Piquancy and Phantasm @bdz_fanfics
Loneliness Unbroken

"Leave my loneliness unbroken" -

Ch. 24

Panic surged through Lydia's body, as rough hands hefted her from the table by the wrists, tipping over her glass of red wine in the process. Paralyzed with shock from the harsh treatment, she was unable to protest as her family's long-time friend, Otho Fenlock, pulled her onto the dance floor. The now-empty table was perfumed with the aroma of a well-aged vintage that clung to the air, while the crimson liquid seeped in and stained the table cloth.

With a tutting, reminding her far too much of Delia's constant disappointment, he began to speak with a familiar air of arrogance. It was one that permeated throughout and emanated from the personalities of those that were closest to her parents.

"Little Lydia Deetz, all grown up. Why I remember when you were barely up to your daddy's knee." Tightening his grip, he smirked, pleased with the wild look of shock that Lydia still held upon her face.

"Oh, how difficult this all must be for you."

Slowly her senses returned, while Otho clung to her tiny waist and wrist as they joined the small throng of dancers. The undulating congregation was made up of a compilation of various friends, lovers, and family members. The legion of revelers could neither see or feel the terror that was slipping through her essence, leaving her virtually isolated. Without exposing her secret, she was now rendered practically powerless in this immense sea of people.

However, there was another option:


She could call him.

No, Lydia remained firm in her stance to leave her lover stewing in his own guilt and jealousy. She would have to dig into her own strength and trust in herself.

"What do you mean, difficult?" Her tone dripped with disdain.

"All alone in this world and with so much responsibility thrown upon on your plate. Although, Delia did believe that you'd be able to handle it." His self-satisfied smirk put Lydia on edge, and it only grew with the knowing leer that he gave her. "She certainly changed her tune rather quickly, didn't she?"

Before she could protest, Otho's grip increased to near painful levels when his hand constricted around her delicate bone structure.

"Cutthroat city like this, a young orphaned girl like you… Why, had it been any other child, I would have been concerned. The business world is full of heartless sharks, Lydia, and they are always sniffing around for blood. My, how you would fit right in."

Her trepidation grew with the intensity of his stare, and a fear began to bubble and brew. It whirled within her body until it provoked something inside to awaken. With a spark, a fire began to burn away at the thick tar-like bundle of energy, and with it, her confidence returned.

"And what exactly are you implying, Otho?"

"Oooh, how Evelyn was right about you. You were always such an odd child. It was like something was never quite right. No, mind you, it's not necessarily a bad thing. After all, who would want to be like the majority of these mindless plebeians." He quickly motioned with his free hand to those around them. "Since the beginning, I have always had my own theories about you."

Lydia didn't like the way that he looked at her; a meal or a meal ticket, she wasn't sure, but it made her sick. As she attempted to pull away, an uncomfortableness permeated the air, and she began to feel the pressure of her anxiety's walls closing in.

With a jerk of his hand, Otho prevented her attempt at escape.

"I've heard talk about all those horrible tragedies that are now happened in your neck of the woods. It's rather unsettling, don't you think?"

His eyes zeroed in on her, as her heart sank with understanding. He knew.


"Very simple really. You see, I happen to be an expert in the field of the paranormal and the criminal mind. It's easy when one can identify the symptoms and signs. Don't think I didn't know about all of your little burials with those dead animals and bugs. Your mother was quite concerned. She was positively beside herself." Briefly, his half-lidded eyes glanced to the other dancers. "Just who exactly were you trying to fool? Just because they never noticed you talking to thin air…"

"Just get to the point already." She hissed. Trying to pull away once more, she was prevented by the change of his hand's position and the music's tempo. The beat was now too quick for them to stay in such proximity to each other.

"Tut tut. Impatience is such a nuisance. I'm here to offer you some help... For a fee, of course. You see, I know all about your little hobby and the circumstances around poor Evelyn's untimely end. Even I knew that Delia stood no chance once Charles was out of the way." Otho smugly bobbed his eyebrows at her. "Now, I can just walk away after, if let's say 30% of your collective shares were signed over to me. Oh, don't look so surprised. I know that you're going to visit your lawyers tomorrow and I can meet you…"

Before Otho could continue, a chipper voice interjected, while someone stepped in between Lydia and her captor.

