And here it is - the final chapter of InWhichThere'sASlenderMan.
I'd just like to take this opportunity to thank everybody who has been following this story of mine and who have been giving me support and much-needed critique. I do apologise for my terrible sense of timing when it comes to updating chapters, so for your patience I thank you whole-heartedly. Also an apology for any grammatical/formatting errors of any sort on both dA and , transferring the two have always been a bit tricky.
Once again, thank you for reading this story and I truly hope you enjoyed it. I'd really appreciate it if you could give me a final word on this chapter and/or the whole story itself. Tips for improvement would be fantastic!
The fingers sank into Hanna's cheeks and the Slender Man's words rang in his mind, I want your face.
The weight of the words stunned Hanna, froze his blood in his veins. The sheer velocity of the meaning pushed the breath right out of him, causing his legs to collapse. With a short, sharp shot of adrenaline to his fingers, the red head's hands found the wrists of the Slender Man and held onto them for support. The being's limbs were smooth and lacquered, unnaturally cold, and with what little strength he tried to harbour Hanna clung to them in attempt to pull himself up and away.
Still the Slender Man's fingers were in his face, boring into his flesh and through the ligaments as if they were butter and the digits knives. The pain was immediate, overpowering, beginning in a crown of blackthorns upon Hanna's head and bleeding down his face in curtains of agony. He could feel the fingers inside him, the lulling darkness that began to permeate and ooze and trickle through every crevice of his being. Hanna screamed and screamed, pulling at the wrists and the hands that sunk even deeper into his face, his body, his soul, and screamed for the being to let go.
"LET ME GO!" Hanna screeched. "PLEASE! PLEASE, FOR CHRIST'S SAKES, LET ME GO!"
Mine, the Slender Man said in the red head's steady thoughts. Your face is mine.
Still Hanna struggled, fought at the darkness that threatened to numb him into that dangerously delightful state of false comfort and security. "STOP! STOP!"
I will have it.
It was getting harder to talk, harder to struggle. His heart beat almost deafeningly in his head and chest, grating against his ribs where the magic twisted and lashed and screeched. "N-NO!"
Yes, I will. The Slender Man leaned closer, black tendrils surrounding him like snakes, the paralysation penetrating Hanna deeper. I want it and I will have it.
Hanna locked his own wide, terrified eyes to the face that pressed itself closer, to the expressionless monster that had tormented him in both the waking and dreaming world. He lost himself in that vast expanse of bare, sickly pale flesh, feeling the way in which the horror dug its filthy nails into his heart and his memory. His arms were aching from how tight he was holding onto the being. He held onto this thing, this monster, this spider, and the image of himself – choking, dying – holding onto this being – overwhelming, taking – so desperately was almost laughable as it was petrifying.
Give it to me, said the Slender Man, words settling like frostbite on each breath Hanna took. The being's grip grew tighter, hungrier, needier. Give it to me now.
Here Hanna gripped the sole cause for his torment, the rabbit that had led him down to this self-destructive wasteland akin to a decidedly darker Wonderland. He gripped this with white knuckled fingers as if it were the last means of keeping himself going. And how much further was that? A footstep? A heartbeat? Here he held the Slender Man, he held all his fear and worry and defeat because it was physical, it was here. It was not a simple manifestation of human vulnerabilities, something Hanna had dealt with before. It was an actual presence. A presence that was very much physical, and very much frightening.
Stop fighting, child, the Slender Man's voice echoed, tendrils growing taller. Frenzied. Enclosing. You have lost.
Here was the cancer. On the ground and in the tree were the remains of the cells it had killed. The cancer was turning the body against itself. The body, Hanna, was in a stage of desecration. It had begun in the mind, and was now rapidly eating away his soul. A cancer. An elegant, soothing, silken cancer crafted by the fingers that were currently snapping the muscles of Hanna's face from the bone.
You have lost.
