Beauty Queen and The Real McShizzle Vs. Re-Animator - BobInTheComments (2024)

Chapter 1: Finis Principium Principii Finis

Notes:

Artwork was done by the amazing Rhianna, who has been a saint for putting up with my insane requests. I do not pay her enough!

Check out her stuff Here and maybe consider commissioning her!

Chapter Text

Beauty Queen and The Real McShizzle Vs. Re-Animator - BobInTheComments (1)

Figures it would be raining today, Piper thought as she gazed out of the window at the gray blur that was the city of Arkham, Massachusetts. The glass was cold and uncomfortable against her forehead and she knew It would leave a nasty red mark when she pulled away from it, but it was worth it if distracted her from the two pairs of eyes that hadn’t stopped looking at her since they left the crumby little motel that morning. She just wished that it could distract her from the pain in her chest that she carried for well over two years now. Raining…

“Honey… are you okay?” her dad asked as he turned the duct-taped covered rental car down a brick road. Tristan McLean, former-A-list-movie-star-now--farmhand was owner of one of the pairs of eyes that watched her. Once upon a time, she had once wanted nothing more than her dad’s attention, but now that she had it, she didn’t want it. She didn’t want his pity-filled looks or the frequent talks about how he could get her whatever help she needed, even if they were penniless. She didn’t want him sneaking into her room at night when he thought she was asleep and asking the darkness what he could do to help her.

She just wanted him to leave her alone.

“You can still back out if you want to,” he gulped. “Nobody says you have to go to this University or even visit it. I’ll support you either way.”

Piper had to stop herself from scoffing. He was all about supporting her as he was incapable of doing anything on his own. Raising her? Grandpa Tom did that. His acting gigs? A string of managers that took a larger percentage each time. Their finances including her college funds? Well, she couldn’t really fault him there. Divine circ*mstances and all.

“Uh… I’m saying she has to go to this visit,” the owner of the other set of eyes said with a chuckle that only sounded a little forced. “My legs and butt are insisting on it actually. The crampage is real. Right, beauty queen?”

Leo Valdez’s pet name for her, which once made her roll her eyes or grin, now only made her squeeze her eyes shut as memories she’d rather forget about forced themselves to the forefront of her mind. A rooftop kiss that never happened, tofu fajitas in the sewers of Chicago, racing across the Atlantic to confront an army of monsters, confronting the avatar of the Earth itself on the back of a mechanical dragon, a rooftop declaration of love followed by a kiss, a breakup out of her insecurities, a reluctant team-up with a god-turned-mortal, a selfish sacrifice, and the burning of bridges that should have lasted a lifetime were but a few that made her want to scream. To punch something. To cry tears that had already been shed a hundred times before.

“Leo…” her dad warned, probably adjusting the rear-view mirror so he could glare at the teen.

“Yeah, yeah,” Leo answered, most likely giving her dad a dismissing wave of his hand. “Pipes knows I’m just messing with her. Messed with her about far worse,” he added just loud enough for her to hear. “Now-” she felt the overnight bags that separated them shift as the son of Hephaestus ruffled through them “-let’s see if this place is even worth our time. Personally, I’m a Harvard man, but we’ll see if this Punxsutawney will do,” he said in his (poor) imitation of a rich New Englander. “But mark my words, we would rather die than go to Yale. They let anyone in there.”

Her dad huffed as he flicked the blinker off.

And that little exchange actually made her chuckle. It ranked up there in the stupidest things she ever heard, but stupid was what she needed. Which was why she still talked to Leo out of everyone from her old life and why she invited him along.

She lifted her head up -the skin of her forehead momentarily sticking to the window- and put on what passed as a smile for her anymore and turned to look at the two men. “Miskatonic.”

The elfish inventor co*ked his head to the side in confusion. “Uh, bless you?”

“No, Miskatonic is the name of the university. Punxsutawney is the name of the town the groundhog is from,” she explained as Leo removed the wrinkled brochure from her duffel bag. If any other boy would have violated her privacy like that she would have kneed them in the groin until only dogs could hear their screams, but with Leo it was different. He may have acted like a macho idiot at times, but she knew that he wouldn’t do anything weird with her belongings. Well, weird for Leo that is…

“Ah, yes, Miskatonic University. Good’ol M.U. for short. How could I ever forget about my alma mater,” he rattled off as he unfolded the pamphlet. His eyes skimmed across one page and onto another so fast that she doubted he actually read anything, rather looking at the stock images of happy students and Photoshopped-enhanced pictures of the campus. “This place looks kind of… stuffy? Like everyone’s-dad-is-a-lawyer-and-all-of-them-will-sue-you kind of stuffy.” He looked up from the pamphlet to her. “Is this really the kind of place you want to go to, Pipes?” He then jerked his head to her dad. “Because there’s always that campus out in Berkeley that would gladly accept you… Safer too…”

The smile fell away from her face at what Leo was implying.

Truthfully, Miskatonic was not her first choice for higher education (not that she even had a choice), but it had to be infinitely better than going to New Rome. New Rome was where all of her old “friends” had started their perfect lives together, while no one (save maybe some fans of her dad) would know her here. In this secluded corner of New England, she wouldn’t run into Annabeth and Percy and their pathetic arguments about the natural order and the will of the gods. Wouldn’t have to listen to Frank and Hazel’s excuses about her being an exception for the greater good of all. Will Solace standing behind a growling son of Hades who was outraged that she would even ask such a thing of him. All of them were willing to break and twist the rules, but only when it suited their needs. No, she was better off keeping them as far away as possible.

“Berkeley isn’t where I belong,” Piper sighed, turning back to the window. Through the small gaps between the weathered buildings she could see the choppy sea; its turbulent waters having turned gray to match the stormy sky above it. “Too many reminders there…” She could feel her dad’s and Leo’s pitiful gazes fall on her once more and she wanted nothing more than to shrug them off.

“Uh, hey Leo?” her dad practically shouted to stave off the return of the painful silence. “Do you know what Miskatonic means?”

“Can’t say that I do Mr. M. Am I supposed to? It sounds vaguely Native American?”

“That’s because it is,” she slowly answered. “The vaguely part. Miskatonic doesn’t mean anything at all. The school’s founders named it and the nearby river that because they thought it sounded something Algonquian.”

“That seems… kind of racist if I’m going to be honest. Like, cultural appropriation at it’s worst,” the son of Hephaestus huffed.

“Oh, it is definitely racist,” her dad said with a slight chuckle. “The place got hit with a lawsuit about it a couple decades back. But rather than change the name, they settled with a deal that anyone who is a quarter First Nation or higher gets a free ride. Tuition, books, living expenses, the works. Pretty sweet deal at the time, but sadly the Washington Redskins uses it as precedent so they don’t have to change their name…”

“It’s a hard deal to pass up,” she sighed. “If I wanted to, I could stay until I get my doctorate and graduate without a loan to my name.”

“Okay, New Rome can go f*ck itself in comparison,” Leo whispered. “Percy and Annabeth are already like sixty big ones in debt. Not that he told me in confidence one night or anything like that…”

Piper snorted and had to stop herself from laughing.

“Yeah, kind of wish I knew about this place when I was your guys’ age,” the elder McLean chuckled, completely oblivious to what had his daughter smiling. “Hell, I’d probably still be here. Working on my fourth or fifth doctorate.”

“I wouldn’t blame you in the slightest,” Leo chuckled back. “And I really like the sound of Piper McLean: M.D., Ph.D., D.B.A, D.E.Sc, D.F.A, and all-around B.A.M.F-” The mechanic’s eyes widened as he snapped his mouth shut, as the two of them simultaneously remembered the long list of honorary titles that adorned the office door of Asclepius.

Piper turned and saw the hurt in Leo’s eyes. A hurt that nearly matched her own. She knew how guilty he felt about everything. How he blamed himself for what happened, believing that if he wouldn’t have used the Physician’s Cure and cheated death he would still be around.

And truthfully, there had been days where she felt the same.

But those days had passed years ago, and she regretted ever thinking like that. Leo was her oldest friend, her best friend. He was the only person on that hellish voyage that had an ounce of common sense and questioned why the way things were. It had felt like him and her were the only two among the seven, really the entire demigod world, that weren’t brainwashed to just go with everything the gods threw their way. Which was why the Texan was alive and well sitting next to her, having done everything he could to save the lives of their acquaintances while keeping his own.

And she was glad he did. Because there was no way she could have kept going without him.

“Er… so yeah, this place sounds like a pretty sweet deal, Piper,” Leo said with a forced chuckle. “If I had this kind of opportunity, I’d be eating lobster and steak for every meal. Caviar too! Don’t know if it’s any good, but it’s expensive,” he laughed, sounding a bit more genuine. “Kind of makes me wish I could go there…”

“About that…” her dad said. “Piper didn’t just invite you because it was going to be a fun sleepover, right honey?”

Her stomach may have sank as her dad spoiled her true intentions of bringing her friend along, but it was still better than the normal anxiousness that had moved into her gut with no intention of ever leaving. “Yeah… I was… kind of hoping that you’d think about joining me here? We could get our degrees together? Maybe share a place?”

Leo chewed on his lip before heaving a heavy sigh. “Beauty queen… I… I’m not sure if college is my thing. And even if it was, I don’t have a penny to my name. Plus, this place look to be pretty expensive. Like, paying-off-student-loans-until-the-day-I-die levels of expensive.”

“You’re not wrong about the price,” she managed to smile, “but there is a loophole we could exploit to get you a free ride too.”

“But…”

“Just think about it. Please Leo? For me?” she asked, staring into his eyes.

Leo closed his eyes and shook his head, a small grin on his face. “No fair using those on eyes on me like that, beauty queen,” he chortled. “But, since I’m here I’ll give it a look.” He opened his eyes and looked to the pamphlet once more. “What does this place even offer? Hopefully underwater basket weav- hold the phone!” His entire body shaking, Leo lifted the brochure to his face and burst out laughing. “Oh my gods, yes!”

“What’s so funny?” she and her dad asked at the same time.

Leo leaned over and shoved the pamphlet in her face. The sudden movement making her jump in her seat. “Hans Gruber!” he laughed hysterically. “They have Hans Gruber!”

“Hans Gruber?” Piper repeated, still not understanding what had made her friend more hyper than normal. Nevertheless, she looked to where Leo was pointing, a list of some of the prestigious members of the faculty. Professor Ferdinand C. Ashley, Dean of Ancient History. Professor William Dyer, Dean of Geology. Professor Ellery, Dean of Chemistry. She skimmed down the list until she saw the name that had Leo giddy. Dr. Hans Gruber, Dean of Medical Sciences. There was a tiny picture of who she guessed was the doctor in question, an intense looking old man with piercing ice blue eyes, but she couldn’t see any reason why Leo would find him amusing. If anything, Herbert West, the small, mousey blond doctor with serious Steve Buscemi vibes pictured below was funnier looking than Gruber. She pushed the paper away and looked to Leo. “Ah, I’m still not getting the joke. Is he like a big deal in medicine or something?”

Leo recoiled as if she had just struck him. “Are you kidding me?! You don’t know who Hans Gruber is?!” The son of Hephaestus leaned over the armrest and got right into her dad’s face. “Your daughter doesn’t know who Hans Gruber is! How could you let this happen?! How does she not know about the Nakatomi Plaza heist? How a lone cop crawled through the air ducts to save his family on Christmas Eve? How four does not come after three? Fuc- Freak’n Yippee-ki-ay mother fu-trucker? What kind of movie star are you?!”

Her dad rolled his eyes and chuckled as she pulled Leo back into his seat. “Die Hard. He’s talking about the villain from the first Die Hard. Played by the late, great Allan Rickman.”

“Professor Snape?” she asked.

“Professor Snape was nowhere near as awesome as Gruber,” Leo scoffed, folding his hands across his chest like a pouting child. “There has never been a villain cooler than him, hero either! His beard alone was the stuff of legend!” He unfolded his arms and beamed at her. “I can’t wait to study under a legend like him!”

“You… you know that they’re not the same person, right?” her dad asked, shifting his worried gaze off his daughter and onto her friend. “You also know that he was fictional, right?”

“Yeah, but just think of the looks I’d get when I say I earned my medical degree under Hans Gruber,” the son of Hephaestus smirked. “Really, it’s the obvious next step to further the legend of the real McShizzle.”

Her dad sighed. “You’re not going to spend the next eight-to-ten years getting a medical degree just to say that…”

Leo chuckled and waggled his eyebrows at her. “He don’t know very well, does he?”

And at that she burst out in a fit of laughter.

This is why she invited Leo along for this campus visit, to raise her spirits the way only he could. Leo was the only one alive that knew how to make her smile. Make her laugh. Pull her out of the pit of darkness that threatened to devour her. Maybe it was selfish of her to use him as a crutch, to potentially spend years together, but she needed to be selfish to keep going. “f*ck it! L-let’s be-become doctors!” she laughed.

“Language,” her dad halfheartedly warned. His smile betraying how happy he was to see her laughing and smiling. “But first you have to make sure you even like the place. Free or not, four years is a long time to spend in a place you hate.”

Piper nodded as she wiped the tears from her eyes; her body still shaking with laughter. “Yeah, but it’s a college how bad can it be?”

“I think the brochure left some things out,” Leo chuckled nervously as he gazed up at the huge dark iron gates that barred their entrance.

“You think?!” she snapped.

Before her dad turned the rental car down University Street, it had never occurred to her that all the material the college had sent to her had never shown the exterior of any of the buildings. Only showing the small intimate lectures halls, spacious dorm rooms, first class cafeterias, state-of-the-art labs, Olympic size pools, and its sprawling maze-like library. It wasn’t that the place was a dump by any stretch of the imagination, just that the architectural choices brought the words Gothic, creepy, haunted-beyond-all-reason, and I’ll-probably-be-murdered-here to mind. The few buildings that they could see through the huge, dark iron gate looked as if someone had watched The Adams Family, every episode of Scooby-Doo, and every old school horror movie and said yes, we’ll take it all!

Every rooftop had a gargoyle perched on every corner, which was great for those who wanted to practice being batman. Many of the windows were huge stained-glass mosaics which depicted monstrous squids and octopuses pulling schooners into the depths of a stormy sea. The grounds were covered in what looked like turn of the century gas lamps, giving the impression that Jack the Ripper would feel right at home among the foggy paths between the gothic buildings. And the entire campus was surrounded by a fifteen-foot tall brick wall topped with wrought iron spikes that made the place look more like Shawshank Penitentiary than a university.

“Ah, it’s just the weather,” her dad shrugged as he walked up to the intercom box. “I bet this place is beautiful when the sun is out.”

“Why do I get the feeling sunlight is a rare thing around here?” Leo sighed, adjusting his grip on his duffel bag for the hundredth time in less than ten minutes.

“Because you are sane,” she sighed in response. “I can practically feel the seasonal depress-”

*SQEEEEEEEEEEEEEE*

Piper and Leo squeezed their eyes shut and clenched their jaws at the nails-on-chalkboard-like sound as the large gates swung open.

“Come on guys! Let’s go get you signed in!” Her dad cried, waving his arms at them as if they were hundreds of yards away instead of the ten or so they actually were.

“Beauty queens first,” Leo said, placing one hand on the small of her back and pushing her forward.

“Aren’t you a brave one,” she snorted. “Pushing me into the set of every horror movie to ever exist.”

“Hey someone’s got to test the waters, and if I get to pretend to be a gentleman at the same time, bonus,” he shrugged. “But seriously, don’t test the waters… Any time some teens go into the water in a horror movie they are violently murdered. And I’m ninety percent certain this place keeps Jason Voorhees on staff…”

Piper blinked at the mention of the name that haunted her every waking moment and even her dreams. But that was it. She didn’t go back into herself, start crying, or get mad. She just blinked as Leo continued to push her forward. This has got to be a sign. A sign from Jason that things are going to get better with Leo here. Maybe Monster’s University is where I need to be…

She stepped out of Leo’s grasp and turned around; nearly slamming her own bag into her dad. “Oh definitely! And Michael Meyers is the groundskeeper-slash-janitor!”

“Well obviously!” Leo laughed.

Chapter 2: Ex Ignorantia Ad Sapientiam; Ex Luce Ad Tenebras

Summary:

The door to his office opened and was immediately slammed shut, with exactly one-half second passing before a sickly-sweet voice called out, “any breakthroughs last night doc?”
Dr. Herbert West looked up from the ancient text on his desk and frowned and at his overly peppy T.A. “Does it look like it?”

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

The door to his office opened and was immediately slammed shut, with exactly one-half second passing before a sickly-sweet voice called out, “any breakthroughs last night doc?”

Dr. Herbert West looked up from the ancient text on his desk and frowned and at his overly peppy T.A. “Does it look like it?”

If it was anyone else asking he would have taken it to be mocking, but the girl and her partner genuinely believed in theories. Believing that the human body, for all of its brilliance, was simply a complex, organic machine. But that wasn’t the belief that had ostracized from his peers, as most felt the same way in this day in age, but rather his belief that the human body could be restarted in the event of a systemic failure. To him, death was just a symptom of disease, the biological equivalent of an automobile’s check engine indicator. No on disposed of their car because of the light turned on, instead taking it to a mechanic to get it serviced, so why should the human body be treated any differently? Why did people have to lose someone they loved to a treatable symptom?

But no one saw it the way he did. His peers telling him that a good doctor prevents death, if not just laughing in his face.

All blind to the countless myths and legends of humans returning from the dead.

“I’m going to take that as a no…”

He ignored the girl’s million-watt smile and went back to deciphering the complex formula scrawled within the pages of the black book. “Can you get me a cup of coffee? Black. No-”

“No sugar,” his other T.A. finished for him as she plopped down on the edge of his desk. “We know your order by heart now Dr. West. But have you ever stopped to think that maybe a little glucose would be good for you? Stimulate your brain a little bit. And for that matter, maybe get some sleep? Shower if you’re feeling ambitious?”

“Coffee. Black. No sugar,” he repeated, while simultaneously comparing the formula for epinephrine with the one in the book. His hand stopped its almost automatic copying of the millennia old text as he realized that the two formulas matched. C9H13NO3, impossible- no, extraordinary! This ancient civilization had knowledge on organic chemistry that the rest of mankind wouldn’t learn until thousands of years later! That old fool Ashley would kill to get his hands on this book!

“Doctor, you’re smiling. I take it you found something interesting?”

West looked up from the book and finally acknowledged his second T.A.’s presence. “Yes, I believe I have, Allison,” he said just as his other T.A., Lisa, set a steamy Styrofoam cup down in front of him. “The formulas presented in this book imply a way to jump-start cell activity via a combination of adrenaline and Norepinephrine, while using Glutamate to limit-”

“Uh, English doc,” Lisa chuckled as she jumped up on the desk to sit besides her… classmate? Friend? Partner? He really needed to pay attention to the world around him…

Lisa and Allison were something of a mystery to him. The two girls had transferred into the university two years ago and had begged him to join him in his research. At first, he thought that they were simply messing with him (as most students and faculty did) or were looking for an easy A, and he brushed them off. But when they approached him again with the prospect of a benefactor, he began to take them a little more seriously. When the first donation arrived with the book, he brought them onboard. Though, he still wondered why they wanted to work with him when Lisa was a media major and Allison was majoring in business

He picked up the cup of coffee and held it out for the girls to see. “Imagine that this cup and the liquid within is a recently deceased neuron.”

“Okay, I can do that,” the peppy redhead nodded.

“Easy enough,” Allison shrugged.

“Now, notice that it’s not moving or doing anything exciting. No messages being fire off, no messages being received. Now before, my reagent simply attempted to inject energy into the cell.” He shook the Styrofoam cup around and the girls recoiled away to avoid getting hit by the hot liquid splashing out from within. “In that case the energy created by the chemical reaction dissipated from the cell, doing nothing but causing further damage.”

“Could you have explained it in a way without staining my clothes?” Lisa huffed, licking her thumb before trying to rub the small dot of coffee from her Fighting Cephalopods sweater.

“Now, this new formula does things a bit differently,” he said, ignoring the redhead’s complaints. “Energy is still added, but…” he placed his free hand over the top of the cup and swirled it around instead of shaking it. “Inhibitors keep the energy in check, keeping within the cell-” he removed his hand from the top of the cup and a cloud of steam rose out of it “-the excess energy is safely distributed through the neural pathways, and if you would kindly notice, the cell is now reanimated,” he said, pointing to the swirling brown liquid within.

Allison smirked at the slowing coffee and ran a hand through her long black hair. “Sounds like you might be on to something… But isn’t this only a temporary solution? That coffee isn’t going to swirl forever.”

Dr. West looked down into the cup and scowled. “The goal of my research is not immortality. I do not possess such hubris. Rather, the goal is to extend human life as long as possible. To give people a chance to say goodbye…”

“That’s a nice sentiment doc,” Lisa said, her voice just above a whisper.

“So… are you ready to synthesize this new formula?” the raven-haired T.A. asked.

He took a sip of coffee, eyeing Allison over the white cup. “Not quite,” he answered as he set the cup down. “This new formula is incomplete; the book only gives the stabilizer. However…”

“However, what?” The redhead asked, leaning across the desk and well into his personal space.

“The book makes reference to The Physician’s Cure…”

The Physician’s Cure. The mythological medicine created by Asclepius that could revive the dead and was the basis of his work. For years he had searched for proof of its existence, scouring the world for any reference to the elixir, taking him from secluded monastery libraries to obscure ruins on the isles of Greece. Most of what he found was just different interpretations of the myth, but on a small island he managed to find a retelling that included an alleged list of ingredients: Pylosian Mint, Makhai, and the Curse of Delos.

Naturally, he understood that these weren’t the literal components of cure, but rather a coded message only other physicians of the day would understand. Pylosian Mint, a poison of indescribable agony? Some kind of snake venom or potentially arsenic. The Makhai, spirits of war? Adrenaline or testosterone. The Curse of Delos? Something that grew within the flowers on the island of Delos, perhaps a strain of bacteria or a virus. Even all these years later he hadn’t figured out the exact ingredients, but he felt he was getting closer with every attempt.

However, this newest discovery did confirm its existence and indicated that the original could be improved upon.

“So as soon as you have that, you’ll be good?” Lisa asked, still intruding Dr. West’s personal bubble.

“I wouldn’t say that, but we could begin the initial testing,” he shrugged. “Strictly off the books of course.”

“Of course,” Allison grinned. “But maybe we should start synthesizing this new discovery of yours? Maybe if you examine it you’ll realize what the Physician’s Cure is?”

He took another drink of his bitter coffee to hide his scowl. It didn’t work like that. It wasn’t as if his reagent was a jigsaw puzzle he could figure out with half the pieces assembled. He didn’t even have a metaphorical box to look it. Yes, he could figure out the chemical bonds, but there were millions, if not billions, of potential solutions. And yet… It would keep them out of my hair for a while… “Yeah sure. Knock yourself out.”

Shortly after Allison and Lisa skipped off to the lab (literally skipped), Dr. West exited his office through the somewhat secret passage behind his bookcase. The passageway was the result of the university receiving a much-needed renovation in the mid-sixties while James Bond was all the rage. The then president of the college had been obsessed with the movies and had the construction crews install numerous cloak-and-dagger type features throughout the campus. Hidden passageways behind bookcases, secret tunnels that connected the all the buildings, two-way mirrors in some of the restrooms (most of which had been removed), a vault beneath the pools, and a mechanism in the fountain that opened the campus gates (now a concern given their lockdown policy) were but a few of the secrets known to the faculty, as the dean never documented what all had been added. Personally, he felt it was kind of silly, but sometimes it they proved useful. Sneaking out before office hours ended was always a plus.

He walked through the dim tunnel, passed the piles of long-forgotten documents that needed to be filed in the 70s, passed the boarded entrances to his fellow instructor’s offices, where he found the unsettling statue of Miskatonic’s mascot, Cephie The Cephalopod. He counted the ugly thing’s tentacles starting from the top and working his way clockwise until he reached the fourth tentacle. While he knew which tentacle he needed to twist to get out of the passageway, he liked to err on the side of caution. Twisting the fifth tentacle would make the stature shoot a stream of water at his face, while the third would open a trapdoor that would send him to the into the morgue just beneath his feet.

“Why do they even have that?” He asked himself for the millionth time as the hidden mechanism within the statue made the wall swing open.

“That’s exactly what I ask myself every time I see you,” an all too familiar voice growled.

Crap… he thought with a grimace that was quickly replaced with a fake smile as he turned around. “Dr. Gruber. How are you doing this lovely… Morning?”

Dr. Gruber was… an intimidating man to say the least. A shock of wispy white hair that he combed over in an attempt to fool himself and other into thinking he wasn’t balding. Piercing ice blue eyes that froze the soul of whoever he gazed at and had sent many a student away in tears. There wasn’t a single spot on Gruber’s face that wasn’t covered in wrinkles, making him wonder what was actually holding him together. These features were bad, but the good doctor would have been easily ignorable if not for the fact that he towered in at over six-and-a-half-feet tall and had the chest of a gorilla. Impressive feats for a man well into his seventies. But the worst thing about Gruber was that he was technically his boss, meaning he couldn’t ignore him even if he was small.

“Morning, West! It’s morning!” The dean snarled, his face burning red with anger. “And do you know what morning it is?!”

Dr. West tapped his forefinger to his chin and furrowed his brow. “Tuesday?”

“Wednesday!” the dean snapped. “And do you know what is supposed to happen today?”

He closed his eyes and checked his mental calendar. “I have classes at noon and three, but that’s every Wednesday. Why do you ask?”

Gruber ground his teeth together as a vein on his forehead emerged from the mess of wrinkles. “It’s campus visit day you blithering idiot! You’re supposed to take prospective students on a tour of the building in an hour!”

He looked down at himself and frowned. His lab coat was covered in late-night coffee stains, some mustard from a pilfered hot dog covered his pant leg, and his shirt had mysteriously lost a button. That didn’t take into account his bloodshot eyes, the three days’ worth of stubble on his face, or the terrible odor currently wafting up from beneath his arms. “I’m sorry but that’s not going to be-” A ham-sized fist grabbed him by the collar, lifted him off the ground, and slammed him into the wall.

“Look here you pathetic little excuse of a man,” Gruber snarled in his face, spittle flying into his mouth. “The only reason you’re not tossed out of here for your crazy theories on reanimation, cellular sentience, and other Ancient Aliens nonsense is that somehow you are good at recruiting students. And their wealthy parents love you for reasons I can’t begin to fathom. That is it.” The freakishly large doctor released West from his grasp, dropping him to the floor. “Now clean yourself up and get to Munoz. Or else…”

“Yes sir,” Dr. West coughed as the larger man hurried away. “Thirty-six and I still have to deal with bullies,” he muttered as he pushed himself to his feet. “But I’ll have the last laugh when I make my breakthrough. He’ll be begging me to stay here…”

Notes:

And welcome everyone to the first installment of "Beauty Queen and The Real McShizzle Vs. Re-Animator", the first official installment of the "Shards" series and my interpretation of Herbert West- Re-Animator!
The main characters of this fic will be Piper and Leo, with a bit of Dr. West thrown in from time-to-time. This will be something of a horror dramedy, what with all the zombies and Leo and Piper making terrible jokes and references in an attempt to keep their sanity in this dire situation. Not to spoil anything, but these won't be your grandma's slow moving zombies, but something that is somewhat new. I don't want to go into to much detail yet, but I think you'll like them.
This is a Liper fic, it being my second favorite ship after Percico, but romance isn't going to be the main focus. Piper is currently in a really bad place and Leo is actually not much better. We'll see more as the story progresses.
As for Dr. Herbert West, I've made his character something of a mix between the Lovecraft's original work (fun fact: Lovecraft hated the story), the somewhat superior movies, and my own ideas. Right now he's a pretty cool guy with good intentions of making the world a better place, but we all know that good intentions don't always read to salvation...

I hope you stick around and enjoy the journey!
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Chapter 3: Contritum Corda Aperire Fores

Summary:

“Piper, I don’t know what kind of fever dream we’ve stumbled into but I’m hoping it never ends,” Leo laughed as he handed an honest-to-goodness crystal flute filled with neon green punch to his oldest friend.

Notes:

Warnings: implied racism and discrimination.

For those of you wondering where the update for Bonds is, I must apologize. I fell a bit under the weather so I was only able to get it halfway done. As a piece offering, enjoy this installment of Beauty Queen and The Real McShcizzle Vs. Re-Animator

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

“Alrighty everyone! Let’s put our hands together for Cephie the Cephalopod!” an overly peppy redhead cried as the school’s mascot, a multi-limped, green abomination with a smile that would scare Pennywise ran on stage. The few prospective students that weren’t staring at their phones or were legacies of the Gothic New England University lost their mind at the sight of Squidward’s dead-eyed cousin. The teenagers shouting and cheering at the thing as if it was The Rock instead of another teen sweating his or her ass off in a foam suit.

And Leo thought it was one of the funniest things he’d ever seen.

“Piper, I don’t know what kind of fever dream we’ve stumbled into but I’m hoping it never ends,” he laughed as he handed an honest-to-goodness crystal flute filled with neon green punch to his oldest friend. “This place is comedy gold, darling,” he said in his best rich, New Englander voice. Thank you mom for showing me Gilligan’s Island. And I hope you guys made it off the island before the skipper ate you!

The kaleidoscope-eyed girl eyed the stage -Cephie and the redhead leading the other prospective students in the Miskatonic’s fight song- and then eyed the clearly all-natural beverage. “Please tell me someone spiked this,” she said with the barest hint of a smile.

“Let me check,” he said before taking a sip from his own glass and squishing the liquid around in his mouth. His eyes widened as he registered the taste. Holy! The color of the punch had given him the impression that it was nothing more than Hawaiian Punch, but he couldn’t have been further from the truth, as the taste of freshly squeezed mango, papaya, grapefruit, oranges, and other tropical fruits massaged his taste buds and slipped them a hundred dollars. “It’s not spiked, but it is somehow better than nectar.”

Piper’s smile disappeared for the briefest iota at the mention of the godly beverage and he wanted to kick himself uttering that single word. She put the crystal glass to her lips and her eyes widened almost comically wide when the liquid green perfection passed her lips. The daughter of Aphrodite tilted her head back and drained the flute with gusto. “Please tell me there’s more,” she cried as she wiped her mouth with the back of her arm, earning several disdainful looks from the nearby upper crust teens.

Leo took the empty glass back from his oldest friend and was absolutely thrilled to see a smile that actually reached her eyes. You could buy the Houston Rockets with that smile and still have enough change to buy the Cowboys. “I’ll be right back, beauty queen. Maybe I can find you a pitcher, you lush.”

Piper rolled her eyes before he turned away and began to navigate through the crowd at the back of the lavish auditorium.

He sidestepped around a group of hulking giants gawking at trophy cases, comparing workout regiments, and discussing who the best quarterback in the NFL was. There wasn’t a doubt in Leo’s mind that the lugs were going to spend their time at the university to focus on football and football alone, some of them most likely earning scholarships for their concussion inducing pastime. They barely paid him any mind as he went around them, the most he got was a “nice footwork” from a redhead that made Butch look like a nymph.

Behind the football players he tiptoed around a scrawny blond with Octavian-looks and his clearly pregnant mother, the only parent who had decided to stay for the overnight tour.

“Reginald, you are not staying anywhere until I have the help properly disinfect it,” the woman growled, placing one hand heavy with jewelry on her stomach. “Who knows what kind of ill-bred mongrels have slept there before.”

Octavian-lite, who was clearly used to his overbearing mother, hung his head low and sighed. “Yes, mother…”

Five bucks says that kid will become a party animal his first week here, Leo thought to himself with a smile.

The crowd got thicker as he approached the refreshments, forcing him to bob, weave through while also dodging any strays elbows or people backing up without looking. It was a lot of hassle, but he didn’t want to risk breaking the crystal flutes, especially when he was positive the three dollars and fifty cents he had wouldn’t even begin to cover a replacement. Pretty sure Piper and her dad aren’t much better off either… You’d think the gods would have the freak’n decency to restore what those wannabees took from them… Ungrateful rat bas-

A head of long, caramel hair entered the periphery of his vision and he stopped dead in his tracks. “…Calypso?” He squinted as scanned the area for the head, only to chide himself for acting to foolishly. “Come on buddy, you know where she’s at… With Reyna and Festus, seeing the world,” he whispered to himself, looking down into his own empty glass.

Calypso had released him from his oath.

It had been surprising at the time, but looking back he should have seen it coming. It wasn’t that they had grown distant or that the spark had gone out or anything as obvious as that, it was just things had grown complicated in ways he could have never imagined.

And it all started with Jason.

Jason’s untimely death (like there’s ever a good time…) had done a number on Piper. Had done a number on all of them really. At first Piper just went with the flow of things: killing monsters, indirectly helping Apollo vanquish the Roman Emperors, and all that good stuff that was advertised in the demigod brochure. But when the fighting ended and the dust settled, Piper became a shell of her former self. She became somewhat obsessed with getting the son of Jupiter back, talking to their friends about the various ways they could do it.

Nico bringing him back the way he had done with Hazel.

Percy or Annabeth leading her to Underworld so she could succeed where Orpheus had failed.

Returning to Europe and gathering the ingredients for the Physician’s Cure once more.

All of them made a certain amount of sense to him, as Jason hadn’t exactly been dead for millennia like Medea, but everyone had turned Piper down. Telling her that she can’t go against the natural order while he received a few threats to make sure he didn’t help her.

I should have though. I really should have and dealt with the consequences later. Anything would be better than watching Piper fade away...

And Piper took it hard. After a yelling match with Annabeth that would become the stuff of legend -Piper telling the daughter of Athena to kiss her ass and actually making her do it with her charm speak- Piper stormed out of camp with all of her stuff with the intent to never return.

And as of now, that’s still true.

And that’s when his relationship with Calypso began to end.

He gave Beauty Queen a month to cool down before he flew out to visit her. Why risk Piper making him kiss her posterior? He expected to find her his former trouble-making partner just chilling out, doing some homework, or maybe even playing some video games, but what he got was something radically different. Horrifying even.

In her absence, Piper had barely eaten anything. Losing enough weight that she looked almost skeletal. There were bags under her eyes that gave Nico’s a run for their money. And her eyes. Gods, her eyes. It was like someone had replaced them with those of a doll. Just… cold and lifeless. The girl he saw that day wasn’t his partner in crime. Not by a long shot. Piper was broken.

And as the greatest son of Hephaestus to ever live, it was up to him to fix her.

So every weekend or every time the camps weren’t on fire (which wasn’t often enough thanks to Mithras), he would fly Festus out to Oklahoma and hang out with his hurting friend.

At first he brought Calypso along (because she was his other half, obviously), where they would help fix up the McLean residence, run into town and get ice cream from the little ma and pa joint, watch movies or play video games together. Really anything to distract the daughter of Aphrodite from her troubles and get her to eat. It somewhat worked, but there was this strange friction between Calypso and Piper, and he was positive that his Sunshine wasn’t even aware of it. So after a few months he started going by himself, forcing him to juggle his time between the two ladies of his life.

What poor schmuck actually wants two women?!

If there is one thing he wanted on the record during that time it’s that he loved Calypso. Still loves her and would do anything for her if she asked. But one day before he left, she pulled him aside and they talked. They talked a lot. Calypso told him that she couldn’t make him run himself ragged like he was, what with him trying to balance his time between her, Piper, his responsibilities as head of his cabin, and monster slaying. She also said that she wasn’t going to stop him from trying to help Piper, saying that he was doing the right thing and she was so incredibly proud of him.

And she let him go.

Just like that.

In an instant they were over.

Toxic masculinity would have had be that he didn’t cry when Calypso uttered those words, but he was above that. He cried. Calypso cried. Even Festus cried tears of Tabasco-infused motor oil. They hugged and kissed one last time, him trying to promise her that they would be together again when things settled down. Calypso laughed at that saying she would love nothing more, but things would never settle down and that he would find someone even better.

He didn’t believe that was possible.

“And I gave her Festus in the divorce,” Leo sighed to himself as he snapped back to the moment. Though his spirits were lowered from that unwanted jaunt down Memory Lane, they were slightly lifted when he saw that he had somehow made it to the small, yet lavish buffet. “I wonder if I ran anyone over while I zoned out?”

He shrugged when he didn’t receive an answer (not that he expected one anyway) and set his and Piper’s empty flutes onto the silver, octopus-engraved platter. Hands free, he moved to the table stopping here and there to sample the ritzy cuisine (This cracker with cheese probably cost more than mom’s toolbox) and did his best to ignore the piercing gazes of the silent caterers on the other side of the table. Yeah, yeah, I get it. Watch that the poor kid doesn’t steal anything, the son of Hephaestus thought as he grabbed four new crystal glasses of the amazing green juice; making a guy who was clearly the inspiration for Chef Louie raise a bushy eyebrow at him. I should hide these when Piper’s done… Make your judgmental ass look- The flutes were knocked from his hands as he collided with something incredibly solid; the green liquid within splashing onto his shirt and everything in the nearby radius.

