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The Shattered Mirror

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Another night filled with nightmares.

The Swede stirred, rolling onto his side with a faint groan.

Blood in the house-

His head tossed a bit and he let out a small groan.

Blood in their room-

He tossed again, causing the mattress to bounce just slightly. This certainly wasn’t the first night, and had he been more conscious he would’ve felt a bit bad about disturbing all who shared the bed with him. But he remained asleep-for the time being at least-as the sheets started to get all twisted up between his legs.

Everyone dead. His friends dead, Marzia dead, even the freaking pugs-

His heart was racing, going a million miles a second as his breath quickened.

And green eyes staring right out at him, pearly whites grinning widely-

He could still hear it: those final words of the watcher, still echoing through his head.

“Do you realize what you’ve done?!”

That was enough.

The man immediately sat up in his seat, trying to catch his breath, feeling his heart still pounding, his body covered in a cold sweat. Next to him he sensed Marzia stir and gently put a hand on her sleeping figure in reassurance he didn’t actually feel. He looked to the foot of the bed to check on the pugs-

And froze.

They weren’t even looking at him, not even after his sudden awakening. No, they were staring at something on the other side of the bedroom. His eyes trailed up to follow their gaze; he felt himself freeze up to see eyes staring back out at him like something straight out of his nightmare.

But these eyes weren’t green, not entirely.

Rather, they were blue that had flecks of green in them, as if a cracked window with a bright green light shining in behind it.

The figure was still familiar, he knew this person-so much so that he instinctively almost grabbed something from the bedside table to throw at him in an almost playful, annoyed manner.

But instinct told him otherwise: rather, he found himself unable to move, frozen. Frozen up with words for once caught in his throat. His eyes flickered back down to Marzia, still asleep, oh god did he need to get her out of here? He had to say something, right? If he could at least be a distraction, maybe? Or something? If he could just get her out of here somehow-

So finally he drew in a few deep breaths, licked dry lips in an effort to recover at least some small ounce of bravado…and spoke.

Not loudly, not yet. He was still trying to figure out if waking up Marzia would be the better or worse idea. But he suspected he’d find out in a minute.

“Ethan?” he demanded softly. “What the fuck are you doing here, standing over us like a fucking creeper? You disappear for how long , get everyone fucking worried and then you decide just spur of the moment to pop in while we’re all trying to get some sleep for the night? Have you lost your goddamn…your goddamn…”

His words were starting to die on his lips. Honestly he was almost surprised he’d managed to keep the word train going for this long, even if it was starting to dissolve into mere rambles. He swallowed hard, scooting back just a little bit as the pugs stood up with faint growls, as Ethan took a slow step forward, just a little bit closer to the bed. He felt exposed-so ridiculously exposed. No weapon…no Flamey, not even a damn shirt. And even worse, Marzia asleep so peacefully right next to him. This was seriously like something straight out of a nightmare.

“You know…” Ethan said softly, a startling quiet to what was typically known as a ‘loud blue boy’. And there was something just off about his voice, like it wasn’t quite…it didn’t quite sound the way it was supposed to? Like, for some reason, it didn’t sound fully… American. There was the faintest touch of an accent, like something he’d heard here in the British Isles before, like something he might would hear from Jack.

So…Irish?

“When I chose to bind myself to the house, I knew the risks. Even in my original lifetime, I’d stared into the bright abyss, watched a building get swallowed up by flames. I heard the creak above as the roof started to cave in; I heard the screams of everyone inside as their very flesh melted.” ‘Ethan’ (definitely not Ethan!) took a few more steps forward, staring intently at Felix, the green only seeming to shine through the cracks in the color of his eyes even more. His expression was cold, but only as cold as an near-dead ember could be grey while a seething angry glow peered out from underneath. “I promised myself that it was a thing I would never allow to happen ever again. Not to me…not to my family…not to my home.”

Felix found himself pressed against the headboard even more now, hearing the pugs growling louder. Oh god oh god oh god-this wasn’t Ethan. This definitely wasn’t Ethan, this was someone else-

He stared deep into those blue-green eyes that refused to even so much as blink. He had already long-since processed who this was, but it was only at about that moment that his mind even began to accept it, to admit who truly stood before him.

It wasn’t Ethan.

Ethan in body, maybe, but it was never truly Ethan. It wasn’t.

No, this was definitely the monster of his nightmares.

The one who continued to keep him up at night, even though they were now all out of the mansion. Even though now they were all safe-or at least, what they believed was safe up until recently.

“Anti,” he whispered, his fingers curling tighter around the fabric of the sheets.

Okay, yeah, now he definitely had to wake up Marzia. He had to get her out of here somehow, preferably covertly but he didn’t even see any sort of way such a thing could even really be possible? But he knew, he just knew that the green-eyed demon would have no qualms about taking everything he loved and cared about, everything and everyone he held dear to brutally butcher them. Especially after the thing he did, and he knew-they both knew-what that thing was.

So oh god, now what was he gonna do?

Oh god, he actually kind of anticipated this. He knew this was coming, somewhere in the back of his mind he knew from the second he set that that flame, tossed that bottle through the building’s open door and watched it slowly consume the wretched structure completely. He realized right from the very beginning that what he was doing included taking a serious risk. It was a risk he felt necessary enough to go through with but still he never really expected consequences to actually happen beyond maybe arrest for arson.

So what the hell was he gonna do?

Well…maybe there was actually something to the way the movies did it.

Maybe he could somehow get this guy to start monologuing.

This was perhaps the stupidest solution he could’ve possibly come up with but what the hell ever, he didn’t fucking care, so long as it actually worked-

“You’re Anti.”

‘Ethan’ tilted his head, eyebrows raising. “Of sorts,” he replied. “A part of him anyway.”

“What do you mean ‘a part’?” Felix demanded. He shook his head. “I thought we killed you. Back in the mansion-back when we fixed up Jack-”

“Oh, you fixed him, that much is true. Or you might’ve just...broke him further.” ‘Ethan’ shook his head and shrugged. “It really depends on your definition.”

“He’s awake. He’s got his memories back, mostly. You’re not messing with him anymore. Seems the only person you’ve broken at this point is yourself. And maybe possibly Ethan?” Felix paused and frowned, suddenly realizing just how little sense that made. After all, Ethan wasn’t even there when they defeated Anti. And he never actually did an outright possession, not traditionally anyway. So how even the hell-?

“Oh, you might think that,” ‘Ethan’ replied, narrowing his eyes. “But I would honestly expect no less comprehension from someone as completely clueless to magic as you are. As all of you are.”

“Oh yeah?” Felix asked, summoning up as much confidence as possible to snark off at him-even if it was fake. As he did, his hand slowly and blindly crept across the short space between himself and Marzia, touching her shoulder lightly before giving it the tiniest shake, hoping to get her attention as silently and gracefully as he could manage under such circumstances. “We seemed to know just enough to fuck you up pretty bad, in that case.”

“Only as much as those dearest to you will be fucked with,” ‘Ethan’ replied with a tight smile. He moved to step in closer, now almost at the bedside and tsked. “Really though, so many things you’ve been involved in to get on my shit list. Helping Jack, forcing me into my current state, escaping the mansion…” He moved in another step, pale skin borderline illuminated in the shadows as his hands seemed to glow with blue and green lines. Felix tensed, staring at the hands-the green was definitely a new thing, and based on what little he’d seen thus far, it meant he was likely about to start slinging around spells.

He felt himself freezing up again, he couldn’t move, he could only hope to god that Marzia moved-

Oh god, Marzia-

Please be awake, please be awake, please be awake-

He suddenly felt a tightness around his throat, felt his head slam against the headboard as he tried to suck in a breath of air in his shock-found he couldn’t, couldn’t breathe, no air, holy shit-

‘Ethan’ stared down coldly at him, tightening his grip further on his throat. “ Burning down MY MANSION-!

A streak of pale across the sheets-Felix suddenly heard a yelp, felt the fingers release and gasped for breath as ‘Ethan’ staggered back while clutching his arm. The Swede gasped for breath, trying to regain his bearings as Marzia sat up, staring at the scene wide-eyed, mouth hanging slightly open in shock. Maya stood at the edge of the bed between the two, stance protective and growling at ‘Ethan’ as Edgar quickly got up to join her.

“Felix-?” Marzia began. Her eyes flickered over to the wizard who swiftly looked up from his arm to glare at them. “Ethan-?”

Just a split second.

It was an extremely tiny distraction, but it was going to have to do.

They had to make it count for all it was worth-

RUN!” Felix exclaimed, moving to give her a small push out of the bed before leaping out of the bed himself, making sure to grab a pug under each arm. Marzia’s bare feet hit the floor, the two rushing toward the bedroom door.

Conpesco-

Blue and green magic shot forth ahead of them, like grasping hands made out of wisps of smoke that slammed the door in front of their faces. The two skid to a stop, twisting around to see ‘Ethan’ holding his palm out towards them.

So you like fire? ” ‘Ethan’ asked, moving to take a couple steps towards them. Felix’s eyes widened, quickly setting down the pugs to turn back to the door and grasp the handle, struggling to twist it open. “After all you have given me, perhaps I owe you more than enough warmth in kind.”

The light in his hand was getting brighter again, evidence of a new spell starting to be charged.

“Felix-!”

“I know-!”

Felix glanced back over his shoulder, noticing a warm light start to surround the wizard’s palm. He cursed several times, a mix of English and Swedish as he struggled.

Oh god.

Oh god this wasn’t good.

They were about to get burned alive and now Marzia had gotten dragged into all of this oh god-

“Incend-”

A flash to his left: he looked back to see Marzia quickly move forward, several paces closer to the bed again, quickly ripping off the blanket and flinging it at ‘Ethan’. The fabric flew over the man’s head, obscuring all but his fiery glow from view.

“Marzia-!” Felix began.

“Felix, hurry, hurry-!” Marzia pleaded.

The distraction of the blanket seemed to be just enough to break whatever focus the magic might’ve had on the door, because the knob suddenly twisted, the Swede staggering back as the door flung open. “Go, go, go-!” Felix shouted, scooping up Edgar as Marzia grabbed Maya and rushed on ahead out the door. He quickly made sure to shut the door behind them once they were out, hurrying as fast as they could through the house to make it to the front door. It was still dark overall within their home, but they navigated it without much difficulty, hurrying through the place in their racing panic, eager to make it home free and away from the supernatural nutjob that pursued them. The couple felt a blast of heat from the direction of their room, ignored it, kept running.

They reached the front door, Felix scooping up the keys on their way out as Marzia quickly unlocked the door and yanked it open. They felt another wave of heat and Marzia immediately reached out, snatching Felix’s arm and yanking him closer to her-and just in the nick of time, too. A shot of fire blew right past, singing the hairs on Felix’s arm, striking the wall and coating it in flame. Felix shouted a couple curses in Swedish-Marzia was already shoving him out the door.

“Andare, andare, andare!” she ordered, having already slipped into Italian in her panic. She quickly moved to follow, starting to slip out the door after Felix.

“Conpesco!”

Marzia let out a shriek of pain as the door suddenly slammed on her body, trapping her halfway out the door. She struggled, pushing with her free hand as she attempted to force the door open just enough to give herself some wiggle room, feeling it pressing into her hard, into her very bones. It was crushing, she was struggling to breathe, tears stung her eyes. Felix quickly spun on his heel, eyes bulging in panic.

“Marzia-!” he shouted.

“Maya! Take- Felix, take Maya!” she shouted, head twisted around just enough to see the possessed wizard slowly approach through the spreading flame of the room but feeling the squirming pug in the arm outside the front door. “Felix!”

Felix quickly reached out to take Maya from her, quickly setting her down next to Edgar so she’d have use of both hands. He then moved to try and ram the door open, throwing all of his weight against it in a desperate bid to get her out of the house. “C’mon, Marzia...c’mon-!”

Marzia struggled against the door, desperate, flinching as hot embers floated towards her face. It only made the struggle to breathe even worse, that and the smoke all threatening to choke her. But then she saw movement to her left, a full-bodied figure with blue-green eyes borderline glowing through the shadows, only further illuminated by the orange-yellow glow until the flames were completely blocked out.

“Poor...poor Marzia,” the wizard murmured softly, noticing the terror flashing in her eyes. “You were never the one I was after, not really. My target was the coward on the other side of the door.”

Marzia gave another futile push against the wall, hearing Felix’s angry and frantic shouts behind her and the pugs barking. Her desperation shined in her eyes, weighed heavy on her tone. “Please…” she whispered, squirming as much as she could to try and get as far from the madman as possible.

“I was going to kill him. And perhaps still burn your house down, yes, but you were never really my target. Not specifically anyway.”

The man wrenched her hand away from the wall to take it, clasping his with tightly hers as he stared into her eyes, tilting his head slightly. “But I see now…”

Marzia stood frozen in panic, unable to pull her eyes away from his, unable to stop looking at the lights that trailed up the man’s arm.

“Such a missed opportunity to end it so simply. He would never suffer as I have suffered…”

He gave her hand a squeeze.

“Recently…”

The light snaked up through his fingertips-and with horror, Marzia noticed it starting to creep up into her own fingertips as well.

“Long ago…”

The lines of magic continued to creep up through her hand, through her wrist, up along her forearm. It was almost pretty. Almost.

“I know from my own experiences that such a death in body is not so much suffering as it is a mere release.

Marzia sucked whatever breaths she could, starting to feel somewhat lightheaded. She had no real leverage to push up against the door anymore, not really anyway. Her foot, her leg...but she couldn’t get so much as a good angle on it, not enough to escape anyway.

“Doing harm to those around the offender, however, is more of a wound to both heart and soul. Especially when said harm is continuous. Especially when he has to watch.”

The fingers tightened a bit more, almost painfully, as he added, “And I’m afraid that you, dear Marzia, are ground zero.”

“No-!”

“The fire of his heart…”

The lines in her arm began to match that of the light on the wall behind the wizard.

“A literal flame that shall burn brighter and brighter…”

Orange and gold and red…

“Into a beacon as the moon rises on Walpurgis…”

A sudden searing heat shot through the woman’s arm, eliciting a loud, terrified shriek of surprise and pain.

“And the clock strikes midnight...”

And then suddenly the pain was gone.

Almost.

Almost, because it’d all condensed into a single spot in the center of her palm, glowing like a tiny inferno with a burning sensation that radiated outward.

“Only to fall into a pile of ashes by the next rising morn.”

The wizard gave her hand a final squeeze before releasing, listening to the Italian’s whimpers. He took a generous step back and gave a flick of his wrist; Marzia could suddenly feel the door go slack and she sucked in a sharp breath, coughing several times in the aftermath. She staggered away from the door, back into Felix’s arms as she clutched her hand. Her eyes flickered up only once to see the figure of the wizard through the crack in the door, caught a glimpse of Felix’s phone in his hand, the almost-sympathetic smile on his face as he gave them a small wave.

“Ciao.”

And with a turn, suddenly the wizard was gone.

“Marzia-?” Felix began, to which Marzia backed further into his arms, whimpering as she grasped her hand tightly.

“It hurts...it hurts…” she whimpered.

Felix reached out to try and take a look, hesitated as he took in the house that now glowed from the inside like an ember, then looked back down at her. “Can you walk?” he asked softly. “Marzia-c’mon, it’s not safe here-”

He moved to gently take her arm and lead her away from the scene, nerves already at their peak, eyes glancing around as they hurried to the car.

