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Memorial Services: Reaper Man

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Feb 2nd, 2018
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  1. It occurs to you, distantly, how much you miss sleep sometimes. Watching Lazarus' chest rise and fall with his breath, body limp and eyes closed as he dreams about who-knows-what. Morning came a while ago, but you decided to let him sleep in. As it turns out, dealing with the ghost of an aristocrat who can freeze you in time can be pretty exhausting.
  2.  
  3. Of course, it's currently 11 AM, and you figure that even with the exhaustion of the previous day, enough was enough. Right as you move to give him your usual wake up call (ice cold ghost hands right on his butt), the phone rings and he literally falls out of bed in his scrambling to answer it.
  4.  
  5. You just sorta... float behind him, while he speaks to whoever's on the other end. The usual questions, of course, to make sure this wasn't a much simpler problem than either of you would actually be needed to deal with. Now that neither of you are particularly startled, you prepare to hover off and do something else with your time...
  6.  
  7. And then Lazarus' eyes go wide and he asks “HOW many bodies???” and your interest is piqued. He mumbles something about how he'll totally be there and how they should probably avoid letting anyone else into the room, then hangs up and turns to you.
  8.  
  9. “So, what's up? Actual bodies?” you ask, casually. You're a bit desensitized, at this point, but Laz is pretty used to your apathy in the face of death.
  10.  
  11. “Yeah, actual bodies. Yknow that new exhibit at the museum? Artifacts from some ancient society or another?” he asks, heading for the bathroom to start his morning routine. “Apparently anyone who gets too close to this one ring starts getting really sick or something, and then they just drop dead. They've lost, like, two night guards at this point.”
  12.  
  13. One advantage to being a spirit you learned ages ago is that, unless you want to, you don't actually take up any physical space. Which is why you hover beside him as he showers so as to continue your conversation. “Huh. Like, life-drain sick? You'd think they'd know the symptoms by now.”
  14.  
  15. He shakes his head a bit. “Nah, not that. Apparently it's kinda like... you get kinda achey, and then five minutes later you just drop dead.” he explains. “This is a really aggressive spirit ability or something.”
  16.  
  17. You consider that for a bit. “Huh. So, I guess you and I are gonna investigate, then?” you ask him, as he steps out of the shower and begins drying off. “I don't know if that's a super idea, even with your Wards.”
  18.  
  19. He rolls his eyes. “You say that all the time. We could actually go up against, like, a Nome and you'd still insist my Wards aren't powerful enough. 'Ooh, Laz, look out! He might make vegetables grow in your general direction!'” he says in a surprisingly good imitation of your voice, waving his hands a bit.
  20.  
  21. You respond by simply wrapping your spectral arms around him in a hug. “'Cause I love you, you dummy.” you tell him. “Yknow, the reason I came back? The reason I beat the everloving crap out of any other spirits that look at you funny?”
  22.  
  23. He smiles a bit, but gently pulls your arms off of him. “Yeah, I know, but this is a partnership, remember? Memorial Services was always a two-man deal. Or, uh, one man and a ghost now, I guess?” he questions himself, pulling on an outfit. “Point is, if I weren't around to lock up the area, every ghost we fought would just bail the moment you go all Guardian Angel on them.”
  24.  
  25. “I dunno, I fly pretty fast.” you respond, floating towards the Bond Pendant and sequestering yourself inside. “I could totally kick ass if I could move, like, further than a mile from this thing.”
  26.  
  27. He places the pendant around his neck, and heads for the door. “I'm sure you could, Josie. I'm sure you could.”
  28.  
  29. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
  30.  
  31. When you arrive at the museum, Laz spends a long while talking with the owner. Asking about the bodies, any happenings besides the mysterious deaths, possible sightings of shadowy figures. While said conversation happens, you quietly slip out of the pendant and head straight for the Killer Jewelry. Almost the moment you enter you're struck with a feeling like stepping into a freezer, surrounded by energy that causes goosebumps on your spectral flesh. After a moment of thinking, you discern that the energy in question is pure, 100% death energy. Spirit-originated, if you had to guess.
  32.  
  33. You decide not to stick around long enough for whatever it is to notice, and catch Lazarus halfway back to the entrance. “Uh, you still do ranged Wardings, right?” you ask him. He nods, now visibly concerned.
  34.  