And Hanna had lost. Lost himself. Lost his friends. Lost Gallahad. He'd lost Gallahad. And, oh, how that realisation struck the red head like a final finishing blow to the head. He remembered the promise he made when he first started having the nightmares, the one where only Gallahad's arms – torn at the elbow, decaying as they clutched the legs of the stool Hanna had perched upon – remained. "I'm never gonna let that happen" Hanna had said. He forced that promise upon himself and to the gentle zombie, though the latter had not been there to hear it. Only now did Hanna come to realise that that promise had been meant for everybody he knew – the people who were fated to be thrown into this thickening cesspool he had unknowingly stepped into.
You have lost.
He had broken that promise. He had wanted to protect them, but in turn had only killed them. In his mind's eye, Hanna could see their bodies on the ground. He could see Gallahad's broken form in the tree branches, holding his hand to him in one last plea for safety, security. For a brief moment the red head was glad that his partner didn't have a face to look at – no emotion, of which was scarce as it was, to break Hanna apart on the spot with guilt.
You have lost.
Hanna was told to not look behind him – but he did. He looked back and found this physical monstrosity that was a cause for trauma, that had a motivation of the most gruesome fashion, and because Hanna had finally acknowledged that his fear was not just psychological the fear had turned to full-fledged terror verging on total annihilation of sanity – all in the form of a tall man in a suit with no face.
You have lost.
Then it hit him.
You have lost.
The Slender Man was real.
You have lost.
And if he was real that meant he could be beaten.
You have lost.
There it was – the spark. The tip of the match being struck, alighting a fury that was small, at first, but contained an awaiting conflagration. Hanna recognised it, seized it, let it burn inside him. Within the utter despair he found the little well of strength, the ink that sizzled and boiled and was spurred on by the sudden and fervent hope that all was not lost.
Hanna was able to focus on the Slender Man's missing face, pushing past the blackening of his vision. He felt the magic sharpen in his chest, turn electric, bright.
"No," the red head managed to hiss. "It's you who has lost."
The tendrils rose and bristled, the temperature and the silence dropping like icy daggers. The Slender Man wrenched the red head closer to him by his face, making Hanna bite back a howl.
Insolent child, the Slender Man said. You do not realise the potential of this face.
Hanna's lip curled back in a snarl, blood pouring out of his mouth. "It's just a face."
The Slender Man reeled back, as if outraged, and he grew taller and larger before Hanna's very eyes. Hanna's fury rose with the tendrils, began to slide up the walls of his lungs and up into his bleeding and tight throat, burning at the darkness and the frost. The Slender Man shimmered, crackled, started to waver like static on a screen. For the briefest of seconds the being's grip on Hanna's face weakened, the darkness faltering, and the oppressive weight of the silence lightened ever so slightly.
But the Slender Man snapped back into vision, just as forceful as before, and his voice in Hanna's thoughts boomed inside the red head's mind. You do not understand your own potential, hollow child, the Slender Man rumbled. You cannot see what I see.
"What is there to see?" Hanna demanded. "I'm just a person!"
The Slender Man pulled him close, tendrils ghosting up and around the red head's arms, torso, legs, hissing and oily to the touch. You are a child, boy, in a man's body, said the Slender Man, words drawing out to a painful slowness. Hanna's skin prickled with dread. I know of what happened to you as a youngling. Your soul died, but your body remained. You possess the soul of a child though your body is that of a man. Do you not see, child, what this gives you?
Hanna's heart had stopped dead. The colour, what little remained, had drained from his cheeks. "W-What?" he stuttered. It felt as if he had been stabbed. "What?"
The being pushed on, the tendrils thickening, growing, wreathing Hanna in their firm, cold grasp with the sweetest of hisses – as if coaxing the anger and power from him, drawing it up to the surface of his skin so that they may slowly peel it away.
It is only a child that can see what is not meant to be seen, the Slender Man told him. It is only a child that can bring that unseen world to its knees. A child has the potential to take the magical planes in its hands and crush it because it does not know of its own power. A man grows to forget this power, unbeknownst that if they kept it they could learn to control it and make it stronger.You, hollow boy, are a child that has such a power in a man's body that can control this power to the point of utter absolution like that of your 'god' your kind so devotedly give their obeisance to.The being spat out the word 'god' as if it was bile, the venom in the word startlingly abrasive in comparison to the Slender Man's cool composure.