“Our home-” Marzia whimpered, watching as she carefully got into the car.

“I know, I know. We’ll figure it out later, c’mon.”

The two helped the pugs into the car and then followed, sparing no time as they slammed the doors shut behind them. The car pulled out, hitting the road in almost zero time.

Trying to leave behind a house of flames for the second time.

Trying to leave behind what they once thought safe and secure.

And off into the shadows, out into the great unknown.

Chapter Text

Through the kitchen door. Through the backyard, through the garden-

Jack’s eyes widened when he suddenly saw Anti appear in front of him, quickly sidestepping in an instinctual attempt not to run into him-or through him, anyway. The second he did he saw a blast of something bright and blue and green fly through the entity’s form, causing his form to waver and rupture for a split second like a glitch. Anti hissed, glaring at the spellslinger before his eyes darted over to look at the Irishman, who had skid to a stop to look over with instinctive borderline concern. Green eyes immediately glared back at him.

“What are you doing?!” Anti shrieked, a splitting pain suddenly shooting through Jack’s skull. “Keep running before I do it for the both of us!” The host let out a small sound of pain, which was followed by the merciless added shriek, NOW!

“Fragment giving you a bit of trouble, Jack?” the wizard questioned, walking calmly forward, irises littered with fragments of green. There were blue-green lines tracing up his hands, into his arms like veins that gave off a faint glow. It was definitely Ethan in body-but it didn’t really sound that much like him. His usual voice was laced with something of an accent: if Jack had to hazard a guess, he’d almost swear it was that of a Dub. “Why don’t I help you out and take that off your hands?”

Jack wanted to back away, but he stood frozen, struggling to comprehend just what the hell had happened to his friend. “You…” he muttered, but then he raised his voice to demand, “What the hell did you do to Ethan-?!”

“He’s still right here, inside. But this is my time to play.” The wizard took another step forward. “You can call me Blank. I’m here to collect Anti.”

Jack took a step back in response, shaking his head. “Something tells me that’s not going to fuckin’ end well for me.”

“Oh, I’m sure he’s already explained the situation to you by now,” Blank replied, a small smile creeping across his face. It wasn’t a friendly one. “I can see that he’s finally managed to claw himself out of that lovely little grave your friends buried him in, anyway. And quite recently, from the looks of it-”

“Shut it-” Anti hissed, eyes narrowing at the wizard.

Blank took another step forward, still smiling that unnerving, unconvincing little smile as he extended a hand outward. “But how much can you really trust from Anti, right? Last time you did, you almost lost who you were entirely...you were almost turned into a monster with all of your friends dead-”

Jack’s eyes widened a bit, but then squeezed shut for a moment as the images flashed across his mind’s eye all over again, only bringing about yet another surge of running pain. No, he...he didn’t fully remember that; as disturbing as the flashes were, they all bordered on nonsensical, a mixed jumble of voices and screams and blood and pain and-

He grunted, struggling to shove the thoughts out of his head.

For fuck’s-” Anti hissed, accompanied by a pain that rocketed through Jack’s head so sharply it actually did make him cry out. “Goddammit-!”

“Tsk, tsk, Anti, you really shouldn’t try forcing such control,” Blank tutted, taking another couple steps closer to the doubled-over man. “You may be the core, but considering the circumstances and just how much they buried you makes the balance between the two of you all the more precarious.”

“Move, you moron-!”

Jack noticed sneakers come to a stop just before his eyes, realizing the man was now standing over him. He tried to stagger back but his vision was blurring, the world was on tilt as he felt his entire self out of balance.

“Now, now, don’t try to fight it. Don’t try to run away. This will only take a second-”

He couldn’t stop the hand that reached out to grab his arm and hoist him up. As he looked up at the wizard, he could see spots burning their way through his vision, like fire scorching through old film. He reached out, tried to shove himself away or at the very least squirm out of his grip, but the attempt was feeble.

His eyes caught the shining flash of metal in his peripheral, eyes widening, body instinctively tensing and freezing up in a terrified attempt at bracing himself. A useless effort, he was gonna die here, he could still hear Anti shouting at him in urgent desperation and rage-

He suddenly felt the hand release his arm, saw the entity stagger as he himself toppled and tumbled in the grass, feeling another wave of pain shooting through him but with a suddenness it seemed to ebb away-at least from his head. He suspected Anti was just as surprised and caught off guard as he was as whatever attempted hold he had over him released immediately.

It took a moment for his mind to even begin to sort out which way was up as it attempted to at least somewhat right itself. As he sat up, he caught a mop of dark hair, a figure that stood directly between himself and Blank with back towards him. His brain was struggling to put together the pieces, to get itself back into focus, and it took way longer than he would’ve cared to admit that he actually recognized the figure-

Just around the other man he could see Blank struggling to his feet as well, glaring daggers at the interloper.

“You-” the wizard growled, eyes filled with almost as much unwanted surprise as there was anger.

“Time to go,” the newcomer immediately said, swiftly turning on his heel and walking over to Jack. The Irishman felt a hand seize his arm again, dragging him up into a somewhat standing position and forcing him backwards as the newcomer’s eyes swept the area. Whatever he was searching for, he clearly seemed to find it as they hurried to a nearby corner of the yard-

Was it just him or could he see little wisps of red circling a small spot, a thin trail of it leading to the sheen of red that wrapped around the house?

But he couldn’t focus on that, not really, anyway. Not for very long.

Because everything seemed to distort around them in an instant, warping, swirling and bending nonsensically. He looked up at the other figure with wide eyes-it was the only thing in this topsy-turvy hell that didn’t seem to be distorting-

...Too much.

But even in that much, he could still see trails of movement, afterimages left in the other man’s wake, mostly in reds and bluish-greens while the figure himself seemed almost washed out like something straight out of a black and white movie. He tried to pull himself from the man’s grip-it only seemed to tighten ever-further in response like a vice. Just as he started to feel sick, everything suddenly skewed and curved sharply, like putty being stretched and wound around a pencil before it suddenly all snapped back into solidity, everything coming into a far more clear and focused reality-

But it was most certainly not the reality they just left.

This didn’t look like his backyard.

This didn’t look familiar in any sort of way, shape or form, this was a fucking field-

...Where the fuck were they?

Jack looked around, eyes sweeping the surrounding area for a moment in stunned silence before he finally looked over at his-rescuer? Killer? At this point god only knew who he could actually trust-

“What even the actual fuck-?!” Jack exclaimed before whirling around to face the other. “MARK, what the FUCK is going on, how the HELL did you do that, where the FUCK are we-?!”

But his words suddenly fell silent, staring at the expression on the man’s face as his words all seemed to falter. It wasn’t just the expression, it wasn’t just-

It was his aura.

It was his eyes.

Mark’s eyes were narrowed as he surveyed the area for a long moment before finally his expression became one of disgust. “Dammit,” he hissed. “ Of all the places-”

Jack continued to stare for a long moment, uncertain of how to even begin approaching the situation. He could only assume that it was yet another fragment of weirdness controlling Mark at the moment, which was...not definitely good.

But he also wasn’t sure if this particular entity was capable of magic beyond what he just saw, nor how much control he potentially had over it. Considering how Blank was, after all…

But he just saved his ass for some reason?

For what purpose?

To get him away from Blank, to take away his kill before he could do it himself? To actually rescue him? If what Anti mentioned was of any indication, that each fragment was trying to kill each other to regain and assume control over the other pieces, the latter explanation was highly fucking unlikely.

He searched his own mind for a moment, reaching deep within in an attempt to seek out Anti but found it oddly silent-although a residual echoing pain still panged throughout his skull. He could swear he saw Anti in the corner of his eye, bent over, borderline collapsed, but he couldn’t get an actual good view of him as the image always seemed to slip just out of sight every time he tried to look directly on.

Yeah, no, something told him that Anti wasn’t really going to be of much help here.

He watched Mark for a second longer before starting to back away from the man-but the other suddenly turned to face him, eyes gleaming with scattered fractals of color across the irises. His breath caught, he struggled for words-but Mark-or whatever the name of the entity possessing him was -merely narrowed his eyes and turned away. “We need to go,” he abruptly stated. “It’s not going to take long for Blank to pinpoint where we ended up and this is still not a good place for us to be.”

“W...what-?” Jack asked, but Mark didn’t seem to say much else as he started to walk off. Jack frowned. “Hold on a second-” he began. He looked around the surrounding area: it looked relatively tame, to be honest. A open field surrounded by what almost looked like well-trimmed hedges, a few houses bordering the field and a football goal nearby. There were standing stones behind him, although none too fancy. It was just three large stones-bigger than he was-leaned against each other in a square pattern so a person could easily step into the center-

He felt a sudden pang in his gut as he stared at it, his eyes locked on the structure for longer than he could even explain, just-

For a split second, he almost expected to see a few very small people huddled in that crevice. What even, why? Where the hell did that come from?

He rubbed the palm of one of his hands, a faint, echoing pain seared across it, first thin but then a dull ache along the entire hand; he glanced down but saw nothing. So instead he swallowed nervously, contemplating his options.

Run or…

Or stick around-?

If he ran, would it really even make that much of a difference?

Either way, that thing had Mark in its clutches now. God only knew what had happened to Ethan...he couldn’t just let it happen to Mark too.

Granted, he didn’t even know where to start when it came to figuring out a solution to all that without killing him, but-

“Are you coming or what?”

The voice snapped him out of his thoughts, drawing his attention to the man who had stopped to look back at him again.

“I didn’t just stick my neck out for you so that you could once again fall into Blank’s hands. Let’s. Go.”

Well.

It wasn’t like he even had so much as a clue to where they were right now, was it? And...follow or not, he got the feeling he was probably in far more danger if he didn’t go along with this guy. So…

As Mark started heading out of the field and towards the street, he trudged along not far behind, quickening his pace somewhat in an attempt to keep up. The more distance he put between himself and those standing stones, the more the pain in his hand seemed to ebb away, almost as quickly as it was even there to begin with.

“What do I call you?”

Mark seemed to hesitate for a moment, glancing back at him. “What?”

“The guy with me is going on ahead and calling himself Anti, apparently. And then whatever’s possessing Ethan is going by Blank-” Jack made a face, peering at the other. “I just-I need something to distinguish you from Mark. Because you’re definitely not Mark. Are you?”

The other stared him in the eyes for a long moment before breaking his gaze, moving to head along again. “Dark,” he replied simply. “Go with Dark.”

“Oh, so we’re pretty much all going with alter ego names from Youtube at this point,” Jack replied dryly. He shook his head. “Of fucking course. Because making this whole situation read like a fanfiction would absolutely be appropriate-”

Within the blink of an eye, Dark seemed to close the gap between them, swiftly grabbing him by the collar and gripping it tightly. “Does all of this seem like a joke to you-?” he hissed. “We-” But his words were cut short as his grip suddenly seemed to loosen and his entire figure just straight-up wobbled. “We need-”

“Mark?” Jack made a face and shook his head, hands moving to the other man's shoulders in some attempt to help keep him from full-on collapsing. “Dark?  What’s going on, what’s wrong?”

“Shit-”

Jack’s eyes widened slightly and he looked around, not sure what to do, not sure where he could even go for help except for one of the houses nearby. “Dark!”

But when the man looked up at him, his eyes were softer now, more confused and disoriented. “Jack-sorry, hang on-”

Jack stared, trying to get an actual bearing on the situation. “ Mark?

“Y...yeah, hang on…”

Jack waited somewhat awkwardly, letting the other stabilize for just a moment before Mark finally straightened a little bit, shaking his head. “Okay. Okay, I think I’m...holy shit-okay-”

“Mark, what the fuck-”

“I think the relocation weakened him. A lot.”

Jack stared for a long moment before finally releasing him and shaking his head. “You-what- where-?”

Mark rubbed his face in his hands for a moment, still trying to gather his bearings, then looked around. “It’s...there’s a lot to explain, I’m still struggling to kinda...comprehend it all. We can do so later, just-” A frown settled over his features. “When and where are we?”

Jack stared at him for a second with his mouth agape. Finally he burst out, “What do you mean, when-?!”

“Look, I was kinda backseat during a lot of Dark taking the wheel and besides that, his jumping around like he just did is really...weird...” Mark shook his head. “And disorienting. From the looks of it, most of the fragments are able to do or use at least one thing that's not exactly...normal, I guess. Dark’s thing is apparently...surfing invisible channels? I’m not completely sure-”

Jack turned, muttering to himself on the insanity of the whole situation. After taking a few steps away from the other as he ran his hands back through his hair, he then spun on his heel again to face him again. “Well did he even say where he brought us?”

Mark shrugged and shook his head, eyes and expression genuinely bewildered. He looked about as confused as Jack felt. “I don’t know! All I managed to make out from him was one word when we arrived here.”

Jack frowned, eyeing him. His tone took on a more even note of seriousness, the pitch from his panic and confusion fading. “And what's that?”

“‘Home.’”

Chapter Text

Okay.

Okay, home.

For the moment, that didn’t actually tell them very much, now did it?

Jack looked around, taking stock of their surroundings. A second take, it wasn’t just what looked like a neighborhood off on the other side of the field. On another side, a sort of large building across a street-he couldn’t quite tell what it was though. On another side, just up the steep rise? A couple roads, cars absolutely flying along one of them. Not too big, not for the moment at least, but it was something.

Alright, so that was something, at least.

They weren’t in the middle of nowhere, and he honestly felt justified enough in such a concern. No, there were people here, there was traffic, there were means of communication. They weren’t just out in the middle of the wilderness or anything.

Good. Now to just figure out where even the fuck they are .

He sucked in a deep breath, then let it out in a tense sigh, fingers still tugging a bit at the hair it was entangled in. “Alright. Alright, you said- home? ” he repeated, mind racing a bit. He squinted at the area, as if that might provide some form of a clue, as if he might manage to somehow recognize something. He spun around to look back at the standing stones again, feeling that brief pang in his hand before shaking his head and turning back to Mark.

You got anything to say about this?

He tried calling out to Anti in his head, he was sure that the other could hear him-but the other was strangely silent and whether it was on purpose or just from sheer exhaustion after their most recent ordeal was unclear.

Looked like they were gonna be all on their own for the time being.

“I take it Dark isn’t being very responsive to you, either,” Jack grumbled.

Mark shook his head. “Not really, no. Like I said, he’s gone quiet: I’ve noticed that happens whenever he ends up exhausting himself.”

Jack’s eyebrows furrowed, eyeing Mark for a few long seconds. He couldn’t stop the wave of anger, of frustration and resentment and betrayal. How fucking long did Mark know about this?

How long had he been going through this?

Why the fuck didn’t anyone say anything or warn him about all of this? The fact that he might be possessed and/or hunted by some sort of fucking demon didn’t actually strike them as important enough to mention at all?

But he hated those feelings, the flood of negativity that threatened to bowl him over like a tsunami as he continued to struggle with gaining his bearings over it all. Granted, he felt damn well justified in it-if there ever was a time one should be feeling that way, after all. But the more logical part of his mind told him that freaking out over it right now would definitely get them nowhere. So he closed his eyes and took several deep breaths, using the strength of almost all his willpower to push those feelings aside-for the moment, at least. His mind was still racing, of course-but maybe all for the better? So long as he could keep that racing focus on the task of figuring out their location, at least.

