It is just barely sunrise when Gwen busts through the door of the counselor's cabin. The morning's paper had been delivered with the answer to all her prayers, and David would be the first one to hear about it. "Goooood morning, David!"
At his name, David springs up from bed, standing to attention. He somehow also made the bed in that one fell swoop, tossing his nightcap off his head in the process. He salutes his co-counselor, already dressed in his everyday wear. "Goooood morning, Gwen!" His brain finally catches up with the rest of him. "Wait, this feels backwards..."
"Yep!" Gwen speed walks in. "But today's the day!"
David gasps. "You've realized your love of Camp Campbell and everything it stands for?" His eyes sparkle with barely contained enthusiasm.
"HELL NO!" Gwen replies cheerily, slapping David across the face with a well-aimed throw of the newspaper. The peppy counselor stays lying on the floor, pulling the newspaper off his face to read the front page. The familiar Camp Campbell sign is plastered to the page with a number written under it.
"'Help... Wanted?'" David reads off, moving the paper aside to look at Gwen with uncertainty.
"That's right." Gwen checks out her nails in self-confident victory. "Found a stash of cash Campbell hid in the Quartermaster's store behind a box of grenades."
David picks himself up off the floor and dusts himself off. He sighs. "I don't know, Gwen. Are you sure we really need more help?"
Right as he says this, something crashes through the window on their left, spreading shattered glass everywhere at their feet. Both counselors follow the object as it stops rolling, realizing that it was one of the grenades probably from the box that Gwen had found earlier. The distant sounds of groaning and sheepish laughter are followed by, "Sorry, foul ball!"
David was only given a second to wonder why the kids were up this early and where they found the box before Gwen grabs him by the neckerchief and pulls him close.
"YES." She responds through grit teeth before being interrupted by furious knocking.
"Hello, I'm here for the job listing?" A voice shouts out from behind the screen door.
Gwen lets David go unceremoniously. "Ohmygod!" She whips open the door, putting on her best service smile to greet the new potential recruit. "Yes! This is..." When her eyes survey the stranger, she quickly but surely realizes that her efforts were for naught. She stares at him, mouth agape in morbid curiosity.
"Gooood morning!" The camera pans over to the stranger, presenting a tall, blonde man in pristine white clothes with a briefcase at his side. He exuded cleanliness and charm; particularly, the kind of charm that could only be found in narcissistic mental patients. His eyes were a cold, icy blue to match the way Gwen felt her blood run. He takes a deep breath, smiling all the while. "Smell that fresh mountain air! Gosh, now that's the kind of nature you don't just find in any ol' neck of the woods!"
"Oh dear lord no." Gwen murmurs.
Oh, yeah. He also just happened to look exactly like David.
"Hello?" Speaking of...
"Oh, well, hello there friend!" The man looks past Gwen's shoulder to find his doppelganger. "Where are my manners? My name is Daniel, your camp counselor applicant! I hope I'm not too late to submit my resume." Gwen's eyes shrink to pinpricks at his name, while David jumps at the opportunity to greet this friendly man.
"Too late? You're the first one!" David pushes past Gwen, who stares on in abject horror as the two share the same body language and expressions right before her.
Daniel laughs. "Ha! Are you pulling my leg?"
"No leg-pulling here," David chuckles. "But we are keen on handshakes!" He raises his eyebrows up and down as if asking Daniel if he felt the same.
"Well, who isn't?" Daniel replies, shaking David's outstretched hand. His eyebrows also bob up and down, as if in agreement.
"The name's David!"
"Pleasure to meet you, David!"
"The pleasure's all mine, Daniel."
Gwen blinks in rapid succession, trying to figure out if she was seeing double, having a stroke, on drugs, or all three. There is no way in hell this was real, and definitely no way in hell was she going to hire a second David. One was already enough to deal with.
"So, what sort of experience do you have?" David picks up the interview portion of the job, and Gwen couldn't be any more grateful.
Daniel frowns. "Well, sadly, my old camp was recently shut down. And ever since, I've been searching night and day for a new group of eager young kiddos I can help to educate and reach their full potential!" He even does the resolute arm swing thing David does when he has a plan.
"Did ya' hear that Gwen?" The bubbly counselor turns to his co-counselor, grinning from ear-to-ear. "I think we just hit the jackpot!" And there goes the arm swing... "This was a great idea!"
Gwen finally snaps out of her thoughts, clamping her jaw shut. "Y'know... I think now's the perfect time for me to use my vacation days."
David and Daniel, in perfectly reflected tone and motion, without missing a beat, turn to Gwen. "Aw, Gwen, are you sure?"
The camp mobile speeds off with the moody counselor in it without so much as a goodbye. The two men are left in the dust, giving each other a confused look.
David shrugs after a while. "Well, more fun for us! Come on, Daniel!" David grabs the other by the elbow, pulling him into the counselor's cabin. "I think you're gonna fit in here juuuust fine!"
Daniel, in all the ruckus, drops the newspaper he was holding. He allows himself to be dragged in, chuckling at the enthusiasm. "I think so too David! I think so too..."
"YO, HOLY SHIT!" Yuni comes running into the mess hall, finding her friends busy rummaging around various labeled boxes. Nikki seemed to be having fun in some green ball pit, while Neil struggled to grab and pull her out of it.
