The wraith released his grip on the young man before he truly processed the question, watching him plummet towards the spiked cave floor below. Arthur didn’t scream as he fell. In fact, he barely reacted at all to what was happening, his eyes instead locked on the ghost now standing so far above him. He didn’t look scared. He looked...
He looked confused.
Lewis felt his anchor crack, his glowing eyes widening in shock as an unfamiliar pain consumed his being. He quickly turned away from the cliff, gently taking hold of his anchor and looking down at it. Almost all color had faded from the locket, the damaged surface a dull off-white. The wraith blinked once, his hands starting to shake as he stared down at the nearly lifeless anchor.
Why did Arthur look at him like that?
Why did he act like he didn’t know what was happening?
Why didn’t he-
Lewis heard a wet rip echo throughout the cave. He straightened up in horror, dropping the anchor as he turned back towards the cliff. The wraith quickly dropped to his knees and stared down into the abyss. Arthur’s broken body lay beneath him, a stalagmite piercing through his midsection as he hung limp. Lewis blinked once. Twice. Rose to his feet. Turned away from the cliff. Grabbed his anchor and settled it back into place.
Pink flames swirled around him as he lifted off the ground, hovering as a deep-seated rage replaced any sorrow he previously felt.
Arthur deserved this.
Arthur killed him.
Arthur had taken everything from Lewis, so now he was being repaid in kind.
Lewis looked back over his shoulder, hesitating for a moment before drifting towards the cliff’s edge. He gazed down towards the spiked floor again-
Arthur was gone. Arthur was gone.
The wraith’s eyes went wide before he suddenly dove down into the cave system, hovering to a stop just as he reached a bloody stalagmite jutting up from the floor. Lewis blinked in disbelief before looking around, stomach churning with conflicting emotions. Not spotting anything, the ghost refocused on the cave floor, eyes widening again in confusion as something glinted in the light of his fire.
A metal arm lay, bent and broken, beside the stalagmite. Lewis carefully picked the artificial limb up, turning it over and taking in the details. Definitely Arthur’s handiwork...his shape and size, too...
When had Arthur ever had a metal arm?
“Oh, you found that thing. Yeah, won’t be needing it anymore, do whatever with it.”
Lewis froze before drifting a few feet into the air, looking around the dark cave in shock.
“Who said that?” The wraith asked loudly, nearly wincing as his own underused voice bounced back at him. After a moment, he heard a response.
“Wait, really? You don’t recognize his voice? Damn, some best friend you are!”
“Show yourself!” Lewis demanded, spinning himself around as he tried to locate whoever was speaking. This cave system wasn’t even real, no one else should be here except for him and-
“Oh yes.” A familiar voice mocked from behind Lewis. The wraith slowly turned towards it, glowing eyes widening slowly in horror.
It was Arthur. Arthur, with a sickly green arm on his left side. Arthur, with a terrifyingly familiar half-grin on his face. Arthur, with an aura so unlike himself. Arthur-
Arthur with a huge hole ripped through his torso.
Lewis could see through him, and for the first time since he died, he was thankful for his lack of a stomach. The wraith stared in disbelief as the grin Arthur had spread further, slowly stretching to the other half of his face. The blond flexed his green hand a few times, examining it like someone checking on freshly painted nails.
“God, I’ve been wanting this body for ages. That damn mutt screwed everything up last time...but here we are again. How ironic, huh, Lewis?” Arthur asked, his eyes darkening as the green tint from his arm began overtaking more of his features.
“...you’re not Arthur.” Lewis stated slowly, like he was trying to force himself to believe it more than anything. The young man in front of him paused, seemingly stunned, before he burst out into a fit of laughter. The wraith looked on in disturbed silence, waiting for the other to finish up and answer him. “Arthur” eventually stopped laughing, wiping at his nearly pitch-black eyes before looking over at Lewis again. His grin was full and grotesque and familiar all at once.
“Of course I’m not Arthur. You killed him, remember? Which, by the way, holy shit! I couldn’t believe you actually dropped him! I mean, what the hell happened to being best friends, huh?” Not-Arthur taunted, grin relaxing into a satisfied smirk as he stretched his arms above his head. Lewis simply narrowed his eyes.
“He gave up being my best friend the day he killed me.” The wraith muttered darkly, like it should have been obvious. Not-Arthur paused again, staring at Lewis as his smile slowly faded until it was almost nonexistent.
“The day he-...oh...oh my fucking god. You actually think he did it. You actually think he did it!”
And then the blond was cackling again, doubling over with his arms wrapped around his horrifically damaged abdomen. Lewis watched the display with growing concern, the words weighing heavily on him.
“What-what do you mean I “think” he did it? I watched it happen!” The wraith shouted, desperation and panic swirling inside him. Not-Arthur looked over at him, that half-grin back on his face.