His eyes finally opened, noticing Mark staring back with eyes slightly wide and full of guilt and regret, seeming on the brink of going into full explanation and perhaps a bit of defense-but instead Jack held up a hand and shook his head. “Look. We’ll talk about it later,” he replied. “I think figuring out where the hell we are right now is kind of our first priority.” He thought for a long moment before continuing, “Is there anything you can elaborate a bit on as far as Dark’s power goes? You mentioned something about surfing on invisible channels?”

Mark bit his lip, a bit surprised by Jack’s focus on the situation but then nodding. “Yeah. Uh-yeah. I actually still don’t get it-not entirely anyway. Something about ‘arcane clusters’ and ‘ley lines’?”

“Arcane clusters?” Jack frowned in contemplation, but then looked back over his shoulder again at the standing stones. The stones were more than likely a portal tomb, nothing all too magical about that-maybe? Then again… “Like standing stones.”

“That does kinda seem consistent in his launch and landing points, yeah.”

“Or...portal tombs-” At this, Jack’s frown deepened. “Wait, no, that couldn’t make sense. There isn’t a portal tomb or standing stones of any kind in my backyard-

“There was a glow though?”

Jack blinked, caught almost off guard as he stared at the American. “What?”

“There was a red glow. It extended all the way over to your house?”

“I-” Jack thought back, remembering the circle with pale wisps of red-like a heatless but energy-charged fire that phased in and out of reality, borderline blink-and-you’ll-miss-it. “Yeah. Yeah, okay. But I thought that might’ve been caused by you? Or Blank?”

“Blank’s magic was blue and green.”

“And you?”

Mark shook his head and shrugged, looking genuinely clueless. “I technically don’t have magic- Dark doesn’t have magic, either. Not really. Not beyond what the teleportation aspect.”

“O...kay-but then, where the hell would something like that have come from?”

“I-uh-don’t know.” Mark paused before adding, “You have any magical visitors lately?”

“I don’t know, have I?” Jack countered bitingly, but seeing Mark’s expression he winced and turned away.

“Look-Jack-”

“Sorry, yeah, no, we- not right now- ” Jack mumbled, finally moving back towards the standing stones but continuing on past it.

Where are you even going?”

“To find a fuckin’ road sign, Mark. I’d at least to know which goddamn country we’re in,” Jack countered, crossing the field but this time not looking back. As he continued along though, he added more quietly, “I do have a theory, but…”

There was silence as they trekked up the steep hill, finally making it to the edge where they saw the road, watching as a few cars drive past. Jack didn’t quite stop until he reached the guardrail, squinting across at the even larger road that had busier traffic and faster cars and multiple lanes. In almost no time he felt at least some fraction of relief.

Cars driving on the left side of the road. There weren’t too many places that actually did that, especially outside of the British Isles.

Thank god.

They probably weren’t too far off from home-relatively speaking, at least.

He was also starting to feel more confidence in his theory.

He waited for a long moment as the cars sped on past, feeling the wind brush by them before suddenly jumping over the guardrail without a word and darting across the street. Mark looked startled, eyebrows shooting up in surprise. “Wait-what-” He quickly scrambled to follow, jumping over the guardrail himself and jogging after him. “Hold on-Sean-!”

But Jack didn’t stop, crossing the thin line of vegetation and finally reaching the guardrail to the larger road.

“This is the motorway…” he muttered under his breath as Mark finally came to a stop at his side, needing to catch his breath from the suddenness of their quick pace. Jack didn’t give him much time to do even so much as that though, hurrying along the guardrail in the pace of a near-jog even still.

“Sean-!” Mark called, although his voice was lost amongst the rattle and roar of engines, the howl of the wind that whipped off the passing vehicles. So instead he shook his head and trudged on along, figuring he’d try again when he actually caught up to the Irishman.

Jack finally skid to a stop, staring up at the sign that extended across the road. “Motorway 50-closest...junction takes us to ah-Brehon's Chair..." He nodded to himself. "Yeah, this is around Rathfarnham area, isn't it?" He jogged a few paces further to get a look at the other side of the sign, looking back towards Mark. “Yeah-okay! Yeah, alright. That’s pretty much what I thought.”

His eyes dropped back down to ground level, looking back at Mark. “Dublin,” he announced. “We’re in Dublin.”

“Dublin?” Mark repeated, frowning as he finally came just steps away. He turned, looked up at the sign and squinted as he let his hands rest on his hips and back. “Huh. How the heck did you manage to call that?”

“When Ethan-er-Blank speaks, it’s kinda with an accent. Closest I could put it to was a Dub-” Jack shook his head. “At least this puts us close to civilization. Can’t really say that for a good chunk of the country.” He sighed, scratching his head before finally pulling out his phone. “We should try and head into the city, I think. I’m hoping we’re not that far out. So maybe if we were to call an Uber…”

Mark frowned slightly as he watched before finally letting out a sigh and leaning against the guardrail. His eyes trailed around the area, taking into account the closest signs to them. Looked like a retirement home off in the distance, signs to a college...and again, the neighborhood.

“We should probably make our way over to one of those buildings if we’re getting an Uber,” he suggested, already starting to walk as Jack punched away at his phone. “Make it a little bit easier on the driver when they come over to pick us up, you know?”

Jack gave a small shrug, partly absorbed in what he was doing, partly oddly withdrawn. “Give me the name of the place?”

“Uh-” Mark debated their location for a moment before finally deciding what would likely be easier. “St. Columba’s College?”

“That works.” Jack continued putting in the request for a lift as they walked, then paused to check something else before making a slight face and looking over at him. “We’re practically forty minutes away from the city.” Not that it wasn’t something they could afford, but under the current awkward and tense circumstances, he wasn’t entirely sure he was up for sharing a car with a stranger and...well, another stranger, it was starting to look like. “You said it was a college?”

“Yeah?”

“Let’s take the bus.”

“Sean-”

“There’s going to be one and it won’t be that much longer.” Jack shook his head, moving to pull on ahead as he focused more on the destination than his travel companion, an overwhelming number of thoughts starting to tumble through his head. “And besides, it’ll be a lot cheaper.”

Mark pursed his lips as he followed but remained quiet, no doubt in thought himself. And maybe talking to the entity he carried within his head as well?

Honestly? Who could even tell at this point?

It wasn’t until Mark saw Jack scowl at his phone and shove it into his pocket that he spoke up again.

“What’s up?”

“Hm?”

“Your phone-something wrong with it?”

“It’s-” Jack looked ready to explain, but then shook his head. “It’s nothing. Phone’s just acting up a bit, that’s all.”

Mark frowned. “‘Acting up’?” he repeated. “How so-?”

Jack shook his head almost dismissively. “I don’t know. It’s been doing so since back at the house.” He then went silent, seeming to think about something for a moment before reluctantly adding, “...Around the time the computer started to act up, actually.”

The concerned look deepened on the American’s face. He sped up his pace a little to catch up with the other, not slowing until he about reached his side. “Hold on,” he said. “Wait a minute, wait a minute, just-stop-” Another small burst of speed to bring him around until he was more or less in front of Jack, turning to face him and holding up his hands. “You’re saying your phone started acting up back at the house?”

Jack came to a stop, giving him a somewhat confused if not suspicious look. “Yeah…” he began slowly.

“And your computer started doing more or less the exact same thing at about the exact same time?”

Jack stared, brows furrowing. “I...don’t know if I’d quite say exact same , but…”

Mark shook his head, brushing it off. “Even so. When did that happen?”

“What-?” Jack gave him a look. “Earlier this morning. Actually right before Ethan showed up-” His words came to an immediate halt as he realized and he seemed to cringe. “Oh... balls …” He held up his phone, almost incredulous. “You’re saying that asshole possessing Ethan might actually be tracking us through our technology?”

Mark shook his head. “I’m just saying that seems like way too much of a coincidence and there’s a lot we don’t know-”

I don’t know.”

Mark blinked, staring back at the other. “What-?”

I don’t know, Mark. But not you, apparently.”

A look of guilt flashed through brown eyes as Mark shifted uncomfortably, looking away for a moment before looking back at him. “Look-Sean-” On one hand, he had a point. Hell, the others who had their doubts back at the hospital, the ones who were hesitant to let Jack live on a lie about what happened to him-yeah, they were right, weren’t they? This really was coming back around to bite him in the ass. On the other-

Ugh, on the other, did Jack really want to do this right here?

Jack glared back at him, blue eyes filled with betrayal and...something he really didn’t see from Jack often: anger. Actual, true anger. It wasn’t something he’d seen in the other often, not with the positivity he tried to exude as much as possible-but he’d known the Irishman long enough to know just how much he hated to dwell on such negative feelings like that.

Okay, looked like they were doing this then. On the side of a busy road in the middle of nowhere Ireland.

Sure. Alright.

So finally the American signed and shook his head, starting to head down the hill to lead them back across the less busy street and down into the field, motioning for Jack to follow. The more distance they put between themselves and the loud motorway, the more easily they’d be able to talk-he hoped.

The closer they got to the rock formation in the middle of the field, the more his hand seemed to tingle, but he did his best to ignore that for the time being.

“Believe it or not, there’s actually a lot about what’s going on right now that I don’t know about myself-”

“But you knew about Anti. Didn’t you?” Jack demanded. “You knew that this...that this thing was hiding out in my head, just like whatever it is that you’ve got hanging out in yours-”

“No, I actually didn’t,” Mark corrected, turning back to Jack with a frown. He walked backwards a few paces to face the other, but slowly came to a stop as they were now well-within the field. Seeing that the other’s eyes were studying him with disbelief, he carefully considered his next words. “I…” He looked away and shook his head in clear agitation before looking back at him again. “Well I actually didn’t up until just recently.”

How recently?”

“About halfway between the time you woke up from your coma and now.”

Jack continued to stare back at him in silence for a moment before shaking his head. “I don’t believe this…” he muttered under his breath.

“Look-there was good reason -”

“‘Good reason’?!” Jack exploded with a voice barbed with cynicism. “What ‘good reason’ could possibly justify not telling me that I might be possessed by a demon?!”

“Okay-first of all, we’re not necessarily sure that it’s a demon-”

“Does that really make that any better, Mark?!” Jack demanded. “We’ve seen what this kind of entity is willing to do when possessing Ethan! And I’m almost entirely sure that yours really isn’t all that much better! And considering the things that the one in my head has said to me-?” The Irishman shook his head incredulously again. “And based on what I’ve seen of these guys, they can full-on control you- you don’t think that kind of thing is maybe worth mentioning to me?! What if I got taken over, ended up hurting Signe somehow? Or Robin? Or literally anyone walking up to say hi to me-”

“Because we weren't about to risk losing you again!”

Jack froze at the sudden outburst, mouth partway open in words that never actually spilled forth. A long heavy silence suddenly weighed over the field, laced only with the white noise of cars rushing by in the now-distant background.

When the silence finally was broken, Jack was the one to speak. But now his words came out in a stunned, hushed quiet.

“What did you just say?”

Mark dragged a hand down his face as he turned away and walked away for a few paces, letting his hand rest for a moment over his mouth. Shit. Shit. He didn’t mean for that much to slip out. He didn’t want to have to explain what happened and certainly not like this.

If he told Jack about what happened, who knows what would happen after that?

To Jack and...really just everything?

He finally turned back around though, walking back over to Jack. “You...that house, at Halloween-”

“What?” Jack frowned. “You mean the house where I fell into a coma-the one with the chemicals-”

“It...wasn’t chemicals, Jack.” Mark shook his head. Everything on his features screamed that he didn’t want to talk about this, didn’t want to have to explain.

He didn’t have a choice.

“It wasn’t-what happened wasn’t chemicals. Or...really anything that made sense. It wasn’t...really what you would expect…”

Jack stared at Mark questioningly, a frown on his face. The American seemed to be struggling with his words, so he finally let out a huge sigh.

“It’s kind of a really long story and we’re out in the middle of a field. Just... please : I need you to trust me with this. I know I probably don’t deserve it after all that’s happened, but…” Mark held up a hand, then used it to gesture in the direction of the college. “You said it was probably about an hour’s bus ride from here to city?”

Jack eyed him guardedly. “Yeah…?”

“Tell you what: I’ll tell you everything while we’re on the bus. Okay? Everything I actually understand and know about, anyway.” He gestured at their surroundings, adding, “Because all I know is that we’re probably not all that safe here.”

Jack hesitated, staring at him for a long moment before finally letting out a sigh. He really wasn’t sure what to think at this point: but he couldn’t deny that Mark actually had a point either.

So finally he let out a small sigh, scratching the back of his neck and trying not to let his mild irritation show as he relented.

"...Alright," he agreed. "On the bus then. But...dammit Mark, I expect to know everything. Everything you can manage to explain."

"I promise, Jack. Just...if you could make one of your own-?"

"Maybe-"

"Let me know if you start feeling off at all while I tell you?"

Jack scoffed, looking away. "Oh, you mean like a demon talking to me in my head-?"

"No, no, I mean-" Mark paused. Considered. Then shrugged slightly. "Well, that. But also if anything else starts going on."

"Such as...?"

The other man winced slightly at the thought of it. "High anxiety?" he began. "PTSD-like symptoms...memory loss?"

Jack stared at him for several long moments before shaking his head. "There's a fuckin' lot of shit you're gonna be explaining, Mark."

"I know."

Jack turned, heading to a side of the field they hadn't yet strayed to yet-but were already on their way. "C'mon. Let's get to that college. The sooner we make it onto that bus, the better."

Mark frowned slightly, but then let out a small sigh and shook his head, moving to follow. "The better..." he repeated softly. "I hope..." he murmured as he walked, following after the Irishman.

Chapter Text

The wizard picked through the house, a slight sneer resting on his face as frustration oozed out from his features. Or rather-the features of the one he resided within, the one he’d taken over. As he made his way back inside, he stepped over the broken glass in the kitchen, blue-green eyes flickering about the dimly-lit interior.

So close.

He had been so close to obtaining the core.

And this was the second time-

His eyes narrowed even more, his irritation manifesting in veritable waves. As if a wind swept through the house, things were beginning to be blown off shelves, off tables. Nothing too heavy, but papers, pictures, the game cases-just the light odds and ends that laid around. But the more he dwelled on it, the more he contemplated on how much of a loss it was for the core to slip right through his fingers-and what was more, to lose two fragments altogether -

And that now Jack and Anti were communicating, they were both aware-and now that Anti was even beginning to emerge from his mental tomb -

Feeling his temper snap within him, he couldn’t resist suddenly snatching the cold, half-filled mug of coffee off the table by the sofa and flinging it against the wall. The dark liquid went everywhere, the mug shattered to pieces, leaving fragments of the letters ‘UNT’ scattered across the floor. Frigid eyes glared at the pieces for a long moment, shoes crunching a bit on the smaller ceramic fragments as they were unavoidable with each step in the area at that point-but the wizard then stopped upon hearing a presence behind him.

“So I know I’m a little bit late to the party,” a voice remarked. “But I’m pretty sure that poor cup never actually did anything to you.”

