Written in both no time at all and eternity. It's close to 5 am, so please forgive any spelling errors. AU, in that Dennis doesn't die. Characters aren't mine. Implied slash, if you care to see it, friendship if not. Enjoy!
Never has his future been so macabre.
The Hammer's spiked fist comes down on Dennis' hand, shattering it in one blow. Then he flickers away, just for a second. Long enough. Since Dennis is occupied with clutching the useless extremity, he is too distracted to notice that Arthur has shoved the glass aside.
"Dennis, come here!" He yells, panic in his voice as he grabs for the younger man. He doesn't care that Dennis doesn't want to be touched, that he seems convinced that this is the only way. Arthur's already lost his wife, maybe his kids, too. He's not losing anyone else. "Damn it, move." The Hammer returns again, still fixated on Dennis and Arthur has to wonder what Dennis and Cyrus did to piss the guy off. "No…"
The leaden fist comes down hard on Dennis' shoulder, and the man falls forward, enough so that Arthur can reach him. He pulls him behind the safety of the enchanted glass, and the Latin lettering flashes in protest each time the Hammer's spikes drive against it.
"Arthur, no!" Dennis counters, sobbing even as he tries to break free. "I have to! I have to save you!" He's pressed flat against Arthur's chest, the only way there's room. "I have to make up for what I've done. Please, let me do this!" He begs. "Let me do this so you can go save your kids."
The Juggernaut appears, then, beside the Hammer as they both swing against the glass.
"I'm not letting you go anywhere. So shut up and stop moving, damn it." Arthur demands. Because it worked in the library when he and Kalina were arguing.
"You don't understand…" Dennis argues, but it kind of did work, at least, because he isn't squirming and trying to escape anymore. "I… I saw this. I'm supposed to die here. I'm supposed to save you."
Again, disobeying Dennis' one and only rule of 'Do Not Touch Me,' verbal capslock and all, Arthur's hands land firmly on his shoulders, and Dennis cringes with the contact. "Listen, I… I forgive you for whatever involvement you had in what Cyrus was doing. Okay? You don't need to do this."
He sees things. Not his own death at the hands of the Hammer and the Juggernaut snapping his back while Arthur watches on. His sees Arthur helping him walk out of this goddamned glass house… machine, whatever, and into a waiting ambulance. He sees Arthur and Kathy and Bobby visiting him at the hospital while he tries to master small little everyday things with only one hand. Sees Arthur helping him through rigorous physical therapy for his arm. Sees… everything. A real friend. Not like Cyrus – Kalina was right, Cyrus was using him and he knew it – or like those kids in school who used to pretend to be friends with him. They'd befriend him a week or so before a big test or quiz so they could figure out the answers – not that it worked like that – and then when they figured out that he didn't know they'd call him a freak. They'd grab him and send him into one of his annoying seizures. His was not a good childhood.
"Are you okay?" Arthur asks, concern plain as day on his face. He takes in the increasing amount of blood the younger man has lost, as well as the vacant expression on his face, as he snaps him out of the memories. "Dennis?"
He shakes his head. "I will be." He answers. And it's probably true; given that it's the first time he's ever changed his own future.
The Latin spells start up from invisible speakers and one by one the ghosts begin to flicker and vanish.
"What's going on?" Arthur asks, sliding the glass aside once more. "What's playing?"
Dennis sniffs, trying to wrap his arm with what is left of his blood soaked jacket, but Arthur stops him. "Uh… It's a summoning incantation. We used them to get the ghosts into the containment cubes. But I don't know what this one is doing." He explains, as he watches in confusion as Arthur removes his belt. The elder wraps it around his injured bicep, which makes him wince, but Dennis understands. He's trying to stop the blood flow. "Thanks," He says. And they both know he means for a lot more than the first aid.
Arthur nods, but his eyes focus on something through the glass walls. "Oh, God." He stares, and then Dennis sees why.
Kathy and Bobby are sitting in the middle of the Ocularis Infernum. And several giant metal rings are slicing through the air around them.
"Come on, we have to save them." Arthur says, carefully sliding Dennis' good arm over his shoulder as he curls one of his own around the other's side.
