Amy replied. "I've been organising their wedding, but Mark and Seán don't necessarily want to be there for the wedding night, if you catch my drift,"

Dan swallowed uncomfortably, remembering all too well his own experience with non consensual ego hijacking shenanigans. Sometimes he could still feel his lips burning, though the wounds were long healed. "Oh, I caught the drift,"

"Well, I'd have to ask Blaze about it, really..." Phil sighed, running a hand through his hair. "And I don't really know how to contact him, but... hey Dan, you can talk to Daniel, right?"

Dan shuddered. "I haven't been able to sense him at all since May, Phil- I think he's been ignoring me,"

"Well, we'll work on it," Phil promised. "I can't wait to see him again- so much has happened!"

Amy chuckled in return. "Yeah, I'll say. But it must be late for you- I'll let you go. Just, keep in touch, alright?"

"Yeah, we will,"

The phone call ended. As if on cue, Dan let out a long winded sigh.

"I... what?"

"I don't really get it either," Phil frowned. "I mean- I didn't think guys could get pregnant, unless Dark's secretly a trans man and we don't know about it. But... it's only been two months, how can he be 'far along'?"

"I'm still hung up on the fact that Dark and Anti were fighting in our goddamn dressing room the other month," Dan sighed in distress. "And now they're together- with a baby, for Christ's sake..."

"And the doctors are getting married?" Phil queried, though he smiled all the same. "I mean, I knew there was no way they weren't together, but..."

"Phil, I have literally no clue what you're talking about," Dan grimaced. "Just... Fuck, I'm tired. Let's talk about this in the morning, okay?"

Phil gave him a small, appreciative smile. "Okay... thanks for agreeing to let us visit. I kind of want to stay for the wedding, too, but... we didn't really give ourselves much time between cities, huh?"

Dan snorted in response, making his way to his bed. "No, we didn't... Night Phil,"

Phil smiled warmly, already planning out the next few weeks in his head. "Night Dan,"

Dan didn't go to sleep. He closed the door behind him, locking it, and then made his way to the bathroom. His breathing hitched in his throat as he considered the implications of what he was about to do- but he needed to do this. Daniel had never been silent for this long- sure, he'd toned it down a bit when Dan was making a recovery, but the second voice in his mind never actually went away entirely.

It was... almost lonely, these past two months.

Dan reached under the bathroom sink, feeling for the piece of blu-tack he'd stuck onto the sharp edge of the tiled basin when he'd first discovered it. It was a design flaw- one that had almost caused Dan to slice open his knee when he'd slipped in here on his first day- but now he was removing the protective padding, his mouth dry and his skin tingling.

He'd never thought he'd be the kind of person to cut for attention. But here he was, lining up his ankle, and before he could talk himself out of it he kicked the basin. Hard.

He bit back tears as the familiar rush of exhilaration hit him, the telltale sign of blood leaking from his ankle, and ouch, fuck... It had always hurt less on his arms.

But there was no denying it- Daniel had heard his cry, and now he was here. Dan could feel the medication seizing up in his chest, and he looked himself in the mirror, daring the demon to come forth.

"I- fuck- I know you're here, why aren't you talking to me?!"

'You scared the everloving fuck out of me, you know that? I thought another demon had gotten their hands on you- why would you hurt yourself like this?!'

"Because you're ignoring me!" Dan growled. "What the fuck, Daniel- you can't just leave me alone like that with no idea what's happening..."

'I had thought you wouldn't appreciate my input, considering how I used your body the last time we spoke.'

"Well a little explanation would have been nice," Dan huffed, reaching down to knead his torn skin softly. "Before you go- I need... well, Phil needs to get in contact with Blaze- can you send him over or what?"

Dan felt a surge of second hand anger rush through him. 

'Blaze is dead. He's been gone for two months, actually. Thanks to the fact that you two never go back to an idea after you've tried it out, he might never come back at all. Why should I help you?'

"He's dead?!" Dan hissed. "What... how? What do you mean- it's our fault?"

'His presence relies on the amount of people that care for him, you idiot. It's been over a year since his mention on the internet, and I'd bet that's the entire reason he hasn't returned yet. If you two could give him a damn shoutout, or make another video, or- fuck, I don't know. Anything could help him get back...'

Dan knew that calling out again was futile, but he tried anyway. Daniel was gone- he'd been abandoned once again, and now Dan was slowly bleeding out from his ankle with even less answers than before...

Dead? He wasn't aware egos could die- but then, he wasn't aware they could come back to life, either. What had Daniel meant, telling him that Blaze just needed a little more fame?

He grimaced, pulling out his phone and opening his tumblr. If Daniel really thought this would help... well, Phil did need to talk to his ego. If this could bring Blaze back, it might be worth the drama it would cause in the fandom.

He liked and reblogged the first picture of AblazingPhil he found- and yeesh, it was over a year old... Hopefully, this would make a good difference.

In the meantime, he really was tired. He pulled on a pair of socks to hide his little scar (Daniel must have absorbed the wound somehow) and climbed into bed, turning his phone on silent. He didn't want to be reminded any more of what had happened in May than necessary...

0o0o0o0o0o0

"What's wrong?" Anti asked, breaking from the embrace for the second time tonight due to one of Dark's whimpers of pain. Though the demon had waved him off before, this time... well, Anti didn't want to hurt him. He needed to know if Dark was actually okay- was he getting worn out? Was he tired? Was Anti pushing him too hard?

Anti bit his lip worriedly as Dark gave him a half-certain smile, caressing Anti's cheek softly.

"Nothing, I'm just... sensitive," Dark mumbled under his breath, seemingly embarrassed. "Really, I'm fine,"

"No you're not," Anti countered, folding his arms. "Where does it hurt?"

Dark glanced over at Mark and Tyler, who had been shooting them not-so-subtle warning glares whenever they got too touchy. Really, as if Dark would let this escalate without Seán's permission... though he supposed maybe they had no grounds to trust the demon, especially after what had happened in May...

"My breasts," Dark confided, the words still feeling a little alien on his lips. "I've started producing colostrum in preparation for breastfeeding, and they're... rather swollen. But I am not sure of what to do about this, even though they are causing me discomfort..."

"Does that mean she's due soon?" Anti asked curiously, a hint of worry in his tone.

"Not necessarily," Dark denied carefully. "Amy and I were looking into it today- some women start making colostrum as early as four months into their pregnancy- though it often signifies that labour is coming. Regardless, we decided that expressing was hardly going to be productive, and it comes with the risk of inducing early labour... While Desiree is remarkably well-developed already, she would still be a very premature baby if she were to be born this soon,"

"But it's causing you pain," Anti frowned sadly. "Is there a way I can help?"

"Well, I..." Dark sighed. "I mean... possibly. But only if you truly want to assist- I was actually going to take care of it later on my own, but..."

'I don't think he'll be entirely into this,'

'What's the harm in telling him, though? He did ask,'

'Yes, but... It just seems so strange of a favour,'

'Really, Damien, what are you worried about? It's not even sexual, it's just going to help get rid of the pressure,'

'But he'll see it as sexual, I just... don't want this to be weird...'

"I don't mean this in a sexually intimate way," Dark uttered, trying not to let Mark overhear the conversation. "But... well, while expressing might be too direct, I was thinking of... just, kneading them until it's lessened up, you know?"

"You mean like this?" Anti asked, inching one of his hands up Dark's torso and giving the raised flesh a little squeeze. He'd thought he was being rather gentle, but at Dark's small hiss of pain, he quickly withdrew his hand. Just how sensitive was he really?

"P-perhaps a little softer," Dark mumbled in response, grasping Anti's other hand in his own as the glitch pressed into Dark's breast again, more gently than before. That... that was better...

He couldn't help the little sigh of relief that emanated from his lips as he relaxed, feeling Anti's lips trailing from his neck up to his mouth, letting his body slowly sink into the couch...

"Okay, you two can get a room," Mark groaned in frustration- Dark had almost forgotten he was still there. "I don't fuck on that couch, neither can you. Is Seán okay with you doing this?"

Dark opened his eyes lazily, feeling Anti stiffen slightly and remove his hand. Though it wasn't Anti anymore- it was Seán, with his bright blue eyes, looking a little torn. He met Dark's gaze, biting his lip nervously.

"I mean..." Seán sighed, running a hand through his hair. "I... I'm not really opposed to it, but... how far were you planning on going?"

Dark didn't know how to respond- really, he hadn't wanted to make this any more sexual than it needed to be, but after a few moments, he realised that it wasn't him that Seán was asking.

The Irishman tittered under his breath, though nobody had spoken aloud. "I... okay, that's... fine. Just... if it escalates beyond that, use a condom for the love of God... and brush your teeth!"

Mark's eyes widened at the implications of that sentence- but nobody in the room paid him any mind. Tyler was yawning to himself, checking the time, and- wow, no wonder he was tired. It was almost one in the morning.

"Okay, well Tyler and I are going to his place," Mark said pointedly, giving Dark a meaningful glance. "We'll be back before lunchtime tomorrow- Seán, make sure he doesn't-"

"It'll be fine, Mark," Seán dismissed, waving him off without concern. "I'm a consenting adult,"

Mark groaned aloud. "Just... fine. Fine. Don't say I didn't warn you."

Seán's eyes flickered green again as he smiled, turning his attention back to Dark.

"Maybe Jack's not so bad after all," Anti hummed, resuming his position in Dark's lap as the front door swung shut behind the pair. They were alone... well, aside from Seán, of course...

"What exactly did you tell him we were going to do?" Dark queried, and the sensation of Anti's breaths hitting his neck was driving him more than a little crazy. Anti chuckled, kissing Dark sweetly on the lips as his fingers roamed his skin, dipping softly beneath the hem of Dark's trousers.

"You'll find out," Anti teased smugly. "Now, this doesn't really seem like a comfortable place to be... how much... uh, colostrum, are you making?"

"Enough that I feel as though my skin is bursting," Dark sighed unwittingly. "I haven't the slightest idea of how quickly it is being produced, but... if I could get rid of some of it now, it would certainly be helpful,"

"Don't worry," Anti smiled reassuringly, standing from his seat in Dark's lap. "Here, lie down... I'll get you a cushion..."

"You really are too good to me," Dark mused, letting Anti pick his numb legs up as he went from sitting upright to lying on his back. "If it's not... too much trouble, could you... perhaps, find another cushion for my back?"

"Of course," Anti called, using the one he'd picked up already to prop Dark's head on comfortably. "I'll have to get one from your room, is that okay?"

"It's perfect," Dark smiled in return, closing his eyes and sighing comfortably. Though he couldn't feel one of his legs, the other certainly seemed to be benefiting from some movement after so long sitting upright- he wondered briefly if he should have persuaded Anti to move them to the bedroom itself, but he digressed. The glitch sounded as though he had a plan, after all- though Dark didn't know if he was particularly up for much activity tonight. He was barely able to bring himself to spend the night releasing the pre-milk from his sore and swollen breasts, let alone participate in whatever Anti had up his sleeve.

But for Anti's sake, he would try. It had been over three weeks since their last intimate encounter, after all, and Dark hated to admit he was having withdrawals. Even if he didn't feel up to it now, he was sure he'd be begging for Anti before long- his touch, his kiss, everything about that man drove him wild...

He felt familiar hands lifting him up, pushing a soft cushion underneath him, and he adjusted himself slightly on the couch, sinking into place.

"This okay?" Anti asked delicately.

"It's lovely," Dark affirmed, letting Anti crawl onto the sofa with him, planting his knees either side of Dark's hips.

"I've missed being close to you," Anti admitted, entwining his fingers with Dark's own as he smiled down, his faded green hair tickling Dark's forehead softly. "Having you to myself... it just isn't... it isn't the same without moments like these,"

"Would you like to spend more time together when I return?" Dark asked hopefully. "I've missed you too, Anti... very much."

"That'd be really, really nice," Anti breathed, leaning down to kiss Dark firmly, parting his lips and letting Dark's tongue slide lazily inside. Anti bit down on it gently, chuckling along with Dark as the kiss stopped momentarily, resting close to each other and basking in each other's soothing energy.

"I love you," Anti mumbled again, feeling Desiree kicking at his lower abdomen as he smiled into Dark's chest.

"And I you," Dark responded, pressing a hand to his bump reassuringly. Desiree seemed rather excited to have both of her parents so close to her, but her gentle wriggles were sending fire through Dark's veins. His chest felt tight and bloated, his bladder a little crushed, but he wouldn't trade this feeling for anything- Anti was here, and their baby was here, and they were together alone for the first time ever... a family.

"Do you want me to take your shirt off?" Anti asked softly, his whispered breaths sending shivers through Dark's spine.

"If you would like to," Dark swallowed, letting Anti tug the clothing over his head, revealing the second layer of fabric that Dark was only now adjusting to wearing. A thin piece of cotton, stretched to its maximum capacity, holding Dark's disposable breast pads in place on his torso. Anti raised an eyebrow.

"Not exactly the sexiest lingerie out there," Anti chuckled teasingly, and Dark flushed. Perhaps one day, he'd surprise Anti with a proper set of lace undergarments, but for now he was content with this comfortable, lazy intimacy. Neither of them were trying too hard, and Dark could appreciate that- they were here, loving each other for who they really were. Strange pregnancy and possession clauses and all.

"Oh, hush..." Dark couldn't help but smile, and Anti pulled the tube over Dark's head as well, removing the pads. It certainly felt... relieving, in a way. Dark hadn't realised just how tightly that ring of fabric had fastened to his skin, but now that his breasts were free, he certainly felt a lot less constricted than before. He breathed a sigh of exhausted relief.

"That's better, isn't it?" Anti smiled, hand trailing up Dark's torso to rest, cupping one of Dark's swollen lumps of breast tissue. Dark closed his eyes tentatively, hissing a little in pleasure when Anti's fingers brushed over one of his overly sensitive nipples.

"Y-yes..." Dark agreed, breathing a little haggardly. "Please, Anti... I don't think I can handle much t-teasing, tonight..."

"Sorry," Anti winced, letting his other hand drift up to grasp Dark as well, before giving both of Dark's breasts a gentle squeeze.

Clear fluid flowed in a trickle from Dark's nipples as he let out a long, breathy groan, sinking even further into the cushioned sofa. "Fuck..."

"Is that good?" Anti asked in response, fingers ghosting teasingly over Dark's chest as the demon nodded feebly, reaching for Anti's hands. He pressed them further into the flesh of his breasts, sighing again when more pre-milk was released from his ducts. This was certainly effective, though to Dark's dismay, he found that he was liking the stimulation a little too much- already, he could feel the damp building up in his boxers, and he shifted needily under Anti, trying to find a more comfortable position.

Anti licked his lips nervously, leaning down so that he was face to face with Dark. His eyes were a deep blue... was that Damien? Now that Anti had discovered who Dark really was, he couldn't help but wonder if the two siblings, Damien and Celine, were separate enough that they shone through Dark's personality in different ways. He wanted to explore Dark again, find out the correlation between the red and the blue, but Dark hadn't wanted him to pry... he only hoped that one day, Dark would trust him with the information.

He forced the thoughts away.

"Can I... can I try something?" Anti asked, feeling Dark as he guided his hands across the rough, grey skin that was the demon's chest. Dark's eyes were closed in bliss, but he gave a slight nod to indicate his agreement.

"Mhm..."

Dark didn't know what he was expecting- he was far too lost in the feeling of Anti's gentle hands on his breasts, kneading the pain away, the temperate moisture dripping steadily down his body. But he hadn't expected a warm, wet chasm to descend- latching onto one of Dark's areolas, while Anti continued to knead softly at the other mound of sensitive flesh. The glitch gave a little nip, then a suck, twirling his tongue around Dark's nipple, and the demon practically melted in his place.

"Oh..." Dark moaned, opening his eyes to chance a glance at what was happening. Anti was looking up at him, smiling in satisfaction, his tongue flicking across the darkened flesh... and then he was suckling again, and Dark could feel the pre-milk steadily draining from his right breast, the hot, desperate sensation pooling between his legs only getting stronger by the second. He hadn't felt this stimulated in... forever, it seemed. He almost felt like he was already on the edge of orgasm- but surely he could last longer than this.

One thing was certain- the hopes of this intimacy remaining pure had been dashed to pieces. Dark... he wanted to come. He needed release- from the puddle of arousal pooling in his abdomen as well as the excess pre-milk that had built up in his breasts.

Anti let out a contented hum as he released his grasp on Dark's nipple, taking the other into his mouth, and ah... his lips were swollen red, his chin shiny with excess fluid, and then they were kissing again. He tasted sweet, like syrup, and Dark was left to wonder if that was yesterday's sugary breakfast coming through in liquid form. He knew it was probably gross and certainly taboo, but he couldn't help himself from licking into Anti's mouth, savouring the taste as Anti gagged a little on his tongue.

Anti didn't seem to mind the feeling either, but Dark knew he had to stop this before it got too out of control- this was an act that shouldn't be exclusively about sex, at least, in his eyes. After all, he would eventually have to feed his daughter this way, and he wasn't so sure he wanted to associate this overwhelming pleasure with his baby girl.

He reluctantly stopped Anti from dipping back down, trailing his lips across the glitch's neck and shoulder, tugging the simple grey tee Seán had been wearing up and over Anti's head.

"N-no..." Dark muttered, shifting a little to avoid grinding too hard on Anti in his current state of arousal. "That's... amazing, but I... we shouldn't..."

Anti, if a little put out, seemed to understand. They kissed again, and again, and then Anti was back to kneading Dark's remaining colostrum out of his body, pressing soft smooches along the bottom of Dark's jawline. He was so patient, and caring, and gentle... Dark didn't know what he'd done to deserve a man like this.

"Can I use my mouth on you in other places, then?" Anti whispered, trailing his hand down to rest on the front of Dark's trousers. He wasn't stupid- he knew as soon as Dark had suggested this that the demon was going to get aroused, and he was definitely okay with providing that release. He knew he'd said he wanted to spend time with Dark without sex, but that wasn't what he really wanted... He'd just wanted intimacy, and love, and conversation, and there was truly nothing more intimate than what they were doing here.

This wasn't sex for the sake of it, Anti felt. This... this was deeper. They needed this just as much as they'd needed to talk earlier.

Dark was wet- unbelievably slick as Anti's hand dipped below his waistband, feeling the neatly tamed mass of hair that the glitch was so accustomed to trailing his fingers through. Yet this time, there was no shaft to be seen protruding from the pale flesh, no external organ for Anti to grasp and tug, to bring Dark to his breaking point. Like the first time Dark had wanted them to be together, his lower body was that of a woman's, and though Anti didn't have much experience with this body type, he was willing to learn everything for Dark's sake.

Every fold, every nook, every little thing that made Dark squirm with pleasure. Because while Dark was often male, Anti had discovered that he was sometimes female too. And he only wanted to be able to provide the best for both sides, like Dark would do for him in a heartbeat.

Dark jolted on instinct as Anti slipped his fingers gently between Dark's folds, holding them there for a moment while he waited for Dark's verbal consent.

Dark himself was panting heavily, sweating, resisting the overwhelming urge to buck up and let Anti slide inside of him- but between his gasps he nodded once more, letting his functional leg fall slack so that Anti could remove his trousers without hindrance.

"Only if you want to," Dark reminded, though his head was thrown back in pleasure as Anti thumbed over his clit, sliding Dark's boxers down until he was bare.

"I've given you head before- how is this any different?" Anti wondered aloud, shimmying backwards and moving Dark's legs to either side of him. He knelt down, ignoring the discomfort and pressure on his back, and proceeded to kiss gently up Dark's responsive thigh, the other one propped up on the back of the sofa.

"They are t-two separate actions," Dark stuttered, running one hand through Anti's hair while the other was still fondling his half-emptied breast. "Giving fellatio is a d-different experience entirely from giving c-cunnilingus..."

"I'll pretend to understand what you just said to me," Anti smiled softly, leaning in to kiss Dark on the lips a final time. He wasn't entirely sure if Dark would want to kiss him again after what he was about to do- but if it would feel as good as he imagined, he guessed it was worth it just to watch Dark fall apart in his arms. Still, he made sure that this kiss was memorable enough to last, snaking his arms around Dark's middle and playing idly with the hair on the back of his scalp.

"The t-technique is m-much different, Anti..." Dark muttered after they'd parted. "Women's genitals a-are much more s-sensitive to some actions than to others..."

"What do you like?" Anti questioned, slipping his fingers back to where they'd been before, taking pleasure in the way that Dark's hips quivered needily at the touch.

Dark didn't entirely know what he liked... Really, the only people he'd even let see his female form were Seán and Anti- and Seán was hardly going to remember what had happened that night, even if Dark wanted him to. And Anti... Dark had wanted to cut right to the chase the first time they were together. There was no time for exploration- well, he'd let Anti use his fingers to prepare him, but that was much too similar to having regular intercourse.

It wasn't that Dark didn't like regular intercourse- but he had a feeling Anti wanted another answer. He bit his lip nervously.

"When I was... with William," Dark spoke softly, as if he were scared to mention the name. "Before I was part of this form, I... I liked it when he used his tongue on me while he fingered me open..."

Anti looked a little puzzled, but made to comply anyway. "William?"

"W-Wilford," Dark corrected, gasping when Anti kissed his way from Dark's belly-button to his pelvis. "P-please, Anti, I can't... oh...!"

Anti's tongue was warm and wet, hot against the sensitive folds of Dark's lower lips as he buried the muscle between them, licking gently along the main crevice. It had been so long, so many years since someone had taken the time to pleasure him this way- almost a century, and here Anti was, not even breaking a sweat, not even making a big show of how amazing he was to do this... Like it was something he just wanted to do. For the sake of making Dark happy.

Dark had never felt more loved.

"Mmh..." Dark breathed, unable to see exactly what Anti was doing down there because of his bump- but he could see the fronds of Anti's hair poking up, curling around Dark's fingers, and he could feel... he could feel Anti pressing gently around his hole, spreading the soft flesh with his thumb as he teased Dark with the tips of his fingers. His tongue was swirling around Dark's clit, flicking it gently, his lips catching on Dark's skin and his beard tangling with Dark's tidily trimmed hairs. 

Anti hummed in response, flicking his tongue faster and pressing his fingers deeper, just as he'd done on that first night. But this time, he seemed a lot more comfortable with what he was doing- Dark felt immeasurably proud.

But he also felt immeasurably close to the edge, and he became conscious of the slew of words emanating from his mouth as he gripped harder, moaned louder, each shudder sending him further into his heavenly trance. He was almost ashamed to let himself release so soon- but he was so sensitive, and Anti was driving him absolutely mad with pleasure.

"Ohh... yes, f-fuck, harder..."

"You're so f-fucking wet..." Anti breathed, coming up for air, but keeping his fingers buried to the knuckle inside Dark, mouthing hotly at the skin surrounding his sex. "And tight... fuck, Dark, you feel so good..."

 "C-curl your fingers, Anti," Dark urged, knowing that by now all of his pre-milk was gone, but he still pinched and rubbed at his swollen nipples in effort to give him more pleasure.

Anti obliged, curling his fingers upwards, and- Oh, that's the spot...

"R-right there," Dark panted, feeling the heat building up, the tension rising, his toes curling inwards as Anti hit Dark's sweet spot again, tongue swirling again around and across Dark's clit, sending him over the edge, and-

"Ah, f-fuck!"

Dark felt tingles sprinting up his leg, across his thigh, the heat growing almost too much to bear, and then- then, it ceased. Dark relaxed, not having realised just how stiff and tense his muscles had become, his pelvis quivering as it was lowered gently into the cushions on the sofa.

"Wow, I..." Anti started, coughing a little to clear his throat. "Schneep told me female orgasms were a myth..."

Dark laughed lazily, his brain a little foggy, letting Anti climb back into his initial position on the sofa. They were nose to nose, forehead to forehead, breathing into each other's mouths as Dark felt himself growing intoxicated by the scent of sex in the air.

"Henrik wouldn't know a female orgasm if it hit him in the face," Dark chuckled, and Anti let out a content little sigh in response.

"That did hit me in the face," Anti pointed out, though he couldn't help but giggle softly at the very idea of Schneep sleeping with a woman. "How... how was it? Better than Wilford?"

"It was amazing," Dark chuckled, caressing Anti's cheek gently with his thumb. "Wilford doesn't hold a candle to you, dear... Thank you, really... I didn't know how much I had needed that..."

Anti blushed, smiling, resting his lips on Dark's forehead in a soothing gesture. "It's a good thing I've picked up on when you need a nice fuck, huh?"

Dark snorted under his breath, fingers tangling delicately in Anti's fringe. "Please Anti, never change... is there something I can do for you in return?"

"I..." Anti swallowed thickly. "I mean... only if you're up to it..."

"Oh, my dear..." Dark mused, bringing Anti's thighs closer to him, unbuttoning his jeans. "If I hadn't been up to it, I wouldn't have offered,"

Chapter Text

~Void~

"Darky..."

Anti rubbed his thumb carefully across Dark's cheek as the demon slept, his deep black hair a little matted with sweat, his lips parted slightly and emanating soft snores... Dark was so beautiful when he slept. Anti hadn't realised until now that he'd never seen Dark so much as take a day nap in all the long years they'd been friends- unfortunately, Jack had resumed control the last time they'd fallen asleep together, so Anti had never seen this soft, vulnerable side of his lover in great detail... but that was all worth it, just to have this moment now.

He was actually surprised that Jack had let him stick around for so long this time- he'd fallen asleep cuddled up to Dark, the smell of sex and sweat burning on his skin, and he'd expected to awaken in the Void like he usually did- cold and lonely. But this time... he was still here. He was here, and he was with Dark, and in a strange way it almost felt like home...

"I love you..." Anti cooed softly, pressing a kiss to Dark's temples and watching some of the sleeping man's wrinkles melt away, happiness bubbling within his heart.

As if on cue, Anti felt a kick on his palm where he'd rested it against Dark's tummy. He couldn't help but chuckle under his breath, caressing the firm skin gently, wondering if his daughter could hear him.

"I love you too, Desiree..." Anti reassured, feeling his cheeks split into a grin. She certainly seemed happy to hear it, pushing with all her might into Anti's touch, the green glow she was emitting growing ever brighter. He pulled Dark closer, spooning him softly, nestling his head in the crook of the demon's neck.

He'd always been a little spoon- there was just no contest. Anti really liked being held, awake or asleep, and Dark had always been more than happy to oblige him the comforting embrace- even before they were together. However, he found that being Dark's big spoon was equally as satisfying and comfortable, in a strange but soothing way.

"Look at us..." Anti mused, fingertips brushing softly against Dark's lower abdomen. "Here together... in the Groundlands of all places, hah... It's been... it's been rough, hasn't it?"

Anti didn't know who he was talking to- was it Dark, or himself, or was it his baby? Was it Jack, who he knew was listening in? It didn't matter. The words kept spilling from him, like he was a leaky faucet that couldn't hold it in anymore.

"I'm sorry..." Anti mumbled with a sigh, pressing little kisses along Dark's bare shoulder and his arm, drawing him even closer until there was no space between them on the sofa. "For being so selfish... I realise it now, you know? That all this time... being worried about my habits and what I'm doing... it's not healthy. I get it..."

Anti let out a shuddering breath. "And I know it feels like... like nothing is going well for me, but being here with you, I... I see that's a lie. It's... it's a convincing one, but... how can I believe it when I've got you?"

Desiree kicked at Anti's hand again, and though she probably didn't understand the weight of Anti's problems, he found himself thankful for her presence anyway. He nuzzled Dark's neck affectionately, pressing through the skin of Dark's abdomen as if he wanted to pick his daughter up and hold her.

"When I've got both of you..." Anti whispered, smiling through the tears that had started to well in his eyes. "I can't... I can't imagine why you'd want me after... after everything, but... but you do... I'm just so... thankful for this second chance, even if... even if I suck at saying it..."

"... I think you put it wonderfully, darling..." Dark whispered suddenly, leaning back slightly into Anti's touch and chuckling softly at the glitch's flinch of surprise. Anti jumped a little, before groaning to himself and burying his head in Dark's shoulder shamefully.

"Sorry... I didn't want to wake you up," Anti mumbled quietly, feeling Dark's hand brush smoothly against his own.

"It was hardly your fault, dear," Dark smiled, entwining his fingers with Anti's, pressing both hands to his stomach. "Our child is very excitable, rather like a certain someone I love,"

Anti buried his red face in Dark's shoulder, unable to stop smiling at the fact that Dark still loved him... after everything, he was still loved. And if Anti was honest, knowing that Dark and Jack had slept together those few months ago wasn't stopping him from loving this man with all his heart either.

Dark chuckled again, turning around on his side, letting Anti adjust his grip so that the glitch's arms were around his waist, holding him in place. Desiree was nestled between them, rolling around and occasionally pressing at the walls of Dark's womb as if to make sure they were both still there. Anti didn't ever want to leave them again...

"I accept your apology, of course," Dark smiled appreciatively, resting his forehead gently against his lover's. "I can only hope you will accept mine in return..."

"Dark, you don't need to-"

"I know," Dark interceded gently, brushing his fingers lazily over Anti's cheek. "Neither did you, but... well, our thoughts get the better of all of us sometimes, don't they?"

Anti sighed in defeat. "Yeah, I... I guess..."

"I'm sorry for not telling you sooner about who I really am," Dark insisted, thumbing over Anti's chin softly. "About Damien, and Celine, and... and Tenebreux... I had thought it would be easier for you to deal with me if I was only one person to you, but I've found that perhaps pushing their individuality aside is not the answer..."

"Shh, one thing at a time," Anti said, kissing Dark softly on the lips and swelling with exhilaration as Dark returned the gesture, losing himself in the closeness they were maintaining. They broke apart with a little smacking sound, gazing lazily into each other's eyes. "I... I'm sorry if you already said something about it that I missed, but... Tenebreux? Who's that?"

"Tenebreux is... he's the demon that holds this form together," Dark explained, and Anti could hear the choking grip of regret in his tone. "He... he is rather short tempered and childish, but he is intelligent and powerful in his own right. I didn't tell you about him, simply because... well, I didn't want you to try and befriend him. He doesn't want to associate with you, or anyone for that matter, Anti... he leaves most menial tasks up to Damien and Celine, and focuses on keeping this body healthy with his time. I didn't... I didn't want his apathy to hurt you..."

"Oh..." Anti whispered, blinking a few times as Dark traced his jawline idly. "So he... he doesn't want to know me, huh?"

"He is impartial," Dark sighed, looking just a little guilty. "He's had... a hard time opening up, even to the other souls in this form. He would prefer not to get attached, but... but that doesn't stop me from wanting you, needing you..."

Anti let out a small laugh, running a hand through Dark's hair. "I don't mind..." he told his lover truthfully. "It... it doesn't change anything between us, so it shouldn't matter..."

"So it shouldn't," Dark agreed. "But I am also sorry for taking control of you... manipulating you the way I did. Trying to force you into staying by my side, trying to make you want to never leave... it wasn't right of me, Anti. I promise you- I will never disregard your thoughts and desires again..."

"And I'll never lose trust in you again," Anti promised, giving Dark a sad, but reassuring smile. "I won't... I won't let myself fuck it up a second time..."

And despite Dark having already forgiven him, Anti could see the demon's eyes shine just a little brighter in response to the vow. They were a nice, deep purple today. Calm, and stable, and gorgeous...

"I love you," Anti said again, worrying that he was being too repetitive.

Dark only chuckled in return, leaning in to kiss Anti softly on the nose. "I love you too. I could listen to you telling me that all day, Antithesis... I could never be bored of someone like you,"

There was a knock on the door, and the lovers broke apart hastily, remembering that they were technically under instruction not to get too touchy. Well, it wasn't that they regretted what had happened last night, but rather that getting caught together like this probably wouldn't end well for either of them.

"Hey Dark! You decent?"

Anti felt Dark relax around him, having realised just who had come to see them. It wasn't Mark, nor that ego Xyler's original- it was only Amy.

"Yes!" Dark called in return, though he didn't make any move to get up. Anti had to admit, when he first saw Amy, he'd done a double-take. He hadn't seen her ego Peevils in over a year- though he'd had more than a few run-ins with her after he left Dark and the manor behind. She'd never ceased her gloating- telling him Dark never loved him, that falling for the demon was a mistake, asking if he was banished for making a move like she was... that bitch. She was one of the few people Anti had no regrets behind stabbing in the throat.

But Amy was so nice, and kind, and happy... her hair was a deep brown, not the shocking pink tangle that Peevils wore. She and that wench, they... they were two completely different people. Just like he and Jack were two different people.

Anti supposed that was a good thing, considering just how friendly she and Dark seemed to be. Strangely, her company made Anti feel a little more... relaxed, knowing that Dark wasn't all alone here.

"Hey," Amy said, walking into the room and raising an eyebrow at the loved up couple lying together on the sofa. "Anti?"

"Hi," Anti greeted shyly, still feeling a little guilty for acting so defensive around her at first. She'd done nothing to deserve it, after all.

She smirked at the pair, folding her arms teasingly. "Mark's gonna kill you- you didn't do anything on his couch, did you?"

"Nothing that he knows about," Dark chuckled, and to Anti's surprise, Amy only grinned in return. Anti supposed that she wasn't entirely on board with the whole 'keep Dark and Anti from fucking' thing that Mark seemed to have adapted into his daily routine.

"Well, what he doesn't know won't kill him," she shrugged, sending Anti a sly wink. "Oh, he wanted me to drop in and ask- did you two want to come see the set for the Warfstache sketch?"

"Warfstache sketch?" Anti repeated, clueless, meeting Dark's equally confused gaze as he snorted. "What, is he posing as a nude model again?"

"Again?" Amy echoed, apparently torn between laughter and concern. "Okay, you have to tell me about that one later- but still, I need to know now if you two are coming with me, I'm just here to pick up a prop he left behind,"

"Are we going to be in a studio all day?" Dark queried, hand never once leaving Anti's cheek. Now that he had the glitch, he was hardly going to let him go. They had never been so stable together, never so content with each other... he wasn't going to trade this for the world.

Amy shrugged. "Who knows with Mark, honestly... usually he's pretty good at wrapping up filming but he's been working really hard on this one. Maybe you two can have a nice day out, go to the park- staying inside all the time can't be good for you,"

Dark and Anti exchanged a wary look with each other, then turned to face Amy with concern. "A day out?" Dark asked, a little uncertainly. "I... I can't go out looking like this, Amy,"

"And I'll get recognised," Anti pointed out, gesturing to himself, bright eyes shining despite the excuse. "Jack's too popular, I can't just-"

"Well, I have one solution," Amy interrupted, walking over and rummaging through an open box that was in the corner of the room. She pulled out a thick, black hoodie, removing it from its plastic wrap and tossing it to Anti. He reluctantly withdrew his hands from Dark's embrace, looking it over. It seemed comfortable enough, if a little large...

"Here- it's part of Mark and Sean's new clothing brand," Amy smiled proudly. "As for your eyes... well, you could always say you're cosplaying."

"Clothing brand?" Anti echoed once more, feeling the smooth fabric between his fingers. "I mean... why not, I guess... but, cosplay? I don't think even the best cosplayers could pull something like this off-"

"As for you," Amy continued, looking at Dark. "You... you can just use your female form, right?"

Dark looked a little queasy as he chanced a look at Anti's face. He knew Anti would love him no matter what- whether he was a man or a woman, it didn't really matter to the glitch. But he hadn't let Anti see him in his female form just yet- what if he preferred it more? What if Dark had to change his physical form more often, showing it in front of everyone? In front of Will...

