Vivi goes to sleep in her nice cozy bed, Mystery snuggled up to her side, and wakes up in a hospital room two days later.
On first impression, she can’t tell why . All her body parts are where they’re supposed to be. She has no open wounds or broken bones. She feels fine. At worst, she’s a bit tired, and her head’s a little fuzzy. Nothing in the room indicates any specific problems. It’s the most generic hospital room Vivi’s seen in her life.
She’s only awake for a couple minutes before a nurse comes by, and then her family floods the room. Grandmother looks as unruffled as ever, but there’s a crease of concern on her brow. Her father hovers over her anxiously, like he’s making sure she’s really there. Her mother is crying.
“We were so worried,” Her father says thickly.
“Do you know what happened?” Her mother sobs. “No one- no one can figure it out, Lewis doesn’t remember anything after- after your investigation started, and
----- is missing-“
“Wait, Mom,” Vivi interrupts. “What did you say?”
“W-What?” She sniffles.
“You said someone’s missing.”
Arthur , honey.” Her mom says tearfully.
Vivi blinks, and the name slips away like water. Her head pounds.
Lewis gets discharged from the hospital with his right arm limp in a sling and a physical therapy schedule. He steps out into a world that’s all wrong.
Vivi... Vivi doesn't remember Arthur. She doesn't remember Artie at all . Not the way his face crinkled when he smiled (even when he was trying to hide it), or the sound of his laugh, or the color of his eyes in the early sunlight or his favorite food or his beloved star pin or his stupid puns or those puffy vests he loved even though they made him look even more like a cartoon character—doesn't remember his fear or anxiously clinging hands or that shaky half-smile he did when he was trying to put on a brave face; doesn't remember how sensitive he was to the supernatural, more than both of them—
Hell, she doesn't even remember where they got the van! She thinks it belongs to Lewis . (And isn't that a joke; he has no clue how to maintain this thing! That was— is Arthur's job. Arthur was always so amazing with machines.
Lewis can't even begin to compare.)
He can't even mention Arthur to her without causing massive migraines. Looking at photographs, her eyes slide right over him. He's tried everything , but nothing works! So he just. He gives up on that part for now.
Once Lewis finds Arthur, Vivi will remember him. She has to.
(If she doesn't, then— then what—)
She will. She will . Lewis just has to find him first.
He's been scouring his house for maps, trying to mark down places Arthur might be. It's a little harder, considering the numbness in his arm, but it's not like that'll stop him. He has to find Artie. He has to fix this.
Lewis's current working theory is that, like Vivi, Arthur wandered out of that awful cave with no memory. But the problem was Arthur was alone, so there was no one to jumpstart his memory, or take him to the hospital (he's fine he's fine he's fine—) . Which means that he's just wandering around with no clue who he is. They sent search parties around the cave after they were sure that Arthur hadn't shown up (and Lewis looked himself, when he finally got out of the hospital). Once Lewis finds him, he can fix it and everything— everything will be okay again.
The problem, of course, is that Lewis can't really just... leave. What he can do, however, is go sleuthing with Vivi. And, well, Vivi's been gearing up for another cross-country search for the supernatural. It's only the third one they've done (Artie should be here—) but Lewis knows that they really go all over the place. Which would give him a chance. Because if Arthur— if Arthur wasn't near the cave, and he wasn't in any neighboring towns, then he must’ve gone further.
Lewis has to believe Arthur had gotten further. Because if— if Arthur was— if he was dead , then. Lewis doesn't— he can't— Artie has to be alive. He has to be.
So, Arthur is definitely dead. Like, 100%. His memory may be a little foggy at the moment, but, uh, living people don't glow. And they don't have weird skull faces. So, based on the evidence, he's some kind of spirit. Which is. Um. Not great.
He's got this little— uh, there's this little heart thing pulsing in front of his weird skeleton chest. He's wearing— clothes. Glowing clothes. He can't really, um, tell what they look like, but they're there. It's hard for Arthur to tell what anything really looks like, at the moment. He really hopes he's not gonna end up wearing something awkward and weird, like a— a suit or something. God, Arthur feels so weird in formal clothes. Why is he even thinking about this so much? He might be in shock. Just a little.
He's not— he's for sure not in the— cave? Yeah, the cave. He's not in the cave that they— who? hold on— that they went to in his most recent memory. But the memory isn't quite, well, all there yet. It's coming back.
Arthur knows that he wasn't alone. The people with him— purplebluered —were... important. Really important. Blue.... Vivi? Vivi wanted to go to the cave. She loves the supernatural, and spicy food, and adventure, and her dog— red— Mystery? Mystery. He was too smart for a normal dog, and he'd been a part of Vivi's family for generations, but nobody talked about it. Right. He also could speak? Arthur had stopped asking questions about that a long time ago. He was— sharp-red-large-streaming — He was good. And purple.... Lewis.
Oh god, Lewis. He almost— He almost pushed Lewis — there was a thing in his brain— sickly-sweet and greengreengreen creeping in too subtle to notice— cruel words spoken kindly— It was speaking some truth, though.
It was completely right when it said Arthur is dangerous. The fact that he was weak enough, pathetic enough, to tempt a demon in proves it. He couldn't even fight it off. And he was... he was something sick. His love was sick. He was stupid and pathetic and greedy, and everyone he loved was destroyed eventually. It happened with his parents, and the first three homes that took him in. His earlier friends were smart enough to let him drive them away. As for Uncle Lance, and Galahad, and the three people (well, two people and one "dog?") that weren't put off by him when he had moved there..... it was only a matter of time.