Max toys with one of the balls, methodically fiddling with the ring attached to it. "So? Who are we fucking over today?" He smirks. The boy had tasked Yuni with spying on the counselors to watch for any new applicants that were stupid enough to read the day's edition. He would need an unbiased overview of the poor bastard before he could figure out how to properly wreck havoc, and Yuni was the perfect candidate for the job.
Not that he thought she was perfect. Or anything remotely like that. It was just the fucking wording, it's a common phrase!
...Max catches himself flushing. He slaps himself before the girl could ask any questions.
"HE'S PERFECT!" Yuni squeals, sporting a manic grin that caught Max by surprise. He cringes at the out-of-character display.
"What does 'perfect' mean here? Are you telling us he's just like David?" Max smiles his own devious smile. If this new guy was anything like their own pushover, then this was gonna be a breeze.
"He's way better~" Yuni swoons, a sway in her voice. Her tone creeps our boys out and intrigues Nikki, who pops her head out from under all the green balls in the box.
Max scoffs. "Psh, anyone can be better than David. What makes this guy so special?"
Yuni sighs dreamily, dropping right down to the floor and lying on her stomach. She opens her journal and kicks her legs giddily as she makes a "Daniel" page, quickly getting to work on his sketch. The trio gather around to see the new page.
"Daniel?" Nikki reads off. "What's he like?" She smiles down at Yuni.
"Oh, Nikki, he was just... awesome~"
"Awesome..." Max deadpans. "That doesn't answer our questions."
"Oh boy. I think I've seen this somewhere." A voice speaks up from across the room. The boys look up to see Preston walk over, a box labeled, "Cursed Silverware" under his arm. "We've finished rummaging through these, by the way."
Nikki snatches the box, getting to work diving through all the weird spoon-fork-knife combinations the Quartermaster just happens to horde. "Look at this one! I'll call it... the F'Poon! Yeah!"
"That's already called a spork, Nikki..." Neil huffs out a laugh at Nikki's disappointed expression.
"Spill it, Preston. What's wrong with Yuni?" Max points to the girl on the floor, scowling at the way she was curling her letters and dotting the "I's" with hearts.
"Simply put, the woman is in love!" Preston dramatically puts a hand to his heart. His eyes shimmer with the idea of how tragic such a feeling could be. "And from the looks of things," The actor peers down at the nearly finished sketch, eyes going wide as he realizes who she's drawing. "She is in love with David?!" He shrieks, stepping back from the scene as if the room had hot coals for floors.
"WHAT?!" Her three friends all scream in unison. Yuni has to double back and cover her ears with both the journal and her hands from the sheer volume. The Chaos Trio all give her different variations of confused disappointment. She huffs at their jump to conclusions.
"That's not David, the page is clearly labeled Daniel." She rolls her eyes at the obvious fact. "And he's way better than David."
"B-but!" Nikki starts.
"That's gross!" Max adds on.
"He's a fucking adult! Yuni, seriously! What the fuck!?" Neil finishes.
Yuni holds their stares, exchanging disapproving squints with her friends until she huffs and turns her head defiantly. This causes another uproar.
"You charlatans!" Preston yells, holding out his hands to stop the fighting. "Have you no knowledge of 'puppy love?'"
"Puppy love?" Nikki repeats.
"Like Max?" Neil sticks a thumb at their leader, recreating his gesture from the week before.
"What?" Max feels his face warm. Somehow he's getting the feeling that Neil is insinuating something else.
"Puppy love!" Preston smiles. "A shallow infatuation with someone that usually does not amount to anything more!" The trio blink at the older camper, still not wrapping their heads around the concept. Preston sighs, slouching his posture. "She's not actually in love with an adult, you dolts." The three let out synchronized sighs of relief, glad to know Yuni wasn't going to become a horrible, horrible statistic.
"Says you, Preston!" Yuni sticks her tongue out at her friend. "I know how I feel! If you had just seen him..." She sighs in that light, airy way again as she turns back to the journal. "He was tall and blonde and super charismatic. He sounds like he genuinely loves to help people and would be super patient with us~! I hope he becomes a counselor forever~" Yuni giggles into her notes.
"That's it. We're killing this guy." Max decides on the spot. Yuni gasps at him, betrayed. She stands back up and clutches the journal to her chest, giving the boy in blue some serious stink eye.
She points a finger to his chest. "Just 'cuz you're jealous he has my attention doesn't mean you should kill him! I'm my own person! I don't have to keep following your orders!" Yuni blows a raspberry right in Max's face. The boy wipes his face of rogue droplets, glowering at her.
"Fine, go be weird by yourself. Don't come looking for us when 'Daniel' calls you a 'stupid, little girl.'" Max turns his back, intending to return to what he was doing last, only to be stopped by Yuni's squealing again.
"Shut up, he's here~!"
"And that concludes my presentation on what is, and is not, a baseball." David finishes his impromptu safety sermon with a sigh. He sets the box of grenades between his feet, perking up once he reaches his full height again. "So, any questions?" Plenty of hands go up, and, wanting to incite some participation eagerness, David chooses Max. "Yes, Max."
"Who the fuck is that?!" The jaded camper points an accusatory finger at Daniel. He is disrupted by Yuni, giggling dumbly beside him.
"Yeah, who is he, hehe~" Her hands were hidden by her sleeves that happened to magically stretch to reach past her fingers. She covers her mouth with her sleeved hands and part of her face was curtained by her hair.
