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Play Me a Tune, Piano Man

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She can hear it. Squelching, it burbles beneath the cracking of flames, liquid and solid at the same time. And terrifying in the way it moves, a frantic scramble of wet limbs and the sound—

Rebecca can barely hear it over her pulse in her ears, the quick breathes she can’t keep steady. She looks around the room, at the bar she’s leaned against and the stool she’d knocked over in her panic. It was empty, save for Billy, and she sighs. Drags her back down the bar, until she’s on the dingy carpet and put her head in her arms, her knees to her chest.

Whatever those things were, she hated them. She really really hated them. The...corpses, whatever you’d call them, now felt so tame. Even those disgusting, massive bugs. And the dogs , the dogs

“Relax. It’s done for.” Billy says, breaks her from her thoughts and punctuates it with the sound of a leech crushed beneath his boot. Pushes his hair back, damp with sweat, puts the bottle in his hand on the floor and sits as well. It’s a piano, dusty with the little stool, torn at the corners.

“Is it?”

Rebecca forces herself to stand, though her legs shake and her head spins. The molotov in her hand is a steady warmth against her arm, extinguishing it quickly before it found a place on the bar.

“Pretty sure,” he huffs, puts his gun aside. And when he turns to look at her, his eyes roam the shelves, lined with liquors and wines. “And if it isn’t,” he stands, investigates and separates the empty from the full. “It will be when we leave.”

As he does so, she returns her gun to her belt. The piano beckons her, but all seems normal, down to a wilted rose, hanging limp from its vase. She walks the perimeter, looks for doors beneath the carpet or paintings to move. Whatever they were doing here, they truly didn’t want it to be found, what with the damn puzzles that felt straight from a fairytale book.

There’s a painting to the right to the bar, and grasps the frame, pulling it from the wall without trouble. But there’s nothing behind it, no switch or safe, nothing on the back. She places it aside, almost moving on before her hand, running along the old wallpaper, dips and stops her in place.

Looking closer, Rebecca can see a thinly cut line in the pattern, and realizes there’s an ever so slight indent.

“Billy, check this out.”

The clatters of bottles stop, and he’s her side, feeling up the same indent and hums.

“A hidden door?”

“It has to be something. It has to be. Can it be moved?”

With a light stretch, Billy presses his arm and side to it, pushes into it. His boots dig and tear at the floor, she pulls from the other side but it doesn’t budge.

“Guess not.”

“But...What else would be?”

“Maybe it’s something at the bar, I’ll check it out.”

She regains her breath, glad to have someone for the heavier lifting. She was decently athletic, by all means, she had to be to join the team. And certainly, she had minor weapon training. But for god’s sake, she’s a medic . This isn’t supposed to be hers to do, but undead monsters and spooky woodland mansions weren’t in the job description. She had to do it, whether she liked or not.

With that determination in mind, she makes her way to the other side of the room. The potted plant yields nothing, she finds no further dents in the wall, and she is not stepping out of the room alone.

Her attention draws back to the piano, taking quiet steps over to it. Nothing seemed unusual, but she didn’t know anything about instruments, let alone pianos. There was a book propped up against it, sheet music. She looks over it, but it feels like a foreign language, as do the other pages she quickly glances at.

Rebecca looks to it, to the indent in the wall, back to the sheet. It...couldn’t be, could it?

Taking a seat, she pulls up to it, not sure what to do with her hands. She flips back to the pages it was originally on, and notices a small diagram of the keys.

Hesitantly, she pushes down on one, almost jumps out of skin at how loud it seemed in the otherwise silent room. And then again, for a moment, it almost seems something like a song. Until the next note is terribly off, harsh against her ears but she keeps trying. The result is absolutely ear-rupturing, headache inducing. She sighs, putting a stop to her attempt, and is confused to hear applause.

Billy is clapping, grinning that shit eating grin, eyeing her. “Sorry, but you call that music, dollface?”

