Let me tell you, this shit really takes a toll on my sanity. I had to get up and pace around a bit to keep from forgetting to breathe and tearing my hair out. Tate's head is definitely filled with some dark shit. Anyway, here's the third, final, and by far, my favorite part. Happy holidays!

Soundtrack: Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want by The Smiths / Disarm by Smashing Pumpkins / Rev 22-20 by Puscifer / Mad World by Michael Andrews & Gary Jules / Violet by Hole.

x

i think i made you up inside my head

part III

good times for a change / see
the luck i've had can make a good man turn bad
- The Smiths

x

They go on their first real date on Halloween. It's not really a date, he supposes, by normal teenager standards. He skips school and she takes him to the corner shop and they buy a pair of disposable Kodak cameras, running around and smoking cigarettes and snapping haphazard photos of each other at cheesy L.A. landmarks. They try to sneak into Disneyland without tickets, past the ridiculous crowds of picture-perfect happy families, and get so close to stepping inside until a worker catches them, yelling profanities after them, nobody really caring because on the outside they're still just silly teenagers in love.

He buys them cheap hot dogs from the street for a dollar, and they share a small basket of fries. He always feels so at peace around her — like somebody who doesn't have to take psychotics every morning and didn't have hands that always seemed to be bloodstained.

She drags him into a record store and they suggest bands and albums to each other. Most of the ones she shows him are outdated and obscure bands that he always seems to find himself loving, and he makes her listen to a lot of new material, even the most popular of which she's never heard of. She grumbles and complains when he takes out his wallet, but he buys the CDs anyway — if not for her, then for him. To listen to when she's not around, and to remind himself that she's made him a better person.

They end up at the beach by the time night falls. The waves ebb and flow and the fire cracks and his mind has never been so silent.

"I used to come here a lot," Violet notes. She places her head against his chest, close to where his heart beats. "When I was al — a little kid."

He stops and breathes it in — the smell of saltwater and smoke, and contrast of grainy sand against Violet's forgiving skin. "Do you ever feel like sometimes the world gets so small that it closes in and you can't breathe?" he asks. Violet's breath hitches in her throat next to him. "I love it here. We should come every day."

She laughs out loud. It's harsh and real. "Yeah," she sighs. "I wish."

He pulls her close and kisses her, long and hard, ready. He can feel it. He loves her — he's known it for a long time now. But suddenly he can see it in the way she looks at him and the way she confides in him.

She loves him, too.

Without warning, Violet pulls away from the kiss to glance over her shoulder.

"There's someone there," she hisses, "like a bunch of people." She scoots over to move away from him, still within his arm's grasp. They straighten their hair and compose themselves, ready to resume their activities when the other party passes them on their way to the beach, but instead they stop directly in front of the couple, blocking their view of the fire.

Tate's still looking at Violet when he feels their presence in front of them. "It's a big beach, you know," he begins to drawl, but suddenly he meets the eye of the leader of the group and a chill runs down his spine. It's the friend of the boy from before whom he'd scared in the basement. With reinforcements.

Violet doesn't back down from their silent glares. "Who are you guys supposed to be?" she sneers, eyeing the two girls' costumes — or lack thereof. "The slutty breakfast club?"

"Back off, bitch," the blonde one snarls. Her costume consists of nothing more than a black rhinestone-studded slip and plastic fangs. Some sort of vampire gothic chick. "You don't know who you're messing with."

With no hesitation, Violet stands up. "I'm not scared to find out," she tells them fearlessly.

"Violet, come on, no," Tate begs. He tugs at her forearm, looking up at the way the flames make her glow like some kind of ethereal being. "Not tonight." Swearing under her breath, Violet flops back down next to Tate, never taking her eyes off the other kids. "Come on, guys," he pleads with the others. "It's Halloween night. Don't be assholes. Don't wreck it."

The leader of the group steps in front of them — he's not wearing a costume, just his letterman jacket. "I got beef with you, Langdon," he explains. "You know Leo, right?" Tate nods slowly. "He got sent away. To a mental institution. Some shit place up in Canada."

Beside him, Violet turns to raise her eyebrows at him, but he ignores her. "That sucks," he says calmly. "Still don't know what this has to do with you crashing our little party over here."

"Aw, were you going to fuck tonight? Were you going to give yourself to him?" the blonde pipes up again, looking directly at Violet. "Cute, sweet little virgin."