"I..." Dark uttered nervously. "I'm not... Amy, he hasn't seen..."

Amy's eyes darted between the two. "Oh," she said simply.

"What?" Anti asked. "What haven't I seen?"

"My female figure," Dark sighed, biting his lip. "I... I can change my shape, to resemble Celine... the body you've grown accustomed to is that of Damien, but I can still switch between them, I just... I didn't know how you'd react to such a big change,"

"I'm sure you look beautiful as a woman," Anti put forward. "If that's what you're... worried about. But if you don't want to do it, that's okay, we can just... stay here,"

Dark could tell that Anti had been more than a little excited to get out and see the world. He could see it in how his eyes lit up, how his eyebrows twitched, how he'd deflated when Dark had voiced his concerns aloud.

This fear, this apprehension... it was rather silly, wasn't it? After all, it wasn't as if Dark wanted Anti to see him exclusively as male- they'd been quite intimate in both of Dark's forms before, in a way, but... transitioning completely into a female, letting Anti see that side of him... he couldn't lie to himself. He was scared.

'He's not going to stop wanting you, Damien,'

'I know that, but I'm just... nervous,'

'It's just for today, alright? Can you handle it for today?'

'I... I guess, but... I'm going to have to trust you to keep us acting ladylike, Celine,'

'In this day and age, manners aren't really expected like they used to be. We'll be fine, Damien...'

'If you say so...'

"I... okay," Dark sighed, rubbing his forehead softly, trying to get rid of the incoming migraine that hadn't quite left him alone since he'd realised he was expecting. "I can do that,"

Amy beamed at them. "Great- I've got to go and find that wig, why don't you two get ready? I should leave within half an hour,"

"Is this our first date?" Anti smirked cheekily, resting his hand on Dark's tummy again as Amy left the room. He knew it would hardly take that long for Amy to find whatever wig she was talking about, but he appreciated what she was doing for them. A day out... in a world where nobody knew them well enough to judge them. Where every place was new and exciting- where neither of them had to strain to enjoy themselves in a material environment.

He was excited, and though Dark seemed worried about showing his feminine side, Anti knew he'd warm up to it before long. They'd had many conversations in the past that had spiralled into reminiscing about the Groundlands, where Dark would grow misty-eyed, his tone whimsical, telling Anti about how wonderful it was to exist there...

Really, Anti was just excited to see his lover happy.

"It seems so," Dark smiled in return, already seeming to realise that the pros of going on this outing far outweighed the cons. "I... I think you should move first,"

"Right," Anti agreed, crawling over Dark's figure and standing, ready to help the demon to his feet. He grabbed Dark's crutches from where they'd fallen, turning around just in time to see Dark looking at his feet, puzzled. Anti was about to ask what was wrong, when Dark shifted, sitting upright with a frown. The motion seemed... smoother than usual.

"I... Anti, take my hand,"

Anti cocked his head to one side at the strange tone Dark had taken on. "Okay, just... here,"

Anti lifted him up.

And Dark's leg, his once unresponsive appendage... it was moving. He was standing. He was... healed?

Dark stumbled a little as he leaned forward, wrapping his arms around Anti tightly- he was grinning through his nervous tears, chuckling breathlessly into Anti's shoulder. "This is excellent, darling..."

"I'm so happy you're getting better," Anti sighed in happy relief, patting Dark's back as he snuggled into the hug. "I was really, really worried about you, you know?"

"I'm fine, dear," Dark smiled down at him, steadying himself and patting the glitch's cheek gently. "Perfectly fine... now, I believe we have a date to get ready for,"

Anti couldn't help himself from smiling.

~Void~

"I didn't expect to find you lurking so close,"

Blank's eyes widened as he stopped throwing rocks, getting to his feet in an instant. That voice... it was so similar to King's own, yet also so distinctly robotic that he berated himself for feeling panicked in the first place- of course it wasn't his ex. He was just being stupid.

It's just Google, you idiot...

"What are you doing here?" Blank demanded, black eyes shining with tears as he wiped them furiously away, sending Google an apprehensive glare. He'd never hated the android- well, he'd never hated any of the other egos, but his relationship with Google was definitely better than his relationship with... say, Wilford. "Were you looking for me?"

"Of course I was looking for you!" Google sighed in apparent frustration, taking a step closer. He looked a little different to the last time Blank had seen him- the design on his shirt looked a little more modernised, and his hair looked a little more kept, but overall his changes weren't too obvious. "Xyler was worried about you, were you aware?"

Blank's breath hitched in his throat. "X-Xyler?"

Google rolled his eyes. "Yes, Blank. Xyler is deeply concerned about you."

Blank scowled, taking another step back. "I... I don't-"

"And Xyler is not the only one," Google continued in that eerie monotone he insisted on using. "King is also worried- not to mention Yandereplier and Chase Brody. Did you think about anyone but yourself when you left?"

"Is it a crime to think about myself?" Blank huffed, though he did still felt incredibly guilty for leaving how he did. Even if he wouldn't give Google the satisfaction of knowing that.

"Are you not concerned at all that others in this Void care about you?" Google asked him, apparently curious.

"No, w-why should they?" Blank sniffed, sitting down again. "I'm just... just m-me. Just a joke to E-Ethan, and just a laughing stock t-to everyone else..."

"That is not true," Google replied insistently. "My primary objective is to protect, serve and save. I am here to save you from yourself."

"Whoa- hey! Get off me!" Blank cried in alarm, kicking despite there being no hope of breaking free of Google's iron grip. The android had lifted him over his shoulder, holding him in place there, looking out into the distance as if he could see something Blank could not. "Put me down!"

"No." Google replied, smirking like he always used to do when he plotted the destruction of humanity. "This is a dangerous time. Darkiplier has left this Void, and so has Wilford. The rest of us egos are residing with Antithesis, and it is dangerous to be so far away from our only source of protection."

"I don't want to be protected!" Blank groaned. "I know it's dangerous- I fucking ran into Peevils and some bitch called Wiish already out here, and-"

"Peevils, hmm?" Google interrupted, looking a little concerned. "Well, it's lucky I found you this soon."

"Hey, I do not consent-" Blank insisted, before he realised something that made him pale. He thrashed a little more insistently, panic rising in his gut.

"Oh no- no, King's going to be there, I can't-!"

"You can and will." Google said with the air of finality. "This has gone on long enough, Blank. Besides, he will not likely want you back, if that is your concern. He is, after all, in another relationship now."

"Wait, what?" Blank uttered, knowing he shouldn't have felt this hurt considering they hadn't even spoken in a year. "He's in a... with who?"

"Bim Trimmer," Google responded, and Blank could have sworn that evil smirk grew wider. His heart sank a little. Had King really already moved on? And... and Blank knew that he was getting irrational feelings, attachment to Xyler, but... part of him still didn't want to accept that what he and King had was over.

Blank shook himself out of it. He tried to use his signature escape manoeuvre- turning into dark, misty goo and teleporting away, but something was holding him back. Something was inhibiting him.

"What gives?!" Blank hissed angrily.

"I am sending an electrical current through your system," Google replied matter-of-factly. "It is disrupting your physical form, rendering your abilities useless. It is something I picked up on while dealing with Antithesis' relaxation therapy."

"Relaxation therapy?" Blank echoed, confused. "Antithesis? You mean Antisepticeye, right, the green haired guy that-"

"His real name is Antithesis," Google corrected. "But he prefers people he is not close with to call him 'Anti'. Be on your best behaviour- we are going to his house, after all."

"I guess I have no say in this, huh?" Blank sighed, resigning himself to the fact that he'd have to leave King twice. As soon as he could get away from Google's electrical manipulation shit, he was getting out of there- no doubt about it.

Google nodded silently, marching off into the distance as Blank scowled, closing his eyes.

As the two retreated into the darkness, Peevils sent them a look of disgust. She's been mildly curious about little BlankGamePlays- about what had caused him to wander so far from home again. She guessed she'd been waiting for some gossip, but instead she found something much more interesting. 

"Oh, great. That little green runt is taking over everything..."

"Hey, don't talk about Anti like that," Wiish interjected, fiddling idly with her dark stained knife. "You don't know him like I do,"

"I know him more than you do, Wiish," Peevils replied, rolling her eyes and tossing her pink hair out of her eyes. "Whatever. Dark's gone, and so is his side-dish Wilford. I'd say this is as good of a time as any to pay that jerk a visit. Maybe you'll have better luck than I did,"

Wiish smiled, flashing her white teeth. She'd never met Anti before- but Peevils had told her countless times about how she hated him, loathed him with everything she had. That her chances with Darkiplier had been thwarted by his attraction to that glitch- and how she'd been banished from the manor with no chance of redemption, forced to live in solitude until someone just like her came along to keep her company. Wiish knew nothing but Anti when she'd arrived here- knew she had to find him, to love him, to be with him forever. That's what the fans wanted of her, right?

And so she would find him, and take him, and make him hers. And perhaps even Peevils could have her man too, if Wiish could persuade Anti to break Dark's heart. Oh, yes, it was all coming together...

The two egos followed the android into the darkness, set on their way to cause trouble for the egos.

~Groundlands~

'Why are you letting us do this?'

Seán sighed under his breath, pulling on a short-sleeved shirt to go with the jeans he was sporting, eyeing the notable scar that was ever so prominent on his neck. He'd never really had to deal with it before- it usually just healed away when Anti stopped possessing him, so living with it was definitely a strange experience.

Heck, living with Anti in his head was a strange experience in itself.

"Because... well, I'm in LA for a reason, Anti, and today was my last day at Mark's house," he voiced, knowing that to anyone else he would sound crazy, talking to himself. "I'm heading off to stay with Robin for a while tomorrow, and you won't be able to possess me and talk to Dark whenever you want anymore. Plus, I have to get back into making videos- it's just... it's the last time you two can really enjoy yourselves together, and I'm not going to take that away..."

The voice inside his mind was quiet.

'Oh...'

"I mean, I'll still be coming around to check in on him," Seán said hastily, shrugging on his hoodie and checking his hair in the mirror. "It's not like you won't see him again, it just... won't be all the time anymore."

'Okay... I didn't think after... everything I did to you, you'd want to... help me like this, you know?'

"You mean the possessing thing?" Seán questioned, sighing to himself and turning to face the bedroom's en suite bathroom, where he knew Dark was worrying. "Don't worry about it, man, it's cool,"

'... Really?'

"I forgave you months ago," Seán said truthfully, "as soon as I realised you were... y'know, not a dick. Really, it's fine, Anti, just... make sure today's a good day,"

'Don't need to tell me twice,'

Seán chuckled to himself, taking one last look at his body before relinquishing control, feeling his eyes start to pulse and tingle with energy. He couldn't lie- this whole possession thing was weird and more than a little uncomfortable, but he could deal with it, if only for the sake of Dark and Anti's happiness. He imagined he'd feel even worse if he didn't let this happen, knowing that he had something he could do to help, but not taking advantage of it... this was a much better approach than just letting it go, Seán felt.

He'd deal with everything that those two wanted to do while he could- from snuggling, to making out, and apparently even to mildly sexual encounters. Last night had definitely been... strange. Seán felt a little guilty for not hating it as much as he should have, but... well, he was a man with needs, and now that he was single again, he guessed he was happy to settle for anything that would make this apparent abstinence easier for him to deal with.

And who was he to say no to the couple? Even though Dark seemed to be getting better, Seán still feared that he would soon fall into another bout of weakness, and he didn't have much hope that the man would survive twice... He could only pray it would never come to that. That the baby's birth would go smoothly, and they'd all go back to the Void to live as a happy family, with way too many uncles to count...

Anti knocked on the door cautiously, knowing that a very female Dark was standing in the room by now. The little sighs and groans he'd heard from outside sounded like those of a woman, anyway- and he'd gone in there with a pretty-looking floral dress that would hardly have fit Dark's large torso. Just how much did his body change when he transitioned from male to female? Anti was nervous, but he was also excited- bursting with exhilaration as he wondered just what Dark would look like as a woman.

"Come in,"

Wow, she sounded so different, but yet... so familiar that Anti was a little unnerved. It was Dark's tone- his slight accent, his drawl, his habit of muttering when he was uncomfortable. But... sweeter, though not too saccharine. Higher, but nowhere near as high as Amy's voice was. It was... nice, if a little strange to begin with.

Anti opened the door.

And there she was-

Mark needs help coming up with some aliases for Wilford, and then they use 'Jackson' as one of his names in homage to JJ

She was stunning- her hair falling loosely around her face, framing her rounded cheeks- only a little longer than it had been before the change. Her eyes were wider, her brows thicker, her lips painted merlot red, shining in the dim light of the vanity. Her eyeliner was dark and winged, the shadows around her eyes pronounced and contoured gently so that she looked rather elegant instead of sleep deprived.

Her skin was pale gray, mottled slightly in some places, and she was wearing a rose coloured dress that fell to her knees, a black floral overcoat sheltering her torso from the sunlight. She was so different, but yet... she was the same Dark that Anti knew and loved.

She looked rather nervous as Anti walked into the room, fidgeting with her overthrow and looking toward the ground. Perhaps she was self-conscious- Anti knew he could relate to the feeling, he'd seen that look of apprehension so many times before.

He reached out to take her hand. It was cold, and soft, and small... Anti had always had smaller hands than Dark, but now he could easily encompass Dark's petite fingers with his own, grasping them gently. She smelled... different, somehow. A little powdery, a little flowery, a little... sweeter. Not like wine, or chocolate, but Anti found he couldn't complain.

"Wow..." Anti smiled, still a little in awe over just how pretty Dark was capable of looking. Well, not that Dark wasn't handsome in his male form, of course- Anti didn't prefer one over the other quite yet, but this side of Dark was definitely one he wouldn't be opposed to seeing more often. Then maybe, they could mix and match... and Dark could dress up nice and wear makeup in his male form, and then she could wear a suit and tie in her female form... and if Dark could use his female organs on his male body, perhaps they could reverse that, and...

Anti shook himself out of that train of thought- Dark might not like the idea much, come to think of it.

"Are you really so speechless?" Dark mused softly, and oh... Anti really liked this. He liked this a lot.

"You look really fucking beautiful," Anti uttered, using his free hand to lift Dark's chin. She was... shorter than him, now, and she looked up into his eyes with a hint of fear still swimming in the purple of her iris. As if she was afraid he'd turn her away, afraid of what Anti would say next.

But her cheeks darkened a little at the compliment and she smiled shyly, little dimples appearing beside her lips, and wow... Anti really wanted to kiss those lips. He inched forward, wrapping an arm around her back, and pulled her in gently, giving her plenty of room to leave the embrace if she didn't want it.

Why wouldn't she want it? It's still Dark in there, just curvier and wearing more colour than usual...

She definitely wanted it.

In fact, she took over almost immediately, sealing the gap between them and wrapping her thin arms around Anti's shoulders, heels coming off the floor to match the height she'd once stood at, kissing Anti with a gentle passion.

It was wetter than usual- though Anti wasn't complaining about that- and Dark's lips were fuller, more plump, her skin smooth and cold against the tip of Anti's nose, and then they were slipping apart, Dark smiling for the first time since she'd transitioned.

"You're going to ruin my lipstick," Dark chuckled, patting Anti on the shoulder with the same strength as always. "Do you... do you want to put some concealer on that?"

Anti had almost forgotten he had a scar to worry about- a scar. The wound still bled from time to time, but in the past few days, it had been healing up wonderfully. It was still red, still a little enflamed, but it was hardly the fountain of blood that had been haunting him for the past two years, and though he didn't quite understand why it was getting better, he was definitely glad about it.

He fingered it gently, looking into the mirror with a small frown. He pulled his hood up, hoping that it would cast enough shade- but shit, that made the glowing of his eyes really stand out. He sighed reluctantly.

"I mean... probably," Anti smiled in defeat, watching as Dark opened up a little tube and smeared some of the pale liquid onto his throat. He was far too pale for this colour, but... well, it was less noticeable than the scarring, in any case. Dark's fingertips were just as smooth as her cheeks, her nails a little longer and shaped delicately, and she knew just where Anti was most sensitive as she pressed firmly, sending him a sly grin.

"You like that?" She smirked, trailing her fingers further along Anti's neck, trying to rub the concealer out so that it wasn't so obviously hiding something.

"Mhmm," Anti affirmed, closing his eyes briefly. "I mean, it hurts, but it's... a good hurt, you know?"

Dark chuckled under her breath, kissing Anti's cheek softly. "I know. Is Amy ready to leave yet?"

"She's probably been waiting for us for at least twenty minutes," Anti smiled, not even the least bit ashamed. "Are you ready to go?"

"I'm always ready to spend my time with you," Dark promised, linking their arms and walking out of the en suite, her dress brushing against Anti's legs as they made their way downstairs.

"Wow... you look really nice," Amy smiled, greeting them as they wandered into the room again. She looked like she'd been here a while- but she didn't seem to mind as she picked up her keys, beckoning the pair to walk outside with her.

"Thank you, Amy, I am very flattered," Dark mumbled in response, still looking just that little bit uncertain, though as Anti rubbed little circles into her palm, she was slowly beginning to warm up to it. "And you, Anti, you're... you're truly the best a woman could ask for,"

"Oh, Darky..." Anti teased, running a hand gently through her hair. "You're the best I could ever ask for too,"

"As much as I support public displays of affection, we do have places to be," Amy reminded, though she didn't look mad at all. She gestured to the car she had in the driveway, and Anti opened the door for Dark, figuring that trying to sit with a child inside of you probably wasn't as easy as it looked.

Dark smiled warmly in response, pulling Anti in for a short kiss before he hopped into the adjacent seat. Hands clasped together, frilly dress flowing in the breeze, Anti noticed that he had a small smear of lipstick on his cheek in the rear view mirror. He smiled.

He couldn't wait to take Dark on the best date ever.

~Void~

"Daniel?"

Blaze was nervous- he'd been with Daniel only moments ago, yet now the demon was simply nowhere to be seen. He wouldn't just leave, would he? Everything was a blur- his memories, his vision, the heat from his flames taking over until he was dizzy, weak at the knees. What had happened to him? Why did he feel so nauseated?

"Daniel!" Blaze called a little louder, wondering where he was. It wasn't as if there was a real landscape here to judge his distance- nor could he see any houses. It was rather like the place where he'd built the house he'd shared with Daniel for the past year, but... surely, Daniel wouldn't stray far. What had happened?

Had he died?

"Please..." Blaze uttered, giving up when he heard nothing but the low buzz of the Void, the crackling of his flames as they licked away at his sanity. He had to find Daniel- he was nothing without that demon, nothing...

He stood, taking a breath before he started to walk, figuring that keeping on his feet was his only hope to find his lover.

 

Chapter Text

~Groundlands~

"We're taking care of Chica while Mark's busy filming," Amy explained, fingers tapping idly on her steering wheel as the traffic moved sluggishly along. It was hardly the best time to be on the highway- but then, when is it ever a good time to drive the busy LA streets? "Kathryn's dropping her off with us at the studio,"

"Is she anything like Dark's huge piece of work?" Anti asked, half joking but half serious, his hand tightening around Dark's own as the car jolted slightly. Dark gave his fingers a reassuring little squeeze, sending him a small smile through her red tinted lips.

"Nothing at all like her, dear," Dark assured him. "My pet is a creature of Hell- truly, she wasn't even named Chica originally. It was only after Mark released his video that she started responding to that title,"

"Yeah, she had a weird demon name at first," Anti recalled. "Something I had no chance of pronouncing, anyway- I just called her 'Malice',"

"Malice embodies her quite well, does it not?" Dark mused. "But no normal hound is as ruthless as our own, dear,"

"Well that's good," Anti breathed in relief. "I mean... she's fun, but... I value my limbs,"

Dark chuckled, a memory finding its way forth in her mind. He and Anti were playing with the oversized puppy, back when Anti was still fairly new to the Void. The glitch had been amazed by the hellhound- Dark had known at the time that Anti had never seen an animal before, and the wonder in those bright green eyes was something he'd let burn in the back of his mind for years. He was so young, and childish... Dark wondered if their own child was going to be like that.

"It is understandable," Dark smiled. "I was healing those fractured bones for weeks..."

"I guess I was just happy I died so I could come back in one piece," Anti snickered, warmth bubbling up and flooding his insides. It had all been so simple, once... perhaps, it could all be simple again.

"Chica's really sweet," Amy smiled at them, keeping her eye on them through the rear view mirror. "She wouldn't hurt a fly, honestly. We're just taking her to the park, and if you guys want to go someplace else, it'll be fine. So... you've never been out on a date, huh?"

"Never," Anti agreed, shaking his head. "Is... is it hard?"

Amy chuckled under her breath at his antics. "No, no, you'll be fine. Dark?"

Dark let out a small sigh. "I... not as Darkiplier. Not even in this form. Damien had been on a few dates, but none of the women sparked his interest... and Celine was married to Mark as soon as she was let out of the house. They never went out together- Mark was simply too recognisable. Even when she and Will were together, they never truly went on a real romantic outing, it was more... indoors. Under the sheets..."

Anti frowned a little to himself, turning to look out the window. There it was again- Will. William, Wilford, whatever he called himself- there was a part of Dark that had been with him before Dark had even existed. And while Anti knew that the other part of Dark loved him, what did that mean for Dark as a person?

Did Dark have feelings for both of them? Is that why they'd been together in the past? Did Anti have to be worried about that kind of complication impeding their relationship?

No, he told himself he wasn't going to do this. That he'd trust Dark without question this time, not letting rumours and misconstrued sentences get to him. But still, he couldn't help but wonder...

He glanced over at Dark again- at her downturned lips and their entwined hands. It was actually rather relaxing to be here like this. No appearances to worry about, no people to impress... just the two of them. Like it had been all those years ago.

Anti chuckled as he sighed, laughing at his own jealousy. If Dark wanted to be with Wilford, they'd be together already. He really was just fooling himself into feeling threatened again... well, at least he could see it this time. He closed his eyes, feeling triumphant over the voices as they hushed in defeat. He was fine. They were fine...

The darkness that had encompassed his vision began to clear, but he wasn't sitting in the car anymore. It was strange... he could still feel the seat beneath him, still feel Dark's fingers curled around his own, but he couldn't see Amy or the window in front of him anymore.

He appeared to be lying down, and the room around him was dim. Little gasps and grunting sounds were coming from somewhere nearby, but it was much too dark to see anything clearly. It sounded like... like Dark, and Wilford, but... that just didn't make sense. Was he dreaming? Why would he be dreaming of Dark and Wilford like this...?

His eyes suddenly opened, and there was the mustached man himself, lips swollen red and eyes dark with lust. Brown hair and brown eyes... this must have been before Anti returned. Before the pink had overtaken all of his features...

He wasn't entirely sure what was happening- but he knew that he wasn't in his own body. He couldn't feel, or touch- it was like looking through a screen into someone else's life. He could see the familiar callouses in the hands, the unbuttoned tuxedo, the edges of a plain white collar that was damp with sweat.

Dark...

They were only half-clothed, and Wilford had his lips wrapped around Dark's cock, looking up at him with teasing eyes that made Anti's insides turn over. This perspective wasn't one he'd ever thought he'd see- and Wilford aside, he didn't see the appeal of it at all. Who would want to see those bugged out eyes staring up at them when they were trying to get pleasure out of a situation?

Anti felt his skin shiver despite himself. Dark, apparently...

Was this a memory? He hadn't known it was possible to just... insert himself into Dark's head like this. Was this how Dark read minds? Anti couldn't help but feel that this would be quite distracting in real time- having to deal with multiple perspectives at once... Anti hoped that wasn't what Dark had to deal with.

But then, he hoped Dark didn't have to deal with Wilford either. And here they were, fucking in a dark room- Anti had no idea of when this even happened. Was it when he was away for those lonely years? It must have been...

Dark was bucking forcefully into Wilford's mouth, tugging his brown hair all the while, and Anti was glad to see him look away from the obnoxious smirk of the eccentric man below him. He didn't know why this was happening, and he didn't have any way to stop it, but knowing that Dark never shied away from his own glances made Anti warm inside. At least he had that over Wilford...

Apparently, he was also better at giving head. Dark growled in frustration, yanking Wilford up to face him, not even caring for the damage it probably did to the mustached man's scalp. Anti felt a little sympathy- but then, he guessed that's what Wilford gets for messing around with his man.

"Not good enough," Dark hissed. "I want to forget. Why are you holding back now?"

"I'm not 'holding back'!" Wilford huffed, affronted. "I'm doing what I always do- you just have unnaturally high expectations,"

"I expected you to fulfill your offer to help me get over it," Dark sighed, letting go of the clump of hair he'd been holding. Wilford's chin hit Dark's chest harshly, and he scowled in response.

"Well I can't help it if you never asked him out," Wilford frowned, rubbing his jaw softly. "And now I'm stuck being your little rebound slave..."

"You'll be a dead slave in a second if you don't quieten down," Dark threatened, eyes narrowing.

Wilford rolled his own eyes, stroking Dark almost carelessly while the demon stared at him.

Anti knew Dark wouldn't like that... well, he didn't like it when their sex was careless. He liked everything to have meaning and emotion behind it, and Anti couldn't help but share the same mentality. But Wilford slept around like nobody's business- no wonder Jameson wasn't happy. Wilford probably acted like sex was a chore rather than an indulgence...

"I bet you'd let Anti scream out your name," Wilford taunted.

Dark stilled, his chest barely moving as he fixed his glare on Wilford once more. "Shut up, Will."

"Well, where's the lie?" Wilford exclaimed. "You let him get away with everything- calling you pet names, touching you- you don't even let me get that close!"

Anti couldn't help the triumphant feeling that was welling within him at hearing those words. Yes, Wilford. Know your place. Though he knew he should be a little more bothered by the fact that he was watching his lover and his lover's ex doing the dirty, he found that it didn't really matter to him now. He knew this was all in the past- he knew that Dark wouldn't let Wilford back into his life, and knowing how Wilford was with JJ, he probably didn't want Dark back either.

The only mildly disturbing thing about this was witnessing it from the first person- Anti hadn't ever let the idea of sleeping with Wilford cross his mind, and there was definitely a reason for that. It just seemed so... wrong. Even though Dark and Wilford looked so similar in their builds, Anti couldn't see the same traits he loved in Dark in anyone else.

"I don't want the others to know certain things about me!" Dark grimaced. "It is nothing against you, Will- and it isn't favouritism towards him either. If you recall, we are in this situation because I-I couldn't let him get away with..."

"Say it, Darky," Wilford demanded, his pace quickening, flicking his wrist in a way that should have had Dark gasping. "Murder? You know they'll all come back eventually,"

But Dark's thoughts definitely seemed to be preoccupied.

"Will you stop that?!"  Dark scowled, swatting Wilford's hand away. "I can't concentrate when you're giving me such a lousy handjob-"

Wilford's eyes narrowed, and he fixed Dark with a spiteful glare, eyebrows furrowed. It seemed this was the final straw- just how tense had that relationship been when it was happening?

"Fine!" Wilford snapped, standing up.

With a start, Anti realised they were both in Wilford's room. He felt... oddly relieved. These two weren't close enough for Dark to let them do this in his quarters... perhaps Anti really was special.

"You can take care of your own bloody problems!" Wilford growled, his shirt already half over his shoulders, before Dark reached out a hand.

"Wait!"

Wilford turned- and Anti could see... hurt? No, it wasn't possible- Wilford didn't feel attachment like this. But what else could that look of cold betrayal mean?

"What?" Wilford stated coldly, bluntly, tapping his foot impatiently.

Dark rose shakily, brushing his fingers against Wilford's cheek  as if it was hardly the first time he'd lost his temper with the man. Wilford sighed, letting Dark inch forward, wrapping his arms around Dark's middle as the demon leaned in for a kiss.

They stayed that way awhile- Anti couldn't feel it, but Dark's eyes were half lidded, brimming with tears. He could see the little creases by Wilford's nose shifting ever so slightly, small wet smacking sounds reaching his ears. 

And then... Wilford's resolve seemed to crumble. 

"What are we doing?" Wilford sighed, though he seemed to have given in to Dark's wishes. Anti supposed he couldn't blame him, but still... he felt his heart sink a little as he watched the embrace through Dark's perspective.

He could see now what Schneep had meant when he said that Dark was broken. Broken, because Anti left... because they'd parted on such bad terms that Dark was seeking solace in Wilford of all people... he could tell that Dark hadn't wanted this. But his own heart stirred in recognition of the desperation, the longing, the desire to be loved... it was what he'd been feeling the night he'd let Jameson into the empty space within his soul.

Had Anti left a similar gap in Dark's reality when he'd lashed out? He must have done, otherwise Dark wouldn't be so... distraught.

"P-please," Dark sniffed, letting Wilford wipe his tears away. "Please stay..."

"Darky..." Wilford sighed, reluctantly closing the door he'd opened just moments before. "You don't want this. You told me last time, and you'll tell me again... why do you keep coming back?"

"Because I could always count on you to help me f-forget," Dark stuttered, hands moving down so that he was holding Wilford in place by his hips. "I need you, Will..."

Wilford looked a little torn- Anti hadn't thought the man even had a sense of morality, but he seemed almost reluctant to continue this. Anti's respect for the moustached man raised just a little higher- though to be fair, he still had a long way to go after pulling the stunt with Kink that had made JJ so upset in the first place.

If Wilford hadn't done that, the whole JJ situation would never have happened... but otherwise, Anti guessed he'd still be sobbing to himself in Dark's room in the manor, trying to get over the fact that Dark was having a baby without him. It had done some good, that night, though it was hard to see through all the angst and hurt at first... and it definitely wasn't the right thing to do, but they'd bounced back from it just fine. It... it was over. Dark wanted to leave it in the past.

And Anti was content to leave Wilford in Dark's past as well.

"You're sure you want me?"

"I..." Dark faltered, head sinking as he closed his eyes in pain. "I... don't want you, Will. But you're the best I've got..."

Wilford sighed once more, as if he was used to hearing that- and that... well, that was a horrible thought. Anti might not have liked the idea of Wilford messing around with Dark, but for Dark to be so flippant, so uncaring... he almost felt sorry for Wilford. He knew that if Dark treated him like this, he'd hardly take it so well..

"Then I'll help you out..."

Wilford shrugged his shirt back off, pulling Dark closer to him, letting them fall into a messy embrace on the sheets.

Before their lips could touch again, it shifted.

"W-Will, I-"

"Shh, keep quiet,"

He was lying down again in an unfamiliar room- the layout almost resembled the doctors' bedroom, but the wallpaper and furniture were all off. Wilford was still here, but he seemed... different. His voice wasn't as warbled, his hair still wasn't pink. His shirt was discarded, his suspenders tossed aside, his eyes a softer brown than Anti had ever known them to be. Just how long ago was this?

"What if Mark hears us?"

That voice... it was how Dark sounded when she was female, but... different. Less sweet. More harshly lilted, yet still distinctly recognisable.

... Celine?

"He won't hear a thing," Wilford promised, kissing the feminine looking hand that was offered to him. "You do want this though, don't you?"

"Of course," she said, though she still seemed a little nervous. "I haven't... he's been unbearable lately, Will, you wouldn't believe me if I told you..."

Wilford traced her cheek, anger clouding his expression. "If he lays another hand on you, I swear I'll-"

"William, please," she urged. "Not... not tonight. Tonight's for us, okay? Just... just help me forget..."

Wilford- or, William, Anti supposed- sighed in defeat. "Alright, Celine... anything for you,"

It was Celine, then... the part of Dark that had resisted his feelings, the part of Dark that had been with Wilford in the past. She wasn't as well-spoken as Dark was, so Anti was left to wonder if that was all on Damien... but her words were familiar. Her insistence to stop worrying, her desire to forget about the weight of the world, to focus on what she could feel... it was that side of Dark that had urged Anti to relax, to discard the murders and fits of anger... it was the side of Dark that came out to play during sex, or when they were fighting. The fierce, emotional, determined side...

Celine unbuttoned her dress from the front, sliding it gently off her shoulders as William kissed up her neck, tugging the fabric away between his growling sounds. He was mad, but it was a different kind of anger to what Anti had just witnessed between Dark and Wilford...

"Don't ever let him touch you again, Celine," William muttered, fingers circling on the dark patches of skin that littered Celine's body.

Anti felt his stomach twist in realisation- Mark, the Mark that they were referencing here... had he been abusive? Had he hurt Celine?

Maybe that's why Dark was a little scared of knife play, even though Anti rather enjoyed the rush of the metal against his skin. Was it because Dark was once in a relationship where pain was an everyday occurrence? Was that why Dark was so careful with him, so cautious, so desperate to save Anti from harm?

Celine may not have been the part of Dark that loved him, but that didn't stop Anti from wanting to find Mark and hurt him, no matter how dead he probably was at this point. If only time travel were possible- Anti would have liked nothing more than to slit the man's throat and burn the body before he could hurt anyone...

Celine sighed. "O-okay, Will..."

It shifted again.

"How could you be so selfish, Private?!"

That voice... that was Dark. Higher, more... eloquent, Anti supposed. But it was Dark all the same- was this Damien, then?

The scene was fractured and warped, as if he were seeing it from two different perspectives. He could see a familiar looking man- Damien- clutching Dark's crystal topped cane and speaking to an older-looking William. But he could also see William from another angle- face on, and a dark clad woman wearing a veil was visible in his peripheral vision. The splitting sensation was making his eyes hurt, and his ears were ringing, but he just couldn't look away.

"Selfish?! Everything I did was for Celine's sake-"

"Oh don't give me that horse shit!" Damien shouted angrily. "I know you two haven't been getting along since your father died, but that's hardly an excuse to steal his wife, Will-!"

"I wasn't stolen!" Celine interceded fiercely. "I left on my own accord, Damien!"

"And that's another thing!" Damien cried, clutching his cane so hard that his knuckles turned white. "How could you do that, Celine?! He loves you with all his heart, and-"

"Damien, listen to me, he isn't the same man he used to be!" William groaned in frustration. Anti had the feeling that this debate had been going on for a while. "He hurt Celine-"

"He would never harm anyone!" Damien refused. "You two are out of line! You have to stop this silly little fling before someone gets seriously hurt!"

"No, Damien!" Celine interrupted. "I won't stop the one thing that's bringing me happiness- and if you can't accept my decisions, then just leave!"

Damien looked hurt, stumbling a little as he stepped back, not having realised just how close he was getting in his rage. "Celine, I-"

"You heard the lady, Damien," William frowned, holding his arms around her protectively. "Go."

"I..."

Damien huffed in defeat, closing his eyes and wiping the beading tears away from his eyes. "Fine."

He hobbled out of the room, his cane supporting his shuddering figure with each step. The door slammed shut behind him.

Damien was... crippled? Anti wanted to know the story behind that- but the memories swirled around and changed before he could ponder on the subject much further. He was standing in the manor- though it looked a little different- staring down at his hands. They were folded over a crystal topped cane, and Anti recognised them immediately. He'd held them so many times before.

Damien. But he wasn't alone...

"I do hope they'll be alright," Damien sighed, looking up to meet William's eyes. They must have made up since their argument, Anti realised...

"Celine is a strong woman," William said confidently. "She knows what she's doing."

"Indeed..." Damien muttered. "But... all this talk of the occult, Colonel, how could you let her get involved with this witchcraft?"