"Ah, here you are! Why didn't you say that you wanted to dance? Lucky for you, my dance card is wide open." Stealing Lydia, and catching Otho by complete surprise, Allen hefted her up into the air for all to see.

While still holding her high, he began to twirl them to the music as she began to laugh. She was both relieved to be free and nervous about how much attention they were attracting. Instead of focusing on the crowd, she fixated on the smile that was on Allen's face. It was wide and open, and it had reminded her a lot of the last time that he had rescued her.

"You have a habit of breaking up awkward moments with a dance." She commented while noticing a woman who gracefully brushed passed them to drag Otho away to dance.

"I had a little help this time," Gently setting her down; he continued to move with her as the rhythm began to pick up the tempo with a Latin flair.

Lydia recognized the salsa moves and began to follow along, and with her curiosity piqued, she wondered where Allen had picked up this skill.

"You are an incredible dancer." He said before seamlessly spinning her around and then back again. "I can't remember the last time that I did this move."

"The… Texas Tommy... is my… favorite," She said between spins.

Pulling her into his arms, Lydia gave a little wiggle against Allen's body. As the excitement of the twisting and turning faded, she continued to samba with him while taking in her dance partner. From his eyes, she noticed a darkening around them, and they burned with an intensity that she had rarely seen from him as he repeatedly glanced toward the exit.

"What's wrong?" She asked, only to be met with a quick scrutinizing assessment. "Allen?"

"What was that all about anyway?"

Squaring her shoulders, she pushed away and began to dance on her own. Taking her hand, he spun her back to his strong body.

"I don't want to talk about it." She said in a clipped tone.

"Then, please, just dance with me." Wrapping an arm behind her, they rotated in place before he released her from his protective hold.

Her body was so hauntingly lithe and graceful. Allen couldn't take his eyes off of her, the subtle gestures, and the sensual technique that she presented with each step. This was the kind of dancing that only came from constant practice and a passion for movement. She was a goddess on the dance floor. He couldn't understand why she continued to dance with him. While he was confident that he could execute nearly every move with precision, it didn't ease his mind.

Desire poured off of her in waves when she curled her body against his, causing his heart to flutter. He needed to keep his composure. Whipping back again, her smoldering eyes met his as she threw a leg around his hip and jutted him intimately close to her. Not wanting to let her down, he needed to prove himself and his skills.

Beyond a doubt, his desire for her burned brightly within his heart, while the rest of his body begged him for more. No, he wasn't going to give in to their rapacious wills no matter what her energy was tempting him with. His heart thumped against his chest as he swallowed, gained control, and made his next move.

With her leg still wrapped around him, he hefted her bum, pushed her closer with one hand and the other on her back for support, adjusted his stance, and dipped her in one seemingly fluid movement. His eyes never left hers as he focused on the music, and her look of surprise turned toying expression. It pleased him more than he thought it would.

Pulling her back up with just one arm, he took a step backward, and with a snap, he rotated his whole body 90 degrees and back. After he clapped his hands, he slid over closer and pulled her body against his with only his strength.

While he tried to distract himself with the dance moves, his mind sang a mantra: This is only dancing, nothing more. If they weren't dancing, he could never touch her in such a manner. Still, it thrilled him to be so close to her.

Closely dancing around each other in a small circle, he grabbed her by the waist and tossed her high into the air. As she fell, he gently caught her, then swung her through his legs and back, only to have her land on her feet.

After that, she amped up the sensual moves, and he, in-kind, matched it with ferocity. He couldn't help feeling that she was toying with him. Perhaps she was testing what he knew? The energy that flowed out of her was more intoxicating than wine, and he was happy to be near her.

Eventually, the music ended, and they were left panting with their eyes still locked onto each other's. Breaking the contact, Allen averted his and stepped away to put a little distance between them.

"Should we go sit?" He inquired while pointing, but he wasn't sure if he saw a disappointment in her face from his question or not. With only a nod, she answered, and they exited the dance floor to return to their table. By then, a waiter had come to clean up the spillage and was refilling their glasses as they made their approach.

The grateful smile that Lydia gifted the waiter flickered a tiny flair of jealousy in Allen, and that alarmed him. He never used to feel anything for anyone except his attachment to Opa and Oma. Now there was this… and he certainly didn't like this new part of him. Would he ever get used to these feelings that she sparked within his being?