The wizard stopped and turned around to see the other man standing behind him, observing his work. He didn’t lift a hand to do anything-not yet at least. Rather he continued to stare the other man down as the the newcomer continued to observe their surroundings. A soft chuckle issued from the newcomer.

“Yeah, this looks like...quite a tantrum alright-”

“Are you here to be useful in any way, shape or form?”

The other stopped. Stared back at him for a moment before shaking his head and moving to pace the room a bit, taking more of the scene in.

“I take it grabbing the core fragment didn’t go over very well, did it?”

“I had an interruption.”

“Really?” The other turned back towards him, looking curious and intrigued. “I thought you took care of the Scandinavian band-”

“It wasn’t any of them.”

The other looked over at the wizard before realization seemed to dawn over them. “...Oh. You mean one of the others.”

“He’s going by the same plan-”

“Well, I mean, what do you expect?” the newcomer pointed out, tone as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. “The power among us is disproportionate. Not all of us can be big bad wizards, after all-of course he’d seek an ally in one of the stronger-or at least more significant.”

Blank stared back at the man. “I should just grab you from that body-”

“Ah-ah-ah-” The man wagged a finger at the wizard. “We had a deal.”

“And what purpose have you served thus far?” Blank demanded. “What were you even doing during that time?”

The other met his gaze, staring back for a moment before tearing his eyes away. “I was checking into a few things. Seeking that which we desire to find most.”

“Another fragment?”

The man shook his head, tracing his hand on the back of the sofa as he paced slowly through the room. “No. The other…” But he looked back up at Blank, seeing no real change in his features. “Jesus." The word came off with a faint puff of breath, a scoff. He looked away for a moment to shake his head again before looking back up at Blank, adding, “You really don’t even remember...do you?”

Blank stared back, eyes just as cold as ever-but this time narrowing just a fraction. “I remember everything. Everything that's important, anyway-"

“Mmm...yeah, that seems...debatable,” the other pointed out. Watching the wizard eye him, he added, “You remember the things, but not the sentiments attached to it-”

“I remember the sentiments as well.” A pause, followed by, “You need to remain focused on our first priority-”

“I am focusing on our first priority,” the newcomer shot back.

“Things have changed-”

“Things always change,” the newcomer pointed out, his smile suddenly tight. “But not that. Not until we find-”

“Retineo.”

The newcomer suddenly flew back, pressed against the wall on the opposite side of the room as if hit and pinned by an incoming vehicle. He gasped as the air was knocked out of him, struggling to lift his limbs from the wall and yet having no success whatsoever. The wizard looked away from the ceramic fragments on the floor to gaze coldly upon at the target straight-on, slowly letting his hand drop. He kicked some of the larger fragments away as he made leisurely strides across the room to finally come to a stop before the newcomer. He took a long moment to look the other in the eyes-green fragments meeting green fragments-before he finally spoke.

“We find and take the other fragments. That priority rules above all else,” Blank affirmed. “Find yourself distracted again, and our little deal is off.” He tilted his head slightly, continuing to look the other in the eyes. “...Understand?”

The other stared back, letting another long silence linger between them before he finally looked away in a somewhat irritable gesture, then looked back at the wizard.

“...Understood,” he replied.

The corners of Blank’s mouth twitched upward for a fleeting moment before he finally turned and started walking away, easily lifting a hand. “Exsolvo.”

Whatever invisible bindings held the newcomer to the wall seemed to disappear, letting the other drop and draw in a deeper breath. He brushed himself off, staring at the other’s back with narrowed eyes before finally opening his mouth to speak again.

“Alright,” the newcomer said, giving the wizard a look. “You want to catch the others? Then where are they?” He took a step closer, adding, “To be entirely honest, I’m surprised you haven’t already followed the two that escaped.”

“I’ve been putting out feelers,” Blank countered, making his way back out to the backyard. “It seems Fischbach’s fragment is able to go quite the distance.”

The newcomer tilted his head. “...Huh." He moved to follow, continuing, "I take it that’s his schtick then? Teleportation?”

Blank smiled wryly, shaking his head. “Oh no. No, no, no-well. Yes and no, really.” He looked back at his companion, adding, “It actually seems to be very limited. More so than usual. Only along leyline currents to arcane clusters specifically.”

“Well, what do you expect? He’s probably one of the weakest out of all of us.”

“He is the weakest out of all of us.” Blank’s smile then became somewhat critical, almost pitying as he added, “Besides you.

His companion let out small, dry chuckle as he shook his head. In spite of the jab, Blank could hear the smirk in his companion's voice as he walked on past. “You have yet to even witness what I’m capable of,” the companion pointed out.

“Your ability is weak -”

“Oh, maybe. I’ll give you that much, at least,” the other agreed, shoving his hands into his pockets. “But sometimes it’s not all about the strength of your power-right? It’s how you use it.

Blank let out a scoff. “Let me know when you have that all figured out.”

The other rolled his eyes, watching the other pace about the yard, finally reaching a point in the corner of the yard where the air seemed to distort, to shimmer in and out in red. Silence fell over the area-he knew the wizard was focusing, letting his hand glide into the cluster as lines of magic blue and green flowed up the fingertips and into the hand. Shuffling a little bit as he watched, he finally looked around as he puffed out a sigh, taking in the area. But a couple more minutes of silence and he finally looked back at the other, deciding to risk breaking his concentration once more-consequences be damned.

Blank could handle it.

He was the big bad wizard, after all.

“...So do you at least want to hear the information that I worked so hard to get?”

Another silence filled the backyard as Blank continued to focus on the leylines, doing his best to pin down a location. The other huffed flatly, opening his mouth to take the silence as a ‘yes’ and continue. But before another word could slip past his lips, Blank beat him to the punch.

“They’re in Ireland.”

The companion frowned slightly and tilted his head slightly. “What?”

“Our two lost fragments are in Ireland.” The wizard turned to look back at the other with a somewhat smug look on his face. “And you’ll never guess where.”

The companion stared back at him for a moment before finally looking away, unable to resist the light grin that entered into his voice. “And they say you can never go home again.”

Blank smirked. “Dublin is about to turn into a battleground,” he noted.

“One more time,” the companion murmured. Noticing Blank’s attention suddenly redirected to one of the second-story windows, he tilted head slightly in intrigue. “...Someone here?” he asked, twisting around to look up at the house as well. It wasn’t fast enough to see for sure but-he definitely noticed the curtain rustle, as if falling back into place from being moved only moments ago.

Blank’s eyes remained fixated on the window for a few more moments before he finally tore them away to look back at his companion. “The last fragment. He’s here-”

The companion seemed alarmed, immediately twisting around to look back up at the window-but again, seeing nothing. “...I’m guessing we should go after-” But his words dropped off as he saw a colored light of sorts light up through the cracks of the curtain, then dim as if it never even was. He looked back at Blank as if searching for answers-or at least any sign of a go to check it out-but then wizard finally dropped his eyes from the window and shook his head.

“Leave him,” Blank concluded. “He’s already gone anyway.” A slight smirk twisted on his lips, adding, “We’ll find him in Dublin.”

He then stepped forward, crossing the yard to lightly rest a hand on his companion’s shoulder as he added, “We’ll find them all in Dublin.”

And suddenly they were gone.


 

The bus ride seemed to take longer than it actually did.

Long and mostly in hushed tones which only sounded louder and crazier than it actually was on the mostly-quiet bus. Jack sat mostly in silence, struggling to take it all in, staring at Mark with pursed lips and a tense expression.

Mark himself struggled to go over the details in general, struggled not to remember everything that went on back there too intensely. Tried to depersonalize it, tried to remove himself from some of the emotional weight that had all but crushed him in the days, weeks, months following their escape.

By the time the bus arrived at its destination, the American looked worn-no doubt about that. He looked like he'd aged probably five-ten more years and the Irishman who sat there and intently listened to it all looked...like he was struggling to believe it? Like he was trying so hard not to be angry at points-but-

"Look-" Mark finally sighed, rubbing his eyes. "When all of that happened we were...so close to losing you. For a stupidly long time we truly thought we did. That last fight we had against Anti...we had no idea how that would actually end. We didn’t know what it would really end up doing to Anti, and we had no idea what it would end up doing to you. None of us actually know anything about magic, not really, so…” He shook his head as the bus came to a stop- their stop , wherever that was-and moved to get to his feet. Still, as the Irishman followed, he didn’t quite move from their spot just yet, letting the other passengers shuffle off the bus before them. “What we did? It was all just a shot in the dark that we hoped made enough sense but was also just crazy enough to work. And what we got from it…”

“Was me in a coma,” Jack finished.

“And with no sign of recovering your memories. Or anything that would’ve been your old self,” Mark added. He let out a small scoff at their own arrogance, their confidence that doing such a last-minute idea without even so much as thinking it through could even possibly be worth the risk-especially with the steps they ended up taking. “To be honest, we didn’t even know if it would actually be you when you woke up. For all we knew-and dreaded-it could’ve been Anti. All Anti, not just...not just part.

Jack frowned, watching as Mark finally moved to shift out of the seat and into the aisle, shuffling towards the exit. He quickly moved to follow, looking around as they stepped off the bus and onto the busy sidewalk. Mark was looking around, trying to adjust to the new area overall-Jack was well enough used to it. Not that he'd been to Dublin a ton of times before, granted, but he'd certainly visited more times than Mark. He walked several paces on forward, making sure to get out of the people's way and giving his friend's sleeve a small tug to ensure he followed as well.

Finally he looked up at Mark with a small sigh. "So once I woke up then? Did you really have to lie?"

Mark looked back at him guiltily before shaking his head. "It's just..." he sighed. "You just came out of such an unstable condition. I mean-my god, it was a freaking five-month coma. And based on what we'd figured out back in the mansion, we...we actually concluded that all that memory loss you suffered was partly due to having to remember so much from all of those loops you'd gone through already. We were afraid telling you the truth would help you to remember all those horrifying things...that you would risk losing all of your memories all over again, that we would risk losing you. "

Jack struggled to process all of this, muttering, "Or that I would end up being the same as I was back in the mansion," he muttered. "A nervous wreck."

"I mean, that's possible too."

Jack finally puffed out a sigh and shook his head. "Well," he remarked. "Possessed by a possible devil really isn't much better-"

"I know."

"I still...it doesn't seem like that much better of an idea not telling me because again-I could've seriously hurt someone if Anti managed to take control."

Mark frowned. "In fairness," he pointed out. "We didn't know that had a possibility to happen either. Once you woke up normal and all? We...we actually weren't entirely sure what happened to Anti after we did the spell, so..."

"And when Dark showed up?"

Mark shook his head. "When Dark showed up..." The American let out a sigh. "It's complicated. Dark is generally kind of trying to keep his distance for the most part."

Jack frowned slightly, eyeing Mark. "Yeah?" He shook his head as they started aimlessly down the sidewalk. After all, they got to the city, so...the real unspoken question was 'now what?' 'Where to now?' "I can't exactly say the same goes at all for Blank."

"Yeah, well Blank's more powerful than Dark," Mark pointed out. "Hell, according to Dark, Anti's probably stronger than he is. Something about being the 'core'? That's why he-reluctantly -showed up on your doorstep during Blank's attack."

Jack's face scrunched slightly and he glanced over at the other. "He wants Anti as an ally?"

"Something like that." Mark shook his head. "Besides, I didn't want to leave you undefended and clueless either. I think the other part of that was just trying to get me to shut up."

In spite of everything, Jack couldn't help a small smirk. "I guess you can't win over everyone as a fan."

"Yeah, yeah." Mark rolled his eyes. "I guess so."

As the two finally reached the corner, Mark looked around and gave a shrug. "So then," he asked. "Before we continue- where exactly are we going? "

"Um..." Jack let out another sigh, running a hand back through his hair as he looked around. "That is a very good question that we never quite came up with an answer to. We've reached the step of being closer to civilization, so..."

"Not to mention a more populated area," Mark pointed out as his eyes scanned the crowds. "I doubt even Blank would want to use any major magical attacks while we're in an area like this."

"We can hope anyway," Jack sighed, letting his hand drop. "Okay, uh-okay. Yeah, so let's figure out the best thing to do here. I guess if my electronics are suspect, then using my phone is out of the question in the meantime-" The Irishman made sure his phone was turned off before pocketing it again. "And yours?"

"American. It probably won't work here," Mark pointed out. "Not for phone calls, at least."

“Dammit,” Jack hissed under his breath. He sighed and ran a hand back through his hair as he looked around. “...Well…”

He blinked a few times as they stepped out of the shade of the building, his eyes shifting to adjust to the light-only to be hit with what seemed almost like an odd sort of green static overlay. He could see green translucent figures striding up and down the street like ghosts, horses trotting along cobblestone that no longer existed-

Mark stared back at him, a light, concerned frown resting on his face. “...Jack…?”

It took a moment to rouse Jack from his reverie, but finally he shook his head and looked back at Mark, blinking a few times as if to clear it of spots. “...Yeah?”

“You hanging in there alright?”

“Uh…” Jack frowned and looked around again, noticing the overlay was gone. “Yeah.”

“Convincing.”

Jack shook his head again, running a hand back through his hair and looking over at Mark-opening his mouth, closing it again in an attempt to gather his thoughts, then opening it again. “Um-so you know how you mentioned that everybody affected by the book seems to have at least one...kind of weird thing they can do?”

Mark raised an eyebrow and gave him a sort of sideways, analyzing look. “...Yeah…?”

“Do you have any idea what my thing would be yet?”

Mark continued to study him, frown deepening as he shook his head. “...No.”

Jack looked around again, biting his lip. His vision was clear again, he had no idea what that overlay just was or if he could even replicate it again or if it would ever actually come in handy-

“...Jack?”

“Oh-! Uh-” Jack finally looked back at Mark, looking only slightly puzzled as he gestured around. “I uh-I’m not really sure how to put this but-”

“But?”

“...I think I can see through time.”

Chapter Text

Mark stared back at him, seeming about as much at a loss as he was before finally speaking.

“...What.”

Jack started to shrug, but Mark’s face was already scrunching up in an attempt to actually process this. “...You mean like you’re psychic?

Jack held his hands out at his sides, a helpless expression on his features. “Maybe?” he asked. “It’s not really what I’d typically think when I hear the word ‘psychic’, but…!”

“Well...well what brought this on?” Mark asked, a mixture of alarm, curiosity, and concern on his features. “...Was it what we talked about on the bus-?”

“No, no, I don’t think it was really that-”

“How far back did you even see?

Jack stopped in his words to take a moment, to consider everything he saw. He processed the overlay he saw only moments ago before finally responding. “I saw...people,” he said. “Horses. Wagons. Cobblestone, Mark. ” He looked back out at the paved streets as he added, “Whatever time period it was from, it definitely wasn’t anytime recent.

“Any idea of what triggered it?” Mark asked. “And you didn’t exactly seem to...you know, full-on space. Or...eyes rolled up into the head or anything-”

“Yeah, no, I don’t really think it’s anything like that. It’s more like-” Jack gestured around again. “It’s really weird. Like someone just kind of overlayed two images into one. I’m still able to see the present reality, but it’s almost like...like there’s a sort of ghostly holographic filter overlapping it.”

Mark eyed the other, almost suspicious of this newfound power-when he spoke, his voice bordered on reluctance, albeit morbid curiosity.

“...Do you think you could do it again?”

