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Boo York Minute

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Toralei’s phone rings. She recognizes the number-- it’s actually still in her contacts-- and answers the phone with what she knows will sting the most. “Who’s calling?”

“… It’s Nefera, Toralei.”

“Oh, Nefera, hey, sorry,” she says, sticky-sweet and not really caring whether it’s obvious she’s lying. “I didn’t recognize your number. Did you get a new one?”

She totally did not, but she’ll hate the idea of being dumped out of anyone’s contact list.

“No,” Nefera confirms. “Shut up. Listen. I’m going to Boo York this weekend for a gala opening at the Museum of Unnatural History and you’re coming with me.”

“Really?” Toralei purrs. “News to me. Not that you’re going, but that you have any room left. I mean. I hear your dad is letting you and Cleo take a friend or two, but Cleo’s taking four friends, a boyfriend, and a pop star-- I sort of figured she was only getting away with that because you were going solo?”

“Cleo’s bringing the fearleading squad. I know how much you hate them…”

Oh, Nefera. So obvious with the bait. Toralei would bat at it, but-- “You know I’m back on the team, right?”

When did that happen?” and wow, iCoffins were not meant for shrieking, ow.

“I forget exactly. After the time-travel thing, before the ghost invasion thing. It’s been a busy scaremester. Anyway,” she sighs into the phone, “It’s not like I like Cleo or her little minions now, but I’m only going out of my way to irritate, these days. And not far out of my way. Only when it’s funny. Well. Only when I think it’s funny.” Were-fleas. Like that’s even a thing. Oh well, people should know better than to let Toralei get bored around Spectra, that’s all there is to it, really. “Or when there’s something in it for me.”

“Ugh, whatever, look, I know you ruined Cleo’s trip to Scaris, I need you to come do the same thing to her trip to Boo York.”

And not that that hadn’t been fun, but come on, Nefera. “You realize the only reason Cleo and her ghouls didn’t ditch me in Scaris is because they would’ve felt oh-so guilty about leaving me all on my own in a foreign country, which Boo York is kind of… not?”

“Just do it!”

“Why do you even care? Can’t you just invite a bunch of your model friends to come along and look down their sculpted noses at everyone? You do have model friends, right?” Hah. Nefera doesn’t make friends. She doesn’t even collect minions. She only wants subjects and servants, and that’s why she’s not actually going to get anywhere without her deaddy’s money backing her up. Even Toralei knows when it’s better to make connections and network with other troublemakers. Nefera still thinks she can boss Toralei around like she could when she was Fearleading Captain, which is so wrong that it’s almost funny. Nefera was the one who screwed Toralei out of the captaincy after she graduated, and the only reason Toralei was willing to work with her to get to Mashionals was to show up Cleo.

Finally Nefera says the magic words.

“I’ll pay you.”

“Half up front, half after we get back,” Toralei agrees, grinning like the she just ate a canary. “Now let’s talk actual numbers.” And if Nefera wants the twins to tag along, too, Toralei will make sure they get whatever she gets, each. Purrsephone’s always wanted to go to Boo York.

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“Ghoulia!” Cleo sing-songs, swanning up and idly straightening Ghoulia’s glasses. “Listen. Daddy’s taking me and, unfortunately, Nefera on a trip to Boo York City this weekend, for a gala exhibit opening at the Unnatural History Museum dedicated to the Crystal Comet. He said I could bring a friend or two along, and of corpse that has to be you and Deuce. Say you’re coming?”

And it’s tempting, it really is. Ghoulia would love to see Boo York City-- but she’s started to recognize a distinct pattern, and tells Cleo she’s not sure she really wants to go.

“… I’d understand if you had something planned, but-- you don’t want to?”

The last thing Ghoulia wants to do is hurt Cleo’s feelings, but she reminds her about Scaris, which Cleo unfortunately misinterprets. “You know I’d be happy to buy you a new scooter if you‘re still upset about totaling yours in Scaris,” she offers, which is sweet of her, as the crash was pretty bad, but it’s not really Ghoulia’s point.

Her point is after Scaris, actually. Trying to track down Clawdeen’s sketchbook in a hot air balloon, after getting separated from Cleo and Deuce. The last time Ghoulia went on a trip with friends, she had to be carried away from a torch-wielding mob by Heath Burns.

“So you want a bodyguard?”

And the time before that, she and Abbey got imprisoned in a pit-trap.