"Oh! There you are mistah!" A sharp voice called out. Coming towards them was a lovely woman dressed in a rather authentic 1920's dress, her hair done up with delicate curls, and a headband that gleamed at every catch of the light. "I see you were able to rescue your lady friend. Oh, and she is one ripe tomato too! Well done."

A gentle laugh escaped him when Lydia gave Allen a sideways glance.

"Now listen, my guy wanted me to flag you down because," she paused, then laughed while waving her hand in the air. "Never mind, he's on his way over."

As the woman said this, a man dressed in a fashion similar to the era as she seized Allen's hand and heartily shook it.

"All taken care of, my good man. No need for ruffians like that stinking up the joint." The man beamed.

In reply, Allen chuckled and retrieved his hand from the enthusiastic gesture.

"I appreciate your help."

"Think nothin' of it; we are glad to do what we can. Isn't that right, my love?" He said, pulling his girl by the waist towards him until she was flush against his side. The public display of affection instigated a subtle blush to touch her cheeks.

"Sure thing." She gave a bashful little giggle.

With a final wave, the couple walked away hand in hand to disappear amongst the crowd that was still on the dance floor.

Beetlejuice could now feel things that he never thought was possible when he made his deal with Lydia. Love and all that mushy shit aside, he was feeling stuff that didn't exactly have anything to do with his emotions.

Like, when there was that surge of power that came when Lydia took a kill, or even when she would soak her hands in blood. Then today, there was that pull of trepidation and pain that filled his chest, and even hours later, it still made him very nervous.

He wanted to look in on her. He was desperate to do it, but as soon as he started to cave, the feeling dissipated, and he was able to move on with the tormenting of his neighbors.

Never had Beej been so glad to be dead. Tormenting them was enjoyable when they were lost in the fog, but now, their killer instincts were back, and the games that they played were much deadlier…

And fun.

Ginger had already tried to poison him once, and he cackled at the way that his ghostly body rejected the toxic substance. The Monster had even taken a shot at him for target practice and had nailed him right in the head.

Still, they were all well aware that nothing could do any lasting damage. They were a family, no matter how twisted the arrangement had become. The centuries of loneliness in a world gone mad could destroy a soul, but BJ knew the tricks to get around it, thanks to his former mentor.

Speaking of, Beetlejuice had a strong feeling that at any minute, he was going to be paid a visit from the one who had given him a ticket to the other side.

The Roadhouse was in an unnatural state of comradery that had been lacking since the awakening. Jacques and Ginger found they had a stronger attraction to each other that bordered on annoying in BJ's mind. He didn't blame them, even if they were canoodling on the couch and watching Beetlejuice's tv, instead of being in their now shared room.

Lazily watching the developing romance from his reclining chair, he indulged in a Neitherworld brew. Vices were more fun since he now didn't have to worry about keeping up appearances. As he casually reclined back, he gave his crotch a well-deserved scratch.

"Charming." A gruff, elderly female's voice interrupted the silence.

"Yeah, well, someone had to take care of the itch." He snarked. "What brings you to hell, June-Bug."

"Don't delude yourself, Beetlejuice. This isn't hell, and you know it."

With a quick motion that had surprised Jacques and Ginger, Beetlejuice shot out of his chair and pointed a deadly finger in his mentor's face.

"You know nothing about life in this realm! You abandoned me here!"

"I tried to save you, you nitwit!" She retaliated verbally rather than physically. "Look at what you've done with your existence, you pathetic fool. Duping innocent offenders into repeat violations. None of these people here should have gone beyond that first kill!"

"Oh, like you know, a dark heart better than me?" Mercurial as ever, Beej laughed as an unamused Juno looked on, while the two in the corner chose to slip out of their embrace and vacate the room.

"I am a caseworker, Beetlejuice. I thought you would be the same. As a potential suicide…. You were supposed to be my assistant, my replacement! I could have moved on after paying my debts to the eternal departments."

"A fat lot of good that did ya." He rolled his eyes and returned to his chair in a flop.

"You're right. You've given me more paperwork than any other ghost in this section of the hereafter. You are the biggest mistake that I have ever made, and I have consistently paid for it over the last few centuries. I never should have made that deal with your sorry ass."

