Happy New Year! And SURPRISE!
Sorry this has taken so long. I had most of it written for a long time, but a lot has been going on (as usual). I just gotta accept that there will be long pauses between uploads. With that being said, I'll probably start responding to reviews right away instead of before uploads. It's just too awkward now to wait. I hope you're all okay with that.
With that said, I know this chapter is short, but hopefully we'll get to more soon! I'm tired of all the mysteries myself!
Disclaimer: I do not own 'Be More Chill' or any of it's adaptations or content.
~Hints of the Past~
Michael lets out a breath as he stares at the bedroom door. He can hear voices outside - crying, arguing, pleading.
He has no idea what's going on, but is terrified to find out.
Slowly, he pulls his eyes back to Reese. The SQUIP's tears have long since dried, but they have yet to let go of their embrace. Instead, as time passed, they relaxed into it. The male wants to ask what's happening outside - or at least peek out - but the moment is too fragile to break. If it meant leaving Reese's side for two seconds, he isn't going to take it.
Apparently, others didn't share his sentiment.
A knock sounds. Michael glances back to the door, feeling Reese tense against him. Based on their reaction, he prepares to turn away whoever's there, but that person didn't wait for an answer.
The door opens.
The face that peers in is one Michael didn't expect to see, but didn't help ease his mind.
The SQUIP who attacked him on their first meeting stands in the doorway, leaning against its frame. Their eyes flicker between them for a moment, scanning the scene - scanning him - before giving Reese their complete attention.
"Come on," they beckon, "Let's go." Michael blinks, widely. Were they out of their mind? Did they honestly believe they can just burst in like that - uninvited - and demand his SQUIP's presence when they are clearly in a personal moment? He supposes it's a stupid thought – of course they'd think that - but it's been a long time since he's seen them and there is a part of him that hopes that his memory overexaggerated Jen's negative behavior. Clearly, it hadn't.
Michael opens his mouth to argue, but he didn't need to.
"No." The answer from Reese was short, and final. It was honestly shocking, but Michael felt relief from it all the same. He held them tighter to show it. Jen isn't surprised by their answer, though. Instead, they lean more heavily against the door frame.
"Do you want to help or not?" they question, tiredly. Reese's lips press into a tight line.
"There is a high failure rate-"
"-and my state can be more upsetting than helpful."
"If Black has an issue with my absence, they can speak to me directly."
"I'm sure they will once they stop staring out the window after Jakey-poo and get to work." Michael's brows furrow.
"What work? What do you need Reese for?" Jen's eyes snap to him. The same old emotions resurface - bitterness, annoyance, dislike - however it eases off after a moment. Tiredness returns in the SQUIP's eyes, and a look of pity accompanies it. He didn't quite understand, but with everything going on he's just glad the third degree lessened.
"Lots of things. It's been three years," they answer, "Pretty important to 'catch up'."
"Can't it wait?"
"That would be 'inefficient'," they air quote. The male's surprised to hear them mock their own language, but perhaps he shouldn't be, considering who he's talking to.
"You just woke up," Michael argues, "Shouldn't you be resting?"
"We did that the first time, didn't we, and ended up kidnapped, so…" Jen huffs, "Not everyone is so eager to sit down." Michael chokes. The SQUIP's words were sharp. He wished they weren't - it's been three years; a reminder of the past shouldn't feel like anything but a dull ache now. Instead, it felt like he was in a cold, damp hole – the only ray of light being obstructed by clumps of dirty slowly pouring in as he is buried alive. Slowly.
It was suffocating.
If his silence was noticed, neither acknowledged it. Instead, Jen turns to Reese and continues, "Yellow needs our help. Your new system would be greatly appreciated." Michael looks to Reese, surprised.
Reese meets his gaze, but turns it away shortly to sigh at the other SQUIP. "I'll relent," they say, "If you truly believe I'll be of help."
Jen nods, "I do."
Reese looks back at Michael. The male is too stunned to argue, or even shake his head. Everything in his posture screamed – begged – for them not to go. The SQUIP's eyes softened, "I won't be long."