Jack blinked, looking over at him curiously. “...What?”

“Do you think you’d be able to do it again?” Mark repeated.

Jack made a face at his, looking around, then back at Mark. “Why would I want to do that?”

“I don’t know-I just-” Mark shook his head and gestured around. “I mean, do we have a better plan? We’re in Dublin and besides the fact that it’s apparently where Anti even came from, we don’t really know why. We don’t really have any idea on what we’re actually going to do about this situation without having to resort to outright murder-”

“Fair point,” Jack mumbled, now considering. He looked around, blue eyes sweeping the area as he tried to focus.

Concentrate..

Concentrate…

Concentrate…

But finally his features scrunched up a bit and he looked over at Mark, bringing a hand up to the side of his head before letting out a small sigh. He shook his head, letting the hand run back down to his neck with a slight air of defeat.

“I’m getting nothing now,” he confessed. “I...don’t really know how I even managed to pull it off the first time. I’m not sure how I’d be able to replicate it now.”

Mark frowned and let out a sigh of his own. “Right. Dangit. Okay. In that case, I guess we need to come up with some sort of a Plan B,” he noted.

“I mean, making sure we covered some of the basics might not be the worst idea,” Jack pointed out. “Place to sleep, mainly. If we don’t have any real plans of actually leaving town anyway.”

“Pretty sure we don’t,” Mark confirmed. “Not unless we absolutely have to leave town or unless we find any other kind of lead.”

“Yeah. So uh...right then.” Jack looked around, watching the people mill by them on the street and suddenly appreciative of his choice to put on pants before recording-for once. He pursed his lips, slightly uncertain of where to go-he was back in Ireland, he was in Dublin, so it wasn’t extreme culture shock, but it certainly was a far cry from home. He wasn’t entirely sure of specific locations in the city like where to stay.

He scratched his head, looking a little bit at a loss before finally gathering his thoughts together-enough to come up with some sensible enough options anyway. “Well-okay. Okay, um. So if I remember Dublin...decently at all at least, which I probably don’t but-” He looked around. “We’re kind of on a main street. There’s a bunch of big landmarks here-uh-Dublin Castle...Trinity College?”

Mark raised an eyebrow. “...Okay…?”

Jack shook his head. “What I mean is that it’s super busy here! It draws a lot of tourists. So where there’s going to be a lot of tourists-”

“There’s bound to be some sort of a tourism office. Or a town visitor’s center,” Mark finished, realization dawning in his voice. "We could go there, figure out accommodations, start working out a plan of some kind..."

“Yeah!”

“Alright-well-” Mark pointed down one way, then the other. “The street goes both ways. Which way are we most likely to find what we need?”

“Uh…” Jack turned one way, then the other, taking everything in. He paused for a moment before suddenly hurrying to a street corner, peering around the building to try and get a look down the the next street-then twisting around to try and see the other way. Mark raised an eyebrow as he watched.

“What are you looking for-?”

“The Liffey,” Jack pointed out. “It cuts the city in half, north and south. If you follow this street east...I think it takes you to Trinity College before it finally stops. That’s where we’re likely to find anything.”

Mark raised the other eyebrow before shrugging slightly and turning away but sticking somewhat nearby, leaving Jack to his own machinations.

It was a couple minutes later when he caught the Irishman by the arm. “Hey…”

Jack twisted around to look back at him, a questioning look on his face.

“Hey-”

“Yeah?”

Mark nodded in one direction of the street in short explanation. “It’s over this way.”

Jack’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. How the fuck did Mark suddenly seem to know-? “Dark?”

Mark shook his head. “Nah. I asked somebody.” In spite of their situation, he couldn’t quite suppress the tiny cheeky grin that crept up into his eyes.

Jack rolled his own in response. “Yeah, yeah…” he muttered as a faint chuckle escaped the American. “Show-off.”

“C’mon, let’s see if we can find any form of help down this way,” Mark encouraged, moving to head down the street. The Irishman followed, the two mostly in silence as they took in the city around them, navigating the crowds and doing whatever they could to keep a low profile.

Not that they really minded fans or anything, but now was really not the time.

Besides, best they get a somewhat vague idea of the way the city ran, if nothing else. Who knew when they’d potentially run into trouble and needed to make a quick getaway?

But probably very much unlike what Mark was experiencing, there continued to be the occasional green static flicker, as if Jack’s brain was wired into some sort of really bad connection. It was...weird. Every time he seemed to reach out, to try and grasp it, to hold on for even a moment, it would all disperse and restore a clear reality. He never thought he’d have too much of a problem with this but…

The two passed what looked like the outside of a fortress, what he vaguely recognized as Dublin Castle. A fixed gaze-the static suddenly seemed to snap back on again and suddenly he could see angry green ghosts crowding the outside, just their outlines quivering with rage as they shook fists and what-have-you. He couldn’t stop his eyes from lingering on two particular people, a young man and woman, the woman in a dress, wearing her hair in a long braid, the man dressed like a sort of medieval farmer.

He couldn’t hear the shouts and chants, not really-but his mind’s ear did a fine enough job at projecting them. He could feel his legs coming to a stop but it somehow didn’t quite seem to register. He couldn’t stop staring at the ghostly crowd outside of their time, couldn’t stop staring at the couple, at the girl.

Who is she?

The silent call went unanswered. Jack’s brows furrowed further, unable to help the tiniest step he took towards the scene.

“Jack?”

Jack glanced back at Mark, blinking a few times before gesturing back at the castle entrance.

“Just saw an...angry mob of...protesters, I think,” Jack explaining, feeling as awkward as he sounded. Mark’s frown deepened, looking off towards the castle before shaking his head. “Uh-”

“Yeah, it’s the, uh, looking through time thing again,” Jack explained, rubbing the back of his head with a sigh. “I’m...not really sure of the relevance, to be honest. Actually-I’m not sure if anything I’m seeing is really all that relevant at all.”

“So you really can’t control it.”

Jack shook his head. “Not really. No, I don’t think so.” He gave a helpless shrug. “No control over when it comes and goes and...not really so much in time period either. Although-I will say, judging by the clothes and the look of the overall area, it at least seems to be somewhat consistent.”

“And you’re doing this...without Anti’s help at all?”

Jack blinked, giving Mark a sideways look. “Yeah,” he replied. “What? You can’t teleport unless Dark’s in control?”

“So far,” Mark replied, looking a bit confused. “To be honest, I didn’t think you could use these new powers without the fragment taking control. Not unless you were already a wizard like Ethan, at least.”

Jack gave a shrug at this, looking just as mystified as Mark was. “Well,” he noted. “I guess we’re just learning more and more as we go, huh?” He let out a sigh, adding, “Now if only we could find someone around here who could maybe give us some answers, maybe some form of direc-”

His words dropped off as his vision flickered again, once, twice-five times total before it finally stabilized somewhat-

He could see her.

The braided woman in the dress, the one who’d been standing by the castle gates in such anger. Her back was mostly turned towards him, but she gave an almost half-turn towards him and waved her hand, putting down a firm foot to show her impatience.

He wasn’t sure if it was Anti's instincts or his own that compelled him to follow.

“...Jack-?” Mark asked with alarm, watching as Jack slowly walked forward and past him, eyes focused on seemingly nothing at all.

“I see her…” Jack merely muttered in response, but his voice was distracted, almost absent. But then he seemed to regain his bearings, clearing his throat once or twice to add a bit more firmly, “One of the people I saw from the protest outside the castle. I think she’s leading somewhere-”

What?”

“Yeah! She’s… Look, I don’t know for sure. I don’t know anything for sure, but something tells me there’s a reason she turned up just now-right?”

Jack wasn’t stopping. Mark didn’t really have much choice but to take up quick pursuit, pushing past the occasional gaggle of civilians and tourists.

“Yeah but- Jack!”

“We don’t really have much of a plan at the moment, right? What’s the harm in following for now?” Jack called back. “If it turns out to be nothing at all, we can go back and head to the tourism office. Promise!”

The woman didn’t seem to be stopping-which made it all the more difficult to follow once they hit a point of needing to cross the street, not waiting at all for the traffic to pass and the walk sign to turn. Jack never took his eyes off her though, almost afraid that it would disappear the moment he did-he didn’t want to take that risk. Rather, he watched as best he could through the people, through the cars, and the second the light changed he rushed on forward as quickly as he could, closing the newfound distance between them as best as he could manage. Mark followed along as closely behind as he was able, not wanting to lose his friend in this strange new city-especially with a homicidal wizard on their tail.

Along and down the block, the woman thankfully sticking mostly to the sidewalk although occasionally drifting a bit more into the road from time to time in maneuvering through ghostly crowds. She passed through person and object alike, no one else really seeming to notice-herself included. There was a point once or twice where Jack about caught up with the woman, walking almost almost directly behind her, on her heels-every time he was in such a position and looked down, he could see a ghostly green arm extended from him, starting at a shorter height (shorter than her, although not by much) and grasping her own tightly-as if she was tugging him along down their path-

Or as if tugging Anti along in some old, long-forgotten memory.

He had the feeling she was speaking, but he heard no voice. He wondered if this newfound power would ever actually get to that point; it would certainly make incidences like these that much easier-or maybe not. He could only imagine the intense layering of sound that would come with such a thing But instead he followed along blindly, wondering where they were headed-

One block then a turn onto the street. Mostly pedestrian, he noted, and with an increasing number of tourists. His eyes flickered around as he noticed all the people, noticed how it was getting more and more difficult to follow the apparition. It was getting to the point that he was having to quickly twist and maneuver around groups, push through the occasional huddles, no longer a straight path. It all looked even more crowded, even more confusing as he was seeing overlapping images. People from centuries ago, people from today-horses and wagons and bicycles, all in a confusing whirl that merged and pulled apart, collided into each other and phased right on through. He knew Mark must be having just as much difficulty following, but didn’t want to risk pulling his concentration away, to look back for fear of losing sight of the ghostly woman.

Not until she led them to wherever she was going, anyway.

“Mark?” he called back, hoping to get a response. Although if he didn’t, it wouldn’t have surprised him too much either-he had no doubt in his mind how difficult it must be for Mark to hear him over everyone else and all the surrounding city ruckus, especially with back turned.

“Yeah! Here, Jack. I’m right here.”

Mark’s voice came from somewhere behind him-thankfully not too far off but a bit further than he would’ve liked. He reached out behind him, felt someone grab his sleeve and hang on tight. It was good enough.

One block past-crossing the street to the next one over, in one direction he could see the vague outline of the Liffey and the city split-in the other the main road that extended from Trinity College and beyond. They hit the next corner, began to walk along the next block. Tourist shops aplenty, restaurants, murals on the wall-the area was vibrant and buzzing. A neon sign to a club here, a music shop there, plenty of bars and pubs-

And then finally they reached a particular pub on the next corner, right where things were starting to calm down a little bit. Still busy, still thriving-but not nearly as jam-packed as the other areas.

The woman stopped. Released the ghostly hand she held, extended from his own form. Turned towards him-he thought she was looking into his eyes, but he just wasn’t quite short enough, didn’t quite match the height difference of what must’ve surely been a younger Anti.

But her expression was intense, hardened. Her features were that of a young woman, unyielding and strong. Determined. He wasn’t entirely sure what it was she said, but she seemed agitated over something. But before he could even attempt to guess the answer, she suddenly turned around and headed inside, a ghostly image of the door swinging open where the closed one stood in reality.

“What is this place…?” Mark muttered behind him, releasing his sleeve and treading around just a few extra feet to try and get a better look at the sign.

“I…” Jack shook his head slightly, feeling almost embarrassed so much excitement and divergence from their original plan seemed to come with such a low payoff. “I don’t really know. I know that we're around Temple Bar though...? You can kinda tell from all the tourists...”

The pub in question was old-older than most of the surrounding structures-with a sort of rustic traditional charm to it. A sign was nailed above the door, a painted green rectangle framed in the natural brown of the wood, gold-colored letters etched across.

Trinity Pub.

“Why are we…?” Jack whispered, gazing upon the age-old structure. “Why are we here? ” His eyes flickered over the edifice, looking for literally anything of importance pertaining to their current situation. “What’s the importance of this place?”

“Your visions didn’t really tell you anything?” Mark asked.

Jack hesitantly shook his head, mind running a million miles an hour. He licked his lips before replying. “...No,” he replied. “No, I don’t really...hear my visions at all. I just see them.”

Mark frowned. “So we’ve just been following some random ghost then?”

Jack shook his head. “Not random, I don’t think, no,” he replied. He cleared his throat, glancing down at his own hand. “I saw the same woman at the protest in front of the castle… And...whenever I would look down, she was holding my hand. Or...Anti’s hand. I don’t really know, but it was kind of coming from a first-person perspective-at least sometimes.” He looked back at Mark. “I think she was definitely someone relevant , if nothing else.”

“But that...doesn’t really help us,” Mark concluded, frowning. “Does it?” He shrugged in response to Jack’s own, gesturing up towards the sign. “I mean, we don’t even know if this is the same establishment-

“Oh, it’s the same,” Jack replied with confidence.

Mark gave him a questioning, sideways look. Jack gestured up at the sign.

“Even after all this time, the front hasn’t changed. The sign definitely hasn’t changed, except that I think it used to be an inn, too?" Jack shrugged. "I think it’s always been up there.” Albeit...changed and probably redone once or twice, but the name of the place certainly remained the same.

“So you’re thinking this is some place Anti might’ve frequented back in life?” Mark asked. Jack’s eyebrows furrowed in thought.

“...Maybe,” he replied. “I mean-I’m not really sure of anything at this point, but…” He moved to take a few steps forward to the entrance, resting a hand on the handle as he looked back at Mark. “If we’re going to get a handle on this whole situation...I think we need to know more about magic. More about Anti. Otherwise we’re just fumbling around in the dark without even the faintest clue of what to do next or how to help out our friends...right?”

Mark shrugged in response, looking around. “I mean…” But he then let out a sigh, shuffling his feet and scratching his head. “...Yeah, I mean, you’re probably right about that.”

“Either way,” Jack muttered, eyeing the pub somewhat warily, bracing himself for just about anything. “It’s a pub. In the middle of Dublin. What all could happen in a place like this…right?”

Mark sucked in an anxious breath and shook his head. “We can hope,” he seconded, moving in a bit closer to follow.

Chapter Text

Jack swung the door open, stepping inside the old building…

…And was immediately hit by more than just current reality.

He suspected it wasn’t one overlay. Probably not even two. Just multiples upon multiples, he stood frozen in the doorway as he could see ghosts move about the room in different speeds, similar if not outright the same people walking, running, sitting and talking and laughing and crying. Children darting through and playing, teenagers working the bar or waitressing. Older and younger, healthy and sick and injured, the static around the edges of his vision was growing stronger, increasingly more intense-

He could feel a small tear slip from one of his eyes and down his cheek, unable to push back the overwhelming nostalgia of some place he’d never been, but surely spent half his life-

“Jack?” Mark asked, reaching out to place a hand on the Irishman’s shoulder.

Jack blinked, the illusion falling away from his vision as he twisted around to look back at Mark, startled. “Huh?”

Mark looked as caught off-guard as he was, pointing out the tear on his friend’s cheek. “You’ve just got a little…something. Right there…”

Jack reached up to touch the tear with a couple of fingers, finally noticing its wetness. “O-oh…” he muttered. “Sorry. I don’t…really think I know what came over me just now.”