"It was hardly my place to say no," William frowned. "Damien, please... I know your parents were rather strict, but you don't have to live by their rules anymore. Celine is doing what she's passionate about- and she's sure as hell better off living with me than she ever was here,"

"Regardless of that," Damien stated through gritted teeth, "Infidelity is never forgivable, William. You didn't see how broken Mark was after she left. It was like he had nothing left to live for,"

"She had nothing to live for while she stayed here," William returned defiantly. "What don't you understand, Damien? She was unhappy here. Whether it was through me or not, she'd have found her way out. Aren't you glad that your sister is safe and happy where she is?"

"Mark is dead," Damien swallowed, looking like he was on the verge of tears. "And if there was something, anything I could have done to stop it... I would have,"

"Then we're done here," William spat, walking away without another word. Damien sighed, voice breaking, turning on his heel and walking in the opposite direction, holding his cane in his left hand and staggering ever so slightly out of the foyer.

Then, there was a crash.

Damien looked up- if Anti could have called out he would have, but it was too late- decades too late to save him. A man in a stained red robe was there, holding a heavy-looking urn, looking murderous. He looked a lot like the Mark that Anti knew, but... different. His facial features were a little off, but the resemblance was still there.

This was the man that hurt Celine. The one that caused Dark to be so traumatised that Anti could barely nip at his skin without him shuddering... and now, he was hurting Damien.

Anti would really like to know where this man's grave happened to be.

Before Damien could even speak, he was bludgeoned over the head- Anti's vision went black around the edges, but Damien wasn't going out without a fight. He scrambled to the fireplace after he'd fallen, grabbing the fire poker and plunging it into Mark's abdomen clumsily. It stuck, but the robed man did nothing but smirk in response, wrenching it out as the blood poured steadily out of his front.

"You always were determined, Damien,"

Damien cried out in pain as Mark lunged, wedging the poker deeply in Damien's side, letting the blood wash out from his body in waves. The light was fading, and Anti knew this feeling all too well.

Damien was dying.

"M-Mark, why would you...?"

"It's nothing personal, Damien... I just... need... body..."

Then, the vision was gone. Lost for words but unable to speak regardless, Anti found himself in a new setting, but he was still reeling from that last memory. Damien... Anti had known he was dead, but he hadn't expected it to be quite so... brutal. Was this why Dark had so many issues with Anti's self harming tendencies? Why he'd had tears in his eyes whenever they'd fought to the death before?

"Damien, what's gotten into you?"

Anti was looking through Celine's eyes- and he could see Damien advancing upon her, fists balled and angry. But he wasn't stumbling. It wasn't him.

Because Damien was dead- and he even had the raised lump on his forehead to match, but then... how was he here?

"You came back," Damien said, stepping even closer. "Why would you come back now, after I lost everything?"

"What are you talking about?" Celine asked, worry evident in her tone. "Damien, you're scaring me- where's your cane?"

"That damned Colonel stole you away... kept you captive..." Damien muttered, eyes flashing darkly. He had a black aura, much like Dark's- but it was colder. Harsher. Surely it wasn't the same...

"Damien, no, we..." Celine started, before her eyes widened. "Mark?!"

Anti's blood boiled- Mark. Of course- did every problem Dark encountered start with this man? He must have... stolen Damien's body, or something. Anti didn't quite understand, but he knew that this wasn't the same Damien who had been fighting for peace several moments ago.

"It's okay, Celine," Mark said, advancing further. "Nobody will take you away from me again-"

"Get away from me you psychopath!" Celine shouted, stepping back in alarm. "What have you done to my brother?!"

"That traitor got what was coming for him," Mark snarled, "for keeping you from me... he deserved it. They all deserve what's coming for them..."

"Did you hurt him?!" Celine cried, tears obscuring Anti's vision as she stepped back, seeming to hit a wall as the man continued to walk towards her. "Mark, how could you do that?"

"It doesn't matter now," Mark said, smiling eerily as he stepped closer. Suddenly, his hands were around her neck, choking her, all the while his eyes were dark and pulsing. And she was gasping for breath, teary-eyed and weak, her vision fading out...

Anti thought he could see someone else there- another woman. Her hair was long and whipping around harshly, her regency dress flowing in the tempest that was brewing in the tower. But then she was gone. It all faded to black...

"Anti!"

Anti's eyes snapped open as Dark detached their hands, looking at him with mild concern in her deep violet eyes. "Darling, are you alright?"

"I..." Anti shivered, not entirely used to being in his own body just yet. What was that? Were those really Dark's memories?

Jack was telling him they were, whispering from within him, but... Anti was confused. How would Jack know?

"I had... a weird dream," Anti sighed, resolving to ask about it later. "Are we here?"

Dark didn't seem entirely convinced that Anti was fine- perhaps she had read his mind again. But she shook her head regardless, reaching out again to help Anti out of the car. His legs were stiff and numb, and he shook them off reluctantly, knowing the pins and needles would be unpleasant to deal with in the moments to come.

"We're here," Dark affirmed, brushing off her dress nervously, facing Anti with concern shining in her eyes. "Come here, darling..."

Anti let himself be pulled into a hug as Dark's arms slung over his shoulders, his stomach pressing against Dark's own. Desiree didn't seem to be awake at the moment- well, Anti supposed that even babies slept sometimes, but it was a little strange not to feel her buzzing around in there. He sighed happily, his hands finding their way to Dark's hips, holding her close to him.

"You saw their memories?" Dark whispered quietly, but she didn't seem mad at all. Wouldn't she be upset at the violation of privacy?

"Yeah... I think," Anti swallowed. "Sorry, I didn't mean to-"

"No, dear, it's fine," Dark interrupted, her eyebrows knitted together in worry. "Truly- I had forgotten that Seán could see them... I'm sorry, for putting you through that. I know it mustn't have been easy to watch..."

"I wanted to kill Mark," Anti muttered, burying his head in Dark's shoulder, drawing comfort from the fact that she was here... despite everything he'd seen, Dark was still here.

Dark chuckled lightly despite the grim mood that they'd found themselves in. "So did we... and... and we did kill him, eventually..."

"Those two scrub up nice, huh?"

Both Dark and Anti turned to see Mark standing there- not the Mark that had murdered Anti's lovers, but the one that had been letting Dark stay around in his house all week. But he was wearing... something Wilford would wear, if Anti had to explain it. Flared yellow trousers, a pink button up shirt, a glue-on mustache that was pink around the edges... Anti couldn't help but notice how Dark had frozen up in his arms.

"Mark?" Dark said quietly, looking him over as if she was pained to remember something. "I... I don't know how you managed to recreate his image so perfectly..."

"Well, you told me about it last year, remember?" Mark asked, slipping on the pink wig that Amy had brought. "Thanks Amy, I honestly don't know how I managed to forget the wig,"

"You've been stressed," Amy replied with a smile. "Have you heard anything else about Doom today?"

Immediately, Mark's happy mood soured. "No, thank God," Mark huffed. "Guess my doppelganger must be keeping quiet. Seriously, I just want to get today over with- come in, we've got chairs and stuff."

Mark beckoned them inside, and Anti kept his hand clasped around Dark's as they followed him into the studio. He was burning with questions, but he could hardly ask them when Mark and Amy were around, let alone whoever else was in here. He resigned to wait, to enjoy his time here with Dark... after all, wasn't that what he'd planned to do before the memory train had picked him up and churned his heart around?

The woman beside him was elated, and happy, and content... Just earlier, Anti was the same. And though he knew that nothing had changed around them, and their circumstances were the same as before... the images of Damien and Celine being killed were burning in his brain. He wanted to reach out to them, to tell them it was going to be okay... but he was years too late for that.

He could only hope to make today the best date Dark would ever have, even if it seemed like so little an effort to fix his lover after what he'd seen. He could do this. He would do this.

For both of their sanity...

~Void~

"Google, I'm not kidding, let me go!" Blank groaned, flailing a little harder as they approached two houses that stood alone in the dark expanse around them.

"I take my own orders now," Google smirked, his grip unfaltering as he stepped onto Anti's porch. That was one good thing about becoming deviant- he didn't need admin permissions anymore, even if the emotion-centric pop ups were becoming a bit much to handle. Google wasn't quite ready to label his state with emotions just yet- he was still getting the hang of when it was appropriate to be happy, or sad, or angry. The last time he'd let himself feel, he'd almost destroyed Chase in a fit of rage... Well, he supposed that remorse was a feeling he hadn't been able to escape since that incident...

"Well then do it out of the goodness of your heart!" Blank said desperately, tensing up when Google twisted the doorknob. "No no no no- Google, come on!"

"This is for your own good," Google stated, walking in and setting Blank down on the floor. Dr. Iplier, Dr. Schneeplestein, Robbie, Host and Bing had all been talking in the lounge- but at the sight of the long-lost ego, all hell seemed to break loose.

"The Host covers his ears as Bing runs over to the ego, shouting for Chase to come and see," Host muttered in annoyance, rubbing his forehead to soothe the sudden ache. Robbie tugged at Host's sleeve to get his attention, and Host started to explain to him just who Blank was. After all, Robbie was only ten months old, and Blank had disappeared over a year ago- the two hadn't been introduced, let alone made aware of each other's existence.

"Dude!" Bing exclaimed. "You're back!"

Blank groaned aloud, not wanting to get off the floor he'd been dumped on. He fixed Bing with a wary stare, looking around the room to see if his ex was anywhere to be seen... but King didn't appear to be there. Blank let out a belated sigh of relief.

"Hey, Bing..." Blank sighed. "I-"

"What've you done this time, Bing?!" Chase called, running into the room. At the sight of Blank, he stopped in his tracks, his grin widening.

"Blank!" Chase laughed, scooping up the blue haired boy and giving him a hug. Despite his moody exterior, Blank couldn't help but smile a little. Chase's dad hugs were always pretty amazing... but, no! He couldn't stay here- he had to go before he made anything else awkward...

"Mein Gott- vhere have you been zis past year?" Schneep demanded, looking him over for any injuries. "Google, vhere did you find ihn?"

"He was sitting out on the edge of Dark's boundary," Google supplied, folding his arms and leaning against the door. "Have you seen Xyler?"

"I'm afraid not," Dr. Iplier sighed, getting to his feet. "Is it possible he is still outside?"

"I didn't see him," Google replied, shaking his head. "Could he be next-door?"

"I'll go check," Chase said, clapping Blank on the back. "Good to have you back, buddy!"

Blank grumbled something under his breath. "Can I leave now?"

"Oh no you don't," Bing fussed, moving to restrain him further- damn, did these androids ever quit? "You and King need to have a serious talk,"

"I don't want to talk-" Blank denied, but Schneep gave him a small glare.

"You vill," Schneep said with finality. "Es ist nicht healthy to pretend like nothing happened, Blank. Vhat is it you are scared of, hm? Er ist vith somebody else,"

"I know," Blank huffed.

"Or is that the problem?" Dr. Iplier asked thoughtfully. "You never did tell us why you left, did you?"

"He didn't even tell us when he left," Google corrected. "But it is possible... he seemed fairly put out by the knowledge that Bim is in the picture now,"

Google, shut the fuck up!

Blank turned up his nose defiantly- he didn't still love King, not like he used to, anyway. And that was hardly a bad thing- no, what was bad was that Blank missed what they'd had, no matter how it had hurt him. He didn't want King... but he didn't know how to say that. He didn't know how to explain himself to the man, he didn't even know how to explain it to himself.

"Bing, let me go!" Blank growled, trying to break free from the hold his arms were stuck in, but to no avail.

The door crashed open.

"Blank?!"

Chapter Text

~Void~

"Blank?!"

Yan was first to the door as soon as Chase told them the news- He, Marvin, Silver, Bim and King had been sitting around in Halter's living room when the father burst in, exclaiming that Blank was back. Yan was... surprised, but mostly excited- he hadn't expected Blank to come anywhere near them again, especially after how he'd run away before... but here he was. Yan was just dying to talk to him- to figure out why he'd left, to try and rekindle the friendship they'd once had.

Yan had seen King's face fall momentarily upon hearing Chase's exclamation- but Yan guessed it was understandable for him to be nervous. After all, it had been easily a year since Blank had left him without so much as a goodbye- and even Yan was worried enough about speaking to Marvin again when they'd only been separated for a few months.

Though he and Marvin hadn't really broken up either when that had happened- and that was most of the problem. It just wasn't clear to either of them just where they stood- Yan was just glad that Marvin still had some of that fire inside him, enough for both of them. The schoolboy just didn't think he'd have been able to bridge that gap alone, but now they were together again, and everything was going to be okay. Marvin was just behind him as Yan walked out of Halter's home, ready to give his old friend what for.

But Bim was there too- and yeesh, that must be awkward. Yan wouldn't want to be in that position himself- but then, if he had his way he'd be with Marvin forever. He'd never had an ex, and he hoped he wouldn't have one in the future, and if he did... well, Marvin had better not get too attached to his new lover.

Yan had thrown open the door, crushing the little blue boy in a hug as he tried to recoil, but to no avail. Yan had strong arms after all- how else would he have suffocated his victims for messing with Senpai? Eventually, Blank gave in and accepted the embrace, and Yan only held him tighter.

"Y-Yan..." Blank uttered in response to the assault, patting the Yandere's back nervously. "I uh..."

"What were you thinking running off like that?!" Yan demanded, gripping Blank's shoulders and shaking him. "Or- gooing off like that, more like- but still, what gives?!"

"I didn't want you to drag me back here!" Blank huffed, wiping his black eyes of their tears. "I'm too fucking awkward for this- you know me! I was better off just... just pretending I'd faded,"

"You ass," Yan groaned aloud, feeling Marvin's hand on his shoulder as he forced himself to calm down before someone got hurt. This yandere rage really only had one weakness, and Yan was just glad Marvin was happy enough to be that weakness. Without him... well, what had happened with Chase and Schneep was child's play.

"What about everyone that cared about you?" Google asked accusingly. "When you left, it caused a lot of pain and sorrow."

"I didn't know h-how to break it off," Blank scowled, folding his arms, but that didn't seem like the end of it. Surely, there must have been something else- Yan wasn't blind. He'd seen how Blank and King had interacted just days before they'd split- they'd been as loved up as ever. What had made Blank so nervous that he'd run away from the man that was making him happy?

"Vell, any vay but zis vould have been fine," Schneep tittered disapprovingly. He turned to face Chase, who was only now coming through the door. "Und wo ist King?"

"I mean, he definitely knows what's happening," Chase said, rubbing his neck awkwardly as he glanced around the room. Everyone else had come with him, everyone except the newest Iplier couple. Even JJ had emerged from his slumber, coming down the stairs with a look of confusion etched on his features. Yan still didn't know what was up with him- perhaps Wilford's disappearance was taking its toll.

But he found that he hardly cared to know- not while Blank was here for the first time in months.

Chase sighed in defeat as the doctor stared on, clearly expecting him to do something about it. "Bing, come help me- he might need a pep talk,"

Bing tilted his head curiously. "Why would you need two people for a pep talk?"

Chase nudged the android in the side. "You know, you can take Bim while I talk to Squirrels,"

Bing's eyes widened. "Oh, right..."

"Don't wake the Septiceyes!" Yan called after them, not really wanting to deal with the shenanigans of Marvin's two youngest brothers today. Marvin gave his shoulder a little squeeze in appreciation, kneeling down to match Yan's current height. Marvin didn't really like his younger siblings much, Yan had picked up. They were too... demanding. Always pestering Jackie about being the eldest, always asking Marvin for magical items... but Yan had resolved not to kill them.

Sometimes, he regretted his growing conscience.

"When did you get so considerate?" Marvin teased lightly, his hand trailing from Yan's shoulder to his waist, gently pulling him in for a hug. They'd fallen back into their regular displays of affection again, and Yan couldn't be happier- he hadn't realised just how starved he was for Marvin's touch in those long nights he'd spent alone, thinking.

"When I realised there's more to life than just my Senpai," Yan responded truthfully, resting his head softly against Marvin's shoulder and breathing in his scent. "But Senpai is still the most important,"

Marvin let out a small, disbelieving sigh, though he didn't look mad. More... tired. As if hearing the same old compliment every time was dull... well, Yan supposed there was truth there. He decided to watch himself next time- to say something different. Anything to make his Senpai smile. 

"If you insist..."

Marvin kissed Yan's cheek softly, standing from his position as the doctors looked over at him with approval. They hadn't had any therapy yet- actually, Marvin could almost pretend that things were fine again if he squinted. But he knew that sooner or later they'd hit another block... someone would die, or some nasty words would be exchanged, and they'd be right back where they were in May if they didn't do something about it now.

He walked over to them, biting his lip nervously as Yan continued to interrogate Blank. He hadn't seen the man so caught up in anything since... well, since they'd met, really. It was nice to see him obsess over something other than winning Marvin's love, especially since he'd had it from day one.

"I am proud of you, mein Bruder," Schneep smiled in greeting, slinging an arm around Marvin's shoulders. "Look at how far ze two of you have come,"

"Yeah, it's been... pretty great," Marvin agreed, fidgeting with his mask between his fingers. He hadn't put it back on since last night, but... well, it was part of him. Whether Yan realised that or not. "But it's... it won't last. You know that,"

Dr. Iplier nodded solemnly. "That is true- while you're getting along just fine now, I'm sure you won't oppose my belief that it's just the relief of finding each other after the war that's keeping you two so civil. If something doesn't change soon- drastically change, mind you- you'll be at each other's throats again. Now it may not happen for months, even years- but we don't want it to happen again. There is nothing more frustrating than having the same argument twice,"

Marvin sighed in acknowledgement. Really, there was nothing more frustrating than arguing with Yan in the first place. He was stubborn as all the other Ipliers, and he didn't stand for any of Marvin's self deprecation. If they could only move past that... perhaps, it would be easier. "Yeah... so, about that therapy, huh?"

"It might have to wait a while," Schneep said apologetically, meeting his fiance's eyes. "Simply because of Dark und ze baby... but ve vill endeavour to start as soon as possible. Though ze method may not be... conventional,"

"We're hardly a conventional couple," Marvin smiled wryly in return, looking over at Blank as Yan finally let him go, dragging him to his feet. They weren't a conventional couple, but then... well, nobody here was. They all had their differences, their blocks, their own problems to work around... Marvin couldn't believe it had taken him until now to realise it. He and Yan... they were about as normal as everyone else here.

And that was okay.

Schneep grinned in response. "Zhen ve vill discuss it later. For now- vhy don't you und Google check outside for zat Xyler fellow..."

"Will do," Marvin agreed, sending the doctors a thumbs up as he made his way over to the blue-shirted android. He'd only seen Xyler once- when the manor had collapsed, and everyone had filed out of there, he'd noticed the smart looking man standing by the doctors. But he hadn't seen him since, and he'd figured that the ego was staying with Anti, but if Schneep didn't know where he was...

"Marvin," Google greeted, raising an eyebrow. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"

"I heard you were looking for Xyler," Marvin said, shrugging his shoulders so that the creases of his cape would shake out. "Figured I'd be able to help."

"The Host has already supplied me with the knowledge that Xyler has vacated the Void," Google sighed, and Marvin looked over at the blindfolded man himself, who was sitting with his little brother Robbie on the sofa. The two didn't seem to mind the chaos unfolding around them at all, being lost in their conversation... Marvin couldn't help but be reminded of what he had with Yan.

"Well... why did you want to find him in the first place?" Marvin asked curiously, facing Google again.

Google shrugged. "Though I had decided to save Blank from himself anyway, Xyler wanted to see him. They are... growing feelings for each other."

"Oh Lord..." Marvin grimaced, thinking of just how complicated that string of relationships could get. What, with Wilford and Bim being a thing before, then King and Bim getting together... and how would it all end up? It wasn't like King and Blank had parted on good terms- heck, they hadn't parted on any terms if Marvin remembered it right... "We don't need another love pentagon here,"

"My sentiments exactly," Google agreed. "But I had hoped... that it would resolve the tension between Blank and King, to know that each of them are pursuing other relationships."

"Well, I guess we'll have to wait until Chase gets back to know if it worked..." Marvin sighed, folding his arms as he leaned against the wall. Nobody had ever told him that life as an ego would be easy, but... well, sometimes he wished it was.

"You're sure that fusion could help those two?" Dr. Iplier asked, concern darkening the lines around his eyes as he watched Marvin slump against the wall. Yan was looking over at his boyfriend with worry evident in his eyes, but he was clearly fighting the urge to go to him- something that Dr. Iplier felt deserved a little more recognition. After all, the restraint was probably hurting the yandere in more ways than one. "I... I know it's the easiest way for them to reach common ground, don't get me wrong, but... I feel like those two would be a real piece of work when they combine,"

"Oh, zhey vould be a nightmare," Schneep chuckled in agreement, imagining a red and green haired man wearing a cape and a skirt running around like he owned the place. "You misunderstand me- vhen I suggested fusion, I had thought more of... vell, enlisting another couple to help. A couple zhat knows how to talk it out, und be sensitive to others' opinions and desires, you know? Perhaps, by being a part of a regular relationship, zhey could... learn to act like a normal couple."

Dr. Iplier sighed. "I'll assume you don't mean us, Hen..."

"Nein, nein," Schneep shook his head. "I vill have to be available to check on Dark- I... vait a moment, now zat Dark is vith Mark, perhaps you could call in to see zhem? I mean, I have been vaiting for Anti to return, but... if you could possess Mark, it vould be over for today,"

"Of course," Dr. Iplier responded without hesitation. "I'll check in as soon as I've got a read on King- I'm worried he'll be inconsolable at the news..."

"Danke, mein Lieber..." Schneep smiled, leaning in to give his fiance a small peck on the lips. They parted with a satisfied sigh, and all the tension just seemed to melt away. It was nice, sitting here. Even though the room was absolute chaos- with egos holding each other down, and loud conversations erupting between them- when they were with each other, everything became so... bearable. Instead of the noise, they could focus on the beating of each other's hearts, or their steady breathing, or the curve of each other's spine as they nestled close together.

"I cannot vait to call you mein husband," Schneep chuckled, brushing some stray hair from Dr. Iplier's forehead.

"Neither can I," Dr. Iplier grinned. "Just imagine it... you and me, no problems, no worrying about everyone else's love lives... we deserve an extra long honeymoon after all this,"

"Ach, tell me about it," Schneep smirked, inching further into his lover's embrace. "But you know ve vill have to end it sooner zhan ve might vish... who else vill keep ze order around here, hm?"

"Usually I love it when you're right," Dr. Iplier sighed, though he smiled all the same. "Except after this, there'll be a baby to look after as well... I... I don't know how Dark's going to manage it,"

"Me neither, mein Schatz," Schneep agreed. "But Ich bin glad zat Anti has come around... at least vone of zhem vill have some fighting chance,"

"Yes- where is Anti, actually?" Dr. Iplier questioned. "I haven't seen him all day,"

"Er ist in ze Groundlands," Schneep explained. "Though he has been gone for a long vhile... Er must be caught up vith Dark. Hmm, und I vonder vhat zey are doing..."

"Is he aware that sexual activity can induce premature labour?" Dr. Iplier asked worriedly.

"I had varned him," Schneep nodded, "though you know as vell as I zat ze mind becomes cloudy in times of arousal. I can only hope zat vone of zhem has zeir vits about zhem..."

"Have you forgotten who we're talking about?" Dr. Iplier mused. "The last we saw of Dark he was directly disobeying our advice to stay here and wait it out- and now, he's stuck there. I hate to assume that Anti is the one with all the sense here, but... well, what case does Dark truly provide?"

"Zat is true," Schneep agreed, "but Ich bin sure zat zhey vill be fine. Truly, I believe zat ze baby vill be born quite soon in any case,"

Dr. Iplier was about to speak, but a slamming sound next door interrupted the conversation. Before anyone could ask what had happened, Chase opened the front door, his chest heaving as if he'd run a marathon, and everyone turned to look at him with wide eyes.

"King's gone," he gasped. "And Bim's... well, he's upset..."

"Oh dear..." Dr. Iplier sighed heavily, getting to his feet. "I'll be right over- Hen, do you want to come?"

Schneep looked worriedly over at Blank. "Nein, Schatz, noch nicht. Somebody has to vatch zese egos... but I vill be zhere soon,"

Dr. Iplier smiled in understanding, kissing his lover one last time on his way out. "Okay. I love you,"

"Und I as vell," Schneep chuckled, sighing a little as the door closed again. Blank looked... well, he looked crushed. Yan was talking to him, trying to make him feel better, and Marvin was walking over to them, pulling them both into a hug. Those two... they really had come a long way from where they'd left off. Schneep really was proud.

The doctor squeaked in surprise at the hand that clamped down on his shoulder, looking up to see Host smiling eerily down at him. Robbie emerged from his side, their hands locked together as they both leaned on the sofa quietly.

"Mein Gott, you two scared ze absolute scheiße out of me," Schneep groaned aloud, his resolve cracking when Robbie snorted in mirth. 

"The Host is delighted to hear it," Host smiled. "The Host is glad that he has not lost his touch. He had overheard the doctors conversing about couples therapy, and he knows which couple Schneeplestein had in mind to act as a counterbalance,"

"Ah- but of course, I vould have asked if ze two of you vere okay vith it beforehand," Schneep explained. "It vas merely a concept,"

"The Host wishes to advise that both himself and Robbie would be willing to engage in this plan," Host smiled. "He explains that Robbie wants to see his brother happy- and The Host shares his sentiments. The Host, as well as his partner, would be open to making this concept a reality."

"Vonderful," Schneep sighed in relief. That was one less thing to worry about. "I vill have to talk to mein Verlobter first- but zat should be very helpful, danke."

"The Host dismisses the doctor's thanks," Host said, head tilted as if he were watching Marvin and Yan's little interactions, though he couldn't see a thing. "The Host believes that this will certainly be... an experience, if nothing else,"

"Oh, I could imagine," Schneep chuckled. Now, all he needed was to convince Marvin and Yan to give up their individuality, their bodies, their personal issues... perhaps, it wouldn't be so hard. Schneep didn't truly understand fusion- his lover had recounted his own experience to him, and that was where he'd gotten the idea, but... only trial and error could tell.

Still... this was coming together. Slowly but surely.

I hope Anti is alright...

~Groundlands~

"Are you sure we should have let Mark put that JJ reference in his script?" Anti asked worriedly as he walked out of the studio, Dark's fingers clasped around his own. Mark had asked for their input, and they'd obliged, but... was Wilson Jackson Bartholomew III a little too on the nose?

"I mean... oh, shit, I didn't tell you..." Anti trailed off, groaning into his free hand as they stopped in their tracks. Dark raised an eyebrow at her lover, reaching out to cup his cheek as she brought him close.

"Tell me what?" Dark asked curiously. "That Wilford and Jameson are no longer courting? I had expected as much from the very idea that Jameson would sleep with another..."

"No, no," Anti interrupted, looking a little pale. "Wilford- he's gone. He left the Void, and nobody knows where he is,"

Dark's eyebrows furrowed in worry as she met Anti's gaze, her hand stilling. "This... this certainly seems like important information, Darling,"

"Sorry," Anti mumbled, looking down apologetically. "I- I was so caught up in helping you feel better that I forgot to say anything,"

Dark tittered under her breath, reaching out again to touch Anti's cheek softly. There was a faint trace of lipstick still visible there- Anti could easily have wiped it away, but Dark suspected that he was wearing it with pride to prove some kind of point. "Oh, Dear, don't blame yourself. I wasn't thinking to ask either- if anything, we are both responsible for this mess..."

"Hey- are you two ready?"

Amy jogged over to them, Chica following behind her, wagging her tail excitedly. Anti had practically melted when Katheryn had brought her around, immediately falling in love with the puppy as he sank to his knees, rubbing her belly and boasting about how good she was. Dark didn't understand how anyone could see him as heartless... really, he was more affectionate than anyone else Dark knew.

It reminded her... she really should bring her own hound back into the Void at some point. Perhaps Anti could teach their daughter all of the tricks of taming her, all of the knacks... the glitch knew things about that overgrown bitch that even Dark hadn't yet determined.

She hadn't been able to bear having her around while Anti was gone- the hellhound was far too much work for one person, and Wilford could hardly be trusted with something this serious. Not to mention all of the happy memories that had taunted Dark each time she'd been forced to have contact with her... but now, Anti was back. It didn't matter that her old memories would haunt her. She could make new ones.

"We'll discuss Wilford later," Dark promised, hitching up her dress as she smiled down at Mark's golden retriever. "Hello there,"

Dark was almost afraid to say the name- his own pet was likely to come barrelling in, and if she was any bit as hungry as last time, it wouldn't end well for anyone close to them. Chica barked up at her happily, and Dark gave her a small pet, unable to stop the smile from creeping across her cheeks. Yes, she missed her own dog... but this was a nice substitute.

"Yeah, we're ready to go," Anti answered, smiling at Dark as she stood again, brushing off her hands on her dress.

"Great," Amy smirked at the pair. "There's a dog friendly park just down the road- should we walk, or did you want to take the car?"

Anti looked at Dark for confirmation, and the demon closed her eyes briefly in acknowledgement. "Walking will be fine- it will do us some good, I feel..."

"Should we take your crutches in case something happens?" Anti asked worriedly, eyeing the boot of Amy's car. Thankfully, one of them had been prepared for the worst- while Anti and Dark were busy worrying about their date, she'd fetched Dark's crutches and her medication, packing them in her trunk. Even though Dark insisted she was getting better, Mark had been adamant about continuing her medication, at least for as long as she was here. And Dark had always held some measure of respect for the house rules, even when she disagreed with them. It just so happened that she'd been the one in charge for so long that taking another's orders just didn't seem natural anymore.

"No, no, Dear- I will be fine," Dark replied, giving Anti's hand a gentle squeeze. "But I appreciate your concern,"

"Yeah, we're taking the crutches," Amy said, disregarding Dark's statement as she unlocked her car remotely. Anti nodded in agreement, picking them up and holding both of them in one arm. He linked his free hand with Dark's once more, giving him a meaningful glance. Dark sighed- it seemed that whatever Mark had was contagious.

Amy picked up the bag that contained the rest of Dark's supplies, giving Chica a little pet as she sealed the car shut again.

"Darling, please, I'm fine," Dark insisted, but neither Anti nor Amy looked convinced.

"That's what you said the day you had a stroke and almost died," Amy stated, and... well, Dark had to admit she wasn't wrong. But still, that day had been rather... scattered. Dark had been confused, and scared, and reluctant to show her own weakness- she hadn't wanted to admit to herself that something was wrong in the first place, even when she'd known that there was...

But today was different. For the first time in a long while, Dark felt... alive.

"Very well," Dark sighed in defeat, leaning in to give Anti a small kiss on the cheek. Really, he shouldn't argue with them, especially when they had valid reason to be cautious. "Let us go,"

The day was... nice. The word seemed so underwhelming, so insignificant, but... well, Dark couldn't think of any other that would fit. The three walked Chica down to the park, and Amy let them throw a ball for her, and every time the puppy came back wagging her tail, Dark could see Anti fall a little more for her. She was nothing like the hound Dark called her own- she was sweet, and happy, and always so excited...

Dark's pet was always either hungry or hibernating, and hibernating was often the better of the two.

"I like dogs," Anti had said aloud as he leaned into Dark's side, arms wrapped around her middle, fingers entwined. Dark chuckled in response, running a hand through those fading dark green locks. Perhaps they'd be brighter in the Void- but Dark had spent enough time with Anti to know what he looked like with his natural hair colour. He was changing, getting... younger, it seemed. Dark couldn't explain it- much like the rest of Anti's existence, really- but she found herself loving it all the same. The green never really suited him- it always made him look peaky and thin, not like the warm, happy man he once was.

He'll be happy again... I'll make sure of it.

"I could tell," she smiled simply, deciding not to burden her lover with her disarray of thoughts. "Do you know what I like?"

"Dogs?" Anti suggested with a smirk, though he already knew exactly what Dark was insinuating. Dark laughed quietly, brushing her thumb over Anti's fingers as she pulled him closer, setting him on her lap.

"Spending time with you," Dark answered, before tilting her head to the side. She shrugged, "and dogs,"

"Both at once, huh?" Anti smiled, "today must be the best day of your life,"

Dark kissed him sweetly on the lips, resting their foreheads together lazily as Chica bounded towards them, ready for another pet. Anti chuckled as he reached down, letting Chica nuzzle against his hand and lick at his fingers. There wasn't a question about it anymore- Dark needed to bring back her hellhound. If only to see the smile that graced Anti's features when she scampered into the room...

"Of course," Dark replied, shifting a little in her seat. "Everything is better when I'm with you, dear,"

Anti's smile faded a little. "I... you know, you never really told me why you like me so much... I mean- you tell me all the time about how good I look, and you mention how amazing I am a lot, but... couldn't you get that from anyone?"

"Does love need an explanation?" Dark asked softly, caressing Anti's cheek again as she spoke. She rather liked the way his eyelids fluttered when her rounded nails brushed against his skin.

"Well... as you might have seen, usually the happenings in the Void are quite lackluster. Before you came along, all I had to keep me company was Will... but I'll admit it, dear, the reason I was at first so enraptured with you was simply because you were someone new,"

Anti's eyes shone a little brighter as he smiled, inching forward. "But I'm not new anymore,"

"No," Dark agreed. "But you're every bit as exciting and spontaneous as you were then, Antithesis... It wasn't just the fact that you were new. You were sweet, and happy, and so... so caring. You were everything I craved to feel and more, and... and you were beautiful, Darling..."

Anti flushed a bright red as he buried his face in Dark's shoulder, laughing quietly at his own embarrassment. "N-no I wasn't, stop..."

"I'll never stop," Dark smiled, kissing the top of Anti's head lightly. "You're still beautiful, dear. Inside and out..."

"You two are so sweet," Amy said suddenly, alerting the couple to her presence. She looked a little worn out- perhaps she'd been on her feet for too long- if Chica was anything like Dark's pet monstrosity, exercising her could take a lot out of a person. Anti and Dark exchanged a quick glance before the glitch stood, kissing Dark's forehead one more time.

"Here- I'll take over," Anti offered, taking the slightly slobbery ball that Amy was holding. She smiled in return, taking Anti's seat as he ran off with Chica.

Dark's heart swelled fondly. Anti really was too precious for this world...

"It's strange. You guys don't really seem like how the world painted you to be," Amy said aloud, her gaze matching Dark's own as they watched Anti messing around and playing with the puppy. He was wandering rather far- but Dark had faith in him. He could find his way back with ease.

Dark smiled in response, pressing one hand to her stomach as she felt Desiree starting to kick again. She was awake, finally... "We existed before the world knew of us, Amy. Thus, we are... entitled to our own personalities. We may have changed with fame, but at our cores, we are still the same people we were all those years ago..."

"How old is he?" Amy queried. 

"The oldest of all of his brothers," Dark smiled. "Older, even, than the first of Mark's egos... we didn't have any means of measuring time before Google, so it is impossible to know, but... he was young when he arrived. Very young..."

0o0o0o0o0o0

"Wilford?" Anti asked aloud, cocking his head to one side as he looked at a brightly dressed man sitting alone on a park bench, not too far away. Those suspenders, that mustache- it couldn't be a coincidence, right? But... why was Wilford here, in this particular park, on this particular day?

Heck, why was he in Los Angeles? Surely there were thousands of other places he could be- Anti hadn't really experienced it much, but he knew that the Groundlands were huge. Yet here he was, sitting on a park bench as if there was nowhere else to go. As if he didn't have people back home thinking about him.

"Will?" Anti called a little louder, almost afraid to go over there. After all, for all he knew, he could have been the reason Wilford left in the first place. But still, he knew the man well enough to know that he'd be offended if Anti didn't say hello to him first- and he'd find them, even if Anti didn't speak up. The man just had a habit of knowing things...