And what, the Slender Man said, is a god to a non-believer?
Hanna could only stare as the pieces fit together. "That's why you want my face," he whispered. "You want to have that power."
Precisely, the Slender Man hissed, the word wrapping around Hanna like an embrace. I will be able to finally take this unseen world as my own. The unseen will bow before me as they should – just like your loved ones did.
The words were a trigger, for the fury ruptured. With a roar Hanna took the hands on his face and ripped them away, screaming as the flesh tore and blood spurted around him. Pure instinct set in, magic flooding inside of him. He felt the current of the magic darting to his fingers, collecting underneath the tips of his fingers and shrieking to be released. And Hanna did just that.
He took fistfuls of the tendrils that writhed and squeezed and burst blood vessels, and with a snarl he tore into them with his magic crackling around his hands. This was no rune magic, this was the pure inner energy that the red head had stored only for a situation such as this – a last resort.
The Slender Man, not expecting the abrupt change, jolted backwards, shuddering in and out of vision erratically. All around the red head the silence was screeching.
Still Hanna raked and tore at the tendrils that desperately, ravenously attempted to hold him down and fill him with sedative darkness – though their strength was failing, the Slender Man's control was wavering as he continued to jerk and shimmer and fracture. The being's physicality was his one flaw.
And, finally, Hanna was free. He stumbled backwards, slipping in his own blood, and before the Slender Man could recover he was sprinting into the undergrowth. He ignored the smarting of his face and the blood that oozed out of his mouth. He focused on running, on escaping, and pressed the loose flesh to his face even though the feeling of his own exposed muscle threatened to heave his stomach. The magic was throbbing in his chest and shooting spasmodically through his limbs. His body was not used to this kind of raw energy but, somehow, thankfully, it had not succumbed to it to the point of destruction. Hanna had seen such things happen. Remembering the Slender Man's words, he deemed this ability due to his own personal body-versus-soul situation.
Shaking the sweat that had dripped in his eyes, Hanna concentrated solely on escape. The magic filled him with vigour that was enough to keep him going – he needed more than a footstep, more than a heartbeat, if he was going to take down the atrocity that pursued him.
You cannot run, hollow child, said Hanna's thoughts in the Slender Man's words. Hanna's heart leapt into his throat with fright, but he forced himself to keep going.
Jumping over a log, the red head snuck a glance over his shoulder and saw the Slender Man only a few meters behind him. He was getting closer.
"Shit!" Hanna cursed, changing course and heading left.
The ground abruptly sloped downwards, causing Hanna to lose his footing. The red head yelped and tumbled, half-staggering half-rolling down the slope with the undergrowth snagging at his clothes and scratching his skin. Thorny roots caught his arm and he was dragged to the ground, face grinding against the rocks and soil until his mouth was filled with dirt. He fell down the rest of the slope and hit the bottom with a crk! of his ribs and a large chunk of limp flesh splitting from his face. The scream of agony barely made it out of his mouth before the red head was back on his feet and running again, a fresh sheet of blood pouring down his face.
Twisting around to look up at the slope, he saw the Slender Man standing atop it. Around him was a mane of black, inky tendrils.
Hanna swivelled back around and continued to run, his lungs burning. "Shit shit shit!"
It was dark and unnaturally cold in the forest, of which was growing thicker the more Hanna delved into it. His clothes stuck to him with sweat, dirt, and blood – though his skin was covered in gooseflesh from the cold and terror – and this made it all the more difficult for the red head as he trumped and dodged between trees and ferns. The silence was overpowering, bone-chilling, and it weighed down upon him like a great shadow. With it there was the exhaustion and defeat that threatened to spill over the brim of this last reserve of strength Hanna was using. Determinedly, he shoved it down and let the magic seal over it. No time to rest.