“Watch where you’re going asshole!” a solid built guy with slicked back blond hair cried as he looked down at his formerly white polo.

“Crap, I’m really sorry!” he cried with a nervous chuckle while he searched his pockets for a Kleenex or handkerchief that he knew wasn’t there. Really wish I wouldn’t have given Calypso my tool belt“Just let me… Uh…”

“This is Gucci you-” The guy stopped talking the moment he looked up at him; an all too familiar hatred igniting in the ice blue orbs. “Oh… You’re one of those,” the blond huffed as two stout, polo-clad teens appeared at his side.

“And just what does that mean?” he hissed through clenched teeth. His body temperature rising to the point of combustion, the liquid in the remaining glass in his hand starting to bubble.

The guy looked to his lackeys, smiling as if Leo had just told a hilarious joke. “A scholarship student, of course. One of those that Miskatonic University brings in to pepper the brochures and websites with pictures for a diverse student body.” One of his crew handed him an embroidered handkerchief and he promptly began to wipe his shirt off. “I had heard from father that there was one prospect scheduled for today, but I didn’t know I would have to deal with two of you…” The guy shrugged and turned away. “Oh well, don’t worry about the shirt.” He looked over his shoulder with an icy glare. “Wouldn’t want you to break the bank…”

Now he had to options on how to respond to the pompous (obviously prejudiced) jerk.

He could light the guy’s shoes on fire, giving him a Honolulu Hot Foot the likes of which the world had never seen, and hope to the gods that The Mist made it look like a freak electrical fire.

Or,

He could Bugs Bunny the hell out of the guy.

Not wanting to risk Piper getting kicked out of possibly the only school that would give her a free ride, he went with option #2.

“Oh, my!” he cried in his mock New England accent while placing one open hand against chest in fake shock. “You have made a dreadful mistake, old sport!”

The guy stopped in his tracks and turned his greasy head around. “What are you talking about?”

Leo swaggered forward and offered out his hand; the lackeys each arching their monobrows in confusion. “My dear boy, I am no diversity student,” he said, his face twisting with fake distaste. “Allow me to introduce myself: I am Leopold Fitzgerald Montgomery Gatsby Ulysses Hemingway Dante Ezekiel Joestar Brando Valdez, sole heir to the Valdez maple syrup conglomerate of Vermont.” He arched an eyebrow and stared the creep in his beady little eyes. “Surely you’ve heard of me?”

“But your name tag says “single and ready to mingle”?” goon #1 asked.

“Quiet, Jonathon,” old blue eyes hissed as he smacked his lackey’s chest and looked at his offered hand with a conflicted expression. On one hand, Leo knew the guy didn’t want to take his hand because he was obviously an asshole, but on the other he didn’t want to risk offending a potential networking connection worth a lot of money; especially when more and more people were looking their way. (Or at least that’s what he hoped was going through the guy’s head. His only source of reference on the matter was old Saturday morning cartoons.) His fear of losing a potential source of income must have one out as he took Leo’s hand. “I’m Chad. Chad Micheal Winslow the Third,” the guy said with what had to be the most painfully obvious fake smile in history. “And sorry about… what I said before.”

Of course his name is Chad…. Looks more like a Draco though with Grabbe and Goyle lurking behind him. Leo squeezed Chad’s hand and gave him a fake smile of his own. “Don’t worry yourself for a moment darling,” he said as he began to increase the temperature of his right hand. “I know I for one am concerned about the presence of the poor on campus. All that can come of it is a tarnished reputation and stolen valuables.”

“Exactly,” Chad said through clenched teeth, the heat already starting to get to him. “And the fact that it’s a woman too only makes it worse.”

“Oh, agreed,” he said, resisting the urge to just pop the guy in the nose. “A woman’s place is in the kitchen is what Granddaddy Valdez always said.” Speaking of kitchens, lets turn the heat up!

Now, any sane person would have let go of Leo’s scorching hand, but this was toxic masculinity at its finest. A battle of dominance between two men that didn’t like each other in the slightest despite the smiles on their faces, each refusing to be the first to let go while simultaneously trying to make the other end it. Leo would admit that Chad had an impressive grip, a powerful grip even, but it was nothing to the one he had developed from swinging a hammer in the forges and the fact he could get his hand hot enough to melt metal.

“Your grandfather sounds like quite the intelligent man,” Chad said as a bead of sweat rolled down his forehead. He tugged at his collar and looked around the Gothic room for an excuse to leave the boiling situation without losing his pride. “Is… is it feeling warm in here all of a sudden?”

“I’m as cool as a cucumber, old sport,” he smiled as he cranked the thermostat up another notch. “So what does your father do for a living?”

“He’s partner at my grandfather’s law firm,” the blond panted. “Corporate law. He was key in getting the Keystone Pipeline through the courts.” He then gave Leo an honest smirk and laughed, “those savages didn’t stand a chance. Maybe he can find a way to send her back to her tepee.”

Something snapped inside Leo and the temperature of his hand suddenly skyrocketed, making Chad yelp and leap backwards. The blond collided with the Gucci Grabbe and Goyle, sending all three of them falling into the refreshment table, snapping it legs and knocking the dozens of crystal flutes falling to the ground. The room went silent and all eyes turned to the source of the commotion; even the redhead on the stage with Cephie had stopped her pep talk to stare at the juice covered teens.

“WHAT DID YOU DO TO MY HAND?!” Chad shrieked as he looked down at his now thoroughly green outfit. The other two holding their arms out as their faces twisted in disgust.

“My dear boy, whatever are you talking about?” he asked, doing his best not to laugh. “One moment we’re shaking hands like civilized human beings and the next you’re cranking it like you’re Soulja Boy.” He shook his head and tsked. “Really, there are more appropriate places for that, old bean.” He then looked Chad in the eye and gave him a devilish smirk before scooping up one of the unbroken beverages and turning away.

“I’LL GET YOU FOR THIS!” the blond cried, his tomato red face glowing through the splotches of green juice. “YOU WILL RUE THE DAY YOU CROSSED A WINSLOW!”

I very much doubt that...

And with that, he began to work his way through the onlooking crowd to return to Piper. Muttering a silent prayer to his father that his best friend hadn’t overseen the entire thing.

“Well, that was clearly something,” the redhead said into her microphone. “But how about Cephie dances for us one! More! Time!”

Notes:

Leo has watched Gilligan's Island and you can't convince me otherwise...

Honestly, this was a setup chapter for things to come. Obvious foreshadowing and the spark that will make everything go to hell. Or is it bring hell? *shrugs* either way, I hope you enjoyed Leo acting like Thurston Howell the Third and doing his best to lift Piper's spirits.

I love hearing your thoughts, so please don't hesitate to comment!
I hope you all have an amazing week!

Chapter 4: Salvis Enim Est Clavis Exitio Nostro

Summary:

“Wasn’t planning on it,” he said running his thumb against the glowing vial in his pocket. “I figured you two were scholarships.” He winced and cursed under his breath when he realized what he said. “Sorry, that came out bad! I just meant that- You see, the school has- It’s just that you two look- I’m losing my job, aren’t I?” he said with a defeated sigh. There goes the last twenty years of my life…

“Nah, don’t worry about it,” Piper said with a dismissing wave of her hand. “Just add a zero to the bill as an apology.”

“We are scholarships students, thus the criminal lack of Gucci,” Leo shrugged.

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Dr. West smiled to himself in amusem*nt as row-after-row of prospective student’s faces turned green. “And this-” he reached into the Thoracic cavity of the thoroughly used cadaver and removed the two blackened sacks that had once been lungs with a quick jerk “-why you should never smoke.” He held the cancer riddled lungs up by their Trachea and slowly waved it so that everyone got a look.

Whether they wanted to or not.

“As you can see, Mr. Carpenter’s lungs were nearly completely black at the time of his death,” he said, using his free blood-covered gloved to point out the obvious. “So, it’s not that surprising to see the rest of the flesh had developed tumors-” The right lung snapped off of the Main Bronchus and landed on the cadaver’s face. “sh*t…”

The lab went silent as all eyes stared at remains of the old smoker with his own lung sticking out of his open mouth.

While it wasn’t uncommon for the aging cadavers to fall apart, the probability of such events happening seemed to increase a thousand-fold whenever he was giving a demonstration to visitors. Last year, a cadaver’s jaw fell off when he tried to turn its face away from his guests. Two years ago, a heart he had been experimenting with exploded in his hands; covering him and everyone around him in a spray of blood and gore. The year before that, he went to adjust his cadaver’s foot and its left arm fell off. The incidents occurred without fail every campus visit since he first began teaching at Miskatonic.

“Uh…” he scratched at his right temple, forgetting his hands were covered in blood. “Just let me…” He placed the lung still in his hand back into the chest cavity, before gingerly removing the other lung in the former Mr. Carpenter’s mouth and placing it with its former partner. “There we-”

The cadaver’s head rolled to face the visiting young adults and its tongue flopped out of its mouth. The nearest visitor, a petite brunette clamped her hands to her mouth before spinning around and running through the crowd; pushing aside hulking football scholarships aside with ease. The moment after she made it through the lab’s double doors, the sound of her retching filled the air.

“Well then… I do not recommend the medical program for her,” he smirked.

The teenagers stood like deer caught in headlights, all of them trying to figure out how to respond. Some were clearly working to the conclusion that he was a no-nonsense man and that his comment was a harsh critique of the sick girl. Others thought along similar lines went on step further and were trying to figure out if their parents could protect them from him in the future or if they should change majors before they even started. And a few-

A boy and a girl snorted with laughter in the back.

And a few realized that it was his attempt at a joke.

The pair (a Native American girl and a Latino boy) tried to contain their laughter by bringing their fists to their mouths, only to snort louder when they glanced at each other. In a matter of seconds, they abandoned their attempts to restrain themselves and burst out laughing. Those nearest to the pair started to chuckle and snicker, and in a matter of seconds, most of the group was laughing with the duo.

Dr. West allowed himself to chuckle along.

He had to.

Years ago, he had learned to just laugh these kind of things off. Oh sure, he got upset the first several years as he embarrassed himself in front of future students, believing he had lost their respect before they even enrolled. But a funny thing happened: his freshman classes increased in size. It made no sense at first, especially when about a third would then drop his class a few weeks in, but he was eventually clued in by student evaluations. Apparently, people thought the accidents were staged, that he was Miskatonic’s “funny professor” and that his classes would therefore be easy or at least enjoyable. The truth was they were neither, but with that revelation he embraced the accidents and let himself loosen up. And as the years went by, alumni informed their younger siblings that it was an absolute must that they sign up for a trip to the medical department on their campus visit.

“What is wrong with you two?” A preppy blond who reeked of old money snarled at the patient zeroes of the laughter outbreak. “Don’t you two have any respect for the dead?!”

But there’s always one kid with a stick up their ass… With an ease that only came from years of experience, Dr. Herbert West shed his gloves and tossed them into the biohazard pin in the one fluid motion; the snapping of latex drawing the attention of a few teenagers. “They were laughing at the me, not the departed Mr. Carpenter,” he called out over the now anxious crowd. “Right?”

“Right,” the two answered with a synchronized nod of their heads.

“Freak’n savages…” the blond boy huffed. Two boys standing next to him huffing with him.

“What the f*ck did you just say?” the girl hissed. The curly-haired boy she was with grabbing her shoulders to stop her from lunging at the arrogant legacy.

The blond stepped closer to the girl, his fists clenched at his sides. “I said you and your little boyfriend are-”

“And now if you would all kindly file back into the hall so we can continue our tour with the organic chemistry lab!” he called out over the fuss. While the rest of the prospects were quick to distance themselves from the confrontation (not that he blamed them in the slightest), the five involved lingered for a few tense moments until the young man in suspenders (Strange wardrobe… Perhaps a Weird Al fan?) grabbed the girl’s hand and led her away; the remaining three snickering in their self-perceived victory.

With the situation defused (at least for the moment), he let out a long drawn out sigh and shook his head. “Allison? Could you please take Mr. Carpenter back to the cooler?”

His T.A., a grad student with long, midnight black hair and porcelain skin who had been standing in the corner, tucked her phone into her pocket and nodded. “Yes, sir. Do you also want me to close him up properly?”

Dr. West looked down at the remains of the gray old man and grimaced. Much of his internal organs were out of place from the demonstration and some fluids had dripped here and there, all of which needed to be taken care of before he was returned to the cooler with the other cadavers. “If you don’t mind…”

“Not a problem, doc,” Allison giggled as she grabbed the stainless-steel gurney. Sometimes he had problems getting the thing to start rolling from the weight of the bodies, but his T.A.s could roll the gurney away with ease. “I love spending time with older, quiet men.”

“Please don’t say it like that,” he winced as the ravenette wheeled the cadaver into the back room. As the doors swung shut, he turned his attention to the redhead in the back of the room who was ready to burst with excitement; bouncing on the balls of her feet with a Cheshire grin on her face. “Lisa-”

“Yup, doc!” she sang, bouncing even faster.

His frown deepened. Lisa was a good student and an even better assistant, but sometimes her upbeat attitude and overabundance of energy. Sometimes he even wondered if it was possible to siphon off some of her life-energy and add it to his reagent. “I want you to keep an eye on those five. Those three goons clearly want to start some trouble with-”

“Piper and Leo,” the redhead finished.

He blinked. “Do you know them?”

“Uh…” Lisa scratched her cheek awkwardly with one neon blue fingernail. “I don’t not know them. They just… Introduced themselves at the welcoming ceremony!” she beamed. “Kind of hard to forget their faces in this crowd.”

He found her reaction strange but shrugged it off. Everything about Lisa and Allison was strange and like his problems with cadavers, he learned to roll with it. “Okay then… Just keep an eye on them.”

“Leo!” Piper cried as the blond bully delivered a devastating blow to the gut of the curly-haired teen. The punch sent Leo flying back into the lab’s bank L-600 chemical synthesizers, his arm breaking through the protective glass hood and raining shards of glass down on the busy machines.

“What is your major malfunction?!” Leo shouted as he stood up and clutched his bloody right arm to his chest.

“You are!” the blond spat going in for another swing-

Only to be clobbered in the face by Piper’s right fist with her left immediately following through. The legacy’s goons -Tweedledee and Tweedledum- sprang into action, with Tweedledee grabbing his boss and Tweedledum grabbing the girl’s wrist and roughly yanking her forward. Leo, though a good six inches shorter and fifty pounds lighter than everyone else, let out a glutaral yell and charged headfirst into Tweedledum’s waist. The tackle knocked the goon to the floor, dragging Leo and Piper with him. The blond pulled himself free of Tweedledee’s grasp and co*cked his leg back to kick the Latino in the gut.

“STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT!” Dr. West screamed as he pushed aside teenagers, stools, and lab carts to get to the scuffle. He had now idea what the hell started the fight, but he did see the blond and his cronies had deliberately crossed the lab to assault the two who had been gazing upon the synthesizers curiously. Based on what he heard earlier, it wouldn’t be out of the question that the three males were simply prejudiced. “THE NEXT PERSON WHO SO MUCH AS BLINKS IS GETTING TOSSED OUT OF HERE! DO YOU-”

A loud clatter next to them nearly made him jump out of his skin; his instincts believing the fight had somehow mixed volatile chemicals. But when his soul returned to his body and rigor mortis faded, he managed to crane his head to the left to see Lisa standing over a lab stool. The redhead having been ready to breakup the fight by excessively violent means.

Really?” Dr. West asked in disbelief as his T.A. blushed and slowly retreated from her fallen weapon. With a shake of his head and a mental reminder to talk the young woman about appropriate conflict resolution, he turned his attention to the blond. “You. What’s your name?”

The boy lowered his leg and turned around, a smug grin on his face. “Chad Micheal Winslow the Third,” he stated proudly as he pointing to the nametag on his strange tie-dyed green and white polo. “You may know-”

“Yeah, you’re out of here,” he growled, though the name sounded vaguely familiar. “You just committed a hate crime at worst and assault at best. Either of which are unacceptable to the legacy of Randolph Carter and the founding principles of Miskatonic University.” He jerked his thumb towards the lab door. “Your visit and time is done here,” he growled. “Return to your dorm and back your things. Campus security will escort you off the premises.”

“But- but- but,” Chad stuttered looking to his lackeys for help. “My father-”

“Has nothing to do with this,” Dr. West snapped. “Now get out.”

At first, the blond looked like he was going to protest some more. But tears began to pool in the corners of his eyes and before one could leak out, he spun around and ran out of the lab. Tweedledee and Tweedledum looked at each other, then to Piper and Leo, and then to the doctor before following their boss’s example and running out of the lab. All the running was of course a violation of the department’s safety regulations, but the sooner scum like them got out of his lab, the better.

His energy rapidly draining, Dr. West sighed and pushed his glasses into their proper place. “Lisa, takeover the tour while I get these two patched up.” He looked at Leo’s arm and grimaced when he saw shards of bloody glass sticking out of his Extensor Digitorum and Brachioradialis. “Don’t wait for me, he’s going to require several stitches.”

The redhead, whose grin seemed almost inhuman, nodded and turned to the crowd. “Alright everybody!” she cried with her usual enthusiasm. “Who wants to go see the real Cephie preserved in the specimen room? Hmm? Not everyday you get to see a real-life giant squid!”

Leo hissed as Dr. West sprayed the freshly stitched wound with disinfectant. The first sign of discomfort the teen had shown since he began. “Jeezy Pete’s, doc! Is that really necessary?!”

“Stop being a baby, Valdez,” Piper said with an obviously forced chuckle, while squeezing the boy’s other hand even tighter. The girl obviously didn’t like blood judging by how pale she got when he began removing the numerous glass shards from the boy, but she sat by his side the entire time.

“I say one thing and I’m a baby?” the boy huffed before flinching again from another spray. “I thought I was being pretty dang macho, Beauty Queen!”

He chuckled as he set the spray bottle aside with the bloodied instruments. “It’s only necessary if you don’t want me to amputate-” he pointed to just below Leo’s bicep “-right about there.” The two teen’s eyes drifted to where he was pointing and then back to him. Both clearly shocked at his diagnosis. “I’m kidding.”

“No offense doc, but maybe you should leave comedy to the professionals,” Leo said as he flexed his hand and twisted his arm. “You’re kinda hard to read.”

“Duly noted,” he nodded as he removed his latex gloves. “Now, avoid any strenuous exercise for a week, avoid getting the stitches wet, resist the urge to scratch if they get itchy, and schedule an appointment with your physician in about two weeks to have them removed.” He balled up the gloves and walked them over to the biohazard bin in the corner of the lab and dropped them inside. “The damage appears to be superficial so there should be no permanent damage, other than maybe a scar or two.”

“Cool, they’ll be my souvenir for our brief visit to M.U.,” the curly haired teen smirked at his compatriot, earning him a roll of her kaleidoscope eyes. The two then hopped off their stools and made their way to the door. “Thanks for everything, doc! No need to call security on us, we’ll be out of here ASAP.”

That gave him pause. “What are you talking about?”

“I’m saying don’t call the mall cop rejects on us,” Leo said, halting mid-step. “We’ll get our bags and get out of here without a fuss. We aren’t going to protest like Chad Chazzington the Fortieth. We got kicked out, we’ll call her dad, and-”

“Woah, woah, woah! Hold on a second! Who said you were kicked out?”

“Uh… you did?” Piper said, one eyebrow arched. “You know, when you said something about fighting being unacceptable?”

“You misunderstood me,” he huffed with amusem*nt. “It’s one thing to start a fight, it’s another thing entirely to defend yourselves.” He walked over to the work sink and scrubbed his hands without a thought; the action automatic from years of dissections. He shook his hands dry and grabbed a paper towel, “Besides, I saw the whole thing happen. You two were minding your business when those imbeciles attacked. And while you Ms. McLean did technically attack without being hit first, I believe that still counts as defense in this case.”

“My hero,” Leo sighed dreamily.

Piper furrowed her brow. “So, wait… We’re not kicked out?”

“At least not yet,” he shrugged, throwing the towels in the trash. “Now if you give me a second, I’ll escort you back to your group. I believe Lisa and Allison should have them in Jabeth Lake by now.”

He turned his back to the two stunned young adults and walked over to the synthesizers to assess the damage. Sure enough, the hood Leo’s arm went through would need to be replaced along with the sliding track judging by how it was bent. A couple of the L-600s had been knocked askew, and most if not all them had ben covered in glass and blood. They would all need to be thoroughly cleaned and recalibrated just to be safe, but thankfully the only work it would interrupt was his own. And even then, it was only the incomplete reagent Lisa and Allison had insisted on- Out of the corner of his eye he caught a glimpse of neon green.

“What the...” he reached over to one of the banks of test tubes and carefully removed it from the machine. His eyes hadn’t been playing tricks on him, as sure enough, the liquid within was glowing a vivid green; reminding him of a nuclear fuel rod in a cartoon. He ran through the chemical equations of the reagent in his head and found no reason for the reagent’s phosphorescence. “How are you-”

“Everything okay, doc?” Leo asked next to him.

He jumped back and shoved the test tube in the pocket of his stained lab coat. “Yes! Uh, yes! Everything is just fine! Just- Just checking the damage.”

“We’re really sorry about that,” Piper said, popping up on his other side. “I hope we didn’t ruin anyone’s research.”

“But please send the bill to that other asshole,” Leo added. “Unless the total is less than three dollars, some pocket lint, and an expired Indianapolis bus pass.”

Piper reached around him and flicked the young’s man brow, making him recoil with a yelp.

“Wasn’t planning on it,” he said running his thumb against the glowing vial in his pocket. “I figured you two were scholarships.” He winced and cursed under his breath when he realized what he said. “Sorry, that came out bad! I just meant that- You see, the school has- It’s just that you two look- I’m losing my job, aren’t I?” he said with a defeated sigh. There goes the last twenty years of my life…

“Nah, don’t worry about it,” Piper said with a dismissing wave of her hand. “Just add a zero to the bill as an apology.”

“We are scholarships students, thus the criminal lack of Gucci,” Leo shrugged. “Or, at least she is. Beauty Queen says that she can get me the same scholarship but has yet to expand on the how.”

Dr. West turned to the young woman and arched one thin, blond eyebrow. “Really?”

“Uh, so what kind of work do you do here, doc?” the girl asked, suddenly quite interested in the blood covered lab equipment. “What’s your big world-changing research?”

I see, he thought with an amused smirk. “Ah, you wouldn’t want to hear it.”

“But I do! You seem like a really swell guy!”

Leo poked his head around him and looked at his friend. “Swell? Really?”

“Well, if you insist…”

“I must! I must!” the girl nodded enthusiastically.

“Well, to put it in layman’s terms: I’m researching how to resurrect the dead.” He braced himself for the laughter or the crazy looks he was so used to, only for an uncomfortable silence to descend upon the room. “Did I say something wrong again?”

“No,” Piper swallowed. “Just, uh… Just… I could’ve used your research about two years ago…”

“Pipes…” Leo murmured as he walked over to her side.

He had seen the look on Piper’s face a million times before. Often, looking back at him in the mirror. It was the face of someone who had lost a loved one well before their time and the unbearable pain that resulted from it. That pain was what drove him on to becoming a doctor, to devoting himself entirely to his research. While he knew he could never eliminate death (though a very real part of him wanted to), he wanted to at least give the world a way to ease or prevent that pain. To give people a second chance or at the very least a way to say goodbye.

Dan… Hesitantly, he placed one hand on Piper’s shoulder and gave it a reassuring squeeze; something that was against the rules but something he wished someone would have done for him. “I know you’re sick of people telling you it will be okay. I heard it so many times I thought I would go crazy. But let me give you some advice that took me years to figure out: channel it. Channel the pain you feel into something worthwhile. Your studies, a hobby, volunteer work, a career. Whatever you think is going to help people avoid that same pain,” he said, clenching the test tube in his pocket. His expression softened and he said, “if you haven’t already, maybe consider going premed? If this is something your passionate about, I could always use another assistant-” he glanced to Leo “- or two.”

“I’m technically undecided, but I would love to stick it to death. That’d show them…”

Leo frowned and shook his head. “Piper… I’ve seen this movie before. And spoiler alert, it ends with everyone being ate by zombies…”

“That’s only if I can’t figure out how to restore decayed neurons,” he chuckled, patting Piper on the shoulder while Leo’s jaw dropped. “Now, let’s get you two back to your group.”

“Jesus, Mary, and the good Saint Joseph,” Dr. West gasped as he looked through the microscope. “This… this is incredible! This is it!” he laughed triumphantly.

After escorting the two teens back to their group through several secret passageways (much to the amusem*nt of the two), he hurried back to his office and prepared a syringe of the reagent and a slide of dead muscle tissue taken from Mr. Carpenter. With the greatest of care, he injected a small drop of the glowing reagent into a cell, fully expecting nothing to happen. But the second the glowing, green fluid made contact with the dead cell, the cell’s functions resumed once more. Not only that, but as his hypothesis predicted, a chain reaction occurred within the tissue with one cell after another returning to life. He had held his breath as he had seen similar reactions in the past (albeit with only freshly deceased tissues) only for the cells to “pop”, but after thirty seconds the tissue not only remained alive and intact but appeared to be functioning faster than normal human cells.

“This is it!” he cried once more, fumbling around with one hand for his camera. “This is it!”

“It certainly is!” the voice of Dr. Hans Gruber growled as his office door swung open.

Dr. West looked up from the microscope and grinned. Completely oblivious to how furious the dean looked. “Dr. Gruber! I’ve done it! I’ve-”

The gorilla-chested doctor sailed across the room and scooped the younger man up from his chair in one swift motion and slammed him into the wall. “What the f*ck is wrong with you?!” the man roared, his icy blue eyes cracking with rage. “Explain to me why you told the son of one of our more generous alumni he isn’t welcome here?” He shook West by the collar and lifted him up until only to tips of his shoes touched the floor. “Three-hundred-thousand dollars a year is on the line because of you!”

It took him a second to piece together what the dean was talking about, all the while clutching the syringe in his right hand as if it was the most valuable treasure in the world. “Oh, you mean the kid who assaulted two others in the Organic Chemistry lab! Yeah, I told him to get out. We don’t allow that kind of prejudice here.”

“WE DO IF THEIR FATHER IS FINANCING US!” Dr. Gruber spat in his face, his grip on the younger doctor’s collar tightening. “WE DO IF THE PEOPLE THEY ASSAULTED ARE ONLY GOING TO COST US MONEY, WEST!”

“Well, I guess you could let him slide,” he shrugged. “Give him a warning or something? Mandatory counseling? Second chances are-”

The older man slammed his back into the wall, silencing him. “THE ONLY WAY WE’RE GETTING THAT MONEY IS IF YOU SAY THOSE TWO DELINQUENTS ASSAULTED HIM! DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?”

Though the world had gone strangely white and his hand felt a bit numb, he managed to frown. “But… that would be unethical, sir? They did nothing wrong, all they did was exist in that punk’s proximity. Therefore, I will not lie to appease some bigoted-”

Dr. Gruber released his collar only to immediately grab his throat. “UNETHICAL?! UNETHICAL SAYS THE MAN WHO WANTS TO RAISE THE DEAD?! IF YOU WANT TO KEEP YOUR POSITION HERE AND CONTINUE YOUR NUTBAG RESEARCH, YOU WILL TELL AGREE WITH WHATEVER STORY THAT LITTLE IDIOT COMES UP WITH!”

He couldn’t breathe under the man’s crushing grip and the pressure on his carotid artery was making his vision darken. The primitive parts of his brain activated and assessed the situation, only to find that flight wasn’t possible, leaving only fight. He kicked his legs and grabbed for the man’s hands, but the fit old man didn’t so much as flinch. With no other options and the fear of death overriding everything, he jabbed the syringe into the Dr. Gruber’s neck and pressed the plunger down, injecting the neon green reagent.

Almost instantly, the senior doctor released Dr. West, sending him crashing to the floor, and let out an agonizing scream as he removed the syringe from his neck. Just as he pulled out the glowing needle, the dean collapsed to the floor. His body twitching for a few seconds before ceasing all movement entirely.

“That’s not good,” he croaked as he rubbed his throat. “I just killed my boss with a compound that’s supposed to revive the dead…” With his back pressed against the wall, he pushed himself up and took a deep breath. “I can kiss my tenure-”

AGHHHHH!” Dr. Gruber’s arms shot forward and grabbed him by the ankles. The doctor’s eyes the same glowing green as his reagent.

Out of reflex, Dr. West kicked the man’s in the face. The action freeing him, but breaking Gruber’s nose with a sickening crunch. “Oh my God! I didn’t mean to do that! I-”

The older man pushed himself off the floor and bared his teeth at the blond professor, before rushing forward.

“Nope! Not doing that again!” He lowered himself just as he had seen Leo do and rushed forward, grabbing his boss by the wait and pushing him back, not stopping until they were out of his office. Unlike Leo though, he let go before they both fell backwards, and hightailed it back into his office and slammed his door shut and locked the door. “The old bastards finally lost it,” he panted as he slid a file cabinet in front of the door. Content that Dr. Gruber couldn’t break his way back in, he walked over to his desk and picked up his phone, quickly punching in the number for campus security. “Yeah, this is Dr. Herbert West over in the School of Medicine, and I’d like to report a dangerous mad man roaming the halls. What’s he look like? An old, white male with wispy white hair, blue eyes, and stands about six-and-a-half-feet tall. He attacked me, but I’ve barricaded myself in my office. I worry he’ll attack others.”

With that, he hung up the phone and massaged his forehead-

Only to notice the small nick on the palm of his hand leaking a mixture of blood and his reagent.

“I’m sure that’s nothing,” he gulped.

Notes:

If you're feeling dead I'll be your reanimator
I've got the way to bring you to life
A superior existence with no one to control you
Where you can always do what you like

Chapter 5: Praeteriti Habet Clavem Salutis

Summary:

“I’m not quite sure that counts as disappearing,” Piper said, eyes still locked on the photograph. “More like he had an accident and the body was never recovered.”
“Eh, it makes it sound cooler,” Abby shrugged. “Sounds better than two men disappeared, and one was most likely eaten by penguins.”
“Does it? Does it really?” Leo asked.

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

“Hi there! Would you two be interested in hearing about The House of Hastur?”

“The house of what?” Leo asked, staring at the yellow robed girls with confusion written across his face.

“Yeah, sure,” Piper answered with a shrug. Her mind a million miles away.

After Dr. West escorted them back to their group, they had been led into Pickman Hall, the fine arts building (which Leo was disappointed to learn had nothing to do with Nintendo). The inside of the building was something like a cross between Gothic Victorian and the Gryffindor common room. Dark wood walls covered with pictures painted by the building’s namesake; all depicting monstrous creatures that looked at home in a Clive Barker movie. Huge fireplaces with roaring fires, surrounded by overstuffed chairs and chessboards that were overseen by stuffed animal heads hanging above. Exhibit halls filled with imposing suits of armor, glass cases filled with priceless books and sculptures, ancient tapestries depicting the coat of arms of long forgotten noble families, and curiosities from around the globe. Small greenhouses could be found at the intersections of every hallway, all filled with exotic plants such as the Titan Arum, Aldrovanda Vesiculosa, Actaea Pachypoda.

So naturally that was were all Miskatonic’s clubs and associations had set up stands to recruit prospective students such as her and Leo.

The girl smiled at Leo. “The House of Hastur, is a club where students can network with one another and alumni to create relationships that will last long after graduation. We have study groups and tutors for any major. Schedule both on-and-off campus events, such as bake sales, charity runs, and movie nights. We even do special ceremonies that relieve stress and enlighten you! And if you join-” the girl spun around in place “-you get one of these awesome robes!”

Leo looked to Piper out of the corner of his eye. “Soooooo, it’s a cult?”

She knew that the question was meant to make her laugh, and normally it would have, if she wasn’t distracted by thoughts of Dr. West’s work. A way to revive the dead without magic or godly intervention. It’s… it’s probably too late for Jason, but it could help so many people. It would make the others see that bringing Jason back was the right thing to do. That their inaction, their hypocrisy was just as much to blame for- Piper jumped as a sharp pain radiated from her left hand. She looked down to see that Leo had pinched her.

“We’re- we’re not a cult!” The girl cried indignantly. Her large, round eyes nearly bugging out of their strangely spaced sockets. “We’re just a group that likes to-”

“You wear robes,” Leo shot back.

“Yeah, but-”

“And you do secret ceremonies?”

The girl’s face turned bright red. “They’re not secret to members!”

“Have you ever or will you ever, serve Kool-Aid at your functions?” Leo asked, making Piper roll her eyes in amused disbelief.

The recruiter frowned. “Well… yeah. But-”

“My friend, you belong to a cult,” Leo smirked. “For your own good, I suggest you ditch the robes and not drink any powder-based beverages.” He then offered Piper his arm, which she took (because he had to drag her into his act and she could never refuse him), and he led her away from the table with a loud harrumph.

“You know like ninety percent of campus life is like that, right?” she asked as they walked by The Future Female Leaders of America table and the numerous Annabeth-like clones that congregated around it. Definitely not joining that group…

“Yeah, I know,” Leo chuckled as he maneuvered them to the side for some hulking boys to pass by. All of them no doubt getting into the school via either family money or athletic scholarships; or possibly threatening to raid admissions if they weren’t accepted. “But I need to pull you out of your head, and they really needed to know what they look like. Hooded robes are not a good look for anyone. They’re nearly as bad as capes.”

That actually made her smile for a moment. Then a thought hit her that made her smile turn into a grin. “You know though… You’re kinda in a cult yourself. What with-”

“Oh, no!” the son of Hephaestus cried, jumping away from her. “I may have lived there for a while, but I never fully accepted it! I would walk around buck naked after burning my clothes than wear one of those orange shirts! I made the smallest acceptable offering during meals, because let’s face it, there are people starving out there and we’re burning food! It was hard watching kids being indoctrinated from day one.” Leo shook his head. “Why do you think I wasn’t in a hurry to get back after Gaea?”

“I’m still kind of pissed about that,” she reminded Leo with a small smile. “Could’ve called or sent a postcard sooner. But, I’m glad we’re on the same wavelength.”

Leo arched an eyebrow as they walked by the IEEE both- which appeared to be a haven for the more intellectual and mechanically inclined prospects.

“What?”

“I don’t know… you were getting pretty cozy there. Orange shirt and all,” Leo grinned.

Piper shoved the boy away, making him laugh. “I was young, stupid, and scared out of my mind!”

“We all were,” he laughed.

They fell into a comfortable silence after that and continued to stroll around the artifact-stuffed hall. Looking at the various clubs and organizations that Miskatonic had to offer, and more often than not, riffing on them. Leo joked about rushing for a fraternity, to which Piper responded that she didn’t know he liked to be spanked. She voiced the idea of joining a sorority, which Leo enthusiastically supported with the stipulation that she had to tell him about any pillow fights or late-night experimentation (she of course punched him in the shoulder). There was a slew of groups dedicated to banking, investing, and other rich people things that went over their heads, but they quickly lost interest when they realized that Leo’s wealth was as real as Cephie the Cephalopod. An adventure club promising globetrotting to the remote places of the world had both of their interests until they realized it wasn’t free (and she wasn’t sure if her scholarship would cover it). A horology club had both of them dying with laughter until a frustrated young man informed them it was about jewelry and watchmaking before shooing them away. There was even a fight club, but no one would talk to them about it.

“Those guys are really committed,” Leo mused as they walked away from the bruised, stony faces. “But are they really not talking about it if they advertise it?”

“I wouldn’t press them on it,” Piper smiled as she watched the fencing club give a demonstration near an upright Egyptian sarcophagus. An elderly woman with a tight, gray bun watching the display worriedly. “But more importantly, what do you think?”

“I think that lady is going to keel over and die if they hit that mummy-holder…”

Piper snorted and playfully swatted Leo’s shoulder. “Not that! I mean… about enrolling here? With me?”

Her oldest friend looked around the room and scratched behind his ear. “I’m not opposed to it, and my mom would’ve been proud to see me graduate-”

“I’m sensing a but here…”

Leo rolled his eyes. “Buuuuut, I have two concerns. First, I’m not sure if we’ll even be allowed to come here.” He raised his right hand and wiggled his fingers, showcasing the fresh stitches that sporadically appeared from his fingers to his bicep. “People have been eyeing us funny since we got here, and it’s only gotten worse since I received these bad boys.”

She glanced around the room and noticed more than a couple heads quickly turn away. One girl -that looked like a freckleless Rachel- glared at her for a brief moment before turning her attention back to the Future Female Fashions club. “I wouldn’t worry about that,” Piper answered with a shrug. “They’ll come around once they get to know us. And if they don’t? screw ‘em. You and I only need each other.”

“Okay, I can’t argue that,” Leo grinned. “But…” The smile fell from his face. “The second thing is, and this is a big one, I’m not enrolling here if you’re just looking for a way to bring back Jason.”

Hearing the son of Hephaestus’ words felt like a blow to the gut.