"Why, what an excellent question!" David flashes a toothy grin at his kids. "Campbell campers, I'd like you all to give a warm welcome to our newest co-counselor, Daniel!"
Daniel sports the same grin. "Howdy kiddos!"
All the kids, save for Yuni and Space Kid, reflect the same look of uncertain worry and terror.
"Howdy-do Daniel!" Space Kid waves, only to get his arm jerked back down by a scary-faced Yuni.
"Back off, punk. He's mine..." She hisses lowly. Space Kid silently takes his hand back, rubbing at his wrist.
Max rolls his eyes, both at Yuni's behavior and the new counselor. "You've got to be shitting me."
"Whoa, watch the language there little fella!" Daniel chastises Max, which earns another obnoxious sigh from Yuni. She lovingly writes, "He says 'little fella' and it's the cutest shit" under her Daniel notes.
"Watch the language indeed!" David agrees, putting a hand on Daniel's shoulder. He turns to his campers. "Just because Daniel here is new, doesn't mean you should treat him any different than you treat me."
Nikki flashes a thumbs-up, reaching into her pockets. "Got it!" She throws mud onto Daniel's clean shirt, getting an angered gasp from Yuni in return.
Max gestures his arms to the pair of counselors. "He IS you, David! Save for the outfit. Seriously, freakshow. What's with the cult leader getup?" Before Yuni could speak up on Daniel's behalf, the new counselor beats her to the punch.
"You must be Max. I've heard aaaaall about you." As Daniel turns his head, it sounds as if he's popping the vertebrae one by one very slowly. It was clearly meant to be menacing, but as Max turns to Yuni to see if she was seeing what he was seeing, all he got was the same lovesick stare from before.
"O... kay?" Max mutters out, feeling a little out of his element.
"I wish he had heard all about me... What do you have that I don't, Max?!" Yuni whispers sharply, tugging at the boy's hoodie out of Daniel's sight so as to not stray away from his good graces.
Max almost chokes. "Geez, chill the fuck out!" He grabs his hood and pulls, yanking the surprisingly strong grip away. "What is wrong with you?!"
David ignores the quiet bickering to worry about Daniel and his now stained shirt. "I am SO sorry about this TERRIBLE behavior." At "terrible," David shifts his gaze to Max in a "you-know-what-you-did-wrong" way.
Daniel shrugs it off. "Oh don't you worry, co-counselor. They're just, 'raggin' on the new guy!' I thought this might happen," He nods, readjusting the clipboard. "And so for my first day as camp counselor, I've prepared several exercises that are gonna help cleanse all of us of our negative emotions!" The use of the word "cleanse" in this scenario is definitely the thing to focus on.
David, of course, does not sense anything wrong. "Well, that sounds WONDERFUL! You kids are definitely in good hands." He nods, mirroring Daniel's. "I'll go finish up your employment paperwork. In the meantime, try not to have too much fun without me!" David winks, one foot already out the door. "Just kidding, have all the fun you want!" The doors to the mess hall slam closed, and now it's just the kids and the new camp man.
"Sooo, children..." Daniel lets the pep in his voice trickle away for something he's... more familiar with. "Is there anybody here who has an interest in... Space?"
Space Kid immediately raises a hand. "OOH! OOH! Oh, me! Me!" Yuni glares at the poor boy from where she stood by her friends. She makes it a mental note to look up on all things space-related after this meeting.
"Oh, really? Well, that's WONDERFUL!" Daniel exclaims, crouching down to the kid's level.
Space Kid puts his hands on his hips triumphantly. "Yeah... I know all sorts of stuff about space."
Daniel continues speaking with a smile. "Well, did you know that all negative emotions actually come FROM space?"
"Uh." Space Kid looks away, getting shy now that his knowledge was being tested. "Well, I... No. I-I didn't."
"It's true! Our atmosphere is under constant bombardment from negative emotions tied to dark toxins!" Daniel stands up, waggling his fingers as he talks. "These toxins cling to the matter left over from the Big Bang, meaning that even if we're all pure of heart at birth, we're bathing in a negative-rich environment every SECOND!"
Space Kid's eyes get all shiny with this new information. "Whooooaaa."
Yuni sighs yet again. "Yeah~ Tell us more~"
Neil gives Yuni a weird look before continuing. "Oookay, imma stop you right there." He points an inquisitive finger at the new counselor. "Are you suggesting that the massive explosion responsible for the creation of the universe, is also responsible for some sort of endless, radioactive evil?"
"Oh, no. Not at all!" Daniel shakes his head, chuckling. "The Big Bang didn't create the universe! It was just a side effect of the Millenia Wars, started by Xemüg and the Galactic Confederacy!"
"Riiiight..." Neil wasn't buying it, and logically so. Before he could even blink, Daniel had got all up into Neil's personal space.
"You must be Neil." Daniel speaks slowly, pronouncing every vowel. "David told me you were quite the... inquisitive little fellow."
Neil could smell the minty mouthwash from where he was standing. "He-hey, buddy. let's try to recognize some... personal space here." He pats Daniel's face to get him to back up, causing who else but Yuni to flush in anger. It was like watching a dwarf-sized Tinkerbell go red.
"Why do you feel the need to question everything, Neil?" Daniel jerks his head to the side, violently cracking his neck. Neil inwardly cringes at the sound. "What good has it led to?" Daniel's smile strains at his lips, just barely containing the worst of his bloodlust.