But running screaming through the dark is useless, he told himself as he weaved between a collection of tall pine trees. I need a plan. A plan. Yeah, a plan. Something white and blurred caught his eye and he looked sharply to the side. He spotted the gelatinous and elongated fingers just as they were about to wrap around his throat. His eyes widened. Oh FU –
Wrenching himself the opposite way, the magic sputtered to life in his fingers once again. He clamped his palms together and let the magic collect there in the sweating bases, growing into a ball of crackling white light. Hanna stumbled backwards, momentarily concerned that he'd lose control over his magic, and then he steadied. With a curl of his lip and a cry the red head launched the ball of light at the approaching being.
The silence howled as the light enveloped the being, shattering the impossibly tall monster into a thousand fragments of writhing darkness and frost. Hanna dove behind a tree for cover, curling into a ball with his arms over his head as a means of protection as the fragments exploded around him, hitting every possible surface like gunshots of the most terrifying and soul-clenching quiet. The fragments shivered and fizzled, cracking and crumbling and vanishing into themselves until –
A moment slowly dragged by.
A minute. An hour. A year. A decade.
Whatever the time, Hanna remained where he was, frozen to the ground. With only his heart hammering in his head and the blood pooling onto his tongue, the red head found himself too petrified to move. Instead he opened his eyes and peered through the crack between his arms. He looked at the space where the Slender Man was – and saw nothing. His breath caught in his throat.
Hanna had beaten him.
Slowly, carefully, Hanna lowered his arms. He stared at the spot disbelievingly.
Hanna had beaten the Slender Man.
He put a shaking hand to his heart, felt how it was throwing itself against his chest, and allowed himself to breathe. The sound echoed in the surrounding silence.
It was silent.
The hairs on the back of his neck prickled when there was a shift in the magical planes behind him. Horror dawned.
"Oh," he said. "Oh shit."
The Slender Man descended upon him. Hanna cried out and launched himself away, only to have his arm caught in the steely grasp of many tendrils. The pressure the tendrils exerted was incredible, wholly painful, and Hanna could feel the muscle and bone crunching beneath their grip. Screaming, he jerked and pulled at his arm in attempt to get free, only to have his other arm captured and his body dragged towards the towering, amorphous mass of spitting darkness and a single white face.
Do you now see how important you are, child? the Slender Man demanded, twisting Hanna's own thoughts so that they came out screeching, consuming. You have attempted to destroy me by using this power you so blindly possess. But you cannot kill what is not real.
Hanna struggled to get away, mind reeling with the Slender Man's words and his own turmoil of emotions. "But you are real!" the red head yelled. "You're real! You're fucking real!"
Violently, the Slender Man jerked Hanna up off the ground and threw him back down again, slamming the red head's body into the ground. Hanna gasped, winded, and his body shook as spots swam before his eyes.
The Slender Man looked down upon him like an immaculate god, head cocked to the side smugly, as if he found Hanna's words amusing. You are contradicting yourself, child, the Slender Man told him. You have been telling yourself all this time that I am not real. There is no use in trying to believe otherwise.
Hanna, breathing raggedly and clutching his thumping chest, looked up at the being with his face contorted in utter hatred. "That's… what… you want me… to think," he wheezed. "This… has all… been a game… to you."
The Slender Man raised his hands, the tendrils following the movement. They slithered in the air, coagulating the silence. A game you have lost, hollow child.
"You're REAL!" Hanna screamed, blood and spit bubbling out of his mouth. He was seething, unable to control himself anymore as fire and pure unadulterated rage filling him and blinded him. "YOU'RE FUCKING REAL! YOU FUCKING TOOK MY FRIENDS FROM ME AND DROVE ME TO THE POINT OF INSANITY, YOU SICK SON OF A BITCH! I THOUGHT I WAS GOING CRAZY. MY FRIENDS THOUGHT I WAS GOING CRAZY. BUT I WASN'T. I NEVER WAS. YOU WANTED ME TO BELIEVE THAT. THAT'S WHY YOU CONTROLLED MR. SALLEH AND MY FRIENDS, WASN'T IT? YOU WANTED ME TO BELIEVE I WAS LOSING IT. WASN'T IT? WASN'T IT?"