Violet shoves herself away from Tate's tightening hold and steps closer to the other girl. "Too bad no one's been able to say the same about you since you were twelve," she growls. Quickly, Tate jumps up as the others follow the blonde girl towards her.

"Leo hadn't been the same since he tried to score drugs from you, shithead," the letterman jacket guy tells Tate, his arms crossing over his broad chest. "What'd you do to him in the Murder House, huh, Langdon? What'd you do? Rape him? Stick a fire poker up his ass or something? You're some kind of sick homo freak, aren't you?"

He grabs Violet's hand, but she only slaps him away. "Shut the fuck up," he spits at the boy, more concentrated on keeping Violet away from trouble.

The second he takes his eyes off of Violet she lunges at the girl, grabbing her long locks of blonde and tugging viciously. "Get her!" the blonde screeches, the sound making a few seagulls that had been lounging on the beach fly away squawking.

It all happens very fast. There are two boys grabbing Violet's forearms, dragging her away from the girl kicking and screaming. Tate, consumed by his rage, throws all of the weight in his shoulder into the brunette boy, shocking the other one into letting Violet go. She falls to the ground, crawling away on her elbows, the other two girls too busy comforting her over her lost strands of hair to care.

Tate holds the boy with one hand around his throat and the other gripping the collar of his shirt, choking him. "Don't you ever touch her again, or you won't know how to feel anything," he warns. His voice is steady.

The jock throws him off, making him fall backwards onto the sand several feet away from Violet, but he manages to throw a knee to his gut, making him stumble away, the breath knocked out of him. When the boy he'd threatened start to come near, Tate kicks sand into his face, blinding him. As he's focused on keeping those two away from him, the third boy tackles him maliciously, throwing in a few good punches. Sticky blood runs down Tate's face, and he can't help but laugh at the feeling of his nose being crushed, relishing the sensation of his neck snapping back to accommodate the blow.

His hand scrambles behind him. He's lucky. As the boy is smashing his knuckles into Tate's left eye socket, his hand closes around the rock. It's a good size.

He bashes it against the side of the boy's head so hard that he crumples to the ground behind him. For good measure, he slams it against the boy's ear again, and as he stands up, his ribs sore, kicks his side. The once perfect white sand is stained red. The other boys, still dazed, don't stand a chance as he roars toward them, crushing the rock against whatever expanse of skin he can find until they're all covered in each other's blood.

"Tate! Tate, stop!" Violet drags him away from the carnage, the two girls screaming at the sight of their cronies bleeding, one of them unconscious. When Violet pulls her hands away from his bicep, her pale fingers are covered with deep red blood. "Come on, let's get out of here."

They begin to walk down the street — Tate limps, and Violet supports a lot of his weight with her shoulder. She's left unbruised, only a spot of red on her forehead where the girls had clawed at her, but the bleeding has long stopped. They're silent, both of them, as they reach the gate to the Murder House, but before they can enter, Violet leans against the brick post to catch her breath.

"What was that, Tate?" she whispers, avoiding his eyes. "It was like you were possessed or something. You could've killed those guys, I bet, if I hadn't pulled you away."

The sharp pain digging into his abdomen keeps him from answering right away, and when he does, he has to speak in short, interrupted breaths. "Yeah, well, they touched you and it pissed me off," he mutters shyly. He leans against the post next to her, his chest pressed against her shoulder. "Don't forget that I'm practically your hero."

Violet's smile is visible even in the dim light of nothing but the streetlights and the new moon. "Not," she doubts. "I could've handled those bitches."

Tate laughs, nodding. "Yeah, you probably could've." She turns to face him. His hand comes up to stroke the curve of her jaw. His fingers leave a thinning trail of blood down her neck.

"Would you have killed them, for me?" Violet manages to ask. She's still out of breath, but not because of their long walk home. He presses his lips to hers gently and pulls away after a second, his forehead against hers.

The pain begins to dissipate as her nimble fingers find his shoulders, massaging gently. "Definitely." He kisses her more urgently, deeper and longer, pressing her against the brick as her hands explore the screaming muscles on his back. "I would never let anybody or anything hurt you. I'd axe a bitch in half for you."

Violet smirks into the kiss. Her brow furrows as they begin to move toward the backyard, still stealing kisses in-between their stroll, their hands tangled together. "Have you ever killed anyone before?" she chokes out, terrified of the answer.

