Author's Note: In a quick note I would like to respond to Chapter Five's reviewer (I'm always saddened by the fact that I can't reply to anonymous reviews). In the Movie Verse, Betelgeuse is a very rude and obscene individual (his Cartoon Verse counterpart being a very toned-down version). I've always thought that if anyone could sympathize with Betelgeuse, it would be a hooker (and what's more, if he could have anyone on his side, he would want a hooker). But at the same time he wouldn't put up with just anyone for a great amount of time, would he? It would have to be someone who was a bit unrefined like himself, someone who could hold their own against him. This is how I try to portray Ladybug. However, it's very early yet, and Bugs is an individual with many layers (much like Betelgeuse). Hopefully this story won't die before those many layers can be seen. Also, you truly don't want me to try to make this into an M story. Any attempt I might make would be laughable at best, and I really don't want to embarras myself so early in the game. Maybe later...?
Please review! I love hearing comments, criticisms, what have you! I hate to beg, but I'm a sucker for feedback. Even if you hate the story just let me know. And now that I've rambled enough, let's get on with the show!
It was in the bathtub of the lower floor bathroom that the ghostly pair had spent the previous night. Ladybug lie in the basin with her feet dangling over the edge and Betelgeuse resting beside her in a similar position, though facing the opposite direction. There was no telling how much time had passed since Betelgeuse's sentence had been handed down, but it was safe to say that during that time the two had 'christened every room' several times over.
"Where's my tie?" Betelgeuse grumbled curiously as he lit a cigarette. His eyes raked over Ladybug, who was clothed in nothing but the black and white striped jacket from his suit.
"No idea," she sighed as he passed her his cigarette. "I think we lost it..."
"Figures. It's probably still tied to one of the bedposts."
Lady blew a ring of smoke in the air, leaning her head against the poltergeist's foot. She watched as the smoke swirled and twisted in the air, dissolving and fading away into nothingness. The vision stirred something in her mind, though she did not think about it long as Betelgeuse's words pulled her from her thoughts.
"They'll probably check up on us today," he murmured, drumming his fingers along the side of the tub.
"D'you think Aryan will-"
"I doubt it. He strikes me as the kinda guy who would send someone else to do his dirty work."
"I still don't understand why they're checking up on us anyway," Ladybug grumbled, sinking down a bit farther into the tub.
"It's a formality, just like everything else. And Aryan has to do everything by the book this time. Otherwise someone might raise an objection at my Exorcism hearing."
"Well if it is Aryan then he's gonna get an earful from me, because I'm gonna tell him how pissed off I am that he dropped us in this shit hole of a house." Lady curled up to Betelgeuse's leg, like a child clinging to a treasured toy. "They didn't give us any of our clothes, we didn't even get a copy of the Handbook! There's no running water, no electricity-!"
"As though you had that back at your Roach Motel," Betelgeuse snorted.
"If they're gonna dump is in the Otherworld, the least they could do is dump us in a house that works! You know, you and I lived six-hundred years ago when things like electricity and running water didn't even exist! And I've had to hear about this stuff for decades. I mean I've dreamed about this shit! And now that we're stranded in the Land of the Living we can't even see what it's like to wash our hands."
"You make it sound like you remember what it's like to be alive," Betelgeuse said with a laugh.
"You shouldn't pick on me just because I can't remember," Lady said bitterly, her eyes narrowing. "I didn't know that just because I killed myself I wouldn't be able to remember living..."
"Aww, c'mon, babes!" The poltergeist smiled, leaning towards her. "Y'know I didn't mean it like that. Besides, I'm just teasin' yuh. You're in the Otherworld and by extension you oughtta have all the amenities the Living do. I'm in total agreement! I honestly wouldn't mind a change of clothes... Hell, I might even shave if I had the chance."
"It isn't like you remember what it was like to be alive either," she murmured, hardly listening to what he was saying. "You just want to get out because you can't. You remember about as much as I do."
"That's where you're wrong," Betelgeuse sighed as he settled back into the tub. "I remember what living felt like, and it felt great. I bet you don't even remember what it was like to smell and taste, do you?"
"You know I don't."