He lashed at the being, chest heaving and blood roaring in his veins. He was at the breaking point with all this anger sizzling and shrieking inside him. The magic was trembling and threatening to blow, bubbling up and filling each broken thought and petrified muscle with its presence. Still Hanna plunged on furiously, voice dropping to a low and dangerous tone.
"You," he began in a hiss, "are real." Pushing himself up, Hanna got to his feet. The magic was like a coiled serpent inside of him. Light was starting to show through his skin, trickling out of his fingers and palms, burning away at the tendrils. The Slender Man, for a moment, flickered in and out of vision again. Hanna got the distinct understanding that the being was unsure of him now, surprised if not taken aback by the small man's sudden power.
"You," Hanna continued, seizing the monster's uncertainty, taking a step forward, closer to the increasingly faltering Slender Man, "are real. You are the cause for my friends' deaths."
Another step closer. "You are the one who tormented me these past days. You are the cause for all the shit I've been through. You are the one who created this personal hell. I will not be your pawn in this chess game anymore, you fucking monster, because you are real and can therefore be destroyed."
And, for once in this whole ordeal, Hanna believed himself.
Hanna stared the being right in the face, defying the silence, defying the tendrils that broke his bones, defying the damnable false sense of security that had plagued him so. This darkness was real, it was physical, it could be destroyed by light. And it was just this light that Hanna summoned, allowed it to consume him entirely until the tendrils were bubbling and melting and the Slender Man was stepping back and fracturing to pieces.
"Don't look behind you," said Hanna.
The Slender Man looked down at him, realising what was about to be done, body fracturing and splitting and crackling. The faceless being met Hanna's hardened gaze with his own eyeless one. Reluctantly, the Slender Man dipped his head in final acknowledgement.
Well played, hollow child.
And then there was blinding light, the screaming of silence and the shattering of darkness. The light seeped into the air and smothered the cold, rolled over Hanna's body, his heart, his lungs, his trembling soul. It filled the entire forest, pulsating and purifying, chasing the shadows back, back, back into the unseen world until they shrivelled up and vanished with hisses.
Slowly, regally, the light dimmed, withdrew, folding in upon itself and relinquishing its hold on the forest and on Hanna. It dimmed, softened, shifting back into the red head's body until it was nothing more than a faint pulse in his veins. There was nothing left but the forest and the silence giving way to simple quiet.
Hanna opened his eyes, found himself on his knees. His palms were bleeding, his arms covered in bruises and blossoms of burst blood vessels. The light had scrubbed him raw, taking his magic and strength with it. Sluggishly, exhaustedly, realising just how tired he was, Hanna raised his eyes to the space before him.
The Slender Man was gone.
And Hanna smiled, because he could not feel the ache in his chest, or the frost in his bones. There was no lull, no silken caress of death, no terror or questions of his own sanity. There was only a sense of belief – a belief that this was real, and that the Slender Man was gone for good.
Though the need to rest was almost overwhelming and his mind was humming with fatigue and trauma, Hanna forced himself to his knees and walked. He staggered through the forest, vision swimming, and got sick numerous times though there was nothing left but blood to extricate. Stumbling on, using the trees and branches to steady himself, he did not stop walking until he found himself in the small clearing where the Slender Man had first brought him.
For a moment Hanna just stood where he was, swaying on the spot, and stared at the circle of blood with the 'x' drawn on it. Lips pursed and a sense of determination pressing him, the red head walked towards the sign and, using his hoodie that he stripped off his sweating body, slowly and meticulously wiped the blood from the ground. Only when the entire sign had been removed, with just a reddish tinge to the dirt as the last evidence of its existence, did Hanna turn to look at the bodies.