Wilford looked up, almost as if he were deep in thought- and his eyes widened. "Anti? Oho, what are you doing out here you little scamp?"

"I could ask you the same question," Anti replied, ushering Chica over with the promise of a ball. "Why... here, of all places?"

"To be honest I'm not really sure of that myself," Wilford shrugged, and... Anti noticed he seemed a lot less enthusiastic here. Whether it was because of Jameson or not, Wilford was acting relatively sad, even for a normal person... Anti felt his heart sink in sympathy.

"One minute I was making a coffee and the next I was standing out here," Wilford sighed, looking out into the distance. "I can't remember what happened in between, for the life of me... I've lost my touch,"

Anti couldn't recall a time where Wilford had ever drunk coffee- usually, he stuck with exotic sounding liquors or simple tea, but Anti couldn't help but wonder... JJ liked coffee. Did that have a part in all of this? He shook his head as he sighed.

"Your... touch?"

"I used to be the master of this... this time jumping. But now I've fallen victim to it," Wilford huffed. He shifted his feet somewhat nervously. "It was never so bad in the Void... God, I miss it..."

Anti bit his lip worriedly, still afraid he'd accidentally cross a line and end up eating a bullet. "Why... can't you just go back?"

Wilford looked at him as though he was crazy- and perhaps, Anti was for suggesting it. Right now, nobody was Wilford's friend. Nobody except perhaps the lover he left behind...

"Are you out of your goddamn mind, Anti?" Wilford asked him incredulously. "Jameson left me, Dark's gone... what else do I have to look forward to there?"

"Oh, I don't know, me?" Anti huffed, a little offended that Wilford wouldn't return just for him. Was their friendship insignificant? Clearly, Wilford didn't know about Anti and JJ's little affair, as Anti was certain he'd be dead already if he did. Why, then, had he been pushed aside like this? "And Septiplier, and all of your other little fucktoys,"

Wilford closed his eyes, fingers clenching around his sweaty palms. "Anti..."

Anti sighed, sitting beside Wilford and tossing Chica the ball once more. "I'm sorry, that was... that was a bitch move,"

"No, you're right..." Wilford shivered. "I... I messed up. But it's too late now, I... he deserves better. I was here to find Celine, but..."

Anti was glad that Wilford didn't notice him tense up at her mention- he was probably too lost in his own grief to really consider Anti's reactions, and for that the glitch was thankful. Anti didn't want to be the one that broke the news of Celine's whereabouts to Wilford, especially without Dark's approval.

Dark...

"Do you want to talk to Dark?" Anti asked, patting Wilford on the shoulder awkwardly. Wilford looked up, his eyes a little red, but there was a ray of hope shining in them as well.

"Is he here too?" Wilford sniffed, wiping at his glassy eyes. "Ah... of course. You came to visit him, hm?"

"Yeah," Anti smiled. "You should see the size of the baby bump, Wilford, she's huge,"

Wilford chuckled. "She... Dark never said anything about children, but he reminds me so dearly of an old friend of mine that loved the idea of having a little girl... adopting, of course- he was interested in men, though he never trusted us enough to tell us... caught him staring at the swim team every Tuesday, the rascal..."

"Damien?" Anti asked quietly, knowing that Wilford hardly talked about anyone else.

"Yes- how did you know?" Wilford asked, turning to face Anti with brightness in his eyes. "Have you seen him? Anti, why didn't you tell me you-"

"No, no!" Anti said quickly, hoping to calm Wilford before he made a scene- he already stood out enough with that pink hair and those awful clothes. "I... I haven't seen him. But you talk about him a lot. You... talk about both of them, a lot..."

Anti trailed off with a sigh, looking down at his feet. He felt a little guilty for this- he knew Dark hadn't wanted him to pry, but Anti was dying to know more about the siblings that were part of his lover. Was this prying, if Wilford was always so willing and eager to speak about them? 

"Both of them... Wilford, were they... what were they like?"

"Oh, Damien is the life of the party!" Wilford gushed, smiling for the first time since Anti had seen him today. "He acts all disapproving and stoic but deep down he's a real animal- and he's ambitious, too. Why, he was the youngest mayor in decades way back when- all the girls threw themselves at him, but he was never invested in the idea of romance. He... he did read a lot of romance, though. I'd be surprised if he hasn't settled down now that the world had opened up to accepting same sex relationships- oh, it's such a shame that Dark got to you first,"

Anti raised an eyebrow, not really expecting any of the words that had just strung from Wilford's mouth. "What?"

"You and Damien would make a great pair," Wilford sighed wistfully. "He always needed someone to bring out his inner spirit. Well, that was usually myself and Mark, but... I hope wherever he is, he's got a happy family. It's all he ever really wanted... but I've rambled for so long- I haven't even mentioned Celine!"

Anti was smiling- how could he help himself? Even if Wilford didn't know that Damien was part of Dark, he knew, and he knew that Dark was happy with him. That must mean that Damien was happy too, right? Even Celine, to an extent- though from what he'd seen in Dark's memories, perhaps it wouldn't be wise to bring up the fact that Anti was messing around with Wilford's ex-girlfriend. He was sure that even if he was cursed to survive death, Jack wasn't- and Jack was still here, thinking occasionally, but remaining quiet enough that Anti could almost forget he was listening and feeling everything that Anti was.

"You two used to be together, right?" Anti asked, remembering that Wilford technically hadn't told him anything about Celine- it was all information he'd picked up from Dark.

"She was the light of my life," Wilford smiled in memory, "she and I... we understood each other like nobody else could. I couldn't help falling in love with her, Anti, she was glamorous- and she was passionate, and determined, and unafraid to take what she wanted. It was so hard to find a woman like that... but it didn't last. It's been... it's been years, and she's never once come to visit..."

"Maybe she can't visit you," Anti said for her sake, not wanting to sit idle and let Celine be discarded like that. Because really, she couldn't if she wanted to. Not if Wilford didn't see Dark as the amalgamation that she was.

Wilford's eyes darkened. "She isn't dead, Anti- she can't be dead! I'm here, and Abe's here- even Chef and the Butler are still here. She's out there somewhere, I know it."

Anti didn't want to tell Wilford that Celine was actually sitting over the hill, talking to Mark's girlfriend and carrying Anti's child. But then... how could he just let Wilford keep on believing that Celine was alive out there? She wasn't- and Anti hated that she wasn't- but it was something they had to live with.

Keeping this from Wilford was just cruel. He bit his lip worriedly... Dark would know what to do.

"Come on, Chica," Anti beckoned, running his fingers through her soft hairs as she panted happily, dropping her ball at his feet. "Wilford... just... come see Dark before you go. Maybe you'll get some sense drilled into you,"

Wilford smiled as he stood- Anti couldn't believe these chances. Out of everywhere, Wilford Motherloving Warfstache himself was hiding out in a park- and Anti was hoping that Dark would be able to convince him to return to the Void. That way, he'd be able to spend more time here, with Dark, not worrying about how fatigued the doctors would eventually get from keeping the house up and running in his leave. 

Jameson wouldn't be thrilled, but... well, Anti was willing to sacrifice that for the ability to keep Dark warm and happy for longer. He started walking up and over the hill he'd come from, waving at Dark and Amy as Chica ran towards them. But something was wrong. Dark was frowning, peering over, and then- oh, shit...

Pale and shocked, Dark looked white as a ghost as she stumbled to her feet, walking as fast as she could towards the public bathrooms. Amy started walking after her, holding out her arm as if to catch her, but then Dark was gone. Amy halted outside the bathrooms, turning to face Anti as he ran over to them.

"Amy, what's-?"

"It's Wilford- she panicked," Amy told him, looking warily at the mustached ego who was now walking over to them, looking rather frazzled. "She... I don't know, but you need to go to her,"

"But-" Anti started, about to warn Amy about Wilford, but she glared at him in response.

"When your partner runs off crying, it's usually a good idea to follow them," Amy insisted, nudging Anti in the direction of the bathrooms. They looked dingy and foul- hardly the place Anti would want Dark to be near in the first place, but he gave Wilford and Amy one last glance before hurrying over, scared of what he'd find.

He could hear sniffling coming from inside the cubicle on the far end as he rushed over, feet splashing a little in what he hoped wasn't piss. If he squinted, he could see a mix of red and blue light coming from the gap between the door and the wall, and... the rest of the stalls seemed empty. Thank God...

He knocked nervously on the thin sheet of hardwood that was locked in place. "Dark?"

"Is W-Will here?"

"No, no, he's outside," Anti reassured, just wanting to reach through and hold Dark's hand. Her voice sounded... rougher. Like she was stuck between male and female, like she was indecisive about who exactly she wanted to be.

Dark let out a shuddering gasp, and Anti could almost hear the tears in her tone. "H-he can't s-see me like this,"

"Like what?"

"Like... L-like a woman, Anti, he... he'll know who I am..."

Anti could have kicked himself- how could he forget? Dark looked a lot like Celine when she was female- of course Wilford would recognise her. And if he did... he'd take Dark for himself, wouldn't he? 

"Oh... oh, fuck, Dark, I'm so sorry, I should've-"

"Stop, Anti!" Dark growled in frustration, a banging sound echoing from the other side of the door. "Stop b-being so... so f-fucking nice about it, you... you didn't do anything w-wrong..."

"I told him to come see you, of course it was my fault," Anti frowned. "You can't just forgive me for everything, Darky, I make mistakes like everyone else!"

There was a tense silence, before Dark breathed slowly out. Anti could see her shifting in the crack between the door and the wall, could feel her presence as she slowly calmed herself down.

"It is n-nobody's fault," Dark sniffed. "Just... m-make sure he leaves, Anti, I can't... I can't go out looking like this,"

"But- Dark, you look fine," Anti tried to soothe her. "Look, I'll get him to go, and we can just sit outside again-"

"No, Anti, I look like a m-mess!" Dark sobbed, wrenching open the cubicle door so hard that it hit the wall. Her mascara was running down one side of her face, and the other was wiped clean, rough patches indicating that she'd scrubbed away the makeup harshly. Her eyeliner was blurred, and her eyeshadow was dripping a little, and her dress...

It was ripped around her arms, and her shoulders were broad- much broader than Anti had seen them. Her jaw was a little straighter, her eyes darkened, her abdomen bulging out as if she couldn't fit inside her clothing anymore. Her arms were a little more muscular, her hair falling limp over her eyes.

Anti swallowed. He felt like he could guess what had happened here.

"Darky-"

"I... I'm hideous..."

"You're not," Anti interceded, forcefully gripping her hand when she tried to recoil. He pulled her close, holding her, noting that she was taller as well. Her sandals were digging into the skin of her feet, leaving white marks all over, and one of the thin leather straps had snapped under the pressure.

"You're just... confused," Anti spoke, rubbing his fingers over her own gently. "That's all, Dark, you're just... a little out of proportion. Did you... did you try to change back to a man, is that it?"

"I- I usually- it normally just... just w-works," Dark sniffed, eyes brimming with grey tears that ran silently down her cheeks.

"You were stressed out, of course it didn't work," Anti explained. "Look, Dark- look at me... I love you, alright? Man or woman- whatever you choose to be, it's you. I didn't fall in love with your body, Dark, or your ability to wear makeup, or your fashion sense- I fell in love with you. And I know... I know that being like this, feeling like this can't be good, but... but I won't think less of you because of something you can't help. I... I'll get rid of Wilford, okay?"

Dark was visibly shaking when Anti reluctantly pulled away, hands lingering a little longer on his lover's own as he realised that one of them was definitely more petite than the other. He leaned in to give Dark one more kiss, hot, wet tears rubbing onto his cheeks as they parted, Dark's lips still turned downwards. Almost as if she were disappointed, but... Anti knew she wasn't disappointed in him.

"I'll be back in a minute, Darky..." Anti promised, watching with a sinking heart as Dark slammed the cubicle door shut, clicking the lock into place just as Wilford walked into the bathrooms.

"Anti, there you are-"

"Not now, Wilford," Anti interrupted, holding out his hand.

Wilford looked at him, concerned. "Have you been crying?"

"N-no," Anti shivered. "It's... Dark, sh- he, he doesn't want to see you right now,"

"But it's been so long!" Wilford complained aloud, making his way over to the only occupied cubicle in the building. "Dark?"

"He doesn't want to see you," Anti said firmly, reaching out after some hesitation to pull Wilford away from the door. "I mean it, Wilford,"

Wilford looked... hurt. There it was again- the same expression that he'd worn the night Dark had blatantly used him for rebound sex, the same look that he seemed to adapt when Damien and Celine had argued that once... he must really care, Anti realised. Why had it been so hard to admit to himself that other people cared about Dark, too?

"Why?" Wilford asked shortly. "What have I done this time, hm?"

"You didn't do anything, Wilford, he-"

"Right. I never do anything, do I?" Wilford huffed, gritting his teeth in frustration. "It's not me, it's him. That's how it always is, isn't it?"

Wilford rounded on the door, jabbing it with his finger. "Fine, Dark. I'll play your game. Keep your bloody secrets, I'll just go and find someone who actually gives a damn about me,"

Before Anti could protest, Wilford was gone. Just... vanished, leaving nothing behind but a pair of wet footprints.

Dark let out an agonised sob, and the cubicle door slowly creaked open- Anti could see that it had come off its hinges. Oh dear...

"I'm s-sorry," Dark sniffed, arms wrapping tightly around Anti's torso. "F-for being so w-weak..."

"Don't be sorry, Darky," Anti muttered, hugging his lover in return. "Never be sorry for crying, that's... that's what you'd say to me. If I have to stop being sorry, so do you,"

Dark laughed feebly, and both heads turned to look as Amy entered the room. She'd looked tense, but upon seeing them her shoulders relaxed, and she walked over to them without another word.

"Are you two okay?" Amy asked delicately, looking Dark over. She seemed to piece together that something wasn't right, but she was smart enough not to say anything. Dark clearly had enough issues with her self esteem without people calling her out on her botched transformation job.

"Here," Anti said, shrugging off his jacket and offering it to Dark. "Come on, let's get back to the car- Amy?"

Amy nodded- while she didn't know what exactly had happened, she knew that she needed to get them out of here fast. "Okay, we'll get take out for lunch. Do you want to go to Mark's house or mine?"

"We'll go to Mark's," Anti decided. "That's where all Jack's stuff is, anyway- come on Darky, it's going to be okay. I love you..."

Anti hated that it was all he could do to repeat those three words, hoping that Dark would find comfort in the expression. Anti didn't quite understand what Dark was going through- he'd never really had body issues, nor did he care what others thought of him, and it was going to be hard to connect with his lover on matters like these, but... he wanted to try. He wanted to show Dark that he was going to be here for her through this- through her identity conflict, and her mood swings, and her seemingly unimportant crises that all felt like they were crushing her at once.

Anti wanted her to know that he'd be thinking of her all the while, even when Jack was away with his own business. Today was their last promised day together, and Dark probably thought she'd blown it, but... but Anti could fix this. It was the least he could do after Dark had fixed so many things for him over the years.

"I love you," Anti repeated, picking up Dark's crutches from where he'd set them against the bench, "okay? I'll never stop,"

Dark let out a sniffle of mirth, smiling despite the tears that were flowing in rivers from her eyes. She pulled her hood over her head, taking Anti's hand and entwining their fingers once more. Her masculine hand... but Anti didn't even flinch in surprise.

Maybe, just maybe, Anti really did love Dark for who Dark was. Who Dark chose to be...

Chapter Text

~Groundlands~

"I'm s-sorry," Dark sobbed again, rubbing at her teary eyes as Anti opened the door for her, letting her walk inside. "F-for ruining our date..."

The car ride had been tense and awkward, and Anti had spent the whole time by Dark's side, calming her from her hysterics as she just... broke down. He'd never seen Dark like this- so terrified and anguished by the thought of Wilford finding out who she really was that she could hardly speak. Anti had held her hand, muttering sweet nothings to her in hopes that she'd find herself focusing more on them than on her troubled thoughts, but to no avail.

At least now, she'd calmed down enough to speak full sentences. She wasn't hyperventilating anymore, she wasn't crying so heavily, she wasn't shaking as uncontrollably, but... Anti wanted her to be completely better. Dark was still in pain, even if it was less noticeable than it had been minutes before- and Anti didn't like seeing her pretty face marred by these creases of worry.

"Darky, you don't need to be sorry," Anti reiterated with a winded sigh, pulling her close to him and letting Amy through the door. Mark's girlfriend looked worried, but she seemed to want to stay out of it for now- maybe she was planning something bigger for later on. Maybe she was just letting Anti have his time with Dark before she tried to comfort the demon herself, knowing that the hours were ticking on by... Anti would have to leave soon. And damned if he was leaving Dark on this unhappy note.

Dark shuddered, closing her eyes disbelievingly as if she thought Anti was lying to her. "B-but I-"

"Shh," Anti soothed, brushing some of her hair aside, trailing his fingers across her cheek, feeling the telltale pricks of stubble coming through on her chin. "You're not thinking, Darky... you're just saying what comes to mind based on what you're feeling, and... and that's not you..." 

"What do you really know about m-me?" Dark sniffed, looking down as she folded her slightly asymmetrical arms. She looked so... uncomfortable. So unsure. So... defeated...

Anti knew that stance well.

He cupped her cheek softly, smiling at his lover despite the gnawing sensation growing in his heart. This had always helped him calm down when the voices grew to be too much, hadn't it? Perhaps all Dark really needed was someone there to say that what she was feeling was okay... It was always so much worse when the emotions Anti had faced seemed silly and unjustified in his own mind.

"I know a lot of things about you," Anti started, his voice barely above a whisper. "I know that you're usually above what other people think of you... and I know that you're beautiful, whether you think so right now or not,"

"But I'm not..." Dark sighed in distress, clenching her fists and looking down. "I'm not... normal..."

Normal?

Anti had to refrain from laughing out loud- since when was Dark ever considered normal? Until now, Dark hadn't even seemed bothered by just how strange she really was- but Anti guessed that during a crisis, everything started to weigh down until even something as simple as breathing became problematic. He understood, he just... didn't know how to help. He was really only just getting the hang of sorting out his own emotions- but he had to try something, for Dark's sake. After all, Dark had always tried to keep Anti from falling into a state of depression- the least he could do was return the favour.

"You're a being made up of a demon, two souls, and a human body," Anti listed patiently, remembering a time where Dark would have done the same for him. When exactly had their roles been reversed? When had Dark become so emotionally vulnerable, so dependent, so desperate... and when had Anti become the stronger one in the relationship?

"You can read minds, you can manipulate your surroundings, and you can heal from the brink of death in a matter of days. You can change how you look depending on how you feel, and right now... you just feel lost. I understand, Darky, I do- but if normal was what I wanted, I'd have left you a long time ago,"

Anti didn't really know what he was doing- but it seemed to be working. He'd never really had to comfort someone before Halter came along, and he'd certainly never had to comfort Dark- the demon had seemed so untouchable, so carefree that Anti had once doubted Dark could even feel pain at all. But here, now... Anti knew better. She was hurting- just far beneath the surface. Hurting for Wilford, and Damien and Celine... And the walls of her seemingly impenetrable emotional fortress were crumbling down.

Dark tried to stifle a sob, wrapping her arms around Anti once more as she buried her face in his shoulder, crying her sorrows away. "I'm s-sorry... I'm acting l-like it's so much more i-important than it is, b-but..."

"You're pregnant," Amy interceded kindly, deciding to speak up after she'd locked the door. She'd been watching the interaction thoughtfully, waiting for an opportunity to voice her thoughts without taking away from the weight of Anti's gesture. He found he was quite thankful for that- this clearly wasn't the first time Amy had to give advice to a struggling couple...

"You're bound to get mood swings- it's just part of the experience. Hey... listen, why don't you two go and have a shower while I call Mark and tell him what happened?"

"... Together?" Anti asked hesitantly, meeting Dark's eyes with a measure of trepidation. He'd never showered with Dark before- but... well, he supposed it shouldn't be such a big deal, especially considering that they'd been intimate before. Heck, Dark was carrying his child- they were possibly as intimately connected as they could get. It shouldn't be awkward, but then... why would Dark be shaking if it wasn't?

"I don't trust Dark alone up there," Amy explained, noting how Dark had tensed up when she'd suggested the shower. She had reason to believe it was hardly Anti that was the problem- but she also had the feeling that Anti just might be the solution. Dark was obviously out of sorts- her body was stuck in the limbo between male and female, her organs were probably out of place and aching... but Amy knew that Anti would stop at nothing to make her feel wanted and loved again.

Amy had long questioned her own sanity for being so invested in her boyfriend's grandfather's love life- but she really did believe that the two were a strong couple. They were good for each other. At first, when Dark had mentioned that Anti was the father of her child, Amy hadn't known what to think. Sure, she'd seen Seán acting as Anti in several videos, even in person for the mega collab- but it turned out that the ego in question was astonishingly different to how he was portrayed when you met him.

She'd assumed that Anti didn't have a heart- that he didn't know how to feel emotions, or... just chose to be apathetic. The glitch that appeared in Seán's videos was crazy, and murderous, and an all around psychopath... but the Anti she'd come to know was different. Caring, and generous, and definitely not as detached as the character the fans knew. Anti was so concerned, so careful, so invested in being there for Dark that he didn't really do much else while he was here.

Amy got the feeling that Anti and Dark... they relied on each other more than most would think. They cared about how the other thought of them, they cared about how the other was feeling, neglecting their own needs because of how attached they were to each other. It was... well, it was certainly high maintenance, and Amy wasn't sure she'd be able to sustain a relationship like that, but considering that they both lived in a parallel plane of existence where most of life's problems just faded away... she supposed they could afford to be so demanding.

She shook herself out of her thoughts. "Plus- you both look like you've come out of a marathon run- trust me, you'll be happy you went,"

"I..." Dark uttered, choking on her words as an unpleasant expression ghosted her features. It seemed she wanted to do anything but what Amy was suggesting, and that... that pained Anti a little inside. Just knowing that Dark still felt uncomfortable around him, that they weren't as close as Anti might have wanted them to be... it hurt more than it should have.

"Come on, Darky..." Anti urged, taking Dark's hand again. He offered her his most calming smile- but it had no effect, and Dark didn't meet his eyes as they started to walk towards the staircase. Anti felt his stomach begin to sink, his heart pounding with nerves as his mind spun half-truths and terrible excuses for this sudden cold shoulder...

"It's not y-you," Dark mumbled, letting go of Anti's hand when they'd reached the top of the stairs. "You could never m-make me this upset, so... so stop catastrophising, please..."

"You're one to talk," Anti sighed half-heartedly, opening the door to the en suite bathroom and ushering Dark inside, peeling off his sweat-soaked shirt and tossing it onto the vanity without a care.

Dark didn't move.

"Darky..." Anti pleaded, reaching out to wrap his fingers around her forearm. She only sniffled in response, another tear rolling from her sad, blue eyes as she drew her elbows close to her chest.

"Don't look at me," she shivered.

"I'll look at you when I want, Dark, are we in this thing together or not?" Anti asked, folding his arms. "I know you don't feel like you're... good enough, but I think you look just as amazing as ever. There's nobody else here, Darky, it's just us. Don't you trust me?"

"Oh, Darling, of course I trust you," Dark sobbed. "I just... don't want you to see me so... out of sorts, and misshapen..."

"You're not misshapen-"

"Yes, I am." Dark stated, gritting her teeth in frustration. "My blood vessels are compromised and warped, my muscles are uneven, and the skin of my face is being stretched out by my jawline. I ache all over, and... and I look hideous. I'm... It's a mistake, Anti..."

Anti frowned. "Don't ever call yourself a mistake again," he threatened quietly. "That's the love of my life you're talking about. You're not a mistake. You're perfect- even if your definition of perfect is different from mine. I love you. All of you. Please, just... just let me help you,"

Anti inched his arms around her sides, undoing her zipper and carefully lifting her jacket over her head. To his delight, she seemed to have stopped resisting- whether he'd gotten through to her or not, she was at least willing to comply now. And Anti supposed that was the best he could hope for...

Dark winced when the jacket left her skin, hands flying to her shoulders as if she'd been branded, and... oh, no. There was blood everywhere- smeared down her front, dripping down her arms, the little slits stark and visible where her dress had dug into her skin. Thankfully, it had only been tight around her torso, and the baby would be fine, but... Anti didn't like to see his lover this way. She was in physical and emotional pain, and he couldn't do a damn thing about it. Nothing but show Dark that he was here, and he wasn't going anywhere...

Anti kissed Dark's cheek as he reached forward, trying to remove Dark's floral overcoat that had once fit her with room to spare. Now, it clung to her shoulders, and didn't budge until Anti forced it down and across the length of her arms. Dark whimpered slightly in pain, flinching, the blood only seeping further with the pressure that was being applied to her skin. Anti let the soaked garment fall to the ground as he looked at the dress... this was going to be tough.

"We... might need to cut this off of you," Anti said, trying to sound like he knew what he was doing, but he was fucking terrified. He was one fell swoop away from cutting Dark- and he didn't want to hurt her. They weren't enemies out for blood anymore, they were friends and lovers, and Anti never wanted to remind her of the abuse she'd endured in her previous life. He just wanted to live a happy life with his partner, and forget about all of the problems, but... if you don't resolve the problems, they'll always come back. It was the sad, cold truth.

Dark nodded grimly, not trusting herself to speak as Anti left her alone, walking downstairs with a gentle kiss and a promise that he'd be back soon.

What was wrong with her? She'd never given a damn about gender roles, or who she was- whether she presented as a man or a woman, whether she wanted to wear dresses or suits... But it was becoming so much more important now that she had someone to impress. Someone that looked at her body, touched her, was as invested in it as she was- someone else whose opinion mattered to her. Someone she didn't want to drive away...

She'd been nervous enough showing her female form to Anti, knowing that it wasn't what he was used to- but he'd seemed to like the change enough. Calling her beautiful, holding her hands as if he'd never seen fingers so small, taking every chance he could get to kiss away the makeup painted on Dark's lips... but this was hardly the same concept. This... this wasn't an expression of Dark's gender identity. This was an abomination.

She was a monster- an awful, disgusting creature. Torn between forms, asymmetrical and lopsided and ugly... how could Anti stand to be near her like this? How could she stand being like this any longer? She'd tried and tried until she was dead on her feet to change back, to choose a side- masculine or feminine, but she was... stuck.

And now Anti was here, doing everything he could to help her through this, and she was turning him away. Dark's pain, her suffering, her blood, sweat and tears... Anti was feeling it all too, for her sake. That's what lovers are meant to do, right?

Why, then, was Dark so hesitant to let him in?

"I'm back,"

Dark opened her bleary eyes, seeing Anti walking over to her with a pair of scissors, a nervous expression etched on his features. He was scared of hurting her, but... she was already too pained to care. She just wanted this to be over. This weakness, this fatigue, this sickness... these thoughts and worries that plagued her, every day and night without fail.

She wanted this all to be over...

But she couldn't fall into this cycle of self-loathing and self-harm again. She had a baby to care for- a life to protect...

"Don't move," Anti advised gently, gulping under his breath as he slid the metal blade carefully between Dark's torso and the fabric of the dress. It was tight, so tight that Anti wasn't sure how Dark was breathing- but her pain would be over soon. Dark shivered at the cool touch of the metal, causing Anti to falter- Dark had never been affected by temperature before...

He cut down.

The straps were still constricting Dark's shoulders, but the front of the dress was now separated in two, and as Anti snipped at the remaining pieces of taut clothing he found himself growing more and more coated in crimson. It was a strange feeling, being covered in someone else's blood... Anti wasn't sure he liked it. Perhaps this was another reason Dark didn't want to try knife play... waking up smothered in this stuff mustn't be very enjoyable.

The dress fell to the floor with a light thud, leaving Dark in her stretched out boobtube and a modest pair of underwear, and Anti raised the scissors again. There was simply no way that the tight ring of fabric was coming back over Dark's head when she was like this.

SNIP!

Dark was still lactating, the colostrum leaking slowly but surely from her breasts as she shimmied her underwear down, shame written all across her face. Anti hadn't even thought to consider what her genitals must be like in this form- but Dark clearly wasn't proud of them. Anti resolved not to stare, instead focusing on taking the remainder of his own clothes off and putting them in a single, blood-soaked pile. He'd never had to get the stains out of his own clothing before, and winced a little in pity for Mark... perhaps, they'd just throw these ruined clothes away and save everyone the trouble.

"Come here," Anti beckoned, pulling Dark close and hugging her, being careful not to irritate her shallow wounds. "It's going to be okay, Darky, trust me... I love you, alright?"

Dark nodded slightly, a slight whine accompanying her sharp breathing as she refrained from sobbing aloud. "O-okay... I l-love you too,"

Anti had never felt so happy to hear those words.

"Let's go," Anti beckoned, stepping inside the shower and turning the water on. He left it cooler than he normally would, knowing that it was a hot day out and Dark's wounds would probably sting under water that was too warm. It was a little cooler than room temperature, and Anti soon felt Dark sliding into the shower behind him, her hands tracing the ridges in his spine carefully. Dry, chapped lips pressed against Anti's earlobe, and he gave a content sigh.

"Okay... let's get you cleaned up," Anti mumbled with a small smile, picking up a cloth that was lying on the soap rack. Dark's makeup was still... well, frankly, a mess. Her cheek was raised and chafed from the cheap toilet paper she'd used to wipe her makeup away, and her eyes were a little bloodshot from crying- her hair dampening and matting to her forehead as they stood in the path of the water stream.

Anti brought the cloth to her face, rubbing gently at the remains of the lipstick, the mascara, the shades that Dark had put so much work into blending, washing it all away... it was a shame, but Anti knew that there was no way to salvage what was left of the carefully painted mask. He offered Dark another smile, and this time she returned it, her lips twitching a little as she closed her eyes, letting Anti wipe away the delicate brown shadows over her eyelids.

"You know what makes you so beautiful to me?" Anti asked aloud, lightly washing over Dark's rash so as not to hurt her any more than necessary.

"No..." Dark uttered quietly. Anti knew it wasn't true- Dark could hear his thoughts, she knew everything that was going through the glitch's mind, and she knew exactly what Anti was about to say. Perhaps, she just wanted to hear it aloud...

"Your facial expressions," Anti said truthfully. "Your eyebrows scrunch up when you're concentrating, and your eyes crinkle when you laugh... and you know what? Even when you look like this, you still do it,"

Dark chuckled under her breath, showing a sign of mirth for the first time in what felt like hours as Anti continued to wipe down his lover's neck. She didn't speak her acknowledgement out loud- though, Anti supposed she hardly needed to. It was enough for him that she could manage a laugh at all, instilling him with hope that the day could turn around again for the better.

All of the blood seemed to wash away under the steady stream, and Anti was surprised to find that there were really only two cuts under all that red- he wasn't ashamed to admit he'd been a little scared by the amount of crimson pouring from them, but these... they were easily managed. Nothing Anti hadn't treated before. He pressed against them softly, trying to seal them up a little before Dark bled out, and eventually the flow weakened and stopped. 

Anti wasn't conscious of how he'd ended up kissing her, their lips bumping together softly as his fingers trailed from her shoulders to her breasts, kneading them to help her relieve the pressure. The warm, wet pre-milk was being washed away, but Anti wasn't concerned- Dark could always make more in time for the baby. Heck, he'd completely drained them last night and she was already swollen again, practically begging to be touched.

Anti couldn't help but comply with the silent request.

When they parted, they were gasping for air, water droplets beading and running down their bodies, making them heavy and tired as they panted out their brief exhaustion. Anti's thumbs were running lightly over Dark's upper back, his fingers trailing idly along her smooth curves as he kissed down her neck, each little gasp and stutter she let slip warming him on the inside.

"Anti..." Dark breathed out, her voice just a little rougher than before. She was pressed up against the shower wall, her skin moist and glistening in the light as Anti ceased his advances, looking into her eyes once more. Anti wasn't quite sure whether she was hesitant or aroused, but neither seemed to match up with the lazy, defeated smile that then graced Dark's lips as she chuckled breathlessly, leaning forward and wrapping her arms around his wet torso.

"Yeah?" Anti replied quietly, nuzzling into Dark's embrace, silently thanking whatever god was watching, knowing that Dark was going to be okay.

"Th-Thank you," Dark stuttered out, her tears blending with the drops of cool water that were running down her face. "For everything, Dear, I... I'm s-sorry for pushing you away..."

"It's okay," Anti smiled, feeling tears of relief welling in his own eyes as he held his lover that little bit tighter, the water starting to feel like gravel raining down on his back- but he didn't want to move from this spot. He didn't mind the numb that was spreading from his spine, he'd take it a thousand times over just to see Dark happy and content, just to feel her chest rumbling with nervous laughter against his own.

"It's... not okay," Dark sighed dejectedly, sniffling a little as she wiped her eyes. "I s-shouldn't... get to this state, Darling, I... I'm not s-supposed to care so much..."

"Shh," Anti urged, leaning in to kiss Dark softly again, then again, wiping her wet hair from the sides of her cheeks. "This doesn't need to be so... complicated, Darky. It doesn't matter whether you're a man or a woman to me, it doesn't even matter if you're somewhere in the middle... it's you, and me, and our baby girl... and I'd love both of you no matter what you looked like,"

"I know you would," Dark sighed, eyes closing. "But... but I don't want to be in the middle. It... it hurts, Anti. My body, my heart... this isn't me. I can't... I can't just throw away my masculine and feminine sides like this. I... even when I switch my sexes, I still think of myself as a man or as a woman, and... and right now I'm neither. I don't know what I am..."

"Darky-"

"No," Dark interrupted. "No... I appreciate your sentiments, Anti, truly, but... but I can't tolerate this form any longer. I... I just want to be..."

Normal wasn't the word. But... Dark didn't quite know how to explain it. She'd always been one or the other- she knew how masculinity felt, and she knew how femininity felt, and she could play both sides wonderfully- enjoyed it too. But losing these definitions, these boundaries... she felt a loss of her identity. Her entire being- if she wasn't male or female, who was she? Could she even impose an identity onto herself, knowing that she'd never truly feel like the label she was living by? She was more Celine when she was female, more Damien when male- but there was nobody to fill this new space in her mind.

And it was absolutely fucking terrifying.

She knew she was overreacting- that it shouldn't really matter, because Dark was a representation of both genders, and every mix in between. But Dark hated being androgynous like this- hated the aspects of her that had become masculine, throwing her image out of proportion... Hated not knowing whether to be called he or she, hated how her feminine curves offset her strong jaw and her large hands...

She hated her own... ambiguity.

Anti let out a long sigh. "I... I get it. But you need to relax first, alright? Otherwise you'll never calm down enough... Just... tell me where it hurts,"

Dark groaned under her breath as she counted the aches present in her body, knowing there were some that wouldn't fade even with the strongest medicine. "I... It's easier t-to tell you where it doesn't hurt, truly..."

"Well..." Anti sighed, his fingers trailing to rest on Dark's collarbone. "I guess I'll start here- but I can't do your shoulders, Darky, you'll bleed out again..."

"This is fine, Darling," Dark replied, closing her eyes as Anti pressed and kneaded at her sore skin, letting her problems melt away under the cool of the water stream. "This is wonderful..."

Anti hummed his agreement as he rubbed softly at the mottled grey skin of Dark's breasts, a little concerned that the rest of her skin was hardly as blemished. Sure, he'd been kissing all over Dark's skin last night, but... if these were hickeys, surely they'd be more widespread? 