"Don't do me any favors, Junnie."

"This isn't a favor. This is a warning." Juno stood up tall. "Finish what you started with this Deetz girl before her soul ends up in damnation. Then stop meddling with the living world. You have your companions. It's done."

Beej felt the fire inside of him slowly deflate. "Lydia isn't like the others."

"No, she isn't. For once, you found yourself a real killer, and your deal with that girl prevented her from committing the most heinous of acts. I hate to say this, and it's burning more than the hole in my neck just thinking about it, but when you did, you actually brought justice to the balance. By preventing Deetz from remembering her first kill… Well, to put it bluntly, by tampering with this girl's memories, you made up for all those countless souls that you doomed to an eternity in purgatory."

There was a silence as those words sunk in. His mind ran through every deal that he had ever made. Every single deal that had ended too early had landed those souls in the Neitherworld. Even worse, for every deal that had been broken, it left him without any idea where those souls had been sent.

Beetlejuice surprised Juno with his contemplative state. Closing his eyes, he turned away to hide his pain.

"How many?"

"All of them," she said calmly, "with approximately a quarter of them in the pit."

With a sigh, Juno softened her tone. "You know how it works, Beetle. I can't take back a sentence once it's been granted, but I tried my best to save those who weren't completely tarnished. Breaking a contract has its consequences."

Repeatedly pacing the room, Juno watched as each of his steps became more determined.

"What's gonna happen?" He said suddenly, facing the older ghost. "What's gonna happen to Lydia? You've seen her file. Was she going to end up here, or was she going to the pit? How bad would it have been?"

Beetlejuice paced again before returning to his chair. Slumping back into the cushion, it was as if he was no longer able to keep himself up or afloat. He was worried, and genuine fear etched into his brow.

Noticing how quick he was to change his tone, she smirked. For the first time since she had known him, this was the most vulnerable that he had been since the night that he had killed himself.

"Don't tell me that you've fallen for that psycho?" Closing her eyes, she offered a silent prayer to the upper gods for this hypothesis to come to fruition. "By the gods, if you marry her…"

"Don't start!" He snapped.

"You know the laws against those types of deals. If she is still alive when.."

"I mean it, Juno! Don't go there. Lyds has no clue, and I ain't about to blow this. She doesn't need to know."

Disapproval marred her already aged face, showing how the decades of disappointment and endless paperwork was beginning to affect her manifested state.

"I see. Back to the old tricks and manipulation? Don't you ever learn?"

"Go back to the paper-pushing bureau and preach to the newbies. I have things under control."

Pressing her lips together, Juno used her power to manifest a cigarette and began to indulge the compulsive reaction of the Neitherworld's magic.

"I don't know how you stand it." She commented, before taking a deep drag and releasing it. "I suggest that you get that girl to marry you before it's too late. Immunity from damnation doesn't come around every day, and like it or not, that girl will do you some good. You may not see it, but she has tempered you, just as you have tempered her. The sharp edges that you both share will dull as long as you swear not to take on another protege."

"No promises."

"Swear to it!" She snapped. "If I see your name on anymore deal packets, and it's not a marriage certificate to Lydia Deetz, then I will personally come back here and render you a eunuch for all of eternity. You can say goodbye to any kind of itch after that."

Beej felt his eyes nearly pop out. "I swear! No more deals! Shit, Juno, where the hell did you pick up such a violent streak?"

"I may be your mentor, but even the apprentice can teach their master."

With a satisfied and smug demeanor, Juno vanished in a cloud of swirling smoke.


Laughter floated in, breaking the silence in the apartment from the other side of the door. Spiritual energies and residual hauntings alike could always sense the presence of life and, of course, the pulse of emotions.

Her caseworker had told her that the apartment she would be haunting wouldn't be visited much, aside from the occasional appointment from the cleaning crew. This left Evelyn Deetz with very little to be concerned over. That was until the arrival of a young couple.

At least Evelyn thought that they were a couple until she got a closer look at those big brown eyes and that ghostly complexion. The way the girl moved had an elegance and gentleness to it that any unsuspecting individual would assume her to be a lady of well-bred status and proper training.