“I know, Pipes… I know,” Leo sighed. “But he would want you to move on. He would want you to do something with your life, not fixate on him. Jason chilling in Elysium right now, waiting for you to come down there and tell him about your kick-ass life as a doctor-slash-engineer-slash-super-model-slash-authoress.”

Piper painfully swallowed down a lump that had formed in her throat. “Leo… I-”

Her oldest friend grabbed and gently squeezed her hands. His touch sending waves of warmth up her arms and into her chest. “Pipes, I know it isn’t easy. Believe me. I lost my mom and then Jason, so I know how hard it is. How it feels like nothing will ever be right again and that the world is going to swallow you.” Leo ran one thumb across her knuckles, leaving a trail of warmth that sent a shiver down her spine. “But you won’t have to do it alone. I will be with you until you’re sick of me, if you promise that you’ll try to move on.”

Leo let go of her, and Piper was at a loss to understand how she could be so hot and cold at the same time. Her hands feeling like they had been attacked by Khione while her face felt like Festus had let loose a fiery belch on it. She almost felt compelled to check if her eyebrows were sill intact. “Leo, I-”

“Hey, whatever it is you two are doing is really sweet. Really brings a tear to my eye, but could you two wrap it up and move on? You’re blocking any potential members.”

Piper and Leo’s head whipped around to see that they were standing in front of a table manned by a lone girl with a long, curly blonde ponytail. For the briefest of moments Piper thought it was Annabeth, but the girl’s blue eyes and more muscular build dispelled her worry. She sat behind a simple folding table -a far cry from the expensive setups that filled the room- with a white banner emblazoned with a black, gothic font that Piper gave up on trying to read even before her dyslexia could kick in.

“Err, sorry,” Leo awkwardly chuckled as he narrowed his eyes at the banner. “Just… just… I’m sorry, but did I just become illiterate? What the heck does that thing say?”

“If you’re illiterate, then so am I,” she muttered in agreement. The black lettering twisting and moving around the banner to the point it looked like an octopus playing a game of Tic-Tac-Toe. “I think I can make out a ‘c’…”

The blond rolled her eyes and muttered something under her breath. “We’re -or rather I- the Chandraputra Society.”

“Is that another made up Native American word like Miskatonic?” Leo asked. “If so, I think you could squeeze another few grand into your scholarship, Beauty Queen.”

“Sounds more like the name of an infomercial guru trying to sell you yoga videos,” Piper joked. The daughter of Aphrodite glad to change subjects and leave the previous conversation far behind. “Like, Swami Chan-trap-sutra here with another fantastic product! Lose weight! Learn to levitate!”

The older girl pinched her nose and let out a frustrated groan. “It’s a made-up name. We’re named after the Swami Chandraputra, and alias of the former president of University, Randolph Carter.”

Silence descended on the bustling hall. Lasting just long enough for Piper to notice before the cosmic volume was restored.

Blücher!” Leo said aloud before looking around.

“What was that?” the girl asked as Leo snapped his fingers in defeat.

“Just him testing the environment,” Piper sighed, though the smile on her face gave away her true feelings. “But anyway, what is this club about? Terrible font choices? Yoga? Inappropriate Halloween costumes?”

“It’s actually about urban exploration,” the blond replied. “But before I explain more, let me introduce myself-” she rose from her seat and held out her right hand to Piper “-I’m Abigail. Abigail Williams. Friends call my Abby.”

Piper took the girl’s hand and briefly shook it. “Nice to meet you. I’m Piper, Piper McLean. And this is-”

“Leo Valdez,” the son of Hephaestus grinned as he took Abby’s hand. “You may have heard of me? Heir of the Valdez maple- OOF!”

“Ignore him,” Piper sighed as she removed her elbow from the boy’s gut. “You were saying something about urban exploration?”

The blonde nodded and began to flip through a black book on the table. “Yeah, The Chandraputra Society is devoted to locating and mapping all the University’s secret passages, rooms, and Easter eggs. All of which-” Abby stopped flipping through the book and spun it around for them to see “-were implemented by Randolph Carter,” she said, tapping one finger on a black-and-white photograph.

Piper and Leo bent down to examine the photo and both grinned in delight at what they saw. Four middle-aged men in horrendous leisure suits seated around a fondue pot, each with a drink in their hand, and a large banner hanging in the background that read “Congratulations Abraham!”

The first was an African American man with the world’s greatest afro and handlebar mustache. He was a large as a professional linebacker and his tacky suit looked as if it was ready to tear at the seams from the slightest flex or his massive muscles. In one hand he held a fondue fork with an apple slice hanging from its prongs, and in the other appeared to be a glass of milk; and the pearly white smile on his face made it clear he was ready to chow down.

Standing next to him, was a significantly smaller white man with a delicate build. He had long, dark hair that was tied back in a ponytail allowing her to spot several studs in his ears; an oddity in the era the photo was from. He appeared to be wearing a light-colored suit that was covered in stains; a bottle of wine clutched in one hand offering a clue to their origins. Someone must have said something funny a moment before the picture was taken, as his face was twisted in laughter.

If the small man was the physical opposite of the first man, then the third man in the picture was the emotional opposite of the small man.

The third man in the photo was of an academic build with parted blond or gray hair. Large, round spectacles made his thin face appear owlish, and it would have looked comical if not for the look of bored contempt he was giving his fondue fork. His dark, most likely brown, suit was buttoned up completely and without a single wrinkle; a sharp contrast to the men around him. To Piper, he looked like the stereotypical college professor with a stick up his ass who wouldn’t round an 89.9999% to a 90% because “she didn’t earn it”.

The final man was who Abby was pointed at, and he seemed closer in temperament to the first two men. He too had the build of an academic, but his dark, shaggy hair, expressive eyes, and joyful smile made him somewhat handsome. one arm was wrapped around the uptight professor’s neck with a glass of scotch or whiskey in hand, while the other hand firmly grasped a polished, black walking stick. He had on a dark leisure suit which seemed to highlight the brace on his right leg. Unlike the other three men, he was looking at the camera.

“That’s Randolph Carter,” the girl said. Tapping the picture once more for emphasis. “President of Miskatonic from 1960 up until his disappearance in 1969, and the reason why this place is riddled with secrets. You’ll learn a lot about him if you join the club.”

“And who are the others?” Piper asked as she stared at the picture. Trying to figure out who the third man reminded her of.

“And what do you mean by “his disappearance”?” Leo asked. “Because that was the first thing I noticed.”

“The other three were Randolph’s best friends and colleagues. The four of them had enough influence and wealth to make the school their personal playground. Kind of The Rat Pack of academia,” Abby explained. “And yeah, Randolph just disappeared one day without a trace. Just poof! Gone! And it gets weirder…” The blonde leaned across the table. “All but one of the men in the picture mysteriously disappeared.”

“Five bucks says the last guy murdered them,” Leo muttered.

“That’s a valid theory for two of them,” the blonde snickered, “but William Dyer-” she pointed to the large, afroed man “-went to Antarctica and never returned.”

“I’m not quite sure that counts as disappearing,” Piper said, eyes still locked on the photograph. “More like he had an accident and the body was never recovered.”

“Eh, it makes it sound cooler,” Abby shrugged. “Sounds better than two men disappeared, and one was most likely eaten by penguins.”

“Does it? Does it really?” Leo asked.

“Okay, I’ll give you that,” the blonde chuckled as she reached for a box of pamphlets beneath the table. “But it does take up less space on the club flyers. Here.” She handed Leo and Piper a pamphlet. “That gives a brief overview of the club, a map of some of the known passageways, and a list of activities you can expect us to do.”

Piper looked down at the folded piece of paper and had to fight back a groan when she saw it used the same illegible font; the boy next to her not bothering to hold back his frustration. “Hey, Abby… This sounds really cool and all, but-”

“We’re a bit strapped for cash,” Leo finished. The son of Hephaestus rotating the paper around repeatedly to try and make sense of the map. “T’was a bad maple milking season…”

Abby arched a brow at the Texan and then looked to Piper. “Is there something wrong with him?”

“It’s easier to list what’s not wrong with him,” she huffed. “But he is right, we don’t have a penny to our names for extracurriculars.

The girl blinked. “I mean… the club itself it free to join, but we do rotate on snack duty? We also have T-shirts, but those are optional.”

“I think we could swing some snacks,” Piper shrugged.

“Just as long as your expectations aren’t much higher than ants-on-a-log,” Leo added. “We could possibly even swing for some Craisins.”

Abby snorted with laughter. “I think that would be acceptable.” The blonde looked Leo and Piper over, and her smile grew. “And I really hope you two decide to-”

“Everyone! Everyone!” the voice of their chaperone cried over the busy hall. “We have a special visitor you all have to meet: Dr. Hans Gruber!”

Leo’s eyes nearly popped out of their sockets at the name and the only reason he didn’t run off was Piper managed to grab his shirt collar. “Pipes! Pipes! We have to meet him! Please, please, please, please!

“Sorry, Abby, but we got to go,” Piper sighed. “Leo’s-”

“Yeah, yeah. Hans Gruber. Alan Rickman,” the blonde replied with a dismissing wave. “He’s hardly the first guy to make that connection. Go ahead, hope to see you around.”

Before she had the chance to even mouth a thanks to the girl, Leo dragged her away with all the energy of dog who had just seen his favorite ball. He wove them through the packs of slow-moving teenagers with near ninja-level agility, and she barely managed to tuck Abby’s pamphlet in her pocket. She of course tried to tell him to slow down, but the son of Hephaestus was one of the unstoppable forces of the universe when something caught his interest.

Should have told him Gaea was the one responsible for the discontinuation of Dunk-a-roos! The whole thing would have lasted less than a week!

In less than five seconds, Leo had dragged Piper across the length of the hall to a rapidly growing crowd near the entrance. “Excuse us! Coming through!” He called out as he pushed his way through the crowd. “I need to see the Gruber! Need to find out how he survived falling off Nakatomi Plaza!”

“He’s asking the real questions here people!” She chimed in, earning an appreciative smile from her best friend. “And does Bruce Willis live in the air ducts?!”

“Exactly! I will get to the bottom of life’s greatest-” Leo came to an abrupt halt when they pierced through the final layer of teenagers “-poop…”

She pulled her hand from Leo’s loose grip and stepped around the smaller demigod. “Yeah, that’s definitely a letdown…”

Leo had drilled the idea in her head that Dr. Gruber could only look like Alan Rickman so much that the man who stood before them was nothing but a letdown. The real Dr. Gruber was a giant, sweaty, wrinkled old man with the chest of a gorilla, thin, wispy white hair, a haunting pair of piercing, green eyes that almost seemed to glow, and an angry scowl that seemed to be permanently etched on his face. The doctor must have rushed to the hall straight from surgery -or possibly a rib eating contest- as his lab coat was covered in something dark.

“Everyone, this is Dr. Gruber!” Their chaperone happily exclaimed; a young woman with short, black hair nearing graduation. “He’s the head of med school and has developed dozens of new surgical procedures during his tenure.”

The crowd of teenagers oohed and aahed out of politeness, which made the doctor look around like a surprised animal. Spittle dripping from his mouth.

“Is it me, or does something feel off about this guy?” She whispered in Leo’s ear as Dr. Gruber continued to slowly turn around.

“I wonder what gave you that idea?” Leo whispered back. “How tense he is? That his hair hasn’t seen a comb since the 70s? Or is it the fact he’s covered in blood?”

Before she could respond, the doctor locked eyes with her, and his face twisted in what could only be described as pure malice. The way his already red face darkened, and mouth frothed, made Piper take an involuntary step back; right into the chest of one of the football prospects. None of the creatures and immortals she had fought had ever came close to looking at her with such intensity.

The doctor growled and stepped forward-

Only for their chaperone move in front of him. “Dr. Gruber, are you okay? You’re looking a bit-”

With a surprising burst of speed, the colossal man grabbed the young woman by the shoulders, latched his jaws on her nose, and in one fluid motion, tore it off along with much of her face.

And chaos descended on the hall...

The woman’s cries of agony were drowned out by the terrified screams of onlookers. People tried to flee the scene, rushing over anything in their path, be it club booth or those that had fallen. Some of the other chaperones -including the panicked woman watching the fencing club- tried to aid the screaming girl but were pushed back the river of fleeing bodies. Others pulled out walkie-talkies and tried to communicate the situation to security over the deafening screams.

“JESUS CHRIST!” Leo screamed as Dr. Gruber bit down on the girl’s neck. The deranged old man then tearing her throat out with one swift motion and casting aside her trembling body before fixing his gaze on the two of them.

“LEO! FOCUS!” Piper quickly scanned her surroundings and saw an overturned table. With one well-placed kick, she broke one of the legs off and scooped up the piece of jagged wood. “We’ve fought a lot worse. What’s one maniac compared to a giant?”

The son of Hephaestus gulped and nodded. “Yeah… but, just… wow…” He ignited his fists- only to quickly extinguish them. Grabbing his right hand as he yelped in pain.

“What’s wrong?” she asked, keeping one eye on the heavy breathing psycho. His green eyes seemingly glowing brighter with each breath he took.

Leo held up his right hand, and Piper cringed when she saw it was covered in blood. “Yeah, I’m fireproof. My stitches however, are not…” He held the bleeding hand to his chest and reignited his left hand. “Just means I have to go south paw on this one.”

“Alright,” Piper nodded. “We’ll make this quick!”

She rushed the doctor head on, ready to swing her makeshift bat. The blood covered man’s eyes widened, and he let out a guttural howl as he rushed her; bits of flesh flying out of his mouth as he howled. Just before she got within arm’s reach of the man, Piper sidestepped him-

And Leo’s fireball hit Dr. Grubber square in the face. Forcing him to grasp at his face.

“Fastball special!” The boy cried as he pumped his fist in the air.

“Nice one, Leo!” She cried as she ran behind Dr. Gruber and spun around. She swung her improvised weapon with all her might at the man’s back, wanting to stun him instead of killing him, and-

Dr. Gruber grabbed the table with one hand.

For a man who looked like an old leather couch, he had an unnatural amount of strength, Piper concluded as he tossed her to the floor like a ragdoll. And either Dr. Gruber was either fireproof or Chuck Norris level tough, as all Leo’s fireball did was slightly singe his bushy eyebrows. “LEO! A LITTLE HELP HERE?!” She screamed, trying to scurry back from the looming man’s grasp; only to slip on the puddle of blood that had belonged to their chaperone.

“Y-You,” Dr. Gruber growled as he managed to grab one shoulder with a meaty hand. The man’s hand was impossibly hot, making her skin burn even under her hoodie and T-shirt. It was like the time she spilled candle wax on her foot when she and her dad still lived with Grandpa Tom, painful, lingering, and spreading with each passing moment. “Mon-money! Cost money!” The man roared as he yanked her up roughly from the floor.

“GET THE HELL OFF HER!” A blur of curly black hair and fire cried as it slammed into Dr. Gruber’s side. Forcing the old man to drop Piper as he tumbled to the floor.

While Leo wasn’t as muscular as Jason or his demigod half-siblings, he was a scrapper. And he had always been a scrapper, willing to take on opponents twice his size since wilderness school. Even when he knew that no one would be there to help him. So it was no surprise to Piper to see Leo straddling Dr. Gruber’s massive chest and wailing on his face with both fists; one still aflame.

“YOU! DO! NOT! TOUCH! MY! FRIEND!” Leo shouted between blows. The flames on his left hand nearly pure blue and igniting Gruber’s clothes from just being near them. “YOU-”

One massive fist crashed into Leo’s gut and sent him tumbling off the man.

“LEO!”

Dr. Gruber sat up and Piper was horrified to see that despite Leo’s frantic wailing and roaring flames, the only damage he seemed to inflict was a broken nose and burning clothes. His glowing red skin burn free. He let out another animalistic roar and reached for the stunned son of Hephaestus’ ankle.

“f*ck THAT!” Piper screamed as she grabbed the table leg and jumped to her feet. She crossed the short distance between them in the blink of an eye -pumping her legs harder than she ever had before- and plunged the jagged end of her weapon into Dr. Gruber’s chest with all of her might. Blood sprayed from the wound, some hitting her in the eyes and blinding her, but she continued to push until a sickening tearing filled the air.

Panting heavily, she released the bloody shaft and wiped her eyes on her sleeve. “I already stole a car, why not add murder to my record?” She panted. “Right, Leo?”

Leo moaned and rolled onto his back. “I think that counts as self-defense,” he muttered as Piper crouched down beside him. “But it definitely adds street cred.” He rolled his head over to look at her. “And Piper?”

“Yeah, Leo?”

The teen propped himself on one elbow. “I don’t think I want to- holy f*ck he’s still alive!”

Piper rolled her eyes at Leo’s bad attempt at humor. “Sure he-” Leo reached up and grabbed her by the jaw and forced her to look at Dr. Gruber “-holy f*ck! He is alive!”

The gore covered doctor slowly sat up and looked down at the piece of oak that had impaled his chest. Stiffly, he grabbed the table leg with both hands and tried to wiggle it out as Piper and Leo looked on in horror. The doctor managed to withdraw the weapon by about an inch before he let out a frustrated wheeze.

“Maybe it’s just a death rattle?” She suggested.

“You and I both know that is not a death-”

Just as Frank had pushed an arrow through his arm in the catacombs of the House of Hades, Dr. Gruber shoved the table leg through his chest.

And fixed his hateful gaze on them once more.

“NOPE! NOPE! NOPE!” Leo chanted as she helped the teen to his feet.

They started to run towards the nearest exit, hellbent to put as much distance between them and the old man as possible, only for something to grab a hold of Piper’s ankle and make the two fall on their faces. On instinct Piper started to wildly kick at whatever had grabbed her, and her heart stopped when she managed to roll over and get a glimpse at what had her: their chaperone. Her nose and most of the right side of her face while the remains of her throat dragged on the floor.

She’s alive…

“NOPE!” Leo screamed as he slammed the heel of his boot on previously deceased woman’s face. “Pipes, we need to get out of here!” he cried as he awkwardly pulled Piper to her feet with his left hand. “Like, yesterday!”

“No arguments here,” she muttered as she glanced over her shoulder at the pursuing corpses. This can’t be a coincidence. It can’t be…

Leo pulled her into the building’s main hall, only to skid to a stop. “Oh, this ain’t good…”

Standing throughout the hall were four more blood covered bodies in various states of damage. Some of which she recognized from their tour group. One of which was one of the boys that had attacked her and Leo, his intestines now dragging on the floor behind him like a bundle of jump ropes. All three turned to face them at the sound of Leo’s boots squeaking against the wooden floor.

“Beauty Queen,” Leo gulped as he slowly backed away. “You’ve seen this movie, right?”

“A zombie outbreak? Only about a thousand of them,” she answered as the two backed their way down the hall.

“Yeah, same,” the curly haired teen responded as the reanimated corpses began their approach. “But unlike those movies, all we need to do is get out of-”

Every door in the building slammed shut in rapid succession, followed by the sound of unseen mechanisms sliding massive deadbolts into place.

“Attention. Attention,” a monotone automated voice called out. “A violent disturbance is occurring on campus. There is a risk of danger to participants and bystanders. For your own safety, the campus has been placed on lockdown. No one is allowed to leave or enter the premises until the situation has been resolved. Please remain at your current location until campus security gives the all clear.”

“-here…” Leo finished as the message replayed. “I really jinxed us there, didn’t I?”

Piper nodded with a sigh. “Leo, you know what else is super common in horror movies?” She asked as the zombies began to pick up speed. The one thankfully tripping over his own guts as he tried to sprint.

“Only white people survive…” Leo sighed. “Night of The Living Dead kind of invented that trope too...”

“That’s right. Unless you’re L.L. Cool J,” she added with a forced chuckle. “But then again, he survived sharks…”

“Yeah,” Leo chuckled as he hurled a fireball at the closest zombie. “Sharks are really easy to survive as long you don’t go in the-”

The door to their right flew off its hinges and Dr. Gruber charged out. The corpse of their chaperone stumbling out just behind him.

“RUN!” They both cried as they turned and fled.

The five reanimated corpses running right after them.

Notes:

*Queue soundtrack for Scooby Doo on Zombie Island*

And... Here... We... Go!

We are five chapters in, and sh*t has officially hit the fan for our heroes! They've encountered the first generation of zombie and they are not at all easy to dispatch! Dr. West will get into the more technical details of how they work, but it isn't that hard to guess why they're fireproof.
But besides the action, there was a major plot point introduced this chapter that has only been eluded to before, and that was Randolph Carter and his friends. For those of you who know a bit about Lovecraft, you know that Randolph Carter was one of his most reoccurring characters and a pretty big deal. Now, I have made some tweaks to him to update him (to 1960s standards) so not everything will be the same. Piper and Leo will unravel the mystery of his and the others' disappearance as the story progresses and I guarantee you'll want to stick around for that.

Some of you may be asking why Miskatonic was put on lockdown so late after the previous chapter and let me-
Lisa: we forwarded Doc's calls to my cellphone.
Allison: where I did a lovely impression an ancient secretary.
Lisa: which does things for me, babe.

*coughs* okay... enough of you two breaking the fourth wall for now.

Until next time, I hope you all have a wonderful time and I wish you all only the best.

Chapter 6: Vitam Aeternam

Summary:

“How are you in medical school again?” Allison wryly asked.
“You were there, ya know?” Lisa giggled. “You, me, the Dean of Admissions, a catsuit, and-” the thermometer beeped “-oh!” She pulled the instrument away. “Now it’s reading forty-five? That’s weird…”

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Dr. West sat in his barricaded office wearing nothing but his boxers, as his lab assistants giggled at the sight. He had no memory of when or how the two young women joined him. This wasn’t a normal thing by a long shot, as he prided himself keeping his relationships with his students and coworkers professional, but extraordinary circ*mstances had forced him to strip down to the barest of essentials.

The thermometer in Lisa’s hand beeped and she pulled it away from his forehead to read the results. “Uh… Doc? I think the thing’s busted, says you have a fever of forty-two.”

He looked up at the splotches of red, blue, and gray which he assumed were the redhead. His vision reduced to little more than dots of colored light less than an hour ago. His hearing was still mostly functional but there was a strange static and was highly sensitive to noises above thirty decibels; or, just above a whisper. The lockdown announcement’s volume had nearly made him burst into tears.

“Ta-take it by my ear,” he wheezed. His breathing had become forced and labored, and his own breath felt like a New England winter wind on his burning skin.

The red splotches moved from sight, and he felt the cold tip of the instrument probe his ear. “Just give it a sec, doc.”

If he had the energy, he would’ve remarked that he didn’t have a second to give.

The accidental minute dose of the reagent he had received during his scuffle with Dr. Gruber had not been the nothing he hoped it to be. The bioluminescent chemical co*cktail had begun to fulfill its purpose the moment it hit his bloodstream, in restoring dead tissues back to life.

At first, it started with healing a few cuts he received from shaving and the rapidly forming bruises on his neck that his department head had given him. It had been a bit unnerving to watch the cuts seemingly be absorbed into his body and his flesh to rapidly change color, but it was far outweighed by his astonishment. The reagent worked and could heal damaged tissues at an unparalleled accelerated rate! He knew he was probably jumping the gun, but he was positive that his work was going to be the start of a medical revolution. Millions of lives would be saved without the need for risky or costly surgeries, and all it would take was a small injection.

But then things started to go wrong.

The Nano-Plasmic Energy, or NPE, that cascaded from cell-to-cell to spur the reanimation process failed to dissipate like his models predicted. The energy transferring to every cell in his body and supercharging them for lack of a better term and exponentially increasing his metabolic rate. This manifested first as hunger pains (which he foolishly wrote off as a minor side effect of the regeneration), followed by sudden fatigue (also a side effect), elevated heart rate (he began to be concerned at that point), and finally an elevated body temperature that forced him to remove his clothes. His body’s homeostasis having failed as the result of NPE flooding his system.

The thermometer beeped and Lisa removed it from his ear. “Uh, Doc? It says fifty this time…”

Dr. West closed his eyes and took another gasping breath. “B-back. Take t-the back.”

“Doctor West…” Allison’s voice whispered. The raven-haired woman having watched him from the corner of the office. “You need to-”

“Take i-it!” He snapped. His own voice making him wince in pain. “For diagnosis…”

“Doc, my diagnosis is you’re going to be a pile of ash if this fever goes any higher,” the redhead giggled as she pressed the medical instrument to his Occipital. “Like, what temperature does the brain start to go kaput anyway?”

“How are you in medical school again?” Allison wryly asked.

“You were there, ya know?” Lisa giggled. “You, me, the Dean of Admissions, a catsuit, and-” the thermometer beeped “-oh!” She pulled the instrument away. “Now it’s reading forty-five? That’s weird…”

“Forty-two,” Dr. West swallowed. “F-forty-two, brain d-damage begins. Need- cooldown.”

By all accounts, such high temperatures should have rendered him unconscious at best. Death being almost guaranteed with the duration of the extreme fever. But the reagent that was the cause of his body’s distress was also his savior, rapidly repairing every burnt neuron to its normal state. He couldn’t even begin to guess why it was affecting his brain so unevenly, but that hardly mattered. There was a limit to what his body could take. There had to be. His body would run out of fuel for the reagent and that would be the end of it. His only hope -and it was a dim at best- was to lower his body’s temperature, and hope the reagent ran its course.

“Doc, this is going to take more than a bag of frozen peas to drop that temperature,” Lisa muttered. “Pretty sure you would actually cook the bag…”

“What my girlfriend is trying to say is, how would we go about this?” Allison sighed. The raven-haired young woman always more serious than her redheaded partner.

“I-Ice. Body c-cooler,” Dr. West wheezed. Only to remember the reason why he was trapped in his office. “But Gruber-” Something ice-cold pressed against his lips and silenced him. After a moment he realized that it was someone’s finger, and that the difference in body temperatures only made it seem cold.

“Don’t worry about Dr. Gruber, Doc,” Allison all but purred. “I made sure the proper people found him.”

Lisa laughed, the loud noise making Dr. West wince in agony. “Oh, I bet that was quite the show!”

“Please. Focus,” he rasped. “Al-Alison. Prep a c-cooler. Fill w-with ice. Ready anesthesia. I-I’m one-eighty, b-but go for two-ten.”

There was a moment of silence where he could only hear the jackhammer-like beating of his own heart, before the dark-haired T.A. responded. “Alright, Doc… That sounds a bit dangerous, but I’ll trust your judgment.”

Lisa huffed. “Really? His brain is a scrambled egg that’s close to- OW!” The redhead yelped. “Okay! Yeah! You know best, Doc,” she pouted.

But he knew he didn’t know best. He was dealing with something completely unknown and was only attempting to fight the symptoms he considered to be the most life threatening. He hadn’t even begun to guess at how to treat the fact it felt like his muscles were reweaving themselves every few minutes, how microfractures were forming on every millimeter of his bones, the random bursts of static he heard, or the myriad of other symptoms the reagent was subjecting him to.

“I’ll go prep,” Allison whispered, before the door to his office clicked open and then shut.

“What about me, Doc?” Lisa asked. “Need me to do anything?”

Dr. West nodded, and the simple action nearly made him fall off his stool. The only thing stopping him from hitting the floor was the redhead’s cold grip. “M-my desk. Top, l-left drawer. Polaroid-”

“Say no more, Doc,” Lisa whispered. She released her hold on him -he immediately missed her icy hands on his burning shoulders- and began to rifle through his desk with all the grace of a bull in a fine china shop. The redhead cursed and grumbled as she opened and closed far more drawers than the one he instructed her to. But that was to be expected, as the young woman had the memory of a goldfish and struggled to remember the simplest of instructions. Finally, she let out a triumphant “aha!” and a moment later she pressed the familiar crinkled photo into his hands. “There ya go, Doc!”

“Th-thank you.”

He opened his eyes, only discover that he was nearly blind. Webs of green blinking in and out of existence in a sea of black the only thing he could see.

But that was fine. The image on the ancient Polaroid was etched into the deepest recesses of his memory. He just liked to hold it when he needed comfort or a reminder as to why he willingly subjugated himself to such ridicule, the picture giving him everything he needed to soldier onward with both his research and his life.

“Dan…” Dr. West whispered as he ran his thumb over the ancient photo.

He could picture the two faces from that summer so long ago smiling back at him. There was of course himself, twelve-years-old, glasses as thick as co*ke bottles, wearing his favorite Transformers T-shirt (Autobot logo front and center), and a mason jar containing a frog and a stick in his hand. But next to him there was Dan Rodriguez, his best -and only- friend. Thirteen-year-old Dan with his shaggy brown hair that was almost long enough to be considered a mullet, goofy gap-toothed smile, his Empire Strikes Back T-shirt that was covered in stains from their misadventures, one arm casually draped across Dr. West’s younger self’s shoulders while the other was moments away from giving him an unforgettable noogie. It had been the happiest day of his life.

And the worst day of his life occurred a week to the day later, when Dan was taken away. Him and his family killed when a truck driver passed out at the wheel and drifted into the oncoming lane.

“Dan…”

Dan had been everything he wasn’t. Brave, quick with a joke, sociable, carefree, and athletic. Everybody loved Dan, and yet (for reasons he still didn’t understand) the boy chose him to be his best friend. He, Herbert West, the bookish weakling who only left the confines of his family’s library to go to school, somehow appealed to the older boy. At first, he thought that Dan was merely setting him up for some big prank, but within weeks those fears faded, and one could hardly be found without the other. They went down to the river to collect tadpoles and frogs, built rickety ramps to jump their bikes off of (well, Dan did the jumping), read National Geographic and made plans for future globetrotting adventures, and camped under the stars on summer nights (his inhaler always tucked in his sleeping bag just in case). And as the years passed, his admiration for Dan only grew and-

“Hey, Doc?” Lisa whispered as she tapped his shoulder. The sudden chill nearly making him jump in surprise. “Alli’s ready for you.”

“Okay,” he nodded. He hadn’t heard Allison return or call, but he had been lost in the past. “C-could you-”

“Sure thing, Dr. West,” the redhead giggled as she wrapped one -strangely smooth- arm around him.

“I know I don’t need to tell you this, but take deep breaths and count back from ten,” Allison whispered as she fiddled with the IV’s valves.

“Isn’t that just for gas?” Lisa asked as she shoveled ice cubes onto Dr. West’s legs. “And isn’t that Propofol? The same stuff that killed Michael Jackson?”

Dr. West took a shallow breath and let the soothing chill of the ice and drug-induced relaxation wash over him. There was a very real chance he would never wake-up, but surely passing in his sleep was far better than being conscious for his body to burn itself out.

He pressed his prized Polaroid against his chest just as the redhead began to cover his torso with ice.

If he was a little more lucid, he would have been afraid at the prospect of death. But all he could think about was the possibility of finally being reunited with his only friend. One small part of his still functioning conscious finding the notion strange considering he was a sworn atheist.

“Yes, to the gas,” Allison sighed, her voice sounding a million miles away. “And Propofol did kill that mortal singer-”

“I’m sensing a ‘but’ coming,” Lisa snickered.

But,” the other T.A. growled, probably rolling her eyes at her partner. “I added some N,N-Dimethyltryptamine for a little extra… oomph…”

The chemical compound sounded familiar, but before he could remember why, everything went black.

Notes:

Lisa: you led Gruber to across campus, didn't you?
Allison: And I swiped one of Doc's vials of green goo. Lured a kid away from his group with the prospect of sex, disemboweled him, and... you can guess the rest.
Lisa: Babe, I am so f*cking hot for you right now.

----

I originally wanted to post this chapter with the previous as this fills in some mysteries, but life has been a little hectic. Work's been devouring my time even more than usual.
As we can see, the good doctor's reagent is incredibly powerful in even the smallest of doses. It healed all of his wounds in minutes, but continued to alter his system when there was nothing (or so its seemed) left to heal. It's raising his core body temperature to beyond dangerous levels, and super-heating his brain to differing degrees. We will be going into the details of the reagent as the story progresses, but right now no one is in the right state of mind to do so.

On another note, I'm working on commissioning some more art for this fic from Rhi. Nothing action packed, and surprisingly it doesn't feature Leo, Piper, Dr. West, Lisa, or Allison. It's definitely one of the more interesting pieces I've asked her to do.
I've also found out Viria does commissions, so you know I'm all about that. Let's give my multiverse a little more legitimacy, shall we? *evil laugh*

Uh... I'm debating on doing another two chapters for this or working on Bonds again. Let me know which one you guys prefer!

Thanks for reading, and I want you to remember that you are an amazing person. I'm always here to listen (even if I don't respond immediately because of work), so talk to me if you want/need to :)
Until next time!

Chapter 7: In Tenebris

Summary:

“No,” the daughter of Aphrodite said with a shake of her head, still fixated on the portrait. “I swear I’ve seen him before…”

“You did. He was chasing Jennifer Anniston around a trailer park,” Leo groaned. “It was her first movie too,” he laughed. “How about a stapler? That desk had to have had a stapler, right?”

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

The door nearly flew off its hinges as he and Piper threw their shoulders against it. He nearly fell face-first onto the marble floor when the door gave way, but Piper snatched him up by the back of his shirt and tossed him through the threshold with adrenaline induced strength.

Which made him plow face-first into the scratchiest of office carpeting.

Small victories.

But even though it felt like the top five layers of his skin had been peeled off, he popped up to his feet and raced back to the doorway. “CLOSE IT! CLOSE IT!”

“WHAT DO YOU THINK I’M DOING?” the daughter of Aphrodite screamed as she slammed the heavy oak door shut. She then jumped aside and began to push an ancient writing desk in front of it.

“I’M JUST STATING THE OBVIOUS BECAUSE I’M TERRIFIED!” He shouted as he joined Piper in sliding the heavy furniture.

Once the desk was in place, they began to frantically assemble a barricade from whatever they could find in the room.

A priceless Ming vase (which shattered into pieces when Piper tossed it on the desk).

An executive’s massaging office chair that looked like it came from Austin Powers.

A stuffed California condor with an equally stuffed rattlesnake in its talons (who the f*ck wants that?!).

Half a dozen canvases, each depicting unfinished creatures. Each one more disturbing than the last.

A file cabinet that required the two of them to lift; made all the more difficult by his injured hand.

Tons of art books with names his dyslexia refused to even try to decipher.

They were just about to toss on houseplant (for good measure, as it weighed at least half-a-pound) when a blood curdling bellowing filled the air.

“BRACE!” Leo shouted as he threw his shoulder against the makeshift barricade.

Piper dropped the box of ancient oil paints she had been about to carry and power-slid across the short distance separating them and pushed against the hodgepodge barrier just as the first of their pursuers slammed into the thick oak door. A thick door that bowed seemingly as easy as a piece of paper in the breeze, pushing the pile of junk and them forward.

PUSH!” Piper groaned as they dug their collective heels against the polished wood floor. Their shoes squeaking and leaving a long black trail of rubber.

He spun around and put all his weight into it (and mentally cursing the fact he didn’t weigh much), ignoring the wet, throbbing pain coming from his right hand. Before he clenched his eyes shut, he saw a large piece of wood splinter from the doorframe, giving him all the motivation he needed to push every muscle in his body to superhuman levels. Or, at least in his mind.

His teeth felt as if they were splintering like the doorframe under the pressure of his clenched jaw.

His shoulder blades seemingly lived up to their name as it felt like they were cutting into his muscle.

His toes had curled tight enough to tear of the inner soles of his shoes.

Even his posterior was tensed up. Clenched so tight even Hercules couldn’t have pried them apart.

And just when he thought that his eyelids were going to tear, the howling and beating stopped. Causing him and Piper to fall forward, and him to slam his chin off the desktop.

BETTY WHITE’S UNDERWEAR! Leo mentally swore as he grasped at his aching mouth.

“Le-”

He clamped one hand over Piper’s mouth as he continued to massage his chin with the other. Come on, Beauty Queen. Remember the tropes, he tried to convey with teary eyes to his best friend and possibly the only other demigod who had binged as many horror movies as him. Because the gods know Frank would close his eyes at even a PG-13 poster…

His message must have been clear, as Piper’s eyes widened before she slowly nodded. Satisfied that she wouldn’t speak, Leo pulled his hand away, and his oldest friend quietly sat beside them.

And they waited in silence.

Which was a really difficult thing to do.

Without being prompted, Piper ripped a chunk of her shirt off, grabbed his hand, and proceeded to wrap it. The act was uncomfortable, and it didn’t take an Apollo camper to figure out that it was going to take more than a strip of cloth to stop the bleeding. So, while Piper fusses at the Sisyphean task of bandaging him, he distracted himself by taking in their surrounding for the first time.

At first, he had thought they had just ran into a run-of-the-mill office, one that had just happened to still be unlocked after the lockdown. But looking around, he realized that wasn’t exactly the case. Yes, it was an office, a big one at that with tall cathedral style ceilings, an oak desk that looked like it could survive a nuclear blast, and a large picture window that any office worker would dream of having. But there were several things that struck him as odd.