"Is this... is this the cancer?" Anti asked quietly, almost afraid to bring up Dark's illness in case she burst into fresh tears at the reminder. He still didn't understand what cancer really was- still didn't know the real weight of carrying it, but Schneep had certainly been worried for Dark when he'd told them. If it was serious enough to scare the doctor, surely it was no laughing matter...

She didn't seem at all offended, or upset- she looked down and sighed, and ran her fingers along Anti's upper back as she grunted out a vague response.

"Yes," Dark muttered simply. Anti decided not to pry further.

He moved down past her breasts, pressing softly into her sides where she'd definitely gained a little weight- nothing too major, nothing too noticeable, but the skin was more plush and malleable than it had been even yesterday. Anti didn't dare speak the thought aloud, not knowing the full extent of Dark's body issues and not wanting to trigger anything more than he had, but he couldn't help lingering a little longer, rubbing against her subtle rolls thoughtfully.

He wouldn't mind a nice, tubby Dark to cuddle up to at night. Perhaps after Desiree was born, he could persuade Dark to keep a little extra weight- but right now, he was afraid to ask for much that wasn't already openly discussed between them. The stress of maintaining a different body around Anti today had already made her break- he didn't want to put her through something like that again.

"How is she doing?" Anti asked, resting his hands on Dark's abdomen as Desiree kicked up at him, very much awake and active. She seemed unperturbed by Dark's emotional anguish and subsequent panic attack- a carefree, happy child. Anti only hoped she'd stay that way.

"She... she's doing just fine," Dark smiled, her tears blending with the water running down her cheeks. "She... says hello,"

Anti froze in his place. He didn't know much about children- much less about babies- but he definitely knew that they shouldn't be able to speak when they were still in the womb. "She... what? She can talk?!"

"Darling, shh..." Dark ushered, cupping Anti's cheek and brushing her thumb over his smooth skin. "No, she can't talk, but... she's learning which words to use when and where. She's thinking, repeating them back to us... she says hello because she knows that's how you greet someone,"

"She..." Anti sighed in some amount of understanding, smiling as he leaned in, pressing his nose gently against the deep grey skin of Dark's neck. "She's a smart one,"

"Indeed," Dark agreed, the hint of a chuckle evident in her voice. "Though I imagine all babies are as conscious as ours... it just so happens that we can properly communicate with her, due to my clairvoyance..."

"I wouldn't trade either of you for anything," Anti smiled, giving Dark a loving hug around her middle. 

There was a knock at the door.

"Guys? Do you have a spare change of clothes in there?"

"We didn't think of that, did we?" Anti chuckled at his own carelessness, his heart swelling as he realised that Dark wasn't crying anymore. It must have worked- he'd distracted her. If only he knew how to help her change back...

Dark smiled, wiping her bleary eyes as she glanced at the door. "I'm afraid we don't," she answered, her voice carrying just enough to reach Amy as the human walked off, probably to fetch some clothes for the couple. She really was too good to them- Mark was a lucky man to have her in his life.

"Did you want me to keep going?" Anti asked, cupping his hands around the smooth curve of Dark's ass and squeezing softly at the supple flesh. 

"Please," Dark affirmed with a little groan, tilting her head back and resting it against the shower wall as Anti continued to press and knead at Dark's cheeks.

Anti couldn't lie- his dick was awake and aching to be tended to at the very idea of touching Dark, but he didn't want to push anything that his lover wouldn't be comfortable with. He'd been rather... insistent about what they'd been doing last night, and while Dark had appeared to love it, Anti didn't want to overstep one of her unspoken boundaries. And he was perfectly okay with boundaries- heck, he'd encourage them if they would make Dark feel safer and happier with him.

He didn't want her to lose faith in him again. Whether it was a matter of appearance, or character, or an act she'd usually keep secret... Anti wanted their relationship to come back up from the low they'd fallen into. He wanted her to trust him, and he wanted to trust her, and... even though they weren't quite there yet, it was a start.

"You're hard," Dark noted quietly, having noticed almost immediately as Anti brought their bodies closer, crotches close to touching but separated by the bump on her abdomen. She looked guilty, but also smug- a strange combination that Anti interpreted as a kind of apologetic curiosity.

"I couldn't help it," Anti smiled, his fingers slowing and trailing away as he looked up and into Dark's eyes. "You're too damn sexy. We should shower together more often,"

Dark chuckled under her breath, too elated to discard the compliment Anti had given her. "We should," she agreed, resting their heads together. She found it rather... nice. Nice to be standing here with each other, under the cool water as it washed away the pain and shame that each new day could bring. They really should do this more often- even if it didn't always become so sexual, the intimacy was certainly breathtaking in itself.

"Is it bothering you?" Anti asked self-consciously, but Dark shook her head.

"No, no... it's fine, Darling. I couldn't dare hold it against you- I'm quite worked up myself, but..."

"But?" Anti echoed, having given a little sigh of relief when Dark said it was okay. He was glad that she wasn't judging him for how easily turned on he was around her.

Dark looked down, eyes closed. "I don't... want this to escalate. Not like this. Not while I'm... this,"

Anti sighed in understanding, though he was a little put out. He'd thought that doing something sexy would take Dark's mind off what was hurting her- but he supposed that it wouldn't do much if it was really Dark's body that was the problem. Still, he wanted to help in any way he could- he'd have to ask Amy for relaxing activities they could do, ones that wouldn't cause Dark to feel insecure or incapable...

"Okay," Anti said, respecting Dark's wishes above all else. "We don't have to do anything,"

"Well, we can still..." Dark started, trailing her hand down to rest against Anti's waist. "We can still... touch elsewhere,"

"Mhm," Anti hummed into Dark's neck, feeling her teasing fingers hovering just inches from his sex as he continued to squeeze and pinch at Dark's thighs. "If you want to,"

"I want to make up for ruining our day out," Dark muttered under her breath, resting her head on Anti's shoulder.

"Don't just fuck me because you feel like you have to," Anti pouted, lifting his head and looking at her with a hint of discomfort in his eyes. "I want... I only want you to do what you want to do, okay? I can take care of this alone, you know, if you're not comfortable with it. I'm not offended,"

"I'm offended that you'd ever think a moment goes by where I wouldn't want you," Dark replied, tracing her fingers down and gliding them gently across Anti's length, taking pleasure from the way his lips parted ever so slightly against the skin of her collar. "I just... don't want you to get attached to this form- not that I know how you could grow attached in the first place, really, it's hardly appealing... I never want to look like this again."

"I get it," Anti swallowed thickly, brushing his hand against Dark's as she pumped the base of his shaft with her petite fingers. "But... I think you look... f-fucking gorgeous," Anti groaned, moaning into Dark's shoulder. "And you're really fucking good at that,"

"I've had my practice," Dark brushed away the compliment, twisting her wrist as Anti guided her hand across his sex, her breaths growing just a little heavier with lust. "And I'm certain you merely have... strange tastes,"

"I think I just like you for who you are," Anti countered. "And... damn it, Darky, I don't want to let you do all the work. You don't need to be horny on top of all of this- just... let me help you out, please?"

"Anti..." Dark sighed nervously, her movements slowing. "I... you'll never look at me the same way if I let you see me as I am. I wasn't lying about it being hideous- even if it wasn't, it hardly compares to anything you've seen of me before, and... and I feel... inadequate,"

"I'm sure it's fine," Anti gasped through his groans, Dark's pace quickening again as she resumed her tugging motion. "P-please, can I...?"

Dark sighed deeply in return, realising that no matter what she'd say, Anti wouldn't stop wanting this. "If... if you truly want to, Darling, I won't stop you,"

She was going to regret this, she knew. Once Anti caught sight of the abomination lying between Dark's legs, it would become awkward and tense between them. Why hadn't she just stayed conventionally female? Why had she felt the need to alter her entire appearance instead of just her upper, more obvious half? It wasn't as though Wilford would have been doing any groping if they met in person- not while Dark was committed.

Why had she been so careless?

Anti bit his lip nervously, not wanting Dark to think he was forcing this on her- because really, he understood wanting to abstain from sex in favour of maintaining simple intimacy, possibly more than any of the others back home. He knew Dark was aching to be touched, to be held, to be loved, but... he also knew that Dark had her own issues to deal with before she could trust him, trust herself to engage in such an act. He didn't want her to do something she'd be troubled by remembering in the future, no matter how strong his desire to roam her body grew.

"Seriously, we don't have to if you-"

"Anti," Dark growled in frustration, her hand tightening around his cock, causing him to cut his sentence midway with a breathy groan of pleasure. "Just touch me if you want to touch me,"

"F-fuck," Anti moaned aloud, trying to recover his short term memory as his brain grew foggy with lust, the friction between them driving him close to insane. "Stop- stop it, Darky, let me..."

Anti pried Dark's hand from where it had been teasing his flushed skin, grabbing her by her waist and pulling her close to him. Their lips met in a messy, unorganised kiss- the water streaming into the open spaces between their mouths as they moved clumsily together, Anti trailing his fingers down to Dark's pelvis, feeling around.

It was certainly a whole new place down there- but Anti wasn't turned away by that at all.

Instead of the thick, heavy weight of Dark's cock, there was nothing dangling there to wrap his hand around, nothing to tug or fondle, to bring Dark to the edge. But at the same time, her delicate folds were nowhere to be found- Anti's fingertips brushed against a solid bundle of nerves, protruding from the soft flesh of Dark's pelvis, and Dark gasped against his lips, throwing her head back in pleasure so hard that the shower wall vibrated on impact.

"Shit..."

Anti felt her hand wrapping around his shaft again, resuming her rhythm as Anti pressed hesitantly around the skin of Dark's nerve bundle, feeling a familiar slick coat his fingers as he trailed down to where her vaginal opening should be. It was hardly easy to get to- there seemed to be a thick layer of skin tissue covering it, wrinkled and warm and wet, but Anti slipped his fingers underneath and found what he'd been searching for, slowly pressing a digit inside.

He smirked against Dark's lips, daring her to challenge how much he loved doing this with her again as she whined lowly, gasping into the kiss. When would she see that it was no hassle- that Anti loved being with her, that he didn't mind any of the things she called outlandish?

God, he really wanted to pin Dark against the wall and shag her until she was senseless, but this was bad enough, he knew- Schneep had told him about the dangers of forcing early labour with sexual activity, and Anti had resolved to keep their touching to a minimum- but today hadn't really been... planned. Still, Dark had needed this. He wouldn't apologise for showing the love of his life just how much he adored her, how much he enjoyed her, how much he'd want her no matter what she thought of herself.

He curved his fingers like he had the night before, already knuckle deep inside her as he brushed against the wrinkled tissue within that had brought her so much pleasure with every touch. She was coming undone in his arms, falling slack against him, her hand ceasing its calculated motion on his length- but the sight of Dark alone like this was enough to bring him over the edge.

"You're so hot like this," Anti praised, mumbling against her lips as she let him please her, finally letting go of her control, her hands shaking at the pleasure. He added a third finger, rubbing his thumb against the erect nub that Anti now assumed was her clit- just much larger and more pronounced- feeling her clenching again around him, quivering with heat as her climax grew ever closer.

"Anti..." Dark mumbled, biting her lip as she closed her eyes in blissful intensity. "I... I'll..."

"Come for me Darky," Anti urged, moving his fingers even faster as he felt her reaching her breaking point, going stiff in his arms before she grew weak at the knees.

He caught her as Dark shuddered out her orgasm, breathing heavily as she held her face in her hands, the stubble that had started to appear on her chin spreading a little further down her jaw and thickening as the seconds passed.

The bundle of nerves Anti had been fondling was growing larger, thicker, longer- where he'd once been able to put his fingers there were two familiar lumps growing, taking the place of Dark's lower lips as her little groans grew deeper, rougher still.

Dark's shoulders shrank slightly, her chest becoming toned and muscular, her wide baby belly still visible for the world to see- and when Anti gently pried her arm from her face, he smiled in kind recognition. It had seemed so long, though it had only been a day since Anti had seen those small, almond shaped eyes. Those brows, those lips...

"Hey handsome," Anti teased, enjoying the way Dark's cheeks tinted in embarrassment at the compliment.

"You flatter me too much, Dear," Dark sighed, though he didn't look disturbed at all by the comment. He was smiling- beaming, leaning on Anti's shoulders as he moved his coarse hands across the length of Anti's cock, squeezing the last of his arousal out of him as Anti's breathing deepened.

With a small cry, Anti felt himself releasing all over Dark's thigh, the ribbons of white being washed away promptly by the persistent stream of water that now felt icy to the touch.

Anti panted out his exhaustion, leaning forward to press a wet, messy kiss to Dark's already spent lips.

"Fuck, I love you," Anti breathed, licking along Dark's bottom lip lazily as the demon chuckled, returning the kiss and trailing his fingers idly down Anti's side.

"I love you too," Dark smiled. He sounded a lot more confident in this body, Anti noticed- was it because they'd spent more time together while Dark was male? It must have been- Anti was just glad he was feeling better, glad that the shower sex had helped him let go of his worries after all. Maybe he could come up with good ideas every so often- maybe, he wasn't always a waste of space.

"Is the baby okay?" Anti asked, pressing a hand to Dark's bump once more. Hopefully, she hadn't heard any of that- but in the event she had... well, Anti was probably going to teach her to curse at some point regardless.

"She's perfect," Dark answered, his voice lilted in mild curiosity. "Why wouldn't she be?"

"Schneep told me there's danger in fucking before the due date," Anti admitted sheepishly. "I thought the risk was worth it today, but..."

Dark chuckled under his breath. "Oh, Anti- the baby can't be harmed by sexual activity. You would know if you had triggered anything- for a start, I'd be in a lot of pain, and... I'd warn you beforehand, alright?"

Anti sighed in relief, already planning their next intimate encounter out in his head now that he knew it wasn't all bad. "Oka-"

There was another knock.

"Um- sorry, guys, I don't want to cut it short but we're kinda in the middle of a drought, so..."

"We'll be out in a moment!" Anti called, letting Dark shut the water off as he stepped out of the cubicle. The room smelled damp and musty, and even though the remnant of their activities had been washed away, the atmosphere lingered on. Anti could still smell the sex on them- but he was too pleased to care all that much.

They'd never been given explicit instructions not to fuck in the shower, after all.

"Okay- I've put your clothes by the door as you walk out,"

"Thank you, Amy," Dark called out, and Anti heard her chuckle as she wandered away again.

Dark's fingers traced Anti's own as he smiled, taking his hand up to kiss Anti's knuckles. "Look at you, Dear... you've become as wrinkled as my grandmother,"

"You should tell me more about your family," Anti urged, laughing a little at the joke. "About Damien and Celine... I find it fascinating,"

"I know you do," Dark sighed, unable to keep the lazy smile away. "Perhaps later I shall tell you about their mother- our daughter's namesake,"

Anti kissed him softly, not even bothered by the cool air drying their skin tightly in the absence of clothing. "I'd like that,"

Anti opened the door, sorting through the clothes Amy had given them thoughtfully. It was obvious which belonged to Dark- those were a decent few sizes bigger, and Anti looked over them with appreciation for Amy's attention to detail. She'd picked out a loose T-shirt and some baggy trousers for Dark, probably not wanting to force her into a dress again after what had happened today- and Anti had a couple of clothes he'd seen earlier in Jack's suitcase.

Why couldn't Peevils be this considerate?

Anti supposed it didn't matter- Peevils was out of their lives, and he'd never have to worry about Dark being taken away from him again. Dark loved him. He'd always come back for him- this, Anti knew now, after so long spent not understanding the fact that the two of them had a unique bond... He felt a lot more confident himself after today, truly. He'd proven to himself that he had something over Wilford- something over any and all of Dark's past lovers.

He had Dark's trust. He knew Dark's secrets, his insecurities, his fears- things he'd never told another soul. Anti was the only exception.

Damn right I'm the exception- I'm everyone else's antithesis after all...

"What's on your mind?" Dark asked, and Anti knew all too well that Dark could just check for himself- but he didn't, and Anti felt his heart swell as he realised that the demon was holding back for him. Waiting for him to express his thoughts without just gleaning them using his mind magic...

"Just finally understanding why you named me how you did," Anti smiled, handing Dark his clothes. "Now dress up- nobody but me gets to see that ass,"

Dark snorted under his breath, leaning in to give Anti one last, lingering kiss. Softer, but firmer- determined, but simple all the same. His heartbeat quickened and he couldn't help the smile that broke the loving embrace, pecking his lover on the lips a final time.

"Indeed," Dark agreed, "and likewise. Cover yourself before someone else snatches you up,"

Anti rolled his eyes. "Right. I'd bet that the only one aside from you who ever wanted me was Wilford, and that was probably just as a trophy,"

"He admires your spirit," Dark smiled, pulling on his boxers and trousers, covering up the still glistening skin that Anti yearned to hold for longer. "But yes- he has no romantic intentions towards you. He'd suck you off for bragging rights, that one... I'm sorry that I didn't get the chance to meet with him earlier-"

"Darky, you were in no state to meet him," Anti interrupted, tugging his shirt over his wet hair. "You were in tears at the thought of him seeing you- heck, imagine what it would have been like if you two had spoken,"

"Still," Dark sighed, letting Anti pull the hem of his shirt down so that it rested just above his hips. "I owe him an apology, if nothing else,"

"Well, considering it was complete chance that we ran into him today, I'd say we couldn't avoid him if we tried in the future," Anti muttered. "I just... don't want anything like that to happen to you again, you have no idea how it feels to watch someone you love just... just break down like that Darky,"

Their hands were touching, fingers entwined, and suddenly, Anti was in Dark's body again. He was staring down at himself, his younger self- and he was crying, screaming, the bloodied knife wound on his throat wider than ever, his arms slick with crimson.

Then, he was standing outside the manor, watching Dark with calculated eyes as he lunged forward, burying his knife in the demon's chest- but Dark didn't even flinch. He wrenched it away, tossing it aside as he raised a hand and crushed Anti's already torn throat like it was a twig. He watched his own body dissipate, remembering just how painful it had been- but not having heard Dark's anguished sob of regret that followed...

And then, he watched as Dark pinned Anti against the wall of that dressing room, faltering his fatal strike just as Anti had been forced out of Jack's body. If Dark had any intent to kill Anti, Jack would be dead- but Dark hadn't wanted to hurt him.

It was painfully clear now, as Anti flinched away, the tears streaming down his cheeks.

"Yes, I do," Dark countered patiently. "But that's in the past, Dear- I insist, I've taken up far too much time with this pitiful emotional imbalance- what do you say we go downstairs and, er... try to act like today never happened?"

"I won't act like it never happened," Anti refused, "that's just counter-productive. But going downstairs and making today an even better date sounds pretty good to me,"

Dark sighed happily, resting his head momentarily on Anti's shoulder. "I know I said it earlier, but... you're truly the best I could ask for,"

"Until today, I didn't believe it," Anti smiled in response, linking his hand with Dark's as they left the steamed up bathroom behind them, walking down the stairs that led to a confrontation that neither particularly wanted to face- but now that they had each other, they knew they'd be fine. They could handle anything the universe wanted to throw at them- whether it was a crazed mustache-wearing murderer or simply a couple of uncomfortable questions- Anti knew they could make it.

He had faith in them. In Dark, in himself- and it was the happiest, most fulfilling thing he'd felt in a long while.

0o0o0o0o0o0

"How dare he?!"

Wilford slammed the door to Abe's apartment shut as he stormed inside, picking up the mug of cold coffee he'd only just finished making when he'd been whisked away to a crowded park in the middle of the city by unknown forces. The detective raised an eyebrow at him, but he seemed rather used to this behaviour by now- they'd been living together for a couple of days at this point, what with Wilford having nowhere else to go. Abe may have been a resilient man, but he wasn't heartless- how could he have let Wilford out in the real world when his mind was still stuck in the seventies?

"Who?" Abe sighed, putting the morning paper down as he folded his arms.

"Dark!" Wilford huffed as he washed out his cup angrily- it was a miracle it hadn't broken yet under all that strength. "After everything I've done for him- he doesn't want to see me. Why, I left my home to live with him in that accursed Void- I abandoned my search for Celine for him, I gave up everything- and he's never once cared!"

"Slow down," Abe commented. "I can't hear you over that obnoxious accent."

Wilford growled in response, giving up and throwing his mug in the sink, watching it break into several shining ceramic pieces. Abe stood with a start, his gun trained on the mustached man in seconds.

"What the fuck was that for?!" Abe shouted, and Wilford barely flinched at the noise. He was crying despite himself- his face red with anger, his head pounding. He was hurt, offended, heartbroken that Dark hadn't wanted his company. After all, Dark was the only friend that he'd ever really known since...

"I have to find them," Wilford decided, ignoring the weapon that remained pointed at him as he walked over, grabbing hold of Abe's arms. "They're all I have-"

"What are you talking about?" Abe hissed, dropping the gun at his feet and shoving Wilford away. "Just- just fucking tell me instead of breaking my stuff, okay?!"

"Celine, of course!" Wilford explained as if Abe was but a child. "She'd never cast me out like that- and Damien, too. Oh, I need to find them... tell them I'm sorry for not staying in touch for all these years-"

"You're delusional," Abe interrupted, shaking his head. "You can't just- just fucking waltz out there and expect to find people you haven't seen since the thirties. They're dead, Colonel. The best you can hope for is talking to the Chef and the butler again- you should just sit down, and relax-"

"How can I relax when they're out there?!" Wilford exclaimed. "They're not dead- how can they be dead? If they're really g-gone, then... then my life is just..."

Wilford slumped on Abe's old sofa, head in his hands. The detective didn't really know how to respond- only a minute earlier this man had been shouting, breaking things, then he'd been determined and chivalrous, and now, he was crying? Abe had seen Wilford go through more emotions in the past few seconds than a hormonal teenager, and that was saying something.

The man shook in his seat, sobbing uncontrollably as the tears fell into his lap. "I-I... I'll have sought after them f-for nothing... all the p-pain, and the hurt, it... it doesn't mean anything, does it? I see them, Abe- I see them in my dreams, in my v-visions... I don't know when, or wh-where but it's the three of us t-together. We look so... so h-happy..."

"It's in the past," Abe swallowed, recalling Wilford's uncanny ability to see into the future from their confrontation in the seventies. But it couldn't be real- what were the chances of finding the mayor and his sister in this day and age, even if they were still alive? No, he must have been remembering a simpler time in his life, a time before Abe had come along to witness the ruin that the Barnham family had become.

"B-but it..." Wilford sniffed, wiping his eyes and nose with his sleeve. Abe reluctantly placed a hand on his shoulder, and the mustached man pulled him into a desperate hug.

"Whoa- okay, that's a lot of touching," Abe muttered, prying himself from the embrace as Wilford continued to sob into his lemon yellow button-up.

"Sh-should I really j-just move on?" Wilford uttered, eyes half open as he gazed blankly at the wall. "And g-go back to living with... but h-he..."

Wilford turned to face Abe, sadness brimming in his eyes, and the detective felt something inside him stir in pity. This man was a murderer- albeit an unknowing and delusional one. He'd killed several people that Abe cared about, he'd even shot the detective in the heart once- but he was... broken. Abe had to wonder if he could really even help it after all these years.

"I'm sure it'll all work out in the end," Abe said, trying not to give Wilford too much false hope. After all, what with Markiplier's lookalike walking around out there, Wilford was sure to get a lot of attention if he roamed the streets again. It wouldn't work out in the end- and Wilford seemed to know it.

But to his credit, he took it in his stride.

"Will you help me... at least try to find my friends?" Wilford sniffed.

Abe felt his resolve crumble, sighing as he looked at the gun he'd dropped on the floor. He was getting too old for this- it had been several long years since he'd thought of what had happened at the manor, but... he couldn't hide from his past forever. He'd been growing rather bored of this simple, apartment life anyway. Perhaps even entertaining Wilford's fantasy of finding his friends unscathed would provide him with some excitement.

He picked up the weapon again, reluctantly sliding it into his vest. He'd never even disabled the safety switch, knowing that the real cops would be at his door in moments if he'd fired at Wilford, no matter whether it hurt him or not. It wasn't as though he lived in the most friendly place in LA, after all- there were a lot of homicides just in this neighbourhood.

"Alright," Abe sighed, helping Wilford to his feet. "I'll bite. Lead the way,"

Wilford crushed him in another hug, his mustache tickling Abe's nose as the man pressed a big, happy smooch to his cheek. Abe recoiled in a measure of disgust, already regretting his life decisions and wondering how easy it would be to stage an accident to escape the madman- but he was committed, now.

"That's the spirit, m'boy!" Wilford called jovially, the only remnant of his sadness being a few tears that he promptly wiped away, already standing by the door. "After you,"

"Yeah, sure," Abe sighed, adjusting his vest. This was going to be a long, tiring adventure.

~Void~

"He really lives in this shithouse?" Peevils queried, tilting her head as she observed the two houses they'd come across. Google had entered the one on the left- a modest looking suburban home that looked as though it was recently built. Beside it, there stood... well, Peevils supposed she would call it a shack. The roof looked like something out of a skate park, and the windows were a little too meticulously placed for her liking. At least, she knew, Anti had more sense than to build something like that.

"I'd live here," Wiish shrugged, picking at her fingernails with her knife. "Though it'd have to be a little less... brown,"

"It's ugly," Peevils sniffed, folding her arms. "I'd like to tear it down, but I'm nowhere near as strong as he is. How many egos do you think he's got in there?"

"At least eight," Wiish replied, counting up all of the ones they'd watched run past in her head. Blank, Google, the guy with a skull hat and his other robot friend- not to mention the guy in a cat mask and the red haired crossdresser. Plus, Anti himself was in there, and Wiish had seen someone dressed in a long trench coat and a blindfold standing by the window.

"That's too many," Peevils tsked. "How good are you with your knife?"

"The best," Wiish smirked, recalling the first ever demon she'd taken down when she arrived. The other woman was a lower class entity when compared to Dark, Peevils had told her, beating down her triumph as if it was nothing- but Wiish had been proud. Killing a succubus on her first day here was an accomplishment she felt that nobody else could claim. Peevils was just jealous.

She seemed to be jealous a lot of the time, really, if the way she spoke about Anti was any indication of her personality. But she was fun to have around- even if Wiish could have killed her at any time, she enjoyed the company. But after she finally found Anti and persuaded him to be with her... she wouldn't need that from Peevils anymore.

She grinned as she ran her fingers along her blade. Just a few more hours and she'd finally be rid of the bitch she'd had to endure living with for the past two years. Whether she was more excited about meeting her man or killing off that slut, she wasn't entirely sure. It was a close contest.

"Don't toot your own trumpet so much," Peevils scowled. "I'd bet you couldn't even last in a fight against that damn Host- and he's blind."

Wiish rolled her eyes. Soon...

She was about to speak again- but the door creaked open, and she ducked to hide in the shadows. It was that man in the hat- Anti's brother, Peevils had called him- and he was dragging the other search engine over to the less-impressive house of Anti's neighbour. Wiish had to admit that his taste in friends seemed... questionable. She'd have to cull them, especially if they built houses like these. Besides, friends would distract him from her, and she didn't want that. Perhaps, they'd all have to go...

"What are you doing, we could have killed them right there!" Peevils hissed, elbowing Wiish in her side. Wiish frowned, kicking the other ego's heels and watching her fall to the imaginary lawn that the residents maintained.

"Bitch,"

"Skank."

"Shut up!" Peevils urged, dragging Wiish forward as they crept closer to the house. "This is our chance- we need to pick these losers off first,"

"Why do we need to kill them?" Wiish groaned. "It's just... a lot of work, I could be spending my Saturday so much better-"

"What, you think you're not strong enough to take them now?" Peevils taunted. "Think you're gonna run back to my turf and wait it out? I thought you wanted your man, Wiish?"

Wiish scowled, her silver eyes flashing menacingly. "Shut up and let me through,"

Oh, Wiish... so easy to manipulate. Peevils smirked at her own cunning- she'd have gotten rid of this wench years ago if it wasn't so easy to get what she wanted from her. She was a useful, if disobedient pawn- Peevils couldn't wait for an upgrade.

The door flew open again, and someone new ran out- his face marred with tears, his rich red robes flowing behind him. He wore a crown and had what looked like peanut butter smeared across his face, and he was running away from the houses like his life depended on it. Peevils cursed aloud, able to recognise that ridiculous outfit anywhere.

"Shit... I thought they were alone in there,"

"Well, do you want to take him out?" Wiish snarled challengingly. "I'll lend you my knife,"

Peevils rolled her eyes in return. "Like I need that mangy blade to do my dirty work..."

She skulked after him all the same, and Wiish made to follow her, eyeing the house behind her warily. She wasn't bothered by death and destruction- she found it entertaining, actually. But something told her that Anti might not approve of her murdering his friends outright. She'd have to be sneaky about it, do it all behind his back, make him believe she was just an innocent, charming little woman... yes, that was the way.

Still, she didn't want to disagree with Peevils just yet. The pink haired bitch was still useful- her brute strength could come in handy when it came to meeting and subduing Anti. At least, until Wiish grew tired of her overwhelming amount of shit...

They'd barely made it twenty feet when Peevils reached the man, stepping on the back of his robe and watching him fall to the ground with a soft thud and a cry of alarm.

"Fuck!" He cursed aloud, sounding as though he'd been sobbing for a long while. Poor baby. Well, Wiish had no issues with putting him out of his misery.

"Oh, boo hoo," Peevils jeered, watching her victim turn to face her with terror in his soft brown eyes. "If it isn't Squirrels... huh, still a whiny little bitch baby, I see,"

"Oh, fuck off," the man sniffed, tearing his robe away from her foot as Peevils stumbled, glaring at him with golden eyes. "Dark banished you, you cold hearted psychopath..."

"Oh, but Dark isn't here, is he?" Peevils simpered, grabbing hold of Squirrels' arm and holding him in place, looking over at her accomplice. "Wiish, take him out,"

Wiish scoffed at Peevils' instructions, not wanting to be degraded to a simple lackey- but she had to play it safe for now. Though the other woman was growing increasingly more difficult to tolerate- one day, she told herself. One day. She spun her blade in her fingers, smirking at the man as his eyes flew open in shock, plunging her knife deep into his chest.

And then, it... moved?

Peevils was so shocked that she let go of Squirrels' arm, fixing Wiish with an incredulous look. She couldn't explain it- knives just didn't fall out of people- this had never happened to her before. She didn't really know what to do- she could only stand and watch, and hope that the answer would come to her as the knife continued to thrash, splitting the fabric it was embedded in even further.

He was still breathing- still conscious and standing, yet there was undeniably a lot of blood blossoming from the site of the wound. His robe came undone, and then the tear grew wider, and...

He choked out a sob, holding his chest as something furry and soft-looking fell out, a knife wedged in its side. It was... a squirrel. A squirrel? A damn rodent, but he looked so horrified that even Wiish felt a twinge of sympathy for him.

"M-Molly?" The man uttered, his voice barely above a whisper as he cradled the creature close to him. "N-no, no..."

"King?!"

The girls turned hastily to the source of the sound, seeing many more than just eight other egos streaming from the house on the left- Peevils recognised most of them. Host, and the doctor, and Google and Yandereplier- but the others must have been new around here. They were incredibly, impossibly outnumbered- but still, they didn't move.

At the front of the horde was Blank- his black eyes looking worried and his brows furrowed. He faltered as he realised what was happening, throwing all caution to the wind as he ran towards the scene, not even remembering that he was trying to avoid his ex at all costs in spite of his pain.

"Molly!" Blank screamed, anguished, kneeling beside his once-lover and brushing a hand over the squirrel's blood-matted fur, tears brimming in his deep black eyes. He buried his face in King's shoulder, sniffling despite his fear of confrontation. Their pet squirrel- their beautiful, happy, loving Molly... she was dead. She was dead...

Wiish shook herself out of it- she'd certainly killed more pitiful egos before- summoning another knife and moving to finish the job- but a strong hand caught her own. It wasn't Peevils, nor Blank- not even the King she'd initially attacked. No, this was someone else- someone that looked hauntingly familiar, yet... different.

     

His hair was dyed blue, a glimmering crown studded with various gemstones sitting atop his head, the red matching his puffed, stripy sleeves. He looked more than a little ridiculous- wearing a black hoodie with a golden zip and a robe over the top, a pair of mismatched pantaloons and brightly coloured stockings leading into his simple black shoes. Peanut butter was spread generously on his cheeks, his skin turning red with anger. He faced the pair with cold, black eyes.

"She's gone..." he grunted, his voice a disarray of tones that hurt Wiish's ears, making her wince as she stumbled, ready to break into a run. Peevils be damned- she knew danger when she saw it.

His eyes narrowed, and he knocked her knife aside as if it was nothing, shoving Wiish onto her back and deflecting the punch that Peevils aimed his way.

"She's GONE!" He bellowed, dark mist streaming from him as Wiish found herself overcome with the tiny, blade-like claws of rodent feet, scampering across her body and crushing her underfoot. The black, goo-like creatures bit and scratched at her until she was dragged to her feet by Peevils, their hands linked as they retreated as quickly as they could manage, the swarm of squirrels following them into the endless expanse of the Void.

The Autophobe watched them leave through the tears welling in his eyes, gasping and clawing at his throat as his robe began to feel tight and strangling. He couldn't breathe, and his skin was puffing up, turning purple. He collapsed to his knees, his vision swimming, unable to keep his form stable as he was forced to split apart.

King rolled out of the fusion, eyes shut tightly, losing himself in his grief-stricken sobs. She may not have been the brightest animal out there- certainly not the easiest to manage, but she'd been... she'd been special. She was all he'd had left of his time with Blank, the one thing he could stand to remember without bursting into tears... she was dead, and gone, and he was covered in her blood. He gagged, though nothing but bile reached his throat.

Beside him lay his ex-boyfriend, struggling to breathe through the lumps and bumps that were forming on his face. His lips were swollen red, his eyes barely visible beneath the puffed up skin of his eyelids, barely able to groan out a cry for help. He could vaguely hear voices, cries, people asking him if he was okay... he'd thought he could never get worse than he'd been in the past year, but... he'd never felt so defeated.

He felt a sharp jab in his thigh, but his vision still faded out, nothing remaining but the foggy echo of ringing in his ears.

Chapter Text

~Void~

"Are you okay?"

Bim was staring at his feet, feeling... numb. He... he hadn't expected King to just run off like that. To call off their sham of a relationship and just... leave. He thought he'd... mattered?

No, that wasn't the word. He knew he still mattered to King- he knew this was hardly the end of their friendship, but he'd thought he mattered... more. He thought, maybe, he was entitled to a little bit of an explanation at least. King looked so upset, but... he'd walked in the opposite direction to Anti's house. He hadn't gone to see Blank.

Why, then, had he left Bim behind? Weren't they best friends? Didn't they tell each other everything?

He hadn't even had the chance to speak before his fake-ex-boyfriend was gone, out the door, with no possible way of finding him. He could only trust that the rodent-loving man wouldn't wander too far, trust that he knew the dangers of being out in the Void alone. Dark had always warned them not to stray from the edges of his territory, speaking of demons and foul creatures that would stop at nothing until they met a fate worse than death.

Really, Bim just hoped that King was okay.

Bing had placed a hand on Bim's shoulder in reassurance, fixing him with a look of sympathy as the show host wiped the forming tears in his eyes. The android had come in with Chase to talk to the pair about Blank- Google had found him kicking around somewhere, bringing him here, and... and King hadn't taken it so well.

Bim sniffed, wiping his nose.