If Evelyn had a heart that could still beat, she would have had a cardiac arrest on the spot the moment that she had realized just who the young woman was. It was her daughter and her assassin. It took every ounce of control not to allow herself to become visible, for she knew that Lydia had inherited the gift that came from the generations of sensitive females in their family.

It was both a gift and a curse that had been passed from mother to daughter in her family. Yet, she was genuinely surprised to feel similar energy coming from the young man that was accompanying Lydia.

Earlier, after the two had left, her curiosity had grown. Now, as she heard their approaching footsteps and their high spirits, she faded into a mist and hovered within the environment.

When his companion stumbled for the third time since they had stepped out of the car, Allen realized that Lydia was completely drunk. More times than he was comfortable within such a situation, she had touched him at every opportunity and entered within his personal space.

Chuckling with a good nature, he caught her and helped her stand upright. "Maybe we shouldn't have had that extra round."

"Pfft, I can handle it. Beej has stronger stuff stashed at his place..." She trailed off while placing her head upon his shoulder. "You smell nice."

"And you… are not being honest with how well you can hold your liquor."

Standing up, Lydia rested against the wall while Allen held his hand out for her keys. Relinquishing it into his palm, she closed her eyes with a smile on her face.

"Your smell... It's like…. Cedarwood and warm showers." Her face flushed a deep red when she opened her eyes and saw the bemused expression that Allen was giving her.

"Poetic. Now, let's get you to bed."

"Mmmmm," She rumbled with a laugh. "I thought you'd never ask."

By the time that the door had opened, his eyes widened when her words had caught up to him. Rotating herself off the wall and into the apartment, Lydia gave herself a twirl and let her shawl drop to the floor.

"That's not…" As he began to protest, she closed the distance between them, pressing her body against his, and put a finger upon his lips.

"You know what else I noticed about you?" She cooed while trailing her finger across his lip while he froze, stock still. "You feel… Like I feel."

Nervous, Allen removed her hand from his face to wrap his arms around her petite form, then held her hands in place.

"Lydia, what exactly do you mean by that?" He cleared his throat and asked, giving her hands a gentle squeeze when she tried to wiggle them free. As her eyes grew wide with excitement, it instigated a fire of need to burn from inside of him.

"You… see things. You… know things." She tried to get the words out, but she stopped when his hopeful eyes dimmed just slightly. "We can sense… things."

"I see." He calmly said but refrained from adding more. Releasing one of her hands, he twirled her around with the other to face away from him. "Time for bed, Ms. Deetz. You need rest."

Grumbling and groaning, Lydia let out a sigh of disappointment. "Fine."

Carefully aiding her up the stairs, he ensured that she made it to the top without any incident. From the highest step, he observed the way that she stumbled into the room that she had chosen to sleep in.

With a wince, the slamming of her door made his heart drop.

Evelyn had felt it too, and the guilt that was radiating off of the boy was vibrant. She could sense how much he cared for Lydia, and based on what she had just saw; she knew that it had taken all his control to not fall into the spell that her daughter was weaving.

Lydia had that charm and the ability to hide the darkness within that sweet and innocent exterior. Charles had fallen for it, Cordelia had fallen for it.

Regret built inside of the spectral entity as she floated her essence into her bedroom. The scene of her death, as she had come to know it, no longer felt like a tomb of silence and bad memories. No, she had come to terms with the reality of her short life.

Had she not had the affair, then perhaps Lydia would have been different. Had Evelyn been the mother that her daughter deserved….

There was no sense in the 'what if's' now. Her little girl was now a grown woman, and even though she was intoxicated and unstable on her feet, she was still a beauty. Dangerous under the surface, Lydia was the oleander flower. Admire her, love her, and treat her with reverence, but in the second that she felt threatened, or that her essence would be taken away, she could end life without a care.

The moment that Lydia had drifted off to sleep, Evelyn manifested herself. As she listened, her daughter mumbled a name; it was one that she had feared ever since her caseworker had mentioned the danger that came from associating with him: Beetlejuice.

Closing her eyes, she offered up a silent prayer for Lydia, while gently brushing her fingers across the cheek of her sleeping murderer.

"My darling child," She said gently and placed a breath of a kiss upon the girl's head. "I wish that I could change time and save you from this life. I'm sorry that I didn't act sooner."

