"Believe nothing you hear and only one half that you see." - Edgar Allan Poe
Lydia cried for what seemed like hours in Beetlejuice's arms. Not that he minded, she had hardly ever held him in this sort of level of desperation and need. She had always been so strong. Never one to cave in the face of fear or adverse circumstances. No one could break her; not even the bullies could crack her and destroy her streak of civility and compassion. Seeing her like this - now after so many years- it made him itch.
Her curled up body was a temptation that he denied himself after so many years in the role of best buds. She summoned him into her life and not to be one to look a gift horse in the mouth; he accepted the change in the monotony that she had so generously offered. Of course, he had hoped that she would have been older. Eleven was a tricky age.
With a tenderness that he would have never shown to another soul, living or dead, he let his fingers brush through her hair. Hell would freeze over before he ruined their friendship by jumping the gun. Urges be damned. After more than twelve years, he finally felt that he got what he wanted where she was concerned. Trust.
Her gentle breath and beating heart against his chest proved to him that she was content to be in his arms. Years ago, he had shut down any hope of their deal coming to complete fruition. She was only a kid, and he reveled in the half freedom that she had provided until either the girl snapped or died. Neither seemed like an option while she was still a child, and he had no regrets allowing the kid to flip his world upside down.
Twisting her body, Lydia wiggled with a grunt until her face pressed against him and sniffled snot onto his shirt. Chuckling, he adjusted himself so that she could stretch against him.
Oh yeah, that's good, he thought as she wrapped her arms around his torso and squeezed.
Ignoring his baser urges, he rested his head against the back of his recliner and listened to the girl breathing. Hypnotic in its rhythm. Perhaps one day, he would come to miss this sound.
Beetlejuice had a plan, one that had been brewing in his system for ages. Only now he was able to act upon it. Lydia would join him in this endless farce of an afterlife to become one more companion to keep him from the brink of insanity.
Now that she had taken that first step, he wouldn't be content to let her go on with her existence as if she were just another flesh bag waiting for their heart to stop beating. He wanted Lydia more than even he expected when he first saw those big brown eyes.
Again, the warm little body snuggled against him, causing his eyes to close. Shit, this kid was gonna be the life of him one of these days. Shifting again, she wiggled until her knee rested between his.
"Okay… that's…. Lyds." He groaned and murmured into her hair, "I should take you home now before things get outta control." Her mumbled little moan and responsive snuggle made him chuckle again. He decided to take his chances by kissing the top of her head.
He pulled at his power, that was now subtly changing since Delia's demise, and transported Lydia back to her world. Soon enough, she would learn about the shift in the protocol in regards to their deal, but for now, she needed her rest, and he needed to do some reading…. and get his sandworm under control.
When they arrived, the house was deadly silent. Dim moonlight illuminated the scene. It was one of those cold winter nights that Lydia loved so much. Beetlejuice narrowed his eyes at the bedspread. The pale rose color nearly turned his stomach, knowing he was going to put Lydia in the middle of something so far off Lydia's aesthetic. He really missed Lydia's old cobweb comforter. Damn meddling woman, he thought. He didn't believe for one moment that she had a "laundry incident." It was, in both his and Lydia's opinion's, a blatant excuse to be rid of his Babes personal taste in decor.
Regardless, he carried her to the bed, juicing the fabric out of the way so he could place her on the mattress. She rolled over and moaned his nickname when he tucked her in.
"Damn, Babes." He muttered. "Do that again, and I'm gonna have a hard time walkin' away."
Lydia's lips curled, her eyes opening to little slits. "Very funny, BJ."
"Don't make me join you," he taunted with a grin of his own.
A moment of silence passed between them almost as if she was going to say something to make him regret his teasing, but with a sigh, she rolled over instead.
"Dirty old ghost..." she muttered to herself.
He chuckled, taking a step back from the bed, and watched her curl into herself for a moment before he left her to sleep.
Wandering through the halls, he poked his head into the Deetz's old bedroom. Curiosity winning out over whether or not the late duo were keeping any juicy secrets, Beej nudged the door open and stepped inside.