He looks away. "It wasn't me — I didn't mean it. I swear." He bites his lip, and she kisses the place where he draws blood, licking it away. A groan escapes him at the sensation. "It's the darkness. It has me."

Her hands find his even in the dark. They're standing outside the door to the basement. "I have you," she murmurs into his skin, and he closes his eyes, letting himself go.

They fuck, there, in the cold, dank basement. They shed their clothes so that they're everywhere, bits and pieces — her tangled purple tights in this corner, his blue flannel shirt hanging from some clutter the previous owners had left. They take each other's virginity, and Tate wouldn't have had it any other way. It's like he's got a piece of her that belongs to him, like he's the devil himself — like she's sold that piece of her soul to him, only no one else will ever get the chance to buy it back.

He likes the feeling of the cold basement wall to contrast against the heat of their bodies. It's grounding. She takes him away to other places, other sensations that he's never even dreamed of feeling when he's jacking off like the perpetually horny teenage boy he is.

And when they're finished, and she throws his flannel shirt over her body, the hem barely coming past her ass, he thinks he'd marry her if it hadn't been way too much of a normal destiny. He knows how she doesn't like normal things.

They explore the house, stealing some chips from the pantry and sharing them as they wander around the Murder House, the feeling of ghost's gazes pricking their skin. Their end game is the attic, where Violet promises that she remembers leaving a chess board here somewhere when they'd moved out.

He yelps when he sees the gimp suit hanging from chains in the corner. "Holy shit," he says, practically fascinated. "What is this?"

"You know the gay couple that lived here before you? They were really kinky." She walks over to stand beside him in front of the rubber suit. "Like, deep into that S&M stuff. And in the end, it brought them to their doom!" She waves her hands around for dramatic effect. "They killed each other, something like that. One of them was cheating and they were role-playing and the other was pissed. I guess they were really good actors 'cause they ended up really killing each other. The details are fuzzy. The police didn't release them all to the public and I had to do some major detective work just to find that much out."

"They were kinky, huh?" Tate chuckles. He reaches out to feel the latex on his skin. He turns around to wink at Violet cheekily. "Are you?"

She tries to stop her blush, but it creeps up on her, turning her pink. She rolls her eyes, shoving him away when he wraps an arm around her waist. "Wouldn't you like to find out," she mutters, but steps closer to kiss him again, her legs wrapping around his waist as they begin to shed what little clothes they'd pulled on after round one.

/

He can't stop looking at the gimp suit, though.

Maybe he's got some kind of repressed sexual fantasy, or maybe he just likes the idea of a mask over his face and the material clinging to his pale, sweaty skin as he fucks Violet — on a counter, against the wall, out on the gazebo that had apparently been there since Violet's family had lived there, he really doesn't care. It's not the thought of sex with her that makes him so thirsty for it, really, it's just the thought of their skin pressed so close, as close as two atoms can be. There's a theory that no two things ever really touch each other — that there's always going to be some kind of invisible force field repelling them that no eye can see — and Tate wants to prove that wrong, with Violet. It's funny to think that he's so addicted to her and she's never even mentioned her last name. She rarely talks about her past or family, and the most he can get out of it is that her parents don't give a shit about her and that she spends more time in this house with him than she does at wherever it is he lives. Whenever he presses her about, she spews some shit about not wanting the horribleness of wherever she resides to ruin the best thing she's got, and so he doesn't bring it up again, knowing the feeling.

Once, he calls her up to the attic with the bait of wanting to play a game of poker, and when she arrives he wraps his hand around her mouth. She kicks and screams but he's strong enough to back her up against the banister of the stairs until he can't resist and keels over in laughter.

She punches him in the shoulder. "You asshole!" she cries, her face still pale with shock.

"I scared you," Tate teases, pulling the mask off. His hair is damp with sweat from the rush of making her scream in a whole new way.

Violet glares at him. "You did not." She eyes him, up and down. Everywhere her gaze meets comes aflame. "God, don't tell me you've got some kind of sick fetish for that suit. I'm not going to fuck you in it."

He presses her harder against the banister, swooping in to kiss her, his lungs forgetting to work for the second when their lips are connected. "Fuck me out of it, then," he whispers hoarsely.

