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A Face of Gold, A Heart of Coal

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Panic has him in a chokehold.

This can't be real.

His immediate reaction is to step away, but Robert Peach's hands shoot out quick as a snake, dragging Luke back in by his wrists. Which ruins the denial that had been trying to rise up his throat. The specter in front of him is far too calm and still for his liking.

Watching and waiting.

"How?"

It's shaky, like a newborn calf learning to walk, and out in the open between them without any thought. Or maybe too much thought. There's so much he still doesn't understand about what happened, but he does understand the warmth of Robert Peach's hands that practically burns him to even acknowledge.

This isn't unresolved trauma haunting him.

Because reality doesn't work this way, but the Peach's never cared much for following the rules of something like that.

"Isn't it obvious, Mouse?" Robert asks, deceptively soft tone at odds with the iron grip he keeps on Luke's wrists, thumbs rubbing circles into the backs of his hands versus the ever present smug expression. Though now it looks more indulgent than anything else, as much as it pains Luke to even think it. "I'll give you a hint: go to our grave."

"That's not really a hint," Luke manages to say without stumbling over the words.

"You're right. It's not." The conspiratorial way he says it like they're both in on whatever the hell is happening makes Luke's body sway a little bit closer, drawn in like a moth to the flame. "But let's make a game of it."

Dangerous words.

Luke should refuse. He knows he should, just like he knows that he won't get any answers unless he accepts, but that would be playing right into whatever trap Robert Peach is making. And Robert, the smug bastard, is getting a kick out of Luke's obvious dilemma.

Then again, Luke's never been good at ignoring bad ideas.

That infuriating glint returns to Robert Peach's eye, like he knows he's got Luke - hook, line, and sinker.

"Bring a shovel," he says before finally releasing Luke. As he takes a step back, the house falls away and Luke is standing in the middle of Medallion Park once more, alone.

Well... as alone as Luke Vanczyk can be.