“It’s not like the Skull Shores trip was fun for anyone, Ghoulia. And you did get to spend Scaris with Frankie and Rochelle, looking for Garrott, instead of stuck trying to ignore Toralei without losing Toralei, or competing for an apprentice position that was actually more like ‘unpaid captive ghost designer.’”

On the trips she sat out, varying numbers of Ghoulia’s friends got chased halfway around the world by an angry vampire regent, got caught in a temporal vortex that fused pairs of them into single hybridized bodies, and came very close to being kidnapped to work off someone else’s infinite community service sentence.

“So, what you’re saying is…”

Ghoulia says, frankly, that Cleo is her best friend, but if she’s going to take a trip that’s likely to get her captured by an evil normie’s minions, burned at the stake, held hostage by a vampire politician, fundamentally altered on a physical level, or kidnapped by another schools principal, it will happen on a trip she picks out herself. Honestly, she thinks it’s probably better if she stays at Monster High and holds down the fort on the home front-- it’s not like they only find trouble when they leave town. With something as portentous as the Comet Crystal passing Earth, something’s likely to happen somewhere. And like with the eclipse, or the time machine, or the ghost portals, that somewhere is just as likely to be Monster High as anywhere else.

Cleo turns thoughtful, eyes narrowing, and Ghoulia can practically see the wheels turning in her head. “You’re right, of course, but maybe you do need a bodyguard. Just in case.”

Which is a very thoughtful sentiment, but Ghoulia is sure she’ll be fine.

“Maybe not Heath, he’s a little slow to listen, sometimes, but… Abbey? I’d ask Jinafire, but she volunteered to pyramid-sit this weekend.”

Being fair, it was Abbey who got them out of the pit-trap. Still-- ‘bodyguard’ is probably pushing it. Abbey’s a friend, not a monster shield.

“Well, then I’ll just ask her if she wouldn’t mind keeping an eye out for trouble while I’m out of town,” Cleo decides, and promises, “I’ll bring you both back something nice. … Oh! That reminds me. I got you something-- it was supposed to be for the trip, but it will just have to help you comet-watch from here.”

Cleo slips a box out of her book bag-- that Cleo is carrying a book bag should’ve tipped Ghoulia off-- and hands it over.

It’s a new laptop, and Ghoulia’s first reaction is that Cleo shouldn’t have-- that it’s too extravagant.

“Don’t be silly, the Boochi sunglasses I got for Deuce were about the same price. I told the clerk I wanted the most powerful laptop in the store, and I didn’t care what the price was.” Which is actually incredibly thoughtful, for Cleo and electronics-- usually she’d ask for the most expensive item and fail to care whether it’s actually the best at doing what it’s supposed to do.

Ghoulia glances over the specs and zombies don’t squeal excitedly all that well, so the sound that comes out of her is more of a sustained happy keening.

“… Is that a thank you?”

It is, it is deeply a thank you, and Ghoulia can’t wait to copy over her hard drive, because everything is at least twice as fast, big, or powerful as her current laptop and all her programs are going to run so fast and so smoothly. … And the keys are even backlit! She won’t have to turn a light on to see what she’s doing until it’s actually too dark to see in the room, not when she can’t see white lettering (that’s starting to wear away) on black keys anymore!

“It’s yellow, so you’re not surprised when you open it up. I know that’s not your favorite color, but you painted the last one, right?”

She did, and the brain pattern came out really well. … Maybe she can get Holt or Wydowna to help her with a Deadfast case mod, that would be so clawsome…

“Well, it sounds like you’ll have fun this weekend even if absolutely nothing happens,” Cleo decides, and Ghoulia has to agree that’s true. She’s going to spend her next class tidying up her current laptop so she can make the switch as smooth as possible. She’ll have to hide the new one from herself until the end of the school day-- in Hexiciah Steam’s old lab, she thinks, she’s got a nice setup down there-- so she’s not tempted to start using the new machine early. Although… really, it can’t hurt to unpack it once she’s in the lab.

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Arranging this marriage for Nefera is going to be difficult, Ramses suspects. She’s gotten terribly stubborn since the girls started moving in different social circles, almost in counterpoint to Cleo’s developing graciousness. Not that Cleo’s blossoming regal grace has diminished his younger daughter’s own stubbornness, honestly. There are days he does wonder which god has cursed him. Deposed, technically murdered, losing his favorite wife, that blasted corpse flower girl, interminable imprisonment, the Gorgon boy, the corpse flower girl reappearing, and his exceedingly willful daughters. He’s certain they weren’t this willful back in Egypt.