Why was he crying?

"F-fuck..." Bim said aloud, watching as Chase left the room, maybe to follow King and make sure he didn't do anything stupid. "I... fuck."

"Not anymore," Bing said on impulse, before clamping a hand to his mouth in shock. "Shit- sorry Bim, I couldn't help it,"

"I..." Bim sighed, holding himself close, not even caring all that much for the terrible joke. "It's... fine."

It was most definitely not fine. Bim could see it. His android brother could see it. And if everyone else was on their way over, they'd all be able to see it. Bim had never been an exhibitionist- he'd hated public displays of affection, he hated being the centre of attention, because compared to his brothers... what did he really have? He was old news, forgotten, sticking around because of the occasional traffic that his videos would pick up. He had nothing to say... King had always understood him. Even though King was stronger than ever now, he was the only one who still had time for him.

Not anymore...

He shouldn't be so upset by the harsh breakup- hell, they weren't even really together. It was a fact he had to keep reminding himself of, one that was growing more difficult to come to terms with, every day. Because he liked how King's fingers felt when they held hands, and he liked how King spent time with him, and though he made a face and denied it, he liked when King would make those awful nut jokes and call him pet names... it never ceased to bring a smile to his face.

He'd liked a lot about the proximity, the close knit relationship they'd developed, even the friends-with-benefits thing they'd fallen into had been wild for the day or so it had lasted. He liked it when King called him his boyfriend, even though it was hardly the truth. He'd liked it when King had gone out of his way to show affection for him, no matter how fake it was- he'd liked it all a lot.

He... liked... King?

Oh God.

That was it, wasn't it?

"Damn it," Bim cursed, his heart welling up and sinking like a brick. He couldn't like King that way- it wasn't right. They were family- they'd always had each other's backs, they'd always been close as brothers... but what else could he come up with to combat the idea? It wasn't like Wilford had ever gone out of his way to treat Bim as anything but a casual affair, it wasn't like he could be missing someone- he'd never had a romantic relationship before.

Sure, Mark had written him with feelings for Matthias, but Bim had never known the guy. He'd beaten them away after a small while, thinking them ridiculous- it was nothing like what he'd shared with King.

But King had had Blank once- and they'd been as close as two people could get while they'd lasted. What if King wanted that back? Blank had loved the affection, loved the attention, basking in it when King offered it to him, not shying away and hiding like Bim.

He could never compare to that blue-haired ego- everyone knew it. Blank was everything King adored and more- and Bim couldn't even tolerate a few squirrels running around. There was no contest between them- if King wanted anyone, it would be Blank. He'd lost his chance before he even realised he wanted it...

The tears were hot and wet, and they streamed like molten lava down his cheeks as someone else tapped his shoulder.

"Bim, look at me..."

Bim sniffed again, looking up into the concerned, caring eyes of his older brother Doc. He'd been in the know about Bim and Wilford- heck, Bim was certain he'd even been involved with Wilford at some point or other. How else would he be able to act so sympathetic when Bim cried out his troubles, venting about how the pink haired man made him feel so pathetic? How else would he know just how dismissive and ignorant Wilford could be of other people's emotions?

"Are you alright?" Doc asked gently.

"I-I..." Bim sniffed, clenching his fists though he was only angry at himself. How could he have let this happen? "It doesn't m-matter-"

"Of course it matters," Doc frowned. "Why shouldn't it? Your emotions and feelings are quite valid, Bim. I know that when Henrik and I had our last big argument, I was in tears for hours... you're never too old to cry,"

"I'm a f-fucking idiot," Bim uttered, blinking back the flow of salty water from his eyes. "I... let myself w-walk into this,"

Doc and Bing exchanged a glance, and the android stood from his seat reluctantly.

"Look, dude- I'm here for you," Bing promised, giving Bim a little smile. "If you ever need to talk, or- or you need someone to hang with, I'm always here,"

"Thanks..." Bim sniffed.

"What happened?" Doc asked when they were alone again. He'd figured that Bim might not feel comfortable sharing his information to Bing as well as the doctor himself, knowing that the game show host valued his privacy above all else. Sure enough, with a shaky breath, Bim made to answer him.

"S-so you know how W-Wilford and I used to..." Bim trailed off, sighing. There was really no other way to put it, was there? "Fuck?"

"You two weren't very quiet about it," Doc acknowledged, eyebrows raising. "This is something to do with him, then?"

"Well... King actually only pretended to date me so that Wilford would stop," Bim said hurriedly, burying his face in his knees. "We were never... never actually a... a thing,"

The doctor seemed... surprised. He looked at Bim up and down, hesitating before finally speaking his thoughts aloud. He'd thought that their relationship was genuine- the way they looked at each other, how close they always were, and how they'd speak about each other when they were apart... they'd seemed like a happy, healthy couple. He supposed it was too good to be true, in hindsight...

"I... had no idea it was troubling you so much," Doc sighed, shaking his head. "But he would never pursue you without consent- if he'd known it was making you uncomfortable, he'd have-"

"No, no!" Bim said hastily, face reddening. "It wasn't that... that I was uncomfortable, but I... I just felt... useless..."

"Useless? How?" Dr. Iplier probed, concern in his eyes. He'd been so distracted with Chase's mental health in the past year that he'd neglected to even consider how everyone else might be suffering... first Marvin, then Anti, and now Bim... was there anyone here that lived a normal, happy life?

"I..." Bim sniffed, wiping his eyes again. "I just... felt like... he didn't care about me-"

"Bim, listen to yourself," Doc interceded. "This is Wilford. No matter how attached you get to him, he's... well, he's a crazed killer with a thirst for sex. He doesn't feel things like you and me, and you know this. I told you this, remember?"

"I know," Bim uttered, ducking his head in shame. "I... I was a fool, but... but I really thought that getting out of that... that relationship would help me,"

Dr. Iplier sighed. "Bim, look at me. I can't speak for how you really felt, but these past months... you've looked happier than ever with King. A little awkward, but... well, we all had a first love once. You saw what transpired between Host and I- neither of us knew what we were doing... Bim, you need to admit it to yourself,"

Bim looked up with glassy eyes, afraid of his brother's diagnosis. He knew just what he was about to say, after all- he'd come to the conclusion himself, but still... it terrified him. He'd lost his composure- his control. He felt as though he was hardly in charge of his own heart anymore.

"You have feelings for him." Doc said knowingly, and Bim didn't know which Iplier he was referring to, but... damn it, he knew it was true either way. He was... attached, to Wilford, in a way that he hated himself for every day. But he was also attached to King, and that wasn't what he'd planned- not at all. He'd wanted to be free of the burden- free of the trouble, but now he was torn between two men who could never love him in return.

"I'm... I'm terrible," Bim sniffed, running a hand shakily through his hair. "I... shouldn't."

Doc was about to speak again, when a piercing yell sounded from outside the house. Both brothers flinched in shock, and Doc scrambled to his feet, beckoning Bim to follow as he tore open the front door.

Bim could see two figures collapse on the ground, one of them unmistakably King- the other was difficult to make out, but if he counted the others as they emerged from Anti's house... it could only be Blank. That blue hair, those dark clothes... yes, that was him. The man that had once walked out of King's life, leaving him with only Bim to talk to.

King was crying as Bim ran over, sobbing as he clutched something red and furry close to his chest. Bim felt his heart sink- it was one of King's pets, and they... they were very dead. Fuck.

"Blank- Blank, canst du hear me?!" Schneep called, running over and inspecting the fallen ego. With a start, Bim realised that his skin was reddish purple, enflamed, all puffed up and constricting his throat- like he was having some kind of allergic reaction... Bim had only seen it happen once, when Ed Edgar had too much alcohol when they were younger, but... this was strange. Was he allergic to pet hair?

Blank breathed feebly in response, closing his swollen eyes. Schneep cursed aloud.

"Ach, Scheiße- I hope zis vorks... Blank, hang tight-"

Schneep suddenly held an EpiPen in his hand, and he plunged it deep into Blank's thigh, wincing at the jolt his lower body gave upon contact. Bim had reached King by now- but the man hardly noticed he was there. He reached out to place a hand on King's shoulder, remembering that despite all of this romance nonsense they'd fallen victim to, they were still best friends.

King leaned into his touch.

"Hen, what happened?" Doc asked, the air of urgency in his tone. He sounded worried, upset... Bim couldn't blame him. So much had happened in the span of only a few minutes that even he was confused and terrified.

"Zhey... zhey fused, und became vone..." Henrik breathed, sitting beside Blank and checking his pulse. His skin seemed to be calming down a little- or was that just wishful thinking on Bim's part? Despite everything- all of the pain King had gone through when the man had left, Bim just couldn't bring himself to hate the blue-haired man. He hoped he would be okay...

"The Host informs the doctor that Peevils murdered one of the King's pet squirrels," Host muttered, hand tightly clasped around Robbie's as they stood away from the scene, probably not wanting to interfere with what was happening. The others that were gathered here seemed too shocked to speak aloud, their eyes widened, their mouths agape and terrified.

Just what had Bim missed?

Doc gasped aloud in realisation. "Molly?"

"Molly." King affirmed, his voice quieter than a rasp. He stood, cradling her in his arms, his eyes meeting Bim's sadly. Bim didn't know what to say- he'd never been attached to the damn creature- hadn't even known her name until the other week, but she was special to King. How could he convey his sorrow for King's loss, when he hadn't even shown compassion for her while she was alive?

King closed his eyes, letting the tears fall. He turned away, to face the doctors, and Bim felt his heart break a little more. He didn't deserve this man, he knew it... but his heart still held out the irrational hope that they'd be more than friends again.

"What's wrong with him?" King whispered, looking at Blank's still shuddering form with glassed and teary eyes.

"Er ist experiencing anaphylactic shock," Schneep said, brushing some of Blank's hair to one side. "From vhat, I cannot be sure, but... but considering his original, I could hazard zat it vas caused by ze exposure to peanuts vhen you fused,"

King looked as though he'd been smacked in the face. "He... peanuts? But he can't be allergic to nuts, Schneep- we dated for months, and he..."

It seemed to click in his mind. All those nights- how his lips had swollen after a kiss, how he'd rash up occasionally, how he'd get puffy eyes that even the doctors couldn't explain away... had it always been like this? Had he always been so close to killing the man he loved?

Why hadn't he said anything?

"Dammit Blank," King sniffed, his torso covered in the blood of their beloved pet. "I've already lost one friend today, I don't... I don't want to lose you, too,"

Blank inclined his head, but didn't speak. Schneep tittered under his breath.

"Egos- return to ze house. I must treat him vith antihistamines, und make sure he receives plenty of oxygen... komm, Doc, let us retire. King... you should come as vell,"

King gulped, still shuddering, and Bim looked down at his feet. He had no right to follow, he knew- King didn't want to be near him right now. But... King was his friend. If nothing else, surely he'd appreciate...

But no. Bim couldn't just deny them their moment like this- he was nothing to them. He shouldn't take the spotlight from the ones that needed it the most.

He reluctantly waited behind as the others made their way towards the house, unsure of just where to go. Doc gave him a meaningful glance as he picked up Blank's body, carrying him inside, but... it did nothing to soothe the ache in his chest.

He wasn't even useful to King as a friend, was he?

Was he useful to anyone at all?

0o0o0o0o0o0

Yes, feel it.

The  ain.

The suffering.

It's what you deserve, isn't it?

̨ I͟s̡ ņ'  ̸ t

One slice after the next, the crimson began to pool around his feet as he choked through silent sobs, flinching with each harsh movement of his wrist.

The lines were thin, and they jeered at him, taunting him, urging him to go deeper. Coward. You were never worth it. You can't even handle a scratch...

Tears rolled from his eyes. He'd never done this before, never experienced the pain of a sharpened shaving razor gliding across his pale skin, but somehow he craved it like nothing else. He'd thought it would make them stop- the terrible, terrible voices in his head that reminded him of all the wrongs he'd committed- but it had only made them stronger.

͏ Path t i͢c͏ .

What would he think of you  ow?

He never loved you.

He never  ҉ w .

He moved the blade angrily, tearing into his skin and watching with morbid satisfaction as the blood started to spray. All up his arms, all down his legs... when would it be enough? When would they leave him alone?

When would they all just leave him alone?

Harder.

Deeper.

Faster.

Like you ean̛ it.

He did mean it. He meant all of it- every apology, every thought, every destructive action he'd taken to ruin himself. He deserved it, didn't he? He'd forgotten who the words belonged to, but they were pulsing, aching through him, released only through the wash of red that covered the bedsheets. He'd grown too tired to care who they belonged to- he only knew that they were true.

It's better now, isn't it?

Keep going.

Soon, it'll be worth all the pain you've caused.

You're horrible.

D҉i̷s͘ u͏s t i̕n̢g͢ .

Who could ever want someone like you?

Silent.

Boring.

Dưll.

He caught sight of his reflection in the stained steel, his aqua hair matted to his forehead, the skin of his lips bitten and broken, hiding beneath his mustache. He'd tried- he'd tried so hard to avoid this, but he'd had no choice. The voices, they just wouldn't leave him be... they were there, whispering to him, reminding him that he had no right to be here when he'd started so much trouble. He didn't know where they'd come from, or how they'd broken down all of his walls, but... but they were stronger than him.

You're weak.

Wilford saw it.

He was playing you for a  oǫ .

͠ A e  ̷y̡ u͝ ̵a͜  f o͟o͞l̷ ?

You must be.

Sneaking around with Dark's boyfriend...

You already have a ͏death͡ ͜wih.

Isn't it easier this way?

Yes- yes, this was so much easier. The first few strokes had been so difficult, so jarring, so... wrong against his skin. He'd cut shallow, and his skin had become littered with pale white lines, not even deep enough to draw blood. He'd swiped harder, more furiously, the voices in his head cheering him as if he were winning- but there was no winning here, was there?

He'd felt the crimson fluid start to flow, at first a trickle that ran from his calf to his heel, followed by another, then another- until his entire leg was a mass of red with no reprieve.

It was... beautiful, in a sense. The way it sparkled in the light of the room, the way it cascaded down, getting tangled up and matted in his leg hairs, just like the touch of a man he'd used to love.

But then, it was horrible- horrible, that he'd fallen so far that his only comfort was the sharpness of steel against his skin- horrible that he felt he couldn't speak about this to anyone. They'd mock him, accuse him of seeking attention, try to medicate him like they'd done to Anti...

They could never understand.

But we do.

We know ͢hat͜'͝s̢ ̴be̛st.

You know what to do.

But you don't have the ͘ouag̸e.

You aren't worth it.

You're not even worth it to  y͏ou͟ r e̛l̛f.

You're a  okȩ.

J u̷s̕ t̛  o  ̷i̷ t!

Jameson whimpered silently, drawing the razor up to his throat with shaking hands. This was best for everyone, wasn't it? He'd caused nothing but pain, and hurt, and regret... Wilford was gone, because of him. The egos were out of home because of him. Anti was suffering, because of him. Dark was probably hurt and angry, their relationship was probably falling apart- all because of him...

What use was he really in all of this? He was nothing but a block in the road, a barricade, a worthless piece of junk just floating around from one bad choice to the next. It would be better if he was gone. He knew it. The voices knew it. The voices knew best...

He dragged the blade across his throat.

"Jameson!"

With a silent squeak of surprise, Jameson flinched, cutting the edge of his chin with his razor as he found himself engulfed in a hug. It burned- it was fire all along his torso, his arms, his skin tingling and throbbing with hurt as he sobbed, trying with all his might to push away the doctor who'd done nothing but help him through this ordeal. But he was too weak.

"Gott im Himmel- JJ, vhat have you done to yourself?!"

He was vaguely aware of the doctor's hands pulling up his sleeves, exposing his impurities and breaking the scabs that had already started to form. Blood ran fresh from his arms, dripping heavily onto his trousers, and he just couldn't meet Schneep's eyes.

How could he? They'd only be disappointed. Disappointed in him.

As he s͝h̴ould be.

You disgusting creature.

You should be asha̵m͞e̛d͘ o͡f y҉ourse͘l͞f.

"Komm, JJ- zis is not... you vould never- ach, take off zis shirt before I cut it from you!"

He couldn't stop crying, the pain was too much for him to bear. The cuts, the prickling of his skin, the weight of carrying this burden alone... it was too much to handle. He didn't want to handle it, anymore...

He could feel the blood seeping from his neck, but he'd failed. He hadn't cut deep enough. The voices were jeering, laughing, taunting... he couldn't even kill himself properly, could he?

Can you do anything right?

Face it.

Yo̕u'̶re͢ n҉oth̴in͠g̷...

He could feel Schneep ripping away his clothes, his skin cooling as it touched the air- then, the pain doubled, tripled... cold, wet antiseptic ran across his arm in washes of stinging torture, and JJ flinched away, finally looking up into those condemning blue eyes.

Worry and hurt shone back at him. He'd made his brother cry- he'd made another brother cry... why did they stick around? Why would anyone want his company after what he'd done?

Jameson looked down, bunching his discarded shirt in his fists and crying into the blood-soaked fabric, trying to hide his shame. He didn't know why, or how, or... even when this had started. It felt as though he'd lived with it forever- always weighing him down, making it hard to breathe, crushing him from the inside out... he couldn't explain it.

Hadn't he been so happy, once?

"JJ- Jameson, talk to me!" Schneep begged, reaching out to grasp the mustached man's fingers in his own, feeling his pulse weakening as more blood trickled from his many wounds. "You're acting like- like..."

Jameson heard him gasp, and give a worried groan under his breath. He still couldn't meet the doctor's eyes.

"Like Anti..." Schneep muttered, shaking his head. "B-but... ach, please don't let zis be..."

"Darling?"

Jameson's eyes flickered to the door as his brother's fiance entered the room, looking concerned. Oh noNo, no no... he may have been able to talk Schneep out of probing him, but now that Iplier was here... he shouldn't have done this. He shouldn't have done this, he... he really was hopeless, wasn't he?

"I heard shouting, are you- oh, shit, Jameson!"

JJ blinked aside the tears, not knowing how to respond as the doctors swamped him, treating his wounds and wrapping them gently as if he were some sort of war hero. He didn't deserve this- he'd chosen to mutilate himself. He'd wanted to die. Why couldn't they see that?

"Go, fetch Anti," Schneep urged, grasping his lover's hand. "Er must komm hier, so zat ve can... can discuss zis, just... hurry, mein Schatz- Schnell!"

"I..." Dr. Iplier started, running a hand through his hair. "I- okay, just... just don't let him do anything stupid,"

"I vould never," Schneep promised, and Jameson watched with bated breath as the figure of the doctor faded from his view. He let out another silent sob. Anti... what would the glitch say to him? Was it too much to hope that he'd understand?

He'll never understand.

He's not as ter̨r͜ib̧l͝e as ҉yo̧u.

It's your fault you act this way.

It's your fault you've become so w͡e͟ak̢.

It's a̛ll͟ ̶̛͞y͢o̸u̕r̨҉͟ ̷̡̢f͜͡aưl̶͘t̢!̸

"Vhat is ze matter vith you, Bruder?" Schneep asked worriedly, wiping the cut on Jameson's jaw with a brown fluid that stung mildly on his skin. "Vhy vould you even consider... zis?"

Jameson didn't know how to respond. He shook his head, the tears rolling out of him like washes of blood from his slit wrists. There were bandages, and he was aching all over- though not quite as much when he'd made the wounds- and he looked down to see the blood-bleached white covering his arms. His legs.

His throat.

He touched at it gingerly, wincing at the pain. Schneep patted his back hesitantly.

He doesn't want you.

He doesn't even want to touch you.

He can't st̡and ͡yo̡u.

N͟o̴ne̴ ǫf ͟th͡em͏ ca̷n̢...

"Vhy don't you trust me, JJ?" The doctor mumbled, and Jameson could feel his heart pounding out of his chest. He knew he was being pitied- he knew that behind his mask, Schneep was judging him. He'd been judging Jameson since that night with Anti- they all had.

Not that he could blame them. He'd been judging himself, too.

He stared bitterly at his lap, afraid to move in case he did something else wrong. It seemed to be all he was capable of, lately...

~Groundlands~

Mark was coming home to see to the egos that he'd been saddled with- Amy had spoken to him briefly on his way back, telling him that Dark was having a crisis, and that she'd spoken to Wilford in the park- his heart had sunk with dread. Hearing that Wilford Warfstache was anywhere near her had been enough to spark his worry- but apparently, the pink-mustached man had barely spoken two words to her. Apparently, he'd been more invested in Dark.

Mark didn't know the details- heck, Amy didn't even sound like she knew the details, but he knew that she'd sent the couple upstairs to shower and sort things out. He walked inside, still wearing those ridiculous disco-themed clothes for the skit, when he was hit with a sudden wave of crippling nausea.

He gripped the closest counter to keep himself upright, groaning under his breath as he fought desperately against whatever was invading his mind- he'd learned long ago not to trust demons, after all. He grunted out a cry of 'Amy!' before doubling over, losing himself to the ego that then stood, brushing off his clothes, looking down at his bright clothes and making a disgusted face.

"What the hell am I...?"

Mark was fucking terrified- That was his voice, and his lips were moving, but he hadn't told them to make a sound. He looked around and surveyed the room, but it wasn't him. Was this what had made Seán so anxious that day he was being possessed by Anti and Schneeplestein? Mark felt he'd handled himself well- if he was in control right now, he'd be screaming like the little bitch he knew he was.

The ego shook his head, walking briskly around Mark's house, rapping urgently on the first door he found. Mark didn't know who it was- but he was almost afraid to ask. Whoever was currently in charge of his body seemed to be in quite a hurry.

"Anti?!"

Mark could have cursed- of course, it must have been someone coming to fetch that glitch- perhaps they'd finally noticed that he'd been missing for over a day. He allowed himself to relax a little- it was only one of his own egos. But... well, he didn't have a record for having the most stable personalities.

Who are you? Mark thought, not expecting to hear a response.

"I'm Dr. Iplier," his body spoke aloud, still walking in a rushed panic from room to room. "I'm sorry for possessing you on such short notice- but Jameson might be dying,"

I- what?!

"Anti!" Dr. Iplier shouted again, running a hand through his hair. He groaned aloud.

"Mark?"

Oh, thank fuck...

He whipped around to find Amy, standing in the doorway, looking a little worried, out of breath.

"Oh, thank God, they're on their way down," Amy greeted, walking over to him. "I didn't know if I could... uh, handle this alone, but- well, Dark's-"

"I'm sorry Miss, but I need to talk to Anti," Dr. Iplier interrupted, holding out a hand in effort to stop her. "Do you know where he- wait, Dark? What happened?"

Amy cocked her head to one side, staring at him uncertainly. "You... you're not Mark, are you?"

She's smart... of course she's smart, where would I be without her?

The doctor shook his head again. "No, no- I'm Dr. Iplier. I have to find Anti, please, it's an emergency,"

"Oh," Amy said, eyes widening in recognition. "I mean, I- okay, they're just upstairs, they should be here any second. What kind of emergency?"

"Jameson is acting strange," Dr. Iplier confided, tapping his toes impatiently as he watched the door Amy had come through. "He is locking himself away, and Henrik and I just found him cutting- and, well, Anti is the last one he spoke to,"

Jameson... oh, fuck, the guy Anti cheated on Dark with?

Had it really only been a week? Today, they'd seemed so... happy. This was all going so fast that Mark could barely keep track of what day it was- he'd been all over town visiting hospitals and studios, trying to avoid the police and the reporters that wanted to know about his relation to Mark Doom... it really had only been a few days, hadn't it?

He wished he could forget about problems as easily as egos could.

Amy's hand flew to her mouth. "Oh... shit. Hang on, I-ll..."

She turned, cupping her lips as she called a little more insistently. "Anti, Dark! Hurry up, the doctor's here to talk to you, it's urgent!"

She sighed, fiddling with the ends of her hair worriedly. "Sorry, Doc, they... Dark had an accident today, and they're only just recovering from it,"

Dr. Iplier frowned in return. "What kind of accident?"

"They-"

"Doc?!"

Anti cut Amy off as he walked into the room, his hair a little less green, his eyes still shining bright with newfound concern. Dark followed, his bump preceding him as he kept close to his lover. They both looked fairly... relaxed. Well, not for long.

"What is the matter, Doctor?" Dark asked in a serious tone, eyes immediately narrowing upon seeing who was here.

"It's Jameson- we just found him cutting himself, we need you to... I don't know, be there? Just- quickly, he was losing a lot of blood-"

"Cutting himself?" Anti asked incredulously, exchanging a worrisome glance with Dark. "I-"

"Dear, he needs you," Dark said with determination in his tone, reaching out to grip Anti's hand in his own. "Go to him- for the love of all things good in the world, don't let him follow the path you fell into. I'll be here when you're done, but- please, hurry,"

Anti breathed out slowly, giving Dark's hand a gentle squeeze. "But I... if we..."

Dark fixed him with a knowing look- and Amy seemed a little lost, but left them to their conversation anyway. "Do what it takes," Dark ordered him. "My feelings are insignificant when compared to the prospect of suicide, Anti- he needs you more than I do. Go!"

Anti shuddered out one more breath, sitting on the sofa before his eyes began to fade from green. Bright, concerned blue that brimmed with tears replaced them, and Seán held his head in his hands. Mark caught himself as he was suddenly returned to his own body- taking a moment to blink before groaning aloud.

"Fuck," Mark grimaced, sitting beside Seán.

"JJ?" Seán uttered disbelievingly. "I mean, I... I know that the fans think he and Anti are the same person, but..."

Dark placed his hand on Seán's shoulder, meeting his worried eyes with a small, barely convincing smile. "Trust in the doctors, Seán, they will help."

Dark could only hope that they'd save him before it was too late. If Anti had to be there, and... and anything had to happen, Dark knew it would be for the best. He pushed aside the lump in his throat, sitting beside Seán and beckoning Amy to join them.

For now, they could only wait.

~Void~

At first, Anti didn't know what was happening before him- there was blood everywhere, green light emanating from somewhere near as he wrenched the door open, running inside. He could see two figures sitting on Wilford's bed, one of them dressed in all white, the other wearing a coat and glasses. He felt Dr. Iplier materialise behind him.

"Schneep?" Anti asked, walking further in. "But where's- oh, fuck,"

Jameson was here- he hadn't been dressed in white like Anti had thought initially- no, he was covered in bandages. From his wrists to his shoulders, from his ankles to his calves... there was a big, bloodied piece of fabric wrapped around his throat.

Anti reached out to touch his own neck wound, not knowing whether to hug the man before him or cry.

"JJ?" Anti whispered. "Why would you..."

"Er vill not speak to me, Anti," Schneep told him, the hurt clearly ringing through in his tone. "I found him like zis, vith... blood, all over him. Er ist acting... strange,"

Anti felt his gut start to crawl with worry again- first Dark, and now this? Anti didn't think he was really qualified to be dealing with these sorts of things, but... if JJ would talk to him and him alone, he knew he had to try. It was the least he could do, especially after how they'd both been screwed over the other night...

"James... can you hear me?" Anti started, sitting in the driest patch of sheets that he could. The mustached man sniffled, nodding feebly, but didn't meet his eyes.

"Can you tell me what's wrong?" Anti tried, reaching out to grasp at JJ's hand. He ran his thumb over a slit that was partially visible, watching as his brother's face twisted in silent pain. He shook his head. His lips parted, and he mouthed a word- though Anti couldn't read it. He looked at Schneep for guidance.

"He said zat er ist shaking too much," Schneep translated, summoning a whiteboard similar to the one JJ had used to communicate with Anti before, and offering it to the mute man without hesitation.

Jameson took the board with trembling hands, uncapping a black marker and scrawling out a message. It was barely legible, but Anti gasped as soon as he deciphered it. No... not you too...

"Voices?" Anti croaked, heart sinking with dread as JJ nodded glumly, wincing at the pressure on his throat.

"Can I... see?" Anti asked, gesturing to the bandages.

"Nein- noch nicht, Anti," Schneep shook his head. "Zhey are healing over- but zhere... zhere vere many cuts of all shapes und sizes,"

"Shit..." Anti breathed, reaching out to run a finger along Jameson's jaw. "What happened here?"

"Er vas surprised vhen I found him like zis," Schneep explained, gesturing to an old-fashioned shaving razor that was lying on the opposite side of the bed. "He... he vas slitting his throat,"

Anti felt tears brimming in his eyes- tears of knowing, maddening sympathy... if Jameson was hearing voices, if they were driving him to do half of what they'd managed from Anti... it was a wonder they'd even arrived in time to stop this. Nobody had been able to save him the first time he'd taken his knife upon himself- he'd already pushed everyone away.

Jameson probably didn't know just how lucky he was to have people that cared.

He cupped Jameson's cheek, lifting his face so that he could meet his eyes.

He did a double take.

"J-James, how did you..." Anti gasped aloud, brushing away some of the man's tears as he gazed into piercing green eyes, identical to his own. The mustached man flinched away, closing them, sobbing silently into his bandaged wrist.

Anti met Schneep's eyes. "This is bad,"

"Indeed," Schneep swallowed, looking as though he was lost for words. "His Augen... zhey have never done zis before. Have yours always been...?"

"Always," Anti agreed with a small nod, not removing his hand from Jameson's. "And the voices, I... I've always heard them too,"

"But zis is different for him," Schneep frowned. "I... Doc, vould you please go downstairs und tend to Blank? Zis may take a vhile,"

Anti had forgotten the other doctor was here- but then he was leaving, his footsteps echoing slightly on the floorboards of the room before the door creaked shut.

Anti looked at Schneep with alarm, wondering just how much he'd missed in the past day. "Blank?"

"Es ist a long story," Schneep sighed, "but zis is more important- ze only thing still troubling Blank is his pride. JJ... vhen did zis all start?"

Jameson shivered, giving Anti's hand a squeeze as he reluctantly met his eyes once more. They were crystal blue again- had Anti been hallucinating?

No, no he couldn't have been. Schneep had seen it too.

"After... after that night?" Anti whispered. Jameson nodded, tears rolling again down his cheeks. He held up one shaking finger, then mimed dragging his fist across his his arm, and for the first time, Anti understood what he was trying to say.

"That was the first time you... you hurt yourself?" Anti blinked, his heart reaching out for his brother as he nodded slowly. Anti... Anti had turned to his blade after that night as well. But it was hardly something new for him- he'd been hurting himself for years, years before Jameson even knew about it. Had he given the mustached man the idea, when he'd walked into that fateful room to see Anti slicing open his arms?

"Oh, JJ..." Schneep sniffled, wrapping an arm gently around Jameson's torso, being careful not to touch his wounds. "Vhy didn't you come to me? Vhy didn't you say something?"

"It's," Anti started, choking slightly on his words. "It's hard to... to want to reach out, when you're suffering like this, isn't it?"

Jameson nodded, cringing away when Anti inched closer, just wanting to take away his pain. Anti understood- he understood better than anyone, but he also knew that Jameson wouldn't believe him. He hadn't believed it until now that anyone would want to help him through what he was feeling- it took him until he had to comfort someone else, to speak to them about how he felt, for him to realise... that maybe when people say they care, they really mean it.

Their fingers linked together, and Jameson felt himself tugging subconsciously, wanting a hand to hold through this. He felt his heart calming down, his breathing growing lighter, his head pounding at the loss of blood that he'd brought upon himself.

Anti felt cold fingers clasp tightly around his own.

"I understand, James," Anti mumbled, smiling reassuringly despite the sympathy pain that was brewing in his chest. "I know... trust me, it'll all be better in the end. I don't hate you- I could never. I... I love you, like a brother, like... a close friend. Schneep loves you too,"

Jameson stilled as Schneep squeezed Jameson's other hand, smiling through his tears. "Ja- I do, you must believe it vhen I say I do. Und I loved Anti as vell, long ago, but er... he did not see it until it vas too late. Jameson, I can tell you vith certainty zat zere is not a single ego here zat does not cherish you,"

"He's right," Anti supported. "The rest of our... of our brothers, they all love you too. And Dark, and Doc, and the other Ipliers... even Wilford,"

Jameson flinched harshly, and Anti was afraid he'd said something wrong- but he persisted through it, holding Jameson's hand, refusing to let him go until he realised that he was just as loved as anyone here.

"It's true," Anti affirmed, despite Schneep's disapproving look. "I... I saw him, in the Groundlands today. He was lost without you- I don't want you to take him back- hell, I don't know if I trust him to be with you again, but... but he loves you. He always has,"

Jameson seemed to crumble, resting his head against Anti's shoulder as he sobbed, his tears clinging to the folds of Anti's shirt and not letting go. Anti was content to let him cry it out, to be the pillow he'd wished he'd had when he was at his worst all those years ago- and Schneep backed off a little, letting the two have their moment.

Anti was crying, sniffling, and then... then he was laughing. Laughing at the absurdity of this situation- of being the one to provide comfort, of being the solution to someone else's problem instead of the cause. He felt... valued. Like he was able to fix what he'd started, like he could be there for JJ when nobody else could. He could feel the rumbling of Jameson's chest against his, and sensed that the younger ego was laughing as well... he clasped their hands tighter together, bringing him closer, until there was no space between them.

Until there was no them, anymore.

     

No, the man that was sitting there, one hand still gripping the doctor's, was different- his aqua hair shone in the dark, his eyes glowing bright green against his pale skin. He was wearing a blue vest over his black tee, his arms and legs covered with soaked-through bandages, but he wasn't in pain.

He was laughing, chuckling quietly under his breath as his mustache tickled his cheeks, his tear-stained skin slightly red from crying. Schneep looked on proudly at the unnamed fusion, smiling to himself when there was a flash of green, and-

Anti's lips parted from Jameson's one final time, his chin bleeding and his arms not much better, but... he didn't really care. He'd lived with himself for so long that the sensation of his skin being torn apart was almost routine to him- and he was already starting to heal, much faster than Jameson could have managed, as the mustached man tentatively opened his eyes.

Pure, crystal blue. Anti sighed in relief, unable to stop himself from laughing again, his clothes growing ever more matted with red. He tugged Jameson's bandages away, revealing smooth, milky skin beneath. JJ looked his arms over with wonder.

"Don't do it again," Anti urged, smiling through his happy tears. "Promise?"

Jameson seemed infinitely better- well, he still looked a little rough around the edges, still a little saddened, but... but at least he wasn't borderline suicidal anymore. It seemed that Anti had taken back the negativity, the pain, the emotions he'd projected onto JJ- he could feel them weighing down on himself now, pushing him to the ground, but he was too elated to care.

Jameson offered him a bashful smile, holding out his pinky finger, and Anti met it with his own- they shook on it.

"I... I am glad zat is over," Schneep coughed, alerting them to his presence. Both of the Septiceyes had almost forgotten he was here- but Jameson smiled at him, pulling him into a hug, crying it out into his shoulder. But these tears were fewer, and lighter, and Jameson certainly seemed... happier.

Anti smiled at them, standing nervously as the last of his wounds closed and dried up. "I... I should get back to Dark. Tonight's our last night together, and I... I don't want to miss it,"

"Of course," Schneep agreed, though he fixed Anti with a hardened look. "But ve vill discuss zis again vhen you return- all of us. I feel zat ve have kept our secrets for too long,"

Jameson looked absolutely mortified by the prospect of telling the rest of the Septiceyes what he'd done, but Schneep held him through it, caressing his freshly healed arms softly. Anti swallowed.

"You mean, we're gonna... tell everyone?"

