A/N: I promised my friend Cassie that I would write her my version of Shades of London 3: The Shadow Cabinet as a way to help lessen the feeling of desperation while we wait on the official novel. However, there were three problems with this scenario. 1) She'd probably never read it anyway. 2) I have way too many fandoms to obligate myself to such a long story. 3) I'm just as interested in everyone else's perspective as I am Rory's, and if I were to undertake such a project, I'd want to write it in the same style as the books. So, instead you get this.
The way this is to be done is that I'll write one-shots as they come to me, all slightly independent but set in the same universe that picks up after The Madness Underneath. As each story goes, I'll tell you where it falls in relation to the previous one and if you're not interested in that particular character or story arc, then you can skip it. My hope is that what few readers I get will actually read them all, but we'll see. Enjoy!
Dedicated to: Cassie, who first got me to read these books and thusly ruined my life. I'll love you forever for that.
Disclaimer: Stephen Dene and the other characters in the Shades of London series belong to Maureen Johnson. The title is taken from a line in Pink Floyd's song "Brain Damage," which I found to be quite inspirational, given the setting of this particular piece. All I own is the typos and terrible characterization of these two wonderful characters.
Re-Arrange Me Til I'm Sane
Stephen Dene had never given much thought to where he would find himself if he ever became a ghost. This was, for the most part, because he had never thought it would be an issue to concern him, and also because he always had far more pressing things on his mind than what would happen to him after he was dead. He had known, somewhere in the back of his mind, that becoming a vestige of his former self was quite possible, but he had avoided thinking too deeply about it.
If such a thought had occurred him, or if Boo or Rory had ever bothered to ask him (because who else in his life besides those two women would ever even consider asking such a banal question), Priory Clinic was not the first place he would have said. He would probably have said Goodwin Court or the flat near Waterloo, or possibly the police station if it was a day when Callum and Boo were being particularly difficult. Now that he was a ghost and had little he could do but think, he could not help but feel that he should have *known* he would end up at Priory. After all, people went to either the scene of their death or the place they felt most at home. And his childhood home and Maida Vale were the last places he felt like spending his afterlife, and home for him had really only been wherever Boo and Callum (and lately Rory) happened to be. And he could hardly haunt three people at once, especially ones that were constantly going their own separate directions. Really, he supposed, Priory was as good a place to spend his afterlife as any.
The familiar feel of it didn't make the interminable days any less boring. He had been at the Clinic for about two months, by his reckoning. There was no way to tell with absolute certainty, but it had been going into winter the night that he and his friends had sought refuge at his father's flat in Maida Vale, and it was now definitively winter – there was a light smattering of snow upon the ground, and the surrounding view was cast in an omnipresent grey gloom. Christmas lights had gone up and come down since he had arrived there, and he'd seen numerous patients with various disorders and mental states check themselves in and check themselves out. He had memorized the nurses' timetables, as well as memorized every patient's medications and doses, and now knew the innermost secrets of every traumatised person who had spoken to their doctor in confidentiality. He would have felt sorry for doing it if listening in on these 'private' conversations weren't the only thing keeping him close to sane.
Rory had once told him that all the craziness she was beginning to see was starting to make her mad, or to at least question her own sanity. Stephen knew the real truth of it. Trauma didn't make you 'mad'; unceasing monotony did. The continuous ticking of the clock and the hum of the air conditioning and the occasional crackle of the speaker system got under his ectoplasm and made his obsessive compulsive tendencies almost unbearable.
It had been at its worst when he first woke up at his new destination, dressed in all of the ridiculousness of his uniform of the Metropolitan Constabulary, sans the black hat. He had been somewhat weak-spirited those first few days, and had little consciousness as to where he was, much less how to have any effect on the world around him. He had paid careful attention to the words and speech of the doctors and nurses until he had taught himself how to speak again. It was a lacklustre gift until someone with the sight was to come along, he knew, but it at least guaranteed a good conversation when one finally did arrive. It had taken him about seven weeks before he could move objects, and such tasks still wearied him, but he could usually disrupt the nurse's cart during an emergency or cause distractions when needed. It wasn't much, but it made him feel useful, and being productive kept him from becoming angry.