Mumbling something in her sleep, Lydia rolled over. A sardonic smile crossed the ghost's lips as she resumed into her ghostly mist to venture out of the room so that she could let her daughter sleep without the influence of her spiritual energy.

She found comfort in the walls that she traveled besides, curling around the corners, and along the banisters while she descended the staircase.

For a moment, she observed the young man while manifesting into a vaguely corporeal state. It was a form that allowed her to move throughout the apartment, especially while the cleaning crew mucked about and gossiped over the strange murder that had occurred upstairs.

The man that rested on the sofa was handsome and was reading rather than sleeping as she had presumed. He was a better match for her daughter, more than any man that Evelyn had ever shared time with, but still, there was something else. There was a darkness lingering beneath the surface of his good looks.

Much like Lydia, the temperament was there and awaiting its trigger.

Drifting closer until she was behind the sofa, she dared to get a better look, all the while being careful to not get too close to the young man, just in case he could feel her presence.

"Of course, like would attract like." She spoke out loud and shook her head at the odd coincidences that had soaked the universe.

Sitting up, the man looked over the edge of the sofa, and directly at her. Yet, his face was neutral and had not even an ounce of fear.

"What do you mean by that?" He asked her.

Stepping back, Evelyn was shocked that the man was able to see and hear her while she was in her spiritual state. She began to wonder if Lydia could comprehend the extent of the young man's skill.

Berating herself for being so foolish, she started to fade with an apology on her lips.

"Don't worry, you didn't startle me. I couldn't sleep and, I admit, it would be nice to have someone to talk to."

Intrigued by the invitation, she regarded the boy with curiosity, and stopped to rematerialized, only this time into her true manifested state.

"It's been ages since I've had anyone to talk to." She said meekly. She didn't feel like herself and hadn't since her traumatic death.

"That must have been very lonely." He calmly said, as if talking to the dead was as simple as speaking with a neighbor. His charm was slightly unnerving and yet, she found herself being drawn in by this conflicted soul.

"I've been told I'm a good listener," he continued. "Please, have a seat."

From where he had been resting only moments before, he sat upright and offered a space for her to sit, yet she couldn't bring herself to join him.

"Loneliness is a constant companion. I am used to it, though I am not used to men having the gift to see beyond the veil. Who are you?" She asked as she floated closer, finding comfort in being on the opposite side of the coffee table where he had placed his book.

"I understand that sort of loneliness well. Honestly, I am no one." He replied, and his placid smile had a disarming effect, while she also had distinctly noticed that he said nothing about her evasion.

"You can see and hear me, even in a lower manifestation."

"Ah, that. I inherited my gifts from my Oma, my grandmother." A glimmer of sadness radiated from within his eyes as he mentioned someone who must have been dear to him.

Evelyn nodded at his clarification. "Then, you know who I am?"

"Yes. You are Evelyn Deetz, Lydia's mother. I have seen photos of you before. I must say, she looks incredibly similar to you. It's almost uncanny."

"She has my gifts. Passed from mother to daughter, for as long as the women of the White family has graced and cursed this earth. What of your parents?"

"Neither of them had the gift." He briskly replied. "I guess I was just… lucky." As he spoke that last word, she could hear the conflict and hesitation within it.

"It's a blessing and a curse." She said while closing her eyes. If she could cry, she would, and even for a spirit, the pain inside was brutal. "Lydia was cursed from the instant that she was conceived. It was a stupid and reckless moment of passion."

"Curse or blessing, it's all about how you choose to see it." Feeling his pain, it was as clear to her as it would have been for anyone else's emotions when she was an empathic mortal woman. Only in death, it was amplified, and Evelyn understood that the poor kid had fallen in love with her daughter.

With a mother's tenderness, she smiled as she spoke. "You may not believe this now, but a darkness lurks in a beauty like hers. Be careful to guard yourself from the violence that rests within you both."

From within him, there was an instant emotional surge, but it was vanquished in the blink of an eye, leaving him devoid of any emotion that she could feel. The intentional blockade caught her off guard, and even more so when his kind expression brightened up a few more watts. His face did not match up with the silent void that seeped from the barrier that he had internally slammed down.

"Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light." He countered but his eyes were gentle as he spoke. "I thank you for your concern. You are such a kind and loving soul and I can feel how much love you have for your daughter."