They hobble along at a surprisingly efficient speed. Probably mostly because Dennis is beyond pain at this point. All he wants to do is save Arthur and Arthur's kids, and maybe the annoying babysitter, and get the hell out of this house.
However, before they get there, another ghost appears in their path. Only… it can't a ghost, because Dennis' glasses were shattered when the Hammer clubbed him. So, if not a ghost, how is Cyrus standing in front of him. Then it hits him. "It was a set-up."
"Always were a little slow on the uptake, weren't you, Dennis?" The one person Dennis had trusted laughs, still wearing the same blood soaked dress shirt he'd found him in. The vision of that flashes in his mind's eye, and he can see Kalina as she kills Damon and then pretends to kill Cyrus.
"Kalina was in on it, too?" His eyes flash with hurt and betrayal as Cyrus advances on them.
"Indeed, she was. I warned you not to get too curious, but did you listen?" The old man lifts his cane, pressing it hard against Dennis' injured shoulder. "No."
He cringes and writhes with pain until Arthur's hand slaps it away. "Enough." He growls, angling their bodies so that Dennis is more so behind him than beside him. Safe. Out of the way. "You did this? All of this? Sacrificed my kids? Trapped my wife here? Trapped all of them," He gestures wildly to the twelve ghosts standing around the Ocularis. "You're insane."
"I," Cyrus counters. "Know that greatness requires sacrifice. You all must sacrifice yourselves for the greater good. Rather, for my good." Cyrus removes the base of his cane, revealing it to have actually been a knife in disguise. He holds it to Dennis' neck. He needs Arthur alive.
Dennis is too weak from the blood loss to put up much of a fight, so when Arthur moves away, all he does is fall. Which hurts like hell, but he's slightly more concerned with the madman threatening to kill him. Except… Arthur's fighting him off.
"You don't know what you're doing!" Cyrus yells, as Arthur knocks his weapon away. The younger lands a solid punch on the man's jaw, much like he'd done to Dennis earlier. And then another in his stomach. "The Ocularis is the greatest power in the world! I can be the most respected! And you'll regret this, Arthur. Every second of this as soon as you go crawling back to your meager existence as a math teacher. And you'll know that you had a chance for your family to be known as something gr-" Another punch, and this one thankfully knocks him out. By then, the chanting has been interrupted, and the ghosts are on him.
Arthur's attention returns to Dennis, he helps the man to his feet yet again, only he looks paler now. He won't last much longer, he knows. He'll also be in the way of Arthur saving his children. So he stops, pulls away. "Go get your kids. I… I'll wait here." He assures the other man.
"Are you sure?" Arthur asks, looking quite torn. His gaze wanders between the Ocularis, now spinning rather erratically around his son and daughter since Cyrus has been thrown into it, and Dennis, whose looking worse by the second.
"Yes." Dennis answers, eyes pleading with the older man to do as he asks. "Just, get me against the wall over there." He gestures to the corner of the room. If something goes wrong and they need to get out in a hurry, he figures he should be easy to find.
Resigned, but not looking entirely confident, Arthur complies, quickly but gently helping his friend toward the corner. "I'll get you out of here." He promises, and then he's staring at the center of the rings, even as the house begins to vibrate and shake with the machine's protests. Arthur spares one last look back to Dennis as he yells to his children and makes the jump.
Dennis closes his eyes, unable to witness Arthur's death if that's what has just happened, but then he hears the man yelling. He's tempted to open them, then, but the glass around him begins to shatter and soon everything is a million times too loud. He covers his face as best he can with only one functioning arm and waits for it to end.
Silence. Too much silence. He hears nothing when it does finally stop. At least for a long moment that seems more like eternity. When he opens his eyes though, Kathy and Bobby are huddled beside him and Arthur is looking very, very worried. He's on a cell phone they found in the lawyer's car, he hears Bobby tell him, and the babysitter is ranting and raving about something on the other side of the room.
But, really, he doesn't care. Because they're okay. They're all okay. And he's going to get what he deserves, finally. He gets to have Arthur and Bobby and Kathy in his life.
Never has his future held such potential.