First, was that once you passed the desk, the room dropped its façade as a prim-and-proper office and became more of a bohemian art studio. Empty wine bottles and filled ashtrays filled every nook and corner of the room, making him wonder if the owner would perish from alcohol poisoning or lung cancer first. Dozens of canvases with half-finished paintings on easels were scattered about on ancient, paint stained, shag carpeting that had seen better days. It was hard to make out what the subjects were, but they appeared to be of fictional creatures that ranged from whimsical to so horrific even his worst nightmares didn’t even come close; which made him dreadfully apprehensive of what lurked under the tarp covered easel in the center of the room.

Yeah… That’s going to stay covered. I don’t need Vigo from Ghostbusters II after us on top of zombies…

Second, and strangest of all, was that everything was covered in dust. Not dust like the maid hadn’t been there yet today, or even that week for that matter, but hadn’t been there for decades. The layer on the desk was at least an inch deep, and the coating on the rooms numerous lava lamps would prevent any light they provided from escaping. For a school so prim and proper, such a lapse seemed in impossible.

Just as impossible as only one painting in the room being touched by the dust. Every other seemingly repelling the decades of dirt and grime.

That’s not alarming at all…

Beauty Queen and The Real McShizzle Vs. Re-Animator - BobInTheComments (2)

Maybe it was the loss of blood, but that one painting disturbed him more than the others. It must have been the blood loss, as what wasn’t obscured by age showed the subject to be a singular, old man. No otherworldly figures lurking in the shadows, no glowing eyes piercing the darkness, no blood or guts either. Just a frail old man in a black suit bound to a wheelchair with an oxygen tube in his nose. Normally he would have found it almost comical with how withered and small the old man looked, looking like the Lucky Charms mascot in the later years of his retirement, but there was just something about his piercing gaze combined with his cackling smile that made his skin crawl. Like this old man knew some dark joke that should never be uttered aloud.

Whoa… Definitely the blood loss. I’ve never thought that articulate before…

“Leo, I can’t stop the bleeding,” Piper whispered, freeing him from the old man’s hold. “We need to get out of here…”

He looked down at his hand Piper had worked so hard on and frowned. The glass from the lab machine he had been pushed into had left him with several deep cuts that had required Dr. West to stitch close. But having ignited his fist to hurl fireballs at Hans Gruber (greatest let down of a man ever) burned the stitches away and reopened the wounds. Piper had clearly tried her best with what she had, but the makeshift bandage was already soaked through and several of the gashes were still uncovered.

“Beauty Queen, I think it would be wiser to stay where we’re at,” Leo whispered back. “I’m sure someone has called the cops, and since this school is full of rich people, they’ll come in here with the SWAT team guns blaze’n,” he lightly chuckled. “Just need to sit tight and wait it out.”

Piper frowned and shook her head. “Leo, I don’t think you have the luxury of waiting it out. You need help. Plus, you saw Dr. Gruber. We impaled him through the heart and he still got up! Do you really think some cops are going to be a match for that?”

Images of a cop co*cking a shotgun and blowing apart a zombie’s chest with a single blast flashed across his eyes. “…No,” he lied. “But what other options do we really have? I would bet Festus’ left wing that they’re still outside the door waiting for us, and who knows how bad the rest of the campus is.”

The daughter of Aphrodite stared off into space for a time, and he could almost hear the gears grinding in her head. She let out a heavy sigh, which he thought meant she was in reluctant agreement with him, but instead said, “we need to call Nico…”

If he would have been drinking at the time, he would’ve done a spit take. Hell, he wanted to do a spit take. Piper had swore off any contact with anyone from either camp, especially with the son of Hades after his refusal to bring Jason back. “I’m sorry, I appear to have lost more blood than I thought, as I could’ve sworn you just said- OOF!”

Piper retracted her elbow from his gut and glared at him; something that only a true best friend would do given his condition. “Trust me, I wouldn’t suggest it unless things were bad,” she scoffed. “But the little creep could shadow travel us to safety. Plus, zombies are like his specialty…”

“Uh, maybe? I get the feeling these aren’t the living dead, so much as Resident Evil, Twenty-Eight Days Later zombies,” he joked, trying to lift her spirits. …Albeit in a rather macabre way. It didn’t work, as Piper still wore a resentful expression; no doubt replaying her last encounter with Nico in her head. “But yeah, he would be great to have right about now. Just one teeny little problem… I don’t have a drachma to my name.”

“I thought of that…” She sighed and squeezed her eyes shut and furrowed her brow as if in intense pain. “We find a phone and call Annabeth…”

It took all of Leo’s will power to stop himself from uttering, “holy sh*t…”

While the daughter of Aphrodite had left on bad terms with Nico, it was absolutely nothing compared to how she ended things with Annabeth. Piper had been begging the blonde to help her get Jason back, but Annabeth refused time-and-time again, citing it would be unnatural. Piper argued that nothing in their lives was natural (a valid point in his opinion) and that by her logic, Hazel should have been back in the Underworld and Annabeth herself should not have existed. He couldn’t say for sure if either point struck a nerve or if Annabeth was just sick of the pestering, but she thought she was going to set Piper straight.

Not a smart idea when you’re going against a daughter of Aphrodite with the most powerful Charm Speak in centuries…

The two got into a heated argument in the center of camp that drew everyone’s attention. Percy went to physically pull Piper away, but he wasn’t going to stand for that. He may have caved under Percy’s and the others’ pressure to swear on the River Styx to not help Piper revive Jason, but he would be damned if he was going let them buffalo Piper a second time. So, with a few placed fireballs, he kept the son of Poseidon and the others away from the feuding women.

Which was simultaneously a mistake and the greatest decision he had ever made.

For just when the two were about to come to blows, Piper called upon her Charm Speak with the same intensity as if she was facing Gaea, dropped her pants, and commanded Annabeth to kiss her ass.

Needless to say, there was some bad blood between them after that spectacle.

“Are you sure?” He asked once his eyes no longer felt on the verge of popping out of his skull. “’Cause I think that juice we had earlier has provided me with enough vitamin C to get by. Heck, I was probably going to have too much blood before this.”

Piper rolled her eyes and quietly rose to her feet. Glancing over her shoulder at the barricade to make sure nothing would shift out of place. “Trust me, I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t for you.”

“Ah, shucks, Beauty Queen,” he answered with an awkward chuckle, turning away from his oldest friend as a strange heat burned his face.

“Now, sit tight. I’m going to look for a phone.”

He nodded and wrapped his hand in his shirt as he watched Piper begin her epic quest for a phone.

She began looking in the most obvious place, the desk, but all she found was heaps of dust, empty bottles, and a golden name tag that read “Dr. Richard Pickman”. She asked him if the name sounded familiar, and he agreed that it did, but neither could remember why.

From there Piper began moving aside the paintings -occasionally remarking on the strangeness of their subjects- to see if there was an alcove or something that was obscured from view. Once again, she found not phone, but she did find a couple bottles of forty-plus-year-old wine that caught his attention.

Molotov co*cktails or something to drink if things somehow get worse. And I just jinxed us, didn’t I?

“Is this guy giving you evil leprechaun vibes, or is it just me?” Piper asked, her gaze locked on the strange, dust covered picture fixed to the wall.

“No, I had the same idea while you bandaged me up,” Leo smirked. “Glad we’re on the same wavelength.”

“Small victories, I guess. Just would have preferred it being a phone…” Piper muttered as she squinted at the shriveled, grinning man.

“Guess that means we’re waiting things out then?” Leo asked as he shifted in place trying to get comfortable again. “You didn’t happen to see a first aid kit, did you?”

“No,” the daughter of Aphrodite said with a shake of her head, still fixated on the portrait. “I swear I’ve seen him before…”

“You did. He was chasing Jennifer Anniston around a trailer park,” he groaned. “It was her first movie too,” he laughed. “How about a stapler? That desk had to have had a stapler, right?”

The question seemed to break the portrait’s hold on Piper, as she turned around with a puzzled look on her face. “Huh? Why?”

He held up his bloodied hand and gave her a little wave. “Staples, next best thing to stitches. Hell, if there’s any superglue in there, I’ll be back to one-hundred-percent.”

“Leo, you can’t be serious,” Piper cringed as she leaned against the painting. “That would hurt like-”

A deep rumbling filled the office and the decades-long undisturbed dust caked on the ceiling began to fall like sands in an hourglass. With the grinding of long neglected gears, the wall behind Piper swung open, making her nearly lose her balance. Scared that she would fall, Leo jumped to his feet and ran over to steady her.

“I’m good. I’m good,” she repeated as she stepped out of his embrace. “Just… wow… I guess that Abby wasn’t kidding about there being secret passages here, huh?” She asked as she stared down the newly revealed pitch-black hall.

“Yeah…” Leo nodded as he examined the false wall. The section wasn’t in a corner or built into a bookcase or some other fixture, which as odd as there should have been some telltale seam to give it way for what it was. Sure, they had encountered hidden doors like that before, but there was always some magic at work for that level of concealment. Let’s not overthink this. This school has more money that Midas and Nero, so hiding some seams isn’t that impressive.

“Think we should take a look?” Piper asked. “Maybe they hid a phone in there?”

“I don’t-”

An unholy shrieking cut him off, and both demigods whipped around to the barricade. Before they even had a chance to react further, something heavy slammed against the oak door and made their hastily constructed barricade slide forward. In another instant, a bloodied arm burst through the doorway and began to erratically swipe; knocking away more of the blockade.

“GO! GO! GO!” He yelled, grabbing Piper by the hand and pulling her into the darkness.

And maybe it was from the blood loss or just his mind playing tricks on him, but as the wall swung shut behind him, Leo swore he heard a faint cackling that echoed in the darkness.

Notes:

A short, but important chapter this week.
We had several horror movie references, both direct and indirect. Filled in a little backstory on just how bad Piper's relationships with the others have soured, but also how she's willing to set that aside to get Leo to safety.
We also see them acting rather logically compared to most horror protagonists. Initially deciding to try and stay in a safe place and waiting for help instead of trying to fight their way out. Sadly, they were forced to flee into the unknown by some old machinery that is in desperate need of some oil.
And then there is that portrait. Which has 0 importance whatsoever. I totally commissioned it on a whim. Yup, I just wanted a portrait of a creepy old man. I have that kind of money to throw at Rhi. Hehe...

Chapter 8: In Fine Mortis

Summary:

“Uh… Just checking on you? Remember you were on the brim of combusting? We buried you in ice in the body chiller? The campus is under-”

“Oh for the love of-” Allison growled in frustration as she slapped a hand to her forehead; making her long ebony locks bounce. “There’s a head in a surgical pan! And it’s snarling!” She cried indignantly as she pointed to the item in question at the corner of his desk.

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Dr. West awoke in total darkness.

This in of itself wasn’t unusual. As on the nights he actually made it back to his home he was too tired to turn on a single light before crashing on the nearest comfortable (or uncomfortable) surface, he would awake in the predawn hours in total darkness, with no recollection of where he was, with a sore neck and/or back.

What was unusual was the manner of which he awoke.

Normally, he awoke like most people. First stirring slightly for a time, then becoming aware of his senses as his dreams faded away, his eyes fluttering open with just enough awareness to know he had been asleep, and finally burying his head under his arms or pillow, cursing that another day awaited him. And some mornings when his anxiety and depression were particularly bad, he would stay in bed until it was absolutely necessary for him to leave its warm, nonjudgmental embrace.

But he experienced none of that.

No haze of wondering where he was, how he got there, what had transpired when he was last conscious, or wishing he was more than he was.

There was simply complete cognition when his eyes snapped open.

He lifted his right hand from the water that pooled around him -the lukewarm remains of his icy cocoon- and pressed his fingertips against the top of the stainless-steel compartment. There was no emotional reaction from him when he felt the chiller’s panel buckle from his touch. No surprise or even confusion. Instead, the doctor simply pushed against the cool metal with the palm of his hand, snapping it free of the nuts and bolts that secured it to the frame and propelling the gurney through the small door at his feet.

In an instant Dr. West was out of the darkness and into the dim light of cadaver storage; the sliding tray he lay on coming to a violent and sudden stop when it reached the end of its tracks.

Without a moment’s hesitation, he swung his feet to the tiled floor; spilling liters of water on it in the process. He cracked his neck side-to-side twice and noted an unusual warmth surge into his vertebrae, before he looked down at his left hand and the piece of polymer clutched in it.

With a dexterity that came from years on the operating table, he smoothed out the coated square with only his thumb and forefinger and examined at the waterlogged Polaroid.

It was an image of two young boys smiling at the unseen camera operator. One frail and blond and the other more robust and darker in color, both clearly pleased at the amphibian they had placed in a jar.

Without a second thought, Dr. West crumpled it into a ball and tossed it to the floor. He could not understand what had possessed him to cling to something as nonsensical as a picture from his youth. Not when there was so much work to be done.

He rose from his seat and inhaled deeply through his nose- only to choke and cough violently.

“Such an annoyance,” he sighed once he stopped hacking.

He crossed the room to small sanitation sink and pulled the tip of his nose up with his right index finger as he looked into mirror positioned over the sink. Dark, charcoal red blood stained his upper lip and disappeared into the back of his nostrils. Narrowing his eyes, he sniffed once and felt something move in the darkness of nose.

Interesting.

Still holding his nose, Dr. West reached for a nearby container of cotton swabs; retrieving one and rotating it around in the palm of his hand. With the greatest of care, he inserted the swab up his nose and gently exhaled; pushing the swab down right before he finished. Sure enough, he felt a slight tug on the implement as whatever was up there tried to recede back into his sinus cavity. He pressed down harder and began to drag the swab and whatever it had pinned down, causing a foul mixture of blood and mucus to drain from his nostrils as well as down his throat.

He noted the lack of taste and the lack of a gag reflex but was more focused on the extraction.

After a few long seconds, something gray and covered with blood poked out of his left nostril. Still pressing down and dragging the strange growth out, he released his hold on his nose and instead grasped the thing’s slick tip and began to firmly, but gently, tug at it.

At no point during the extraction did he feel any sense of fear or concern for what was transpiring with his own body. The only thing the doctor felt was a detached curiosity at what awaited him when he finished.

With a final rush of old blood, he pulled out a small pair of gray almond-shaped clumps connected by a thin sheet of blood and mucus. He tossed the bloodied cotton swab aside, turned on the faucet, and began to clean what he perceived to be a tumorous growth.

“What do we have here?” Dr. West asked himself as he wiped away the last of the mucus. “I-” His eyes widened ever so slightly, that even the keenest of observers wouldn’t have noticed, but they quickly returned to their neutral state. “Oh… Intriguing.”

It was Grey matter. Two pieces of his own cerebrum in the palm of his hand.

He quirked his head slightly to the left and tenderly touched his temple. Before his ice bath, his temperature had been wildly uneven throughout his skull, with the hottest points located near his ears. He had feared that his reaction to his reagent would cause him irreparable brain damage, and now he held the affirmation in the palm of his hand.

“My amygdalae,” he concluded as he righted his head. “The emotional center of the limbic system.”

He realized that normally holding one’s own brain would force some kind of emotional response -most likely terror- but he was now entirely incapable of such a thing. In fact, with his curiosity sated, all interest in the cooked remains of his brain fell away like sand through his fingers.

“I’ll properly dispose of you later,” he stated to the physical embodiment of his emotions as he laid them on the sink’s shelf.

With that, he turned around and scanned the room. His eyes soon falling on a rolling chair where his clothing and shoes sat freshly folded and shined. “So much to do with so little time,” Dr. West said as he picked his glasses up and placed them in their proper place.

Yttrium… Aluminum… Nitrogen... Gallium... Nitrogen... Gallium… Hydrogen…

“Doc… You okay?”

Yttrium… Oxygen… Gallium… Sulfur… Oxygen… Thorium… Oxygen… Thorium…

“You look a little… green…”

Hydrogen… Europium… Lithium… Germanium… Boron…

“Doc, can ya hear us?”

Sulfur… Hydrogen… Ununbium… Nickel… Gallium… Uranium… Rhenium… Astatine… Hydro-

A pale, manicured hand grasped his wrist, halting his meticulously note taking. He looked up from the ancient tome he had been reviewing and finally acknowledged his two TAs. “What is it?”

The question wasn’t asked with any kind of malice or anger, yet Lisa dropped his arm as if it burned her and jumped away from his desk; her normally sky-blue eyes momentarily flashing a harvest moon orange. She hid her hand behind her back with an embarrassed cough before saying, “Uh… Just checking on you? Remember you were on the brim of combusting? We buried you in ice in the body chiller? The campus is under-”

“Oh for the love of-” Allison growled in frustration as she slapped a hand to her forehead; making her long ebony locks bounce. “There’s a head in a surgical pan! And it’s snarling!” She cried indignantly as she pointed to the item in question at the corner of his desk.

Dr. West followed her gaze and tilted his head slightly to the left at the sight of the severed head. It was just as he left it, laying on its side in a pool of its own luminescent fluids, trying to push its way out of the silver pan with just its tongue and lips. Every few seconds it would grow frustrated with its inability to escape confinement and let out a wheezing snarl, which may have been formed words if it wasn’t for the lack of vocal cords.

It was truly a remarkable discovery, that his reagent could preserve the biological functions of the restored cadaver without need for functioning circulatory or respiratory systems.

But it was no more remarkable than the dozen or so other pans scattered throughout the office. Each containing their own severed limb, digit, or organ that continued to function without input from the central nervous system. Seemingly acting on their own accord.

“Well?” Allison asked.

Dr. West looked back to his more mature assistant and gave a small shrug. “I merely administered the appropriate dosage of my reagent to Mr. Carpenter.” He rapped his knuckles on the ancient tome. “Regrettably, he did not respond well to the process and I was forced to act. He is of much greater use this way.”

The redheaded TA frowned at a pan containing Mr. Carpenter’s left hand; the appendage in the process of learning how to coordinate its walk. “So, you cut him into a million pieces? Harsh…”

“There was nothing excessive about my actions,” he responded as he picked up his pencil and began to record his thoughts once more. “He was a failed experiment, but I managed to turn him into something worthwhile.” With the elemental components listed out of his reagent, he began to sketch the valance bonds of the individual components. “And he proved to be quite beneficial.” With a few quick strokes, he finished the structural formula of the Physician’s Cure; the final component of his reagent that had eluded him for so long. “Not only was I able to finally decipher the missing piece of the puzzle that is the restoration of life, but through Mr. Carpenter I was able to isolate the defect in the initial batch.” With that he looked back down at his notes.

“Wait… You’ve figured it out?” Lisa asked. Her voice transitioning from confusion to exuberant elation. “You know how to recreate- I mean, make more of the reagent?”

“Defect,” Allison reminded her girlfriend with a huff; though her own lips were twisted up in satisfied grin.

Dr. West closed his eyes and set aside his pencil once more. It was clear that the two young women were not going to let get anything accomplished while present. “As I already stated, I have decoded the formula for the Physician’s Cure. Regrettably, the initial sample was contaminated. Introducing a significant defect that destabilizes the subject’s homeostasis, resulting in irreparable damage to the cerebrum before the reanimation process finishes.”

The redhead blinked. His words wasted on her.

“It fries their brains,” he stated.

“Ooooooh! Why didn’t you just say so?”

Allison shook her head and sighed. “You are so lucky you’re good looking. And a masoch*st...”

Lisa grinned at her girlfriend and planted a wet kiss on her cheek; the first time Dr. West had seen the two interact in such a personal way. “But you can recreate it without the defect, right?” She asked as Allison wiped an obnoxious amount of drool from her face.

He looked down at the atomic symbols written down and nearly scowled. “Not at this time. Even if the campus wasn’t under this lockdown, I do not have access to sufficient amounts of some of the rarer components of the Physician’s Cure.” He reclined in his chair and looked over to Mr. Carpenter’s head, which had nearly worked its way to the edge of its tray. “At best, it would take months to gather the required constituents.”

Impatience flashed across the girls’ faces.

“What about filtering out the contaminate?” Allison suggested. “Or introduce a neutralizing agent?”

Dr. West slowly shook his head. “The restorative properties of the reagent also apply to itself. As in, it will revert back to its prior state even if we were to neutralize it,” he added for Lisa’s convenience.

The three of them stood there silent, the only sounds the ventilation system and the scraping of flesh on stainless-steel. He could continue to experiment with what he had available to him, but there was no telling what else the defect effected. Any results he achieved would always be under scrutiny and become a potential waste of time while he waited to synthesize a stable sample.

“What if…” Lisa said with what could only be described as a predatory grin. “What if you got more of the initial Physician’s Cure sample? Could you remove the contaminate before adding the rest of the formula?”

“Yes, but I’m not sure where-” Suddenly it all clicked into place. The campus tour. The fight in the lab. The shattered glass and- “Blood…” He looked to his two TAs and noted that they were both sporting Cheshire grins. “That boy’s blood… If I can get a sample of his blood, I can finish my work. A minuscule sample of blood is all that separates me from making death a thing of the past! We have to find that boy!”

He went to rise from his seat, but Lisa and Allison pushed him back down.

“Don’t worry, doc,” Lisa grinned. “We’ll go grab Leo for ya.”

“You just stay here and get your thoughts in order,” Allison cooed as she gently squeezed his shoulders. “We’re more familiar with the campus anyway.”

“Yes,” he nodded. “That is a good idea. I’ll finish up here then prepare the lab.” Without another word, he turned back to his desk and picked up his pencil. Giggling, the girls left him alone with his thoughts and the remains of Mr. Carpenter.

Primary formula Physcian’s Cure: Y-Al-Nga-NGaH YOGa-SOThOTh H-EuEu-Li-GeB

Reagent supplement: SHUuub-NiGaUReAtH

Notes:

Well that was gruesome!

Hey there guys, gals, and beings locked outside reality! I'm back after a few weeks of unforeseen downtime, and I feel better than I have in a while. I mean, I had surgery last week so I physically hurt, but the removal of the problem combined with powerful antibiotics and painkillers has lifted a fog from my mind I didn't realize was there!
So because of my recovery and return, I thought it was only appropriate I post this chapter which features the return of Dr. Herbert West. Just that unlike him I did not lose my emotions and ethics. Okay... I didn't have the latter to begin with.

Anyway, the first secrets of the reagent and Physician's Cure have been revealed.
First, there was the revelation that just cutting the heads off the zombies isn't going to be enough. Each tissue seemingly has its own sentience to it with an almost invulnerability to it thanks to Dr. West's reagent. This will definitely be elaborated on as the story progresses.
Second, is the revelation of what makes up the reagent and Physician's Cure. Not going to lie, I actually spent a considerable amount of time trying to balance the chemical equations; trying to get the valences right. Sadly, chemistry was a weak point of mine and there are some atomic symbols that, uh, do not exist. Someone needs to discover an element and give it the symbol 'G'...

It's late here and my body is hurting, so I'm going to end this for now. I'm working on Bonds next and awaiting on some artwork for another in progress story.

Chapter 9: Quae In Tenebris Lucem Proferetur

Summary:

Piper looked up to Leo with her jaw dropped in disbelief. “Seriously?”

“Told ya maple syrup was a cash cow,” he said with a wiggle of his eyebrows. “But this doesn’t exactly help us… And why do those names sound familiar?”

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

In horror movies there is a certain paradox when it comes to running. A character can run through a pitch-black crowded room, hall, forest, or even a derelict mineshaft without tripping or colliding into anything as if they had the echolocation of a bat in order to escape from their pursuers. However, if that same character was in a well-lit, wide-open clearing, the odds of them tripping increased exponentially to the point that their gruesome death was all but guaranteed. The paradox only applies to major characters, as minor characters could meet their end under any conditions; sometimes even perishing from a completed unrelated threat.

And as Piper pumped her legs as fast as they would go, dragging Leo down the dark passage, with both human and inhuman screams filling the air, she hoped with all of her heart that she was a major character- without the horrific death of course…

But considering they had run headfirst into a stereotypical, creepy secret passage hidden behind a fake wall, not knowing if there even was an exit, the odds did not look good.

THUMP!

Something slammed against the other side of wall to her left, disturbing decades of built up dust and abandoned cobwebs. As the now airborne debris forced Piper to squeeze her irritated eyes shut, the human screaming grew shriller before suddenly ceasing.

“sh*t! sh*t! sh*t!” Piper cursed while frantically rubbing her eyes with her free hand. Leo seemingly doing the same behind her while coughing up at least a partial spiderweb. Possibly a lung along with it.

Something slammed against the wall to her right as they ran by, this this time accompanied by the sounds of cracking plaster and splintering wood.

“Piper! Can it!” Leo hissed.

“Sh-” She caught herself, clamping her lips together before nodding. There was no way her oldest friend saw her, not when she couldn’t see her own hand in front of her face, but she was not exactly thinking clearly. And she would dare anyone to try in their given situation.

This was supposed to be a simple weekend campus visit with her only friend. Just forty-eight hours of mind-numbing monotone lectures, dull tours with overexcited guides, administrators bragging about how great their future would be if they attended their school, lavish meals that did not reflect the average dining experience (though, that might not have been true considering the wealthy parentage of the student body), and doing enough icebreakers to destroy the poles before global warming ever got the chance. And if her internal clock was correct, she should be being led to the girl’s dorm for what was bound to be one of the most awkward and uncomfortable nights of her life.

But instead she got zombies.

Not the slow shambling corpses of Night of The Living Dead or even di Angelo’s Disney-approved spooky scary skeletons, but full-blown rage-filled, long distance sprinting Twenty-eight Days Later zombies with just a touch of Return of The Living Dead’s intelligence for the ability to growl and gurgle words.

Strangely, she was not too concerned about where the zombies came from. It did not take a genius to figure out that their origins most likely could be traced back to the kind (but strange) Doctor West’s reanimation research. How he went from an incomplete theory to a Raccoon City level outbreak in the span of a few hours was anyone’s guess, but she would bet what little money her dad had left that something got mixed together on accident thanks to some tropey lab accident.

An accident so ridiculous, that only divine intervention could have made it come to pass.

And that was the thing that drove her mad: the gods.

It was true that she wanted to bring Jason back from the dead. To give him a chance at the peace he deserved. The opportunity to grow old and wrinkled. To have a loving family.

To beg him for forgiveness…

But deep down she knew that there was no mortal means to revive the dead, not when there was no body. Still, the doctor’s research and motivations did appeal to her. Who would not want to extend the lives of their loved ones? To give surgeons more time to reconstruct broken bodies? Or at the very least, a chance to say goodbye?

The gods apparently.

Every fiber of her being was screaming that the horror surrounding them was the gods punishing her for her rejecting them and their so-called natural order. She refused to play their games and wanted to make a world a better place, so they were going to strike her down with their trademarked ironic punishments.

Revive the dead? You got it! Piper scowled at the thought. I knew they were childish bastards, but they didn’t need to drag Leo into-

Her left thigh slammed into something, sending bolts of both white-hot pain and terror racing up and down her spine. The impact sent her tumbling to the right, bouncing off the narrow passage’s wall before landing hard on her side- dragging Leo down with her.

She opened her mouth to wail, just managing a sharp inhale before a hand roughly clasped her mouth. The unmistakable warm, metallic taste of blood filled her mouth, and her eyes nearly popped out of their sockets as visions of hands reaching through the walls and disemboweling her filled her head. Not wanting to meet such a gruesome fate, she did the only thing she think of: she bit down.

Hard.

A painfilled yelp momentarily filled the air before a fist slammed into Piper’s side. The blow forced her to unclench her jaw and an agonized chuckle echoed in the darkness. “Damnit it, Beauty Queen,” Leo whimper-laughed. “Ol’ righty has already been through a lot today.” She felt him crawl beside her and with a quiet a groan, deposited himself on the floor.

“Sorry, Leo,” she whispered to the darkness. “I just went into full survival mode, and a something grabbing me in the darkness-”

“Yeah, definitely some Silent Hill vibes there,” Leo chuckled before abruptly stopping and swearing under his breath. “I just guaranteed we’re going to encounter Pyramid Head, didn’t I?”

“Eeyup,” she answered, popping the ‘p’. Because the gods are unimaginative assholes…

“Sounds ‘bout right,” he sighed, as he rolled onto his side. “Now don’t freak out. I’m going to shed some light on our current situation.”

A blinding light appeared above them, forcing Piper to squeeze her eyes shut. After several seconds of rapid blinking, she was able to reopen them and saw Leo’s exhausted, but grinning face just inches away from her own. Now aware of just how close they lay next to each other, her cheeks lit up as well at how it would look to any onlookers; non-zombified ones of course. In a not-so desperate attempt to hide her embarrassment, Piper turned her head to look at the light source, and was not surprised in the slightest to see her oldest friend was holding his left hand above them; a flickering flame engulfing his fist.

“Your arm is going to get tired,” she stated plainly, turning her back to face Leo.

“It already is,” the false maple syrup heir grunted as his arm trembled. “But now that you’re calm…” The fire shrank until only a small flame remained on the tip of his index finger, looking like a cheap Halloween decoration. With a small sigh of relief, Leo lowered his arm and rested his hand between their faces. The subtle warmth of the small flame making her realize just how cold the passage was. “That’s better.”

“So, what-” A blood curdling scream echoed off in the distance, making the two of them snap their heads up and try to determine the source. After several tense seconds, they each decided that they were in no immediate danger and laid back down. “So… what do we do now?” She whispered. “Besides survive and patching you up,” she added quickly with a nod to Leo’s right hand.

“Honestly? That’s as far as I got.” He shifted slightly and moved his right hand into the light. The torn pieces of her shirt she had used in an attempt to re-close the appendage’s numerous lacerations was already soaked with blood. “Granted, I’m not exactly thinking clearly,” Leo said as he flexed his fingers. “I could really use some orange juice and a cookie.”

Piper bit down on her lip and furrowed her brow in thought. We need to close him up or the odds of him getting out of here go flatter than a zombie’s pulse. If only I had a needle and some thread, superglue, or even a blowtorch- She bolted upright, making Leo jump in fright and extinguish his flaming finger. “Leo, I’ve got a dumb question-”

“And I probably have a dumb answer,” the elfish teen chuckled as he ignited his finger once more.

She rolled her eyes and continued. “You’re fireproof, right?”

“I didn’t realize we were going that dumb,” Leo huffed in amusem*nt. “But, yes. This red-hot Latin lover, is certified flameproof. I mean, you’ve seen me stand in my own flames until only my tidy-whities remained.”

“Speaking of which, you need to switch to boxers. But back to the topic on hand, yes I’ve seen you standing in flames, but I’ve never seen you swallow flames.”

Leo narrowed his eyes in confusion. “Now is not the time to bring up my struggling circus act. You know I struggle with my gag reflex.”

She slugged the teen in the shoulder, making him yelp and curl in on himself. “No, what I’m saying is we don’t know if you’re only fireproof on the outside, that maybe it stops just below your skin. I mean, you said it hurt when you were fighting zombie Gruber-”

“In more ways than one,” he sighed. “My hero, who I didn’t know existed until-”

She silenced her friend with another swift jab to his shoulder. “You said it hurt to use your fire when we were fighting, and I clearly recall you burning your tongue on a Hot Pocket.” With a grunt, Piper sat up and pointed to Leo’s bloodied hand. “So, maybe you can cauterize your hand?”

“You want me to…” Leo looked at his fist, then back to her. Then back to his fist, and back to her; his eyes growing wider and face paler with each double-take. “That’s going to hurt like hell!” He cried, cringing at the thought. “Guys drain bottles of whiskey before slapping iron, and they still pass out from the pain!”

“Or they got blackout drunk,” she countered.

“Either way, blacking out is not something we can afford right now,” Leo offered as an excuse, which although valid, wasn’t his real reason. Not many people would be willing to self-immolate for a variety of completely justifiable reasons. Pain being the first and foremost.

“I know, I know,” she sighed. “I wouldn’t want to go through it myself, but-” She took a deep breath. I can’t believe I’m going to suggest this… “-I could try to use my Charm Speak to ease the pain…”

As she expected, Leo went silent at her suggestion for a long moment. “Pipes…”

It wasn’t that he didn’t trust her, as she could confidently say that they trusted each other with their lives, but rather the fact that she hadn’t used her abilities since leaving the world of demigods. Telling Leo and Calypso on one of their visits that she promised -more to herself than them- to never use Charm Speak again after the incident with Annabeth. Not that she regretted what she did to the self-righteous daughter of Athena, just that it seemed like a high note to end things on.

“What I said before doesn’t matter given the situation.” With a quiet grunt, she positioned herself so she was sitting directly across from the Texan. “Trust me, I can do this,” she added, more to reassure herself than Leo.

The curly haired college applicant looked down at his bloodied hand before exhaling loudly and looking up at her with an amused grin. “Alright, let’s give it a try. Just don’t like hypnotize me to slap someone when I hear that word pickle or something.”

Piper snorted. “Holy crap, that’s an obscure reference!” She laughed.

“Only books I ever read besides Holes,” Leo answered with an exaggerated shrugged. “But it can’t be that obscure if you got it.”

“Wayside for life,” she said, pounding her fist against her chest twice before flashing some made-up gang signs. Her actions making Leo throw his head back and laugh, which was a welcome and beautiful change compared the frequent screams that filled the campus air. “This is good, it will be easier for this to work with you relaxed,” she chuckled.

“I wouldn’t say relaxed, just slightly less terrified.”

“Close enough.” Piper straightened her back and took a deep breath with Leo quickly following suit. “Now, listen to only the sound of my voice,” she whispered, trying to draw upon the now latent abilities she had inherited from her prodigal mother. “First, let’s take a few deep breaths.” A tingling, almost itch-like sensation began in the back of her throat as she drew her first breath. She exhaled slowly and tried to latch on to the sensation, with it almost getting away from her as she inhaled once more. “Just breathe…”

Leo, with his eyes closed, nodded and did his best to follow her lead. When they both exhaled, he putout the small flames on his left hand, bathing them in total darkness.

“Deep breath…” The sensation in her throat threatened to slip away, but still she held onto it. Carefully urging it to grow and rise. “And hold…” Leo went silent, possibly for the first time in his life, and she counted to three. “And exhale slowly…”

They continued the slow cycle of inhaling and exhaling until Piper believed she had her Charm Speak under control. Her tongue now tingling along with her throat, and it took all she had not to cough at the now unfamiliar feeling.

“This won’t hurt,” she said, putting everything she had into her words. “Flames have always been your friend-” She cringed almost instantly when she remembered what had happened to Leo’s mother, and was glad that he had his eyes closed and they were in total darkness. “All you will feel is their warmth, like the embrace of a loved one.” She took one last deep breath; Leo doing the same. “Now, ignite your right hand with the hottest flames your capable of.”

Instantly, the passage’s temperature skyrocketed. What little humidity in the air evaporated under the intense heat, and-

“MOTHERf*ckER!”

Piper’s eyes snapped open in time to see her friend fall on his side, grasping his still burning hand. “Leo!” She yelped, jumping to her feet as the Texan released a barrage of profanities in English, Greek, and strangely enough, Cherokee. She dropped down on her knees beside him, only to rear back when she Leo’s shirt caught on fire. “sh*t!” Thinking quickly, she hastily removed her purple hoodie and used it to cover Leo’s upper body. “PUT OUT YOUR FIRE!” She cried, while beating the article of clothing; smoke billowing through the fabric with every hit.

“I DID!” Leo hissed through clench teeth as he tried to roll away from her onslaught. “NOW STOP HITTING ME!”

She smacked her hoodie several more times until the smoke ceased, Leo swearing with each blow. “Are you okay?” Piper asked as she cautiously removed her hoodie from the teen. “What happened?”

Leo rolled on his back and reignited his left hand. “I think you’re a bit rusty, Beauty Queen,” he panted. “And I suddenly feel bad for the monsters I burned. Just… f*ck that hurt.”

“I’m so sorry, Leo. I thought I could do it. I really did…” I bet the gods got a good chuckle out of that. She shook her head and pushed her anger and self-pity aside. She’d seen too many horror movies where people died from letting their emotions run wild and was not about to make the same mistake. Not when there were more pressing matters to deal with. “Let me see your hand.”

“Be gentle,” he whimpered.

She carefully took his hand in her own, and slowly rotated it to assess the damage. All that remained of the blood-soaked bandages were a few charred strips that crumbled to ash with the slightest movement. As gently as she could, she blew the ash away; the light breeze tickling Leo. With most of the soot gone she could see that Leo’s flames had done the trick. The flesh around the previously open lacerations had been more-or-less melded together with only a few remaining drops of blood clinging to the angry red flesh. It was a messy job, one that would surely require Leo to take a dose of antibiotics, but at least he wouldn’t bleed out for the time being.

“You’ll live,” she said with a small, relieved smile as she released his hand. “So at least that part worked.”

“Yay…” Leo said with a less than half-hearted cheer. With a grunt, he rolled onto his back and pressed his throbbing hand against his shirt; hissing as some of the larger burns made contact. “I’m just glad I found out my fire-proofness is only superficial now. Could you imagine how much pain I’d be in if I did that with a paper cut?”

