Chance lay in bed, staring bleakly at the wall. He could smell the food that Glados had set out for him but he couldn’t eat. The last time he tried, just a few bites of food had sent him gagging it back up into the toilet within two minutes.
Fresh tears began soaking his pillows and he curled into the fetus position, crying out. He couldn’t hold on anymore. He felt himself diminishing into a pale shadow of what he once was. Or, at least, that’s what Gretchen had said when she tried giving him energy with magic. Emphasis on ‘try’. As soon as she took her wand out Chance had screamed and kicked, knowing damn well that a spell is what had killed Specter, that magic had torn apart Zaid’s soul.
“Pa?” He remained in bed as Glados came into the room with a tray of fresh food. She changed out the plates and sighed. “Pa, you need to eat. You’ve barely eaten anything in five days.”
Chance rolled onto his stomach and hugged Specter’s pillow tighter. He knew he had to eat but he just couldn’t. He couldn’t do anything. He had lost his son. His baby boy, his baby–his youngest! Half the time all he could think about was holding Zaid as a baby, cradling him, feeding him, teaching him to walk, teaching him to talk…
The other half of the time Specter filled his mind. Their tiny wedding. The feel of their first kiss after Chance had become human. Laying in bed with Specter’s arms around him. The sensation of Specter’s beard against his skin…
“Pa, please eat something.”
Chance slowly sat up, staring at the small tray Glados had. Half a sandwich and a small glass of milk. He shakily took the glass and forced down a couple sips. It felt like acid on his throat and lead weights in his stomach. He choked and dropped the glass, sending milk everywhere. Scrambling out of bed knocked the sandwich to the floor.
“Pa!” Gladdy took his arm and helped him into the bathroom where he knelt over the toilet, gagging more. “You’ll end up in the hospital if this keeps up.” She rubbed his back and then got a damp cloth, wiping his face off.
“S–sorry,” he mumbled. “I can drink w-water. I think…”
After the mess was cleaned up and the sheets changed, Gladdy brought the other half of the sandwich with some water. Chance managed to swallow a couple bites of the sandwich and drank most the water. Glados left the food, hoping he might have some more before too long.
Chance curled up, hugging Specter’s pillow again. He wished he could do better for the sake of his kids but it felt like every movement he made took as much energy as running a marathon. When he walked it felt like walking through molasses and on glass shards. He didn’t want to get out of bed again.
You’ll have to soon, he thought, eyes closed tight. He would. Eventually… when it wasn’t so hard to move. When it didn’t take so much effort…
Chance, you need to eat…
He could practically hear Specter. “Not again,” he whimpered. He had been hearing Specter and Zaid’s voices on and off. Never when he was this awake though, usually when he was half asleep. Maybe I’m dying. Maybe I’m starving to death, he wondered.
“You need to eat.”
“Stop it, leave me alone,” Chance cried, clinging to pillow tighter.
“Damn it Chance, eat something.”
Huh, the voices never cussed at me before, he thought. But then things got worse as he could practically feel Specter’s hand on his shoulder. “Stop it, please, please stop,” Chance begged, curling up tighter.
“I’ll stop if you eat.”
Chance sat up quickly, glaring at what he expected to be an empty room.
Instead he found himself glaring into the green, transparent face of Specter.
Chance screamed and flung himself back off the bed. He hit the ground with a painful crash and kept screaming, scrambling away from the phantom on his bed. Specter just watched with a slight scowl on his face.
“You’ll break something if you fly off the bed like that,” said the ghost.
Chance panted heavily, eyes huge. Could he really be seeing Specter’s ghost? He saw ghosts all the time but they were… strangers. This was Specter. Specter had died only six days before. His body had been buried two days ago. But here he was, standing in their bed with a concerned scowl.
“Pa?!” Glados burst through the door. “Oh my Watcher, Pa, you fell! Here–“
“Do you see him?!” Chance demanded, pointing at Specter.
Glados knelt next to Chance and glanced towards the bed. “No, I don’t see anything. Who? Oh, Pa, are you hallucinating? Maybe I should take you to the hospital–“
“No!” Chance yelped, pushing away from Glados now. “No, I’m–fine. Please no hospitals. Please. I don’t like them. I’m fine.” Of course Glados couldn’t see Specter. She couldn’t see ghosts, like Chance could. None of his kids could. “Please. I’m okay.”
He struggled to get up and Glados helped him, a nervous look on her face. “Pa… come on, if you’re seeing things–“
“I’m not. I was dreaming. That’s all.” He gave her what he hoped looked to be a reassuring smile and gave her a quick hug. “I’m fine. I promise. You go rest. You need to rest,” he added, eyes going to her stomach where Zaid and Noah’s unborn baby wasn’t even a month old.
“Let me get you back into bed–“
“No, I want to look out the window,” Chance lied. “Go rest, sweetie, okay? I’m okay!”
Glados slowly left the room after Chance promised to lay down soon. But Chance just looked at the bed after the door shut, at his late husband’s scowl. Specter slowly drifted a bit closer and Chance stepped back, biting his bottom lip.