And as she helps him slide the rubber suit off of his quickly heating body, neither can deny that it fits him like he was made for it — like it was put in this very attic solely to corrupt him.

/

"Who wants to say grace tonight?" his mother asks politely, her pack of cigarettes at her side. It's practically a joke. It's always Addy who gives in and says the same prayer she's had memorized since she could talk, and it's only fitting. Addy is the purest of mind of all of them. She's the only one whose desires are unselfish.

Addy begins to say the prayer. Tate joins hands with her and only her, leaving his mother's left hand empty and limp against the off white tablecloth. He tunes out her words, as innocent as they may be. He won't fall for his mother's little act, and as much as both of the female Langdons wish it were, they would never be that perfect little Christian family.

But it's when Addy begins to rave about how happy she is here, how she's thankful for their healthy and loving family, that he cracks.

"Stop it, Addy!" he snaps, his hand slamming down on his plate. He underestimates his strength and the china shatters under pressure. "You're a smart girl, you know this family is the furthest thing from healthy and loving." He eyes his mother from underneath his shaggy bangs with nothing but malice in his gaze.

Addy frowns, startled by his outburst. Constance ignores him, only sighs and lights a cigarette, the smoke beginning to waft towards the still-steaming food. "Jesus H. Christ," she mutters.

"I hate this family," Tate mutters.

"Well, it's your actions that brought this family to this point, Tate!" Constance cries, exasperated. She tries to wave Addy away to send her upstairs, but she stays put, intent on watching the downward spiral of her mother and only living brother. "It's your fault — that we had to pack everything up and move here, that your sister and I had to leave our lives behind, that your brother Beauregard is no longer with us. Thank God that it means that he'll never suffer again, but Jesus, half the time I can't even look at you. God graced you with so many gifts and you don't even have the mind to use them."

Tate's vision blurs as tears form. "Beau only suffered because of you!" Tate bellows.

Constance fights back, her wit still as sharp as it had been when she was young and invincible and untouched by death. "And where is he now, Tate?" she screams. "He is dead, and that, my dear, is because of you!"

"Shut up!" Tate roars, his eyes clouded with red. "Shut up, shut up, SHUT UP!" He stands up, towering over his thin mother, but Constance snatches the carving knife from the platter holding the ham and he is so surprised by her actions that his foot catches the leg of the chair and he falls backwards onto the floor, his elbows catching the blow of the wood roughly.

His mother holds the knife up above her, and then, realizing her position, lets it clatter onto the table. Addy is silently sobbing into her hands, shaking in terror. "I'm going to slice this ham, now," Constance says calmly into her palm, pinching the bridge of her nose with her thumb and forefinger. "You can either compose yourself, sit here, and eat your dinner, or you can go upstairs, take your medicine, and go to sleep. You're probably just — tired. Heaven knows, we all are."

Tate tries desperately to meet Addy's eyes over the dinner table, but she won't look at him. He swallows dryly, staring as his mother and sister sit back down as if nothing had happened, beginning a conversation that ignores him deliberately.

Upstairs, the group of orange pill bottles on his bedside table catch him like a warning. He rolls each one over in his hand, reading the labels and warnings that he already has practically memorized.

He swallows one of the tranquilizers, but keeps the bottle clutched in his warm fist. As it begins to make him drowsy, he pours each one out onto his open palm, counting the pretty blue pills. There are thirty-two of them in that bottle, and he's determined to turn that number into zero.

"That's too many," Violet whispers, her breath tickling the back of his ear. As quickly as she arrives, she's in front of him, kneeling on his hands, touching him like he's a skittish kitten.

Tate lets a strangled sob escape his throat. "It's enough to kill me," he tells her, his voice low and raspy.

Violet smiles, her tears already running down her face. She reaches up to wipe them away determinedly with her oversized sleep. "Not tonight," she breathes, picking each and every pill individually and plopping them back into the bottle until his hand is empty.

She pulls him into the covers, tugging his clothes off until he's comfortably in nothing more than a t-shirt and boxers, then she tugs the duvet over them both until they're curled around each other.

"I won't let you die in this house," Violet mumbles into his collarbone. Her eyelashes flutter as she begins to fall asleep.

"Violet?"

"Yes?"

He takes a deep breath. The world begins to vignette around the edges, and he struggles to keep himself awake, but the tranquilizer is quickly taking effect. "I killed someone. I killed my brother."