Worth and Conrad's limp and broken forms lay next to each other on the ground. Besides each one was their face, bloodied and dirty, expressions oddly peaceful. Hanna looked up and stared at Gallahad, feeling the wrenching of his heart, but without yielding to guilt he jumped as high as he could and grasped the zombie's hanging hand. With a few tries Hanna managed to get the zombie down from the branches. He laid his partner's body next to the others, making sure not to look at the way in which the zombie had been mutilated, and he soon found the matching face in a shrub close by.
Calmly and wearily, Hanna set to work.
He took each face and placed them back onto their respectful owners' body. With a scalpel Hanna found in Worth's pocket, Hanna sliced open his right hand and squeezed the wound so that the blood trickled on each body. An offering. Then, standing up again, Hanna closed his eyes and drew the magic of which the Slender Man had so desperately wanted back to his body. He let it rise and charge him, felt it slithering out of the open wound in his hand. It was attentive, ready for service.
Opening his eyes again, Hanna looked at the magic and its comforting, warm light. "Bring my friends back," he whispered and, kneeling next to each body, he let the magic slip across their torn faces and bodies. The light sunk into the mottled flesh and dead muscle and began to repair it before Hanna's eyes, pulling the tendons back into place, healing broken bone, slowly breathing the life back into their bodies.
Using the blood that flowed from the wound, Hanna drew a simple rune on the palm of his other hand. It was a circle with an 'x' crossed through it. He pointed that hand to his three friends, the rune dripping, and said, "Forget."
The planes shifted as the command manifested, unseen but setting to work.
Hanna sat down with a sigh and let himself lie down on the dirt. He touched his own face with his hand, the ripped and bloody flesh tingling as the magic smoothed across it. Initially he fought against the exhaustion, the emotional trauma, that made his eyelids droop. But even he, the only one to ever checkmate an infamous monster at its own game, could not stop the sleep from taking him. He slipped into unconsciousness.
And woke up to the smell of something cooking.
Hanna opened his eyes, slurring something even he couldn't understand, and looked up through blearily eyes. He was laying down on something soft and the place he was in smelled of damp and roasting potatoes. Perplexed, the red head tried to sit up from his horizontal position only to cry out in pain when his entire body throbbed and burned. He flumped back down, clutching his aching chest.
Coarse, cool hands were suddenly taking his own and a voice was telling him not to move. Panic knifing at his heart at the sudden appearance of this person, Hanna tried to pull away. The hands only moved to his face and chest, pressing him down gently but firmly. A composed, familiar voice spoke to him from above.
"Calm down, Hanna. It's just me," the voice soothed. "It's just me."
Hanna, confused but somehow less frightened then before, did as the voice requested. He let himself go limp, relaxing his taut muscles, and waited anxiously.
The person who had spoken moved, their footsteps making the floorboards creak, and something was placed into the red head's hand. The latter recognised its shape to be his glasses. He put them on, feeling a slight twinge in his head when his blurred vision abruptly cleared, and when he turned to look at the person he recognised them to be Gallahad.
Eyes widening, Hanna remembered everything.
"G-Gallahad," he managed to stammer. He looked over the zombie, relieved when he saw no immediate wounds or damage. His face was perfectly attached to his head. "What –?"
"You've been out cold for the past two days," the zombie told him, seating himself upon a rickety coffee table, facing Hanna. Hanna recognised the table as well as the couch he was lying on, and realised that they were in the apartment. "We – Worth, Conrad, and I – woke up in the forest and found you there," Gallahad was saying. "You were in very bad shape so we took you back to Worth's where he patched you up." He motioned to Hanna's arms, which were bandaged.
Hanna looked to his partner, not quite knowing what to say. "D-D'you know what happened?" he asked, propping himself up on his elbows. "In the forest, I mean."
Gallahad looked at him steadily, amber eyes studying his partner's face as if contemplating the answer. Eventually he replied, "You and I both know what happened, Hanna."
Hanna gave Gallahad a startled look. "You remember?" he demanded.
"Yes, I do. But Conrad and Worth don't."
"But I used a memory charm on all of you!"