Nefera is by far the worst of the pair for it; when Cleo refuses to back down, it’s with either reasoned arguments or with an unwavering declaration of intent, while Nefera quickly shifts from commanding to whining.

He loves his daughters and is proud of their accomplishments and their strengths, but he can’t let himself pretend he’s unaware of their flaws (even if he’d put a curse on anyone else who so much as suggested those flaws might exist). He suspects part of the problem is that they’ve been sixteen and nineteen, respectively, for five thousand years.

Ramses is going to have to arrange matters carefully, play up the advantages of the union to Nefera, what she can expect to enjoy, and not try to tell her that it’s her duty. If he arranged for the girl to marry Horus himself and told her it was her duty, she’d try to find a way out of it. He’ll also have to keep a lid on the matter until the Great Comet is nearly overhead. The less time Nefera has to find an excuse not to marry young Seth Ptolemy, the better.


Uniting with the Ptolemy family, forming a new dynasty, can only help them in the long run, whether or not he can expect Nefera to see that. Madam Ptolemy ruled Egypt herself as regent for her son, and from what Ramses has seen while researching the pair, she ruled well. True, as soon as Seth was old enough that she might have passed the throne to him, they were entombed just like Ramses and his daughters, but that, as the television dramas tell him, is the game. You win or you die, or in some cases are imprisoned undying unless you’re foolish enough to strip off your wrappings.

(How the girls feel secure with so much of themselves unwrapped, Ramses truly doesn’t know. Perhaps that’s being sixteen and nineteen, as well.)

But once disinterred, while Ramses leveraged property rights and the threat of curses into an antiquities business that will, managed properly, keep his family in their modest yet comfortable fifty-room pyramid forever, the Queen Regent decided that ‘coping’ and ‘adjusting’ weren’t enough, and refused to do less than rule. When modern governments proved uninterested in giving her a political voice, she stepped into the financial world and conquered that, instead. Ptolemy Worldwide doesn’t have a monopoly on any one thing, but produces ferocious competition for practically everything.

She owns a dozen parent companies. She’s on the board of trustees at more museums than Ramses can keep track of. She owns properties around the world. She somehow manages to rule a teenage child, and Ramses can’t decide if he’s more impressed with Madam Ptolemy or young Seth, for that.

Ramses has wealth, of course; his daughters’ credit card bills are a king’s ransom every month, and he pays them promptly (though he’s been tempted to cut Nefera off, now and then. If she wants to be one of the idle rich, so be it; if she wants to ply a trade, so be it. It’s the pretending to ply a trade in theory while being idle in practice that irks like sand in the shenti). He and Count Dracula seem to compete to see who can make the most extravagant donations to Monster High’s budget, for all it’s frustrating that the money seems constantly soaked up by building repairs and ‘well, a student set it on fire, exploded through it, knocked it over, or otherwise wrecked it, so we may as well remodel’ renovations. … Understandable, but frustrating.

His daughters will want for nothing.

But ah, how Ramses covets the Ptolemy fortunes. The connections. The power-- economical, certainly, leveraged smartly into social and even political. He’s done his research, Madam Ptolemy donates and quietly advocates to advance undead rights, which always seem to have glamorous vampires at the forefront… but which, at a base legal level, benefit mummies and zombies, as well.

Widowed, she took the title of Pharaoh’s Favorite Wife and turned it into Queen Regent. Released from her tomb, she took the title of Widow Ptolemy and turned it into an empire.

Ramses has been a king without a kingdom for long enough. Madam Ptolemy has a teenaged son; Ramses de Nile has two teenaged daughters. What he lacks in power and connections, Ramses makes up for in lapis-blue blood. It is not the sort of treaty it would have been five thousand, even five hundred years ago, but a marriage does bring with it certain legal rights, which Nefera (no matter how much he wishes he could offer Madam Ptolemy a choice between Nefera and Cleo, whether or not Ramses approves of Cleo’s relationship with the Gorgon boy, Madam Ptolemy would be justified in finding a princess with a ‘boyfriend’ to be an unsuitable marriage prospect for Seth) would readily hand over to Ramses for management.