"Ja," Schneep said dryly. "Ich bin growing sick und tired of keeping zese secrets for all of you, vhen zhey are nothing to vorry about. Es ist putting a strain on me, und on mein Verlobter... Anti, I vant you all to be happy, I do, but... keeping secrets is not ze vay,"

Anti nodded glumly. "I... yeah, I know. Just... wait for me, okay?"

"Okay," Schneep agreed, smiling as Anti faded out of the Void. Jameson looked at him with wide eyes, panic coursing through him.

"You are scared zhey vill judge you?" Schneep asked, feeling his younger brother tense and nod reluctantly. Schneep sighed, pulling him closer, brushing some blood-matted hair from his face.

"JJ, listen... zhey vill not judge you. Zhey vill be concerned, yes- but none of zhem have any room to be ashamed of you. Ve all have our flaws, our struggles... but zat time vill come later. Please- have a shower, Jameson, you are covered in blood... and don't ever scare me like zat again,"

Jameson gave his older brother a sad smile. The hate, the pain, the voices... they'd all seemed to melt away when he and Anti had fused together. After they'd separated... he didn't know where they'd come from, but if Anti could just absorb them like that... surely, he'd had some part.

And Jameson didn't believe Anti did it on purpose- he was sure that Anti had no idea he'd done anything, but it was all adding up... did it happen to those that he slept with? Had it happened to Dark?

He frowned, tapping Schneep's shoulder, signing 'D-A-R-K' out with his tremble-free hands. The doctor raised an eyebrow.

"Are you saying zat Dark ist also in danger of experiencing zese... symptoms?" Schneep shuddered. Jameson nodded, his mind whirring. If Anti really had been the cause of this, if he'd done something to Jameson when they'd been intimate... surely, it had affected Dark as well.

"Ve vill talk to ihn later," Schneep promised, though he still looked troubled. "But for now- shower, for ze love of Christ..."

Jameson dearly hoped that Dark was okay- if he'd been feeling half as pathetic and worthless as Jameson had these past few days, it couldn't be good for the baby. The baby... he hoped Anti would let him see the baby when they were born. He didn't like to think he'd messed up that badly, but... well, Dark might not even want to see him when he finally returned.

It was a sad thought, but Jameson was an honourable man. He acknowledged that he had wronged them, and he was willing to live out the consequences, whatever they may be.

His body was still drenched in red, despite having no scars to show for it. Anti had just... just taken all of his wounds, like they were nothing. He'd meant to thank him, he really had, but... he'd taken enough of his time. He was really just warmed by the fact that he'd come to help him at all.

He stepped into the warm stream of the shower, determined to rid his mind of these past few hours of memories... they were hardly something he was proud of.

~Groundlands~

"I'm back," Anti announced when he returned, finding himself sitting on Mark's couch with the other occupants of the house. He felt... well, exhausted. Dark snaked his fingers through Anti's and held him, squeezing them tightly.

"How did it go?" Dark asked, concern still ridden in his voice.

Anti frowned. "He... he was definitely acting weird. He was cutting all over, and he'd half torn his throat out by the time they found him. It was... it was like what happened with me all over again,"

"Is he okay?" Amy queried, getting up from her seat.

Anti sighed in relief, still just thankful that they'd manage to find him and stop him from hurting himself too badly. "He's fine now, I... I absorbed his wounds,"

"Darling..." Dark whispered, smiling proudly. "You didn't have to do that... you must be exhausted,"

"Only a little," Anti denied, though he wouldn't mind cuddling up and retiring for the day. It had been a long several hours, after all. "We... we fused, just for a few moments,"

"... Fused?" Mark repeated. "You... what?"

"It happens when two egos become so attuned to each other's emotions and presence that their physical bodies blend together as one," Dark explained. "I had witnessed it only once, but I was aware that Daniel and our doctor fused during your little war..."

Anti flushed a little, still embarrassed about his part in that disagreement. "Yeah," he mumbled, remembering how brutal it had been. The Psychiatrist had been so... unforgiving. "Psych was fueled by hatred and anger, remember? Me and JJ, we... we were made of love,"

"Awh," Amy cooed softly. "That's sweet. I'm glad you got him back on his feet,"

"I as well," Dark said, giving a slight nod to indicate to Anti that he'd looked at the memory. He wasn't mad about that kiss, he was... he was okay with it. Anti didn't have a desire to push that forgiveness any further.

"Yeah, but..." Anti sighed in distress, remembering just what he'd seen. "He had green eyes, Darky- like mine, but... Schneep said he'd never had them before. And he was hearing voices, he..."

Anti groaned in frustration. "He was acting like me,"

"Well, perhaps part of you rubbed off on him that night," Dark said, before flushing a little at his own words. "Er... ignore my insensitive phrasing, Dear,"

"It's fine," Anti said, turning to kiss Dark's cheek softly. "I don't mind- I really... I have no room to deflect it. But that was... stressful, and I just want to spend a nice afternoon with you before I have to go,"

"Well, Mark and I were just going out for dinner with Kathryn and the boys, so you'll have the house to yourselves," Amy said, giving Mark a pointed look.

Mark cocked his head to one side. "We were?"

"Yes," Amy affirmed, not-so-subtly urging him from the room. Dark chuckled as he faced Anti, linking their fingers and wrapping his arms around the glitch. Anti smiled in return, kissing Dark softly as all of the worry faded from his bones.

"We had discussed watching a film," Dark spoke when they'd parted, gesturing to the television before them. "Or perhaps playing some old board games... if you would like to, that is,"

"Can we read as well?" Anti asked hopefully. "I... I like hearing your voice,"

Dark chuckled softly, nodding as he stood from his seat. "Of course, Darling- this is our night. We can do whatever you want to do,"

Anti was content to lie here and fall asleep by Dark's side, but he knew that waiting a few hours longer would be well worth his time. He smiled, giving Dark another peck on his cheek, hardly remembering that it was only an hour ago that he'd been inconsolable, crying about his appearance... how the day had turned, several times over.

"Perfect," Anti smiled.

Chapter Text

~Groundlands~

"I do believe I've won the game," Dark smirked, knocking Anti's king over with his remaining white knight. There were only seven pieces left on the board- Dark had been a little worried about playing against Anti, knowing that he had more than ninety years worth of practice over his lover, but Anti had insisted on it. Dark had to admit that he'd held his own fairly well- not too shabby for someone who hadn't touched a chess piece in two years, and this he mumbled to the glitch as he swept the pieces aside. Anti blushed at the praise.

"I knew I could take you," Anti laughed, poking his tongue out teasingly. "It was a good game,"

"Good game indeed," Dark agreed. "Did you want to play another?"

"We could do Scrabble," Anti suggested, pointing to the familiar green logo that was printed on the side of the box they'd unpacked. "The board's a convertible- it's also got Clue and Backgammon,"

"Scrabble sounds wonderful," Dark smiled, letting Anti flip the board over, revealing the assortment of coloured squares underneath. "I'll go easy on you this once,"

"Pfft, you wish,"

It was just like the old days. Dark had been under the impression that he'd have to change the nature of what they did together when they'd started dating- he'd been so worried about how Anti would feel about him, how he'd feel about their activities... Anti had loved to read with him, and play board games with him, and just sit around and laze together, and... well, Dark had been afraid that those simple pastimes wouldn't be good enough for this new era of their relationship.

He'd tried to make everything more centred on their new love life- he'd spent his free time with Anti as he'd always done, but he'd also tried to constantly be doing something romantic. Whether it was kissing him, or making love to him, or reminding him of how much Dark admired him... but soon, there was just no time left to spend on the simpler things at all. Dark had missed it... and he knew that Anti had missed it too.

Nothing really had to have changed between them at all- they'd sunk back into their roles as close friends easily with just a little more affection on the sides, but Dark had taken it too far. He'd overwhelmed Anti to the point where the glitch was paranoid that Dark was just using him for his body- and he could see it now.

He couldn't do anything to change the past- but he could change their future. One simple, special moment after another. Truly, he'd never seen Anti happier than he was now- and the best part about it was that Dark was hardly trying.

Dark picked out his letters, trying his best not to listen to Anti's thoughts as he arranged them on his rack. DHUZXWC... not the best of starts, but Dark was hardly new to this game. He wouldn't let a strange assortment of starting letters get in the way of his victory, and he met Anti's eyes with a calm, confident smile.

Anti smirked as he filled in his own rack, and Dark didn't need to read his mind to know that he was quite happy with his letter selection. Dark offered him a grin as he lay down in a more comfortable position- he'd been sitting upright for so long that his spine was starting to ache. He rested his hand on his bump and propped himself up with a pillow he'd taken to the floor earlier, deciding to offer Anti the first turn.

"Would you like the first move?" Dark questioned, and Anti laughed quietly under his breath, as if he knew that Dark didn't have good starting letters. Perhaps Dark was simply too easy to read... or maybe, he'd spent so long around Anti that the glitch had picked up on all of his habits.

"No, it's fine- you can go first,"

Dark sighed- he'd been hoping for another answer. He looked over his letters again, deciding to start simple. He spelled out CUD, knowing that he could hardly make a better word- and Anti cocked his head to one side. Sometimes Dark forgot that Anti's knowledge was rather... localised.

"What's a cud?"

"It's the term used for food that's been partially digested by a ruminant animal, say, a cow," Dark explained, drawing three more tiles and adding them to his rack. "Plant matter is tough, so it has to go through a lot of digestive processes to break down into a small enough particle to be used by the animal,"

"Is it cows that have the four stomachs?" Anti queried, playing the word 'HULK' and writing down both of their scores- Dark was already ten points behind, and some part of him didn't find that pleasant.

'A minor setback,'

'I feel kind of bad for him,'

'Why is that?'

'You get really competitive with your board games, Damien, haven't you noticed?'

'Oh, I do not...'

'Remember that time you threatened to drag Will across the Void because he knocked back your piece in 'Sorry'?,'

'He was making up rules, Celine- I have integrity, you know, I care very deeply that the game is played correctly...'

'You're also a really bad sore loser,'

'Oh, pish posh...'

Dark chuckled quietly to himself as the two souls bickered playfully- it was true, Damien did get rather... passionate, about his games. In a way, so did Celine- it just so happened that the two had very different ideas about what the word 'game' entailed.

"I'm afraid I'll have to trade in my tiles," Dark sighed in defeat after trying every possible combination on the board in his head, "I can't make a single move,"

"Oh, that sucks," Anti sympathised, peering intently at his own letters as if he was contemplating something. "I mean... I'd be in the same boat, but I've got a cheap cop out,"

He placed an S on the end of HULK, drawing one more letter from the pile. Dark sighed at the weak play- though he couldn't really judge. He wished he had a single vowel, that would have made this so much easier.

"To answer your question, Dear- ruminants only have one stomach. It simply has four chambers, whereas ours have only one," Dark continued, putting his redrawn letters in place.

Anti cracked a smile in response. "Thanks, Darky... any luck with those new tiles?"

"Hardly," Dark sighed. He'd traded in his V and P for a B and a T- yet he still didn't have many options at all. He pondered a moment longer, placing an H to the right of Anti's S. It was a cheap move, but in terms of possible words, Dark was quite poor. He could feel something stirring in his gut- and he didn't think it was the baby. Perhaps he was getting a little too invested in this activity...

"That rough, huh?" Anti teased, though his next move was certainly nothing to marvel at. He added another H to Dark's- and Dark snorted into his elbow.

"Like you've any room to jeer," Dark chuckled, though he couldn't bring himself to act upset. "I can't believe you got nine points from piggybacking,"

"Hey, that was a perfectly legit move," Anti declined, sticking his tongue out at Dark again- how mature. Though Dark supposed that was just another reason he loved him. "Come on- play something better, I dare you,"

Dark raised an eyebrow, his eyes flashing blue as he smirked. "Careful throwing requests around, Darling- I tend not to disappoint,"

He played EX- a two-word combo that gave him 30 points, and Anti whistled appreciatively.

"Not bad," he shrugged, obviously trying to rile Dark up- but the demon was better than that. He'd learned a while ago not to take anything that Anti said to heart. "But I'll catch up,"

"Oh, will you?" Dark challenged.

"Try me,"

Anti's next play earned another 30 points- and Dark began to feel a little out of practice, but he wouldn't concede to this nonsense. He'd simply had a bad start, that was all. He had some of the most high scoring letters on his side, and if he managed to time it just right...

"I hate to place the blame on chance, but I believe that you've had the game in your favour from the beginning," Dark huffed slightly, glaring at his unfortunate arrangement.

"Oh, it's a game of chance now?" Anti retorted humorously. "Well, guess who just reached 100 points, hm?"

Dark looked quickly at the score sheet, and- oh dear, this wouldn't do. He was 47 points down, and the game had barely started. Something inside, his inner Damien perhaps- it didn't want him to give up. He gave a confident smirk- fake it until you make it, that's what their father had always told them.

"Oh, I'll warn you only once," Dark started, playing a simple 10 point word despite his confident claim. "I intend to win this game, Darling- I don't play to lose,"

"Well, you seem to be doing a lousy job of that," Anti taunted, playing the word 'DICK' with a childish grin plastered on his face.

Dark couldn't help but laugh aloud. "Really, Anti? How crude,"

"Hey, it was the highest scoring word I could make," Anti shrugged, though he still wore that immature little smirk. He'd known exactly what he was getting into, the little rascal... Well, Dark couldn't help but bite. It was their last night together for the foreseeable future, and Dark had no qualms leaving him with something to remember him by.

"I have a proposition," Dark wagered. "You've clearly got it on your mind- if you manage to win this game, I'll give you a blowjob,"

"You will, hm?" Anti smirked slyly, batting his eyelashes. "Well, don't get up anytime soon- you'll be back on your knees pretty quick,"

"We'll see," Dark chuckled, noting the growing difference in their scores- 54 points... that wasn't good. But Anti had no idea of what letters he had- they were sitting opposite each other, after all. Dark could continue to make his poker face, and his lover would be none the wiser...

"You'll have to work extra hard- remember, I don't plan on losing," Dark reminded.

"Oh, Darky, I'm always working h-hard," Anti snorted, losing his seductive tone halfway through his sentence due to his laughter. "Oh, f-fuck me, I can't do this, how are you keeping a straight face?"

Dark smirked. "I'm a master of my words, Dear. I can make even the most ridiculous statements sound alluring,"

"Amen to that," Anti agreed, watching Dark play out his turn with wide eyes.

"Did you seriously just play 'dab'?" Anti mused.

"My arrangement is unfortunate indeed," Dark sighed, and Anti fought back a snort.

The game continued- one word after the next, and Dark was slowly scoring higher and higher. Albeit an average of 20 points per word, but he was still managing pretty well considering his lousy start- and Anti started to notice the gap between their scores lessening. He furrowed his eyebrows.

Hell no. He wanted that blowjob. Well, more importantly, he wanted to win- Dark always was rather cute when he was flustered, and he already seemed pretty grey in the face. It didn't stop the demon from smirking at him knowingly, playing the word 'GLOAT' and bringing his total up to 212 points. Anti was only 30 points ahead now- shit, this was turning out all wrong...

Dark tittered under his breath. "I'm so close I can practically touch you, Dear,"

"You mean that in every damn way, don't you?" Anti responded, noting that Dark had reached out to brush fingers against his thigh, his lips twisted in a knowing smile. Anti sighed deeply- his letters sucked, frankly, and they weren't going to get any better. He played 'ANAL' with a slightly red face, Dark's laughter only furthering his shame.

"You laughing at my points or the word?" Anti asked for clarification, adding a measly eight points to his score.

"You're practically begging for it," Dark chuckled, his cheeks growing ever darker as the game progressed.

Anti rolled his eyes, but he couldn't help smiling. "Look, I'm only playing to win,"

"Of course," Dark said, not sounding entirely convinced. "I think you just miss how I used to fill you up, make you scream my name... I know miss it,"

"Well, yeah," Anti muttered, cheeks tinting red as he thought of how Dark had used to dominate him in the early weeks of their relationship- they took turns usually, of course, but... well, there was something about Dark pressing him into the sheets of his bed, holding Anti's hands behind his back as he buried himself inside- something about having that hot, rough sex that appealed to him more than the idea of topping Dark ever would. He sighed.

"Of course I miss it, but... look at you, Dark, you're fucking massive. I don't think a lot of pregnant people can really do that kind of stuff,"

I don't think a lot of pregnant people even have dicks in the first place...

"Mhm," Dark agreed, playing his next word. "Not only that, but I doubt your original would appreciate being on the receiving end of penetrative intercourse- nor the giving end, really, considering that he isn't the one in control. I'm sure we're pushing our luck just doing what we have been..."

"He's been quiet," Anti hummed softly, playing a word to combat Dark, but only managing a few points. The gap drew ever smaller. "He stopped talking to me altogether when the others left- I think he'd like to pretend he's not really here,"

"I couldn't blame him," Dark agreed, playing 'ANTI' with a fond smile etched on his face.

"Awh, aren't you the sweetest," Anti teased, tallying up their scores as his lips turned in a frown. 291 to 295- and he was only in the lead by four points.

"I have the feeling you're about to lose your blowjob privileges," Dark smirked cockily.

Anti poked out his tongue in defiance. "What, if you win do I give you a blowjob instead?"

"Now I certainly wouldn't be opposed," Dark chuckled, playing 'QUEERER' for 16 points. "But perhaps we should wait if that's the case- I'm sure that Seán wouldn't care for it,"

"Right," Anti sighed, watching as Dark's score climbed ever higher. It wasn't that he wanted sex tonight- no, they'd done so much already that Jack probably wasn't okay with, but rather that if they couldn't do anything now, they wouldn't be able to do anything until their baby was born. And Anti was no expert on pregnancy, but he was sure that it was meant to take months before a baby was even developed enough to be born and survive longer than a moment in its body.

He didn't know how long it would be until he got to be with Dark properly again. And that... that was the real torture.

They were two points apart now- and Anti was all out of letters. He could see Dark measuring up the board, looking for a place to put his remaining tile, and he found his competitive side pleading for there to be no extra space.

But alas- Dark placed it down. 'IS', it formed. Two points, and...

"We... tied," Anti breathed in disbelief. "I- what? I didn't know you could tie playing Scrabble..."

"I don't know how we managed it," Dark said truthfully, "But it is certainly possible."

"Does that mean we suck each other's dicks?" Anti asked aloud, causing Dark to snort a little under his breath. Now that was a position they had yet to try, though not one that Dark was overly opposed to. From how Anti's weary eyes had lit up at the suggestion, Dark figured that he felt the same.

"Perhaps another time," Dark laughed softly. "When we're both... up to it. I can see that you're growing tired, Dear- I think we should call this an I.O.U. and leave it there,"

Anti licked his lips regrettably. "Okay- but... before bed, I've been meaning to ask you more about-"

"About Damien and Celine..." Dark finished with a sigh, inching closer to Anti and lacing their fingers together as the board was pushed aside. He would pick the pieces up in the morning... 

"I know... but what is there to tell about them? What more information could you want about them, when they're dead and gone?"

"They're not gone," Anti said, meeting Dark's eyes with a knowing glance. "You're avoiding this, Dark- why?"

Dark sighed. "I... I'm not avoiding it. I just don't want you to get... get attached to their individual personalities, that is all. I'm here for you, Darling- am I not enough as I am?"

Anti leaned in and kissed him sweetly on the lips, pulling away after a moment to rest his hand on Dark's cheek. "Of course you're enough, Darky- you're perfect. I didn't mean to... to make you feel like I don't care about you. There's just so much I don't know about them, and... and I already know you pretty well, and... well, where else am I supposed to go from there?"

Dark swallowed the retort that he'd prepared, understanding where Anti was coming from, despite his own reluctance to share so much of his past. But... but this was Anti. He trusted Anti, more than he could trust Wilford, or Septiplier, or even Mark. He forced himself to relax with a sigh.

"That is true..." Dark conceded. "I... I'm sorry for overreacting, Dear. My thoughts have been getting to me today..."

"I've noticed," Anti replied worriedly, kissing Dark's nose and smiling a little as his lips twitched up. "It's okay, Darky- we all have bad days. Some days... I don't know how I live with myself. But I'm here for you, okay? I'll never stop being here for you, even when we're apart, and... and I hate seeing you sad like this. Come on, tell me something happy- show me a nice memory,"

"A nice memory..." Dark mused, tilting his head in thought. "I could show you... oh, but there are so many to choose from. I could show you a birthday party- oh, or I could show you the election, when Damien became mayor... or even Celine's wedding. That was nice, while it was happening. Though the recollection becomes quite... sour, when you consider the monster she was moving to live with..."

"Don't show me the wedding," Anti shivered. "I... I don't really want to think about you being with anyone else, that's not going to make me happy,"

Dark felt something inside of him warm up as he smiled, brushing his fingers against Anti's as he looked into his eyes. Unbeknownst to Dark, his eyes were shining a warm red. It was the happiest Anti had ever seen those crimson irises, and suddenly... it made sense. Damien was blue. Celine was red. And Celine... she must be finally warming up to him.

Anti couldn't help himself from smiling at the thought.

"You consider Celine close to your heart as well?" Dark asked, feeling rather... elated? Satisfied? Celine didn't know what to think about this affection, but she found that she liked it. Dark was reminded suddenly of everything else that he loved about Anti, and he inched a little closer, just wanting to hold him in his arms forever...

"Of course I do," Anti murmured, smiling when Dark drew closer. "I love you, Dark- and she's part of you."

Dark chuckled breathlessly, the small space between them seeming to shrink further still. "You... you flustered her a little with that statement, I'll admit. But I think she appreciates it, even if she can't return your affection. She doesn't trust herself growing too close to men anymore, I'm afraid..."

Anti growled a little. "I don't blame her- fuck, I wish I could go back and kill that asshole for laying a finger on her- on you. I... I wish you didn't have to go through that,"

Dark smiled in sad memory. "Will felt the same... but that is irrelevant now, my sweet- I'll show you... I'll show you a family gathering that happened when I was young. Here, take my hand..."

"Damien!"

Anti opened his eyes again to find that he felt a lot smaller- the other people around him seemed so many feet taller than he was, and he had pudgy little hands, and the woman who was talking to him looked a lot like Celine. She was chiding him, waving her hand at him, and he looked down as if he were ashamed.

He was wearing a little tuxedo suit, and little was no understatement- if Anti had to guess, he'd say that Damien was around eight years old. But of course, he'd never seen a child before, so he couldn't really tell. He seemed small, but not small enough to be younger than six, surely...

"I'm sorry Mother, I won't let it happen again," Damien said, holding his hands a little guiltily below his waist. "I was being irresponsible and it wasn't the right thing to do..."

"Oh, Darling- I'm not mad," his mother sighed, leaning down and brushing his tears aside. "I just don't want you to hurt yourself out there- especially not in these clothes, Damien. If you want to ride the horses, you have to change into your outside clothes, okay?"

"Okay..."

Anti felt himself smile. Horses? He'd never seen one in real life, but he'd heard Dark's recount of the horses he'd kept in the Groundlands. Were they one and the same?

"Desiree- oh, there you are. Have you seen Celine?"

It was a man- he was rather muscular and broad shouldered, but his almond shaped eyes were soft and caring. He had a handlebar mustache, and a thick beard, and he was wearing a suit as well.

This must have been Damien and Celine's father...

"She's sitting out in the gardens, Adam- with your sister,"

Adam frowned, folding his arms as he glanced around the room. He turned to face his wife again, contempt obvious in his tone as he lowered his voice, seemingly afraid of being overheard.

"It's not Ava, is it? She'll be filling her head with tall tales about witches and fantastical creatures again..."

"Oh, let her have some fun, Adam," Desiree scoffed. "She's only nine years old- why, would you rather her be out fraternising with boys at this age?"

"I'd rather my daughter keep a level head," Adam sighed heavily. "What about you, little guy? How do you like the rest of the family?"

"I think they're loud," Damien commented, looking up at his parents as they stifled their fond laughter. "And ramb... rambunctious,"

Anti chuckled softly as Damien tried to pronounce the word, his little mouth apparently not yet ready for his own intelligence. Dark's cool hand tightened around his own, and he could feel the little breaths on his lips that told him Dark was laughing too.

"See, why can't she be more like Damien?" Adam asked, smiling down at his son proudly. "Smart, and ambitious- those traits are what really matters in this changing world, not some silly fantasy stories..."

"Darling, I write fantasy stories," Desiree reprimanded. "And it helps to put bread on the table just as much as your sales flow charts, or whatever you do up in there..."

She was teasing, it was plain to see- and Adam knew it too. He rolled his eyes as if this fact was brought up daily, muttering "Yes dear,"in a sarcastic tone. She nudged him in his side.

"Oh, Adam, compose yourself- we have guests! I'll go talk to Ava, and then we can go ride the horses, right Damien?"

"Right," Damien responded, but Desiree frowned a little.

She fixed him with a slightly stern look. "Right Ma'am, dear,"

Damien bowed his head. "Yes, right Ma'am- sorry, Mother..."

"It's okay," Desiree smiled warmly, all the reprimanding forgotten as if it had never happened. "Come here, come here... go, Adam, Michael wants to speak with you about the numbers,"

Adam sighed heavily. "The numbers... always Michael with the numbers..."

He walked off, muttering, and Desiree wrapped her fingers around Damien's little wrist, tugging him along gently.

Their house was spacious- large, and open, and full of windows that looked out onto a well-kept garden. Anti watched through Damien's eyes as they trudged through the grassy path, passing several rose bushes before coming to a small clearing. Ornate iron benches were dotted around, and on one of them sat Celine- with another woman who bore a vague resemblance to her, wearing a bandanna over her longer, feathered hair. It was the eyes- yes, they had the same eyes. Celine, and her father and her aunt, and even Damien- they all had pretty brown almond shaped eyes, while their mother's were round, blue, and full of wonder.

 Celine, and her father and her aunt, and even Damien- they all had pretty brown almond shaped eyes, while their mother's were round, blue, and full of wonder       

"Ah- Ava, there you are," Desiree called. "Adam was looking for Celine- tell me you're not 'casting protection' again, Dear..."

Ava held up a hand as Celine made to move, fixing Desiree with a frown. "A witch's work cannot be interrupted, Desiree- I explained it to you before, did I not?"

Desiree sighed. "Yes, but my daughter is hardly a witch, Ava- I was willing to tolerate your stories and your fake little magic tricks, but Adam is rather insistent that you-"

"Oh, when has what Adam wanted ever had an impact on you?" Ava scoffed. "And this is real, very real. The fates are laughing at you, my dear. So long as you remain close-minded, so long as you scoff at the power of the third eye- you will not see her for the woman she is meant to be. Do her a service, Desiree, and believe in her- she has a gift,"

Celine smiled toothily at Damien, giving him a wave as she ran over in her little red dress, her puffy chestnut hair bobbing as she moved. "Dami, Dami- I saw the future!"

"You did?" Damien asked, excitement evident in his tone. "What did you see?"

"I saw-"

"You didn't see anything, Darling, it was all in your head," Desiree sighed, as if this whole argument was some kind of routine. "Ava... I'm a firm believer that fantasy and imagination are important to our growing minds as a society, but... but sorcery isn't something I want Celine dabbling into, even if it does truly exist..."

"Of course it exists," Ava said. "It lives in your children's blood, as it lives in your husband's. It manifests in its own little ways, but I can tell that they are going to be bright young witches someday. It'll be up to you whether or not you can learn to love them regardless,"

Desiree gritted her teeth. "Ava... witchcraft isn't accepted here for personal and religious reasons, and you know very well why,"

"If God did not want us to be enlightened," Ava started, gathering up her shawl. "Then he'd have left us without the means to better ourselves. I believe in a God that loves us, Desiree- not a God that wants us to remain blinded from our own potential,"

It had never crossed Anti's mind that Damien and Celine may have come from a religious family- it had never been discussed between them, and aside from throwaway phrases like 'thank God' and 'for the love of Christ', Anti hadn't heard Dark address the topic of a higher power at all. But... Dark was a demon- part demon, at least. Surely he had to have some mixed feelings about the whole religion thing now...

"Children, please excuse us," Desiree sighed. "Auntie Ava and I are going to have a... talk. Go and change into your outdoor wear so you can ride the horses before sundown- but please be back before kiddush this time,"

"Yes, Mother,"

"Okay Mother,"

Damien and Celine seemed completely oblivious to the tension that was rising between their mother and their aunt as they rushed inside, Damien in the lead and Celine running up behind him. They wound through some hallways, climbing a flight of stairs, and then they parted to enter their respective rooms.

Damien's room was the only one that Anti could see, and it was... rather plain. His bed was simple and his sheets were off-white, embroidered with little dolphins on the ends. He had a little wooden desk in the corner, a stool tucked under it, and the surface was littered with various books and papers that shouldn't have been on any eleven year old's desk, in Anti's opinion.

The walls were covered in flowery paper, the carpet looked white- and overall it looked rather... dull. Nothing like Dark's rich wooden panelling in his room back at the manor, nothing like what Anti had come to regard as... well, Dark. But Damien wasn't Dark- he was only part of him.

Anti had to wonder what Celine's room looked like, then. Was it red, to match her dress? One day, would their own daughter be running around in a dress much like it? What would her room look like?

Anti barely noticed that the memory had faded until Dark tapped his wrist lightly, waking him from his dream-like slumber.

"Oh, Darling... you're exhausted," Dark fretted, shifting and pulling himself up on the couch, then standing shakily on his feet. He reached down to help Anti up, his knees cracking a little under the pressure, but Anti waved him off.

"I'm fine, Darky, I'm fine, I just... dozed off,"

"You need to rest," Dark replied insistently, pulling Anti up and gripping his hand for extra support. "It's been a long day, Dear- and you've done so much already... come, we'll retire,"

Anti pouted after he yawned, letting Dark guide him to Mark's guest room as he flicked all of the lights off.

"Really, I'm fine," Anti muttered, though he let Dark usher him into bed all the same. "I wanted to hear more..."

"Another time," Dark shook his head, kissing Anti tenderly on his forehead. "There'll be another time, Darling... when you and I can spend the whole day talking and laughing together. I promise it,"

"But..." Anti cut himself off with a yawn, covering his face in shame. "I... what did Celine see, that day?"

Dark bit his lip. "She saw... she saw the accident that resulted in Damien's injured leg. That day when they went riding, he fell, and... if our mother hadn't been so dismissive of Celine's vision, it might have been prevented. The fractured kneecap never did heal properly, and... but I could tell you the whole story next time. Rest, Darling, you're dead on your feet,"

Anti sighed reluctantly, his eyes starting to close despite himself. "Darky... come snuggle with me,"

"But I have to pack up the game, and-"

"You're pregnant, Darky..." Anti interrupted. "You're not picking up anything... Jack can do it,"

Dark sighed, groaning under his breath. "It isn't his responsibility to clean up our messes, Dear-"

"He said he doesn't mind," Anti muttered, opening his arms. "Now come here and let me snuggle with you before I get back to even more drama..."

Dark sighed once more, but still allowed Anti to wrap his arms around his torso, cuddling into his front. He lay in the bed next to his lover, watching as Anti's tired eyes fluttered closed.

"I love you," Dark breathed, pressing a kiss to Anti's forehead. "Sweet dreams, my dear..."

Anti smiled softly, his snores soon filling the air. After a while, Dark felt himself starting to drift off too, and he let the sensation of being held by his lover overcome him as his eyes closed peacefully.

It had certainly been an eventful day- but though he knew that he wouldn't be seeing Anti tomorrow, or even the day afterwards- Dark felt... happy. Pleasantly satisfied. Contented.

This time, they'd parted on good terms- with the promise of meeting again soon. And that thought was quite enough to keep Dark going until the day they could be together again.

~Void~

Anti opened his eyes with a start- someone was shaking him softly, beckoning him to stand, and his arms were draped limply over the side of a familiar lounge. Dark wasn't there- neither was their baby, and neither, it seemed was a good night's rest. He felt weary, and tired- and somehow it felt even worse than it had before he'd fallen asleep in the first place. He sighed as he moved into a sitting position, stretching and looking at the ego that had roused him. He smiled.

"Hey Robbie," Anti greeted. "How's everything been- how's JJ?"

Robbie cocked his head to one side, confused. Anti supposed he didn't know about what had happened to Jameson- perhaps, Schneep had been saving the conversation for later. Was it later already? It must have been- Anti and Dark had been playing their games for hours, and it was well past midnight...

"He... is... in there..." Robbie sounded, pointing to Halter's house. "With... other... brothers. Whole... family... gathering,"

"Ah," Anti realised. "I've never... actually been to one of those. Is it scary, having everyone there watching you?"

Robbie cracked a smile, chuckling slightly as he responded, "Not scary... at all,"

"Good," Anti smiled in return, ruffling Robbie's hair as he stood and stretched, his bones cracking back into place. "I guess they must be waiting for me, huh?"

Robbie nodded, beckoning Anti to follow him as he walked out of Anti's front door. He was alone- and that was strange in Anti's eyes. Robbie almost always stayed around Host- those two hadn't left each others' sight since Anti had arrived at the manor, but the author-turned-radio-host was simply nowhere to be seen.

"Where's the mister?" Anti queried, closing the door behind him. Robbie shrugged.

"Only... us at the... meeting," the zombie sounded out. "No... Ipliers,"

"Ah," Anti sighed, catching on. It was a family meeting- only family was attending. "Gotcha, gotcha..."

Robbie smiled at him as they walked up to Halter's front door, and the younger ego knocked quietly so as not to startle the half-asleep glitch. Anti's lips twitched in appreciation.

"Why are we at Halter's place?" Anti yawned, and Robbie was about to answer him- but the door opened, and a very worn-out looking Schneep stood in their path. He smiled warily at Anti, the ghost of bags under his eyes only barely visible in the light of the room.

"Ah, Anti- zhere you are... Did you enjoy ze last of your time vith ihn?"

Anti smiled in memory. "Yeah, it was nice... how's JJ?"

"Er ist hier," Schneep sighed, moving to the side and letting Anti see the dapper man sitting on the couch- presumably, he'd been sitting beside Schneep. Jameson looked wary to even meet another's eyes, and Anti felt his heart lurch in pity, wanting to walk over there and hold him like he'd done just hours ago.

"I'll sit with him," Anti offered, and Schneep smiled as he nodded.

"Ja, zat vould probably be best,"

As Anti took his seat, he surveyed the room. Everyone was here- Schneep, Robbie, Marvin, Jackie, Chase, JJ, Septiplier- even Tommy and Clint, and two egos that Anti didn't recognise. They bore similar features to him, but... one of them seemed a lot younger than the others. He looked rather like Anti had in his early years here- but he wore a thick coat and trousers, and regarded him with a cool stare as he took his seat.

The other looked so be some kind of robot- similar to the way Bingiplier had used to look the one time Anti had seen him before his upgrade. He had a yellow fringe and wore a jacket with a glowing yellow logo printed on it, looking rather bored with the happenings around him.

Then, there was Halter, standing by the door. Anti waved his way with a smile- he supposed that they couldn't really kick him out of his own house, after all. Halter's lips twitched up at him in return.

Anti noticed that Jameson had inched closer to him, entwining their arms together and leaning on Anti's shoulder. He felt... well, he felt like he'd been crying. Damp patches still littered the front of his clothes, and his cheeks were still stained red- but at least he wasn't bleeding out anymore. Anti traced the slight bumps along Jameson's arms where he'd taken the razor to himself, having been unable to get rid of the marks completely- and Jameson shuddered beneath the touch.

"It's going to be okay," Anti muttered in reassurance. "They love you, okay? Nobody here wants you to feel bad, JJ, I swear..."