Michael forces himself to tighten his grip, "Reese-"
"I won't go far," they add with a small smile. Michael's heart dies, and he finds it hard to keep composure. A lump grows in his throat, and all he can do is shake his head. Reese's brows pinch as they watch him slowly unravel. Gently, they pry his fingers from their arm, holding his hand tight in their own, "Ten minutes?" they offer. Behind him Michael can hear Jen scoff, but they - thankfully - said nothing. The male wants to deny the request, but his voice fails him. All he can do is look at them, pitifully, pleading for them to reconsider. Can't they deal with Yellow without them? Why did Reese have to go? It can't be that bad, right? The SQUIPs were speaking so calmly - without any panic – but…his friends…
…in his mind, he can still hear the echo of their cries from the hallway…
…Ten minutes…he waited three years; ten minutes was nothing. Yet, somehow, an eternity.
Michael knows he can't deny them this, he has no right. His eyes dull as he bobs his head. "Not a second more, Tic Tac," he mutters, a poor imitation of how he used to speak, "Or I'll dump Mountain Dew on your head." Reese tilts their head to the side, eyebrows pinching. No matter their thoughts, they still nod before roughly standing. Michael - on autopilot - quickly got to his own feet, hands held out to help the SQUIP. They didn't need it, though. The computer takes a moment to balance themself, but they did it on their own. With another short nod, Reese follows carefully after Jen - who was moving just as gingerly.
Michael lingers a moment before he tails behind the two. He allows himself to follow them for as long as he's allowed - out into the hallway and to the other bedroom's door. The entryway is already partially opened, and he can hear Jeremy and Jenna's voices speaking urgently inside. There was also another voice, one he didn't recognize. His brows furrow, but he didn't question it as Reese enters. He just watches.
Once again, Reese is gone…
The male barely moves his eyes to register the SQUIP still standing in front of him. Jen waits for his undivided attention. When they have it, they motion down the hallway towards Rich's room, "Go in there." Michael glances in its direction.
"Rich's in there."
"You're needed." The male raises a brow. Jen sighs, glancing over his shoulder to the closed door. They take their time, biting their lip lightly. Slowly, they say, "Look, I don't like you. Never have. Honestly, you're not much better than Rich, but…" they pause, "I don't care right now."
Michael shifts his weight, uncomfortably, "What…?"
"Do us a favour? Do Reese a favour, and just…just watch over Kert. Please?" they ask. Michael blinks, surprised. Jen's asking him to look out for Kert? Why? They hate the other SQUIP. What would have changed that?
"…Are they okay?"
"No," Jen answers, flatly, "Though, knowing the stupid Muppet, you won't be able to tell. Look, they're unconscious right now, so you don't have to do anything. But, if they wake up again, can you just…keep an eye out?"
"But…Rich is in there?" Michael points out, uncertainly. The SQUIP narrows their eyes.
"I know, that's the problem. Honestly, you're probably a problem too, but I'd rather you than the small fry. So, keep an eye on Kermit, or I'll kick your ass." The male didn't know how to answer them. He opens his mouth to try, but the computer walks into the room before he can and slams the door in his face.
Michael is left, staring.
How's he supposed to react to that? Can he even react? With everything suddenly happening, and it being barely recognizable, should he be surprised? It's hard for him to remind himself that time has passed – things have changed – but, at the same time, the SQUIPs shouldn't have been active the last three years. Nothing should have changed for them. Yet, it clearly has.
He's never been more scared to find out why.
Michael lets out a long breath, body slumping. His brown eyes shift to the door Rich's behind, and his heart tightens. All he wants to do is wait here like a whining puppy, but that won't be helpful.
Not like he's helpful anyways…
He sighs again, taking a step back and closing his eyes. When he opens them again, he turns and walks slowly to the door Jen pointed out. It was seconds before he was out front, and he hesitates, staring at the doorknob distantly.
A shuddered breath leaves his lips before he quietly knocks.
An irritated voice yells, "What?" Michael didn't answer. Instead, he carefully opens the door, peeking in. The room was exactly how he expected it to be – Kert tucked into the bed and Rich sitting by their side. His friend's head perks up upon seeing him. "Mikey!" he cries, quickly jumping to his feet. Michael takes it as permission to enter, and he does so. He didn't move far, just enough to lean against the door to close it.