Moving into the Ptolemy social circle might just turn Nefera from an indolent “model” to a socialite and celebutante, which would fill her time, at least. It is even just possible that Nefera might bloom under Madam Ptolemy’s influence, regaining some of the poise and social grace she seems to have left in Milan, with her last known modeling job. Ramses will hope for the best.

It does not occur to him to press his own suit to Madam Ptolemy herself. There is no historical record of what became of either his own favorite wife and Queen or the mummy of Seth’s Pharaoh father, putting Ramses and Madam in the same situation as so many other adult mummies: wait and hope or declare the marriage legally over.

The horror of waiting is that it may never end, of course. Victorian normies, may Set take whatever of their number Ammut cannot devour, thought it fashionable to fully unwrap dry, dormant mummies at parties-- which naturally destroyed any hope for the ka to animate the body… if not so effectively as grinding them into paint pigment did. Mummy Brown. What a repugnant reality. Tomb robbers throughout the millennia have been no less a scourge, but by nature tomb robbers take whatever has the highest resale value and ignore the rest.

Finding a lost family member, for a mummy, is a gamble, and the outcome is based on when their tomb is discovered by what sort of living person.

After the comet passes out of view, perhaps it will be time to finance another archaeological expedition.

One way or the other, he would like to be able to tell his daughters about their mother’s fate.

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“Don’t you see? The money, the power. This city. It could be ours. It will be ours-- once you are promised to Seth Ptolemy.”

“But Daddy!” Ew, and also, no. Nefera is going to find a way out of this-- preferably a way out that doesn’t make her father actually mad enough to curse her or ground her, but if she has to pay Toralei to seduce the Ptolemy Ptwink, she will. Still, better start simple. “I don’t wanna be with that Seth kid! He’s… he’s weird.

Well, if she’d seen him for longer than two minutes, she might be able to manage a better excuse than ‘weird.’ What kind of guy dismisses rap music (just regular rap music) as ‘dreadful noise,’ and goes around wearing a funerary mask (it’s an amount of gold she can appreciate, but a full-head mask?), and jumps to agree with every word out of his mother’s mouth?

No, honestly, that’s enough to start with. If he’s supposed to be a prince, then he’s not supposed to be a yes-manster. Nefera wouldn’t mind a husband who agreed with everything she said, but she has no use for one who’d want her to make all the decisions-- and it’s pretty clear that Seth ‘Yes, Mother’ Ptolemy would expect Nefera to do all the heavy lifting in the relationship.

Nefera wasn’t meant for lifting anything heavier than a solid-gold goblet.

So no. She’s not going to marry the first prince Daddy offers her if it forms a dynasty where she inherits a job instead of a trust fund.

Besides, from what she could tell through the mask, Seth Ptolemy sounds like he’s Cleo’s age (as these things go). Nefera is the eldest sister. She’s a high school graduate with a modeling career (she’s just on sabbatical right now). Boy toys aren’t suitable first husband material at all. ‘That Seth kid’ is a kid, and especially since Nefera has no idea what he looks like, she’s not interested.

There’s got to be some other way to gain control of the Ptolemy fortunes.

“Just think,” Daddy soothes, “of all the power you will have if you go through with the ceremony.”

Fortunes and power. “I do like power,” Nefera has to admit.

And she’d definitely have power over Seth, but managing Seth, who probably won’t tie his shoes if Mummy Dearest doesn’t approve of the knot, sounds like work, and Nefera firmly believes power should be fun. Especially power over other people.

She’s already got some of that-- Toralei is eager to give Nefera whatever she wants, at least if there’s something in it for Toralei (which is reasonable; no servant works for free), and at home they have a fleet of ushabti just waiting to obey her every whim. And of course, as she’s the eldest sister, technically Cleo is supposed to do whatever Nefera says, and--


“What if,” she starts, moving over to one of Madam Ptolemy’s game boards (not one Nefera recognizes, but she likes the pieces. They’re solid gold inlaid with even more expensive stones), “there were another way? Cleo.” Not Daddy’s favorite, not with that trashy boyfriend, but that’s all the more reason to offer her up. “A real ghoul of the people.” If Cleo thinks the betrothal is what ‘the people’ want, she’ll give it to them with a smile painted on her face. “She could be a great ruler,” doing all the boring, thankless, dull things that Nefera refuses to be bothered with-- Cleo loves all those petty little details-- “with our guidance.”