Clean and feminine, Charles didn't exactly get much of a say in the decor for the rest of the house, so Beetlejuice wasn't surprised by the nonexistence of masculinity. He was sorely disappointed in the lack of dirty material. Not even any racy undies and no suggestive literature… nothing good as far as he could see. Those two were squeaky clean.
Disgusted with the shortage of entertainment, he was starting to wonder if Lydia was really Chuck's kid.
Leaving the room, he headed back downstairs to confirm that he had removed all evidence of Delia ever coming home. He could hide a murder. There was no doubt that he could fake a death scene, and he was positive that no one would be able to pin the 'accident' on Lyds.
Come morning she would already have to face facts and the way that he saw it; the kid can go one of two ways: One, she will either accept the truth or two, he would have to do something drastic… again.
Allen had seen many accidents. Some minor and some serious, but this one was something else altogether. It was the worst accident in the area since the famed double fatality off of the Winter River bridge from many years earlier.
Neither he nor his partner Bertha were on the force at that time. In fact, they were all still teenagers in their respective schools. The news would hardly make a big deal in a large city, but in the collection of small towns, an accident taking out a highly respected hometown business owner and his wife would be right up there with a homicide.
This incident - widow crashing into a ravine after her husband's funeral- would be talked about for years.
Bertha's skin, ordinarily fair, appeared ghostly in the glow of the flashing red and blue lights. She did her best to hold herself together, but he could see the worry slipping through her professional facade. Their camaraderie never went beyond their shifts, and only rarely did they ever meet outside of their uniforms. One distinct exception being the time when Bertha was recovering from her own personal tragedy. He was sympathetic to her pain, and as someone who spent several hours with her, he did his best to keep their shifts as light-hearted as possible.
"Wat een kutzooi!" He muttered as he stared at the disaster below.
Bertha turned her attention to him and away from the wreckage that was being brought back up to the street. Her eyes looked desperate.
"You don't think she was in there, do you?" Bertha asked. He knew that she was referring to the girl that they were just talking about only a couple of hours ago.
"They haven't found a second body," he offered, but that didn't mean that she wasn't thrown further. At least they knew that the car didn't have a passenger in the seats. Obviously, these were things that he wasn't going to share, so instead, he tried to keep it light.
"Hey, you could just call her. Just in case, you know?"
A pained look crossed her face, "If she's home, how do I tell her?"
"Bertha!" Cried the soft voice of Prudence. She was breathless and frazzled, but quickly, she composed herself.
"Oh, thank god! You're here." Bertha broke all sense of professionalism as she hugged her friend. Even after all these years, they were still awkward with their height differences. Prudence pushed her glasses up her nose and offered a consoling smile. Of the two, Prudence was in control of her emotions. Her years behind the pages of books and cadaver tables helped her maintain a steady nature.
In contrast, Bertha was a slave to her emotions.
"I just had a look at Mrs. Deetz. Poor Lydia is going to be so upset." Her voice squeaked and held back a sniffle for her friend's loss.
"She wasn't in the car." Bertha breathed out in relief.
"No. Only her mom. Ramone mentioned that she had left the funeral in Mr. Beetlemans old car before anyone else did."
"See, I had a feeling she was alright," Allen put his hand on Bertha's shoulder and gave them a quick squeeze before letting go. "You, on the other hand, need a coffee. Come on. The others can take care of the scene. and I'll take care of the reports later."
Prudence nodded at Allen's wise assessment of his partner, "I'll call you when we have everything processed."
As he guided his partner back to their car, he noticed how Bertha's shoulders were trembling. This time, he drove, and as they made their way into town, he took extra care to avoid any of the icy spots.
"Hey," he started, and when she looked at him, he offered her a pat on her hand. "It's gonna be okay. I'll drive you and Prudence over to the Deetz's place in the morning after the shift. Just let her sleep for the night. There's no sense in making an already bad day worse."
"Then, it will just be two bad days in a row."
Allen winced at her response.
