Here we are in the long awaited sequel! Two years later and we're finally here! Ahhh, so exciting! I was having the hardest time figuring how I wanted this to start, since it's not exactly starting off mild like Replaced did. The only thing I can say is that the first couple of chapters is gonna be wonky, but it'll have its payoff.
Let's get this next adventure going! Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I do not own 'Be More Chill' or any of it's adaptations or content.
~Twisting with Time~
Michael could barely breathe. His heart was hammering in his chest, thundering as he tried to focus.
He thought he could do this…he believed he'd be able to stay strong in the face of crisis - but he was wrong. His eyes were watering beyond control, his whole body shaking, and he desperately clung to the steering wheel in front of him.
He didn't think one phone call could change everything…
…but he shouldn't have been so surprised. That voice always found a way to take his world and throw it into orbit until he could barely function as a human being - both in good and bad ways. What he didn't expect was for it to be happening now.
"Michael," a present voice called. He couldn't even pull his eyes away from the rain that splashed his windshield to look at his passenger seat. He knew Rich was there, watching him. Michael didn't know what expression his friend was wearing, but he could imagine it was a mix of concern and barely controlled adrenaline.
"Mikey," Rich called, again, more softly this time, "You got this." Michael swallowed thickly, blinking back the tears that threatened to form,
"I'm falling apart," he breathed, voice cracking near the end. His friend reached over and rubbed his arm in comfort.
"Yeah," he sniffed, "Me too."
The car fell into silence. It was agonizing, and it brought back awful memories. Memories of a silent house, and silent car drives. Memories all revolving around…
Could he still not think of their name, even now?
The silence was broken by a voice in the backseat, "I can't believe it." He knew it was Chloe speaking. "I can't fucking believe it."
"Are you really surprised?" another voice commented - Jenna.
"I mean - no. But like, now? Of all times?"
Rich scoffed, turning in his seat to glare at her, "It's not like they have a choice!" Chloe sighed, heavily.
"Yeah, I know, I'm just saying. Look, I'm happy, 'kay? I'm just saying…this is fucked up, and I'm allowed to think that." The male huffed in annoyance, but settled back into his seat. Michael could see out of the corner of his eye that his friend was fidgeting, grabbing at the bottle of Mountain Dew on his lap and playing with its cap.
"Don't," he whispered, a deep warning in his tone. Rich didn't tear his gaze from the drink, but nodded heavily instead.
The air grew thick.
"Hurry!" Michael's voice called, shuffling accompanying the sound. Rich could only bob his head in acknowledgment, too busy grabbing as many bottles of Mountain Dew as he could find into a bag. His friend's fridge was running low on the demon drink, but damn it if he wasn't going to use every last drop he could get.
"You ready?" Michael questioned, and Rich finally turned to see the taller exiting the SQUIP's bedroom. Closing the bag in front of him, he nodded.
"Is that it?" he asked, motioning to the box in the other's hand. Michael's gaze fell, his throat closing up as he looked at the object.
"Yeah…" The air felt heavy, barely breathable as they both took in the weight of their task.
Sniffing back his emotions, Michael continued, "We don't have time. Let's go." Without waiting for confirmation, he headed for the stairs and climbed them to the main floor, Rich following close behind.
"So, what's the plan?" the shorter asked, "Is it the Monopoly one?"
"I don't know," Michael confessed, hugging the box close to his chest, "We just…we have to…" His steps faltered, and he stumbled into the wall.
"Mikey!" Rich called, grabbing his friend's arm to help stabilize him.
"I can't lose them," Michael hiccuped, feeling the adrenaline from earlier leaving his body and being replaced by an emptiness he wished he never felt. Rich hesitated, glancing at the front door where he knew the others were waiting on the other side. Regardless, he pulled his friend into a right hug, squeezing as though it'd keep all the pieces together.
"We'll get them back," he whispered, "I promise."
"Fuck," the male cursed, tightening his hold on the steering wheel. The rain had gotten thicker, pouring down in sheets as it obstructed his view. Jake didn't care, his truck would pummel through it whether it liked it or not.