Her breath noticeably stops for a second, but she doesn't say anything. He takes it as an opportunity to explain himself.

"I — I didn't mean to. I didn't kill him with my hands. I — I did a lot of shit, crazy shit, and I knew that I was going to go to jail for it. I set a man on fire, Vi. This guy my mom was fucking. I just — he pushed me over the edge and everything's black, all I remember is a bucket of gasoline and a match. And then my mom got this crazy idea to pin it on my brother. He's like Addy, not quite right in the head, and, well, he'd already had a history of being unstable, and they took him away from us. Beau didn't do too well with us, anyway, but he definitely did worse without us, and — and after a month of wherever it is that they took him — some asylum, some sick place for people that were way worse than him — he — he — he died." Suddenly his breathing becomes nothing more than deep, heaving sobs that take all of the oxygen away from the air surrounding him.

Violet pulls him closer, presses his face into the space above her breasts, and lets him cry. His tears soak them both to the skin but she lets him, anyway, whispering soothing words into his hair and crying with him.

"I'm a killer, Violet," he chokes. "How can you love me?"

She shakes her head and brings his chin up to look her in the eyes. "We're all killers, Tate," she exhales. He thinks of everything that a person murders on a day-to-day basis — a bug, a virus, a dream, a light. "We all are."

/

He finds himself in the basement, surveying the aftermath. There's blood covering the cold concrete floors, but the bodies have long repaired themselves, stood back up after suffering fatal injuries, because their hearts have already stopped beating.

But there are two bodies waiting for him upstairs.

He didn't mean to do it.

He swears.

It was the voices.

/

He tries to remember, pushing his fingers into his temples, trying to break skin and crack his skull, let his brains spill out and then maybe he can frantically search for his memories within the grey matter, but he can't because —

FUCK THEM KILL THEM RAPE THEM MURDER THEM STAB THEM SHOOT THEM HELTER FUCKING SKELTER

— the voices are screaming louder than ever, and they're building some kind of invisible wall, blocking the memory of his actions from access.

He rocks back and forth in the corner of that basement, still in the suit, the mask long discarded into the mess of blood and guts. "Get out!" he howls into the shadows, pounding his brain with the heels of his palms. "Get out, get out of my head!"

/

Where's Violet? he wonders dizzily. He can feel her in the shadows but she won't look him in the eye.

His mind is starting to come back — it's the longest time that it's ever left him, but as it floats back in his own sick perversion, he's not sure if he wants it back. They say that the victims of torture sometimes create their own world in their imaginations to escape the pain that's inflicted upon them, but he's not sure if it applies the same way when the person inflicting it is themselves.

He starts to scream as the voices go away, leaving him with nothing but a buzzing silence and the images of the last few days returning to him, stained with red.

/

It starts when he puts the rubber suit back on — he's not sure where Violet is, but he's sure she's lurking around here somewhere, going through his CDs or hiding away his razors. It's late, around two in the morning on Friday night, and he strolls through the house casually, his eyes peeking through the holes in the mask.

He spots Violet standing in the office where his mother spends her time smoking and drowning in debt, but when she turns around he realizes it's an older woman, all curves and high cheekbones and the wavy hair past her full breasts. He backs away, confused, and then remembers that he's wearing the suit and most likely has the upper hand.

"There you are," the woman cries, as if it's nothing that she's the one who's broken into his house and yet, he's dressed as a robber. She takes a closer look at him. "Ben? Where the hell did you get that?"

He tries faintly to remember a Ben, but the only person he can think of is the fact that Dr. Harmon's first name is Benjamin. The woman approaches him confidently, sliding her shawl off her shoulders to reveal a sheer black nightgown.

"You really want to go for round two, huh?" she purrs, hips sashaying.

/

He wakes up the next morning in his room, confused and convinced that it had all been another one of those weird dreams, if not for the fact that the rubber suit was laying in the furthest corner of his room, covered in cum and blood. His bare body is sweating and naked.

"Tate!" his mother's shrill voice whistles from outside his door. In a panic, he scrambles to his closet, pulling on a random array of clothes. "Dr. Harmon is waiting in the office for your session."

He makes his way downstairs, trembling. When he feels the leather couch underneath his fingers, he has to pull away in shock. It feels exactly as it had in his dream — whatever it was.