“You would’ve jumped off the Argo II,” she chuckled quietly, slowly rubbing his arm in hopes of relieving some of the pain. “Think you can move? Not to sound insensitive, but your screaming probably attracted some unwanted attention.”

As if on cue, a rage-filled scream sounded off from somewhere within Pickman Hall. Thankfully, it didn’t sound like it was coming from within the passage.

“Yeah. I don’t want to, but yeah, I can move.” Leo went to lower his left hand to the floor but stopped when he realized it was their only source of light. “Uh…” Hand still raised in the air, he raised his head off the floor and tried to use its momentum to force his torso up- but all that happened was his shoulders momentarily lifted before his head slammed back down. “Mother- grrrr.” He creased his brow and-

Piper reached down and snatched the struggling mechanic by his collar; pulling him upright with ease. “As fun as it is to watch your turtle impression, we need to get out of this hellhole sooner rather than later.” Leo braced the soles of his boots on the floor, and as one they lifted and pushed until he was standing.

“I would like it on the record that I did not ask for help,” Leo stated as he expanded his flames. “And therefore, I do not need to turn in my man card.”

“Oh, like that would’ve been a lost,” she huffed, turning away from the elfish Texan to continue down the previously darkened passage. “The Pikachu card I stuck in my bike tire was-” a pair of huge, black eyes of a bulbous head starred her in the eyes “-JESUS CHRIST!” She shrieked in pure terror as she jumped back and fell to the floor.

“Now who’s a turtle?” Leo scoffed as he casually strolled by her. He held his right hand closer to his chest and let out a low whistle. “Wowzers, doesn’t get much uglier than this…”

Heart still pounding like a jackhammer (she could swear she saw it beating through her shirt) she slowly sat up and realized that what had spooked her wasn’t a monster lurking in the dark (But I know they are somewhere), but a macabre statue.

To put it simply, the onyx sculpture looked like the edgy cousin of Cephie the Cephalopod, the university’s anthropomorphic squid or octopus mascot. Its head was like a bulbous octopus with dozens of small tentacles twisted and curled in every directions in arcane parody of a beard, with its six eyes closed as if it was merely a sleep and ready to wake at any moment (Well that’s going to happen now…). A pair of withered arms ending in six-fingered clawed hands that rested on the knees of a pair of dragon-like legs that triggered memories of Gaea’s gimmicky offspring. A folded pair of scaly bat-like wings jutted out from behind its shrugged shoulders. This gothic Squidbilly emerged from a solid piece of onyx, much like one of Michelangelo’s statues, giving it the appearance that-

“It looks like it’s taking a crap,” Leo chuckled as he leaned in closer to examine its fleshy beard. “Like, a twelve-enchilada-with-extra-hot-sauce-painful crap. I mean, just look at how it got its eyes squeezed shut. That’s the look of pure agony.”

“Sometimes I worry about you,” Piper grunted as she pushed herself off the ground. She joined Leo by the statue and even with the colorful commentary, her disgust for the onyx carving only worsened up close. “I can definitely see why someone hid it down here…”

“For its privacy?” Leo suggested as she boldly poked it between the closest set of eyes; only to recoil at how unnaturally cold the stone felt. “I know I can’t go if someone’s around. Thus, my hidden personal bathroom on the Argo II.”

“If I find out that’s true, I’m going to murder you,” Piper sighed, examining the slumbering creature’s limbs. She looked over her shoulder at Leo and frowned. “Because if I find out I could’ve opted out of the horrors Annabeth left in the sink-” Her eyes widened, and she nearly gave herself whiplash turning her head to her right. Oh f*ck…

“Uh… You okay?”

“There’s no exit,” she slowly said as she continued to scan the three walls surrounding them to make sure they were real. “This is a dead end…” She shuddered at the thought of returning the way they came, the arms reaching through the thinner walls and the shambling horrors that surely awaited them in the office they had took refuge in. “We have to turn around,” she gulped.

Leo raised an eyebrow and shot a grin at her that was entirely inappropriate for the situation they were in. “Not necessarily…”

“What? You propose we smash our way through these walls?” She scoffed. For added emphasis she reached over and rapped her knuckles against the cold, stone walls. “Because I for one, have not kept up with my karate.”

“As awesome as that sounds, I don’t think it will have to come to that,” her best friend chuckled, the flame on his hand flickering in sync with his laughter. “Look…”

Leo gestured to the statue’s beard and she leaned in to examine it. “I don’t- oh!”

Up close, she could just make out that the four thickest tentacles had a slight indentation where they connected with the slumbering statue’s face. The nearly imperceptible joint looked as if one could twist the appendages around, and a quick look down showed that the four were rotated differently than the rest.

“How the hell did you see that?”

“I’m a mechanic-slash-engineer-slash-art-connoisseur, so of course I have an eye for detail. Now, may I?” He asked, gesturing toward the statue.

“Knock yourself out.”

Leo reached out with his right hand and firmly gripped the rightmost tentacle. A shiver ran up his arm from the sudden chill of the black stone, but after a quiet curse he twisted the appendage counterclockwise-

CLANG!!!

For the second time in minutes, Piper nearly leapt out of her skin while her heart wanted to burst from her chest. Feet still in the air, she spun around and saw that a massive wrought-iron gate had fallen from the ceiling. Effectively barring them from their only exit.

“Huh… Didn’t realize we were playing by Resident Evil rules,” Leo mumbled. “That means I just got to reverse what I did…” He twisted the tentacle back to its original position-

Only for the gate to remain firmly in place.

“Okay… That’s not good,” he hummed. He grabbed the leftmost black appendage. “Let me-”

“How ‘bout not!” She cried. Grabbing Leo by the wrist with a speed that would’ve made a cobra envious. “That one could activate flamethrowers! Drop the ceiling on us! Open a trap door to a gator pit! Or who knows what other kind of horrific death traps!” She released the teen’s wrist and sighed. “Let’s think this through. There’s probably some kind of clue to that tells us what to do.”

“You have an incredibly vivid imagination, Pipes,” Leo smirked, earning a roll of her eyes. “But you’re right. If someone took the time to install this thing, in a university of all places, they probably left some instructions to avoid any deaths and the resulting lawsuits.”

Piper nodded in agreement and bent down to examine the grotesque work of art. Come on, show me some rings with eagles, bears, wolves, and dragons carved on them, she mused to herself as she gazed upon its shriveled torso. A slot machine… Some sliding panels… Swappable gems… A- her eyes landed on the statue’s left claw- “Bingo!” She cried, pulling out a wad of crushed up paper from the stone hand.

“That’s… disappointing,” Leo grumbled as she carefully unfolded the aged pages. “Could’ve at least hid them in a secret compartment…”

“Shut up and give me some light,” Piper huffed as she raised the first of three pages to her face. Coffee stains splattered across the yellowing document, obscuring a few words throughout. “Let’s hope this isn’t complicated.”

Beauty Queen and The Real McShizzle Vs. Re-Animator - BobInTheComments (3)

Piper looked up to Leo with her jaw dropped in disbelief. “Seriously?”

“Told ya maple syrup was a cash cow,” he said with a wiggle of his eyebrows. “But this doesn’t exactly help us… And why do those names sound familiar?”

“I think Randolph was the name of one of the guys that girl told us about,” she grumbled as she moved the paper to the back- only to be greeted by a page that she was absolutely certain was not stained with coffee. “And I think this might be his blood…”

“I would bet money on it,” Leo agreed as he rested his head on her shoulder.

Beauty Queen and The Real McShizzle Vs. Re-Animator - BobInTheComments (4)

“So, the guy this building is named after probably worked with Dr. Seuss during World War II. Neat,” the Texan smirked.

“That’s what you took away from that?” She huffed in disbelief. Though that would be pretty cool if true.

“Well, that, and what a time it must have been to be alive when chocolate fountains weren’t synonymous with disgusting buffets,” Leo shrugged. “Oh! And that Dyer guy got the shaft,” he quickly added.

She didn’t respond as she moved the page to the back, while doing her best to convince that some of the former president’s choice of words were merely coincidence. Nothing more than a well-educated man drawing metaphors and similes from his expanded knowledge base. Who am I kidding?

“Golly, that’s a lot of blood…”

Beauty Queen and The Real McShizzle Vs. Re-Animator - BobInTheComments (5)

With a frustrated growl, Piper wadded up the papers and tossed them to the ground. The bloodstained papers’ contents proving to be worthless in aiding them in their escape. The only thing they provided was a reminder of the people responsible for the stupid and dangerous secret passages. “Well, we just strained our eyes for nothing…”

“I wouldn’t say for nothing,” Leo said, his chin bouncing on her shoulder. “We got a weird history lesson and definitely some supporting evidence that those guys were murdered. Or were murderers.”

She kicked the papers through the gates and dragged her hands down her face. “Now what do we do? Did you see anything that could be a clue?”

“Sorry Pipes, I couldn’t even find a seam on that thing,” Leo sighed. “I hate to say it, but I think our only option is trying things at random.”

“Don’t lie to me Leo. You know you love it,” she shot back. “But yeah. Go ahead and give it a try. We’ll just have to be on our guard.”

“Roger that.”

The fire wielding teen grabbed the leftmost tentacle once more and turned it counterclockwise. Instantly, the rumble of hidden machines filled small passageway and both teens jumped next to each other back-to-back; scanning their surroundings for the next trap. But instead of arrows shooting from the walls or the floor opening beneath their feet, the wall to the statue’s left began to rise with an ear-piercing creak. The scent of a damp grass quickly replaced the acrid stale air of the tunnel, and in a moment the wall had disappeared into the ceiling to reveal Miskatonic University’s fog covered campus.

And the walking corpse of one of football prospects. The hulking, juicing blond’s skin now a burning red, his eyes now an otherworldly glowing green, and a severed arm clenched tightly in its jaw.

“Oh-”

Its eyes widened at the sight of them, and the severed limb fell from its mouth as it unleashed a deafening howl.

A howl, which was answered a dozen times over.

“f*ck!” the two swore as the former athlete lunged forward.

Notes:

Two apologies here.
1. Sorry for not posting anything the last few weeks. Stepdad was hospitalized again so things were a bit crazy there.
2. The "aged" document were made by me. My what I can do with Microsoft Paint is extremely limited. ;)

Okay, so this is the final establishing chapter. The Fates (okay, not really them) have intertwined Piper and Leo with the mystery of the disappearances of Randolph Carter and his friends. If you're familiar with my other works, you know that I like to have several seemingly unrelated things happening at once that converge at the end. I'm definitely interested to hear theories on where this is heading.

Onto Piper. Her Charm Speak is rusty from disuse, but I didn't make it clear how bad it is. Did she compel Leo to self immolate or did he do that himself out of trust? We shall see.
We also got a further glimpse into her mind. Part of her knows that there is no mortal way to bring back Jason, and she definitely knows she does not want Zombie!Jason trying to rip out her throat. I found it interesting that she immediately blamed Olympus for the outbreak. That it was divine punishment for her even thinking of trying to even slightly defy the order of life and death. In a way it is just her further blaming Olympus' inaction for Jason's death; the grief poisoning her mind to automatically blame them for everything. We'll explore more of this as the story progresses.

And Leo is not as fireproof as he thought. The son of Hephaestus only fireproof where his skin is not broken. It sounds like a huge flaw, but in reality it is a benefit. This chapter being the example. If he gets severely inured (stabbed, cut, etc) he can use his own flames to seal the wounds. It hurts like hell, but pain is important part of living and it's better than dyeing. And of course there are all kinds of little rules that go with it to explain how he doesn't charbroil himself while he's standing in the forge, but that's neither here nor there.

Finally, most of you probably know *who* that statue is of... The Great Dreamer needs no introduction.
Will it appear in this fic? No, it is still torn apart and locked in its death-like slumber. However, there may be some references to it later.

I think that about covers it for now. Thank you all so much for having patience with me, you don't know how much you mean to me. I wish you and yours well.
Remember, I love hearing from you, so don't hesitate to leave a comment.
Kudos, bookmarks, subs, and comments give me life.

Chapter 10: Revelata est amor in tenebris

Summary:

“I’m not a freak’n track star!” The daughter of Aphrodite grunted and wheezed as the looming shadow of some structure grew closer. “I’m amazed I’ve ran this long!”

“Fear of being eaten is one hell of a motivator!”

Notes:

Art by my friend, and amazing artist, 0xochitl_sketches0
I can't thank them enough for letting them use their amazing style for this fic.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Leo had known from a very young age that life was cruel.

A creepy old lady claiming to be his aunt appeared before him whenever he was alone made others question his grip on reality (though looking back he supposed he was lucky it was only Hera and not La Llorona). His mother perished in a fire caused by the incarnation of the very Earth itself sent him bouncing from one foster home to the next; some significantly more abusive than others. Learning that not only was he was a son of a Greek god, but that he was supposed to save the world right off the bat. Saving said world, only for the chaos to begin almost immediately and losing one of his best friends in the process. Finding what he thought was his soulmate, only to be unceremoniously dumped.

With each event, he told himself life could not get any worse, as sort of a mantra to make himself believe that things could only improve…and because he forgot that it never worked. Life taking his little mantra as a challenge.

And this time, he believed life took that challenge a little too seriously…

As if losing what he estimated to be a quart of blood was not bad enough, he and Piper had to be trapped in a hidden passage with a creepy statue of a squid-man, only to then find their improbable exit (he swore they had been going up in the building) and be face-to-face with an absolute Chad of a flesh-eating zombie.

The juiced-up cannibal stretched its jaw impossibly wide, the vibrant red flesh of its cheeks tearing as it unleashed a bellow of pure fury. Its cry began to turn into a gurgle as blood gushed from its self-inflected wounds, and its glowing green eyes only grew brighter.

It was a disturbing sight to say the least, and he finally understood why some people could only stand and watch movie monsters stalk towards them instead of running for the hills.

Understood, yes, but not dumb enough to actually do it.

“RUN!” Leo shouted to Piper as he hurled a ball of fire with his good hand at the now rushing shell of a human. He grabbed the daughter of Aphrodite by the wrist as the creature let out a painfilled cry and staggered backwards, giving him the opportunity to dart out of the formerly hidden passage and onto the foggy campus.

“Where do we go?” Piper cried as he blindly tossed another fireball over his shoulder. An angry yelp confirming he found his mark.

It was a good question. They had no idea if the zombie outbreak was situated only around Pickman Hall or had spread across the entirety of the campus; and he wouldn’t dare think about it spreading beyond that. There was also the unpleasant fact that the campus had gone into lockdown, with all doors locking until the crisis had passed if the automated messages were to be believed.

“To the gates!” Leo cried as more horrendous cries filled the air. Some sounding far too close for comfort. “Leave this place and find your dad!”

“Then we need to go left!”

He nodded and zigged to the left, both nearly slipping on the wet grass. All around them the screams of humans and the infected (is that the right term? Or is it the lame Walker term the way to go?) confirmed that even if the zombies somehow originated in Pickman Hall (As if that was ever an option) that they were spreading and spreading fast.

Need to call in the army, coastguard, navy, air force, and the Salvation Army to blow this place sky high! Call Calypso for Festus and reenact Game of-

“LEO! RIGHT!” Piper cried as she dug her heels into the ground.

“Huh-” the sudden deadweight jerked him back- saving him from being tackled by a blur of red and green.

The zombie rolled in the grass and with an agility that Leo previously reserved for the Hunters of Artemis dug its blood-soaked fingers in the ground and swung its body around to face them, revealing the remains of a brunette. A few hours ago, she would have been the picture of beauty, with sharp cheekbones, wavy shoulder length hair, and doe-like eyes, but her rage-filled glowing green eyes and burning red skin knocked her down a few pegs. That, and the left side of her face had been peeled away and was resting on her neck; held there by a small strip of skin.

“OH sh*t!” Leo yelped as the girl charged forward once more-

“f*ck OFF!” Piper thundered as she coldco*cked the (probably) former gymnast in the jaw. A sickening snap filling the air as a mixture of blood and teeth covered the ground. While the blow knocked the attacker to the ground once more, Piper hissed in pain and clutched her hand to her chest, as a bareknuckle brawler she was not. “Don’t just stand there!”

“Right!” He nodded, before unleashing a torrent of flame at the gore covered creature that would have been right at home in a heavy metal video. The girl’s mouth stretched wide as the flames engulfed her body, but only a strangled gasp passed her lips as the oxygen was burnt from her lungs. Her burning red skin now truly burned, tightening around the muscle beneath before blackening and cracking, with the sickening smell of burning pork filling the air.

“She’s done! Let’s go!” The daughter of Aphrodite yelled as she snatched his hand and dragged him away. All the while Leo struggling to keep his lunch down.

Definitely going vegetarian! Leo mentally screamed as he began to run on his own accord. Can’t get distracted like that again! Got that various attention deficient disorders?! He scanned the thick blanket of fog at a one-hundred-and-eighty degree offset of Piper, ready to incinerate anything that moved. He cringed as the terrified scream of a woman filled the air and had to fight the urge to screw his eyes shut at the haunting sound of flesh being ripped asunder.

“Just keep moving,” Piper said, sensing the son of Hephaestus’ discomfort. “Soon this will all be in the past…”

“Yeah,” he said with a forced laugh. “Just another trauma for my therapist and memoirs…”

They continued to run through the perfectly manicured lawn, ignoring their exhausted bodies. The tension grew with each passing second as the sound of rushing feet, growls, moans, monosyllable words, and the clanging of metal grew louder and louder. The grass lost more-and-more of its luster the closer they got to the main entrance, green yielding to the telltale red of blood.

That can’t be good…

Before he could voice his desire to turn around, the fog parted, and he found them before a massive ornamental fountain that he, Piper, and Tristan had walked by it on the way to registration. The beaks and tentacles of eight gold squids poked out of water’s surface and sprayed arching jets of water high in the air, creating a red mist from the now tainted water. In the center of the spitting cephalopods stood a strange statue: a billowing, golden cloak with a crown on top that gave Leo serious Grim Reaper vibes. Even stranger, there was no figure wrapped within the cloak. He supposed it had some kind of deep meaning that Rachel would get instantly, but with the plaque at its base missing, he was clueless.

Yet despite its macabre nature, Leo was glad it was there.

As it hid him and Piper from the horde of undead banging at the wrought iron gate.

“Holy…” Piper cursed under her breath as they surveyed the scene before them.

“There’s nothing holy about this…” He gulped.

While he couldn’t make heads or tails of modern art, it was easy for him to figure out what had transpired. When the lockdown warnings first started, those on the campus thought either they could leave the campus and therefore the danger, or simply got annoyed by the alarms and decided to leave. A crowd had gathered at the main gate, only to discover it was locked, and that was when the mayhem began. One or more of the infected found the visitors, and unaware of the danger, the latter probably attempted to help the blood-covered cannibals and were quickly killed. The others panicked, some fleeing back to the campus, some trying to climb the gates, and even a few tried to fight back, but most if not all, were brutally murdered only to rise again. Now they were trying to break through the thick metal gates and devouring anyone foolish enough to try and escape the university.

“Let’s get outta here,” he whispered, eyes locked on an overturned stroller. “Find a side entrance or-”

WRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

Their heads snapped to the left at the ear-piercing wailing, and Leo’s jaw dropped at what he saw.

Through the thick fog, the girl Leo had incinerated shambled forward in a cloak of flames. Most of her flesh had burned away, exposing charred bone beneath. She swayed heavily from side-to-side, the sudden, rough movements causing her tightened joints to creak and what little flesh remained to crack open and leak an unnatural, glowing green liquid that seemingly sealed the gushing wounds until she moved again.

And while all of that was disturbing on so many levels, it was the girl’s eyes that made Leo’s jaw drop in horror.

Half of her face was nothing but charred bone, exposing a skeletal grin. The skin on the other half of her face had dehydrated and cracked, looking making her look like a giant shrunken head. And yet somehow, defying all logic and reason, the neon green orbs remained in their sockets.

“What does it take to keep them down?” Leo asked as the unblinking horror shambled ever closer.

Piper took a step back from the inferno of the dead and opened her mouth to answer, only for the horrendous howls of dozens of the reanimated to drown out the sounds of the fountain. Neither of them needed to look for the source of the cries, Piper merely looking at him, eyes wide and filled with terror, and shouting, “RUN!”

Without waiting for him to form a response, his best friend grabbed him by the wrist and jerked him to the left. The burning gymnast lunging forward only to miss both demigods and fall into the fountain.

“Do- do I want to know how many are behind us?” Piper panted as they raced towards the silhouettes of the nearest buildings.

I already know the answer, and I know I ain’t going to like it. Breathing heavily with his calves burning hotter than Festus’ Carolina Reaper infused fire breath, he looked over his shoulder and quietly cursed when he saw no less than a baker’s dozen zombies hot on their heels. Their otherworldly green eyes piercing through the fog like the beacon of a lighthouse. “No! Run faster!”

“I’m not a freak’n track star!” The daughter of Aphrodite grunted and wheezed as the looming shadow of some structure grew closer. “I’m amazed I’ve ran this long!”

“Fear of being eaten is one hell of a motivator!”

With the cries of the undead still behind them but growing closer, they reached the foot of building, only to take a sharp left and ran close to its stone walls. A quick glance over his shoulder showed that some of their pursuers had fallen for their feint and had ran up the polished stone stairs and begun to beat on the locked, mahogany doors.

But it wasn’t enough to even begin to think about fighting them off, and he had no idea where they could go or how much longer they could run.

“Right!” Piper shouted as they came to a gap between buildings.

One that was narrow enough to act as a choke point.

Time to drop the banana peel!

The moment they rounded the corner, Leo mustered up what strength he had left and unleashed a torrent of the hottest flame he was capable of across the narrow entrance. A wall of flame nearly six feet high sprang up from the formerly damp earth, continuing to grow taller as it devoured the freshly cut grass and the nearby hedges. He knew it wouldn’t last long, and it certainly wouldn’t permanently stop their bloodthirsty pursuers, but it would buy them enough time to-

“f*ck!” The daughter of Aphrodite swore as she brought them to a complete stop.

He swung his head around to see what had Piper upset. “What’s- Oh, come on!”

It turned out that what they entered was not a gap between buildings, but rather a small alcove that served as a service entrance. A lone stainless-steel door standing imposingly at the end of the shadowed passage.

“Just keep going!” Leo cried as the first of their pursuers reached the wall of flame. All of which stalled and howled at the raging conflagration. That isn’t going to hold them for long!

“And what? Parkour it to the roof?!”

Despite the dire situation they were in, he couldn’t help but snort at the girl’s question as visions of her leaping from wall-to-wall like Spider-Man flashed before his eyes. “Just trust me!” The son of Hephaestus shouted as he leapt the last few feet and slammed his right shoulder and entire weight against the door.

Only to painfully bounce off it.

“Honestly thought that would work,” he hissed as Piper hurriedly helped him back to his feet. “Time for plan B…” He grumbled as his left fist burst into flame. With a roll of his aching right shoulder (and an alarming pop), he marched to the door and held his flaming hand to just below its simple looped handle. Within moments the area around his hand began to glow cherry red and the condensation on the door began to evaporate away.

“Leo, you might want to speed it up…” Piper gulped as she backed closer to the door. “The fire is starting to die down…”

“Just a few more moments,” Leo grunted as the metal began to soften under his touch. He pulled his good hand away, grabbed the door’s handle, and pulled it as hard as he could. The heated stainless-steel warped around the handle and even tore in near the frame- allowing Leo a glimpse of the complex locking system within. “Uh…”

“Uh?! Don’t uh me right now!” Piper cried. “Uh is never a good thing!”

“It would take me hours to cut through this even at my A-game,” he said with a fatalist chuckle. “Why did we have to come to a school that actually invests in security?!”

“Tell me you’re joking! Tell me you’re joking so I can punch you!”

“’Fraid not, Beauty Queen,” he sighed as he turned away from the door. The wall of flames had died down to waist height and it was plain to see that the closest zombies had begun to figure out that fire posed little threat to them; some standing close enough that the front of their clothing had been lit ablaze. “So, unless you got any more ideas-”

“Don’t you dare finish that sentence, Leo Valdez!” Piper snapped as he threw a pathetically small fireball at the nearest shambling horror, causing it to slightly stumble back. “There’s always something we can do! Like… Like maybe a window!” She tilted her head back and spun around, scanning the surrounding walls for accessible window, only to find no windows at all. “Uh… vines?! Another secret passage?! A hidden weapon stash?!”

“Trust me, I’d kill to have a Desert Eagle or machine gun right now,” he laughed as the first of the undead stepped into the flames. “I would even settle for a chain-”

Something slammed him hard into the wall; the blow to the back of his skull turning his vision a blinding white. Still momentarily blinded, Leo lifted his fists to strike at his attacker, with the wild ideas that the living dead had somehow developed superhuman speed or had jumped down from the roof. But before he could make the first swing, a pair of soft, warm lips met his own.

Hello!

Adrenaline flooded his system, giving him a much-needed burst of strength to punch his attacker in the kidney before it had the opportunity to rip half his face off. But before his fist connected, his vision cleared, and he found himself face-to-face (quite literally) looking at his oldest friend. The daughter of Aphrodite squeezing her eyes shut with her arms pinning him against the wall.

And she dropped like a ton of bricks when his fist connected.

“WHAT THE f*ck?!” Piper cried as she rolled on the ground grasping at her suddenly aching kidney.

“I- You- The-,” he stuttered as the zombies halted their progression at the strange scene. One undead girl even standing in the rapidly diminishing wall of flame. “WHAT THE f*ck?!” He finally managed to articulate. “YOU KISSED ME!”

“AND YOU RESPONDED BY PUNCHING ME?!” The daughter of Aphrodite screamed as she sat up.

“I THOUGHT YOU WERE A ZOMBIE!” He cried, gesturing wildly to the approaching green-eyed abominations. “WHICH MAKES SENSE GIVEN OUR CURRENT-”

The harsh screeching of metal-on-metal filled the air, forcing all assembled, living or dead, to close their eyes and cringe at the ear-piercing noise. The horrific screeching was quickly replaced by a series of rapid thuds that allowed Leo to force open one eye. With one last deafening thud, the stainless-steel door he had been trying to melt flew open and the roar of a chainsaw the filled the air.

And outstepped an absolute bear of a man.

The newcomer’s shoulders were nearly as wide as Leo was tall, and towered over both demigods, his titanic stature forcing him to sidestep and bend down slightly to clear the doorway. A red chainsaw splattered with a mixture of blood and the mysterious green fluid was clenched in his massive, gloved fists, while a mix of crowbars and machetes were strapped to his powerful legs and rippling back. A pair of size thirteen work boots adorned his feet and various pieces of athletic gear strapped over a simple dark blue, mechanic’s jumpsuit. His face was a total mystery, save for his piercing, lifeless gray eyes and a few strands of salt and pepper hair that poked out from behind the hockey mask he wore.

I was joking about Jason Voorhees! Leo mentally screamed as the serial killer locked eyes with him.

The appearance of the horror icon snapped the undead from their stupor, and with an inhuman roar charged forward. The nearest with Piper in its sights.

“PIP-”

Before the word could even leave his mouth, the Crystal Lake killer dashed forward and drove the chainsaw through the unsuspecting zombie’s chest. The spinning blade spraying a mix of blood and gore on its fellow undead as it collapsed to the ground from the sudden change in weight and continuing structural damage.

Jason didn’t even try to remove the still spinning blade from the rapidly shrinking and shrieking creature, instead removing a prybar from his back as he stalked by the shocked daughter of Aphrodite. In a sudden burst of speed, the killer slammed the iron bar into the jaw of the next undead, ripping its lower jaw off and most of its face. At the same time, the hulking man snatched what had been a frail blonde boy by the collar of its shirt and repeatedly slammed his masked forehead into against the undead teen’s skull until its knees gave out and a mixture of blood and green good poured down its face.

“Leo…” Piper whispered as the horror movie icon tossed the by aside like a ragdoll.

“I see him too,” Leo gulped. “And I’m not sure what to do…”

Jason drove a crowbar through the throat of a former ravenette and used it to pin her to the ground. “You get the hell in there!” The man snapped with a deep, gruff voice as he pulled a machete from his back and drove it through the gut of the jawless zombie.

Piper’s eyes widened and her jaw dropped. “Holy sh*t! Jason can talk!”

“The better question is do we-”

“GO!” The man roared as he yanked the chainsaw free from its crawling sheath and immediately using it to viscously tear open the throat of another of the living dead.

“Don’t need to tell me thrice!” Leo cried as he helped Piper to her feet and raced into the dark doorway.

Leo heard the door slam shut and his grip tightened around wrench-turned weapon. “You think that’s him?”

“I don’t think the undead close doors,” Piper whispered back.

“They did in Return of The Living Dead,” he gulped.

After entering the doorway, they found themselves going down a set of mesh stairs and into a dimly lit subterranean hallway lined with hissing pipes and electrical conduit. The hall branched every ten feet or so, but each section was gated and locked off that forced them to continue down what felt like well beyond the length of the building above. After an indeterminate amount of time of walking and checking every corner they found for deadly jump scares, they found themselves in a place Leo could call home.

A workshop.

It wasn’t anywhere near as good as Bunker Nine, favoring plumbing equipment and cleaning supplies over forges and electro-magical components, but it had enough of the basics that he and Piper could somewhat arm themselves. Plus, it had a first aid kit so that they could work on truly patching up his right hand.

Unfortunately, they hadn’t even started yet when they heard the door close.

Piper winced. “Don’t bring that movie up. It had such a brutal ending. In fact, don’t bring anymore horror movies up. They seem to have the bad habit of becoming reality as of late.”

“I can’t guarantee-” the slow, steady thud of something heavy walking on metal sounded nearby. “SHHH! Someone’s coming!”

Leo clenched his wrench tighter while Piper gave her hammer a few practice swings as they listened to the steadily approaching intruder. Each footstep doubled the tension in the air, and with each passing second Leo was becoming more-and-more convinced that he needed to strike at one of the steam pipes and drag Piper deeper into the labyrinth of pipes and wire.

But just as he was about to cave to the pressure, the masked visage of the most infamous horror movie momma’s boy stepped into the workshop.

“Were you bitten?” The man asked as he raised his chainsaw, the only weapon he still possessed. Nearly every inch of his body soaked with blood, with pieces of flesh scattered throughout; with what looked like the tip of a thumb stuck in his now red hair.

Leo blinked. “Wha-”

Jason surged forward far faster than a man his size had the right to and pinned the son of Hephaestus’ by the neck to the wall with his beefy forearm.

“Leo!”

“Your hand!” The masked killer snarled as he leaned into the demigod. “What happened to your hand?! Answer me!”

“Can’t- Can’t breathe,” Leo rasped as he desperately tried to push the side of beef posing as an arm off his neck.

“ANSWER ME!” The man roared again.

“He wasn’t bit!” Piper cried as she raised her hammer to strike.

The lifeless gray eyes flickered to the daughter of Aphrodite and then down to Leo’s hand. Then with a grunt, he removed his arm and turned his back to the demigods. Completely undisturbed by Piper’s threat of bashing him with a hammer. With a heavy sigh, the man turned away and with a slight limp made his way to a card table in the corner of the room.

“Pipes, I freak’n hate this school,” Leo wheezed as he collapsed to the floor, sucking in all the sweet, sweet air he could.

“Not much here in the way of food or water,” their somewhat-savior explained as he flopped down on a folding chair. “But I think Henry’s lunch is still in the fridge.”

“Are you okay?” Piper asked as she helped Leo to his feet.

He looked her in the eye while he massaged his throat. “Been better. Not sure if I’ve been worse though.”

The chainsaw wielding maniac bent down and began to loosen the straps of his hodgepodge collection of athletic gear, seemingly ignoring the two demigods’ conversation. “I see you’ve found the first aid kits, but try to use ‘em sparingly, partners. We could be here for awhile, and my gut is telling me things are only going to get worse before they get better.”

“Who the hell are you?” Leo wheezed. And please don’t beat choke me out again.

The man paused for a moment before lifting the hockey mask to reveal an aged, scared face with sideburns that were almost thick enough to be muttonchops and what had been a neatly kept mustache. “I’m Miskatonic University’s chief sanitation engineer,” he explained as he raised a hand to his breast and tapped on a bloodied nametag. “Call me George.”

Beauty Queen and The Real McShizzle Vs. Re-Animator - BobInTheComments (6)

Beauty Queen and The Real McShizzle Vs. Re-Animator - BobInTheComments (7)

Beauty Queen and The Real McShizzle Vs. Re-Animator - BobInTheComments (8)

Beauty Queen and The Real McShizzle Vs. Re-Animator - BobInTheComments (9)

Notes:

Lisa: *eye twitch*
Allison: Calm down, my love. We'll-
Lisa: I'LL KILL HIM!

It's late (just like this chapter) so I'll try to update the notes later. However, I will say I am switching back to Bonds again :)

Chapter 11: Vehementer In Voraginibus Sedete

Summary:

“I mean we arm ourselves and fight our way out off campus,” George grunted as he began to shove his collection of makeshift weapons into the belts strapped across his body.

“But why?” Leo asked. “I think we’re pretty safe down here in the tunnels,” he said, gesturing to the janitorial office they were currently in. It wasn’t the homiest place, as far cry from the luxurious campus just above, but it had a simple workshop, running water, a mini-fridge with a half-eaten lunch, and a couple cots, making it the perfect place to hole up in until help arrived. It would be boring, but he would gladly suffer through some fidgeting if it meant not having his butt nommed on by a horde of zombies.

Notes:

A long overdue update :)

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Leo hissed as the antiseptic hit his skin. It wasn’t that the liquid hurt, as it was nothing but a slight tingle compared to the unyielding burning in his hand, rather it was something of a compulsion. A leftover remnant of his childhood, from when his mother would tend to his scraped knees and kiss the pain away. It was embarrassing, and the memories it stirred were more bitter than sweet, but he couldn’t bring himself to stop.

“Suck it up, Valdez,” Piper teased as she began to wrap his burned appendage in yellowing gauze from a First Aid kit that hadn’t been change out since the Nixon administration. “If you could handle lighting yourself on fire, you can surely survive a little...” She frowned and picked up the brown bottle. “Mercurochrome… Actually, I’m not so sure anymore...”

Speaking of kisses…

Piper McLean, the one and only Beauty Queen, one of the Seven, former head of her mother’s cabin, bad ass extraordinaire, and his best friend, had kissed him. And not just a peck on the cheek like when they were crossing the Atlantic and were hijacked by Percy’s extended family, but a full on, lip-to-lip, spit swapping, kiss.

And it rattled him.

“Ha ha, yeah,” he responded with what had to be the most forced, awkward laugh in history. “Little do we know that it is the cure for whatever zombie virus going around.”

He was sure she only did it in the heat of the moment, as people did strange things when they thought they were going to meet their end at the hands of a horde of flesh-eating ghouls. But, at least according to the movies, people only did things that they wanted to do. And he couldn’t wrap his head around that. On some deep level, Piper had wanted to kiss him.

“That would be great, but...” She trailed off and tore the gauze with her teeth. Only to immediately make a face and stick out her tongue that spoke volumes about how terrible it tasted. “Plew!” She spat, face still twisted in disgust. “But when the zombies are somehow little more than charred skeletons and still walking around, I think we’re just a bit beyond a cure.”

Now, he would readily admit that he had a bit of a crush on the young woman when they first met. It could be said he had a crush on just about every woman that crossed his path before meeting Calypso. But it was a little different with Piper. She had been not only the first girl to not ignore him and his jokes, but also the first girl to give his sh*t right back to him. And on top of that, she wanted to hang out with him! He got to know her, and had at one point considered asking her to one of the maximum security school dances, but Jason beat him to the punch. It hurt a little, but he valued Piper and Jason’s friendship too much to let it bother him.

But now…

“The only cure is a bullet to head or caving their skull in,” George grunted. “Crowbar through the eye does the trick too...”

But now the mood was dead.

Murdered in cold blood by a man with muttonchops of all things.

“You sure about that Georgie?” He asked as the daughter of Aphrodite frowned at a roll of medical tape whose adhesiveness was lost well before David Hasslehoff brought down the Berlin Wall. “’Cause I’m pretty sure I saw some of our undead peers getting back to their feet after you went berserker on them.”

“You weren’t there to see me finish them off,” the sanitation engineer stated without the slightest hint of humor in his voice. “They aren’t getting up again,” he said, raising one of his blood covered machetes.

George He-and-Piper-were-too-afraid-to-ask-for-his-last-name was an absolute beast of a man, a living relic of a bygone age, and something of a paradox. Despite being in his sixties, he was a juggernaut of a man, towering over both him and Piper with rippling muscles his jumpsuit could barely contain. He had well kept, short hair and a neat mustache, but bushy sideburns like some kind of 17th century vertical mullet. Pinned to the breast of his blood covered uniform were a variety of pins with saying like “give peace a chance”, “free love”, “flower power” and “talks not troops”, which when combined with the variety of makeshift weapons laying on the table before him, gave off some serious Charles Manson vibes. So far he had been nice enough to them, saving their lives and getting them some medical supplies, but there was no kindness to be found in his cold, gray eyes. In fact, there seemed to be no emotion in them whatsoever, the gray orbs glazed over.