A small hand reach out and rested on his arm. "We're almost there," Ari's soft voice informed. He nodded, glancing at the small SQUIP beside him. The computer's eyes weren't on him, but instead trained ahead, brows furrowed in worry. Despite their deep concern, their posture was laced in confidence - confidence in their abilities and their determination to fulfil their goal. The sight made a small part of him beam. He could still remember when the SQUIP was too shy to speak - it's been a long time since then.
Jake pulled his eyes back to the road, "I should have known all that planning would go down the drain." Ari sighed.
"Blue didn't know."
"Let me guess, Bud didn't say anything to them?"
"No…" Jake shook his head, taking a deep breath and try to calm himself.
"Well, now everyone knows. Fuck, Rich is probably freaking the hell out."
"Michael…" Ari named, remorsefully.
"…Yeah," the male nodded, heavily, "I can't even imagine…" The computer curled their legs up onto the chair, hugging them close to their chest. Jake glanced at the motion, recognizing the nervous gesture, "Hey, talk to me. What's up?"
"What if…" Ari let out a shuttered breath, gripping their jeans tightly, "What if things are worse than we thought?" Jake pressed his lips into a tight line.
"Do you think they are?"
"…It's a high possibility…"
"…I think so too."
"Shit," Jake cursed, pulling his truck into park as fast as he could. As soon as the key was out, he yanked his seat belt off and scrambled out of the vehicle, racing to the passenger side. Wasting no time, he ripped open the door, eyes locking on the SQUIP inside. Ari was still unconscious, slumped heavily against the chair. Jake let out a shuttered breath.
He was lucky - after he woke up, he was released from the hospital almost immediately. It was timed perfectly, because as he walked through the ward, he noticed suspicious figures. There was nothing about them that seemed out of place, but a voice in his head screamed that they were dangerous. It must have been a distant call from his SQUIP, but he wasn't going to ignore it.
Jake quickly hunted his way to Ari's room, and was relieved that they were still there. He knew they didn't have long, and guarding wont be enough this time. It was easy enough to persuade Christine to help him - she grabbed a wheelchair for the SQUIP to rest in and they carried out their plan.
A little tampering with the cameras from his inner SQUIP, and here he back home with Ari. Christine had wanted to come with him, but Jake had insisted for her stay behind. He already knew in his mind what needed to be done…and he couldn't ask Christine to join, no matter if she would agree.
He didn't know then, but it was the right thing to do after what happened to Jeremy.
"Okay," he whispered to himself, trying to focus on the task at hand. Leaving the computer's side, he rushed into the garage. The teen knew he couldn't stay at his house - the SQUIP people will start checking homes again when they realize Ari's missing, and it was clear they weren't playing nice anymore. He also knew he couldn't keep driving around - his licence plate would trace back to him.
He needed something different.
Grabbing his bike from its hiding place, he rolled it out of the garage and down the driveway. To his relief, when he returned he saw Ari was awake - if still dazed and confused. "Jake?" they whispered, uncertain. He smiled, scooping them up into his arms and placing them in the bike's basket. Thank God Rich convinced him to buy such a thing, it was the perfect size for anyone small to fit in. The SQUIP made a startled sound as they were placed inside.
"Hang on, okay?" Jake encouraged, getting on behind them and balancing the bike, "I'm getting us somewhere safe."
"Darn," Christine cursed, frowning at the phone in her hands. Lifting her gaze to the driver's seat, she pouted, "Ari's not answering."
"They're probably distracted," Brooke reasoned, glancing at the girl through the rear view mirror.
Christine nodded absentmindedly, typing at her phone once again despite the reassurance, "I'm gonna try one more time." The other girl sighed, but didn't say anything. Instead, she shifted her gaze to her passenger seat. Jeremy sat silently beside her, staring out his window in a deep daze. He hadn't spoke once since they got in the car - the only sign that he was drowning in anxiety being shown through his leg bouncing.