This time, as Dr. Harmon asks his silly pointless questions and scribbles his notes down onto that infinite pad of paper, Tate can't answer, still shaken. It's not that he's withholding speech, something he's done for weeks at a time before, but because the darkness has taken over his throat, scaring him so terribly that he's lost the will to speak.

"You've got to talk if you want to get better, Tate," Dr. Harmon reminds him cockily. Tate eyes his jugular. The house is empty save for them and whatever darkness resides there; Constance had left for the corner market and Addy was at her own therapy session downtown.

Tate looks back down at the ground. Something catches his eye, peeking out from underneath one of the legs of the couch.

Dr. Harmon puts his notepad down onto the coffee table between them. "Your mother's really worried about you," he adds, like an afterthought. "She says that you've been skipping school a lot lately, and you've failed most of your classes." Tate glares at him, still wanting to focus on whatever it was beneath the couch. "She just wants you to get better, Tate. We all do."

"Bullshit." The walls of his throat have relaxed, but his voice is sore, as if his demons had used up his vocal chords without him knowing. "I don't accept that. My mother doesn't give two shits about me."

The therapist smiles and shakes his head. "If there's one thing I know, it's that parents can't just not care about their children." He leans back against his chair. "I have — had a daughter. Trust me, I know."

Tate frowns. "Had?"

Dr. Harmon coughs, his eyes cast downward. He looks closely at Tate, as if debating with himself about whether or not to tell him. "She died," he says finally in a regretful tone.

"Oh." Tate swallows, feeling guilty. "I'm sorry. What was her name?"

"Her name was Violet."

There's a darkness in this house.

He must not have heard that right.

"What was it?" Tate asks again politely.

Dr. Harmon looks as if it pains him just to say the name. "Violet. She was beautiful, had this gorgeous brown hair and these hazel eyes. She was so smart and she had such a bright future ahead of her — but she succumbed to…other things."

We're all vulnerable to it.

It's as though all of the hairs on his body have stood up. He can feel so many people breathing on him, behind the shell of his ear and against the nape of his neck, but when he swivels around in a panic, there's no one there.

"Tate, are you okay?" Dr. Harmon asks, concerned.

Tate's fingers claw at his hair. "You're lying. You're lying, oh, God, you're lying," he barks at his doctor, standing up too quickly. His head spins.

It wants you, Tate.

"Tate, you have to calm down," Dr. Harmon says calmly, standing up. He puts his hands out in a surrender.

He sticks his middle finger out at him, eyes wild. "Don't talk to me like I'm some kind of animal," he grits out between his teeth. There's too many voices speaking to him at once, commanding him, and Dr. Harmon's pleading, soothing words aren't helping.

And I'm selfish. Really fucking selfish.

They're circling the coffee table, the doctor still trying to maintain a safe distance away from Tate.

"You're wrong, Dr. Harmon," he tells him, managing to keep his voice from wavering.

The doctor's eyebrows narrow, and his forehead wrinkles. "What are you talking about?"

Tate bites his lip so hard then that it splits, flooding his mouth with the taste of copper, staining his perfect white teeth pink. "Violet still is beautiful."

I have you.

He lunges at Dr. Harmon across the coffee table so quickly that the doctor doesn't even have time to brace himself. He uses all of his dead weight against the older man so that they land sprawled on the floor. The doctor punches Tate in the jaw, but the weight of the boy's body on his ribs keep him from being able to regain his breath enough to fight back with all his power. Tate manages to get Dr. Harmon into a headlock, standing so that he's crouching over the man, sadistically restricting his oxygen intake with the crook of his elbow. For good measure, Tate bashes the doctor's head into the corner of the table several times until the man is dripping blood from both eye sockets. In the struggle, they move around and they find themselves in front of the mirror propped up against the wall.

Tate watches as the light leaves Violet's father's eyes. He knows what she was talking about now, about the darkness and the house and the danger. He knows.

He leaves Dr. Harmon's limp body crumpled on the floor. There's no heartbeat, no sign of life. Tate paces around the office, wondering what to do with the dead body of his therapist, wondering if he can still find the time to bury it in the backyard or if he'll have to drag it into the crawlspace before his mother can come home. The thing that had caught his eye underneath the couch comes back to mind and he bends over to snatch it from under the leg. When he sees it, he has to blink several times to make sure that this all wasn't just some sick dream.