They can build an empire on Cleo. She’s got just enough of the common touch to hold the whole thing up, or at least what the backs of the actual commoners can’t support anymore. And if Cleo is holding up the empire, then Nefera (and Daddy, if he wants to, she supposes) get to sit right at the peak and enjoy the glittering view.

And the influence over Cleo. Even if Nefera can’t give her big-sisterly advice, Cleo listens to Daddy-- and Nefera can always get Daddy to listen to her.

When it’s important enough that she cares.

“Destiny awaits us,” Daddy eventually agrees. “But… if Cleo doesn’t cooperate?”

“You’re right,” not that she wants him to be right, but he is. There is exactly one obstacle to arranging a marriage for Cleo. “I’ve just got to get Deuce out of the picture first.”

It’s actually exactly what Nefera needs. Arrange a heart-rending breakup-- she’ll have to do it through Deuce, not Cleo; when Daddy convinced Cleo to break up with Deuce, it didn’t last and ultimately just made her even more attached-- and the blow will soften Cleo up enough that a loveless but magically-permanent relationship will look comfortable and safe, not boring and suffocating.

Deuce’s weak point is that he loves Cleo, but isn’t actually good enough for her. Nefera just has to help him realize that if he’s too dense to have figured it out on his own, or demonstrate the point for him if he knows but tries not to think about it so he can keep monopolizing her sister’s attentions. The key, of course, will be to arrange a situation where Cleo-- and her ghoulfriends-- will be entirely at ease, but where Deuce will flop around like a fish out of water, graceless and desperate.

… Ptolemy Tower has a balcony restaurant called The Lotus Pool that ought to do it literally. Just to be sure, she’ll enlist Toralei to tell Deuce that since it’s a pool, obviously he should show up ready to swim. After all, everyone knows how much Toralei likes her tricks, her behavior won’t reflect on Nefera unless Nefera wants it to. Brunch is late enough to be civilized but early enough to give Nefera the rest of the day to work with, if she needs it. And just to further deflect suspicion, Nefera decides to give Mouscedes King, the little Upper Beast Side “princess,” a call.

If Nefera arranges too much, Cleo will suspect her. If she delegates arrangements to Mouscedes under the guise of networking and delegates Deuce making a wardrobe gaffe to Toralei and convinces Cleo the brunch is to smooth things over with Daddy about being late to the meeting earlier…

Well, it looks like Nefera’s hardly done anything at all, even though she’ll get everything she wants, in the end.

Which is just how Nefera likes her whole reality.

She calls Mouscedes.

Chapter Text

It’s not that Toralei dreams of being a singer, exactly, it’s just that she’s always sort of identified with Catty Noir, felt like they were similar in some way she can’t put her paw on (maybe it’s that they’ve got the same notched ear and they picked the same solution-- double piercing, one on each side), and it was a fun idea to try to puncture the new ghoulfriend’s show biz dream.

But as long as she’s got a super amazing award-winning singing voice, it can’t hurt to try her luck on Bloodway, right? So what if auditions are during the day and shows are at night. She’ll think of something.

She’s sort of skulking around alleys and back doors when a werecat slams through a door, yowling, “I ought to scratch your eyes out and shove them up your--”

“You rotten little--” there’s a vampire in a beret practically chasing the werecat out into the alley. “I swear, Ginger, if we weren’t half an hour from curtain, I’d fire your tail!”

“You can’t fire my tail,” Ginger purrs, and Toralei knows that tone-- she’s used it before. “It quits, and so do I!” Ginger stalks down the alley, and the vampire?

He yells after her. “You quit this show, you’ll never work in this town again!”

“Good!” Ginger snarls, “the weather’s better in Hauntlywood anyway!”


“Go suck on a garlic loaf!” and Ginger’s gone.

And Toralei sees a chance to have some real fun, cause some large-scale chaos, and hides the Comet Crystal (which is actually probably technically stolen from the Unnatural History Museum, but whatever, she’ll blackmail Nefera into paying her to keep quiet about paying Toralei to dump the stolen priceless mystic artifact in the Hauntston River later) behind her back. “Wow. It sounds like you’ve got a real problem.”

The vampire guy turns and looks at Toralei, taking in exactly who’s talking… a young, slim, orange-tabby werecat girl with a short red bob who can rock a miniskirt.

Just like Ginger.

“Tell me you can sing,” the vampire says, and Toralei grins so wide her cheeks hurt.

Can she sing? She can now.