"Hey," she called, gently, placing a hand on his thigh. The male didn't jump at the contact, instead shifting eyes to meet hers. She gave a comforting smile, "It's gonna be okay."
"Is it?" he mumbled, his expression crumbling, "How do I know? SQUIP - he's…he's…"
"What if he's hurt? What if he doesn't remember me? Or Michael-"
"He called Michael."
"But I didn't hear what he said! What if - What if -"
"Jeremy," Christine called from the back, putting her phone down to give her full attention. Reaching forward she put her hand on his shoulder and squeezed, "They're gonna be okay." Jeremy hesitated before giving a stiff nod, offering the girl a strained smile as he took Brooke's hand in his own for comfort.
"I won't let it happen again," he said, determination rising in his eyes, "I'm gonna be there for him." Christine's smile softened.
"I know you will."
"What if I drink the Mountain Dew?" Jeremy questioned into his phone, "I-I mean…you-know-who is really strong! He could tell me where he is."
"What if something happens?" Michael questioned on the other line, "What if it puts them in danger? Or wakes them up at the wrong time?"
"I don't know," Jeremy confessed, kicking at the pavement dejectedly, "I just…want to help more." His friend sighed heavily.
"I promise I'll ask you to drink it if we need to," Michael vowed, "But until then, please protect Ari. I can't split my focus right now."
"You sound really tired. I don't wanna make it worse."
"…I'll sleep when this is all over."
"Yeah right, you're gonna sleep the next time I see you, or I'll send Christine after you."
"God no," his friend breathed out a laugh, "No…save that energy for…" Jeremy bit his lip.
"Yeah," the taller looked back at the hospital behind him. Every minute ticked closer to the biggest move they've made yet…he didn't know if he was ready, but he was going to try.
Jeremy was too distracted by his best friend to notice the person walking up behind him. He didn't even consider that he could be the real one in danger until it was too late.
Michael's panicked voice echoed in his ears as his phone fell from his hand. The person - or persons - grabbed at him, wrestling him into submission as they pulled him from view. A flash of red passed in front of his vision, and his eyes went wide.
No. Not that. Please.
Please don't take SQUIP away.
"Michael…If you can hear this, I'm…I'm…where am I?"
Michael shuttered at the memory. He couldn't get the SQUIP's voice out of his head, or the voice mail they left him.
"I…can barely see. I don't…Please, if you get this…find me. I don't know how, but try. I'm not the only one here…but I'm the only one awake, and…it's so hard to keep my eyes open…"
It shook him to the core. To hear their voice again, to know they're somewhere near - that they needed him. He didn't know how to react, or how to feel.
They started driving without any direction at first, but after a phone call with Jake they had a better idea. Jake and Ari had been in contact with the other SQUIPs, but had lost their connection shortly ago. They didn't come out empty handed, though. There were two possible roads the SQUIPs could be on. They would search one path, and Michael would check the other.
As each minute passed, his breathing kept threatening to falter. His head felt light, and his body refused to stop shaking.
It didn't matter though. He needed to find them.
"We've been at it for an hour now," Jenna huffed, face pressed up against her window. Glancing at the boys in the front, she said, "Let me drink it."
"No," Rich denied, hugging the Mountain Dew closer.
"I only need a sip-"
"You heard the voice mail - Neo's the only one awake."
"So what? My SQUIP could be with them!"
"What if they're not? The douche bags could be waiting for one of us to sync up with our SQUIPs - who could still be captured! - and use it to find us," Rich argued, "I'm not giving my Muppet up now because you refuse to fucking wait."
"Yo, calm down," Chloe interjected, narrowing her eyes at the male, "Don't give Jenna shit for wanting to sync with her SQUIP after you ruined your connection with yours." Rich flinched at her words, tightening his hold on the bottle.
"Don't bring that fucking up."
"I won't if you calm down. We're supposed to be a team, not a fucking war zone."
"Stop it," Michael interjected. Forcing his tired eyes away from the road, he looked into the rear view mirror, "This is hard enough without dumping salt on it." No one argued with that.