“Holy shit...I never would’ve thought. I mean sure, becoming a vengeful spirit after dying like that, makes total sense! But the whole time, you were seeking revenge against Arthur. The poor son of a bitch who spent months looking for you.”
Lewis froze in place, his anchor receiving another small crack as the words settled.
“...looking for me...?”
“Oh, Lewis, desperately. He barely slept, barely ate, barely did anything at all outside of trying to find you. The only reason he lived long enough to get here was because of that blue haired girl you’re obsessed with.” Not-Arthur explained casually, like he was chatting idly about the weather.
Another crack ripped across Lewis’ anchor.
“...no...no, he killed me, why would he be looking for me? He knew what happened, he knew-!”
“Oh Lewis. You poor thing. So sad and lonely and confused. Well damn. Doesn’t that sound familiar?” Not-Arthur murmured, smirking widely when Lewis simply stared at him with a lost look in his glowing eyes. The blond stepped forward and began circling the wraith as he continued to speak.
“Doesn’t that sound just like Arthur? Then again, he was so good at bottling things up, it’s not entirely your fault for not noticing. See, that poor kid had terrible self-loathing issues. God awful. But then you came around! You liked him, made him feel good about himself. Made him feel loved...then you and Vivi started dating, and oh did that really hit the spot. Suddenly you two were spending time alone, and even when you weren’t, Arthur was so obviously a third wheel. But he cared about you two, so much. So he sat back and let it happen. Let you two spend your time. Let you ignore him, push him away. See, he knew you two were just perfect for each other. And he would’ve died before he got in the way of that.”
Not-Arthur gave a solemn look before smirking again.
“But that didn’t make it hurt any less. Poor Arthur, abandoned by his friends. Poor Arthur, left to be distant, dragged along if only out of politeness, forced to watch the two people he cared about most forget about him-“
“But we didn’t!” Lewis suddenly shouted, eyes wide with sorrow and shock. Not-Arthur stopped in front of the wraith and looked at him in mild surprise, quirking an eyebrow up in confusion.
“We didn’t-we wanted Arthur with us, we were all, happy together...but he was jealous, jealous that Vivi chose me, jealous of-“
Not-Arthur let out a chuckle, crossing his arms.
“Is that what you really think?”
“Yes!” The wraith cried out. Yes, that was what he thought-what he had to think, because if he thought anything else-if he was wrong-
“Oh Lewis...he was jealous of you.”
Of course he was-
“But. He was jealous of Vivi, too. He was jealous of both of you, and neither of you, and of course he couldn’t voice any of his thoughts or feelings. I mean, what kind of selfish prick falls in love with both of his best friends?”
Crack. Lewis looked down to see his anchor laying colorless on the cave floor, a spiderweb of cracks across its lifeless surface. He quickly fell to his knees and cradled it close to his chest, inky black tears suddenly streaming down his face.
“...no...no, you’re lying...you have to be lying, tell me you’re lying!”
Not-Arthur grinned down at Lewis, shrugging with a shoulder.
“With all that turmoil, all that self-hatred and pain...well, possessing him was a walk in the park.”
“Then, I just had to get rid of the problem...”
“Starting, as we both know. With you, Lewis.”
Lewis slumped forward, staring down at the cave floor as reality crashed around him. Arthur, had been possessed. Arthur...Arthur loved him, he-
And Lewis killed him.
“Yeah, you did. Oops! Though if it makes you feel any better, he thought he deserved it. Blamed himself for what happened to you, even if he couldn’t remember.” Not-Arthur pointed out amusedly. When Lewis didn’t respond, he let out a small hum before a smirk slowly stretched across his sickly green face.
“He watched me do it, you know.”
That got Lewis’ attention, the wraith immediately looking up at him with sorrowful eyes.
“Yeah, he was screaming and crying the whole time. Pretty damn annoying honestly. He tried so hard to fight me off once he realized what was happening, he really did. Very valiant effort on his part. But alas, he was tired and depressed and so utterly weak. He couldn’t have stopped me no matter how hard he struggled.”
Not-Arthur leaned down so he was eye-level with the wraith, murky black meeting devastated purple. The blond moved in a bit closer, grinning ear-to-ear as he whispered his next few words.
“And in the end, you killed him.”
With that, Lewis felt a hand on his chest before he was shoved backwards, and suddenly he was falling again. Plummeting into the darkness, towards pain, towards emptiness, towards-
The wraith awoke with a start, his human appearance slipping away as he bolted upright in bed. On either side of him, Arthur and Vivi let out small noises of displeasure, neither one happy with losing their supernatural heater. Lewis blinked once, twice, resettling into himself as his mind caught up with reality. He was still dead, but that was okay. Because he had Vivi, and he had Arthur, and both of them were happy and healthy and alive-
Lewis choked on a sob that he hadn’t realized he’d been holding back. Not wanting to disturb his partners, he phased himself through them and moved away from the bedroom, drifting towards the living room. He made himself corporeal again and settled down heavily on the plush couch, curling forward on himself and muffling another sob in his hands. A small Deadbeat manifested beside him, nuzzling into his side in an attempt to comfort the wraith. Lewis looked down at the tiny spirit, letting out a rattled breath of a sigh as he gave the little Deadbeat a gentle pat on the head. He then sat in silence for a few minutes, occasionally sniffling or wiping at his darkened tears.