  35. “Kill Zone?”
  36.  
  37. “Kill Zone.”
  38.  
  39. “Good. Great. No wonder.” he says, tossing his hands up in frustration. “Kill Zones are my favorite thing. Whatever, let's just handle this.” he says. You guide him to the very edge of the energy's radius, and with a moment of concentration and a wave of his hand, a small Ward emerges around the ring's display case. Most people were used to Wards that were general, glowing circles, but Lazarus' are more complex, akin to a wire-frame structure that glows with his spiritual energy.
  40.  
  41. He immediately recoils like he's been punched. “Shit! Shit, okay, wow, that is some powerful pushback...” he says. “Whatever that thing is, it's not happy I'm boxing it up.” You can tell he's struggling just from watching the ward, the color-coded lines he'd long since created to represent its strength flickering from green, to orange, to a deep red before turning back to green as he gets his bearings.
  42.  
  43. “Alright, I'm going in.” you state, shooting straight for the ring, preparing to enter it and force the spirit within out so you and Laz can set about battling it. You are unpleasantly surprised when it simply emerges by itself, literally headbutting you at high speed, sending you into a tumble across the room before you get your bearings again.
  44.  
  45. “Aaaaand it's a Reaper Man.” Lazarus mutters. “Can this day get any better?”
  46.  
  47. You're a bit too startled to actually give a response, watching the Reaper Man in question struggle against your lover's Ward. It resembles, more or less, a masked man in a full-body robe, the only exposed portion of its body the large, wickedly-clawed hands currently slashing at the ward with full strength.
  48.  
  49. “Do... do we have a plan, here?” you ask him. Not that you're incapable of dealing with a Reaper Man, or anything, but you're significantly less convinced that Laz is capable of dealing with an actual death spirit without some preparation.
  50.  
  51. “We can't risk him making a break for it, obviously.” He begins, putting his all into preventing the spirit from slashing his Ward apart like tissue paper. “And it'd probably be best if I had myself Warded. Because-”
  52.  
  53. “Kill Zone, yes, we've been over that.” you interrupt, already preparing yourself for a fight. “So, what. Ward the room, Ward yourself, then play Fight Goalie while I thrash him?”
  54.  
  55. “Yeah, that was the general idea.” he says. “Lemme know when you're ready, I guess.”
  56.  
  57. You nod, giving yourself over to your Tether, that vow to protect him forever, even after your death. You feel your form change, becoming monstrous, conscious thought fleeing in exchange for pure spiritual instinct. The Reaper Man pauses, apparently now realizing he was staring down a Wraith rather than a standard ghost. Even with the blank expression of his mask, you get the feeling of his eyes narrowing.
  58.  
  59. “IT'S TIME.” you announce, and Lazarus nods. He takes a deep breath, and there's a sound like shattering glass as his Ward splits apart then reforms itself into a cage around the room, and a smaller one around him. The Reaper Man lunges forward, intent on clawing you to bits...
  60.  
  61. And promptly smacks headfirst into a panel of Ward Energy, Lazarus having set up a border right between you and the Reaper. Through the blind fury, you are now thoroughly convinced this guy had expected you both to be weaklings. You kindly dissuade him of the notion by punching him across the room, his robed body smacking against the warded wall with a sound akin to crackling electricity
  62.  
  63. You don't give the spirit an opportunity to actually recover, beginning to brutalize him with a flurry of blows and claws. This was going to be simpler than you thought, you reflect, as the Reaper Man fails to even mount an effective defense against your onslaught.
  64.  
  65. Of course, there was one problem that the both of you hadn't particularly anticipated, even after a month of dealing with aggressive spirits as opposed to your usual scared ghosts.
  66.  
  67. Namely, what happens when one of them deliberately holds back.
  68.  
  69. Watching what seems like an effortless pummeling causes Lazarus to preemptively weaken his Wards. Meanwhile, you've completely let your guard down, focusing your absolute all on simply beating the spirit into submission.
  70.  
  71. Which, as it turns out, was exactly what he had been hoping for. Suddenly, both of your hands are caught in his, claws sharper than knives digging into your spectral arms. His eyes stare into yours, and you watch the blank surface of its mask split apart and contort into a wide grin before it essentially spikes you into the ground, your form just physical enough that you're dazed by the impact of the violent throw.
  72.  