Indeed, it was a wall; Evelyn sighed to herself at the loss of her connection.

"All love can be lost on a moment of hatred...', no, that's not right. 'Years of love have been forgot, in the hatred of a minute.'" She spoke to herself as she remembered the lines from some of the many books that were left behind. Those were once stories that she held so much distaste for, starting when her husband had naively shared them with such an impressionable child.

"Charles indulged her, but his love was so very blind that he never saw…"

Based on the mask that he had put on, Allen was confused, yet she could see the cracks of concern peak through.

"Love can easily put the blinders on oneself." Allen shook his head with a smile. "Not you, though. You're a practical person. Nonetheless, you cared more than anyone, didn't you? Even in life, you must've felt very isolated."

Not responding, she instead looked up towards the room where Lydia was sleeping.

"What do you know about my daughter's past? Have your senses told you anything?"

"I try not to pry. I don't like to use my senses like that unless it's needed." He closed his eyes. "But it's clear that I don't know enough. Would you care to share anything that I should know?"

Pressing her lips tight, Evelyn didn't want to speak too soon. "Your darkness matches hers... You have yet to notice the blood that drips from the hands of the guilty; those hands that will show how far a person will go... or has gone."

He paused as a look of apprehension slipped past his mask.

"Even if that's so, there's still good. Her darkness could not possibly…" Abruptly stopping his hurried sentence, he inhaled a deep breath, held it for a moment, and then exhaled. Finally, he continued. "What happened?"

Analyzing the ghost with concern, she could tell that he understood that she was withholding something more. It was something that he was desperate to learn.

The boy was either willfully blind, like her husband, or perhaps he didn't have that particular gift yet.

Sitting forward in his seat, Allen pressed the matter further. "What exactly happened here? There is an unusual energy that oozes off this whole building, but it starts in here. I could feel it before even entering, and then, at one point, there was a strong burst of it."

"She has charm and is capable of love, but I was too late. Charles only learned the truth when he found my body. The old fool lost consciousness, and then... they forgot."

Cryptic messages were hard to convey, and she could see that he was trying to piece things together. He started to soften those walls again but maintained the void of emotion keeping her at a distance from the questions and doubts hidden within.

"What did they forget? I want to help."

"I don't know how you can do that. The damage is already done. There are many ways this could end though the result will always be the same. She will tell you, or you will die, perhaps both, but in the end, it's the ghost who wins."

"The ghost...". Allen jaw set girm while he grit his teeth together. "Evelyn, I know it wasn't a burglar who murdered you. Who did it?"

A gentle laugh escaped from deep within the spirits core. Such a simple question but yet, so complicated a topic. She was beyond help, and even if she did reveal the truth… what could this young man do to right the situation short of ending her daughter's freedom?

Evelyn recalled those last moments of her life where her little girl offered her mother the tiniest of escapes, and yet Evelyn refused to see it as anything more than a child's curiosity. If she knew then what she knew now….

"I wish I could forget, but I won't be able to take away that look of evil intent. I made many mistakes in my life. Death has given me time to reflect on where I went wrong." With a look of longing in the direction of her sleeping daughter, she let out a breath of ghostly air. "Betraying those I loved and withholding truths had always been a flaw of mine, and though I could tell you, I wouldn't be able to balance my flaws. I can not do one without the other. I'm sorry, but I can't speak about what happened."

Conflict battled in both while they each searched for a way to help the other understand the levity if the situation. Where Evelyn couldn't bring herself to say the words, Allen was never one to comfortably pry into someone's personal life. In the end, it was Allen who took the step back, feeling it was more important to keep this spirit on his good side.

"I can respect that." He said after a moment's silence. Evelyn's energy relaxed while he continued, "For what it's worth, I'll protect your daughter as best as I can."

Evelyn nodded at his claim and offered him an apologetic smile as she stood and approached the young man. She reached out to touch his face but held back at the last second, realizing he was not about to drop his mask and let her sense anything beyond the facade he projected.

She took a step back, retracting herself and her energy till her body began to fade into the mists, leaving Allen with parting words, "Like attracts like. Sometimes making a deal with death can be better protection than a shield around the mortal coil."

Evelyn watched Allen for a moment more while in her mist form before taking refuge in the walls of her home. Being dead didn't make anything easier.

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