Rich is in front of him in seconds, eyes scanning him rapidly and hands slightly raised. "Are you okay?" he asks, concerned, "Is Reese…?"
Michael's eyes fall to the floor, but he slowly nods, "They're okay…" Rich hesitates, chewing on his cheek. Carefully, he places a hand on the taller's shoulder. When Michael didn't pull away, he's guided by his friend to the bed. With small insistence, the two end up sitting on the floor together.
"What happened?" Rich asks, gently. Michael takes in a long breath.
"They were awake."
"And…I broke down," he shuts his eyes, "They just…held me. They were comforting me."
"What a fucking SQUIP," Rich sighs with a shake of his head. Michael lets out a watery sound, slowly meeting his gaze.
He whispers, "I told them…it's been three years…" The shorter's brows raise in shock before pinching together.
Cautiously, he asks, "…What did they say?" Michael shrugs.
"They didn't care."
"Wha - Really?"
"Yeah…" he shakes his head, "They were nerve blocking themselves, though, so…"
"Asshole," Rich mutters, crossing his arms, "Leave it to them to fucking ignore it." The taller sighs, curling his legs up to his chest.
The air felt thick again.
He tries not to suffocate, and instead looks around. His gaze falls on the bed. Quietly, he asks, "Is Kert okay?" Rich's expression shifts to concern.
"…I don't know," he admits, "They woke up for two seconds and I wasn't even here!"
"I heard people yelling before – I went outside!" the shorter defends, "Ari was crying and Christine was vomiting – like what the fucks happening?!" Michael glances at the door.
"…Is it even real?" He can feel Rich's eyes on him.
A moment of silence passes.
Hesitantly, the shorter shifts so he's leaning against the other, wrapping an arm around Michael's shoulders in comfort. "Hey," he whispers, "We'll kill them if its fake, 'kay?" Michael didn't answer. The conversation died after that.
The two sat in silence – staring, but not seeing. Rich's mind is racing with confused thoughts and disbelief – cursing at whoever made this their reality. Michael is lost in guilt – worrying about the time that's passed, what has changed and what will change. All he wants is Reese back, but…
A quiet knock sounds at the door.
The two shift their gaze to it. Rich calls, "What?" Once again, he gets no answer, but the door opens anyways.
Chloe appears. "Room for two?" she questions, pushing the door wide enough to reveal Christine beside her. Their friend is leaning heavily against Chloe, her face unnaturally pale.
Rich softens, "Shit Chris." Christine moans in response.
Gently, Chloe guides the nauseas girl inside, "Okay, let's sit down." The shorter bobs her head in agreement, letting the taller close the door before being guided to the boys. Michael absentmindedly reaches a hand up to hold hers as she slowly sits beside him, supporting some of her weight as Chloe did the rest. Then, they were in a circle.
The taller woman sighs, her body slumping as she pushes her hair out of her eyes. "So," she breathes, "How's your end of the hellhole?" Rich huffs in annoyance. Chloe nods, "Yeah, us too."
The shorter male turns his heated eyes towards Christine, and they soften, "You okay?" She nods, weakly, as she leans over to rest her head against Michael's shoulder. Her friend wraps an arm around her in response.
Quietly, Christine explains, "Lot of blood." Rich nods in understanding.
Chloe glances at each member, and after a moment asks, "Do you know if…?" Rich looks at her.
She meets his gaze, "If that SQUIP's alive." Michael's eyes widen, staring at her in absolute horror. Rich reflects his shock, and Christine curls up tighter.
The shorter male was the first to burst, "Dead? What the fuck?!"
"They were bleeding a lot, and then Ari started screaming and-"
"There's a dead body?!"
"No," Michael quickly shakes his head, "No."
Chloe raises her hands in defense, "I don't know – I'm asking. I really can't handle that if it happens, and I'm already trying not to freak out because all of you are crying, and-"
"No," Michael denies, again, "No, Jen said they're going to help Yellow. It's…It's Yellow, right?" Christine visibly sags in relief, much to the male's comfort, and even Chloe lets out a happy sigh.
Rich scoffs, "Yeah, trust Jen."
Michael turns his eyes to the other, "Why would they lie?"
"Cause they're Jen."