According to the calendar behind the nurse's desk, it was late February when Rory Deveaux was admitted to the hospital with "paranoid delusions brought about by schizophrenia as caused by excessive mental trauma." Someone had obviously coached Rory how to keep a poker face since the last time he had seen her as her facial expression remained the same even after she made eye contact with him. If it weren't for the smallest twitch of an eyelid, he would think she was catatonic. As it was, she was obviously tuning out the talk of the doctors and her parents. He forced himself to remain where he was when Rory and her parents were taken by the doctors to Rory's room within the facility - she would come and find him when she could, of that he was sure.
He forced himself to stare out of the window as she said farewell to her family, being careful to speak in the disconnected, throaty voice of a person unsure of their surroundings. As soon as her parents had left the building, she sat down at the couch in the middle of the lobby, her blue jeans and light coloured fuzzy jumper contrasting starkly with the solid brown leather of the sofa. He sat down next to her and tried not to be hurt when she noticeably slid a good seven inches farther away from him. He went to shoot her a questioning glance when he noted the panicked look in her eyes and she merely looked down at her hands.
"I'm sorry," she said, and for a minute he wasn't positive what she was apologizing for exactly. Sorry that it had taken her so long to find him? Sorry that she had gone crazy and gotten herself admitted to a mental health facility? Sorry that she hadn't gone back to Wexford that day? Sorry that she had kissed him (although he was equally to blame for that one)? Sorry that he was dead? "I still have no control over making people cross over when I touch them," she explained. "I don't want to risk it."
So she was sorry she couldn't allow him to touch her. Well, it would be a lie if he didn't admit that he was a bit sorry about that one too. Even though he had never been an overly tactile person, Rory was, and he had gotten used to her constant invasions of his personal space – had even come to welcome them – and the knowledge that their new relationship would have such a strong barrier was a slightly bitter pill to swallow.
"So, you went back home, huh?" he asked, his non-corporeal fingers gripping the edge of the sofa cushion, and he noted the way that Rory's eyes followed the motion with fascination, studying his body's lack of physical impact. It was a fleeting study, however, and as soon as the motion was completed, her eyes had flown back to his face.
"Yeah, just a week ago. After we had searched everywhere for you that we could think of – Goodwin Court, the police station, the hospital we had taken you to, the flat near Waterloo, Maida Vale… We even sneaked around Eton and your old house a bit," she admitted with a shy smile and Stephen tried not to wrinkle his nose at the thought of his friends going anywhere near his old life. "We had about given up on you being a ghost until I remembered you mentioned that you were more comfortable here than you were at school in many respects. I figured this was one last space worth checking."
He was both touched and disturbed that she had remembered such a seemingly innocuous statement about his life, but he was not surprised. If there was one thing he had noted about Rory in the few months that he'd known her, it was that she had a habit of noticing and remembering the smallest details, whether he had thought them important or not. Then his mind noted the first part of her answer.
"What made you think I would be a ghost?"
Rory's eyes quickly left the studying they had been doing of his face and started to stare determinedly out of the far window as though she could read the meaning of life in the Birmingham countryside. "Your being a ghost might possibly kind of sorta MAYBE be my fault," she answered sheepishly, her fingers curling into fists at her side and her eyes still looking anywhere but at him.
Stephen had a sneaking suspicion of what she might have meant by that statement, but decided he would rather have some specifics before he drew conclusions.
"And how would that be, Rory?"
"Well, you remember that theory Newman had about people with the sight dying with a terminus in their hand?" Rory was beginning to look a bit cagey as she explained and her leg was jumping up and down as though she wanted to jump up and pace.
Stephen merely nodded to show he remembered.
"Well, Mr Thorpe gave me the go ahead to try it out on you."
He felt like if he had still needed to breathe that he would have forgotten how to do it. She had unknowingly given him much more information with that statement than she had intended. He had never told Mr Thorpe about Newman's theory of how to make ghosts, as he knew that people higher than Thorpe would want to use Rory as a weapon if they had any knowledge of her, so that meant that Rory or Callum or Boo must have told him. The other thing it told him was that Rory had been willing to do it. She had decided to bring him back, or to keep him there (to be more accurate). Rory hated using her powers, but she had volunteered. He was left feeling multiple feelings at once – touched that his friends loved him enough to do it, angry that they couldn't seem to let him go, and for Rory he couldn't help but feel that fond exasperation that he always felt when he was around her.