It's better this way, Arthur thinks. Now he won't have a chance to ruin anything.
He's formed somewhere empty, but he can feel... walls? Growing up from the ground, pale orange and yellow (and green nonono no no green-) . And when he says feel, he means like. He can actually, physically (metaphysically?) feel them building themselves up.
It makes him... tired, inexplicably. But he's relieved, too. The walls make twisting, shapeless paths leading to nowhere, or leading right back out. It'd be near impossible to reach him in this maze. It'll protect people from him. Protect them from him. (weakweakweak so pathetic that you did all the work for that demon yourself-).
Arthur stifles a crackling sob (and isn't that weird- no mouth and yet...) and lets his despair pull him downdowndown until the only thing left in the empty room is a cracked little heart, magenta and pulsing blue.
The next time Arthur… wakes up, for lack of a better term, is… unexpected.
Not the actual waking up part. Well, a little bit the waking up part. He’s not really sure how this works. No, what really gets him is the pile of mostly formless yellow-orange… things . Cuddly things. That are on top of him. Moving .
One lifts its head(???) off of Arthur’s chest, and blinks open sleepy magenta eyes. It yawns, face splitting into a horrifying jagged maw.
Arthur screams. Everything starts moving very fast.
By the time Arthur’s gotten ahold of himself, he’s got his back pressed up against a wall and a handful of wide bright eyes glowing at him from the other side of the room. Arthur stares back, frozen.
One slinks forward a little, making a hesitant, cooing hum. He feels a foreign sense of greeting-concern-apology , most definitely coming from the little thing staring mournfully up at him with big, deceptively adorable blue eyes.
“Oh my god ,” Arthur whimpers, clutching his anchor close to his chest. “ What?”
This seems to encourage them. The rest of the creatures start to follow after the first. There’s roughly six of them all together, all the same base color, but split evenly between magenta and blue accents.
“What are you?” Arthur says warily, shrinking in on himself at their approach. The leader stops when he flinches, hovering a respectable distance away.
Deadbeats . The thought-feeling-idea comes again, followed by another subtly different one that Arthur assumes comes from one of the others. Friends-allies-helping . Helping-spirits.
Yours now. Another one chimes in.
“Um?” Arthur replies intelligently. “What???”
Helping-spirits, old-lost-tired. Help you now. A magenta one attempts to explain patiently. The others chirp harmoniously in agreement.
For some reason, his heart-anchor tries to hum in tune.
“I-I need to sit down,” He murmurs weakly, sliding down the wall. It’s then that he notices he’d been floating for most of the exchange. Something hysterical bubbles in his throat, but he chokes it down. “Helping-spirits. Christ. I— I’m dead. I died . Oh my god, I’m a ghost . A— an actual bonafide spirit. God. What am I— What do I—”
The panic washing over him recedes the faintest bit when a deadbeat presses its little head against his arm. The rest follow suit, piling on him like they were when he woke up. Arthur doesn’t have the energy to be nervous about that. It seems like the anxiety is bleeding right out of him, down to a manageable level for once. Helping-spirits. Right.
“This is so weird ,” He laughs weakly. The deadbeat settled around his neck coos, its stubby arms patting his face.
Arthur closes his eyes and decides to stop thinking for a while. Who knew being dead was so exhausting?
Months go by, and Lewis is starting to get worried. Not that he wasn’t before! It’s just, well. Shouldn’t he have found a lead at least? There’s nothing anywhere . No one’s seen Arthur, no one’s heard from him, the police have closed the case…
Lewis hasn’t been sleeping much recently. He can’t . Not when Arthur’s out there alone. (He has to be out there.)
Lewis becomes more erratic, Mystery becomes more withdrawn, and Vivi is missing something. She can’t stand it. She knows someone’s gone. Someone important. She knows this has something to do with her recent memory problems, even if she doesn’t know how. But Mystery won’t tell her anything, and Lewis looks like he’s going to shatter if she moves wrong, so all Vivi has is the feelings.
Lewis can tell Vivi’s frustrated, but he can’t find a way to explain things without triggering a headache. His vague answers just make her more confused, but she’s starting to pick up on some things.
Namely, the heartbreak Lewis is very badly suppressing. Whoever this guy is, losing him is tearing Lewis apart. She doesn’t know how to fix it. Her heart aches with the desire to know what she’s missing.
Lew is rambling along about something-or-other, bleary eyes on the road. He looks fragile, exhausted, and Vivi can’t help herself.
"You really miss him, huh?" Vivi interrupts quietly. Lewis's heart nearly stops. Did she—?
"...What?" He asks weakly. Vivi smiles sadly.
"The guy you're looking for." Her smile turns wry. "Don't give me that look, Lewlew, you aren't as subtle as you think you are. He's... he's really important to you, right? You love him a lot."
So do you, he wants to scream. You love him too. You love him and his goofy smile and the way his eyes light up and his rare laughter, he's the most important thing, our most important thing, please, why can't you remember—
But Vivi's eyes are still void of recognition, and she still doesn't know him. There's no loss in her voice, just sadness and sympathy. She can't even hear Artie's name without a migraine.
".....Yeah," He says instead, soft and tight with grief. "...I really, really do."