The boy composes himself, taking back some of his smartass attitude. "Well, for one, I'm not walking around, talking about 'Xemüg.'" He rolls his eyes at the dumb name.
Daniel lets Neil go for now, pacing around the other campers. "But, are you happy with your life? Are you at peace? Or do you find yourself filled with anxiety and doubt?" He lets a hand rest on Nurf's shoulder. Yuni hurriedly stands next to Preston, hoping to get a hand on her shoulder too. "Doesn't the world seem awfully scary?"
"It DOES!" Nurf agrees, eyes wide as if he hasn't thought of it that way before.
"Well, what if I told you it didn't have to be?" Daniel points at Nurf, winking in a reassuring way. His arm swings over Yuni's head, and the girl has to refrain herself from making any self-embarrassing noise.
"I don't really know what you're selling here, Daniel," Nurf puts his hands out in defense. "...But I am BUYING it!"
Daniel smiles again, thinking that he had almost lost the kid. "Then help me, help you... Help others!"
Nurf quickly yanks Preston to his side in a noogie, cutting off the boy's respiration. "YEAHHH! I'M HELPING!"
"Excellent! Now who else wants to help and reach ascension~?" Daniel proposes temptingly, marching to a beat only he could hear.
Yuni is the first to offer up her services, the Chaos Trio figuring out that Daniel is actually-
"A CULTIST! YOU HIRED A FUCKING CULTIST, YOU IDIOT!" Uh, yeah, I was just about to say. Thanks, Max.
The kids punch, karate chop, and paw at the door to the counselor's cabin, trying to get David's attention.
"I'll be right back, Daniel! I'll go find them for you!" Yuni happily skips out of the mess hall, overjoyed to have been given a task by Daniel himself. If doves and angels mashed together could sing, she would swear that that was what she was hearing. She follows the quickly fading footsteps of her friends in the direction of the counselor's cabin, only to be stopped by the morning's newspaper catching on her leg. "Oh? He must've dropped this earlier! I'll give this back too~!"
Yuni picks up the pile of papers still flapping in the wind, catching a brief sight of someone on a different page who looked a lot like Daniel. Curiously, she flips to the page, stomach dropping as she reads the headlines. "'Enthusiastic Cult Leader Leaves Entire Compound Dead?!'" She glances over at the picture. "'Whatever You Do, DO NOT HIRE THIS MAN!?'" A shadow suddenly begins to grow behind her, leaving her to shiver in place.
One wrong move, and he could kill her.
"And here I thought you were going to be a promising one." Daniel's scarily monotone voice says from behind her. "But now we're going to have to throw you in with the rest of them." Without another breath, Daniel snatches Yuni by the torso, quickly putting a hand over her mouth to silence her. His cologne worked just like chloroform with how strong it was, slipping the girl into a state of ease before he tossed her into the Purification Sauna.
There was no fighting the subliminal messaging in her worn down state, and the steam felt nice against her sore midsection. Yuni quickly succumbed to the change, vaguely registering as Nerris, Harrison and Ered slumped to the floor with her. Just as soon as they were locked in, the door to the sauna opened up, shedding a small amount of light. The magic kids and Ered rose up like the walking dead, faces plastering on big, happy smiles. Daniel nods at them and gives them further instructions before peering in for himself.
Yuni was still slumped on the wall right by the entrance, eyes a vacant window. Daniel frowns at this. This had never happened after purification before...
Suddenly, she gets up, much like the others. He steps back outside, watching intently as the camper exits into the sun, no change in her expression.
"Well?" He prompts, crossing his arms. "Don't you have anything you want to say to me?"
She drops to the ground in child's pose. Daniel approaches cautiously, unsure of where this was going to go, but wanting to hear her regardless. "Of course, Daniel. I exist to serve. I would love to be your assistant."
This was a very good choice indeed.
"Now then, that's more like it! Stand up, I have your first mission." Yuni wordlessly follows the order, not meeting his gaze. She performs just like a robot, and it's puzzling Daniel to no end. Not that he was going to complain, of course. "Take this." He hands her one of his sacrificial blades, handle side first. "Hide it on your person somewhere. I'll take care of those friends of yours, while you handle the blue one. I feel he is going to cause us a lot of trouble, but because I'm in such good graces with David, I can't possibly be hostile to his favorite camper. You have to get him inside that sauna."
"By any means necessary."
Max and Co. finally have David on their tail, following them to the mess hall just to entertain the idea the Daniel might be a cult leader. David didn't see it, but was he ever going to deny his campers anything? No, absolutely not!
Within reason, of course.
The doors to the mess hall swing open with a swift kick from Max. The sight before them was definitely not what they had expected to see. Max had believed the whole place would've been painted with blood, but it was just... normal. Save for the obvious fact that Space Kid, Dolph, and Nurf were having whatever Daniel was giving them.
"Well! What a pleasant surprise! David, kids! Welcome!" Daniel takes a bite of his cheese-and-cracker finger food, petting Space Kid like an evil villain would his fluffy cat.
"Welcome!" Dolph, Nurf, and Space Kid say in creepy unison.
David ignores the obvious warning signs, opting to take in the sights of his campers working together and the mess hall still in one piece. If only Gwen could see them now... "Wowzers Daniel! This all looks incredible! What's it for?"