Her room was silent when she drifted awake. She was alone in her bed, still dressed in her Neitherworld attire, and Beej was nowhere in sight.
Sliding out of bed, she went to her dresser to pull out a proper nightgown. She quickly dressed and slipped on a pair of slippers to protect her toes from the chilly air and cold floors.
The room was freezing, but the thermostat was down the hall, which required her to face the drudged air. Dad wasn't around to fiddle with the dial obsessively till the perfect temperature was achieved anymore. Now she would have to be the one to do it.
Her weight caused the floorboards to squeak as she traveled down the hallway to the little box. Her fingers raised, sliding the dial-up, down and then up again. She remembered the steady seventy-five Delia insisted on.
So, she bumped it up to eighty.
With a shiver, she wrapped her arms around herself, but before she started for her room, she noticed the lights on downstairs. She must have left them on before Beej took her from the scene of the crime.
Her memories replayed that quick moment between life and death. The way Delia's face changed expression from fury, to shock, until finally to the realization that she was dying.
Shaking herself, Lydia changed course and headed down the stairs into the living room where she found Beetlejuice. Her eyes lingered on him. She took in his casually relaxed pose on her dad's old recliner as he read a thick tome of a book. It was one that she had briefly seen in his room only once before. The Handbook for the Recently Deceased. She remembered lifting the cover to take a peak, but before she could open it, Beej took it from her while teasing her that reading was boring and there was fun to be had. "No one likes a bookworm," he joked before making it visual.
Lydia's lips curled up in a sardonic smile when he licked his finger and flipped a page.
"No one likes a bookworm, Beej" she spoke gently so as to not startle him.
Glancing up at her, he pushed his rarely used glasses up his nose and grinned. He swiftly marked his place in the book with a dusty, old, and torn bookmark before snapping it shut.
"Yeah well, I'll take bookworms over sandworms any day, Lyds." He moved the book off to his side and uncrossed his legs.
Lydia marveled at how well he fit into the casual setting of her house. HER house, finally and officially. The nightgown fluttered around her body as she came over to him, disregarding the sofa entirely in lieu of sitting in his lap.
He didn't complain, but he did grunt and Lydia was not so innocent to not notice a stiff reaction. She hid her grin by pressing her lips together and snuggling her head under his neck.
Despite what lore had led her to believe, ghosts were not always freezing. Sure a few of them could suck the heat and energy around them as if they were nothing but a freezing black hole but Beej, no, he was always warm. Most of the Neitherworld citizens felt warm to her, but her ghost was far warmer. She had felt safe with him, no matter what crazy adventure they went on.
His hand grazed her hip gently as it traveled up to brush her hair off her exposed shoulder. The nightgown slipped a little, and neither felt the need to cover it right back up.
He grunted to let her know he was listening.
"What's gonna happen now?"
His body rose and fell with his sigh. Turning his head, he rested his cheek on the top of her head.
"We wait." Beej brushed a finger against the skin of her shoulder. She felt her lips curl up again. "You gonna be okay?"
"Oh gee, where did this sensitive, caring person come from?" Lydia teased
He vocalized his disgust, and she giggled while snuggling closer than before.
"I don't know. Everything is just so …" she trailed off. "What did you do with her?"
"I … I can't tell ya."
"Well, why not?"
"Cuz if I tell ya, you won't be surprised when the fuzz comes around."
Lydia pushed against his chest to look into his widening eyes. His expression faltered as he tried to process how close her face was to his, but she had hardly noticed.
"I really did kill her." She stated. "No illusion. It was real."
Beej gulped and cleared his throat. "Um.. uh… yeah."
Her eyes searched his face for any hint of disappointment or mistrust. He was licking his lips, and she felt a light twitch against her thigh.
"You," she paused and frowned, "you've killed."
"Uh huh," he breathed when she shifted her weight on his lap.
"Nnng," he groaned and nodded. Lydia's smile twitched as she settled back against him.
"I get the feeling you've been keeping secrets from me, Beetlejuice."
He squeezed his legs to alleviate the pressure and the torture while Lydia, for her part, pretended not to notice.