  73. You watch through blurred vision as Lazarus starts to re-strengthen his Wards, but not fast enough. The Reaper Man makes a motion as if winding a clock, and the grid around him shatters into pieces entirely as your boyfriend screams in pain, the design of a clock's face burning itself into his forehead... and beginning to tick down.
  74.  
  75. Even half-maddened through fury and pain, you recognize a Dooming when you see it. Unless you get this Reaper Man beaten right goddamn now, Laz is going to literally wither away within the next five minutes. Of course, that's easier said than done, because you quickly discover that when he's not just throwing the fight, those claws are good at piercing your defenses.
  76.  
  77. You're pretty sure you know how to deal with this, but you're not sure Laz'll be able to do it properly with the agony of the curse currently poisoning his soul and your Wraith form's... general issues with communication. Struggling to speak through your contorted physiology, you at least manage one word and hope he'll both hear you and know what you're getting at.
  78.  
  79. “PANDORA.”
  80.  
  81. Apparently whichever gods are paying attention have decided you've earned a break, because Laz stumbles to his feet and nods once, giving a gesture right as the Reaper Man's claws go for your eyes, a full, three-dimensional Ward Box trapping it before it can hit you, then compressing so tightly it can barely move.
  82.  
  83. He attempts to break free of the Wards, but he quickly realizes that he's fully stuck. He looks up slowly, and even through a mask with only eyeholes you can sense the dawning horror the Spirit is experiencing. You decide, just to really make him squirm, to crack your knuckles ominously before swinging right for his “face”.
  84.  
  85. You were both well aware of the main weakness of Reaper Men. Namely, the fact that they could only use their powers and keep their forms while their masks remained intact. But you'd kind of planned to just break that after thrashing him unconscious. Of course, plans change, and now you were just going to cut things off right here and now.
  86.  
  87. The normally silent spirit begins making noise as your fists dig into the pale ceramic of its mask. Namely, screeches of animalistic pain with each crack that cobwebs on the surface. Its tugging against the wards becomes more insistent, even as Lazarus pulls power from the room's warding to strengthen the hand-bindings. After less than a minute of your flurry of blows, the Reaper Man's mask is already flaking to pieces, exposing the dark void that is its “body”.
  88.  
  89. You pull your hand back, letting out a battle cry as you swing with all your might, feeling the source of the spirit's power shatter into thousands of shards under your might.
  90.  
  91. For a moment, you see the true face of the Reaper Man. Endless darkness, like space without the stars, threatening to pull in Life itself. Everything goes still. And then it screams, an all-too-human noise of fear and pain as its very being tears itself to shreds without that focus, falling to bits like disintegrating cloth until he's... gone.
  92.  
  93. You're still ready for a fight, every part of you screaming to keep going, keep fighting, to make sure nobody can hurt Lazarus ever again. You turn to him, your mind distantly registering the fact that the clock brand was gone, his Doom averted. He looks into your eyes, concerned.
  94.  
  95. “Josie. Come back. It's over. We're safe.” he says, approaching you, hugging you, knowing you'd never hurt him even like this. Your thoughts slow down, your guard lowers and you feel yourself become... well, you, again.
  96.  
  97. “Shit.” you state, simply.
  98.  
  99. “Yeah, I know. But it's over, right?”
  100.  
  101. “Why was there a Reaper Man in that ring?”
  102.  
  103. “Uh, apparently, it was a fluke. He put himself in there and fell asleep. When they took it out of the temple it was in, he woke up and started doing death things.”
  104.  
  105. “Awful smart for a bound spirit after napping for who knows how long.”
  106.  
  107. “We really should've been more careful, though.”
  108.  
  109. “Yeah...”
  110.  
  111. After a moment or two of hugging it out, you head back into the Pendant and begin to rest. Even with the exhaustion suffusing you, you're entirely conscious as Laz goes on to explain what happened and receive his payment. You're also awake as he stops on the way home to be violently ill into a garbage bin, his body still wracked with the effects of his curse. You're even awake when he gets back to the apartment and doesn't even undress before falling unconscious.
  112.  
  113. You stay there, feeling his heart beat against the cold metal of your resting place. It's barely even the evening, but you know he'll be out cold for the rest of the day. It's just you, and your thoughts, until tomorrow morning.
  114.  
  115. You really do miss sleep...
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