"Why, it's to celebrate, of course!" Daniel shoos Space Kid away to let the adults talk. "Your campers have all been SO cooperative," He glances down at the trio huddled together by David's legs, particularly changing his expression once his eyes land on Max and Neil. "And by the end of the day, I know everyone here will be cleansed of their hateful ways and ready to ascend to the next level!"
Nikki takes a look around, noticing the obvious lack in numbers. "Heeey, where ARE the campers?"
"And where's Yuni?" Neil whispers to Max, who only furrows his brows in response.
"Most are helping prepare for today's festivities," Daniel turns to Nikki, keeping his own chipper persona at the front line. "But a few of them are still hangin' around in the Purification Sauna!"
David's eyes practically bulge out of the sockets. "You built a SAUNA?!"
"THAT IS NOT THE WORD TO FOCUS ON, DAVID!" Max yells at the stupid, stupid counselor.
Daniel turns his head to retrieve the other boys. "Dolph, Nurf, why don't you show your friends to the sauna? So they'll quit worryin', and start hurryin'... Their way to FUN!"
Wordlessly, Dolph and Nurf stop what they're doing and approach the apprehensive trio, silently making a "come-with-me" gesture as they lead them out of the mess hall. They walk to the activities field where the Purification Sauna had been built. Dolph leads and Nurf holds the rear, sandwiching our troublemakers from going anywhere.
"So... who vants to go first?" Dolph finally speaks up once they near the circular chamber.
"PLEASE! SOMEONE HELP ME! HELP MEEEE..." Preston's muffled screams cut off short as he slumps to the ground and out of sight from the window. The trio wince, not wanting to be the next ones in there.
Neil has to point out the painfully obvious. "I would just like to point out the fucked-up implications of specifically YOU putting specifically ME into a gas chamber."
Dolph's expression doesn't change from one of empty happiness. "Ah! Zis is no gas chamber! Ve just use high-pressured steam, und subliminal messaging to deconstruct your psyche, und rebuild you in a form zat vill please ze Ancient Ones!"
Preston walks out of the steam, newly dressed in all white. His pupils are blown wide as he wears a similar empty smile. "And I love it." He says, emotionless.
The three gasp as they finally take a look around, realizing that just about everyone was purified, save for themselves. Ered walks up to them with a mixing bowl full of purple liquid in her arms. It emits a noxious-looking green gas, and the crew wonder what could possibly be making it do that.
"Oh, hey guys. You dudes are just in time to help prep for the killer party..." She points over at the hastily made assembly line, consisting of Space Kid pouring in flavoring powder, Harrison adding in water, and Nerris who busies herself with opening and adding rat poisoning to the mixture.
"Daniel says that once we've all been cleansed, we shall consume this wonderful elixir, and ascend to our final form." Nerris explains to them, still mindlessly pouring the seemingly endless box into the Kool-Aid.
The Quartermaster shows up out of nowhere, unpurified, and takes a cup for himself. He loudly slurps it out of the attachment and hums. "Hmm. Was better in Jonestown." And then he just walks away. Oh to be Quartermaster...
"Isn't that right, Daniel?" Nerris prompts.
"Right you are, Nerris!" Daniel replies, suddenly behind them. The trio try to run, but Nikki and Neil are yanked by their shirts and lifted up to Daniel's height. Their flailing legs and arms don't do much in helping to escape his clutches.
Neil reaches out towards Max. "MAX! DO SOMETHING!" Neil frantically glances around, eyes landing on someone in the distance. He recognizes the person as Yuni and decides to call out to her for backup. "YUNI! GET HELP!"
Max turns around to find Yuni, only to be caught with his hands behind his back within the girl's tight grip. He struggles against her hold until she whips out the jagged knife and keeps it by his neck. This causes him to involuntarily lean back into her, and he swore he heard her breath hitch. Her grasp loosened only slightly, so he experimentally leans forward, and just as he assumed, her grip retightened.
'Interesting...' He thought, before shaking his head and getting back to the task at hand. "You maniac!" Max yells at Daniel. "You brainwashed the entire camp!"
"'Brainwashed?' No, no, no!" Daniel offers the boy what could be a smug smile, but it looked the same as any of his other smiles. "I just appealed to their emotions and showed them the light! People don't wanna think, Max!" He gestures to Yuni with the hand holding Neil, who whimpers at the sudden movement. "They just wanna feel safe. And feelings beat facts, ANY day! Isn't that right, assistant?" Without waiting for an answer from Yuni, Daniel promptly tosses Nikki and Neil into the sauna, the door instantly locking behind them.
Yuni brings the knife closer, causing Max to lean back again. He could just barely register the back of his head making contact with her face, making a small mental note to apologize to her about it later. However, while he was panicking, he did not realize that she had dropped the knife on contact. It was only after hearing a dull clatter that he sees her now unoccupied fingers flexing.
Yuni seems equally as puzzled at the reaction, looking at her empty hand as if it held the answers. She silently glances at the ground, finding the knife. This is when she lets go of her hold on Max, who takes the opportunity to dash for the knife and claim it for himself. Once he grabs it, Yuni catches him by his midsection, using all her strength to pull him back.
Max loses momentum and lets the knife go flying through the air, landing somewhere besides the sauna. He and Yuni end up falling back first into the dirt, with Max struggling against her hold.
"Ugh... Max..." He hears from under him. He strains his neck to try and look and Yuni, holding his own breath when he realizes their closeness. He quickly whips his head back around, face ablaze. How embarrassing...