“It’s okay,” Mark reassured softly, watching as Jack wiped his eyes with sleeve. “I…actually kinda feel it too.”

A young woman with long, straight red hair moved past the two, carrying a large tray filled with plates and condiments. She stopped for a moment, looking back at them curiously. “Hm? Oh-” She gave a quick nod to one of the nearby empty tables. “Sorry-feel free to sit wherever you want. One of us will be with you shortly.”

“Uh-well actually-” Jack started, but the woman was already hurrying to the table, eager to take the weight off her arms. He and Mark exchanged baffled looks and a shrug, seeming more than a little unclear as to what exactly they should do next.

“Well…” Mark muttered under his breath. “This is kind of your show.”

My show?” Jack hissed back. “I just followed some sort of ghost of the past to this place and I’m still trying to figure out the significance. But it is still significant if Anti and Dark are both kind of wigging out about this. Don’t you agree?”

“I mean-yes-” Mark began, shuffling somewhat, unable to keep still. So he finally gestured to the suggested table. “I guess either way, it’s not like we really have much of a better plan in place right now. We may as well…”

“Yeah, maybe we can find something out about this place or its relevance to Anti and Dark in the meantime. Or even something that could actually help with this whole situation entirely-hell, I'd settle just for that much. Of course, this is all providing they don’t wake up until then,” Jack muttered. Which reminded him-he gave a quick, mental prod to the entity within his head, curious if it would respond back or not-

It didn’t.

Vaguely Jack wondered if it was somewhat the same as Dark with Mark, if Anti was taking a nap after the whole backyard fiasco. He did seem to try and push things past the breaking point-which, yeah, warned him that he needed to get the hell out immediately and kinda gave him some form of idea as to what the hell was going on now, what he needed to expect-at least somewhat. But judging by the state he last saw the entity in, it definitely came at a price and took a significant toll on him. And then there was the other question he silently wondered, but wasn’t about to fully voice just yet-

Would it actually get that much worse if Anti were to wake up?

...Probably.

In fact, almost no doubt about that.

“Um-” Jack looked around as they moved to take a seat at the table. “Alright, well-if we’re going to try and get any kind of information that can maybe help us in any way, shape or form-especially without us sounding too crazy-” He looked around, searching the area. Nothing was really giving them any sort of clues, was it? “We need to at least know who it is we’re asking about. Mark, did you ever get any kind of a name from Dark? Anything at all? Because if they do know anything about this entity, they’re not really going to know who it is we’re actually asking about without a name.”

“Won’t they?” Mark asked, raising an eyebrow at Jack. “I dunno, you know-I feel like all we really should have to mention is ‘hey, did a magical crazy guy with evil tendencies ever pass through this place in the past’ and that should probably suffice.”

Jack snerked and rolled his eyes at the thought in spite of himself. “Well I mean-fair point-” he confessed.

The same woman from earlier suddenly sped on over (from the other side of the pub?) with a large grin on her face, coming to a stop at their table. Her green eyes were wide with excitement, her body practically bouncing with energy. “…Oh my god, it is yeh guys-!” she exclaimed. She looked off to the other end of the pub for a moment, seeming to exchange a grin, then looked back at them.

Jack smiled a tiny bit and gave a small ‘hi’, although not nearly as much as he normally would. Oof, he’d normally be up for meeting fans but-now was definitely not one of those times. Especially when he didn’t trust himself with the entity that he now knew for sure was all holed up inside. So he looked over at Mark, who…thankfully seemed a little bit more prepared than him.

Maybe because he had more of an idea of just how much longer Dark would be out for.

Or maybe because he covered this sort of thing in dealings with Dark, he actually had the time and awareness to-really, who could tell?

“Yeah, it’s us,” Mark replied, meeting the woman with a smile-although Jack had known him long enough to recognize it as only half-genuine as well.

“What brings yeh two here?”

“Well, we heard this place had some pretty good food, so…”

The redhead blinked, then nodded. “Right!” She held up a finger. “Just one moment!”

The woman rushed off to the bar, Jack looking over at Mark to whisper, “Alright, this might’ve actually been a mistake-”

“I mean, it was bound to happen sooner or later-”

“Maybe, but that doesn’t mean I’m ready to deal with fans right now! Not in this state and not when we’ve got psychotic wizards chasing after us-!”

“Hey-hey-look on the bright side-maybe this way they’ll be more open to giving us information.”

“We still don’t have that much figured out yet-!”

“We’ll just ask about the pub-”

The redhead returned with a couple of menus and glasses of water, setting them down on the table before them. “Here yeh go. I’d recommend the stew-it’s actually rather good-” Her grin widened a bit-if that was even possible-as she added, “My name’s Orien, by the way. What brings yeh to these parts?”

The two men exchanged glances, silent for a moment. Finally Jack decided to be the one to speak up. “Uhm…” he began. He shifted a bit, eyeing Orien. “Mark and I happened to be in the country at the same time, so I was just sort of…showing him around a bit.” He then cleared his throat, motioning to the rest of the pub. He was obviously anxious to redirect off that topic as quickly as possible. “But that being said! I mentioned outside how just about every place in Dublin has some history to it? Um-I’m sure this place isn’t any different, right?”

“History?” Orien gave them a sideways look, almost caught off guard by the question, but continued to grin. “Well-yeah! This place has been around for ages. Uh-13th century, in fact? It’s one of Ireland’s oldest pubs, and one of Dublin’s first.”

“That old?” Mark asked. “That’s pretty impressive.” He looked around, adding, “This must be the sight of a lot of history…”

“Oh, trust me-it is!” Orien replied. “It’s mostly owned by the O’Leary family and has been passed down through generations. Actually…” She looked back towards the door, then back at them. “If you’d like to learn more about it from the current manager, that could probably be arranged.”

“Really?” Jack asked, perking up with a bit of curiosity and interest. “I mean-if it’s not too much trouble-”

“No, not at all! We’re more than happy to help-and George O’Leary just so happens to be our granddad. Just-one moment, hm?”

“We…?” Jack repeated softly as Orien bustled over towards the door. “Our…?”

“Huh…” Mark muttered, but then their gaze followed the redhead to the door, seeing an identical woman already speaking with an old man.

A twin sister.

“…Oh.

The twins cheerfully spoke with the man, who then looked their way with an inquisitive look. Jack couldn’t help but shift slightly in his seat, suddenly feeling a might bit uncomfortable. Something about those slate blue eyes were just…they were positively piercing. He debated asking Mark if he shared the sentiment at all but…no, he was likely just being paranoid. Of course he was just being paranoid.

But then again…seeing as this was a place that likely held some sort of significant bearing to Anti’s past and all that…

Ah, no, how much should they really be worried here? As far as he could see, this was nothing more than a frail old man. What sort of risk could he possibly pose to them outside of calling the police?

The old man gave them a bright smile as he moved to pull a chair up to their table. Either way, he didn’t look all that threatening, at least. He might’ve been in decent shape now-possibly even a soldier once upon a time-but he had a small shake to his movements, a weakness in his muscles. Even regardless of that though, he maintained the look of amiable cheer on his aged face, bright blue eyes and wisps of white hair on his head.

Jack cast a nervous glance to Mark, uncertain as to why exactly he was suddenly feeling anxious but whispering, “Mark-”

“Well boys,” the old man greeted. “It’s good to meet yeh. I’m George O’Leary, the owner of this pub. You seem to have met my granddaughters, Kally and Orien. They're very excited that yeh two are visiting-I take it yer like celebrities or something of the sort-”

“Uh-something like that,” Mark replied amiably, although Jack had known Mark long enough to detect that there was something noticeable on edge in his tone. He probably sensed that there was something off about this whole thing too. “I think they know us from the internet.”

“The internet? Mm, they mentioned some people were finding work there these days.” The man gave a small shrug. “So I take it you’re…Jack?”

“Oh-no,” Mark gave a small smile. “I’m Mark.” He motioned to Jack. “He’s Jack.”

“Ah, grand, grand. So what exactly was it you were wanting to know? The history to this place is…extensive. The number of stories I could tell about this place would have us here all day-which I wouldn’t entirely mind myself, but I imagine if yer touring, your time is a bit more limited.”

“Well-we don’t really have a set schedule or anything, so…” Jack exchanged a look with Mark, then looked back at him. “How’d this place get started? Orien said it was built all the way back in the 13th century?”

“Yes, yes, actually. The Trinity is the second-oldest in Dublin-just after the old Brazen Head-and the third-oldest in Ireland. Built rather early into the 13th century, it wasn’t all that long after the Vikings left Dublin, actually-really only by a handful of decades, if I remember right. It was started up by one of my ancestors, Comhghall Lóegaire, and a rather eccentric old noble of Boru's family-a relative of the very king that kicked the Vikings out of the country, in fact. It became a favorite hub and an epicenter of activity as the city began to rise up around it, growing and modernizing with each passing decade, then each passing century. We’ve had many a great figure stop in here for a drink and a meal, an overnight stay-as it’s also served as an inn throughout its time-and even as a place of refuge in times of strife and revolution. We’ve served such icons as Wolfe Tone, Oscar Wilde, William Butler Yeats-in fact, the corner over there is where he would frequent with the revolutionary Constance Markievicz and her sister Eva Gore-Booth to share a meal and discuss art and politics.” He gestured to a corner booth across the room. “Most of the things you see here are actually generally unchanged. Even when we update the area, fix up all the old wood and construction and whatnot, we try and stay true to the original design as much as possible to help maintain and preserve the authenticity of the place.”

Jack couldn’t help but think back to Dublin Castle, to the ghostly mob of angry protesters…of the girl that led them here. “A place of refuge,” he repeated. Huh. “During times of strife and revolution? What’s that about? You mean during the Irish Civil War and…Easter Rising and such?” His examples didn’t come out nearly as easily as he would’ve liked-but if his St. Patrick’s Day videos on attempting to pass Irish history quizzes had anything to say about his overall knowledge on national history, he probably should’ve more than expected it.

“Irish Civil War, Easter Rising…and also events such as the Siege of Dublin and the Battle of Rathmines, you know, back from the Cromwellian invasion.”

That seemed to stir something within the youtuber. Jack frowned slightly. “Cromwell?”

“Yeah, lad, don’t you know your history?”

Mark couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow and-in an almost nostalgic sense if nothing else-grin slightly, adding, “Yeah, Jack, don’t you know your own history-?”

“The rat bastard who invaded Ireland in the mid-17th century and slaughtered thousands, wiping out no less than twenty percent of the nation's total population?”

Mark stopped. Winced. “…Oh.” He then blinked and frowned as if suddenly realizing something-or maybe being told something from within-before exchanging a look with Jack. “Oh.”

“Yeah.” Jack looked back at George, a frown settling on his features. “Actually, George-the Cromwell stuff was something I was kinda wondering a little bit about because there’s this game that’s coming out on the market-uh, we play video games on the internet for work-” He shook his head. He wasn’t even sure why he was having to lie at this point, the man clearly didn’t know of his channel-but the twins did, apparently, so-

Still, it was such a flimsy lie, he doubted it would be any form of convincing for very long. On one hand it was almost a relief, he hated lying to begin with-

On the other hand, he was doing it all so easily. Did he really get that practiced in it back in the mansion? 

Was he really this bad during those times? No wonder the others felt wary about trusting him on all the Anti stuff on...really any level.

He cleared his throat, wanting to inwardly cringe at how (most likely unnecessarily) dishonest he was being to this kindly old man. “Did you ever get any particular figures seeking refuge here around that time? Like…anyone who ever really stood out or…?” He gave a small, attempted-casual shrug. "You know, would there be any chance of possibly seeing a place like this in the game?”

“Hm…” George sat back in contemplation. “Well we never really got any word about such a thing-ah, to be honest, they’d probably use the Brazen before us.” He gave a small shrug.

“Yes, but any particular figures that come to mind that might show up then?” Jack pressed, doing his best not to sound too…direct, too suspicious. “Was there anyone particularly unique in Dublin during that time?”

Jack felt a silent nudge from under the table. Yes, he knew he was dancing a really thin, awkward line of questioning here-it was almost on the brink of just asking about Anti outright. He did his best not to look conspicuous as he glanced over at Mark with a shrug-but huh, that...actually didn't seem to be what he was nudging him about at all? He followed his gaze to the twins that stood by the bar but seemed…not busy.

Weirdly intent.

And it didn’t just seem to be in some fascinated fan sort of way.

He couldn’t help it as he sat up and straightened a little bit in his seat, but tried his best to look otherwise calm and casual. Just as much as the two redheads by the bar, anyway. One quick glance stolen at Mark told him the other was already trying to figure out the most surefire escape route out of there-he figured he would trust him with that, in the meantime he’d just try and keep the older man occupied.

But surely they wouldn’t try anything suspicious  here  , would they?

Sure this place didn’t have…a lot…of customers at the moment. They were far too early for the lunch rush, after all. But this was their territory, and if it was a site Anti once frequented in the past…

Something was already very off-kilter with this place, and honestly Jack wouldn’t be entirely surprised if it had a reputation for such a thing. For all he knew, locals might not even give such an event a second glance.

“Mm-hm…” George thought for several long moments, shifting a bit in his seat. “You know, actually, I do vaguely remember something from the old logs-we have those stored up in the attic, you know. They’re surprisingly thorough, keeps loads of records of former visitors, residents, tabs- I did find an old book about six years or so ago, sounded a little bit familiar to something my great-granddad told me about actually.”

Jack frowned slightly, actually caught off guard that the old man was…being so surprisingly cooperative. And even helpful, for that matter. It was really more than what he expected. He leaned forward somewhat, eager to hear what he had to say.

George looked thoughtful, sitting back in his chair with his arms crossed. “Something about a family…from around the mid-17th century, if I recall. Just before Cromwell. Really only a handful of people. Large handful, mind, but a handful all the same. Mostly…young. Babbies, really.” He then straightened a bit-leaned forward-and then looked Jack directly in the eyes.

“But you still remember all of that. Don’t you, Doran-?”

Chapter Text

'WE NEED TO GO. RIGHT NOW!’

Jack wasn’t sure what startled him more-the old man or the sudden shot of adrenaline released into his system, the shout of an unheard voice in his head. Immediately he jolted up, Mark was already up and grabbing his arm, half-dragging him from the booth and across the restaurant-the old man meanwhile didn’t move, eyes watching them sharply.

“Mark-!”

“Trust me, I know-!”

 Jack looked around, grimacing as his eyes were filled with a shot of static edges and a green tint. He could see a young, petite woman with curls speaking with a small group of people and an older man, see people from different time periods sitting at the tables talking, planning, patching up gruesome injuries, what was happening, what was even reality anymore-

 He almost wanted to stop and stare. He could feel the presence in his head shocked into temporary silence and stagnation, he wasn’t sure if his eyes were wide under his own control or Anti’s. But he was relieved-at least-that Mark was taking the lead and guiding, making sure he didn’t stop because if they stopped-

 If they stopped then who knew what might happen in a place like this.

 After everything, after all, he didn’t quite know at this point who they could actually trust.

He shook his head fiercely, doing his best to shake himself (and hopefully Anti) out of their revere, trying his damnedest to shove back the…the glitch vision , if he had to come up with any sort of name for it off the top of his head. Up ahead he could see movement by the front door-one of the twins.