"Well I do."
And then there was silence. Ladybug stared at him as he seemed to withdraw within his thoughts, wishing that she could be inside his mind, wishing that she could feel what he was remembering. It was true that she had committed suicide and it was true that those who killed themselves could not remember their lives. In death she - like many others - could not taste or smell, could only feel varying degrees of cold and could not remember exactly what warmth was. In life she could only assume that she had experienced these things because in death she had no idea what they were.
"What was it like?" Lady asked quietly.
"Being able to feel."
"What, like warmth?" he asked as their eyes met, and she nodded. For a moment he was silent, trying to remember and to determine how you would define something to someone who could not possibly understand it. "It's like... it's like a cold so bitter that you don't feel cold anymore. Like a stinging on your skin, a prickly kinda feeling, that... that..." He paused again, his eyes searching the blank expression on her face.
"You don't know what I'm talking about, do you?" he asked, and she shook her head slowly. He sighed, smiling at her, his next few words a lie that even he could hardly voice: "Don't worry, you're not missing much."
"You're a liar."
"And you'd better get dressed," Betelgeuse said as he rose from the tub. "'Cause we've got company."
"What?" she asked, the distraction getting the best of her.
"I can feel them coming."
"Yep." He began to dress, pulling on what few bits of clothing lie scattered on the bathroom floor. As he buttoned his shirt he glanced up at her, smirking at her motionlessness and lack of concern. "You know... I think I'm gonna make myself scarce."
"They're gonna want to see you," she said, crossing her ankles over the tub's edge.
"Well, they're just gonna have to settle for you."
"Whaddyou want me to tell them?"
"Oh, I dunno. Tell 'em how pissed you are about the electricity, the clothing, blah, blah, blah." He stuffed one hand into his pocket and lifted the other as though to snap his fingers. "Oh, almost forgot. Tell 'em we want a Handbook."
"Why?" she asked, an eyebrow arching.
"No reason. Bit of light reading."
"You can read?" Lady asked with a smirk.
"Ha-ha-ha," he said with a roll of his eyes, snapping his fingers and disappearing.
Ladybug sighed heavily, rising to her feet. She slipped into the bare minimum amount of clothing required for visitors (which included nothing but a bra and underwear), buttoned the striped jacket around her, and slowly exited the bathroom. She walked along the hall, glancing in on each bedroom that she came to. Finally she stumbled across the room she had been searching for. She advanced toward the bed, slipping the tie from around the bedpost. She gazed at it for a moment, then smiled, pulling her hair back into a pony tail and using the tie like a ribbon to fasten her hair in place.
"Very nice," said a cold voice from behind her. "It frames your face well."
Lady turned, her eyes falling upon the blond figure leaning leisurely against the door frame. Aryan wore the same dark suit that he had been dressed in at Betelgeuse's trial, his blond hair combed back behind his ears. She had not yet noticed before how few characteristics of death he possessed, but standing only a few feet away it was impossible not to notice. There were no visible signs of molding, his hair was a very natural color, his teeth seemed perfect and without decay and his cause of death was not visible either. Aside from an incredibly pallid complexion and an almost unearthly way of moving, she would not have believed that he was one of the most powerful spirits in the entire Neitherworld.
"Are you alone?" she asked, taking a seat on the visibly used bed. Aryan glanced over his shoulder, then looked back and nodded.
"Yes. Where is he?"
"Making himself 'scarce.'" She stretched out, leaning against the headboard. "So why are you here?"
"A formality. The caseworker of a Home Bound ghost must check in on said ghost every year. Do you have any idea how long you've been here so far?"
"Not really. We sort of lost track of time. We got busy doing..." she paused, rubbing the sheets between her fingers, "other things..."
"Well then, you've been 'busy' for exactly two months."
"You don't say?"
"Mm-hmm." He slid his hands into his pockets, straightening slightly. "Tell me, how are you adjusting to the Land of the Living?"
"Not really much to adjust to, is there?" she asked bitterly.
"What did you expect? Four star accommodations?"
"I expected a house that someone might have lived in within the last century."
"I don't think you understand the meaning of the word 'punishment.'"