"Yuni, let me go! This is weird and gross!" Max tries wriggling out of the bear hug again, proving useless.
"Help... Max..!" Yuni wheezes out. He notices the change in her voice. It wasn't monotone, at least for now. Her pants were returning back to color, the white fading away like they were being reverse-bleached. He had an idea, but he'd have to rely on Yuni's mental strength to try it.
"Yuni, shut up, and get ready to keep," He almost gags. "Hugging... me. I'm gonna try something." With that one warning, Max attempts to rise up into a sitting position. He feels her grip tighten reflexively to try and bring him back down, but he continues to push against her and flip them over. Once they're sitting, he feels her relax again against his back. The blood rushing to his face was not making this easy.
"Okay, now stand up." The two campers rise on shaky legs, Yuni's arms still linking them together all the while. Max gives it a good second, before he quickly tries at pulling her arms off of him. No such luck, of course, as her arms tighten back around him at the attempt. He sighs defeatedly, figuring that he'd have to have her hug him until her de-purification was over. And to think this was how he was gonna spend the day...
He glances up to find David approaching them. He's never been more happy to see the idiot! Now, he's going to have to try and show David the light.
"THERE YOU ARE!" The peppy counselor walks up to all the commotion. "I was wondering where everyone had run off to!"
"DAVID! Oh, thank god! Help me! YUNI'S GOING TO THROW ME INTO THE SAUNA!" Max struggles against the hug. "And you have to stop him!" Max gestures to Daniel with his head. "He's insane!"
"Max, I have had it up to HERE with your bad behavior today!" David places a hand on his body right where Max's height reaches. "And don't be so rude! Yuni is clearly just trying to give you a hug."
"But it's all right here! Right in front of you!" Max tries to gesture at Daniel with his head, regretting the movement as Yuni's grip tightens. "Proof that Daniel's actually a religious cult leader that's gonna brainwash and kill every last one of us!" He wheezes out.
In all the commotion, Max had temporarily forgotten about his other friends, who now emerge from the sauna as a creepy shell of their former selves. "We love you, Daniel..." Nikki and Neil drawl out in creepy monotone.
David ignores the flashing red danger signs and continues to scold Max. "Well, all I see are happy faces!" He turns to Daniel, his previous temper gone. "Great work, Daniel!"
"Aw, shucks. Thanks David!" Daniel flashes his co-counselor a bright smile. He turns back to the flock of children at his feet, peering up at him in waiting. "Aaaall right kids, let's start pouring that punch and prepare for Ascension!" He shepherds his little sheep back to the punch bowl table to enact the rest of his plan. The kids cheer all the while.
All Max can do is watch in faint hopelessness as his friends and the rest of the camp walk to their impending doom as he stays rooted in place, stuck in the flesh prison that was Yuni's hug. He sighs before trying again to rip her hands away from around his body, only to remember that she would probably tighten the hold some more if he did. He begrudgingly settles for placing his hands on top of hers, noting the relaxed sigh that softly blew some of his curls around.
From where he could see, Yuni's sweater sleeves were returning to their normal color, the pigment crawling up past her elbows at a much faster pace than before. Whatever he was doing, Max concludes, was probably some clue to helping everyone else out of their purification. He could only hope it was a different method, because he was not going to be hugging the rest of the campers.
'...Fine. If thinking is too hard, I'll do it Daniel's way.' Max reasons with himself. This guy was too dense to see the truth, so he'd have to go about this a different way. He shuffles both himself and Yuni around to face David, putting on a fake act of guilt.
"David, you're right." The boy in blue says, shaking his head. "I've been awfully mean today."
David smiles down at the kid in pity. "Aw, it's okay Max. I know making new friends can sometimes be a little scary." He gestures to the two campers still linked together. "But look! You've come so fa-"
"Actually, it's because I was scared for you!" Max interrupts.
David has to do a double take. "For me?"
"I mean," Max can feel that the embrace has just about relaxed completely. He hesitantly wiggles his arms around and slowly brings them up over Yuni's arms to gesture with. She doesn't try and grab him back, so Max takes it as a sign that she's almost back. "It's just so OBVIOUS that Daniel's a better camp counselor than you."
"What are you talking about?" David replies, feeling the beginnings of nervous shaking at his fingertips.
"Just look at him!" Max points in Daniel's general direction. "In one DAY, he's managed to get everyone happy and working together!" The boy gestures back to the embrace he's still currently locked in. "Something you and Gwen could NEVER do. Everyone LOVES Daniel!"
As he says this, the kids all repeat the statement. "We love you, Daniel!" They all drone, raising their red solo cups in cheers.
"W-well, that's good!" David reasons, more with himself than with Max. He knew this was denial; anyone could see Daniel's superiority. But gosh dang it, this was his job first!
Max shrugs. "Well. Good for us, sure. But you?" He tests a step forward, eyes and grin widening in subconscious delight as Yuni's arms slink away from his torso. He fights the urge to turn around and bail on this conversation, but he had to push forward. "Once Cameron finds out that ONE camp counselor can do the job of TWO, he's DEFINITELY gonna let you and Gwen go."
Once Max is sure he's planted the idea in David's head, he quickly whips around to face Yuni, now fully back to normal. He still sports the cheeky smile on his face, which the girl takes advantage of. "You happy to have me back, or were you having fun being a little shit just now?" She gives him a smirk of her own. "Didn't think you could smile, Blue."