The wraith froze in place, eyes going wide in horror as that familiar voice rang in his mind. No, no no please not again-
A hand gently placed itself on Lewis’ shoulder, and the wraith blinked as he slowly returned to reality. He looked over his shoulder, already knowing who he would find standing behind him.
Arthur looked down at him, worry etched into his face. Lewis suddenly realized he was still in his wraith form and recoiled away from the young man, a wisp of flame overtaking his features and reestablishing his human appearance. Arthur frowned before circling the couch and carefully sitting down next to Lewis. The two glanced at each other before the wraith looked down at the floor. Arthur let out a soft breath, tilting his head slightly before giving Lewis a small smile.
“You know, you don’t always have to do that. Your ghost face doesn’t scare me.” He pointed out, clearly trying to lighten the mood. Lewis couldn’t help but give a faint smile of his own before sighing softly.
“...I, woke you up-“
“Actually, uh, my arm did that.” The blond interrupted, rubbing the shoulder joint where his artificial arm usually hung.
Ah. Phantom pains.
“But, I noticed you weren’t in bed anymore, so, I came looking for you. What happened?”
Lewis looked at Arthur quickly before refocusing on the floor.
“Nothing. Just a bad dream.”
With that, the two fell quiet. After a few moments, Arthur tipped himself towards Lewis, laying against his side and resting his head on the wraith’s shoulder. Lewis glanced down at him fondly before wrapping an arm around the blond’s waist and pulling him closer. The pair sat like that in silence for a few comfortable minutes before Arthur spoke up again.
“Was it...about me?”
Lewis closed his dark eyes and took a deep breath he didn’t need before nodding a bit.
Arthur immediately frowned, looking guiltily down towards where his artificial arm would be.
“No, it wasn’t-...it wasn’t that.”
“Then, what was it-?”
“We were in the cave again. Not the real one, but the one I manifested. I...I dropped you. I let you fall...”
Dark tears were streaming down Lewis’ cheeks again as he relived the nightmare.
“And, that-...that thing, got ahold of your body, after-...and it wouldn’t, stop talking, wouldn’t stop mocking you or me, wouldn’t stop reminding how much I hurt you and I killed you Arthur and-“
“Lewis. Look at me.”
The wraith obeyed, dark distraught eyes meeting Arthur’s bright yellow ones. They were like gold. Like honey. They were happiness and sunshine and alive-
“I’m right here, Lew. Everything is okay.” Arthur murmured, trying his best to comfort Lewis. The wraith let out a choked sound, tears still rolling down his face.
“...I’m sorry I hurt you...I’m sorry we, hurt you, back then-“
“Stop. Lewis, it’s okay, it’s in the past-“
“It’s not okay just because it’s over-“
“It is okay. Because we’re here, Lewis. I’m here.” Arthur said sternly, looking deeply into the wraith's eyes. Lewis blinked once before relaxing somewhat, pulling Arthur closer and hugging the young man protectively against his chest.
“There’s nothing to be sorry for.”
“...I love you.”
“I love you too, Lewis.”
The two men elapsed into silence once again, eyes falling shut as they simply held each other and let the quiet of the night envelope them. Arthur was right. Everything was going to be okay, because they were here. They had each other-
“Guuuys, come back to bed! I’m freezing! And not just because of the ice powers!”
-and they had Vivi. The three of them had each other, and everything was going to be okay.
Arthur and Lewis looked at each other, the two of them smiling softly and sharing a gentle kiss before the wraith lifted the young man fully into his arms and drifted back towards the bedroom. Vivi was waiting for them with crossed arms, and she immediately made grabby hands towards them as soon as they came into view. Lewis carefully laid Arthur down on one side of the bed, the blond giving him a thumbs-up before rolling onto his side and blowing a kiss towards Vivi. The bluenette “caught” the kiss and dramatically clutched it to her chest before laying back down and scooting herself to the opposite side of the bed, patting the large empty space left in the middle and looking up at Lewis expectantly. The wraith smiled fondly and lowered himself into the bed, getting comfortable for a moment before opening his arms. The other two immediately latched onto him, arms and legs intertwining in what could delicately be considered a mess. But it was warm, and safe, and them, so none of the three could find it in themselves to mind terribly much.
Lewis listened silently as Arthur and Vivi settled back into sleep, their breathing evening out and heart rates relaxing. Taking another slow breath he didn’t need, Lewis closed his eyes and let unconsciousness take him as well.