Jameson sniffed, but didn't make any other noise as he sat quietly, looking up at the doctor.

"Now zat ve are all hier," Schneep started, still standing. "I vould like you all to introduce yourselves- some of us are not yet acquainted vith each other,"

"Schneep, why are we here?" Marvin sighed, running a finger through his hair and parting it to one side. It was even longer than when Anti had seen him last- surely hair didn't grow out this fast. But now it hung by his ears, dangling a little lower than his mask, his hands twitching a little nervously as he regarded the newcomers with something akin to fear in his eyes.

"Ve are hier because ve are family," Schneep explained, giving Marvin a pointed look. "Und ve have drifted apart- some of us more zhan ze others. Zis... zese times have been stressful, Bruder- I have been at my vits end trying to care for all of you, because... because I appear to be ze only vone zat any of you trust,"

Anti could see the others' eyes trail to the ground, knowing that it was true. Heck, it was true for him as well- he may have been friendly enough with the younger of his brothers, but he wasn't sure if he'd even trust Jameson if they hadn't been thrust into this mess together. Schneep was the only one aside from Dark that he'd really ever opened up to- and if the rest of his brothers were the same...

"Now I don't vant you to stop talking mit mir- do not misunderstand me, but... but it gets hard to cater to everyone," Schneep continued, eyes looking slightly red beneath his glasses. "All of you are so different... your struggles unique, und... und zhey require a lot of attention, und... I can't provide zat for all of you any longer,"

He sighed, taking a seat in a lone armchair that seemed out of place in the oversized room. "Ich... I am a busy man, Brüder... Ich bin engaged to be married, und I plan on having a honeymoon, but I do not vant any of you to suffer for my happiness. Truly, vhat most of you need is just... someone to talk to. Und instead of me, I vant you to try opening up to each other."

Anti offered him a reassuring smile, though he felt more than a little guilty. He'd been gone in the Groundlands for hours on end, assuming that the doctors could handle things around here, not even thinking that they could have other things on their plate. And now this? Schneep was definitely handling himself much better than Anti would, in his place...

Jackie stood, clearing his throat and sending Schneep a smile. "Uh- okay, hi. I'm Jackieboy Man, and I'm a superhero- I can, uh, fly and shit,"

Oh Lord... was he still drunk?

"Marvin, don't let ihn have any more to drink," Schneep chuckled, seeming thoroughly amused by his older brother's antics. He'd been crying, but Anti supposed the tears were simply a side effect of finally speaking his mind. It sounded as though he'd been taking everyone else's burden for a long while.

Marvin gave the doctor a wry smile, standing next to Jackie and slowly forcing him back down onto the lounge. "I'm Marvin, and I'm a magician, but... I'm not actually very good at magic so..."

"Vhat vould Yan say if he heard you talking like zhat?" Schneep challenged, and Marvin sighed through a chuckle.

"He'd... he'd disagree," Marvin mumbled fondly, sitting back down and leaning into Jackie's side, probably to keep him in one place. The superhero seemed to fluctuate from being a sad drunk to a hyperactive one, it seemed. Anti had never really seen him drink until recently, so he'd never really known. How many other quirks did his estranged family have, that he wasn't aware of?

"Who's Yan?" The Bing-esque ego piped up, looking about as clueless as Anti had been when he found out about Jameson, Clint and Tommy.

"Er ist Marvin's boyfriend," Schneep explained. "Do not be afraid to ask questions, little Bing- you are part of zis family as much as any of us hier,"

So he was a Bing robot. Interesting... Anti just knew that would get confusing later on. If they were going to stick around in the same place, one of the two egos was going to have to change their name.

Chase stood, eyes glued to the yellow Bing-bot with mild curiosity shining through them.

"I'm Chase Brody," he introduced, "and I... I'm actually dating a Bing robot. He doesn't look like you- well, I mean, he looks like Mark, obviously, but he's actually upgraded to a green layout now and..."

Yellow Bing's eyes opened in awe. "Dude, no way! I've been stuck in this upgrade forever- I've been trying to figure out how to bypass my restriction but I've had no luck..."

"Restriction?" Anti asked aloud. "What've you got a restriction for?"

"I don't know," Yellow Bing shrugged. "It's always been there- but I guess I'd look strange being all green. I'd look just like all of you..."

"True," Chase agreed, "especially with that hair- awh, but you look so cool with a yellow scheme, dude,"

Yellow Bing was looking at Chase as though he'd never received a compliment before, golden optics gleaming brightly as his lips twitched in a genuine smile. What was it about Bing robots that made them seem so lifelike?

"Really?" He uttered.

Chase cracked a grin. "Dude, where've you been all my life? Awh, we could have gone skateboarding, or done trickshots together- wait, you have to meet Bing, he-"

"Another time, perhaps," Schneep interceded, though he was smiling at the pair, apparently glad that they were getting along. "Robbie?"

Robbie was quiet as he stood, not quite meeting the others' eyes. Anti supposed he was probably nervous about meeting the newer egos without Host here to comfort him. "I'm... Robbie. I'm... a zombie,"

"Oi, I didn't know I had a zombie for a brother," the other unnamed ego spoke, seemingly curious. He had an accent that Anti couldn't quite place- all he knew was that it was different, and he wasn't sure if he liked it. Like... like British, but fractured and doused in alcohol. Yeah.

Robbie bit his lip, looking rather uncertain. While nobody else was so upfront about it, everyone knew he was different, even more different than Anti was to the rest of them. When he'd first appeared, he'd been very self-conscious and afraid of socialisation, but he'd eventually warmed up to his brothers- though apparently, the fact that he wasn't the same as his family members still rang clear in his mind. Schneep noticed, reaching out to grasp Robbie's hand in his own, smiling reassuringly at the younger ego.

"Komm, Robbie, Angus does not mean to offend- er ist simply intrigued,"

"Angus, huh?" Anti said aloud, flushing a little as several pairs of eyes landed on him. It was almost as if they still couldn't believe he was really here- but then, Anti supposed he'd never actually been to one of these before. They probably weren't very used to him being in all of these situations just yet- it had really only been two months since he moved back in with Dark, anyway. Sometimes he forgot just how slow time seemed to drag on in this place...

"Yeah, name's Angus," the man introduced, holding out a hand for Anti to shake. "I'm the Survival Hunter- Been wonderin' where the rest of my tribe got off to,"

"Tribe...?" Anti repeated, blinking away his confusion as he shook the strange man's hand.

Angus shrugged. "Yeah, the tribe- you lot. Bing here told me about you- said you all had to exist somewhere out woop woop."

"I don't think he's related to us," Tommy said, looking a little unnerved. Clint nodded his agreement. While the other egos had seated themselves together on Halter's oversized lounge (aside from Schneep, of course, who was sitting by the end of it), Tommy and Clint had sat opposite the lounge on a summoned loveseat. Anti had picked up that they weren't very close to the other existing egos at all- but still, he guessed they were family regardless.

"What's your accent?" Chase asked, intrigued.

"True Blue Aussie, mate," Angus grinned in return. "Born and raised in the outback, riding emus and eating Vegemite straight from the jar,"

"You vere born in ze Void, actually," Schneep interrupted with a shake of his head, though he was smiling. "Ach... you egos may destroy mein sanity but you keep me young..."

"Crikey there's a lot of you," Angus sighed. "Can't believe it took me so long to find this place..."

"Did you and... and Bing, did you both come here together?" Jackie asked, hiccuping slightly at the end of his question. Marvin rolled his eyes, muttering some profanities under his breath.

"Yeah, we've been out exploring since I arrived," Yellow Bing answered, shrugging his shoulders. "I knew the rest of you existed, I just didn't know where to look. Angus found me first- said he was looking to pick up a nice sheila, whatever that means..."

"Fuck, mate, it gets lonely when you're out in the bush," Angus groaned to himself. "What I wouldn't do for a nice root every so often, let me tell you..."

"I think a sheila is a woman," Marvin deduced.

It went on- Anti had zoned out after figuring out who the newcomers were and why they were here- he knew everyone else, after all, and he was so damn tired... Dark had been right. He really had done a lot of things today- they'd gone to the park, they'd played with Chica, he'd run into Wilford and caused Dark's breakdown... then, he'd fixed Dark's breakdown, and... and then JJ happened. It seemed so long ago, but it had really only been a few hours... no wonder he was tired.

He wasn't aware he'd been dozing off again until Jameson shook him gently, his hand clasped around Anti's arm. Anti awoke with a start, his eyes snapping open to see that the rest of his brothers were staring at him. He felt his cheeks start to heat up as he yawned, stretching out on the lounge in an attempt to wake himself up. It didn't work.

"Sorry," Anti apologised through his yawn, feeling chills and prickling all over his skin. "I... I had a busy day. What were we saying?"

"Anti... if you are not feeling vell, you should have some rest," Schneep frowned, coming over to check his vitals. "Hmm... bist du experiencing headaches, und nausea?"

"A little," Anti admitted, "but they're not as bad as they could be. I'm fine, Schneep, I'm fine- I want to stay for the rest of the meeting,"

Schneep didn't look very happy with that statement, but damned if Anti was leaving early. Until now, he'd never even been invited to a family gathering- he didn't know how frequently they happened, but never in the past two years had he ever done anything with his brothers that was solely based on bringing them together.

He was staying here, awake or not.

"If you insist," Schneep sighed, reluctantly taking his seat again. "Drink some Wasser, mein Bruder- it vill help. You did not miss much- ve are going around und opening up about everything zat has happened since ve last convened. So far, only Jackieboy has spoken..."

Anti met the superhero's gaze, and Jackie shrugged. "I just said that I'm trying to be a better person, because of what we talked about the other night," he said, nodding to Anti with a small smile on his face.

Anti raised an eyebrow. "You seem... sober,"

"He started singing Cool Patrol during Clint's introduction," Marvin sighed, "so we dunked him in water,"

Jackie's cheeks turned red. "Yeah... I should work on understanding my tolerance, sorry guys..."

Anti snorted in response.

"Well, I was about to speak next anyway," Marvin sighed, getting to his feet. He cleared his throat. "So um... this might not be surprising for most of you, but Yan and I... we've been going through some rough patches recently. I mean- it's nothing too serious, we aren't hurting each other or anything, but..."

Anti had never seen them all so quiet- for being the loudest people in the Void, they sure knew how to keep it down when they needed to. No wonder he'd fallen asleep- he'd probably do it again now if he wasn't fighting to stay awake. He hadn't had this much silence since he moved in with Dark...

Marvin sighed. "Sometimes, the things he does just get on my nerves. And as much as he'll deny it, I know that there are things that I do that rub him the wrong way, too. Which is perfectly normal, I know that, but we... we've never really sat down and talked about it before,"

Marvin bit his lip as the rest of the egos remained silent- after all, Marvin usually tried to keep his relationship private, and him speaking out about anything was far out of the ordinary. Even Anti didn't know what to say, so he shut his mouth and let Jameson hold him as Marvin continued.

"I guess I've never really sat down with... with anyone, just to talk about my own feelings," Marvin sighed. "Until now. And because of that, I... I get really, really angry. Mostly at myself, but... I end up snapping so often when I'm out around you guys. I just feel really... tense, and irritable, and I didn't understand why until Schneep sat me down and made me fill out a mood disorder checklist the other day..."

He breathed out slowly. "I... I have depression. But I don't like saying it like that- I'm not sad, I'm really not. But I just feel... numb. Tired. I wake up in the morning and I can't bring myself to get out of bed. I feel tense when I'm out of my room, but I feel trapped when I'm in there. And Yan's trying to help, I know he is, but... but this is my battle,"

Marvin offered his brothers a weak smile, apparently having noticed their upset expressions. "It may be my battle, but... but I don't want to hide it anymore. I don't want to walk around and pretend I'm happy when I'm not, but I don't want you to pity me- just... just maybe understand a little more. I'm not trying to push you all away, I love you guys- but most days, I... I can't even handle my own shit, let alone everyone else's,"

"But it's getting better," Marvin continued. "Now that I've actually... y'know, acknowledged that there's a reason, I'm trying to be more aware of how I act around the rest of you. You don't deserve my crap- and, and Yan and I are going to start couple's therapy soon, so we're hopefully going to move past our differences, and... I'm sorry, if it seemed like I was being a dick to any of you,"

Marvin's eyes swept the room, lingering on Anti for a few moments more, before looking down into his lap. Though they'd come to a truce when Marvin had returned, they hadn't really made peace between them and spoken about their differences before. Maybe tonight could change that.

Maybe, that was Schneep's plan...

"Danke, Marvin," Schneep spoke, looking proudly at the magician. Jackie clapped him on the back, and JJ sighed inaudibly against Anti's side. The glitch squeezed Jameson's hand reassuringly, as the doctor gestured in Robbie's direction.

The purple-haired ego looked nervous as he stood again, though this time Anti knew it was hardly because of Angus. He opened his mouth, eyes twitching a little as he forced his voice out as fast as it would come.

"I don't... like to... be treated... like a baby," Robbie sounded out, biting anxiously at his lip as he avoided everyone's eyes. "I'm... an adult... I can make... my own decisions,"

Jackie smiled apologetically in his direction, while Chase looked guilty as he stared at the ground. Everyone else just seemed curious to know where this was going- they hadn't overly babied him before, but they hadn't really treated him as the man he was, and it was growing ever clearer to them. Anti, who knew what had finally brought around this change in attitude, couldn't help but feel proud of Robbie for taking charge of his life like this.

After all, back when Anti had felt like Dark was babying him... well, it had sucked. Robbie had to deal with that treatment from pretty much everyone- no wonder he'd had enough.

"Me and... Host," Robbie uttered, shivering a little as if he were cold. "We are... in love... and we..."

He trailed off, huffing slightly as he looked pleadingly at Schneep.

"Es ist okay, Robbie- you do not have to say it," Schneep said, trying to be reassuring, but Robbie shook his head.

"Don't know... how to say... it," Robbie sighed in frustration. "Sounds... stupid,"

Schneep offered him a weary smile. "Ah... er, vhat Robbie is trying to tell you is zat he und ze Host are tired of zis constant monitoring zat some of you insist on doing. Ze truth is zat Robbie is his own person, und er alone can decide who he vants to be vith,"

Robbie smiled in return, taking his seat again. Well, Anti supposed that was probably all of the drama that Robbie was really a part of- he seemed like a fairly laid back guy, and Anti didn't know of any relationship drama he'd had with Host, so... maybe Robbie really had the least problematic life out of all of them.

Chase coughed as he got to his feet, Schneep having sent him a pointed look.

"I mean... at this point, you all already know about who I was when I was alive," Chase sighed, "what I did, and... and why I get these visions and memories... but at the time, I felt pretty alone when I was faced with it all. I... I felt like a burden on everyone's happy life,"

He looked up, smiling sadly at Schneep. "Sometimes, I even felt like I was the cause of all the problems and arguments you guys had, even when it made no sense... it just got to the point where I felt like I was a waste of space around here. All I did all day was sit around with Bing, play games and watch vines, and... it's not the best use of time, is it?"

"Well, considering that most of us don't really have jobs, I think it's valid," Marvin interceded with a soft smile. "I mean- I spend all of my time playing cards with Yan, or... y'know, doing other couple stuff, I don't really even spend my time with family. I'm amazed you all even know who I am,"

Chase snorted a little under his breath. "Yeah, I suppose that I was spending time with you guys... it's like what happened with you, Marv. I didn't understand why I felt so bad about... well, about doing nothing, until I realised that there was a part of me that was conditioned to go to work every morning, and pick up the kids, and... and that part of me still doesn't know that the kids aren't here anymore,"

Anti felt his heart sink a little as a tear slipped from Chase's eye, Jameson sighing sadly against his shoulder. Chase was still smiling, though- and Anti had the feeling that they were happy tears instead of sad. He grinned widely at the other egos.

"But I'm getting better now- sure, I slip up sometimes, and... and I haven't really grown as a person, but I'm in a serious relationship now, and my therapy's been working out... the docs have been doing a miracle for me. I'm sure that all of your struggles, they'll get better with time. Mine have..."

"Ja," Schneep agreed, sending Chase a proud smile. "Zat is very vise of you, Chase- problems are not solved overnight. Zhey require time and hard vork to overcome, und ich bin certain zat all of you are just as capable of healing as Chase is,"

"Thanks, Schneep," Chase grinned. "The kids... well, sometimes, Bing and I, we... we look up the family, see how they're doing. Emma's fourteen now, turning fifteen in March- and she's the captain of her football team. Trey turned ten last month, and he starred in a school play- seeing him standing there, and smiling, it... it didn't make me sad. It made me happy. They... they're moving past what I did, and I'm so proud of them,"

Anti could see Tommy explaining Chase's backstory to the two newer egos, but judging by the neutral expressions on their faces, they didn't seem to care that Chase was an ex-murderer. Honestly, it wasn't a fact that really stood out when you met him- and it was easy to forget if you weren't consciously thinking about it. It didn't define him- not like Anti had allowed his instability to define him when he'd lashed out all those years ago.

Anti found that he was proud of Chase, too.

Chase sniffled happily, wiping his eyes of the tears that had started falling. "And Stacy... God, now that I remember, I... I miss her, so much. But I don't love her, not anymore- I really do love Bing, and... I know he doesn't really understand it, but it's true. I... I've seen her Facebook page, and... she's started dating this other guy. Tall, blonde, looks like a surfer... they look happy together."

"I'm moving on," Chase finalised, still smiling at the rest of his brothers. "This is my family now- Stacy and the kids, they... they're healing, just like I am. But it's better this way. I get to be here, with you guys, and they... they get to have a real father,"

It was Marvin who started clapping first- then Jackie, then Robbie- and soon, everyone had joined in. Congratulating Chase on his recovery, expressing their pride- and Chase was bawling now, but the grin never once left his features. He let Jackie lean over Marvin and tackle him in a hug, and Anti laughed as he watched his brothers all fight playfully over who got to show Chase the most affection. Even Jameson seemed to be smiling at the scene- though when Anti was jostled into the mute's side, he could tell that it had gotten out of hand.

Schneep, it seemed, shared his sentiments. He coughed loudly, snapping the others out of their antics as he stood and regarded them all with a weary stare.

"Settle, meine Geschwistern, settle... es ist my turn to speak. I have not come forward about mein own relationship vith Doc, though you all know of it already, und... vell, I vanted to clear something up,"

Anti was happy to see that Jameson had calmed enough to sit still, though their hands were still interlocked and their thighs were still pressed together- the proximity alone seemed to be doing him wonders. But he forced himself to look at the doctor instead of the dapper man beside him, watching as Schneep took off his glasses, wiping them with his coat.

"Mein lover und I, ve... ve have been struggling as of late," Schneep sighed. "Ever since ze manor first collapsed, und our fight... vell, I suppose zat none of you know vhat really happened zat night. Ve vere stressed, und tired, und ze news of Chase's past vas distressing me- I just couldn't see how... how you could be so... different, like zat,"

He put the glasses back on, but Anti knew they'd steam up again from crying if Schneep kept this up. There had been so many tears tonight, so many confessions, and yet... Anti had the feeling that the worst had yet to come. Nobody else had come close to expressing the shame that Anti and Jameson both felt regarding their affair- not to mention their own personal issues and mental health problems. Just how much did Schneep expect them to reveal?

Enough to soothe their minds, most probably, but... well, Anti still wasn't entirely comfortable sharing his past with his brothers. Despite the turnaround they'd all seemed to make in their attitude towards him, they were still the people that had disregarded his pain and suffering, making him out to be a force worse than evil when he'd cried out for help...

He shook himself out of his thoughts, looking up at Schneep again. He shouldn't be so self absorbed- there would be a time soon enough to worry about his own issues. The least he could do was hear Schneep out, after all he'd done for Anti...

"Ve did not fight because of our own animosity, nein... ve vere simply disagreeing over ze ethics of our practices... I did not vant to tell Chase of his history, but Doc vas adamant zat er had a right to know. Of course, of course you did, mein Bruder... but I did not vant you to follow ze same path zat Anti found himself on after er fell victim to his depressive thoughts..."

Anti tried to ignore how the others' eyes shifted to him, but he found his cheeks reddening anyway at the attention. He let Jameson's slow breathing calm him down, closing his eyes and listening to the doctor's voice. He was so tired, so weary...

"Ve agreed to spend some time apart, to relax, but- vell, I soon found myself dead. I must admit, it vasn't part of my plan, but... but something inside ihn seemed to change vhen I came back. It vas like a light had come on in his mind, und zhen he asked me to marry him, und... vell, ze rest is history."

Closing his eyes for a little while couldn't hurt, right? He could still hear them, he was still listening, he just couldn't see... couldn't react...

"I had thought zat it vould be fine after zat- of course, ve have not had any further arguments, but... but vonce again, ze responsibility of caring for all of you has fallen onto us. It has been driving me mad vith vorry, you must realise- I do not vant to leave you alone, I do not vant any of you to be hurt- but I do not vant to throw away my time spent vith mein Liebe, Brüder..."

Anti...

Anti...

Anti!

He blinked harshly, the light making him dizzy as he became aware that he was no longer sitting upright. Instead, he was slightly slumped, leaning into Jameson's side with smooth fingers wrapped around his arm, shaking him again. Oh fuck... he hadn't meant to fall asleep again, he really hadn't- what else had he missed?

"Shit," Anti muttered, peeling himself away from the other warm body he'd been resting on. The damp, blotchy patches of skin along his arm and cheek told him he'd been there a while, at least. "Sorry..."

"Es ist fine, Anti," Schneep assured him, standing over them, pressing a glass of water into his hands. "Ve vere going to let you sleep, but... vell, Jameson didn't feel comfortable speaking about vhat happened vithout you hier,"

Anti rubbed at his sore and swollen eyes, taking a sip of the water and recoiling at the bad taste in his mouth. Yuck. Was this because of the fast food he'd eaten with Dark, earlier? He didn't usually eat, so he never really had to deal with the consequences, but now...

"Okay," Anti sighed simply, wrapping an arm around Jameson's middle and giving him a hug. "I'm here, I'm here... you can do this, James,"

Anti felt terrible for missing the rest of his brothers' confessions, but... well, there wasn't much he could do about it now. He was sure that if they deemed their information desperate for him to know, they'd come and tell him when he was more conscious and aware. But Jameson was here, and he needed Anti's support through this, and... and Anti could understand that. Sitting in front of your family and admitting to every little wrong you've committed, explaining how it makes you feel, that... that isn't easy to accomplish alone.

Jameson took a deep breath, removing his hand from Anti's arm and standing shakily. He looked out at the rest of his brothers, who all looked quite alarmed to see him so distraught- but he couldn't help but feel as though they'd abandon him as soon as his hands betrayed his thoughts.

'I have been having some personal problems' he signed, still not quite able to meet his brothers' eyes. 'W-I-L-F-O-R-D and I are no longer together. I had thought that I could change him, but I was wrong. He will not change for me alone. I have not yet forgiven him for breaking my heart.'

JJ took a shuddering breath, and Anti reached out to touch his shoulder, letting him know that the glitch was still there. Anti hadn't abandoned him, and... and that made Jameson feel a little safer. He took another breath.

'I have been hurting myself for the past three days,'

"What?!" Jackie exclaimed, his features paling as he looked around at the gobsmacked expressions of the rest of his brothers. Even Angus and Bing, who didn't even know the man- they wore sorrowful expressions on their faces. Marvin had tears shining in his eyes, and Chase was biting into his fist- and Robbie looked close to running over and hugging Jameson himself.

Anti looked down, squeezing a little more firmly at JJ's shoulder, feeling the dapper man stiffen under his touch.

Jameson flinched at the sound, feeling tears running down his own cheeks as he sobbed silently, still ashamed and anguished by what he'd been driven to do. How had Anti lived with this for all those years? Would Anti be able to stand up and speak out about the voices, and the hate, and everything they'd made him feel?

'I had made one poor decision after the last, and I was not coping. In an act of vengeance, I let myself lie with another- I did not even contemplate the effect it would have on his life. I felt... terrible. I wanted to die.'

"No, JJ..." Chase uttered, running a hand through his hair. "No, d-don't..."

"Ze situation has been handled, Chase, do not vorry," Schneep interceded, though even he was crying again. "Zis confession, it... es ist only to help Jameson realise zat er ist loved und vanted, despite vhat he has been led to believe,"

"Who told you that nobody cared?" Jackie demanded, having pulled off his mask at the first sign of tears. "We all care- JJ, we love you, we all do..."

'I heard voices in my head. Taunting me and telling me that nobody loved me. I believed them. I tried to kill myself earlier today, but S-C-H-N-E-E-P found me and saved me'

Jameson bit his lip as he braced himself for the cries of outrage that would surely follow, but... but the room was silent save for a few sharp breaths. He opened his eyes, looking out for the first time at his family- his family. They were all crying, all of them- even Anti, who was rubbing his back softly and looking up at him proudly, even the newcomers- and even Tommy and Clint looked like they were trying to hide their tears.

"I... I don't know what to say," Marvin gulped, his throat tight as he choked on his tears, wiping his eyes as he let his mask fall to the ground. He walked over and threw his arms around Jameson, hugging him so tightly that the mute was afraid he'd snap, but Marvin wasn't alone. Chase followed, and Jackie, and Anti found himself pressed into the couch as every Septiceye in the room came over to show Jameson just how much they'd miss him if he was gone.

Septiplier walked over, all four of his eyes glassed over and weeping, scooping the others into a huge group hug. Anti smiled, still patting Jameson's back softly, too tired to even think about standing. Halter sent him a sympathetic look.

"Ve all love you, Jameson," Schneep sniffed, smiling through his tears. "Und vords cannot describe how much ve care for you... I know zat zese thoughts did not belong to you, I know zat deep down, you know it too... und none of us are judging you,"

Jameson smiled for the first time in hours, nudging his brothers aside as he turned to face Anti. He leaned down, wrapping his arms around the glitch and lifting him up, hugging him tightly with no reprieve. Anti feebly returned the gesture, perhaps a little delayed- but then he found himself sobbing softly into Jameson's shoulder, part of him wishing that when he'd been driven to suicide, the others had cared just a little more...

But that was selfish, he knew. This was Jameson's moment- but it seemed that Jameson wanted him to speak now. He smiled wryly at Anti, patting his back softly like the glitch had done to him only minutes before- and Anti wiped his tired eyes with a sniff.

It was now or never.

"So..." Anti sighed. "Where do I begin? I... I guess I never really told any of you about why I... I killed you all that once,"

Though they'd all pretended to have moved past it, Anti could see that his actions from all those years ago were still affecting them- how could they not? Anti knew that their words, their taunts, their lack of sympathy... they still haunted him to this day as well. Really, he felt he couldn't blame them for flinching. He deserved to make them feel wary...

"Well, I had... a similar experience to JJ," Anti breathed, feeling his chest tighten as the words threatened to bottle themselves up and remain secret forever. Jameson was still there, still holding him close, signing something Anti was sure was meant to be reassuring into the curve of his spine, but... but this was different. They'd loved Jameson before he turned, and Anti... well, Anti had turned long before he even met his brothers, if he was honest...

"I heard voices too- but mine had always been there. I just thought they were... I don't know, something everyone had. Dark had voices too, and so did Wilford, so I... I ignored them. They didn't really even bother me until Author... showed up. I got jealous, and... and they started to tell me that I didn't matter. That Dark would grow bored of me and leave me, and I just... I hated to hear things like that."

Anti took a shuddering breath, feeling Jameson wiping some of his tears away with his handkerchief. "Dark was my friend- the closest friend I had, and every time there was a new ego, it... it all got worse... I felt like I wasn't good enough for his attention. And after a while, when he started getting busier with the other Ipliers, I..."

Anti swallowed, the silence starting to ring in his ears- didn't they have anything to say? They always seemed to have something to say- whether it was disregarding his feelings, or telling him not to worry so much... "I started cutting... but it wasn't a punishment thing, not at first. It was how I coped- it made the voices go away, and it felt nice, and I got a kick out of it... I never told Dark about it. I felt too... ashamed. And freakish..."

Schneep was nodding along sadly, but everyone else- even Jameson, seemed a little shocked. Anti guessed they'd never heard of knife play before, never heard of masochism... or, perhaps they'd never thought that Anti's obsession with knives ran a little deeper than it seemed to.

"But then Jackie arrived, and... fuck, man, you were everything I wished I could be. I wanted to love myself, and I wanted to be confident, but... but I couldn't compare to someone like you. I had this weird, irrational fear that you'd take Dark away from me, and I... I ran away. I was itching for the feeling of the knife, and that's when I realised that it was an unhealthy habit but it was too damn late to break it now. Then the rest of you came along- Marv, and Schneep, and I... I felt threatened. I felt like there was no point in living anymore. I... I tried to kill myself, but I only ended up possessing Jack,"

Anti forced himself to take shallow breaths, knowing that he was speaking too fast- but they were hanging on every word. There was another hand on his shoulder now- one that Anti recognised as Chase's, and Jameson was still there, rubbing circles into Anti's side. This wasn't going as terribly as he'd thought, but... but he hadn't even gotten around to the recent drama just yet.

"You weren't trying to kill Jack?" Jackie uttered, sounding just a little ashamed. "It was... it was you trying to... hurt yourself?"

Anti nodded, not trusting himself to speak. Jackie remained wordless, seeming to mull it over, while Marvin reached out to touch Anti's unoccupied shoulder.

"I'm sorry, Anti, I... I didn't even think that you were suffering," Marvin sniffed, wiping away the tears from his already red face. "I just thought... that you'd decided to kill him, just to make a name for yourself, and..."

"It's... it's okay, Marv," Anti sighed, smiling as reassuringly as he could manage. "I... I was young, and dumb... I didn't try to get to know any of you because of my own insecurities, so... so I understand why you thought I was a nutcase..."

Marvin laughed a little between his tears, giving Anti a quick hug. Anti wasted no time in hugging him back.

"All I could do was cry..." Anti sniffed into Marvin's shoulder, breathing in the new scent of the magician's cologne that he'd never really been close enough to appreciate before. "And the voices... they took over. Said some shit about how his body was weak, but I couldn't help but feel like they were talking about me... When I came back, I was angry. At myself, mostly, but then... the voices started pinning the blame on you guys. Saying you should have been there, saying that Dark should have come to save my pathetic ass, and... and when Dark finally did come around, I snapped,"

The other egos were silent.

"I cut him out of my life, and then the rest is history," Anti sighed. "I ended up in fights, with Dark and with you guys, and it was exhausting... I never wanted to fight. But I felt like I had no other choice at the time... even when Dark let me live here again, they were still in my head- still telling me I was useless, that I couldn't compare to any of you, and... and Dark just seemed to brush me off. Like he knew what was best for me, but... but I felt miserable,"

Anti shuddered, letting Marvin pull away from him as he looked around again at the faces of his family. They looked... well, they mainly looked sorry, but Anti could see regret in the eyes of his eldest siblings. He sniffed, wiping his face and taking another sip of water, licking his dry lips. 

"I didn't know what I was doing, and... and I felt like you guys were all talking about me behind my back, and it was nothing like I'd hoped it would be. I still loved him, but... but I loved the part of him that he was hiding away. I snapped again. I... I cut again..."

Jameson laced their fingers together, pressing himself firmly into Anti's side as if trying to say that nobody could separate them now. Anti appreciated the gesture, but... with what was coming up, perhaps it wasn't really appropriate for them to be standing so close.

"When I finally came back after our fight, I..." Anti shivered, still unsure of how they'd take it when he finally told them he was the one who slept with Jameson, the one who had caused their brother so much grief... "I found out that he was having a baby in the Groundlands, and... and when I possessed Jack to see him I heard that the baby wasn't even mine..."

Gasps sounded around the room, and Anti quickly shook his head. This didn't need to be misconstrued any further than what it was going to be in a few moments regardless.

"No, no- I've figured out that it's mine now," Anti corrected quickly, watching as everyone let out a breath of relief. "But at the time... well, I'd just heard from Wilford that he and Dark used to fuck around, and I was already upset. Schneep came in and tried to help me calm down, and I..."

Jameson squeezed his hand firmly. This was it. This was it... how would they react to the news? Anti almost didn't want to tell them, didn't want to let his flaws be known, but... but what example would that set for Jameson? He'd been so brave earlier, facing his fears and speaking his mind, and... and Anti could do it too. He had to.

"I... I tried to go for a walk," Anti swallowed, speaking after a long pause. "But I was out of my mind with my own self pity... I... I cheated on him, with someone I really shouldn't have, and... and we've only just sorted things out between us."

The words didn't need to be said, it seemed. Already, eyes were flickering between he and Jameson, catching on to what had really been happening these past few days. But they didn't judge. They looked... well, they looked disappointed, but mostly pitiful, perhaps even... understanding? Maybe that was too much to hope for. Robbie had already known- but he stood and wrapped his arms around Anti anyway, smiling when the glitch hugged him back, and... and Anti realised that it was okay. It was going to be okay...

"I spoke to Dark about it, and we've agreed to leave it in the past," Anti breathed, his exhilaration at his acceptance making his already tired brain feel light. "We're happier than ever now, and... and all it took was a little honesty. Neither of us were perfect- we've both done shitty things, but... but because we looked back and faced them, and we're truly sorry, we're both... we're both working through it just fine. I love him, and I've finally realised and accepted that... that he loves me just as much,"

Anti smiled at the rest of them, and watching their faces morph into reassuring smiles in return brought a surge of warmth to his heart.

"When's the baby due?" Marvin asked kindly, more kindly than ever- and Anti turned to give him a happy chuckle.

"We don't know, but... but Dark's pretty huge. It's only a matter of time,"

"What's her name?" Jackie asked, speaking for the first time in several minutes.

Anti smiled as he remembered the memory Dark had showed him- having seen Dark's mother for the first time. It was... an odd thought, but it filled Anti with happiness. Despite how dismissive she'd been of Celine's abilities, despite how strict she'd seemed- Dark had loved her. And Anti was certain he'd have loved her too.

"Desiree," Anti decided, "Desiree Celine... after her mum and her grandma..."

Nobody questioned Anti's choice of phrasing- perhaps, they'd all cottoned on to who Wilford was really talking about when he spoke of Damien and Celine. Maybe, the doctors had pieced it together when Dark had fallen pregnant- maybe, they simply thought he'd lost it.

Anti didn't care. He liked the name Desiree Celine, liked the way it sounded in his head, wanted to call it out and wait for a precious baby girl to come running up to him so he could spin her around in his arms. She... she was his everything. His family, as strange and expansive as it was- they were his everything.

He burst into tears again, but they weren't tears of sadness. Chase was holding his shoulder, Jameson was touching his waist, and the rest of his brothers were all standing here, finally understanding him in a way he'd never thought he'd understand himself.

It was all looking up, for everyone this time...

Chapter Text

~Groundlands~

Dr. Iplier sighed as he adjusted his coat, watching Robbie as he led Anti away from the house. Now that the glitch was back, he'd finally been able to let go of his hold on the place- he'd never understood how Anti and Dark could do it so easily. His back was aching, his head pounding, every muscle in his body urging him to lie down and let death embrace him- but he was stronger than that. He wasn't going to let exhaustion get the better of him now.

Now that Anti was back again, he could leave and figure out what exactly had happened to Dark- he'd been worried for several reasons when Amy had told him that Dark had an accident- what kind of accident? Was the baby okay? As Dark's doctor, he had a right to be concerned. And with Dark's history, he felt that everyone should be treading a lot more carefully around the entire matter of the baby... it seemed that they'd forgotten that Dark had cancer. That his body was over a