Jenna sighed heavily, rubbing at her eyes, "Back to old habits. Who would have thought we'd be doing this again?"
"They really do bring out the crazy in us," Chloe agreed, brushing her hair out of her face. Rich let out a small snort, gazing out his window.
"The best kinda crazy," he whispered, a fond smile reaching his lips. Chloe's face softened, and she reached forward to rub his arm.
"Let's bring the crazy to them this time, kay?" she said, smiling. Rich returned it.
"Yeah…We're not gonna fucking lose."
"No," Michael agreed, his tone darkening, "I won't lose."
Numbness. That was the only thing Michael could feel anymore. He couldn't remember the last time he blinked, staring out at the nothingness in front of him. At some point he had found his way home, and without thinking he had walked straight into their room.
Michael look down at the bed he was sitting on, distantly trailing his hand over it's blanket. They hadn't slept in that room for a while, but it still felt like them, it had their touch.
It hurt. It hurt to think of them - to remember their voice, their face, their eyes. It just…hurt.
His eyes fell to the item in his hand. He had kept the gift they had left him, and at some point he had grabbed it. A part of Michael didn't want to open it, he wanted them to be there when he did.
But he couldn't wait for them anymore…they weren't…
His fingers moved on their own, and he watched distantly as they slowly pried the wrapping paper off. It revealed an edge - a frame? His brows furrowed as he pulled the gift out.
It was a picture frame, the image inside…
Michael couldn't stop the sob that escaped him.
"Hi, Rich," Ari's sweet voice named over the phone. Rich huffed, holding the phone out for everyone in the car to hear.
"Yeah, hi. Is my dumbass friend with you?" he asked. There was a shuffled on the other line before…
"Hi, Rich," Jake called.
"Oh, remembered my name now did yeah?" Rich grumbled, "Did you find my Muppet yet or not? 'Cause I'm about to lose my shit in this rain."
"Ari senses something up ahead. We think it's them." The male's eyes shot open as he shared a look with Michael.
"Give me the address," the later pleaded. There was a moment of hesitation before the SQUIP gave directions.
They were a half hour away…
"Damn it," he cursed, "Keep us on the line when you get there!"
"Yeah, don't hang up," Chloe second, shifting closer to the phone, "I haven't heard your voice in forever."
"Is now really the time to be flirting?" Rich questioned, incredulously. The girl stuck her tongue out in reply.
"…We're here," Jake informed, silencing the whole car. Michael could barely hear it over the hammering of his heart, and the pounding of the rain. He strained his ear, trying to listen through the silence of the other line.
"…Well?" Rich pressed, impatiently, "Do you see them?"
Jake's quiet voice breathed out a "Fuck," as the sound of a door opening was heard. The phone was filled with pounding rain, and splashing footsteps. Michael could barely focus on his own driving as he was distracted by Jake and Ari's distant voices trying to communicate to each other. Banging could be heard on glass, names being called.
"Blue?!" Ari's voice called. It left a deafening sound in its wake.
Michael's whole world crumbled down in one word. One name.
"Michael?!" Rich's voice cried out, but it slipped away.
Reese was alive.
But his world went black.
"Jake," a voice cried. The male shifted his wide eyes to look through the window to the SQUIP standing on the other side of the vehicle. Ari was drenched from the rain, eyes barely visible behind the thick tears that streamed down their cheeks. They were mortified at the sight they found inside the van - the one they knew the SQUIPs were in…and so was he. He couldn't even find his voice to say anything, to comfort them. His mouth just hung open in horror, his vision swimming at the amount of blood smeared inside, and on its occupants.
Jake swallowed thickly. Slowly, he lifted his shaking fingers and pressed them against the glass, looking at the SQUIP just behind. He could barely make out their features aside of their ebony skin and dark hair, but he knew they were alive.
He could feel it.
"Bud?" he whispered, bringing his face close to the window. The SQUIP inside stirred…
…and charcoal eyes met his.
A/N: Unreliable narration, can you tell what's happening?