"I'm sorry that it worked," she said softly, finally turning her eyes back to him now that her confession was over. He could tell that she was waiting for some sort of signal from him – for him to disappear in anger or to communicate by throwing things across the room or to get into a shouting match with her that would make her appear even more crazy to the people that couldn't see him. Instead, he merely moved his hand a few inches closer to her and rested it on the couch. He saw her give the smallest of one sided smirks and she moved her hand a couple of inches closer too – not close enough to risk touching him by accident, but close enough that he could see she wanted to gesture back. "I'm even more sorry that I'm not really sorry."
Stephen let out a huff of air that on anyone else would be called a laugh, but from him came across as more of a worried sigh.
"So, why are you pretending to be crazy?"
"How else was I supposed to get checked into a mental health facility?" she responded cheekily. "And I'm not pretending. I just told my parents the truth when I went back to Bristol. Apparently, that makes me as mad as you are." She leaned back and rested her head against the sloping back, turning her head to face him. "I figured if you were here, then I could keep you company until we figure out a way to get you out of here and into London. Some ghosts are strong enough to travel long distances, and we needed a way to see if you were. Callum…well, you know how he feels about ghosts and he needed time to adjust to the idea of you being one." At this point, Rory seemed to get uncomfortable and hastily moved on. "If we sent Boo in here, she'd probably never be let out. So, that just left me.
"I went to see my parents, told them I had been staying with friends in London after I'd gotten booted and had just been too embarrassed for a while to see anyone, and then casually slipped in, 'Hey, I also have been seeing ghosts for about five months and that Ripper guy who nearly killed me was a ghost and I nearly joined a cult by accident and because of that got one of my best friends killed and I'm pretty sure he's a ghost too and I've spent the last two months with my friends looking for him in every major place he's lived.' One visit with my shrink later and here I am to enjoy a world of Thorazine drips, coloured crayons and pudding. At least I probably won't flunk these classes, which is a huge improvement from my days at Wexford."
As usually happened whenever Rory would go off on a huge tangent and then suddenly stop, Stephen found himself to be at a loss for words. He decided to comment on the most unimportant part of her sentence.
"You realise that you have to actually talk to these shrinks to get out of here, right? You can't just talk in circles like you do with Boo and I when you don't feel like answering our questions."
"You underestimate my 'talk-around-the-bush' abilities, my friend. I am the master of speaking for hours about nothing. I could give talk show hosts a run for their money. I'm from the South, okay? We spend twenty minutes talking about needing to go the bathroom before we finally start walking toward it. Imagine how slow we are to say the really important and secret things. You think *you're* a tough nut to crack? You haven't seen me when I'm determined not to talk."
Stephen had always thought that Rory was particularly adept at keeping secrets. Not because she wasn't tempted to tell them, but because she was so good at distracting herself with the sound of her own voice that she could tell a secret without the people who were listening being aware that she'd said anything important at all.
"So, what are you going to tell them then, when they start asking about your so called delusions?"
"I'll tell them the truth, of course."
Stephen just gave her his best don't-bother-lying-to-me-because-I've-actually-spoken-to-you-for-more-than-five-minutes look. He couldn't see himself, but if he could have done, he would have seen his face make the most familiar expression to Rory's eyes – his thin eyebrows were put down in an exasperated, slightly worried wrinkle, and his mouth had taken a noticeable down turn.
"Okay," she said, in a tone that made it obvious she was merely placating him, "I'll tell them 99.8% lies with a .2% truth, but the stories will be so dizzying they won't know which way is up when I'm finished with them."
Stephen couldn't help giving a small smile – the one that seemed to be saved for Rory's antics in particular. He was pretty sure that having Rory with him in Priory Clinic was going to bring him to an entirely new level of insane that he had never been at previously, but he couldn't help but feel that going crazy with Rory was the best way to be.