"Shut the fuck up." Max responds with a laugh. "Glad you're back on board. Now," He puts his hands on Yuni's shoulders, pulling her down slightly so they could hold a stare. She is caught off-guard by the sudden closeness, her cheeks growing pink. "I'm going to jump into that stupid sauna and stop Daniel from murdering us. You need to help David de-purify the rest of us when he finishes getting rid of that creep, okay?"
"But how do I do that?" Yuni responds, finding it hard to keep eye contact with the leader.
"I don't really know how it works, but I think you just have to embarrass everyone long enough until they return back to normal." Max waves a hand around, clearly spitballing from nothing. "If that doesn't work, then, I dunno, just start hugging everyone I guess." He shrugs. "Worked for you."
"Yeah, sorry for that." Yuni feels her face burn hotter. "That subliminal messaging reaaally fucks with you. All I knew was that I didn't wanna let go of you..." That confession felt way too intimate, so she decides to try and reel it back to friendly territory. "YOU KNOW 'CUZ YOU'RE A LITTLE BITCH AND I WAS DOING DANIEL'S BIDDING SO I HAD TO CONTAIN YOU SOMEHOW HAHAHA!" Yuni cringes at how Max recoils from her volume. "Sorry..."
David comes back to his senses after worrying away in his daydream, whining. "I can't imagine a life without Camp Campbell!"
"Shit." Max mutters lowly. "Just get me back once the idiot figures out a way to get rid of Daniel." Yuni gives him a nod as the end to their conversation, letting the boy go as he dashes towards the sauna.
"But, surely Daniel can't be THAT threatening!" David smiles, still too deep in his denial. "I mean, it's not like everyone loves him. Right, Max?" Earning no response from the boy in question, David looks around only to find Yuni standing on her own without Max in her arms. "...Max?" The counselor turns his frightened gaze to the sauna door, watching it hiss as it releases the lock.
The new empty shell of Max's former self steps out into the open. His colors have been washed out, much like everyone else's. His pupils are blown so wide that only a thin ring of green surrounds them. The smile on his face was much bigger than before, effectively creeping Yuni out. "I love you, Daniel!"
David gasps. "But... that's not right. Max doesn't love ANYTHING!"
"Don't make it sound so sad..." Yuni deadpans, quickly hiding behind David as Daniel turns his gaze to address his doppelganger.
"So, David. Care to join us for a drink?" Daniel smirks, enjoying the sight of Max finally joining the others at the table. There was only one other person to get rid of until the camp was his for the taking.
"Hmph!" David marches over to the punch table, and Yuni has to follow behind him to prevent from being seen out of her purification form. "Daniel, I-I'm actually afraid that.. we need to let you go." David dangs himself for stuttering. "I just don't think you're a good fit for Camp Campbell."
Daniel's smile strains at the corners of his mouth like it did earlier. He snaps his neck in one direction, internally reveling in the way it causes David to flinch. "Oh. I see. Well, it is... unfortunate you feel that way, David."
"Yeah, I'm afraid it's just not-" David starts, only to be interrupted.
"HOWEVER, as far as I'm aware, I've successfully met every requirement listed in my job description. So, YOU don't actually have the legal right to terminate my employment." Daniel keeps his toothy smile on his face, knowing he's backed David into a corner. (The thing that creeps me out is the fact that the transcript has a smiley written after this line! So... yeesh. Spooky.)
"Unless, of course," Daniel continues. "You think there's an aspect of this job I've yet to uphold...?"
David's eyebrows furrow deeper than they've ever gotten. "As a matter of fact, there IS." The peppy counselor pouts, not intending to lose his job to a first-day schmuck. "You may be a good camp counselor, Daniel. But what good is a camp counselor," He pulls out his guitar from whatever pocket dimension he keeps it in. "Without camp SONGS?"
Daniel gasps mockingly. "Why, David, I thought you'd NEVER ask!" He whips out his own instrument of choice, a fiddle, from whatever void pocket he keeps it in.
David gasps again before putting his foot down. "Hmph!" He strums a chord, and Yuni gets the feeling that she should take this time to rescue the others. She backs away slowly, keeping a close eye on Daniel in case he decides to switch his gaze to her.
I hope this won't sound impolite
Or come across as too forthright
David's doing a pretty good job at distracting Daniel, taking steps forward until he's basically all the cultist can see in his line of sight. Yuni takes the opportunity to dash for the sauna, remembering the knife still buried in the ground since her scuffle with Max. The grass crunching under her feet gets the attention of the purified campers, who all glance her way with the same blank stare.
But even though you seem alright, I...
Think I'm better than you!
As David begins his verse, Yuni runs to grab the knife. She can hear another pair of shoes trampling the grass behind her, and Yuni doesn't get the chance to look and see who was chasing after her until her legs are grabbed and pulled at. The girl falls face first into the dirt below, fingers just barely reaching the knife. She quickly spins her body around and scoots back to gain some distance from her assailant. Max closes in on her, like a vulture to its prey, as the others play backup.
Now please do keep this thought in mind,
That's just my personal conviction
You're smart and fun, you're sweet and kind
I'd call our friendship an addiction
Yuni feels for the knife's handle and yanks it out of the ground, holding it out in front of her. Max takes a few steps back, eyeing the weapon with a smile. The jagged blade is held within two shaky hands. "Stay back!" Yuni huffs out. "I don't want to hurt you!"