Well that wasn't going to be an option now, was it?

“Can’t you just teleport us out of this-?!”

“Dark’s not awake yet and I am not seeing any arcane clusters in the immediate vicinity-!”

“How are we getting out-?!”

“I don’t-” Mark’s words suddenly fell short as his eyes flickered across the room-almost immediately they did a sudden sharp swerve towards the bar.

“Mark-!”

“Just trust me!”

The two shoved the short swinging door that led to behind the bar, followed along the counter until they reached the other side and turned sharply through another door. This one was heavier than the last but it still opened easily and suddenly they were running through the small kitchen-

‘Nothing in this place has changed-’

The oddly-subdued voice of Anti startled Jack and once again he was relieved he was being dragged along-but still, now was not the time-

‘Nothing in this place has changed and yet nothing back here is the same-’

“Not the time, Anti. Not the time!” Jack muttered under his breath as they bolted through the kitchen and reached out to push open a door next to a shelving unit over a counter and stove nearby.

They opened the door to one of the redheaded twins, who stood in the doorway, blocking their escape. “Sorry,” she said. “But I don’t think so-”

“Yeah, sorry, but we really gotta go-” Mark started, moving to push past harder than he really would’ve cared for. The girl-Orien or Kally, it was difficult to tell, really-responded in kind by knocking his arms wide and grabbing one, twisting it around and forcing him down to the ground in a kneel with a hand on the back of his head and neck, pushing it down. Jack would’ve reached forward to help-would’ve, except he suddenly felt hands come up and grasp his shoulders, yanking him back with shocking suddenness. He felt a sharp force impact the back of his knee, felt himself falling backwards, then caught on something soft-before in an instant being flipped down to his stomach with his face and shoulder being pushed into the floor and his arm being yanked back in restraint.

“So soon?” asked the twin pinning him.

“Get off-!” Jack ground out, struggling as he felt Anti suddenly snap out of his reverie, suddenly rise to the surface of consciousness and internally struggling like a hellcat to get loose. He winced, and while he couldn’t really blame him, his own panic compounding onto Anti’s was really doing them no favors. Who the fuck are they-?!

‘O’Learys! You walked us right into a fuckin’ O’Leary nest-’

What does that even mean -?!

‘They’ll kill us-!’

Jack couldn’t help but feel his blood run cold as he tried to squirm enough to angle his head, to try and get a look over at Mark.

He did this.

He led them here, right into a trap, right into something they didn’t understand-

Mark was right to be paranoid.

They were both gonna die here, and it was gonna be all his fault-

“I’m not going to lie-the situation really sucks,” one of the twins lamented, tightening her restraint on Mark. “And we’re sorry for all this. This couldn’t have happened to nicer people-”

“You know, you could just let us go- ” Mark ground out.

“I’m afraid that’s not really an option. Not with Doran still there. Not after all he’s done-”

“Then-then help us-!” Jack plead desperately. He wasn’t sure if this would work. He could try reasoning with them, but something told him that they were gonna be a hard sell on that track. “You think we wanna be possessed?! Help us get him out without killing us-!”

“I don’t think-”

“The lad makes a decent argument. There might still be an alternative option,” a sharp new voice suddenly cut in. It was coming from the doorway of the kitchen, the one that led out to the bar. A woman’s voice, definitely Irish-Jack wasn’t entirely sure it was local though-

This should’ve been a good thing.

A third party vouching for them should’ve boded well for them!

But instead all he could feel was a surge of adrenaline, a shot of anxiety from the second spirit that dwelled within. And he could feel…

Nostalgia?

Regret?

Familiarity, if nothing else.

But it wasn’t really anything comforting.

“Let them rise,” the new voice called, and although there was a second of hesitation, Jack was relieved in spite of everything to feel the strain on his arm suddenly relax, the grip slackening just a bit. The pressure that was pinning his head and shoulder eased up as well, allowing him to start pushing himself up a bit.

“God...are you serious right now…?” he muttered, feeling the twin finally leave his person and allowing him to push himself up further. He could finally lift his head properly, get a better view of Mark-and was relieved to see that he was alright as well, on his feet and facing back into the kitchen-if not with an arm still locked behind his back. He had the feeling that would be the best he could really expect upon standing as well.

But he also took his opportunity to look back at where the new voice had come from, seeing that the figure was...actually fairly unassuming, a surprise for just how commanding it was. A small woman barely a couple inches over five feet, in her mid to late twenties with long crimson ringlets tumbling over her shoulders and piercing green eyes gazing back. She probably wasn’t much older than they were, in all honesty. Though pale-skinned, freckles littered the bridge of her nose. She was dressed in a business outfit, a green pantsuit with brass buttons and black shoes-it looked like she’d just returned from a meeting.

“Are you sure Brigid…?”

“I’m sure. Let them up.”

Jack pushed himself fully to his feet, feeling himself being pulled into a similar lock as Mark as he was turned to face the woman.

Who the hell is this?

There was silence for a long moment. But then there was the single-word answer from within, tense but also oddly subdued.

‘Brigid.’

Which is…?

Another pause. The new woman stared back at them, as if searching for something that no one else could see.

For a long moment he didn’t think Anti was even going to answer.

So when the other spoke up and broke the internal silence, it nearly startled him.

‘My teacher.’

“After all, should they try anything, I have it handled.” This new woman-Brigid, apparently-sounded fairly confident in her words.

“After what happened to your brother and the others though…”

“That was on Doran’s turf. Not theirs,” Brigid informed, walking forward and never taking her eyes off him and Mark. Or...Doran, Jack had a feeling. She seemed to be practically looking right through them, it was almost unnerving. “And under differing circumstances…” She tilted her head slightly in observation before adding, “But if I’m understanding what’s happened correctly...now he’s the one in dire straits. He’s the one that would probably benefit from cooperation with us.”

‘Tell her to piss off-any way this ends, we’re dead-’

Shut up , Anti-

Jack looked up at Brigid, blue eyes pleading but also...also daring to be almost hopeful. “For the record-we’re here too,” he reminded. “Mark and I? And you’re actually not wrong-we really could use whatever help someone-anyone-would be willing to offer. Preferably without us and our friends winding up dead, if that’s any possibility.”

Brigid tilted her head again in the other direction, eyeing him for a long moment before allowing a tiny smile to grace her lips. Jack wasn’t entirely sure if it was one of reassurance and understanding or just faked-but it definitely didn’t seem like the latter, and he normally prided himself on how well he could tend to read people. “Of course,” she replied. “I wouldn’t forget about you, Sean. You or your friend-it’s unfortunate whenever innocent bystanders are caught up in the conflicts of others.”

She looked to the captives for a moment, seeming in debate before she finally turned away and walked to the bar door. “George,” she ordered. “Close the pub early. Call the western branch for backup and make sure a safehouse is prepared. No doubt there’s already danger on the heels of these two.”

“You’re not going to teleport them outside of the city?” George questioned, getting up and making his way over. “The other fragments are likely going to expect Trinity, all things considered.”

“Yes, but I’m almost certain the one possessing Nestor is going to be able to identify wrinkles in the fabric of the arcanum if we travel magically. The last thing we need is him getting immediate direct coordinates to us, or even worse: of a safehouse. I don’t even want him to have an idea of the county.

Mark frowned, glancing over at Jack with a confused look. But In the back of his mind, he could hear an exasperated sigh. Really, it was about damn time Dark woke up.

Fabric of the arcanum is where magic overflows from the leylines to fill gaps, creating a shallow blanket layer over reality to circulate through the land and all things living.’ There was a pause, then the sound of Dark scoffing. ‘In other words, not enough magic to be relevant , but enough to give away one’s position in certain situations.’

“So in other words, teleportation was a great idea,” Mark grumbled sarcastically under his breath, watching the redhead in the doorway.

‘Did you have a better idea outside of immediate death?

“Uh-Brigid-” the twin restraining Jack spoke up. “Are you sure it’s a good idea getting these two out manually? What if there’s an ambush? We’re still in the middle of Dublin-”

“The others won’t risk making that much of a scene. Not here, not in the city. I’m sure the last thing any of the fragments of Doran want are mass attention,” Brigid countered, certainty in her beliefs cemented in her tone. “We should be more or less safe once outside of the city-even more so outside of the county altogether-just so long as we keep our wits about us. There’s a lot of open area between the east and the west-we can’t afford to let down our guard.”

The twins exchanged looks before looking back at Brigid. “Understood,” the one holding Mark affirmed.

Brigid turned fully to face them. “Grand. Alright, let’s get them upstairs and get this place locked up. The car needs to be pulled around front as well.”

“Well…” the one holding on to Jack looked at her captive, giving a small shrug. “It’s better than death. C’mon.”

The two were marched upstairs, to a hallway with two doors on each side and one at the end. It was that last one they went through, into a room that looked like a large office. It wasn’t until then that the twins released them, going to each window to check its security before returning to the two men. “Wait here,” one of them said before the two filtered out of the room.

Jack stared at their retreating figures for a moment, frozen in a sort of shock. Finally he shook his head and looked over at Mark, slightly wide-eyed. “What the fuck just happened?” he whispered. He flinched a bit at whatever Anti likely said in response, then scowled a bit. Mark looked back at him, trying to shake some of the soreness out of his arms.

You two stumbled into an O’Leary nest and now we’re captives. Genius,’ Dark sneered.

Mark made a face. Hey, it’s not like the O’Learys were a thing you even mentioned, he pointed out. But-still-he couldn’t deny either that he had his own hesitation about following that ghost, about entering this place. What the hell were they thinking? Suspicious place normally equaled bad-after all the horror games he’d played in his past, after the whole incident with the mansion, he really should’ve known better. Jack should’ve known better, even without memories of the incident, just-

They really needed to stop making bad choices before it ended up getting them killed.

“Well-on the bright side, this Brigid lady sounded like she might be interested in helping us?” Jack mentioned hopefully.

“Yeah, I’m not fully trusting of that-” Mark muttered, walking restlessly around the room to test each of the windows and to get an idea of just how far down an emergency jump would be. “Those twins were ready to kill us, Jack. Dark's freaking out, and though I can't hear him, I'm about positive Anti isn't much better off. Is he?" He looked back at Jack, worry etched on his features. "This has bad news written all over it-”

“But that’s just it: if they were going to kill us, they would’ve already done it,” Jack pointed out. “I’m serious, Mark-I think this might just be the best place for us.”

“I-” Mark’s words fell silent as the door opened and the petite redhead stepped inside. She pushed the door shut behind her, making sure to lock it, then looked from one man to the other. In her hand she now held a briefcase, which she carried over to the desk and set down to open.

“I figured I would make communication a bit easier; constantly relaying the messages of others must be a real headache,” she remarked. “Just try and keep public use of these objects to a minimum.”

“Objects?” Mark repeated, cautiously approaching the desk to try and get a look at whatever was in the briefcase.

“Yes. Former possessions of Doran. Totems, if you will.” The woman withdrew a couple of objects from the briefcase, handing one off to Mark and the other over to Jack.

Mark stared at the newly-acquired object with a hint of confusion. It looked almost like a pinwheel made of reeds, but only half-completed-or maybe it’d just come undone? It looked frail with age, easy to break. Such a small, fragile thing-

And yet he could feel an ache in his chest, quickly replaced by a rise of anger. Not his own, of course, but from the entity that was taking up space in his head.

“How the hell did you get this?”

The voice about made him jump.

Not because he didn’t recognize it, on the contrary. He’d been hearing that voice in his head for what already felt like ages, but-

Not so much externally, not when he was this awake, not like this-

He spun around to see..himself? No, Dark , leaning over his shoulder to study the object with a hint of anger in his features. Brigid’s green eyes drew to the newly-visible entity, looking surprisingly calm. God, if this was what counted for normality, what the hell was her life like on a daily basis?

“It was one of a handful of items you left behind,” she replied, as if he were just a regularly-visiting friend that merely forgot his jacket or something.

Mark’s eyes darted over to Jack, who was too busy staring at Dark with wide eyes to even so much register that he was currently holding what looked like a small wooden wand, tipped with a clear stone-probably quartz.

Too busy to notice the form of Anti-in the form Mark knew him as Anti-standing behind him.

“If I’m understanding circumstances correctly-and stop me if this sounds at all inaccurate-whatever direct attempts Doran’s been making for communication and general interaction with the outside world has been met with nothing short of exhaustion and even pain. Such is because performing said actions without a middleman requires the use of mostly-forced control,” Brigid explained. “I’ve gone to the liberty of enchanting these totems to act as foci. They should help to project them as separate and make it easier to communicate,” Brigid explained. “Don’t worry. Turning it off is as simple as distancing yourself from the totem-unless they actually gain enough strength to start doing it all on their own. Let’s hope that this isn’t a situation that goes on long enough or becomes desperate enough for something like that to happen.”

The two hosts stared at Brigid for a long moment before Jack finally shook his head. “I hate to be the one to break it to you, but I’m not entirely sure this really counts as much of an improvement-”

Dark meanwhile reached over to take the totem from Mark, scowling upon watching his hand pass through the object. “This again.”

“I’m sure you’re no stranger to a form of shadows,” Brigid replied dryly.

It was about at this point that Jack turned his focus to the totem in his hands, holding it up for study. “And what the hell is this? Baby’s first wand?” he muttered.

Anti twisted around to give Jack a look. “For your information, I was eight, ” he snapped back.He then turned to Brigid, a suspicious look on his face. “What’s your play in all this? What do you stand to gain?”

“Stand to gain? ” Brigid scoffed. “Do you have any idea how much trouble you’re in with the magical community? How much chaos you have single-handedly wrought upon the world-?”

“Wait-upon the world? ” Jack asked, looking from one to the other, then over at Mark. “...I thought he just killed a bunch of people and created monsters! And-well-sure, that’s bad and all obviously but-it sounds a lot more contained than something worldwide-

Mark looked just as mystified before something clicked in his head. “Wait-no-does this have something to do with the time-turning?” He twisted around to look at Dark, look at Anti-both stood staring at Brigid, but the former a bit more rigid, lips pursed and the latter-

Glaring at the redhead. Borderline bearing his teeth in almost a feral manner. Mark glanced back at Jack and couldn't help but notice the somewhat-unnerved look on his face; the poor man must've had seen such an expression on his own face before in his videos, but it probably wasn’t a look he ever intended to see in an actual serious manner-

No matter who was currently wearing it.

“I know,” Anti growled. “And I don’t regret any of it either-”

“Anti,” Dark interrupted. “Shut up.” He turned to Brigid, smoothing his clothing, or at least doing a gesture of it-there really wasn’t that much difference, nothing too physical to smooth out anyway. “So I take it you’re here to kill us?”

“I…” Brigid’s words fell short for a brief moment, an unwanted lull as her eyes trailed over to Jack and Mark, then snapped back over to Dark. Her voice picked up again, as quickly as it had faded before. “I’m here to stop you from killing more innocent civilians. And I’m here to help them. That is my main mission in all this. The ending of your life is a consequence of your own actions.”

“That is...a fairly roundabout way of saying she’s gonna kill them,” Jack muttered to Mark, who nodded in return.

