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Spooked

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Cutter wasn't, by nature, a superstitious man. He'd never had any problems with walking under ladders, or going out on Friday the 13th or any of the other ridiculous things people were afraid to do. So he shouldn’t feel anything in particular at being down in the bowels of the ARC, sorting through old papers.

And yet...

...every time he leaned over his desk he felt like he was being watched. Every time he looked up he thought he saw movement out of the corner of his eye. And every time he told himself that he was being ridiculous, he became even more afraid.

“This is the 21st century,” Cutter said out loud. He unconsciously scanned the area in front of him, in case he was contradicted. “The belief in ghosts is outdated, old-fashioned and unscientific.”

There was the sound of someone chuckling behind him and he nearly jumped out of his skin.

“Do I need to be making a call to the men with the white coats?” Stephen asked.

Cutter swirled around and glared at him. “What do you think you're doing, sneaking up on people?!”

Stephen took a step back, clearly startled by Cutter's vehemence.

“Sorry. I called out, but you didn't seem to hear.”

“No, no,” Cutter said, brushing a hand distractedly through his hair. “I'm sorry. I shouldn’t have shouted at you. I'm just a little jumpy.”

“I'm not surprised,” Stephen said, taking a good look around. “If there was ever a room that deserved to be haunted...”

“Ghost's don’t exist,” Cutter said immediately.

Stephen looked at him curiously. “I wasn't actually suggesting that they did...Maybe we should go for lunch, get some fresh air?”

“I'm not afraid,” Cutter said.

Stephen nodded. “No, but you are acting even stranger than usual.”

“I - “ Cutter stopped, sighed and then sat down at the desk. Papers were strewn all over it, and some had even fluttered to the floor without him noticing. A small portion of it was his own research, but far more of it had belonged to Helen. He'd thought by coming down to the ARC's storage unit he'd have an uninterrupted opportunity to make some progress with it.

“Is it because it's Helen's?” Stephen asked, stepping forward. He put what he hoped was a comforting hand on Cutter's shoulder.

“It's because I’m losing my mind,” Cutter said, shoulders sagging. Stephen bit the inside of his cheek to keep himself from laughing at Cutter's forlorn tone.

“I'm sure you’re no more mad now than you were this morning.”

Cutter shot him a baleful look. “I keep seeing things, Stephen. Out of the corner of my eye.”

“Probably rats,” Stephen said cheerfully. He moved away and further down into the stacks. The set-up was like a library, but instead of books on each shelf, there were crates full of goodness knows what.

“What are you doing?” Cutter called after him.

“Looking for droppings,” Stephen replied. There was a pointed silence in response, and Stephen was sure he could hear Cutter rolling his eyes. The other man never did understand Stephen’s fascination with dung, though he certainly appreciated the results.

Stephen got down on his hands and knees to look under the lowest shelves. There was nothing on his left, but when he turned to the right he froze in surprise, before leaping to his feet.

“Cutter!” he shouted as he ran round the end of one stack and down into another. “Cutter, there's...”

He stopped half-way down and then turned around in a circle, furiously looking around at the floor.

“Stephen, what's wrong?” Cutter approached cautiously, his eyes darting around. The lights in the ceiling were far too high up to provide anything but perfunctory illumination, casting gloomy shadows everywhere.

“Cutter, I swear, there was, there was a body. Lying right there. A man.” He turned around to look Cutter in the eye. “I'm not making this up.”

Cutter nodded. Stephen wasn't a good enough actor for that, and he really did look shook up.

“Maybe the stress of the anomaly project is getting to us all?” Cutter said. He was aware that he had started to talk to Stephen as if he were a small child, and mentally shook himself out of it. “Let's go to lunch.”

“There aren't any marks,” Stephen said. He pointed down at the floor. The only disturbances to the dust in the floor was from the footprints that he and Cutter had made.

“All the more reason to go to lunch.”

Cutter grabbed Stephen's arm and began to pull him towards the exit. At the same moment, the electricity went out.

“W – what's that?” Cutter asked, hating the way his voice wavered. He was a man of science; seeing a faint glowing light in the distance shouldn't cause him this much anguish.

“Were you using your laptop earlier?” Stephen asked.

“Yes? Why?”

“It's working off its battery,” Stephen said with a small, nervous, laugh.

“Oh,” Cutter replied. “Of course it is.”

Stephen took a deep breath. Cutter was still pressed up against his side, but his fear was rapidly being replaced by another feeling all together.

“Come on, I'll escort you outside.”

Cutter harrumphed. “Are you mocking me?” he demanded.

Stephen smiled. Cutter sounded much more annoyed than he looked, and if Stephen wasn't imagining things, there was a definite twinkle in Cutter's eye.

“I was just as spooked as you,” Stephen said. He looked into Cutter's eyes and when Cutter didn't look away, Stephen kissed him.

“What was that for?” Cutter asked, touching a finger to his lips.

Stephen shrugged. “It just felt like the right time. That's all. Come on, we can talk upstairs.”

Cutter nodded and silently followed Stephen out.

Behind them, in the distance, a grey figure smiled, then disappeared.