“And I think I’m glad we weren’t,” he muttered just loud enough for Piper to hear. “Proba- OOF!”

The daughter of Aphrodite retracted her fist from his stomach and went back to tending his wounds with a devilish smile. “Let’s not antagonize the guy we’re stuck with,” she whispered. “We don’t need to add psychopaths to our current laundry list of problems.”

“Are you two about done over there?” George half-growled as he rose to his feet. “I’d prefer we get a move on before it gets too dark,” the man said as he began to strap on a pair of heavy-duty knee-pads. “Which is pretty early round these parts with all the storms we get.”

As if reading his mind, Piper looked Leo in the eyes, wearing the same shocked and confused expression.

“Uh, hold on one second, what do you mean by getting a move on?” Piper asked as the janitor slid on a pair of mismatched arm guards; one bearing the likeness of the university’s mascot, Cephie The Cephalopod.

“I mean we arm ourselves and fight our way out off campus,” George grunted as he began to shove his collection of makeshift weapons into the belts strapped across his body.

“But why?” Leo asked. “I think we’re pretty safe down here in the tunnels,” he said, gesturing to the janitorial office they were currently in. It wasn’t the homiest place, as far cry from the luxurious campus just above, but it had a simple workshop, running water, a mini-fridge with a half-eaten lunch, and a couple cots, making it the perfect place to hole up in until help arrived. It would be boring, but he would gladly suffer through some fidgeting if it meant not having his butt nommed on by a horde of zombies.

“You’re right,” the janitorial engineer grunted, which Leo was rapidly realizing was his go to method of communication. “This would be perfect place to wait it out.” He tightened a belt strapped across his broad chest.

“And yet you’re still acting as if we’re leaving...” Piper stated slowly.

“Because we are,” the man replied.

Okay… Guess I need to clarify things for him. He held up a hand and cleared his throat. “But you just agreed this is the perfect place to wait Resident Evil out. Which means, there is no reason for us to move. So take a load off those size eighteens, and we can start a marathon of Tic-tac-toe until the guys with guns show up,” he said, patting the empty chair next to him.

George stared at him and Piper with his emotionless gray eyes. His gaze causing both demigods to squirm a bit in their seats. “I didn’t say it is perfect. I said it would be perfect. Perfect, if not for the fact the gates can only be opened from the inside.”

Piper arched an eyebrow at him and then George. “Uhhhh, sir? I think if the situation is bad enough, which I think it juuuust might be, I’m pretty sure they’ll just ram the gates open.”

My thoughts exactly, Beauty Queen! Leo thought with a smile and a nod of approval at his best friend. A best friend whose cheekbones he was starting to notice a little more than usual. “And if that doesn’t work, they have this nifty little gadget called The Jaws of Life. They cut through anything like a hot knife to buttah.”

“They won’t cut through those gates. Just like no one is going to scale those walls,” George said as he placed his blood-splattered hockey mask atop his head. “This damn place won’t allow it...”

Well that sounds ominous…

Piper sighed. “I know I’m going to regret asking this, but, what do you mean by that?”

“My money is on Chopping Mall style robots have been released around the perimeter,” Leo muttered so that only Piper could hear. I am just realizing that we watched an obscene amount of horror movies. We could’ve learned a foreign language or found a cure for cancer, but nope! We chose to eat popcorn and watch brain dead teenagers get butchered. But… He remembered the daughter of Aphrodite laughing at the cheap-looking kills and the bad acting, the only things that roused her from her grief. It was worth it.

The older man pinched the bridge of his nose and muttered some choice profanities under his breath. “I know I’m going to regret saying this to you affluent types-”

“Affluent?” Both he and Piper asked, looking down at their clothes and questioning what about their appearance gave the man such a false impression.

“-but the fence that surrounding the campus is magic,” George sighed. “I know I sound-”

“Oh, for f*ck’s sake!” Piper screamed, tossing her head back.

She beat me to it by a nanosecond!

“1968, members of the fraternity Lambda Lambda Lambda thought it would be funny to steal a snowplow and use it to destroy the main gates! The plow was totaled, two students died, and the gates didn’t receive so much as a scratch,” the hulking man spat as he pointed to a rather gruesome crash scene photo pinned to the wall. A wall covered with photos, yellowing papers, keys, maps, and a pinup calendar that Leo was positive was also in Bunker Nine.

“Uh, Sir?” The daughter of Aphrodite asked, timidly raising her hand. “We believe you. You don’t have to-”

“1971!” George barked, the man clearly determined to deliver the spiel he had kept bottled up for the gods’ knew how long. “The maintenance building’s south wall collapses when the boiler explodes from a sudden spike in pressure. Pieces of the boiler and piping were found embedded into the walls and even as far away as the faculty parking lot, yet the nearby brick wall received no damage. The pieces found nearby seemingly having bounced off.”

Leo snapped his fingers on his good hand in an attempt to get the man’s attention. “Hey, chief! We don’t need-”

“1980!” The clearly addled man continued from his own little world. “The mountaineering club had a membership drive where senior members were to demonstrate climbing techniques to prospects by climbing over a section of the wall! Not a single person was able to reach the top!”

“He’s not going to stop until he’s satisfied, is he?” Piper asked with a defeated sigh.

He nodded. “Yup,” he said, popping the ‘p’.

“2007!” George cried, making the two demigods jump in their seats. “Campus Security’s cameras capture the Ultimate Frisbee club’s Frisbees never go over the walls. The plastic discs bouncing off an invisible barrier.” The man reached for a flash-drive that was taped to a blurry photo of either some Frisbees or UFOs near the top of the walls that surrounded Miskatonic University. “I got the footage here, and a computer in the next room. I’ll load it up and you’ll see irrefutable proof that this place is magic.”

Visions of George fumbling with an ancient desktop popped into Leo’s head, and a frustrated anxiety gripped his chest. Yeah, no way am I going to allow us to be subjugated to fifty minutes of this guy trying to open a video with Microsoft Excel!

He jumped to his feet and snatched the nicotine-stained flash-drive from the man’s huge hand- and was immediately grateful that said hand didn’t turn into a fist. “Chief, I know you’re going to find this hard to believe, but we do believe you! Right, Pipes?”

“Eeyup,” the daughter of Aphrodite responded with her best Big Mac impression. “I never doubted you for a second that the gates are magical.” She tossed her head back and rolled her eyes with a frustrated sigh. “Because that is the story of my life!”

“Uh… Thanks, Pipes.” He said, awkwardly scratching at the tip of his nose. “But, yeah, this isn’t our first rodeo with annoying magical items and places. Far from it really...” He moved to wrap his arm around George’s shoulders in a buddy-buddy manner, but a sharp look and the realization that his arm was too short stopped him in his tracks. “Er, sorry...” He sheepishly apologized. “But with that being said, that raises a couple questions. Like, why are they magical to begin with? And-”

“Why would we leave here if we can’t climb or cut our way out?” Piper asked. The daughter of Aphrodite asking his question verbatim.

George looked to him and then slowly panned to Piper, his scowl neither deepening or softening. Then, without a word, the man turned his back to them and removed an aged and coffee-stained paper from his wall of crazy. “The how and why they’re magical is beyond me,” the fit senior grunted. “Do I look like a wizard?”

He opened his mouth to respond, but clapped a hand over his mouth and shot him a look that said, “don’t poke the wizard-looking bear.”

“But I do know when it started,” George muttered as he turned around and held the paper out for them to read. “Even know the name of the man responsible.”

I have read more in the last six hours than in the last six years of my life, Leo thought as he leaned in closer to read the ancient letter.

Beauty Queen and The Real McShizzle Vs. Re-Animator - BobInTheComments (10)

By the time he finished reading the letter, Leo’s jaw was hanging slack. I am REALLY hoping these journal entries don’t become a thing. He reached up and pushed his jaw closed before looking to Piper, whose jaw had also dropped but looked far more annoyed. “Hey, Beauty Queen? You don’t think that Quartus guy was-”

“There is not a single doubt in my mind that’s who it was,” Piper interrupted, reaching up and pinching the bridge of her nose with a frustrated sigh. “Never even met the guy, but I know it’s him...”

“Is there a problem?” George asked, his lifeless eyes darting between the two demigods.

“Problem is an understatement...”

“Maybe not,” the son of Hephaestus hummed, stroking his imaginary beard. So old daddy Daedalus renovated Miskatonic back in the sixties… That means those gates and walls are definitely built to take some Phil Swift level damage. The lack of his calling card is also a problem, but... His lips twisted up into an amused grin. “This could be a blessing in disguise,” he muttered more to himself than the others before looking George in the eye. “Okay big guy, since we can’t ram, cut, or climb our way out of here, what we do’n?”

George returned the aged journal entry to its place on the conspiracy wall and in turn removed an ancient sticky note; the sticky long gone thus making it more of a note. “Officially, there are two ways to open the campus in the event of a lockdown,” the man Tim-Allen-grunted as he studied the note. “Either through the main security office in the Administration Building, or the President’s Home Museum.”

“You said ‘officially,’ implying that both those options are off the table,” Piper was quick to observe, beating him by a fraction of a second. “Care to elaborate why?”

“We’ve already got an exposition dump going on,” he shrugged.

The jacked janitor arched one bushy brow at them. “You two are… different.”

“That might be the most polite way anyone has ever called us weird,” he chuckled.

“And to be clear, we’re not denying it,” Piper laughed.

Riiiiight,” George drawled. The man looking slightly disturbed by their giddiness. “The security office can actually be reached via these service tunnels, but let’s just say I barely made it out of there alive. I didn’t expect Bates to move that like that,” the man said, absently reaching up to rub his right shoulder. “As for the President’s house? That’s smack dab in the middle the woods of Carter Memorial Park, which, is located next to School of Medicine-”

“Which let me guess, was ground zero for the zombies,” the daughter of Aphrodite groaned. “Yeah, that option’s off the table… Fast zombies are bad enough, let’s not have to worry about them jumping out of trees as well.”

Images of zombies dressed as ninjas leaping from the branches flashed before Leo’s eyes, and it was simultaneously the most awesome and terrifying thing he had ever imagined. “Definitely don’t want to see that,” he lied, though not well enough as Piper gave him a pointed look. “So what’s the super secret unofficial way you’re implying, Georgie boy?”

“Call me that again and I’ll skin you alive,” the intimidating man with more than enough height and muscle to make the threat a reality snarled. He turned back to the wall of red string, photos, memos, and yellowing pages and pulled off a Polaroid of the strange fountain that stood just beyond the campus’ main entrance. The square image focused on the crowned, golden cowl and the missing placard at its base. “There’s a hidden mechanism in the King In Yellow fountain that can open the gate. All you have to do is press the placard in, and the gates glide right open.”

“But the plaque is missing,” both he and Piper replied simultaneously. Hey, she noticed too! Our ADHD must have synced up! “I would say I could take a crack at the mechanism, but there is no guarantees I could crack something of Daedalus’s. Plus, you two would need to cover my thickness from anyone who would want a piece,” he said, smacking his ass.

“So it’s a good thing I know where it is,” George stated with a co*cky grin. “Or rather, the four pieces that make it.”

Piper sighed and shook her head. “Goddamn Resident Evil puzzles...”

“Saw that coming,” he sighed in agreement. And I bet I know where those four pieces are…

“The plaques was removed in the late sixties after some students found out about the mechanism and used it to sneak off campus for beer runs,” the janitor continued, ignoring their conversation but also clearly annoyed by their chatter. “Each piece was placed into the offices of Dr. Carter, Dr. Pickman, Dr. Dyer, and Dr.-”

“Yeah, we know!” They both groaned, dramatically throwing their arms up in the air.

“Somehow those mooks have invaded our lives!” He cried.

“Their more intrusive than Coach Hedge!” Piper added to the chorus.

“Ew, I don’t think that’s possible, Beauty Queen...” Leo shuddered, remembering the random bed checks aboard the Argo II. No matter what time he tried for some alone time, the crazed satyr would roundhouse kick his door open and catch him in a rather embarrassing position. Fireballs, threats in three languages, singed fur, and broken doors always were frequent, to the point he rarely spoke the satyr unless absolutely necessary. And that was the real reason he went with Nico and Reyna. The promise of me turning him to Shawarma if he barged in without knocking one more time...

“Think you got it rough, try working here for thirty years,” George muttered before tossing the Polaroid and note on bench under the wall of madness and arts and crafts. “But enough chatter. You have two options, partners.” He held up his index finger. “One, you sit here and hope to God that I can open the gates and that none of those bastards enter the tunnels.” He raised his middle finger. “Two, you can come with me into the tunnels, probably fight more than a few of those things, but greatly increase all our chances for survival.”

Although he knew the answer, Leo looked to the daughter of Aphrodite. “Beauty Queen?”

Piper took a shallow breath and bobbed her head, before holding up her fist with a sardonic chuckle. “Let’s do it, McShizzle.”

He smiled and bumped her fist, making the both of them laugh. “Those zombies don’t stand a chance!”

Notes:

Not a lot of action this chapter, but more of Miskatonic's history has been revealed!

That and Leo is just a *little* confused about Piper kissing him. It would be totally logical and emotionally mature to talk about what happened, discuss how they feel about each other- but we got George to stop that from happening!

And more documents! I'm sure they won't become a common thing or hold any important information related to the plot. Or the true plot...

Chapter 12: Cultores Tenebris

Summary:

Leo, the manly-man he was, grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her between himself and the slightly unhinged janitor’s blade. “I’m not bitching, though I am bitch’n,” the Son of Hephaestus said from behind the safety of his human shield. “I am just pointing out that all I got was a freaking hammer while Pipes got a goddamn chainsaw!”

Notes:

Happy Easter everyone!

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

“This creepy ass campus is crawling with the undead, and I get a hammer,” her oldest friend muttered as they crept through the sprawling maze of tunnels beneath the posh campus of Miskatonic University. “A hammer, not sledgehammer mind you, but a simple, run-of-the-mill ball-peen hammer. The kind little old ladies use to tap small nails in their walls because anything bigger would be too heavy.”

“Quit your bitch’n,” George, their three-hundred pounds of pure muscle and terrible facial hair, growled as they stopped at yet another intersection. “’Cuz if your ceaseless chattering tips off those bastards, I’m going to kill you first.” To emphasize that it wasn’t just an idle threat, the sanitation engineer removed one of the many makeshift blades from his back and pointed it at Leo. “Got that?”

Leo, the manly-man he was, grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her between himself and the slightly unhinged janitor’s blade. “I’m not bitching, though I am bitch’n,” the Son of Hephaestus said from behind the safety of his human shield. “I am just pointing out that all I got was a freaking hammer while Pipes got a goddamn chainsaw!”

And there it is, she thought. A Cheshire grin spreading across her face as she gripped the powerful landscaping tool all the tighter.

Before they had began their journey to find the four MacGuffins that would open the campus gates, the intimidating sanitation engineer (never call him a janitor) took them to one of the many supply closets and handed them what he deemed to be fitting weapons for each of them. Leo of course received the small, solid metal hammer, which she thought was appropriate given the number of times he had used mallets and hammers while across the Atlantic. He even seemed to find it appropriate, as he gave a few swings to test its balance, but that changed the moment George pushed the vibrant orange bodied chainsaw in her hands.

I will remember his jaw dropping until my dying breath, she thought with a muted chuckle. I just hope I don’t have to-

“And isn’t it a bit sexist?”

Piper’s head whipped around at Leo’s comment so fast that her neck audibly cracked. “Come again?”

The Texas Imp grinned and touched the tip of the still blade with one calloused finger. “I mean, he obviously only gave it to you because he thinks you’re a helpless girl.”

“Oh, Jesus Christ,” George grunted as he continued down the dimply lit corridor line with pipes and electrical conduit.

If anyone else would have made such a comment she would have snapped at them and, depending on who they were, dropped them. But this was Leo. Leo, who knew exactly what to say to get a rise out of her. Leo, who used that power more times than she could count after she left the world of demigods and bullsh*t to snap her from her grief and depression.

She matched Leo’s grin. “Really? Because giving it to me seems rather feminist,” she countered, pulling her gas-powered weapon back and suggestively trailing her hand down the length of the blade. “It tells me that he thinks that a woman can protect herself juuuust fine.”

“As long as said woman has an overpowered weapon,” Leo countered as they resumed their slow stride behind the hulking Miskatonic employee. “Equality would mean you got a hammer too. Or I got a chainsaw,” the boy with an infectious smile added under his breath.

He is such a brat when he’s jealous, but in a weird, endearing way. They came to a fork on the tunnel and paused, listening for anything that would tip them off to what lay ahead, before George chose the path to their right. “Okay, maybe he didn’t mean it for us to be equal,” she countered with a wicked smile. “Because he knew women are superior to men, and that I’d have to defend not just myself, but you as well.”

“Or maybe-”

“Or maybe I gave her the goddamn chainsaw because she’s the only one with two working hands!” George snapped, making the both of them wince. “At an ivy league school and not one kid has a lick of common sense,” the graying man murmured as he stalked ahead of them to distance himself from their playful bickering.

“Oooooh! That makes sense!” Leo laughed as he held up his bandaged hand. “It would be kinda hard to use a chainsaw with an injured grasper.

“Unless your Bruce Campbell,” she pointed out. Though, he did have to amputate his hand to do it… Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that.

“Pipes, comments like that are why I love ya,” Leo grinned.

Her heart skipped a beat and she flashed back to what she thought was their last stand. Her feelings for Leo had grown a bit foggy in the last few months, but when presented with the possibility of death and her first reaction was to kiss the shorter spitfire, the fog somewhat lifted. It also explained why her idea to get Leo a free ride to Miskatonic didn’t sound strange in the slightest given the requirements.

But now is not the time for a Jim and Pam will-they-or-won’t-they scenario. Focus on surviving Cannibal Holocaust and THEN you can f*ck up your friendship. She paused midstride and watched Leo twirl his hammer about. Though… I’m kinda surprised he hasn’t said anything about it yet.

“Stop lollygagging and get a move on!”

Piper decided that if there was one thing zombie movies and games absolutely nailed, it was how unnervingly quiet things got after the initial outbreak. There was no pounding of running feet, no chorus of bloodcurdling screams, no snarls or growls of something lurking just around the corner, or even the distant echoes of gunshots. Only the sounds of their light footsteps, shallow breathing, the infrequent rumbling of boilers, and the hiss of steam escaping leaking pipes.

The last of which had made both her and Leo nearly piss their collective pants on more than one occasion.

“Son of a bitch!” she swore as a geyser of steam erupted from a pipe running above her head. Thankfully the pipe was high enough and the leak small enough that she didn’t need to worry about her face being flash boiled. Though, the hot moisture was starting to soak her Cephie The Cephalopod hoodie. “George, I don’t mean to criticize your job performance, but did you guys ever try to, oh, you know, fix these leaks?”

The giant man, who somehow thought muttonchops were acceptable facial hair, slowly turned to face her and lifted his Jason Voorhees’ hockey mask. “All the damn time,” George grunted, looking up and eyeing the guilty pipe critically. “I would honestly say I spent ninety-percent of my time patching these asbestos coated bastards up…”

“Asbestos?” She repeated, covering her mouth with her purple hoodie. What the sh*t?! It’s a school for the privileged and they still have freaking asbestos pipes?!

While she was worrying about contracting Asbestosis and Mesothelioma on top of being zombified, the Son of Hephaestus merely pursed his lips and gave the heating system the same critical eye as George.

“I bet,” Leo nodded, reaching up to grab one of the coated pipes. “My mom once worked as a plumber on the side, and I remember her telling me how often she had to replace and patch the plumbing in hospitals, schools, and the like.” He tried to pull himself up (whether to test the strength of the offending tube of metal of to show off she couldn’t tell) but he only managed to get to the tips of his toes. “Said that eventually places just have to pony up and replace everything if they want some relief. And looking at these pipes, I’d say you are well overdue for that upgrade, Georgie boy.”

Leo flinched as the man’s vice-like grip tightened around the bloodstained machete in his hand and a low growl rumbled from his throat. “No sh*t Sherlock, but the board refuses to authorize the overhaul. Not since the disappearance…”

She looked to the cowering Texan and gestured to George. “Is it just me, or is every other sentence from this guy ominous? Like, old man warning teenagers levels of ominous.”

“It’s just you,” Leo gulped, eyes locked on the man’s white-knuckle grip. “Because every sentence seems ominous to me.”

George sighed and cursed under his breath. “I knew I should’ve gone alone…” He ran one scarred hand through his hair and looked her in the eye. “Look, they did try to get a contractor back in the day to redo the plum’n and heating. A team of them came down here to assess the work required, and one of the bastards never came out. Word got out, no one else would take the job, and the Custodial Department has been stuck patching things up ever since. Now what is so ominous about that?”

Piper blinked. “…What part wasn’t?”

Leo wrapped his arm around her shoulders and pulled her down so that he could whisper in her year with all the subtlety of a toddler. “That definitely supports the theory that Daedalus was involved in the construction of this place. Plus, if you remember what that Abby girl said about this place having a ton of secret passages and rooms-” Leo bobbed his head side-to-side “-the entire campus is practically a miniature version of the labyrinth.”

Her heart stopped and a tightness gripped her chest at the mention of Daedalus’ greatest creation. Images of Jason’s lifeless, bloodied body laying on her gravel drive flashed before her eyes. The maintenance tunnels suddenly seemed far too small and dark. She tried to take a breath but couldn’t remember how, making her panic all the more. She needed to-

Leo’s awkward hold turned into a comforting embrace.

“Hey,” he whispered, rubbing her back. “I wasn’t thinking there, and I’m sorry. And I’m all for grieving, but right now I need you to pull yourself together.” He pulled back and shot her a playful smile. “Because you and I both know catatonic women, a dashing hero of color, and zombies do not mix.”

The bluntness of his reference smacked her firmly in the chest, freeing her lungs so that she could snort with laughter. “Night of The Living Dead,” she smirked, “but I hate to break it to you, you’re not that dashing.”

“I wasn’t-”

“HELP ME!”

All three of their heads snapped to random directions, trying to determine the origin of the screaming. The sound of running feet pounding against cement filled the air and all three of them readied their weapons. Leo lifting his hammer (and looking a bit a character from The Elves and The Cobbler), George pulling a second blade from his back, and herself gripping the chainsaw’s pullcord, ready to yank it at a moment’s notice.

“HELP!”

The screams grew louder and less intelligible as their owner struggled to breathe. Whoever it was, they were getting closer to them.

Piper gulped. “Do you hear-”

“Shut up,” George growled.

At first it had gone unnoticed over the screaming and running, but a strange chorus of chanting began to fill the air, accompanied by the slow, steady beat of untold numbers filing through the tunnels. She couldn’t make out a single word of the macabre chorus, nor could she begin to guess what language it was. The chanting full of clicks, whistles, and syllables that twisted her tongue just by hearing them.

I don’t think humans are capable of making such sounds… She tightened her grip on the chainsaw as she pictured cyclopes and other monsters lurking beneath the campus to compliment the undead above. “Guys, we need to-”

A flash of gold appeared around the corner of the corridor they had traversed, and nearly fell into the wall as they turned. Thankfully, they managed to keep their footing and continued to sprint down the hall, and Piper’s eyes widened as she realized the blonde blur wasn’t exactly a stranger.

“Isn’t that-” Leo started, lowering his hammer ever so slightly.

“Yeah,” she nodded before shouting, “Abby! Abby over here!”

The young woman, whom had been the first student at the university to offer any form of friendship, noticed them for the first time, and relief flashed in her blue eyes as a relieved smile spread across her face. What would have been their upper classman if things had gone a little differently pumped her legs harder and opened her mouth-

Only for a dagger to embed itself in the side of her neck.

“HOLY sh*t!” Piper and Leo shrieked as the girl gracelessly collapsed to the floor. Her head slamming into a junction box protruding from the wall before hitting the floor. Blood pooled beneath the blonde and her limbs were spread in awkwardly. Piper thought that surely Abby was dead from the way she hit her head, but a low gurgle rose from the girl’s throat before her head weakly rose. Her blue eyes pleading for help.

sh*t! Piper darted forward, intent on helping the young woman any way she could, but a strong, scarred hand yanked her roughly back. “We got to help her!” She shouted while trying to squirm out of George’s gorilla-like grip. Don’t make me cut that hand off, buddy! She continued to struggle until Leo joined in the man’s effort to restrained her. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! WE CAN’T JUST-”

Y’AI ‘NG’NGAH SHUB-NIGGURATH H’EE-L’GEB F’AI THRODOG.”

“Pipes… Look.”

Leo’s words were completely unneeded as a pair of figures stepped out from one of the halls of the intersection. They wore yellow, hooded robes that covered their bodies from head to toe, and smooth, featureless white masks that made her question how they could possibly see. Clutched in the hand of the closest figure was a cruel looking dagger, with a ‘y’ shaped hilt of gold and a twisted, black blade like the appendage of creature that haunted the depths of the sea. The two hooded figures, unceasing in their grotesque chanting, moved towards the fallen student without paying them any mind.

“Leave her alone!” The Daughter of Aphrodite screamed at Abby’s assailants, wrenching herself free of Leo and George’s grasp. “Unless you want a piece of-” she pulled the chainsaw’s cord with all her might and was rewarded with the powerful roar of a combustion engine “-THIS!”

“Y’AI ‘NG’NGAH SHUB-NIGGURATH H’EE-L’GEB F’AI THRODOG.” Both figures looked up at her with their blank faces. Their body language not even hinting that they acknowledged her as a threat. Without breaking their chanting, the one with the dagger stood up and twirled the blade in its hand, while the other crouched down in the expanding puddle of blood.

“Buddy, you just brought a knife to a chainsaw fight!” She held the spinning blade to her side and dashed forward-

Only for a ball of flame to knock the robed figure to the ground.

“Leo! What the-”

The Son of Hephaestus darted forward and unleashed a torrent of flames from his left hand, engulfing the already burning figure and creating a waist high wall of flame separated them from Abby and her attackers. “WE NEED TO GO!” Leo turned around shouted. “NOW!”

“BUT THERE’S ONLY TWO OF THEM!” She snapped back over the agonized screams of the burning figure, and gesturing to the other with her lawn-tool-turned-weapon. “WE COULD TAKE THEM-” Piper yelped in surprise as a massive hand closed around the back of her head.

“SHUT UP AND LOOK!” George shouted, as he forcefully turned her head.

She struggled against the man’s grasp but went limp when she realized what had the two men so afraid. “Ah, sh*t…”

Through the son of Hephaestus’ flames at least half a dozen of the yellow robed figures slowly walked through the dimly lit tunnels. All chanting the same meaningless words in perfect unison and all wielding the same macabre daggers. The number was small enough that she, George, and Leo (especially with his flames) probably could have taken them, but more figures emerged from seemingly every passage. All heading in their direction.

“Alright!” She cried as George released her. “Let’s get the hell out of here!”

“Then cut the gas and let’s boogie!” Leo shouted as he doused the hall with another burst of flame, igniting the robes of the other assailant in the process. “Kill your blade before you kill yourself!” He barked as he pivoted on his heel and burst into a sprint.

“Yeah,” she nodded, following her friend’s advice before following after him- only to skid to a stop when she realized that their new companion hadn’t moved an inch. “George! Come on!”

The older man didn’t move from his spot or even look over his shoulder to address her. “Take the next left and then the second right,” he grunted, lowering his mask.

“But-”

“I’ll be right behind you,” the sanitation engineer barked as he pulled a small hatchet from his toolbelt. “Just got to take care of someth’n first…”

“But-”

“GO!”

She nodded to no one and spun around and chased after Leo. Her heart like lead from once again not being able to save someone.

“Holy sh*t! Holy sh*t! Holy sh*t!” Leo panted, throwing himself against the dark wood walls of Pickman Hall. His weight causing several oil paintings of nightmarish creatures to shift and bounce above him. His cursing subsided, replaced by his heavy, rapid breathing, and he slid down to the floor, with his bandaged right-hand clutching at his chest.

Equally winded and upset, she followed his lead and dropped down beside him. Without a single thought, she rested her head on her best friend’s shoulder and focused on his warmth to calm herself (something she had been doing since Leo and his now ex started visiting her). She waited until both of their breathing had slowed and for her heart to realize she was no longer running a marathon to break the silence. “Hey… Leo?”

“Cultists,” the Son of Hephaestus groaned, answering the question she had yet to ask. “Now we have to worry about the living as well as the dead.” He rested his head on hers and sighed. “Man, I swear I was just joking about that club being a cult.”

“No, you were stating the obvious,” she mumbled in response, her eyes scanning the once immaculate gothic hall for even a hint of movement and doing her best to ignore the gore stained walls and floor. “You just didn’t know they were the ritualistic-” she stopped herself and gulped, instantly regretting trying to make lite of the loss of an innocent life. “That… they weren’t the Tom Cruise kind of cult.”

“That might have actually been worse,” the young man said with a slight shrug of his shoulders. “Because now I’m picturing us being chased by hyperactive short men with abnormally white teeth…”

They fell into what passed as a comfortable silence given their situation, both keeping one hand on their respective weapons and intertwining their fingers with the other. Unlike the tunnels, Pickman Hall was far from silent. The slow shuffle of footsteps could be heard coming from the floor above them. Low groans and long foghorn-like moans echoed through the building at irregular intervals. The most unnerving though was the sound of something wet being dragged (or dragging itself) across the floor. Each instance made them jump, but their luck held out.

“Where’d George go?” Leo asked as something shrieked somewhere above them.

“Said he’d be right behind us. Just had to take care of something first,” Piper responded. Did he stay behind to make sure we escaped? That doesn’t make any sense. He barely knows us, Leo’s flames would have bought us enough time, and he’s the only one of us who knows where the hell the other three offices are!

“I bet-”

The creak of an opening door and the thud of heavy boots silenced them instantly. They jumped to their feet with their weapons at the ready; Leo igniting his left hand for a potential ranged attack. The steps grew louder, and the sound of muffled breathing soon accompanied them, ruling out the undead but not the possibility of cultists.

“Just me,” the familiar gruff voice of George muttered before he appeared around the corner. The aging man appeared to be unharmed, with no new blood stains on his jumpsuit or weapons, but his hatchet was noticeably absent, and his clothes were singed in places. He slowly strode to the center of the hallway, one hand tightly grasping his machete while his gray eyes were focused on the Son of Hephaestus’ still smoking hand. “Do I need to worry ‘bout that?” He asked, nodding at Leo.

Piper’s eyes widened in surprise. Leo using his flames in front of the mortal had never even registered as an issue. Survival being their undisputed number one priority, plus she was used to The Mist covering up things that would be hard to explain. But that apparently wasn’t the case. Either George was one of the rare mortals who could see through The Mist, or The Mist just gave up concealing things with the world gone mad. Probably the latter…

“Depends,” Leo answered without a drop of humor in his voice. “Do I have to worry about you now?”

The man shook his masked head. “Not a bit… I figure our chances for survival just improved.” He turned away and began to walk down the ruined hall; stepping over the taxidermied head of moose without pause. “Now, get a move on! Those pieces aren’t going to collect themselves!”

“Wait…” Leo blinked, stunned by George’s nonreaction. “Don’t you want to know how I can make flames?”

“Don’t know, don’t care!”

The son of Hephaestus turned to her; his jaw slightly agape. “Can- Can I be offended?”

“I think we might be in trouble,” Leo stated with a wince as George drove a crowbar through the neck of what had been their chaperone only a few hours ago, effectively pinning the ravenous old woman to the dark, oak paneled wall. The crone still trying to claw at them as her shrieks turned to unsettling gurgling and glowing, green blood gushed from her neck.

“I think we have her under-” the gray woman managed to knock George’s mask crooked, to which he responded by punching her between the eyes “-under control,” the man growled before straightening his hockey mask. “Just need to-” the crone kicked him in the shin, causing him to stagger back “-bitch!” George let loose a barrage of devastating haymakers on the woman’s face, not stopping until her nose caved in. “Always hated cleaning your office… Smelled like spoiled cat food…”

Piper wrinkled her nose, more disgusted by the idea of rancid pet food than the blood and gore before her. “How do you know what that smells like?”

“You encounter a lot of horrible things in my line of work,” George replied as he lifted his mask and wiped his brow with the back of his arm. “But that doesn’t matter right now. We need to get to Pickman’s office.”

“Which brings me back what I just said,” Leo muttered as he watched the gurgling woman violently try to thrash her way free. “When Pipes and I were in there before, we built something of a barricade. Yeah, we thought the zombies were going to break through as we left, but…”

“It could still be up,” she finished with a sigh. “Or there could be more of them inside.”

“Well,” George said as he removed his machete and gave it an experimental swing, “that’s why you have chainsaw. Either way, something’s getting cut.”

“Was- was that a joke?” Leo sputtered as the man walked away. “Did Mr. Killing Machine just crack a joke?!”

“It’s a fact,” the man answered.

She leaned in close to Leo and whispered, “but also a joke. Not a good one, but a good effort.”

“I think we’re rubbing off on him!” The Texan beamed.

With that, they followed after Miskatonic University’s custodian, leaving the elderly zombie to whatever Fate had in store. They wandered the halls in silence, observing how much damage had occurred in such a short window of time. Many of the miniature greenhouses that housed numerous exotic species of flora had been smashed, covering the floor with jagged shards of glass. The various suits of armors from around the globe had been knocked from their pedestals, no doubt from people trying to pry free their decorative weapons. The numerous oil paintings that lined the halls appeared as if a satanic preschooler had gotten hold of them; bloody hand prints smeared across the one-of-a-kind pieces. Strangely, while there was blood everywhere (both the red and green varieties) there was not a single body of limb to be found. There were the undead, yes, but it struck her as odd that no one had escaped reanimation or that a limb wasn’t left behind.

Are they like piranhas? Eating bone and all, or-

“Seems like we’re in luck,” George half-chuckled, snapping Piper from her thoughts.

“That’s a first,” she and Leo scoffed, only to giggle when they realized what they did.

Insanity is setting in. Well, a deeper form of insanity.

The luck George was referring to was that the heavy oak door of Pickman’s office had been forced open, with the barricade of office furniture and art scattered across the floor. Their luck extended further, as while the room had been trashed with most of the horrific pictures of otherworldly monsters knocked to the floor (more good luck!), the empty wine bottles smashed, and the large, oak desk knocked askew. The secret passage she and Leo had escaped through was closed, but there were now deep claws marks on the false wall. All of which disturbed the untold years of dust and cigarette ash to the point she could feel her sinuses clogging before they even entered the room.

With a shake of his head, George sighed and calmly strode into the trashed office. “You’d think the fire would be the weirdest thing about ya’ll…”

She and Leo shared a quick smile before following the man in- only for the two of them to come to an abrupt halt at what awaited them inside.

“Sweet tofu tacos,” she gasped.

For tucked in the corner, just out of sight from the doorway, was the eviscerated corpse of a woman. Her legs were reduced to bloody nubs that ended at the knee; bite marks evident on the flesh and protruding bone. Her left arm was torn from her shoulder, while her right had most of the flesh ripped from the forearm and its fingers missing. The chest had been torn open, her ribs spread wide like boney wings and allowing her internal organs to fall out of the bloody cavity and spread across the floor like gory roots. In fact, the only way Piper could tell the body was female was by half-devoured face and the tattered remains of a designer dress.

“Congrats, you just ruined tacos for me,” Leo sighed before turning away from the gory scene. He brought a fist to his mouth and slowly inhaled through his nose. “Do you think I should burn it?”

She quirked her head to the side and examined the body, looking for any sign that it was going to try something. It has no legs, is missing an arm, eyes are ruined, and I’m no Annabeth, but I don’t think it could even crawl with its rib cage broken like that. Plus, its blood is red, not that green goo. Yeah, this one is staying dead. She looked to Leo and shook her head. “Save your strength. This is one that’s not getting back up.”

“Yeah, but we also thought that about that one girl I-”

“Cut the chatter and help me look, would ya?!” George barked from behind Pickman’s desk. The man throwing open drawer-after-drawer and rifling through the contents within. “The less time we spend here, the less we have to worry about being found, and the quicker we can get out of here!” He paused in his search and held up to his eyes what appeared to be a box of aging prophylactics before tossing them over his shoulder in disgust. “Unless you two are enjoying this sh*t show…”

She looked at the Texas Imp and shrugged, both of them splitting up without another word to search the dated office for Pickman’s piece of the plaque. Traversing across the office floor was a slow, gross process, as neither of them wanted to step on the bloody entrails spread across the floor; the tip of her left shoe grazed a piece of large intestine and she swore that she would burn her shoes when they escaped. They looked through ancient filing cabinets that creaked whenever they opened a drawer, finding years’ worth of unfinished sketches, ungraded homework, lesson plans, financial records, a folder titled “Dream Vacation,” and some nude Polaroids that would surely haunt their dreams. When they didn’t find so much as a paperclip between them, they began to check behind the frames of the paintings that still hung on the wall, as that made sense in the world of clichés they had been thrown into. While they did find a few hidden notes written on the backs (most of them grocery lists) and a baggy of someone’s stash, not a piece of the plaque was to be found.