It's the mask to the rubber suit.

Behind him, a hand grabs his shoulder and Tate spins on his heels wildly. It's Dr. Harmon, but that can't be — because he'd watched the man die just a second ago. He had put the back of his hand against his still-warm chest and felt no pulse. He had watched his eyes roll back into his head as his brain was starved of oxygen.

"Do you want to know my diagnosis, Tate?" the doctor asks calmly, but he doesn't wait for Tate to answer. "You're a psychopath. You're a sick fucking psychopath."

And when he blinks, the doctor's gone. But in the reflection in the mirror he sees Violet walk past the doorway to the office. When he turns around to call for her, she's gone, and he follows the direction where her fleeting body had gone.

"Violet?" he cries like a lost toddler looking for his mother. "Violet!"

As he makes his way down the hallway to the basement door, a woman appears, her eyes lined dark with kohl and filled with rage. "I MATTER!" she screams at him, her voice high-pitched. "I'm not just some toy that you can cast away when you're sick of me!" She grabs Tate and shoves him into the open basement. He catches his balance on the platform seconds before he falls down the stairs and inadvertently breaks his neck. At the bottom of the stairs, a man approaches Tate, wearing a doctor's uniform and gloves seeping with blood.

"I'm sorry," he says kindly, "but boyfriend aren't allowed to be present during the procedure."

Tate backs away, but his back connects with something broad and solid. He turns around and meets the eyes of a blond, muscular man, looking at him as though he's a piece of meat. "Do you want your cock sucked?" he breathes out huskily. "I don't care if you're a minor, we'll keep it our little secret."

Frightened, Tate pulls his arm back and cracks his knuckles against the side of the man's head, knocking him out. He kicks his teeth in for good measure. When he takes a step back, he crashes into something once more. "What's happening to me?" he bawls, a brunette man shoving him backwards. "Who are you people?"

"Don't you get it yet?" the brown-haired man asks irritably. The blond one grabs Tate's ankle, and he grabs the closest thing to him — a wrench lying on one of the dusty tables — and throws it against the blond's head with as much strength as he can muster, cracking his skull open. "This house is filled to the brim with ghosts."

Tate backs up so far that his waist hits one of the boxes. He looks down behind him, and the bold Sharpie letters make the tears spill over. Violet's Things is scrawled across the top of the box.

"But you're the only monster," the brunette finishes, and Tate whacks him across the head, too, killing him. He drags their bodies to the middle of the room, terrified and overwhelmed.

/

He surveys the aftermath. Blood. Carnage. Shit. Piss.

There's only one person who can make him regret it all.

/

As he makes his way up the stairs, there is a thin trail of drops of blood that aren't the result of his stained hands. Something's playing, echoing through the hallways, loud and mostly noise. His heart's pounding so loud it's as though he's got his ears pressed against his own chest, listening to the racing thumps. He doesn't want to find whatever it is that he's looking for.

"Violet," he shouts down the halls, desperate to find her. "Violet, I'm not fucking around, please!" Even he doesn't know what he's begging for, but the house does.

The house takes the things that you want and twists them around; it turns you and the girl you want to spend forever with into immortal zombies, or kills your parents so that you're left with the freedom you've always wanted, complete with the maid to bleach the bloodstains. It kills your husband so he can never leave you for his lover. It contorts your desires until they're so unrecognizable that you can almost convince yourself that this was really what you wanted in the first place.

He finds her in the bathtub. The pink bathwater has spilled over the edge, pooling in the linoleum tile. He doesn't mind. He sits next to her in the middle of all the blood and tears and water and holds her hand as she turns paler and dizzier with the loss of blood.

"Don't die on me," he whimpers. "Don't you die on me."

She's crying, both of her wrists slit open like a zipper. The dark brown scars have become new again, reopened for the millionth time, spilling open. She bleeds beautifully. "I didn't want to die, Tate," she explains, her voice coming out breathy and harsh. "I swear, after I met you, God, I wish I hadn't died."

He holds her hand tighter, pressing kisses as she bleeds out faster and faster. "I want to be with you forever. For always." The way he says it out loud is so decided and secure. Violet cries even harder.

She shakes her head violently. "I used to think you were like me, Tate. That you were attracted to the darkness." She pulls her hand away from his and strokes his cheek, the water droplets mixing with his tears. "Tate, don't become the darkness."