Pouting, Rebecca slams her hands down, each finger on a key. The following bang makes Billy cringe, and she can’t bite back her smirk. “Think you can do better?”

“Well, why don’t we see?” He hops over the bar, apparently too lazy to just walk around it like a normal person. And takes her seat, chuckling as she crosses her arms, then at the surprise on her face as he plays.

It’s a simple melody, filling the skeleton of a tune she had attempted. She watches his fingers run along it, and the music only slightly wavers, too fast at times and a wrong key once or twice. But a song nonetheless, a soothing one, almost...calming.

He must mistake her relaxed features as surprise, because he grins again and taps the last key. “That better?”

“You know how to play?” She replies, not wanting to give him the satisfaction of her surprise and minor astonishment.

“Learned as a child. Kind of rusty, but I have the basics.” Billy shrugs, about to reply further when the floor begins to shake, the bottles lining the shelves hitting each other and dust rising from the wall. The indent, to their genuine surprise, begins to move and slides to reveal a room. 

“How the hell…”

“I’ll investigate!” She says, pulls her gun back out and at her side. “Stay here.”

He doesn’t seem convinced, but does as he’s told. And she enters carefully, before sighing in relief. “Clear.”

What use there was for this room, Rebecca wasn’t sure. She can’t find anything of note, only shelves and shelves of bottles and barrels. A panel marks the end of the little tunnel, and in it a battery. The lift outside! This is just what they needed! Carefully, she shuts it off and pulls it out, heavy in her hands but more than manageable. “Billy! I found

When she turns, her eyes widen to see the wall moving yet again, splintering the floor beneath it and blocking the light as it went. Foolishly, she runs as if she can squeeze through before it shuts, but can only make it enough to shout a futile Billy! Before it closes and the room gets dark. Her senses were already heightened by her fear, but she found herself absolutely blind. It would be different if it weren’t some stupid, crowded secret corridor that was so full things were touching her no matter how she moved and she couldn’t tell what way she was facing or what was in front of her

“Billy! Please, get me out!!” Her fists pound the door, the battery falls to her the floor. She’s hyperventilating. “Billy, Billy please! Billy

She almost, almost reaches for her radio and then she hears it, those gentle notes, faint but audible. And she focuses on it, tries to listen to every note instead of the terrifying, cramped darkness around her. Tries to control her breathing.

Rebecca doesn’t realize when it stops, until the panelling under her hands begins to shift and light slowly pours into the room. It hurts but she blinks through it, until she can see the pink wallpaper and and the sides of the piano. Quick as she can, she grabs the battery and runs out as quickly as her disorientation can manage.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, yeah! Fine! I just…” The door remains still, like mocking her. Not that she dare try entering again.

There's genuine concern on his face, it stops her. But as soon she sees it, its gone. “ Claustrophobic, princess? Or just scared of the dark?”

“N...no! Neither of those!” She doesn't mean to turn red, she shouldn't be so flustered. “You try getting locked in a dark secret room!”

“And get stuck because you can't play the piano? I'll pass.”

“Oh, whatever! Just, give me a few minutes to rest.”

“The longer we rest, the harder it'll be to leave.”

“I know...just...please.”

“...Yeah. Alright.”

Thankful, Rebecca takes a seat at the bar, as the table had an abundance of gross, spoiled food. The ache in her legs and arms became more apparent, and he was right in that she wanted to get back up less now more than ever.

“...Hey, Billy?”

“Yeah, dollface?”

“...Could you...play the piano again? I mean, can you? You know, the whole song. Or are you too rusty?”

Phrasing it as a challenge made it a little less pathetic, she thought, admitting that she was curious about this hobby, something so unlikely from a supposed convict. She wasn't sure if she believed him completely, if she trusted him, but…

She wanted to.

“...Well, I'm not sure about the whole song.” Billy has that teasing tone again, but he's smiling. Not grinning, smiling . “But for you, dollface? I can try.”