Chloe waves a dismissive hand, "Yeah, but they actually like the other SQUIPs." Rich scowls.
"Yeah, about Ari and Neo. They never gave a shit about anyone else." Michael's mind floats back to his conversation with Jen –they were the reason he came into the room in the first place.
"Maybe not," he mumbles, quietly. The shorter raises a brow, letting out a huff of laughter.
"Please, they like us as much as they like you," he points out. Michael didn't voice his disagreement. Jen's concern for Kert is out of place from everything he remembered of them, and he honestly didn't know how to take it. He glances at Rich. It was his friend that posed a threat to Kert in Jen's mind…and though he didn't know why, he had a theory. Though, if said theory was true, why they trusted him any more than Rich he didn't understand. Why would he be different? Either way, he can't tell Rich that. The other will freak out, and that is the last thing they need right now.
"Well," Rich huffs, breaking Michael out of his thoughts, "Jen can go fuck off."
"Whatever," Chloe sighs, "If Yellow is okay, that's all that matters. Seriously, everything needs to chill for a sec." Everyone mutters an agreement. With a small nod, Chloe leans back against her hands. "Remember when we were supposed to come here on vacation?" she shakes her head with a sigh, "Relaxing celebration my ass."
Rich hums, "Wonder how bean pole is taking it." The four glance at each other. Michael didn't get a chance to see his friend's reaction when they arrived. Then again, he himself was under too many emotions to look at any face other than Reese's during the whole SQUIP freak out.
Did…Did Jeremy even get a chance to see Reese yet? Truly see them? They now were in the same room – are they happy? Sad? Is Reese too focused on helping Yellow to give their former host any attention? Or were they too distracted by Jeremy to focus on Yellow?
Michael felt his stomach churn. There was a lot about Jeremy that's changed over the years – a lot about himself too. Will Reese stay okay with it all? When they drop their nerve blocking, will they break down? If they didn't, Michael surely will. Someone needed to…
"Well," Chloe's voice breaks through, "We should probably figure out what we're gonna say to them. You know, the SQUIPs." Rich snorts.
"Yeah, okay. 'Hey guys! Remember when you were kidnapped? Yeah, sorry about that. We fucked up! But, anyways, it's all still good! We're all still friends – but, you know, hanging out differently cause of school and all. Oh yeah, it's been three years! Some of us are getting married, some are doing school, and some are living in a car with a 'not' fuck buddy looking for you guys! So, welcome back!'" the male deflates, crossing his arms, "Did that sum it up for you?" Chloe glowers.
"Yeah, exactly what I wanted," she says, sarcastically.
Christine fidgets. "Do you think…" she hesitates, "…They'll hate us?" The other three look at her, conflicted. Michael is the only one with utter defeat already on his face.
Chloe shrugs, "We tried. If they hate us…that's not our fault. We did a lot."
"Not enough," Rich argues. The woman raises a brow at him.
"Well, quitters can't complain." The shorter glares, puffing up his chest in anger.
"I didn't quit."
"Jake and Ari might disagree."
"Fuck them! Not everyone can live in a car and spend their whole fucking lives searching every single fucking building in the world!"
"Please, you didn't even try."
"I had my own fucking things to deal with!" the male snaps, his composure already starting to faulter, "I couldn't…let Kert down." His eyes travel to his SQUIP before falling to the floor. Chloe bit her lip, guilt passing over her.
With a small sigh, she says, "Sorry." Rich didn't answer, but his demeanor suggests he isn't going to hold a grudge.
Christine looks at the two wearily, slowly shifting to sit up on her own. Her eyes are watering, but her voice is more firm than before, "We can't do this. We can't fight. We've come too far…" The woman pauses, taking her time to compile her words, "We all lost something, and I'm proud of us for…for helping each other. We became a team!" She looks at Chloe with a soft smile, "Player Five," then to Rich, "Three," then Michael, "And two. We gotta stay like that, right?" Michael felt his heart lighten at her words, a hint of nostalgia overtaking him.
He squeezes her shoulder, "Player four." She smiles in response. Chloe crosses her arms, though her expression isn't sour. Instead, she seems determined.
"You're right. Alright, players," she announces, "What's the new plan?"