Slowly, her hand slides down his face until it's left lying limp against the side of the tub, swirls of red trailing down. He holds her as she dies again, sobbing into her damp neck. She dies loved for the first time in her afterlife.

He knows now what he has to do.

/

In the morning, he slides his guns out from his stash underneath his bed, and loads them quietly. He places them securely in the inside of his worn vintage trench coat — the only thing he has left from his father. It's only right for him to wear it on a day like this.

/

He'd slipped a sleeping pill into his mother's whiskey last night, and sure enough, when he peeks into the living room, she's still asleep. He slides his finger over the edge of the knife in his pocket. He wants nothing more than to take her by the hair and slit her throat, but he doesn't.

He wants his mother to live.

It's a filthy world we live in. It's a filthy goddamn helpless world.

And he wants his mother to suffer. To live knowing that she'd outlived three of her four children, and the fourth resented her so much that she couldn't even stand to breathe the same air. He wants her to die alone.

/

Before he leaves, he writes it out on the chalkboard. The thing that he's been wanting to say. The thing that he'd never experienced until now.

He knows that she'll see it, and he knows that when she does, it'll all be too late.

It's all too late for him.

/

The only person he cries for that day is Addy. He takes her out back with the promise of an early morning walk, but instead he brings her to the empty park and slits her throat there, leaving her in the bushes.

He's taking her somewhere clean, and kind.

But he doesn't want her to be trapped in the Murder House. Because he knows that if she is, their mother would never leave. Their mother would cling to the remainder of their spirits with the illusion that she can go on living as if nothing had ever happened — as if they hadn't hated her more than they'd hated themselves, as if they were the most twisted and deranged of all the dysfunctional families.

He cries for Addy, but knows that in the end, he'd done her justice.

/

He arrives at school just as the first bell rings. It's the first time he's come to class in nearly a week.

I prepare for the noble war. I'm calm. I know the secret. And I know that nobody can stop me. Including myself.

He puts his finger on the trigger and pushes through the doors.

/

Moira glares at him, sickened, as he walks past her back into the house after his rampage.

"What have you done to Madam Constance?" she cries, but he only walks past her.

Without even looking back, Tate reaches back and shoots her with the last bullet of his pistol. He doesn't look at the damage, but the bullet goes straight through her eyes, splattering her brains onto the perfect white walls behind him. He hopes it'll make a pretty portrait for the cops to look at as he jogs upstairs, calm, as if it's nothing but a normal day.

/

When he arrives in his room, she's lying on his bed, eyes ringed with red, flipping through a book about birds that was long overdue from the school library.

"Tate?" Violet murmurs, unaware of the bloodshed that had gone on. "What's going on?" He sits down, his back to her, shaking his head.

"Nothing, nothing," he assures her under his breath, just before the first cop rushes in.

And as he lies on the floor, choking on his own blood as the authorities try to catch the last words he'll never give, she appears to him, sobbing, but invisible to the SWAT team. She holds him as he dies, peppering his face with kisses and tears, and he's at peace for the last time in his life.

He appears behind her, watching his lifeless body. It's like an out-of-body experience — only it really is. "I like birds, too," he tells her, and she spins around, her face devastated.

She watches him cautiously, and then takes a step closer, as though afraid he'll disappear the moment they touch. "Why do you like them?" she whimpers.

"Because they can fly away when things get too crazy." Things are crazy, now and forever, but he'd never want to fly away from her. "I love you. There — I said it. And not just on some chalkboard."

He wraps an arm around her waist. Behind him, they load his bleeding body onto a gurney, his hand still clutched around air as though he was holding his empty gun. "Do you think, that, in another life, it would've ended this way?" Violet mumbles into his coat, unable to look at his corpse.

"I don't care. I would've waited — forever if I had to." He clutches her closer to him. "I'd die a million deaths for you." He wipes away her tears with the pad of his thumb. "Don't cry. Life's too short for so much sorrow."

Violet shakes her head. "You're wrong. It's an eternity. It's an eternity in a windowless cell."

/

The first time he entered the house, he'd known that he'd be there forever.

Even now, he still can't find it in him to wish it any other way.

/

i should have loved a thunderbird instead;
at least when spring comes they roar back again
i shut my eyes and all the world drops dead
(i think i made you up inside my head)
—Sylvia Plath

/

the end.