“I must be dreaming,” he whispered, though the fall on the floor had really hurt.
Specter’s scowl turned into a slight smile. “If you were dreaming or imagining this, I’d probably be naked.”
“…That’s true,” Chance squeaked, blushing a bit. “It’s really you?”
“Yeah, it is.”
Chance surveyed him for another minute then ran forward, throwing himself into Specter’s arms, never doubting for a minute that he’d be caught. Specter wrapped his arms around Chance and picked him up, spinning him around as he cried. Specter carefully set him back on the ground and stroked his hair. “Shh, don’t cry, it’s okay. I’m here.”
“Specter!” Chance sobbed, clutching at the ghostly fabric. “Specter. You’re here, it’s really you, you’re back.”
Specter rested his cheek against the top of Chance’s head and just held him, feeling like he might get a tear himself just from Chance’s emotions and from being back with him after six days in the Nether which really had felt like so much more. Holding Chance again was definitely better than the ‘heavenly’ afterlife.
Then they were kissing. The first contact of lips was gentle and sweet before it became deep and passionate. And then Chance went right through him. Specter pulled back, feeling slightly embarrassed until he remembered that Chance had done that as a ghost too. He just needed to focus better.
“I’ll have to get in practice,” Specter said then smirked. “I suppose that means… lots of practicing…” He put his hands carefully on Chance’s hips, relieved that his hands settled on Chance’s body instead of going through.
Chance giggled. “Not for long though, you’ll be able to become living again! I’ll contact the Reddings, they can make you alive like they did me. Oh! Is Zaid with you?!” He perked up, looking very eager.
Specter frowned. “Love, I don’t think I can become living again. You weren’t a normal ghost, and you were the only one they ever were able to do that with.” He rubbed his thumbs along Chance’s hipbones. “And… no. Zaid’s not with me. I don’t think he’s a ghost…” Hadn’t he seen Zaid in the Nether?
Chance’s smiled waned just a bit but didn’t disappear. Specter rubbed his hipbones gently. “Zaid’s not… he’s… not… ummm, a ghost?”
“No. He was in the Nether, I think.” Specter struggled to remember the Nether but he just got bits and pieces and none of them seemed to add up. “He is okay though, I’m sure of that.” His hands glided around to Chance’s back, up his shirt a bit to massage the spot he knew made Chance feel good.
Chance shivered delightfully at the touch. “At least you’re here. Even as a ghost…” He reached up, cradling Specter’s face in his hands, grinning. “I missed your beard.” He stood on tiptoes to nuzzle the beard. Then kissed Specter again.
Specter moved his hands down a bit, cupping Chance’s bum and gently picking him up–not very far off the ground since he wasn’t sure if he could keep himself solid enough. Then he laughed, something he rarely did so it shocked Chance. “What is it?” Chance asked, tilting his head to one side.
“I just thought of this as being solid,” Specter answered, teeth flashing through his beard. “That’s what you used to call it. Going solid or not solid.”
He turned around to put Chance on the bed but Chance kept his legs around Specter, preventing him from moving… unless he went, well, not solid. “This is gonna take a lot of getting used to,” Specter grumbled.
“I’ll help as much I can!” Chance snuggled closer, nestling his head against Specter’s chest. “What I can remember at least thought. Oh, Specter, you’re back, you’re really here.”
Specter tried to go not-solid but couldn’t. “Hmph.”
“What’s bugging you?” Chance asked, deciphering the sound easily.
“Trying to… figure this damn ghost thing out.” Specter focused until he managed to go through Chance. He sat up against the headboard and tried to go back to being solid as Chance settled between his legs. “Ggrrrrrrr!”
“You’ll figure it out.” Chance ran his fingers along Specter’s cheek or would if it had been solid. “I don’t think Glados can see you though.”
“No, it’s like other ghosts. None of our kids will. Just you–a-ha!” He went solid and pulled Chance close. “This stupid thing shoulda come with a manual.”
“I’ll be your manual.” Chance closed his eyes, head against his chest, feeling a bit strange not hearing Specter’s heartbeat. “Kinda iconic, isn’t it?”
“Ironic,” Specter corrected. “At least I am guessing you’re saying it’s ironic the ghost hunter’s turned into a ghost now.”
Chance shook his head. “Nope. Though that is funny. I just mean that our relationship started with me being the ghost and you living and now it’s, umm, vice… verse…”
“Vice-a versa. Yes, that is ironic too.” He slid his hand back up Chance’s shirt to massage that spot. “Guess I was too old to go…”
“Nooo. Well. Kinda. But. Um. Who knows what the ghosts would have done if you hadn’t?” Chance gave him a big-eyed look. “Lumie and Vilkas could have been hurt too. Not just… Z… Zaid…”
“I’m so sorry I couldn’t protect him.” Specter put his forehead against Chance’s forehead as guilt swept through his body. He hadn’t protected his son. He had saved his daughter, but not his son. Even though Specter knew he had been killed before Zaid… he knew he’d never be able to forgive himself.
But now, at least, he could be there for Chance.