Dark’s eyes narrowed. “How self-righteous of you, as if you or any of your kind have never actually killed innocent civilians before-” he began, but he fell silent when the door suddenly opened and a head peeked inside.

“Uh, Brigid-?” one of the twins asked. Her eyes trailed upwards to look at the rest of the room, widening slightly upon seeing the two new figures. “Whoa-”

“It’s a projection spell, love. What’s the news?” Brigid asked, turning to look back at her.

“The car’s out front and ready. We’re officially closed up-still gonna have to come back later and get some extra cleaning and stuff done, but otherwise…”

Brigid nodded, looking back at the boys. “Time to go."

Chapter Text

Brigid hurried over to the desk and closed the briefcase with a snap. “Lads, I’m going to have to ask ye to hand Orien your totems for the time being. Again, we don’t really want public exposure of magic-especially here.”

Jack and Mark exchanged glances before tentatively approaching the young woman to hand over their totems. “Just so long as you don’t end up putting me in another armlock…” Jack muttered.

Orien smiled brightly in response. “Sorry about that. But I do have a job to do, you know.”

“And just-what is that job again?”

“I’m a guardian.”

“A...what?” Jack asked, absently noting Mark leaning in a bit to get more of an explanation as well. If the fragments were going to be vague and elusive, then so be it-he’d get information about what the hell was going on through other sources.

“A guardian. From a guardian family,” Orien explained.

So much for ‘other sources not being vague and elusive’. Dammit.

“Specifically, her guardian.” Orien pointed out the petite redhead leading the group. “All bound witches and wizards have them-the O’Learys are hers.”

“Wait-wait-wait-” Mark cut in. “What the hell is a bound witch/wizard?”

By this point the group was filtering onto the narrow staircase, single-file.

“Well…” Orien began, but waited until they reached the ground floor to look over at Brigid. “Brigid, if I may-?”

“I actually had plans on explaining that to them myself,” Brigid assured. “They’re bound to have it explained to them at some point or another-I’d rather it be from us as opposed to from the fragments themselves.”

She says that as if I hate them without reason-’ Jack heard the hiss in his brain, feeling the simmering, seething anger ready to explode without a moment’s notice.

Well we’re not really getting any straight explanations from you, so shut up, okay? Jack shot back mentally as the group crossed the main part of the restaurant. As they reached the door, Jack couldn’t help but glance back. Static seemed to claw at the edges of his vision as translucent ghosts crowded the room. Patrons, staff-

His eyes fell upon a scene at one of the tables off in the corner. It was...that image he saw earlier, back when they were attempting to flee. And now he was seeing it again. A young boy sitting there tiredly with a girl stubbornly by his side, a few children, a few teenagers (including the one he followed into this place to begin with, if not perhaps a bit younger)... They were tired, worn, all of ranging ages-

They were family.

But then the figure that particularly startled him: a petite young woman in a dress, long ringlets falling over her shoulders. Higher class than that of the family but certainly of the same time period-

A time period that looked like that of at least four hundred years ago .

He looked over at Brigid-then back at the figure in the corner. Yeah, clothing aside, it was definitely her. The figures were identical. And looking at Brigid right now, it looked like she’d barely aged more than a handful years or so-if even that.

Well of course. She was my teacher when I was eight ,’ Anti sneered in his head.

How is that even possible? Jack mentally questioned, stunned at this revelation.

A silence followed for a moment before Anti merely responded with, ‘ There’s more than one way to skin a cat.’

It was at around this point that the overlay faded from his sight and he shook his head to try and clear it, looking back at the group and only gradually starting to realize that Orien was talking to them.

“Um-” he interrupted, although his voice was faint, still in a little bit of a stupor. But he continued to try and shake it off, raising his voice a bit more as his present awareness gradually returned. “What...what happened to them?”

Orien stopped talking for a moment, looking over at him curiously. “Hm?” she asked.

“The...uh-the people-” His words dropped off upon remembering that they didn’t actually know about his newfound power, reaching for a new way of asking. “George mentioned something about Anti’s family passing through here at some point?” Why was he even asking? Why did he even care? He didn’t ever know them-

But suddenly he could sense some of Anti’s anger ebb away, replaced by a mix of curiosity and lingering sadness.

Brigid turned to look at him, eyes sharp. “They died,” she replied simply, a sudden drop from the concerned and sympathetic woman they’d seen just moments prior. Jack and Mark stared for a moment, unable to find words. Brigid was unphased. “That’s what happens to most humans after four hundred years, provided they don’t use alternative supernatural means.”

Mark looked over at Jack, the uncertainty that’d been accompanying him throughout this whole thing back in full force, but then he looked at Brigid. “Brigid,” he asked. “I’m asking again: just what is a bound witch or wizard?

Brigid opened her mouth to explain, but the door opened and the other twin-Kally, the others could suppose-poking her head inside.

“The escort car just pulled up. We should be ready to go now. For real this time.”

Brigid nodded, letting Kally open the door wider and motioning everyone else outside. As she did, she looked back over at Kally. “I take it I’ll have one of you on immediate, the other on standby?”

“Sure will,” Orien replied, walking by with keys in hand. “I’m driving.”

Kally watched for a moment, then looked back at Brigid. “I’ve got Kyle in the other car, we’ll be following right behind,” she reassured before hurrying to the other car.

Brigid nodded, hurrying over to the main car and sliding into the passenger’s seat while Orien meanwhile pushed the boys into the back. Shutting the door behind Jack, she then moved over to the door on the driver’s end and slid in, starting up the car.

“Time to get moving,” she muttered, pulling away from the curb and beginning to head down the street.

Brigid watched for a long moment, watching as they carefully avoided the pedestrians (this was still the Temple Bar area, after all), before finally speaking.

“All humans have an ‘arcanum door’ embedded within them-but for most of them, these doors remain tightly shut over the course of their entire lives. And all for the better as access to those leylines and arcane energy would be able to easily rip the average person apart. Witches and wizards, however, are people who are uniquely more durable in both body and soul, able to open and shut this door at will without consequence and reach directly into the arcane energies channeled through leyline currents and blanketing the world for their own uses.”

Jack leaned forward a bit, only held back somewhat by the strain of his seatbelt.

“That being said, witches and wizards are quite rare overall. There is normally only a handful born every generation, and even then, there are the occasional few that never come across a great enough trigger event to awaken their latent ability-a moment of great stress and desperation, or contact with something else related to the arcane.”

“We have a friend who’s actually a wizard,” Mark spoke up. “I think you've mentioned him already but-it's our friend Ethan-he’s the one being possessed by one of the fragments right now, one calling himself Blank-”

“I have heard about him, yes,” Brigid assured. “From Guin. She’s my older sister.”

The boys stared, finally broken as Mark suppressed a groan and leaned back again. Jack got the sneaking suspicion his friend had pretty much had it with this particular family already.

“Okay. But is there any particular reason you guys keep putting ‘bound’ in front of the title of ‘witch’ and ‘wizard’? Is Ethan one of these bound?”

Brigid paused, then shook her head. “No,” she replied. “There are distinct differences between bound and unbound. Unbound are generally beginner wizards and onwards, until a binding ceremony takes place.” She twisted in her seat slightly to look back at them. “To fully grasp this, you have to understand that the leyline currents are much like that of an actual river you’d see upon the land: occasionally they’ll dam up and overflow, occasionally they’ll run dry, and sometimes they'll just stagnate altogether. They’re extremely temperamental and these fluctuations-especially in the more extreme times-have direct consequence on everything else.”

‘Almost surprised four hundred years have passed and she still hasn’t changed her original analogy-’ Anti grumbled. ‘Almost.’

“While arcane energy can rip a normal person apart when channeled directly, there are trickles of it throughout nature and in almost every living thing. These energies are vital in encouraging stabilization in all things. Too much or too little of it can increase subconscious agitation among the people of that particular leyline’s region, making them more predisposed to hatred and conflict. It can affect the environment, causing famine, drought, and other such catastrophes. This is not to say, of course, that there are not other factors at play-with or without arcane energies, all of these possibilities and more are liable to happen regardless. But when the leylines are kept in balance, the likelihood of predisposition goes down significantly and catastrophic events can become even just a fraction more manageable.”

“So these bound are…” Mark began.

“In most simplistic terms: regulators,” Brigid finished. “In the event of a binding ceremony, the witch or wizard becomes bound to the leylines of a particular region. The leylines channel directly through them-and in consequence, most will actually lose their magical abilities due to their bodies redirecting all of its strength and focus into said regulation as well as holding itself together. There are...anomalies, of course. Those that are extra durable, like myself and my family. But these are even rarer still.”

“And that’s why you’re...what? Immortal?” Jack asked.

Brigid shook her head. “Not immortal,” she replied. “But aging far slower than the average human, certainly. And...somewhat more difficult to kill.” She paused, considering. “Generally speaking, most Bound do not disappear until something particularly apocalyptic happens within their region. In most known cases: borderline or total cultural collapse-as well as a handful of other rarities. The Bound witch is that of her people, land, and culture-and they her. Their pain is her pain and her struggles can be felt by all those within her leyline boundaries. And the same goes for any wizarding counterpart.”

“So Anti...Dark, whichever-”

“Doran,” Brigid interrupted softly. “He went by Doran.”

“Doran,” Jack repeated. “I take it he wasn’t a bound wizard?”

‘I would choose death over binding,’ Anti sneered.

Well. He supposed that answered that question.

Brigid was silent as she faced forward again, watching as the car made its way through traffic along the Liffey. When she spoke, her voice was soft and weighed with an emotion he couldn’t quite put his finger on. Understanding...and regret? It was almost as if she were lost in some sort of memory.

“The case of Doran is...complicated. Was.”

And with that, she settled into silence again, leaving a blanket of confusion and curiosity to cover over all of its occupants. But after a couple of minutes, her thumbs snapped up the clasps of her briefcase and she pulled it open again. “Well then,” she finally continued. Some of the reminiscence was shaken away from her tone. “All of that aside, I suppose you’re wondering how I’ll be able to help ye.”

“Well that would be very nice,” Mark replied cautiously. “So long as it’s help that doesn’t involve any of us dying or being exposed to any sketchy magic-”

“It involves sketchy magic.”

Mark’s face scrunched up into a worried, uncertain expression. The stubbornness was evident in his eyes. “In that case, III don’t know about using your method. You know, we’ll probably be able to find some other kind of way-”

“There is another kind of way,” Brigid interrupted. Her voice took on a flat tone as she finished, “It’s called death.”

Mark fell silent, eyeing her without immediate comeback.

“I can’t stress how bad and unusual of a situation this is,” Brigid warned. “This is the sort of thing that never happens. And it doesn’t help that the fragments ye carry belong to someone that has a target on his back. There are plenty of Bound that would rather see ye both dead if it means being rid of Doran once and for all. If this goes on for much longer, threats will be coming in from all sides, not just from the other fragments themselves.” Brigid looked down at the briefcase’s interior as she added, “They’re even to be found within my own family...ye don’t know how lucky ye are that I was the one that found ye.”

Jack exchanged a nervous glance with Mark before looking back at Brigid. “Good to know. We’ll definitely keep that in mind,” he assured. Clearing this throat, he added, “So-uh-what’s the sketchy way?”

“This.” Brigid withdrew an old silver hand mirror, the handle and framing ornate. Mark leaned forward, lip curling up a bit as his face contorted in confusion.

“...Huh?”

“Uh-Brigid-no disrespect or anything but...that’s a mirror,” Jack pointed out.

“And the object that helped you to reverse death and move time itself was a book,” Brigid chided. “I fail to see your point.”

“Okay and...how is this thing supposed to help us?” Mark asked, doing his best to keep some of the apprehension out of his voice.

Brigid handed the mirror back to them so they could look it over for themselves. “Normal humans cannot use magic directly, but at the very least they can use magical objects . Some of these objects are suspected of being Sidhe artifacts-”

“Woah, what? Sidhe-?” Jack cut in, but was unacknowledged.

“-But most of them are made by alchemists.”

Jack could feel a pang inside, but for the moment, Anti remained silent. It seemed he was listening just as intently.

“The way the mirror works is that if you reflect the face of a person in it and say their name, the mirror will draw out their soul and effectively trap it in the realm that lies on the other side,” Brigid explained. “But even that much poses a bit too much of a risk of an escape, so it’s best to transfer it over to a better form of connecting containment immediately upon withdrawal.”

“Wait a minute, what?” Mark asked, frowning. The frown was broken momentarily by a wince-Jack got the feeling Dark wasn’t too happy hearing this news. He could certainly tell that Anti wasn’t. “So if you were to do that, then what would happen to our souls? I mean, it’s technically our faces that would be showing in the mirror-”

“Doesn’t matter. In the state the soul fragments are in now, that level of facial identification should be more than enough. And the mirror only targets that of whose name is spoken. Theoretically, it should be able to separate the two souls out before drawing the targeted one in.”

“Hold on, theoretically? ” Mark repeated, eyes narrowing to suspicion.

“Oh-what are those things from Harry Potter?” Jack muttered absently before it came to mind and he grimaced. “Dementors, I think? Fuckin’ dementor mirror.”

‘Do you think this is some kind of game? Anti demanded.

Jack didn’t get the opportunity to mentally respond before Brigid spoke up.

“As I warned, this isn’t a phenomenon that happens often if at all,” she reminded. “All I can say for certain is how the mirror works under normal circumstance, how it's most likely to work in these sort of conditions, and that I can assure ye that I’ve never seen it led astray.”

Jack ignored the rising growl within his head, turning the mirror over in his hands to study it. There was a part of him that almost wished to break it, or to even turn it on himself and speak his own name: Sean William McLoughlin-

But that part of him wasn’t his.

And upon realizing this, he pursed his lips, then shook his head. “In that case, we can’t have this.” He leaned forward a bit to hand the mirror back. “We shouldn’t even be anywhere near this, or at least not within arms’ reach. Suppose one of the fragments were to take over; they could turn the mirror right back around and use it on us instead. A fragment would have nothing to stop it from taking that person’s body over completely.”

The redhead didn’t take it.

“Do you really think only a fragment of one’s soul is enough to operate a foreign functioning human body? Adequately at least? One would be severely weakened and likely even crippled at best, ” Brigid replied.

‘A fucking shame ,’ Anti grumbled. It seemed he saw the sense in the matter, but couldn’t quite hide his disappointment that such an option just wasn’t feasible. Jack didn’t even bother to hide his relief.

“But if it does continue to concern ye, I’d recommend keeping it in the hands of whichever one of ye is least likely to fall under direct control from yer fragment.”

Mark glanced over at Jack, silent for a moment before replying, “...Jack is.” But then he paused. A frown flitted across his face and he looked up at Brigid with a moment of realization. “But wait a second-why are you even giving it over to us to begin with? If it’s just that easy -if it really works the way you say it does, then why haven’t you just used it on us already?”

‘Because she won’t,’ Anti deduced. ‘And she can’t. It-’

But whatever Anti’s next words were, Jack didn’t hear.

His blue eyes widened as he saw a familiar face on the sidewalk as the car passed it by-

The only warning Jack had was Orien’s exclamation of “What the hell is that?!” before a large boom! resounded all around them and their world suddenly capitulated. There was the sudden sickening feeling of weightlessness that fell over them for a split-second before it was abruptly cast away with a crash and a loud crunching noise.