“I guess we could search the floor?” Piper suggested, wrinkling her nose in disgust at the prospect of have to move the guts littering the ground. I am suddenly realizing how nasty using a chainsaw is actually going to be…

Leo’s expression matched her own at the suggestion, and she could hear the gears turning inside his head in search of an alternative. “Maybe it’s in the secret passage? I mean, if they were trying to hide it, that would be the most obvious-slash-secret place.”

“That sounds paradoxical, and therefore most likely correct,” she smirked before glancing over her shoulder to their third- to see George standing before the creepy picture of the leprechaun looking dude, staring at it as if he was in a trance. “Uh…. George? You okay there, bud?”

The man tilted his head like a confused dog as he continued to stare at the oil painting. “Why the hell is this here?”

“Because it gave students Vigo The Carpathian vibes and they needed to store it somewhere?” Leo suggested, slowly making his way over to the enthralled sanitation engineer. The son of Hephaestus stopping halfway there and turning around to make sure she followed.

“I think Leo’s right,” she said as she quickly but carefully joined her best friend. “Lock this thing up before it possesses someone and floods the sewer-”

George hocked a loogie at the center of the picture.

“Dude!” Leo cried in disgust. “Don’t spit on someone’s art just because you don’t like it!”

The man huffed and brought his shirt sleeve to the canvas. “Nooo, it shouldn’t be here because this ugly thing wasn’t gifted to the school until the 90s,” George explained as he began to gently rub his shirt in his own saliva. “And this office has been sealed for the better part of half a century,” he grunted before adding more spit to his “cleaning” efforts. “And this layer of dust on this ol’ copy of Invictus here supports that.” He took a step back and admired his work, allowing Leo and her to get a clear look at it. “Don’t make a lick of sense…”

Beauty Queen and The Real McShizzle Vs. Re-Animator - BobInTheComments (11)

“There’s another figure,” Leo gasped mockingly, which earned him a pointed look from George.

Piper bobbed her head in response while Leo shrunk behind her once more; her gaze focused on the newly revealed figure. It was of a burly man who stood behind the shriveled old man in the center of the darkness. He wore a suit and tie like the older man, with his hands resting in awkward positions on the latter’s shoulders. A thick, dark beard and mustache with equally thick hair covered his head, but left his massive forehead uncovered. The man looked as if he could barely contain his rage, as if he was moments away from strangling the smiling, old man.

The strangest thing though, was that he looked somewhat familiar, but she couldn’t place why.

“Hey, Leo? Is it just me, or does that guy-” something warm and wet wrapped around her right ankle. And before she had the chance to look down or even yelp, her feet were pulled out from under her.

“PIPER!”

Notes:

Apologies for not posting the last two weeks, work was hectic and then I caught a cold that sapped me of my energy.
Also, that fragment I've mentioned before is driving me nuts! I've been working on it for over a year now, but I can't get it to meet my expectations...

Anyway, onto this week's chapter!

Piper and Leo have joined forces with George to escape from the hell that is Miskatonic University. They're not "buddy buddy" as George is a complete stranger, but they do have each other's backs. Strength in numbers and really intense janitors, and all that jazz.

And hey! Foreshadowing! It was not-so-subtly hinted that there was a cult operating on campus (though that could be said for any fraternity and sorority?) and now that the End of Days has seemingly begun, the survivors have activated. Purge the nonbelievers! Sacrifice the flesh of the unworthy to the gods! Make them buy our cookies for our fundraiser! Alll that horrible stuff Piper, Leo, and George now have to avoid along with the zombies. They just cannot catch a break!

Finally, we got the return to Pickman's office in the search for one of the four keys to their freedom. The creepy portrait they saw earlier (titled "Invictus") apparently has more than just a shriveled old man lurking in the darkness... *shrugs* probably nothing.

Anyway, thanks for reading!
I hope you are all doing well, and I love hearing from ya'll! If you like my work, leave a kudos, bookmark, and subscribe for updates! And don't ever hesitate to leave a comment!

Chapter 13: Desinit In Tenebris

Summary:

Without a second thought, he unleashed a stream of flame at the undead monstrosity that would have made Festus weep tabasco-infused oil tears of pride.

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

A common occurrence in creature features that Leo absolutely loathed was the sudden pull back. He wasn’t sure if the trope had an official name (he was sure it did, but never bothered to look), but it was what he called it when typically cannon fodder characters were hyper focused on examining something strange, only to be violently pulled into the darkness by the big bad.

The first time he experienced the jump scare was when he, Cali, and Piper were watching Paranormal Activity, and the three of them screamed their heads off and refused to go anywhere alone for the rest of the night. He thought the pullback couldn’t get any worse than that, but then they watched Sam Raimi’s classic, Evil Dead, and the living forest scene forced him and Pipes to watch three hours of Barney The Dinosaur before they even thought about going to sleep.

However, with enough binging of horror movies, he learned when to anticipate the pull back and became completely desensitized to it.

Or so he thought…

Because when Piper was suddenly dropped to the floor and pulled back, he had never been more afraid.

Leo spun around and yelped something, as he ignited his left hand. “I got- Jesus…” He gasped as his brain connected the dots of what had taken Piper.

When they had entered Pickman’s office they had found the eviscerated remains of a woman propped up in the corner. Her limbs had mostly been brutally torn from her body, chunks of flesh had been bitten off exposing the bone beneath, eyes gouged or pulled out, and her chest had been pried open, spilling her organs across the floor as its ribs were spread like a cruel parody of wings. It was the deadest corpse he had ever seen, and the fact that its blood pooled around had not turned the luminescent green that zombies possessed confirmed its deadness.

“LEO! HELP ME!” Piper screamed as the woman’s large intestine dragged the Daughter of Aphrodite to its now pulsating body.

But apparently said deadness could be faked, as the corpse was far from a stiff.

The guts and organs that had laid lifeless on the floor now moved as if they had a mind of their own in a serpentine manner. Sections of the organs filling with glowing blood and while others drained to create movement, not unlike the soft robotics project he had seen at the club fair only hours ago. They swung back and forth across the floor, reaching further into the bohemian office while others drug the Daughter of Aphrodite back-

To the chest cavity that repeatedly opened and snapped close. Its shattered, jagged ribs a perverse set of jaws.

“I GOT YOU!” He shouted, charging headfirst after the woman who was one of the few constants of his life. A squirming segment of small intestine forced him to jump, and he peppered it with a fireball before landing nimbly on his feet. He launched another fireball at the gaping maw as he played the most messed up version of hopscotch in his life to get closer to Piper. “I GOT-” There was a flash of green in the corner of his eye, and before he could react, something whipped his face. The sudden impact combined with the instant, burning pain, knocking him off his feet.

And onto the mess of wriggling, searching organs.

“LEO!” He heard Piper cry in unbridled terror as the snake-like intestine coiled around him.

The left side of his face throbbed with a stinging pain he had never experienced before, and it took all his effort to keep his right eye open. The glowing guts were converging on him, adding more layers to what was already there, encasing him from the tips of his toes to his navel. “sh*t!” He extended his left arm out and ignited his fist as the grotesque cocoon continued to grow and flashes of giant snake movies flashed before his eyes. “I’M NOT GOING OUT LIKE AN IDIOT!”

He slammed his flaming fist into squirming organs and was rewarded with the sound of sizzling flesh and a loosening of his bonds. While holding his hand against the pulsating mass to burn through sounded like the smart thing to do, he knew it increased the thing’s chances to catch him, so he pulled his hand back almost immediately and slammed it down again.

“G-GET OFF ME!” Leo shouted as he began to buck and twist his body to break the burnt tendrils. He went for another savage blow, when something grabbed his elbow. “I SAID-”

“YOU’RE GOING TO BURN THIS PLACE TO THE GROUND!” The deep gruff voice of their (potentially psychotic) chaperone shouted, with the behemoth of a man entering Leo’s field of vision a moment later. “We’re in a room full of ancient canvas and oil paints, and you’re throwing fireballs around,” George growled as he bent over and sliced the organs binding him with one swipe of his bloodied machete, “idiot…”

He didn’t bother to thank the cankerous compadre, as he sprung to his feet and crossed the remaining distance between him and Piper- hopping from place-to-place in a Mario-esque fashion. “I got you, Pipes,” he panted as he wrapped his arms under her shoulders and pulled with all his might. “I got you!”

“So does Audrey f*cking Two!” The Daughter of Aphrodite shot back as she grabbed hold of his arms.

The corpse-turned-maw stretched its rib cage turned mouth wide in anticipation as the two of them continued to inch ever closer. Glowing green liquid poured on the floor as what organs remained in its chest cavity shifted, its stomach moving to the top and spraying out stomach acid that steamed when it mixed with the green ooze. The pulsations of its root-like intestines quickened as more moved to wrap themselves around Leo’s boots.

“THIS IS MY NIGHTMARE!” Piper shrieked as she continued to try and squirm her way free.

“You have really specific nightmares,” he grunted through clenched teeth as he tried to dig his heels into something on the slick floor. “Little help here, Georgie Boy?!” He cried over his shoulder.

The older man charged forward, crushing and popping the wriggling masses under his steel-toed boots, and slicing others with his machete. His every motion was a glowing blur, as there was hardly a spot on his body that wasn’t covered in the blood of the undead, and a small part of Leo thought that with the right rave music he would be viral video gold. His blade cut through the entrails with ease, though they continued to writhe on the floor like headless rattlesnakes. “Are you two good for-” A twisted bundle of the small intestine reared up from the floor and whipped George in the head, instantly knocking him out and sending him flying into a waiting web of organs.

“OH, FOR f*ck’S SAKE!” Piper cried in disbelief, momentarily ceasing her wiggling. “HE’S GODS DAMNED WORF!”

Leo blinked. “Wait, what?”

“Worf! Chief Security Officer of The Enterprise in TNG!” Piper explained, tilting her head back to look him in the eye. “Klingon badass who lost every fight to show how dangerous the villain of the week was!”

They slid another foot forward as Leo tried to process the woman’s words and make sense of the strange offense in her kaleidoscope eyes. “When the hades did you watch Star Trek?”

He felt her body go slack in his arms, and the slight irritation in her beautiful eyes was replaced by a familiar sorrow. “When you weren’t with me… I watched anything and everything I could stream when you and Calypso weren’t around. Just to keep myself distract-”

Oh, hell no! She’s not going down that path again! He adjusted his footing and refocused his efforts to free his best friend. “What was your favorite series?” He blurted, making Piper jump in is arms.

“Huh?”

“What’s your favorite Star Trek?” He elaborated, not daring to look at how close Piper’s legs were from the snapping corpse. “I’mma original series man myself. Kirk taught me everything I know about wooing women,” he laughed, wiggling his eyebrows.

Piper’s eyes went wide before snapping shut as a melodious laugh bubbled up from her throat. “OH MY GOD! That explains soooo much,” she hooted with laughter. “Now I know why every woman we met wanted to murder you!”

“I take offense to that,” he halfheartedly chuckled as he scanned the office for options. Piper’s chainsaw was in front of Pickman’s desk where she had dropped it, but he would have to drop her to retrieve it. Papers, folders, paintings, and paint littered the floor from their search for the placard piece, all flammable as George had explained, but nothing explosive that would really remedy their predicament. There was plenty of furniture to be knocked over, but nothing heavy enough to squash the nightmare fuel. “You never answered my question though. Which is your favorite?” He asked as he tried to think of some kind of Macguyver type solution with what he had on hand.

“Definitely TNG,” Piper said as she resumed her efforts to free herself. “It’s got the perfect balance of cheese and seriousness, while still maintaining a sense of optimism that was lost in the later series.”

To Leo, in that moment Piper was the poster child for ADHD as she continued to rattle on about the superiority of The Next Generation as she inched ever closer to a gruesome death. If the circ*mstances were different, he would have loved to pay attention to her rambling as it was nice to see her so passionate about something (and to get new material to taunt her with), but he was still focused on trying to find a solution. I have my suspenders, Piper’s hoodie, uh… my boots, our belts- A Greek Fire torch ignited as he realized the solution to their most immediate problem. “Take off your pants!”

Piper ceased her waxing on the merits of Picard over Kirk (Blasphemy!) and mechanically tilted her head back. “I’m sorry, what did you just say?”

“Pants! Off! Now!” He shouted, removing his left hand from under her arm and reaching for her belt. Hard did not even begin to describe the difficulty of unclasping the piece of leather with one hand, while upside down, and its owner struggling, but it was still somehow easier than taking off a bra.

“WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?!” Piper shrieked as he popped the belt open. “HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND, YOU PERV-” her pants slid down slightly, exposing her purple boxers, and her eyes went wide as she realized what he was doing. “What’s the plan?”

“I toss you back, and we kill this thing,” he hastily explained as her jeans dropped to her knees. “On three?” She nodded. “THREE!”

While he would never be an Olympic athlete, he would like to think he would have earned the bronze for how far he threw the Daughter of Aphrodite without (completely) destroying his back. The girl arcing through the air over the grasping organs as her pants shot forward. He may have even qualified for silver, if not for Piper crashing into Pickman’s desk with a painful “oof.”

“I’m okay!” Piper cried as she scrambled to her sock-covered feet, her shoes sacrificed with her pants.

And that was all Leo needed to hear.

Without a second thought, he unleashed a stream of flame at the undead monstrosity that would have made Festus weep tabasco-infused oil tears of pride. Flame washed over the disgusting parody of a mouth, the intense heat causing the green, bloated flesh to shrink and crack. Its rib cage stretched wide in a silent parody of a scream, before falling as the flesh supporting it turned to ash. The pulsating flesh it had repurposed as both sensory organs and limbs were severed from the main body by the inferno, rearing up in pain before slithering away-

Straight towards him.

Before he could adjust the angle of his spray, the living intestines (both large and small) launched themselves at him-

Only to be sliced in half by the magnificent sight of a pantless, chainsaw-wielding, Piper McLean charging into the fray.

“Ready to finish this?” Piper asked over the roar of the chainsaw, with a smirk and dangerous glint in her ever-shifting colorful eyes.

He grinned as he incinerated another group of intestines that had been attempting to flank them. “Just waiting on you, Beauty Queen.”

What followed he could only describe as a ballet of death. Piper viciously slicing and dicing any undead flesh that came within five feet of him, while he torched everything beyond. Not once did they come close to injuring one another. Piper pirouetting, sliding, diving, and twirling around his fiery attacks, while he effortlessly bobbed, ducked, and wove around her spinning chain of gory death. Everything was so second nature, so instinctive, that he found himself questioning why they had not paired up more often during the whole rigmarole with Gaea.

Probably because we would have kicked her butt within a week of crossing the Atlantic…

When he was satisfied that the little, eggroll-size pieces of intestines posed no threat (where the heck did she learn to use a chainsaw?!) he extinguished his hand, with Piper following suit by turning off her weapon. Without a word, they leaned against each other and tried to catch their breaths- not caring in the slightest that they were covered in gore or that room was on fire.

“We need to make sure George is okay,” he panted as they watched the flames consume a painting of the very building they were in. “And take one last look for the key doohickey.”

Piper inhaled and nodded, which may have actually been her just trying to rub some of the gore off her face into his shirt. “I’ll check on George, since I’m not fireproof.” She pushed herself off him, and they both cringed when a string of green ooze momentarily formed between them. “I’ll see if my jeans and shoes somehow survived too… I don’t feel like running around the zombie apocalypse in my boxers…”

He snorted. “Why? You have such lovely legs-” He slapped his hands to his mouth when he realized what he just said. His eyes wide with horror and his face hotter than the smoldering corpse in the corner. Brain, why did you let me say that?! Better question: why did you make me think that was an awkward thing to say?!

The Daughter of Aphrodite stared at him, with a light blush forming under the bits of flesh plastered to her face. “Well, they are infinitely better than your scrawny, chicken legs,” she chuckled after what felt like an eternity. Then with a shrug of her shoulders, she turned around and crossed the office to the still form of George, dragging her chainsaw behind her.

Leo ruffled his hair, relieved that he hadn’t just completely botched his oldest friendship. But that relief only left him confused. His relationship with Piper had been full of comments like almost since the very beginning, and this was hardly the first time he had seen her in her underwear. Sometimes when Tristan’s AC was in the fritz (which was almost always) the Oklahoma summers demanded that they shed some clothing during movie nights if they didn’t want to perish from heatstroke. The only time it was awkward was when Tristan would join them in similar attire (body of a movie star or not, it’s always weird to see someone’s dad in their underwear).

It’s the kiss, he realized as he watched Piper struggle to roll the George onto his back. It’s got my head twisted. The pantless young woman rolled the unconscious sanitation engineer over with a loud grunt. Just ignore it and everything will go back to normal. Remember what Beauty Queen means to you and why you can’t mess up the best thing in-

“Find anything yet?” Piper asked as she rapped her knuckles on George’s hockey mask, snapping Leo from his thoughts.

“Uh…” He spun around and quickly made a show of kicking aside squirming guts, papers, and art supplies. “Not ye-” the words died in his throat as he noticed that the picture of the creepy leprechaun and the angry Santa had fallen forward onto Pickman’s desk.

Revealing a piece of bronze wrapped in paper taped to the back of the canvas.

“Strike that,” Leo announced as he jogged over to the desk. “I definitely got something,” he smiled, removing the taped bundle. The paper was aged and brittle to the touch, and before he even saw the first bloodstain, he knew what it was. “Get over here, Pipes. Looks like we got another letter from dear ol’ Randy.”

“It’s official,” Piper groaned as she made her way over to him. Her steps slower and more deliberate so that her socks didn’t slip in the biohazard at their feet. “These have become a thing. An annoying, inescapable, thing…”

He snorted in agreement and unfolded the paper. Careful not to let the piece of bronze fall to the floor.

Beauty Queen and The Real McShizzle Vs. Re-Animator - BobInTheComments (12)

“It was the sixties, right?” Leo asked once he managed to reach the bottom of the faded note. “We can write off that last little bit of craziness as the result of drugs and alcohol, right?”

Piper exhaled and slowly shook her head. “You and I both know we can’t,” she groaned in frustration. “What it means is we probably need to worry about zombie Vikings now, on top of zombies, cultists, and- and- whatever the hell you call that!” She cried, gesturing to the burning corpse. “And we probably shouldn’t go to sleep until we get out of here!”

“Wasn’t planning on it,” he muttered, noticing how close Piper was standing next to him. Stop it! Focus on the conversation! He folded the bloodstained paper and stuffed it in his pocket. “Though I don’t think we have to worry about Annabeth’s cousin coming after us just yet.”

“What?”

“Eh, something you weren’t around for,” he shrugged. “And even if Magnus Cobain were to turn, zombie Courtney Love would take care of things.”

Piper blinked. “I only understood part of what you said, but holy f*ck, that was dark.”

“Blame our current environment for that bit of darkness,” Leo chuckled as he held up the bronze piece for them to examine. “But check this out.”

It was clear by looking at the piece of bronze that it was indeed only a portion of the whole plaque. A weird repeating pattern of crowns hanging from intertwining ivy with eyes looking peeking between the gaps running along the left side and bottom of the piece. The name “Richard Pickman” occupied the mid-right side of the tarnished metal in raised, Gothic lettering, ending with a comma at the right edge. If that would have been everything, it would have been a major letdown for something that they desperately needed to escape the campus, but flipping the piece over saved it.

The back had been divided up into hundreds of little squares that appeared to be identical. However, running his finger across the surface revealed that every section had been carved out to varying depths that were imperceptible to the human eye. To most such a detail would have been overlooked, and even those that did notice would have thought it was simply some manufacturing imperfection. But to someone familiar with Daedalus’ work, it was further proof of the inventor’s genius. The plaque was indeed a key, each square a tooth that corresponded to a tumbler on the fountain’s platform, creating a nigh uncrackable lock.

“You’re creepily running your fingers over that hunk of metal and grinning like an idiot,” Piper observed with a small laugh. “Care to explain why?”

He turned to face her, hardly registering that he was within her personal bubble. “It’s definitely the real deal, Pipes! Ol’ Daddy-lus is the only person who could have designed and built something so deceptively simple as this! Basing a combination lock off the depths of these squares creates an almost infinite number of combin-”

“What the hell?!” George’s ever-so-friendly voice cried, causing both demigods to nearly jump out of their skins. “I get my ass handed to me and- where the hell are your pants?! I could be dying and you two decide to play hanky-panky?!”

“Five feet apart,” George growled as he stalked down the hall, passing the zombie pinned to the wall; still trying to remove crowbar from its throat.

Leo tossed his head back and groaned. “We weren’t doing anything! How many times do we have to tell you to get it through your thick head?”

“I took my pants off so I wouldn’t get eaten!” Piper chimed in, rolling her eyes. “’Cause, you know, Zombies?!”

“And we’re eighteen!” He added, flame broiling the zombie as he past- Pickman Hall was going to burn down anyway after what they did in the deceased artist’s office. “Legally adults! You-” The hulking man stopped mid-stride, and Leo instantly shut up. Uh oh…

“I’ve known a lot of kids that thought that,” the man slowly stated as a strange, silence descended upon them. “And I’m sure they wish they would have stayed kids.” He lifted his hockey mask and wiped his brow, revealing that his face had gone ghost white. “Besides,” George gulped, “I don’t need you two distracted by hormones with the literal f*cking apocalypse going on around us.” Without sparing another look, he gave an annoyed grunt, pulled his mask back down, and resumed his stalking. “Thank God your clothes weren’t incinerated…”

“I didn’t think being a janitor would be that traumatizing,” Piper whispered just loud enough for Leo to hear as George disappeared around a corner.

Visions of George comforting overworked, over-stressed students with words of wisdom, cups of coffee, and terrible dad jokes flashed filled his head, but he couldn’t make any of the hypothetical scenarios believable. Every instance having George look like he was Syfy’s CGI monster of the week. However, he could see George telling a crying student to move so he could finish mopping in glorious, crystal-clear 4K.

“Cleaning up puke can do that to a man,” he whispered back, making the Daughter of Aphrodite snort with laughter. “The chemical fumes-” he rounded the corner and instantly ignited his fist as a blur of vivid red headed straight for them.

The red blur skidded to a stop just out of George’s reach and threw up its hands. “WOAH! WOAH! WOAH! I’M HUMAN!”

The red blur spoke the truth, as standing before them was a gore stained young woman. The newcomer was slightly taller than Piper (meaning she towered over him) with an athletic build and surprisingly white skin for her build. A pair of once white sneakers covered her feet, with the next article of clothing being a pair of blue gym shorts, and then an orange T-shirt (of an all too familiar shade) with Cephie the Cephalopod happily waving its tentacles emblazoned on the chest. Her eyes were an otherworldly sky blue, that seemed to glow in the dim hall, and her customized pixie-cut hair was an intense shade of red that was unforgettable.

“You’re from the tour!” Leo cried, remembering her overwhelming peppiness. Cringe. It was Cringe and you know it.

“Lisa, right?” Piper asked with a furrowed brow as she lowered her chainsaw.

The redhead opened her mouth to answer, but George cut her off. “Names don’t matter,” he said, raising his machete. “What matters is: were you bit?”

“I- I- I- I,” the newcomer stammered, her blue eyes locked on blade less than and inch from her throat. George keeping the gap constant as the redhead tried to step back. “I-”

“She wasn’t bit,” a smooth, cool voice called out from the shadows.

An even taller woman stepped into the light (gods damnit…), with long, raven hair, arresting cool blue eyes behind a pair of Buddy Holly’s, and an ivory complexion that would have been the envy of all of Piper’s half-siblings. “Neither of us were,” the ravenette said as she continued her approach, dragging a dented and bent section of pipe behind her. “We’d be happy to let you… examine us if you can’t take us at our word.”

He looked to George, holding his breath for the sanitation engineer to give his answer. Common sense, big guy! Strength in numbers!

As if reading his mind, the masked man lowered his machete. “Okay,” he muttered. “Plan is to get the hell out of Dodge as soon as possible. If you got any problems with that you can keep on walk’n,” the man said, jerking a thumb over his shoulder. “If you don’t, make introductions, an make ‘em quick.”

The taller girl huffed in amusem*nt and rested her weapon on her shoulder. “I’m Allison, and this is my partner-”

The redhead let out an almost exaggerated sigh of relief and began to massage her throat. “As Piper said, I’m Lisa!” She chirped, giving them a quick, two-fingered salute with her free hand.

And every alarm, and red flag he possessed went off.

Notes:

This isn't so much as a day early, rather it's a week late....

Yeah, sorry about the delay everyone. Work and life picked up, so I wasn't able to write a whole lot the last few weeks. I knew I wouldn't be able to finish the next chapter of Bonds quick enough, but I thought I had enough free time to crank out a chapter of this. I was half wrong haha.

I'm going to call chapters like this one "Boss Fights" wherein Piper and Leo face off against a new variation of the undead. In this case, the boss was a zombie that had become something like an ambush predator due to its inability to move. The obvious inspiration for this form was a Venus flytrap, with its chest/ribs serving as its new mouth, and its internal organs both the trigger hairs and snares. As I mentioned in the chapter, motion created by a hydraulic process of filling and draining different sections with blood. I thought it was a novel idea for the first boss fight (AKA the tutorial) and give you all a glimpse of just what kind of power Dr. West's reagent possesses.

Speaking of which, we will be checking up with the good doctor soon...

And of course, we have that little meet up at the end. I'm positive Leo and Piper will get along swimmingly with Lisa and Allison! And I'm sure Lisa and George will be BFFs!

Alrighty, thank you all for reading! It's always a pleasure to hear from all of you (even if I forget to respond).
Thanks for all your support! I hope you all have a pleasant time until we meet again :)

Chapter 14: Tenebrae Adolescit

Summary:

“Janitorial services should have been here by now,” the doctor stated dryly as he observed the uncharacteristically filthy hall.

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

With one final slice and a quick tug, Mr. Tobe Hooper’s colon was free. The polyp-ridden organ that had been the cause of the man’s demise was then carefully removed through the opening on the man’s abdomen and set into a bloodied surgical pan.

“Extraction completed with minimal damage to the organ,” Dr. West stated for the surgical theater’s recording equipment as he removed his gloves with a practiced flourish. “Only visible damage was just above the anus and the Tenia Omentalis.” He stepped away from the operating table and walked over to the overflowing biohazard waste bin, and deposited the used gloves atop the ever growing pile of discarded surgical equipment and flesh. “Both instances the result of force being administered to the decaying flesh.” The blond man grabbed the stainless steel cart Mr. Hooper’s colon rested on, and started to walk toward the theater’s exit before realizing he almost forgot a crucial note in his documentation. “Mr. Hooper’s appendix was removed sometime prior to this procedure.”

Satisfied that his notes were without lack of detail, Dr. West pushed the cart through the theater’s bloodstained double-doors and into the vacant halls of the Allan Halsey School of Medicine.

“Janitorial services should have been here by now,” the doctor stated dryly as he observed the uncharacteristically filthy hall.

For as long as he had been teaching at Miskatonic University the School of Medicine had been impeccably clean, with not so much as a scrap of paper remaining on the floor for more than an hour. All due to an overzealous staff led by a giant of a man, who were on call around the clock and did hourly patrols for any offending filth.

Now though, the floors were now covered with discarded papers, knocked over portraits, torn clothing, and overturned antique furniture. All plastered in place with a mixture of blood and gore that alternated between slippery and sticky to walk upon. All of it violated multiple health code violations, and would sure get the university’s accreditation pulled if reported.

“Must be a dispute with the union,” West whispered as he rounded the corner that would take him to his office. “This better be resolved soon, or this will have a negative impact on my research,” he remarked as he spun the cart around and backed into his office-

Only to pause mid-step.

The fact that something could interrupt his research should have elicited some form of emotional response from him. Apprehension that he may have reached yet another impasse at such a crucial time, choler that the fault lied in the indolence of others, or perhaps even sorrow that an opportunity to complete his life’s research was potentially slipping away. There should have been a reaction to the possible change in circ*mstances, but there was nothing save the strange sensation of its absence. The easiest way he could think of comparing it to was the misfiring of an engine.

He tilted his head and brought his right hand up to his nose, recalling the mass of bloodied, darkened grey matter he had extracted only a few short hours ago. His amygdala, the part of his brain that was responsible for emotion. For such an injury he should have rushed to his colleagues or the nearest hospital for medical attention, he realized. His research could wait-

A strange tingle started at the back of his neck and rapidly spread throughout his body. Every vein and artery momentarily glowing an eerie green that could be seen through his epidermis, as a cacophony of hisses, grunts and, and intelligible murmurs filled his head.

“Hmmph. This is better,” Dr. West announced to the empty halls as he adjusted his glasses. “Emotions are nothing more than a fruitless distraction.”

With a practiced hand, the syringe was effortless inserted into the hepatic flexure of Mr. Hooper’s colon.

“Administering one milliliter of reagent into the deceased’s colon,” he stated as he slowly and carefully pushed the plunger down; the glowing solution emerging from the needle and spreading throughout the decaying flesh as if it had a mind of its own. “Note that the administered dosage likely exceeds the necessary amount needed for reanimation, as previous experiments have shown one milliliter is enough to reanimate an entire cadaver. Further tests will be conducted to determine if-”

The coiled organ tensed up on the stainless steel slab.

“If the delay between administration and reanimation is dependent on the size of the dosage,” the doctor added as he quickly sidestepped to the other end of the gurney and produced a second syringe of the green reagent. “The same dosage will now be given to Mr. Wan’s kidney...”

Quicker than before, he jabbed the syringe into the kidney lying opposite of the colon. The needle disappearing into the flesh between the renal artery and vein- one of the few places free of the black cysts that had contributed to its owner’s death. The green momentarily seeped up the through the frail artery and vein but stopped short of the smooth cuts before being sucked back into the organ.

“Previous experiments have suggested that subjects who have been received the reagent can survive even the most horrific wounds,” Dr. West continued as the cyst-covered kidney began to pulsated on the table; the last remnants of its dark blood pooling beneath it. “After Mr. Carpenter’s vivisection, his organs and tissues were observed to heal without scarring despite being separating from the body for over an hour.”

The coiled colon relaxed and slowly spread across the shining gurney, leaving behind a trail of glowing green mucus. Mr. Wan’s kidney meanwhile simple continued to expand and contract in place, with the only change being that some of its numerous black cysts had ruptured from the locomotion; leaking a yellow, odorous ooze.

He fanned his hand in front of his face in an attempt to blow away the foul odor of pus and formaldehyde, but continued his narration. “This experiment is to observe what occurs when an organ is introduced to a foreign element. In this case, Mr. Hooper’s colon to Mr. Wan’s kidney.” With one hand, he reached up and pulled the overhead camera closer to the table and then glanced over to his computer monitor to verify the image was not out of focus. “While the two organs do not directly interact with one another, during an ureterosigmoidostomy, the ureters of the kidneys may be temporarily grafted to the colon to create a means of-”

The colon bunched up before immediately straightening itself up, the sudden movement shooting the organ across the reflective surface to the diseased kidney. The colon’s cecum collided with the kidney, knocking to the left by a little over four centimeters, as the rest of the organ quickly coiled around the cyst-covered organ like a boa constrictor.

“-waste evacuation,” he finished, tilting his head slightly to the right at the improbable movement. A spasm from reanimation?

The colon continued to tighten its coils around the kidney, causing cyst-after-cyst to burst from the increasing pressure and expel more of the foul smelling mixture of pus, blood, and reagent. A coil slipped from the slick mixture, and the kidney “popped” free of the serpent-like captor; shooting upward and across the gurney before landing with a wet “plop.” The colon quickly uncoiled itself as its rectum rose up like a king cobra. A green froth spilling onto the gurney from its rapidly expanding and contracting anus.

“Experiment is yielding... unexpected results,” Dr. West remarked as the colon’s “head” turned its sightless gaze to him.

The colon turned away from him and began to slither its way to its prey by expanding and contracting its many Haustra. Its movements were at first jerky and uncoordinated, making its path wider than necessary with little forward movement. But with each pulsation, the musculature synced up more and more, until it moved as efficiently as any reptile as it headed straight for its prey. How it could determine the location of the kidney without any obvious sensory organs was a question he would have to explore later with the appropriate equipment and conditions.

“Mr. Hooper’s colon is exhibiting almost animalistic behavior despite lacking a nervous system,” he commented as the colon once more began to encircle the beating kidney. “While there are many creatures in the animal kingdom that lack neural centers, mostly marine invertebrates, only sponges lack any form of a nervous system-” The colon reared up and its anus flared, releasing a gaseous hiss. “A human colon is far more complex than a simple sponge, and is not intended to function in such a manner. Even if the neurons are firing in such a way to generate such coordinated behavior, the question of what is controlling them remains unanswered. However, if we recontextualize the problem from viewing the colon as one entity to multiple, then the exhibited behavior begins to make sense. Still, there is the question of why Mr. Wan’s kidney has not exhibited similar behavior.”

The colon struck the kidney like a cobra -a strange behavior considering it lacked anything resembling fangs- as it coiled around the oozing organ. The faux serpent reared back, rectum slathered in pus from a cyst it had burst from its strike, then struck its prey twice in rapid succession; rupturing more cysts with every strike.

However, the organ’s fervent onslaught was a double-edged sword.

As the colon tightened its coils and lashed out at the kidney, the polyps within it began to rupture and tear. Small pieces of cancerous flesh flew from the anus-turned-mouth along with a mixture of blackened blood and glowing reagent. The self-inflicted wounds excited the reagent in the body part’s cells to repair the damage almost as soon as it transpired-

Triggering the reagent’s imperfection.

The colon grew flusher with each strike. The coiled organ’s temperature rising to dangerous highs from the contaminated reagent.

“Note that Mr. Hooper’s colon displays no sense of self-preservation,” Dr. West dispassionately stated as the serpentine body part began to slow. “Further support of my hypothesis that my reagent-”

The colon contacted with the slick, grotesque kidney only for a jagged, crystalline, yellow lance to erupt from within; impaling the colon’s rectum and holding it in place. The surprise attack made the colon loosen its coils on the kidney as it tried to pull itself free, but dozens of crystalline spears burst from the surface of the blackened kidney like so many quills. The colon- now completely unwound from the kidney -wildly thrashed about on the gurney in a desperate and vain attempt to free itself, while the kidney’s thin ureter forced itself into the pierced rectum.

Mr. Hooper’s organ’s flailing only intensified at the violation. Further tearing its own flesh on the calcium oxalate growths and putting itself ever closer to systemic failure by hyperthermia. In what had to be one final attempt at freedom, the colon started to loop around its attacker-

Only to come to a sudden halt.

Dr. West furrowed his brow at the stationary organ and was just about to state the experiment had failed, when suddenly it began to move in tandem with Mr. Wan’s kidney. The bean-shaped organ sliding side-to-side as the colon propelled it forward in a manner very similar to that of a hammerhead shark. The strange chimera of body parts circled around the perimeter of the now gore covered gurney twice, as more of the crystalline quills grew down the length of its “back.” It went around halfway, then turned to “face” him-

And launched itself off the gurney.

“As I was saying,” Dr. West continued as he effortlessly snatched the amalgamation of flesh out of the air by its “tail.” The newborn creature releasing flatulent hisses and thrashing in every direction until the veins in his hands flashed green; instantly making the creature still. “This further supports my hypothesis that my reagent not only reanimates dead cells, but bestows cellular sentience upon the recipient.” He tossed the spiked chimera to the floor, and it immediately slithered to the furthest corner of the room. “Further experimentation is required...”

Notes:

Happy Halloween! ...a week late.

Yeah, as some of you know, my mom had her hip replaced last week and her recovery is requiring a good amount of my attention. She's getting stronger really fast, and has regained a lot of her independence, so I should be free to write more now XD

Anyway, just a short chapter to check in with ze good Dr. West and learn a bit more about the reagent and its effects. From this, we can understand a bit better why the zombies really only stay dead when Leo turns them to ash. Not only do they regenerate, but they can adapt at a level that was only hinted at before.

Piper: f*ck you, Bob! Zombies were bad enough, and now we have to fight the Thing?!

Leo: This is horse sh*t! We don't have Wilford Brimley to help us!

Thanks guys, love you too!

The other obvious thing is that the doctor is, uh, going through some changes. *shrugs* I'm sure it's nothing to worry about.

Thank you all for reading! It means so much to me!
If you liked what you read, be sure to leave a kudos, bookmark, and subscribe!*
And please don't hesitate to leave a comment! I love hearing from all of you, and your feedback helps me grow as an author!
So until next time, I want you all to remember you are all awesome!

*this fic is sponsored by Raid: Shadow Legends.