"Maybe I don't think he deserves to be punished."
"Maybe so. But I don't think he deserves to Live, and I personally am tired of him trying. He has enormous potential and he wastes it on parlor tricks."
"Would you rather he wasted it sucking up to Juno?"
"Oh please," he scoffed. "You think Juno is my superior?"
"Maybe not." She glanced up at him, their eyes meeting. "But I'm pretty sure that Beej could make you his bitch any day."
"It must be nice to be him," Aryan sneered. "To have a caseworker who coddles him, a government who finds his illegal actions to be lovable antics, and to have a whore for a cheerleader and confidante. Must be nice..."
"I'm not a whore," she murmured. "I'm an escort."
"Oh, so you only offer sexual favors to your favorite customers?" he asked nonchalantly. "Or is it just the ones that you've fallen in love with?"
Lady snorted, her eyes rolling. "You're gonna have to try harder than that to get under my skin."
At first Aryan chuckled, simply shaking his head and smiling. But then he glanced over his shoulder once more before meeting Ladybug's gaze.
"So, where is he?"
"I told you: I don't know. He disappeared when he sensed you were on your way."
"Do you know where he disappeared to?"
"No. But it's not like he can go that far."
"Since it's clear that he's too full of shit to show himself-"
"Or what? You'll use your less than functional powers to teach me a lesson?" Aryan smiled, and Ladybug simply bit her lip, fixing Aryan in a cold glare.
"As I was saying if he's not going to show himself then I suppose I'm just going to have to cover the basics with you." Aryan folded his arms. "Have you faced any problems with the Living since your banishment?"
"No," she sighed, rolling her eyes.
"Have you had any encounters with the Living at all?"
"Have you personally faced any problems with the prisoner?"
"Well, sometimes he gets a little kinky for my tastes, but what can I say? He knows how to treat a lady..."
"Oh, I'm sure he does."
"Maybe he'd give you a taste if you begged enough," she said as she took an interest in the condition of her fingernails. "Like I said, I'm sure he could make you his bitch."
"Do you have any comments, questions, or concerns before I leave? Keep in mind that this will be your only chance as I will not return for one year. Granted, in the Neitherworld that may not seem like a long time, but here... it can seem like an eternity."
"Yeah, now that you mention it. We've got a few requests."
"Oh, I'd love to hear this."
"First, we'd like our clothing. Beej can't summon it here due to your power over the house."
"It isn't as though you'll be entertaining company."
"Secondly, we'd like you to power up the electricity and the water works."
"Why don't you ask your precious poltergeist to do it for you?"
"And finally, we'd like a copy of The Handbook for the Recently Deceased."
"Why?" he asked, for the first time showing genuine curiosity.
"First of all, as occupants of the Otherworld we're required to have a Handbook. But mostly there isn't anything to do in this house other than sleep and fuck and frankly I'd like to at least have another option open. Makes playing hard to get a bit more convincing."
Aryan at first said nothing, his eyes unfocused as though he was giving an intense amount of thought to the entire situation. After a moment or two he nodded slowly, his gaze meeting Ladybug's once more.
"Very well. You can have your clothing, due to the fact that your landlords are trying to rent out your living quarters and we weren't quite sure what to do with your things. You can have a copy of the Handbook because it is, as you said, a requirement. And thirdly, we'll allot enough electricity for basic functions as well as a small amount of hot and cold water to the house. Keep in mind that the third is a privilege and should you cause any problems whatsoever we will do away with it. Do I make myself clear?"
"Good. You'll have everything you've requested in twenty-four hours. Oh, and just out of curiosity, in the middle of your busy schedule, do you and the prisoner ever find time to talk about your past?"
"And what's that supposed to mean?" Lady asked, maintaining her indifference.
"I'm only curious as to whether or not you reminisce about your existence together."
"You know," she said with a roll of her eyes, "I feel like you're hinting at something, but I just can't quite put my finger on it."
"Well if you happen to get curious, just ask Betelgeuse. He'll tell you all about it."
And with that he blinked a bit harder than usual, the gesture exerting the power it would take for him to disappear, leaving Ladybug alone.