At this Gallahad shrugged, clasping his hands together. "I suppose when you've already lost your memory it's hard to lose it again," he answered. After a moment he gave Hanna an oddly hurt look that made the red head's brow crease. "I'm sorry," Gallahad said. "For not believing you at first. I should have realised – "
"Don't." Hanna interrupted sharply. Gallahad stopped. The red head held his partner's gaze, fists clenched. He looked away when he couldn't take the questioning look on his partner's face. His cheeks were hot with remorse. "Don't apologise," he said. "Please. It was never your fault."
Gallahad looked at him, the helplessness on his face too much for Hanna to bear. The red head forced himself upright, tears welling in his eyes, and without another word pulled his taller counterpart into an embrace.
The zombie himself was surprised by the action, but he did not need words to understand what Hanna was trying to say. Instead he wrapped his arms around the red head, his chin perched upon the mane of curls, and soothed him when the smaller man began to cry.
"It's okay now, Hanna," he whispered, slowly rocking. He buried his face into the red head's hair, murmuring comforts, realising just how comforted he was that his words were true. "It's okay. Sssh, I'm here. It's okay."
"I'm s-so sorry, Gallahad," Hanna sobbed. "I'm so sorry that I-I lied to you about this shit. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm –"
"Now it's your turn to stop apologising," Gallahad interjected. The red head shuddered, pressing himself into the zombie's chest and holding onto him tightly. He held onto his friend, his best friend, because he had come so close to losing him. And just what, exactly, he would have done if he had lost his partner…
He stopped that thought, the sobs threatening to turn into wails, and just focused on the feeling of the zombie's shirt against his cheeks, the gentle rocking of their bodies, the hands that rubbed circles on his back. They stayed like that for a while, unspoken words passing between them, until the despair and sobs had passed and Hanna was able to speak properly again.
He pulled away, lifting his glasses so he could mop his eyes with the back of his hands. "H-How are Worth and Conrad?" he asked. "Are they okay?"
"They're fine. I told them that we were on a case and that we'd all been hit by the demon we were pursuing – that's why we ended up in the forest without any memory of what happened. They believed me, for the most part. Now they're just worried about you," Gallahad reassured him. "Worth especially."
Hanna managed a weak smirk at that, knowing that the doctor would instantly deny such a thing. Gallahad seemed to understand the same thing, for a brief smile ghosted his expression.
Smirk fading, Hanna sniffled. "I thought I lost you, you know?" he said to his partner softly, heart panging. "I thought I lost all of you."
"But you didn't, Hanna," Gallahad told him firmly. "Somehow, someway, you saved us. And that's only because you somehow, someway, managed to kill the Slender Man." The zombie sighed, looking up at the small window where faint light was peeping through. "I don't know why he was so interested in you," he continued, and gave his partner a side-long glance. "But I do know it's something you'd prefer not to share – which is fine," he assured when Hanna started to panic. "It's fine. As long as you're safe and the danger is gone, whatever happened is behind us and does not matter. All that does matter is that you're okay."
He looked to Hanna then, the sincerity in his eyes enough to tell Hanna that his partner meant what he said. The red head was touched. Putting his hand over Gallahad's, Hanna smiled his first genuine smile in a while. "I'm okay," he said.
And he meant it.
They both looked up when the oven went off. Gallahad gave Hanna's hand a quick squeeze then got up to attend the potatoes. Hanna heaved a breath, feeling, for what seemed like an excruciatingly long time, a final sense of contentment. He rubbed at his hands, looking at the wound he had inflicted with the scalpel. It had been stitched up neatly and was already beginning to heal. It was over.
Looking down to his left palm, Hanna studied the symbol of the Slender Man that remained there. In his mind he could see the featureless face of the being again. The one that had caused all of this trouble.
Licking his thumb, Hanna rubbed at the symbol until it was gone – extinguishing it and the last of his memory of the Slender Man.
"I will never look behind me again," he whispered.
Thanks again, dears, for reading this and supporting me through this.
Hanna is Not a Boy's Name (c) Tessa Stone
The Slender Man (c) Victor Surge