You're shoes are shined, your breath: dulce
But still I find I have to say I...
Think I might be better than you!
Yuni vaguely registers Daniel's fiddle playing, focusing more on Max lunging at her. She had to find a way to embarrass him... What embarrasses Max?!
You seem impressed with what you've shown
But I don't find it that compelling
You've sung my praise but not your own!
And well, I think that's pretty telling
Max has Yuni pinned by her arms, but a swift bunny kick to the stomach gets him off of her. She scrambles to get back up, knife still in hand. There was no way in hell she was going to stab the guy, absolutely no way. He runs at her again, still smiling, and Yuni thinks about her options.
'The only embarrassing thing I can think of for anyone would be to pants them. They did that a lot back home... But I'm going to have to get close. And what if I do it wrong!? I don't think I want to know...' She cringes and shakes her head at the implied imagery. Yuni starts running circles around the sauna, trying to keep Max off her tail until she's figured out what to do.
But while we're on the subject of how I'm superb and leagues above, you
Ought to know I'm number one!
'Hugging it is...' Yuni resolves, turning around and stopping mid-run. Max bumps into her full force, causing the two of them to fall back onto the ground. The girl uses the extra few seconds of confusion to wrap her arms tightly around Max, who thrashes violently in return. The smile hasn't left his face, instead become strained as he tries to contain his anger. 'Come on, Max...!'
I know that might be hard to swallow
This hurts you just as much as me
Yuni could hear the others singing along with Daniel. She was more preoccupied, however, with keeping Max at bay. She throws the knife towards the woods, relieving her grip for a second. Max attempts to dash after it, but Yuni immediately clamps her arms back together once the rustling of bushes tells her that the weapon was finally concealed somewhere.
The color was not coming back at all. Yuni was getting more panicky by the second. She tries lifting herself up into a sitting position, dragging Max with her. Paying no mind to their current skinship, lest she explode, Yuni experimentally fluffs at the boy's curls. He seems to relax a bit, so she takes it upon herself to continue playing with his hair. 'I guess... This kind of thing could be embarrassing?'
But when this song is sung then you and I'll know
That you're just a nobody!
David stomps on the ground, somehow changing the atmosphere from evil and dominating back to its original light-hearted spat feel. Yuni continues to essentially pet Max, watching the blue return to his hoodie. Whatever way his hair was styled in before she started tousling it was definitely gone by now, stray strands sticking out in certain places.
Well friend I don't know what to say-
Try starting with you're resignation
Let's end this in the finale
I'm dying from anticipation
It's from here that Yuni can't tell what they're saying, the two gentlemen overlapping each other's words. Max has stopped his protests, finally going still in her arms. Without looking up, Max stands up and robotically removes himself from her lap. He turns around, not daring to make eye contact. Oh, he was embarrassed alright.
"This. Never. Happened." He snaps. Yuni nods silently to herself, humming her affirmation so that the boy knew she was listening. "Now let's go fix everyone else."
Just know I'm better than...!
...Like keeping up this camp charade
And tricking kids to drink Kool-Aid
To sacrifice them-!
Hard cut to an ambulance taking Daniel away to the hospital. With Yuni, Max's, and David's combined help, the rest of the campers were returned back to normal. David was all too eager to provide hugs, although he didn't seem to like that the two helpers found such a nice gesture to be "embarrassing." He had to prevent the duo more than once from pants-ing the others, only to be met with blushing protest from both of them with reasons as to why it was "the only way."
"Poor guy." David says, watching the ambulance drive off into the distance. "Must have been some bad fruit punch."
Max sighs, clearly in need of a rest. "You're a moron."
"Well, kids," David turns to his campers, hoping that his happiness wasn't too obvious in his voice. "I guess that's the last we'll be seeing of Daniel. From now on, it's just you, me, and-" Before he could finish his sentence, the camp mobile pulls up to the mess hall. "...Gwen?"
Said co-counselor steps out of the car, much more ecstatic than when she had left. "David, fire that FUCKING weirdo, because I found us our newest camp counselor," She gestures for whoever's in the passenger's seat to get out of the car and introduce themselves. "Jen!"
Jen steps out of the side of the car, looking eerily similar to Gwen. Her colors were washed out, much in the same way Daniel's were. "I'm really into fashion and trashy magazines!" The lady holds up a magazine, conveniently letting the pages fall onto a centerfold that's been scribbled over in red. The pentagram in the middle wasn't fooling anyone. Except for maybe Space Kid.
A/N: Whoo! This chapter is way longer than I anticipated! Happy Season 2 everybody! We're strapping in for the long haul!
Originally, I was debating on whether or not to have the sing-off in the first place, but I decided, heck it, why not? It was a good excuse to practice writing action scenes, since I really haven't done that sort of thing :p
This chapter and the season's finale chapter have been in my memo drafts for a really long time, and they've both been subjected to changes that I think works better than what was originally written for them. I used to have a hostage scene in this chapter, where Yuni would handle Max just like Daniel wanted her to. She takes Max to the back of the sauna and threatens him with the knife and that was about it! Pretty simple, which is why I changed it out for what it became!
If I could request fanart for this fanfic, this chapter would be one where I'd like to see scenes drawn out for it. The whole "hugging to embarrass the other" scenario is something I'd love to see as an art piece.
And I think with this author's note, this chapter would currently be the record holder for the biggest word count so far :D!
But anyways, I'll see you all in the next chapter!