Chapter 15: Tenebrae in Tenebris

Summary:

To put it in the simplest possible terms, Lisa and Allison made her skin crawl. The overly peppy redhead and the frigid ravenette, while pleasant and friendly enough, were just off. Their movements too perfect, expressions hollow, and the emotions in their eyes never syncing up with what they were supposed to express- the seething rage in Lisa’s eye transforming her hyperactivity to an unsettling mania. To make matters worse, every word they spoke felt as if there was a double meaning to that only they were privy of.

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

In many a horror flick, especially those of the zombie apocalypse variety, it is not uncommon for the protagonists to encounter another group of survivors during the chaos. If such an event were to occur, then it is all but guaranteed that one of three possible outcomes.

First, the two groups clash almost instantly. Whether it be over lack of resources, the need for human sacrifices, or past personal grudges, the result would be a desperate, bloody fight for survival that only ended when the antagonist party was wiped out or the protagonists fled after several painful losses.

Second, the groups decide that there is strength in numbers and agree to travel together- for a time. In most instances of this scenario, the viewer immediately pickup on the tenseness between the new and old, and would know that at some point there would be blood. However, there where instances of this where the betrayal is not seen coming, but that takes either a genius or an utter hack of a writer to pull off; the latter being the more common and absolutely eye-rolling.

The third and final was known as The Shaun of The dead and was by far the rarest (given that it only happened in Shaun of The Dead). In this scenario, the protagonist group would encounter another group that was composed of gender swapped versions of themselves. The new group would be keen to join up, but for reasons derived from ego or fragile masculinity, the protagonist would refuse, and the two would go their separate ways. Later, it would be revealed that the second group survived with little issue, while most of the protagonist group were killed.

And those two look NOTHING like Leo or George, Piper thought, stealing a quick glance at redhead happily humming beside her.

To put it in the simplest possible terms, Lisa and Allison made her skin crawl. The overly peppy redhead and the frigid ravenette, while pleasant and friendly enough, were just off. Their movements too perfect, expressions hollow, and the emotions in their eyes never syncing up with what they were supposed to express- the seething rage in Lisa’s eye transforming her hyperactivity to an unsettling mania. To make matters worse, every word they spoke felt as if there was a double meaning to that only they were privy of.

These two are going to try and kill us the first chance they get, she thought, suppressing the urge to gulp. Fearful that the slightest hint of awareness would cause the predatory partners to strike; with Leo most likely to be their first victim given how close Allison was to him. The statuesque woman’s blood covered hand swinging close to the small of his back.

You’re just being paranoid, a small annoying voice that sounded awfully like a certain Daughter of Athena sighed from the depths of her subconscious. Prolonged grief, combined with the dire circ*mstances, a borderline addiction to horror movies, and long repressed feelings acted upon is-

“Shut the f*ck up, Annabeth,” she hissed under her breath, as they rounded yet another corner of the macabre maze that were the maintenance tunnels beneath Pickman Hall. Unless you want me to make you kiss your ass again…

I was just trying to help.

Well, you’re not… Piper frowned as she adjusted her hold on her gore covered chainsaw. There’s something fishy about those two, and it has NOTHING to do with me kissing Leo. And yeah, I have a bit of a crush on him. But you know what, Annabeth? We’re practically adults now. When we get a minute where we don’t have to worry about having our faces eaten by the undead or stabbed in the back by these bimbos, we’ll talk about it. Maybe something will happen, maybe it won’t. Also, why the hell would you think you’re my voice of reason? I freak’n hate you! You with your whiny I’m-repressed-because-I’m-blonde bullsh*t and how you-

“Alright, this place looks like a good place to stop,” George announced as they came to a ‘T’ in the tunnels. The gigantic sanitation engineering removing his Jason Voorhees-style hockey mask with one hand as he leaned his muscular frame against an asbestos covered pipe. “Let’s take minute to rest, introduce ourselves a little better if ya want, and plan our next steps.”

“Not to sound rude, but I will let myself get bitten before doing another icebreaker,” Leo chuckled as he took his place next to her as the two newcomers went to wall opposite of them (another sign of their inevitable betrayal). She felt no awkwardness with the teen standing so close, nor could she discern obvious awkwardness from him. The only things different from normal is he always had his eyes on one of the strangers and he was careful to keep his injured hand out of their sight.

Smart move, McShizzle. Smart.

“Honestly, same,” Lisa giggled, the redhead leaning her head on her partner’s shoulder. The newcomer continued to giggle as she gazed up into Allison’s cold, blue eyes. “Besides,” she purred, making Piper want to hurl as the hairs on the back of neck stood up. “We already know you two from the tour. Leopold and Flutist,” the young woman announced with baffling levels of confidence.

Piper blinked. …Wut.

Beside her, Leo’s body began to shake. Then he snorted like a pig before bursting out in laughter. “Flutist? You think her name is Flutist?!” The Son of Hephaestus howled at a joke even the writers of The Big Bang Theory would toss in the trash. “Leopold I get, but Flutist?”

“That’s not your name?” Lisa asked.

“That is no one’s name,” Allison sighed, dragging one hand across her partner’s stomach. It was a simple thing, one not uncommon with (grossly) intimate couples, and should have been of little note. However, the taller girl’s nails left frayed red fabric in their wake and creating gashes in the green legs of the Cephie The Cephalopod iron-on.

How the redhead continued to beam at her lover despite what had to be painful pressure baffled and further disturbed Piper.

“Piccolo?” Lisa asked as she reached up and hooker her arm around the taller woman.

“Piper. My name is Piper.”

The redhead’s eyes widened, and for a split second, she was positive the girl’s blue eyes flashed red. “Ooooh! Sorry. Knew it was a woodwind though,” Lisa smirked. There was an unmistakable hint of sarcasm laced in the coed’s voice that combined with her smile spoke volumes.

Like just about everyone else in this place, she’s a racist bitch, Piper mentally growled while offering Lisa a smile of her own. “And yet you went with Piccolo and Flutist,” she said with a sickly-sweet laugh; the same kind of laughter she used before telling Drew to f*ck off.

“Aaaaaanway,” Leo chimed in, well aware of the rage building within her. The Texan having to on more than one occasion literally drag her away from fights at both Wilderness School and Camp Half-Blood that had been preceded by the same laugh- and had bandaged her up as well. “I supposed we should skip the remaining chit chat and get down to brass tax.”

“The sooner the better,” George grunted. The gray-haired man who thought mutton chops were still a good look removed a crowbar from his belt of tools-turned-weapons and slid it into a makeshift holster on his left elbow; replacing a machete currently embedded into the throat of one of the undead. “It’ll be dark soon…”

“Well… that’s not ominous in the slightest,” The Son of Hephaestus muttered as Lisa shot the ripped man a hateful look, only stopping when her partner delivered a swift kick to the ankle. “Okay, to put it simply: we’re trying to escape this hellacious school with our lives-”

Allison huffed as Lisa reached up and began to poke and prod at her Buddy Hollies. “Obviously…”

“But to do that, we have to get all four of these babies-” Leo shoved his good hand into his pocket and withdrew the small rectangular piece of bronze inscribed with the name “Pickman”. She watched as he gave it a quick spin for the two women, and the piece of metal caught the dim light of the fluorescent bulbs above, and for the first time she got a good luck at the intricate grid on its back. “All four make up a key that will allow us to open the campus’ main gate and let us boogie on out of here.”

“Then we can rock on to Electric Avenue to freedom,” Allison said in a voice that was just a little too flirty for her taste.

Normally a girl saying anything something that could be considered remotely flirty would get Leo’s gears going and she would be subjugated to groan inducing one-liners until she dragged him away or a monster of goddess (usually Khione) attacked. Such exchanges were rarely serious for Leo, nor was he attempting to lead the obviously uninterested girl, guy, or folk along, rather it had become one of his ways to rouse- if momentarily -from her grief. He had even gone so far as to have Calypso try it once, but they more-or-less had to flee the local Tastee Freeze when every single teenager (and a few creeps) tried to give the Daughter of Atlas their numbers.

But he didn’t…

“…Yeah.” He stated slowly as he returned the plaque piece to his pocket. “Something like that.”

He’s getting bad vibes from them too.

“Uh? Question?” Lisa asked, timidly raising her hand above her head. “Why don’t you just climb over the fence? Or ram a car through the gate? Dig a tunnel? Go through the sewers? Or- MMFF!!”

“Sorry about her. She tends to ramble about things she shouldn’t,” the spectacled student practically growled as she pressed her hand harder against the still talking redhead. “But it’s no coincidence that we found you three.”

“What do you mean?” Piper asked, two fingers twitching to pull the chainsaw’s ripcord at the first hint of trouble. And here’s the part where they try to lure us in just so they can try to take our stuff… Let’s see how that works for you when you’re up against a chainsaw wielding psycho, a living flamethrower, and Janitor Jason Voorhees…

“Dr. West sent us to find you!” Lisa happily chirped, prying her partner’s hand from her now bruised and swollen lips.

The ripcord slipped free of her fingers at the mention of the doctor; one of few people on the campus tour that didn’t eye them like they were going to steal something. The Steve Buscemi of doctors even making sure she and Leo were not blamed for a fight they did not start and stitching up Leo in the aftermath.

“Dr. West? He’s alive?”

“Yup!” Lisa exclaimed, popping the ‘p’ with enthusiasm. “He’s currently holed up in his lab, working on a way to undo all this chaos!”

“The good doctor was able to find what caused this cannibal chaos,” Allison continued.

Faster than Piper could blink, Lisa appeared before Leo with a Cheshire grin plastered on her face. “Spoiler alert: it was your blood!” She cried, poking Leo in the chest as he jumped back in surprise.

If she and Leo were in a typical horror movie, such a revelation would have been a devastating shock to them both. Leo would have tried to deny it while she dropped to her knees in tears while calling him a maniac and damning him to hell- preferably while sounding like Charleston Heston. A near irreparable rift would have formed in their relationship, that would only end when one of them sacrificed their life for the other.

But she figured they had at least a brain cell between them.

She may not have directly stated it before, but she knew that it was no coincidence that a zombie outbreak would occur on their college visit. It was just a matter of figuring out how the Fates decided to connect them to it.

Leo used the Physician’s Cure. There are traces of it in his blood, his blood got in Dr. West’s reagent- most likely during the fight- it got corrupted, someone got exposed to it, and here we are, Piper thought, bobbing her head with each link in the chain of events. I see the Fates have outsourced their plots to be written by Asylum or Full Moon Entertainment. She huffed and shook her head in disgust and disappointment.

“Uh… Thought you two would be a lil bit more shocked by that?” The redhead said, narrowed eyes darting between her and Leo.

She and Leo shrugged. “Eh?”

George leaned forward, his joints popping like firecrackers, and eyed the two demigods. “Doesn’t surprise me a bit, if I’m perfectly honest…”

Leo let out an exaggerated huff. “Thanks for the vote of confidence, George.”

“Anyway, the good doctor is certain that with your help he can synthesize a cure,” the taller T.A. continued. “A few vials of your blood, and then we can return everyone to nor-”

“Horsesh*t,” George barked as he crossed his arms.

“What was that?” Lisa hissed, and this time Piper was sure her eyes flashed a hateful red.

“I said that’s a load of Grade-A horsesh*t,” the man said with a shake of his head. “’Been working here the better part of my life, and someone is always close to a cure. HIV and Aids in the eighties, swine flu and mad cow disease in the nineties, bird flu and SARS in the naughts, and every color and shade of cancer has been mentioned at least once or twice.” He shook his head with quiet chuckle. “And not one damn cure has been found in all that time. So, call me a cynic, but I doubt your boss can whip a cure before we get eaten.”

sh*t, he’s right…

“And what would you know?!” Lisa snarled. “You’re just a stupid janitor! I-” Allison tried to grab her partner’s shoulder, but the redhead shrugged her off as George stood straighter. The man clenched his jaw shut and hands into fists, while the T.A. held her arms low and wide like she was going to lunge at him like Wolverine. “You’re a monster how ruins everything! You-”

“Hey!” She shouted, making everyone’s heads snap in her direction. She hadn’t planned to say or do anything other than trying to prevent a fight, but the furious gaze of the near-rabid redhead told her she needed to do something, lest she wanted to be attacked instead of George. This chick has no chill! She’s either obnoxiously peppy or a wild beast!

A light clicked on in her head, and she knew what she had to do.

She just hoped it would work better than her attempt to help Leo.

“You two are serious about Dr. West working on a cure?” She asked, calling upon her Charm Speak. Unlike before, she wasn’t using her long-neglected mother-given ability to do something that would have been iffy even at her A-game. Instead, she was starting simple by determining if the newcomers were lying. “He’s still alive?”

The sound of her voice washed over the two college students and extinguished the burning rage in Lisa’s blue eyes. The tension left their bodies and their eyes glazed over as somewhat goofy grins spread across their faces. Leo shot her a proud smile and a thumbs up, while George muttered something to himself about more magical bullsh*t and being old.

“Yes, Dr. West is working on a way to fix his reagent,” Allison stated without emotion.

“And when he left him, he was still moving,” Lisa supplied with just a hint of her usual energy.

“And you need my blood to make it all work?” Leo asked. “And not like all of it, right? Like a vial or bag and then a nice nurse gives me orange juice and cookies amount of blood?”

Piper shuddered, remembering the time she donated blood and was given a Thin-Mint along with her juice. The shock from the conflicting tastes combined with low blood pressure had nearly dropped her to her knees.

“We- We cannot answer that,” the long-haired girl said, her red-haired girlfriend nodding along in agreement.

A shiver ran down Piper’s spine and judging by the way George leaned back and Leo’s widening eyes, they experienced the same. “What do you mean?”

The girls shrugged.

“We don’t know how much blood the doctor needs,” Allison answered.

“But he was always ethical,” Lisa added with a perfectly straight face. “He would not hurt you.”

She looked to Leo and answered the unsaid question with a shrug of his own.

Despite the positive experience they had with Dr. West, they barely knew a thing about the guy. He seemed to have nothing but good intentions with his research to revive the dead and was seemingly trying to fix the chaos surrounded them, but there were far too many unknowns.

How many times have we seen the supposedly noble doctor turn out to be a monster who forgot his humanity in pursuit of their goal? She mentally asked the Son of Hephaestus with a single raised eyebrow.

I’d have to call NASA to compute that number, Beauty Queen, she imagined Leo thinking as he gave her a crooked grin in return.

“Ya’ll better not be seriously considering this,” George sighed in frustration, barging into their silent conversation. “’Cause basic common f*cking sense would tell you how stupid it is!” The man cried, spittle flying into the faces of both demigods. “Just look at some of those poor bastards shambling around out there and look me in the eye and tell me they can be cured, and I know ya can’t! There ain’t no shot or pill that fixes a half-eaten face!”

“Valid point,” Leo gulped. “But-”

“And did you forget about those assholes in the yellow robes? ’Cause I sure as sh*t won’t.” The sanitation engineer growled, voice little more than a whisper that made her blood run cold. “The way they hunted down that poor girl tells me they’ll stumble across that doctor sooner or later…”

“We-”

George rose to his full imposing height as his gray, lifeless eyes drifted over the four of them. “Do what you want,” he sighed after a long moment. “But the best bet for everyone is to get those gates open. Let the cops or army in here to get the place under control and clean out those cultists bastards.” He pulled down his hockey mask and turned away. “Make your choice now-”

“YOU!” She and Leo cried at the same time, rushing forward to stand in the safety of the man’s shadow.

The old man turned around, and through the holes in his mask she could see the surprise written on his face. “Huh?”

“We’re with you, Georgie boy,” Leo nodded. “Always were!”

“Told you not to call me that…” The man warned, though it sounded less threatening than before. The edge to his voice having lost some of its sharpness.

“We’re team Common Sense!” She added, nodding along with Leo. “We’ve seen enough horror movies to know how what would happen if we go to ground zero of a zombie outbreak! And the faster we get out of here, the faster we can get some real help for Dr. West and any other survivors.”

George scratched at his chin and narrowed his eyes at the two of them. “You do know that this isn’t a horror movie, right?”

“Is it? Is it really?” Leo hummed.

“Fair enough,” the sanitation engineered with a gruff rumbling that could only be what passed for laughter. “What about you two?” He asked with a nod towards the two newcomers. “You come’n or-”

“I’m regretting that we didn’t just bring a syringe,” Lisa giggled ominously. “But since we didn’t, we’ll-”

Whatever the young woman was about to say was drowned out by an explosion of cement, conduit, lead pipes, and asbestos from above. Before she had a chance to react, Leo pushed her to the ground and used his body to shield her from the falling debris as hot steam filled the tunnels. The young man gave her his best reassuring smile and shrug as his dark hair turned white in a blink of an eye from the white powder mixing with the steam- and she was positive that she looked just as messy.

Thanks for the save, Valdez! If we weren’t covered in a carcinogen, I’d kiss ya!

Through the haze the hulking form of George appeared, and without a word he grabbed the two of them- Leo by the scruff of his neck and her by her leg -and pulled them down the hall and out of the white mist. He was far from delicate, seemingly dragging her body over every piece of concrete and steel that had fallen while Leo was bounced off the wall repeatedly, but she couldn’t fault the guy for having his heart in the right place.

“ON YOUR FEET!” George roared as he spun around and hurled them like discuses, sending them skidding down the hall before him.

“What just happened?” She cried, jumping to her feet with her chainsaw at the ready. “What-” her eyes widened in horror as she took in the sight before her “-f*ck…”

A huge hole leading to the exhibit hall of Pickman Hall loomed over the spot where Lisa and Allison had stood; the two girls now nowhere to be seen. No fires burned above or below the hole, nor were there any singe marks to indicate any combustion had occurred. The gaping hole the result of pure brute force.

And what created it strode out of the steam and asbestos.

It was taller than George by a whole head- and outnumbered him in heads by a factor of three. The half-eaten face of their elderly chaperone stuck out of the upper left shoulder of a grasping arm of fused flesh nearly as thick as a telephone pole; the woman’s glowing green eyes endlessly rolling in their sockets as her Gene Simmons-like tongue bulged from her mouth like a limb all its own. The blond head of a boy no older than her or Leo jutted out of the thing’s right side with its arms melting into the greater being’s torso as if it had been trying to push itself free. Twisted keratin growths jutted out randomly from its burning red flesh with more erupting forth in bursts of glowing green pus like nightmarish boils. Its neck had extended and curved down from its shoulders to the point the white-haired central head hung just in front of the amalgamation of muscle that made up its pectorals.

Wait is that-

The thing reared back on its twisted hind legs and let out a blood curdling cry. “MON-REEEEE!”

“Oh hey… It’s Dr. Gruber,” Leo chuckled in disbelief. “And look at that: he’s gotten bigger since we last saw him… Yay…”

“MON-REEEE!” Dr. Gruber slammed his ten-fingered fists to the ground, cracking the tiled floor as he began to froth at the mouth. “COST MON-REEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” The undead amalgamation roared as he launched himself toward them like a gorilla.

“Come get some,” Piper whispered as her chainsaw roared to life.

Notes:

Later...

Chapter 16: Mumia Equitantes Dinosaurs

Summary:

“AND WHO IS PERCY?! WAIT- WHY DO I CARE?!”

“Honestly, that’s what most new kids ask themselves twenty minutes into orientation,” Leo sighed as he helped Piper to her feet.

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

“PERCY IS FULL OF sh*t!” Leo screamed as the teeth of Piper’s chainsaw tore into the blistering flesh of the Dr. Gruber monstrosity’s arm, coating the narrow passageway in a horrific mix of glowing green blood and gore. The mutilated face of their former chaperone that now made up the amalgamated zombie’s shoulder screamed in agony as the lawn-tool-turned-weapon burrowed through her skin and splintered what had been her thigh bone. Unfortunately, the paralyzing pain the zombified woman felt did not apply Dr. Gruber proper, as the white-haired ghoul only howled with rage and took a swing at Piper with its other, spike-covered arm- which he interrupted with a burst of flame into the old guy’s face.

“THANKS, LEO!” The daughter of Aphrodite cried as wrenched the chainsaw from the man-made monster’s arm and followed through with a diagonal slice down its pulsated chest. the whirring blade severing multiple gnarled keratin growths and rupturing countless puss-filled boils. “AND ARE WE TALKING IN GENERAL OR IS THERE SOMETHING SPECIFIC?!”

Dr. Gruber swung at Piper with his woman-turned-arm, which she narrowly avoided with a duck to the left. The glob of tumor-ridden flesh slammed into a bundle of pipes mounted to the wall, cracking the metal tubes and earning a blast of hot steam to two of his three faces. Whether it acted on instinct or blind rage Leo could not say, but the former head of Miskatonic’s medical school lashed out at the cracked pipe with his other twisted hand. The frantic attack only releasing more rage-inducing steam as it shattered piper-after-pipe.

Before he could respond or throw another fireball, a pair of strong, calloused hands grabbed both him and Piper by the back of their collars and pulled them down the tunnel at near ludicrous speed. It was near ludicrous as things zooming past them still looked a bit plaid.

“Thanks, George!” He exclaimed as he looked up to the old man sprinting down them down the hall. Going around a corner proved to be less-then-fun, as the sudden change in direction knocked his head against Piper’s. It might have been okay if the collision resulted in an accidental kiss, but it was merely a forehead-on-forehead hit that resulted in the two of them seeing starts, groaning in agony, and reducing the number of precious few brain cells they shared. Once the stars stopped spinning, and the only groaning was coming from The Gruber, he decided it was best to address Beauty Queen’s query. “I was talking about Percy fighting Gary Anne, Garymon, Gary Oak, or whatever that guy’s name was! Telling us how hard it was to kill him!”

“Ah!” Piper nodded in understanding as she stalled the chainsaw’s blade (it was an absolute miracle neither of them lost a limb). “Yeah, didn’t he have to shoot all three of his hearts at the same time? All three, neatly lined up hearts?”

“Yup…”

The young woman glanced behind them and pursed her lips. “Yeah… Our three-bodied problem is definitely harder to kill. Regeneration and berserking aside, Gruber’s hearts are all over the damn place. Upper arm, chest, and hip. I can’t even begin to imagine the arrow needed for that shot. Like a silly straw to the umpteenth degree.”

“Meanwhile, Percy had to kill a typical Walmart connoisseur,” he said with a tsk and a disappointed shake of his head. “XXXL pants and all… Percy’s probably leaving out that Ol’ Gary was riding a Rascal or-”

“WOULD YOU TWO SHUT UP AND RUN!” George Snapped as they rounded another corner- and this time Leo was certain the sanitation engineer intentionally knocked their skulls together. In an impressive feat of strength that made him question if the old man was in fact an unclaimed son of Herakles, the mountain of muscle tossed him and Piper further down the hall. The two of them bouncing and skidding like rocks on a lake. “AND WHO IS PERCY?! WAIT- WHY DO I CARE?!”

“Honestly, that’s what most new kids ask themselves twenty minutes into orientation,” Leo sighed as he helped Piper to her feet.

“I know I did,” Piper grinned as George caught up to them. “And he really wasn’t worth the-”

MON-REEEEE!!!!!!!

The three survivors looked behind them to see the monstrous juggernaut burst into the intersection; all three of its mouths wide for its guttural cry for funds. There was a brief moment where they thought (and hoped) it would venture down the wrong passageway, but as it stalked forward, the glowing eyes of the face merged to its torso widened, making the head of Dr. Gruber swivel in their direction. The deformed face twisted with hateful recognition as the glowing green blood leaking from chainsaw-inflicted wound began to coagulate and harden before their eyes.

“I am really starting to hate this guy,” Leo muttered as he outstretched one arm and ignited his fist. “Betcha I can incinerate him before-” a strong hand grabbed him by the wrist and spun him around as if he were a ballerina “-HEY! What are you-” The words died in his throat as he saw George was pointing at a copper pipe running down the length of the tunnel. “Crap…”

“Why did you stop him?” Piper cried as her chainsaw roared to life. Splattering them all once more with the bits of blood and gore that lingered in the chain.

“Because he’ll blow us all to hell if he hits that gas line!” George barked as he shepherded them down the tunnel. The mountain of a man keeping one eye on the rapidly approaching Dr. Gruber while urging them ever deeper into the labyrinth of service tunnels. “And I’d rather not know what it’s like to be a piece of the Colonel’s extra crispy! Now move!”

“Hey! We’re rubbing off on Georgie boy!” He grinned as they ran, doing his best to ignore the sounds of inhuman gurgling and heavy footsteps growing every closer. “He made a joke!”

“I will trip you…” The old man growled as Piper snorted; the latter becoming a little more beautiful every time he heard it. “Left!”

“Gotcha!” They collective turned a hard left, with the tip of Piper’s chainsaw leaving mark on the floor that (if George’s twitchy left eye was any indication) could not be buffed out. His eyes immediately went to scanning the walls and ceiling for the copper pipe that was hindering his plan to put a wall of flame between them and the rampaging Dr. Gruber- only to slam into Piper’s back. The collision knocking him on his back while the taller Piper only stumbled forward a bit. “Hey! Why did you- Oh…”

His concerns were addressed the moment he looked up. As at the far end of the hall, slowly but steadily approaching them, were the yellow-robed, masked cultists. Every member clutching a dagger dripping with very human, red blood.

Y’AI ‘NG’NGAH SHUB-NIGGURATH H’EE-L’GEB F’AI THRODOG.”

“Look dear, the trick-r-treaters are here,” he said with an exhausted chuckle as the heavy footsteps of the amalgamated zombie grew closer. The troublesome copper pipe ran along the ceiling, no more than a foot over the cultists’ heads, and he wished that he could blow it up like a video game without killing himself, Piper, and George in the process. But I’ll choose that in a heartbeat than letting them get their hands on Pipes. We’ll go out in a blaze of glory before that happens!

“So, what’s the plan here?” The daughter of Aphrodite asked, tightening her hold on her horror-movie staple. “We turn around and hope to outrun both the Grubes and these freaks, or-” she revved the chainsaw’s engine “-I commit my first murder?”

“JUST KEEP RUNNING AT ‘EM!” George barked as he surged past them as a blur of gray and blue, like an elderly Sonic the Hedgehog- a comparison Leo couldn’t help but make.

As the two prospective students chased after the hulking man (with Dr. Gruber hot on their heels), George drew a pair of crescent wrenches he had strapped to his body and gripped them tight. The cultists ceased their nonsensical chanting at the sight of the autoshop berserker and readied their own blades to slash through the man’s makeshift armor and flesh. Leo readied the small hammer he had been given, while Piper raised her far superior (and much cooler) chainsaw, believing that George was going to be something of a human shield-slash-distraction for much of the yellow-clad students’ blades- only for the man to hurl the two wrenches with a grunt that turned into spine-chilling roar.

Now maybe it was the adrenaline in his system making him see things, but Leo would swear the twin wrenches formed a silver tail, not unlike that of a comet, as they raced towards the closest pair of cultists. Though the featureless masks concealed their faces, he could easily imagine their expressions of shock and horror in the nanoseconds before the Craftsman Guaranteed projectiles hit. Their masks splintering into a million pieces as their bodies crumpled lifeless to the ground with a liquid THLUP. The two frat boys behind the masks dead before they hit the floor, with the shafts of wrenches sticking out from between their eyes.

Some of the cultists began to break formation at the sight of their dead friends, their shoving and pushing in turn causing something of a distraction for the more loyal (crazy) members-

Allowing George to continue to his barrage with deadly results.

Wrenches, hammers, screwdrivers, and even one of the blood-soaked machetes were hurled at the crowd of cultists with such speed and power that Thor himself would be jealous- the cool Marvel Thor, not the red-haired, homeless looking one. And while every weapon wasn’t a fatal blow (and he wasn’t sure how to feel about that) they were at the very least devastating. Cultists shrieked in absolute agony as the hand-tools-turned-projectiles shattered bone or pierced their robes and flesh, causing all that were hit to stagger back or collapse to the floor.

Creating an opening for them.

“OUTTA HERE!” George roared as he slammed the back of a monkey wrench into the skull of the nearest cultist. A sickening wet crack filling the only sound to emerge from the acolyte as it crumpled lifelessly to the ground.

“I’LL CUT YA!” Piper screamed as she raced behind the sanitation engineer, swinging her chainsaw in a wide arc that forced those not downed by George’s barrage to press themselves flat against the tunnel walls. One Hasturite wasn’t quite quick enough resulting in the chainsaw chewing through the yellow fabric just above its naval. No blood or guts poured out of the superficial cut, but the robed figure did collapse from sheer terror.

“HOT STUFF COMING-” An ear-piercing roar for funding interrupted Leo as he lit his left hand aflame. Thought he damn well knew what was behind them, he couldn’t help but slow down and glance over his shoulder. Dr. Gruber was rapidly closing the distance between them, and it would only be a few seconds tops before the twisted terror was on them. With that less-than-pleasant realization, his plans to give the cultists a Honolulu Hot Foot went out the window and were replaced with the hope that Dr. Grube possessed some Frankenstein’s monster cliches. “GOOD LUCK WITH THAT!” Leo shouted as he sprayed flames at the corpses littering the blood-covered floor.

He waited until the yellow robes ignited into a wall of flame before chasing after Piper and George. One of the few remaining upright cultists attempted to stop him, and he wished someone would have been there to witness him deliver a flaming uppercut to the robed-figure’s jaw, with a mighty, “SHORYUKEN!” With a pathetic wheeze, his would-be assailant collapsed to the ground.

“No one is ever going to believe me!” Leo muttered as he shook his now aching fist and took off down the hall. “Monsters? Yup! Zombies? No question! Scrawny Texan performing a text-book-perfect uppercut? Get out of here!” He pumped his legs as fast as they would go as he watched his fellow survival enthusiasts take a left at the next intersection. When he reached the intersection though, the cultists began to chant once more- and this time in a language he could understand. And even though he had seen countless instances of people dying to stop and investigate something strange, he couldn’t help but look back.

“Blessed be the All-Mother…”

“Return the womb…”

“Her rebirth is at hand…”

“Guys! I think my arm is broke!”

Dr. Gruber’s frantic charge slowed to crawl as he came upon the group of cultists, and then a complete stop before the first of the fallen. Its six, glowing green eyes were still fixed in his direction, but they had become unfocused. The rage they contained capped off by a milky fog as the cultists not dead or wailing in agony began their eerie chanting. Gruber’s head went limp as his monstrous feet stepped into the slowly growing puddle of blood emanating from the fallen college kid.

Dear Big-G God, if you can appreciate comedic timing, please let Gruber slip and break his neck. Oh, and please let Pipes, George, and me get out of here alive. ‘K? Thanks.

Unfortunately, the twisted trio of fused corpses did not so much as stumble as it took another step closer to the body. The cultists’ chanting grew louder and faster as the zombie swayed backwards, its arms hanging lifelessly to its side- even the elongated tongues of their chaperone and the young man ceased moving. For a moment, he thought that perhaps song could soothe the savage beasts (and that they had the mother of all trump cards if that was true), but before he could act on the thought, the flesh from Gruber’s neck down to his hips began to spasm and fester into large, leaking boils and zits that made his skin crawl.

There isn’t enough Proactive in the world to clean that up! He’d have to crack out the needle-nose pliers to pop those bad boys!

In a matter of moments, the grotesque, inflamed flesh spread across the entirety of the zombie’s broad chest. The old woman’s face on his shoulder consumed to the point that all that remained was the tip of her tongue and one unblinking eye, and a small part of Leo hoped that no part of the woman she had been remained, as he couldn’t fathom what kind of hell she would be trapped in otherwise.

And I just bummed myself out… Why did I do that? Why-

All at once a line of pustules burst into a shower of glowing green and white, tearing Dr. Gruber’s chest in half down to his hips. His head hung limply from the left half, still moaning about funding, as his ribs violently pierced through each half. Glowing, pulsating components of its digestive systems fell out of the split cavity and began blindly grasping at the corpse on the floor. The chanting of the cultists growing more-and-more excited with each organ-turned-appendage wrapped around their fallen comrade.

“What the f-”

“LEO! DON’T JUST STAND THERE LIKE A DUMBASS HORROR MOVIE PROTAG!” His best friend shouted, snapping him back to the reality of the situation. “RUN BITCH!”

“COMING, DEAR!” He shouted, tossing one last fireball before sprinting down the hall. I think I just found our final boss!

Piper tossed the idling chainsaw to George the moment they exited the tunnels into the university proper. Their new (significantly scarier) Coach Hedge swore in surprise at the teen’s dangerous-and-definitely-stupid move, but they were too busy piling anything within grabbing distance in front of the doorway.

“Grab that vase!”

“That coat rack!”

“ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL ME?!

“That display case looks movable!”

“That bench too!”

“WHO THE f*ck THROWS A RUNNING CHAINSAW?!”

After several minutes of frantic piling, the two teenagers sank to the polished wooden floor with their backs pressed against the hastily assembled barricade. George was still swearing and questioning Piper’s sanity, but neither of them paid him much mind. Both confident the sanitation engineer had insane levels of horror movie plot armor (as evident by him slaying dozens of zombies and mowing down multiple cultists only minutes before) so their focuses was turned to something far more important.

Each other.

Now Leo knew he had always had a few screws loose, but he had always considered it a plus as it allowed him to cope the constant barrage of craziness the Fates lobbed at him. But as he looked at Piper, covered from head to toe in a mixture of glowing green gore and sweat, panting heavily, wearing a half-crazed grin, he realized that the number of loose screws vastly outnumbered those still secure because he had never seen a more beautiful sight. The gore-covered daughter of Aphrodite in the dim hall lighting infinitely more beautiful than Calypso framed in the light of a tropical setting sun.

Please don’t let this be some weird gore fetish, he joked to himself, trying to ignore the small knot of nervousness growing in his stomach. I’m weird enough as it is.

His eyes landed on Piper’s lips- the very lips that had pinned him against a wall only a few hours previously. He never really noticed them before (not that he went around noticing people’s lips) but now he wondered how they would feel with a proper kiss. How they would taste. How would they move with his own. A weird train of thought to be sure, but one he definitely happy to jump on. And save for a small spec of red blood were free of zombie puree, they were clear for a landing.

I am mixing metaphors and analogies like a MF here, Leo grinned as he slowly leaned towards his oldest friend. And his heart soared when he saw her do the same as he closed his eyes. Yeah, I think I could-

“We are not playing kissing face!” George growled as the two teens were roughly yanked apart. The gap of less than an inch becoming more than five feet from the mutton-chopped man sliding them on their asses like hockey pucks.

“Not with that attitude,” he heard Piper sulk. She let out a groan, most likely from sitting up, and then asked, “where are we now?”

With a groan of his own, Leo sat up and took in their surroundings for the first time.

They were in the grand main hall of yet another Gothic-style building complete with dark wood, dim lighting (why do lights always fail when something weird happens?), stone archways perfect for lurking monsters, and plenty of spikes meant to impale the unfortunate in any given horror movie scenario. Dozens of glass display cases were strategically placed in the center of the hall such that they could be easily viewed from each of the three levels of walkways along the perimeter, as well as creating an annoying labyrinth that he was positive was going to be a problem for them sooner-or-later. Compared to Pickman Hall though, it was rather plain when it came to items on display. The cases filled with rock formations and gemstones instead of weird artwork and historical dew-dads.

“Welcome to the Ashley-Delapore Hall of History,” George answered with his usual gruffness, tossing the now off chainsaw at Piper’s feet. “It’s where the geology, archaeology, paleontology, and a bunch of other ology departments call home.” They must have been growing on him, as the grumpy giant helped Piper and then him to their feet. “We’ll find Dr. Dyer’s office here...”

At first Leo focused on the fact they were only one scavenger hunt away from the second piece of their key to freedom. But as is the case with any demigod that focus was short lived, and his ADHD filled his head with nightmarish scenarios that could only be found in the cheesiest of B-movies. “Hey Pipes, are you thinking what-”

Piper narrowed her eyes. “The culmination of all the sciences: mummies brandishing stalagmites, riding dinosaur skeletons,” the daughter of Aphrodite said, reading his mind with one-hundred-percent accuracy.

George face palmed. “Oh, Jesus Christ…. ”

And while George lamented his partners, Leo could only grin at the girl. How did I miss what was right in front of me?

Notes:

Lisa: Did you dicks forget about us?!
Leo: No, we didn't forget-
Piper: we just didn't care.
Allison: Harsh...

A long overdue chapter, that I originally wanted to post on Halloween. Oops...
A short, simple chapter that points to a connection between the cultists and the zombies (if that wasn't obvious before), gets the gang to the next stage, and has Leo thinking about Piper a bit more.

Leo: Pipes, he said stage. You think he means like a videogame?
Piper: Well, he doesn't strike me as a theater guy...
Leo: So, that makes Dr. Gruber is our Mr. X-slash-Nemesis, which means-
George: Boss battle is approaching.
Piper: ...
Leo: ...
George: What?! I know the basic structure of a video game! I played Megaman back in the day!

Anyway, thank you all for reading. I'll be updating Bonds next, with Annabeth being the PoV.
I wish you all well, and can't wait to hear from you.
Thanks :)

Beauty Queen and The Real McShizzle Vs. Re-Animator - BobInTheComments (2024)
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