It was a nearly typical day at the Felt Mansion, aside from a few minor details. Not much out of place had happened; Eggs and Biscuits had been roughhousing again, and Sawbuck had had a nasty time-traveling mishap earlier, but such things were to be expected. What wasn't expected was Die, striding down the hallways in a tense search. Not only was he present at the time- he'd been off in different timelines for nearly a full three weeks, now- but instead of his usual nonplussed, vaguely bewildered demeanor, he was oddly sapient of what he was searching for. The only usual thing about this was how anxious he was getting.
"Alright… Now, Die;" he said to himself as he strode down the hall; "remember the plan. Remember. Uh, right… Step one: find Crowbar." Ah, Crowbar; the Felt's illustrious second-in-command. So suave, so devil-may-care! (And so good at beating heads in with that crowbar of his…) He was the reason Die had been outside his home timeline for so long, tinkering and experimenting with his voodoo science in hopes of attempting to show that one man how much he lo-
Die quickly shook his head, dispelling a bit of redness that had taken to his face; mustn't start swooning when I'm trying to rehearse, he scolded himself inwardly, and went on. "Um, right- Step one: find Crowbar. Step two: Stick the pin… in the new doll…" Absentmindedly, Die trailed off, and his hand came to rest on the bundle of pins in his pocket- as well as the new doll. This voodoo doll had taken subjective months to study for and create, since it was so unlike what he usually did. Die's new doll wasn't a vessel for inter-timeline transport, like his original; this one was a bit more… traditional, I suppose you could say. Not quite traditional, but somewhat.
It was nearly identical to the time-traveling one in shape, size, and material; only a few details differed between the two. The new doll had a 7 emblazoned handsomely in maroon thread on the center of its torso, and a scrap of red material cut into the shape of a heart was sewn onto its chest. It was a personalized doll, unlike his other one. Let's say, if you created a doll like this, connected to any one person (let's say, oh, Crowbar) and stuck a personalized pin (like, maybe Die's?) into it, the doll's connected person would find themselves completely infatuated with the pin's connected person. In theory, they'd stay that way until the pin was removed… so just make sure the pin couldn't be removed, and he'd be scot free. …In theory.
Truth was, Die was worried- he always worried, but with this it was pretty well founded. Most of his experiments and creations tended not to work, and those that did always seemed to have unexpected consequences- such as his timeline-traveling doll, for instance. He couldn't help but be a little stressed over the idea of whether this doll would work, and if it would work right... or not.
Suddenly, Die found himself having to clear his head of some rather gruesome thoughts of what might happen if the doll malfunctioned. Trying to combat it, he decided to day dream- one of his favorites, something about him torturing some certain enemies of his to death, possibly the Midnight Crew or that sonuvabitch Itchy… In any case, he was soon lost in his thoughts as he strode through the halls. In his obliviousness, he failed to notice the other Felt member strolling down from the opposite end of the same hall, similarly entrenched in his own ideas.
With a loud WHOMPH the two collided, sending each reeling to the floor. A small chorus of yelps and groans followed.
"Gghuhhhh… wha…" Die shook his head to clear it and caught a good look at whoever had knocked him over. "O- Oh! Um, hello, Clover."
Clover gave one of his infuriating giggles and righted his glasses, which were perched crookedly on his face. "Well, well, well- if it isn't Die! Have you finally decided to rejoin our ranks, after going off on one of your little timeline walkabouts for so long? How've you been?" He jumped up from the billiards rug, dusting himself off once or twice.
Die gave Clover a tight smile and scrambled to his feet, doing the same; of all the people he had to literally run into, it had to be Clover. Number Four had often been a catalyst in the failures of his experiments, and he didn't need that uncertainty right now. "O- oh, well, you know… I've been doing alright, I… suppose… Been working hard…"
"Working hard? On what? Has English given you a special assignment or something?" asked Clover, immediately curious. He stepped forward and gave Die a hard, cheerful stare, making the taller man rather uncomfortable.
"Uh, n- no, nothing Felt-related, Clover, uh… j- just some personal work-"
"Heeey, what's that?"
"What's what- AAGH!"
In an instant Clover had snatched at Die's pocket, which was right in his line of sight, and removed the new voodoo doll Die had made. "What's this, then? Why's it got a seven on it? Does this have to do with Crowbar?..."
"Augh! Give that back, Clover! It's delicate!" Die squawked, his panic levels immediately rising. He tried to grab at the doll, but he seemed to keep missing since Clover kept moving- and there were all these stupid bumps in the carpet making him trip. Damn Clover's luck! Damn it to hell!!
"Is this a personalized voodoo doll for Crowbar? I didn't know you were getting into this traditional stuff! What's up with this? ….Are you trying' to off Crowbar? I thought you liked him! Or, at least, didn't mind as much when he was around…" Clover continued with his nosy questions, examining the little doll and poking at its sewn-on heart. Die wished that the insufferable little prick would drop dead already so that he wouldn't have to go through this, but to no avail.
"It's not a… completely traditional doll; I don't do traditional voodoo. And I do like him! I- I mean, he's a pretty okay guy, I wouldn't want to hurt him," Die answered quickly, not wanting the wrong impression to be made- but at the same time not wanting the exact right one to be made, either. I mean, what would happen if everyone knew that he was just about completely smitten for a member of the gang?… Well, other than Snowman, but everyone had crushed on her at one point or another. (Women were hard to come by, it seemed- though, Spades Slick had made it abundantly clear that he was the only one allowed to call her by pet names so that put a bit of a damper on most of those crushes.) "The only reason I used his number and such is because I… needed a guinea pig for this… experiment." He gestured vaguely towards the doll in Clover's hands.
At those words, Clover's eyes lit up with a familiar mischievous light. "A guinea pig? For what, may I ask?" He asked, holding the doll up to his eyes- and in the exact wrong way. He was pinching it at one of its weakest points- Die wanted to tell him this, but… what if he already knew? Was that little bastard threatening him?! Oh god, he couldn't let this doll get destroyed, he had no idea what would happen… Might as well play along…
"U-um, yes," Die piped up, a slight crack in his nervous voice. "It's, it's an experiment in, um, emotional control, you see. Uh. See, if, um, you put a personalized pin into it, then, uh, the person connected to the doll- er, Crowbar in this case- im-… immediately becomes… rather taken with the person whom the inserted pin corresponds with. Um, basically, it's a way to keep Crowbar from getting too pissed off? I don't know, I was planning on making some o-other prototypes, but th- the…. That emotion was the easiest one to harness…" Hah, easiest my foot. It took me nearly three months alone to figure out how to capture that emotion, Die's little scrap of inner commentary yapped at him. (At times this tiny voice would pop up and make the man wish he'd never been born, but it was fairly easy to shove away, so he did so.)
Again, Clover's look gained mischievousness. "Oh, really now? When did you decide to start playing matchmaker? Ah, no matter. Does it work?" Clover eyed Die, his look falling to the pocket where he knew the man kept his bundle of personalized pins, which were usually used in conjunction with his other doll. "May I see a few pins for a moment?" he asked in a dulcet voice.
"No," Die answered sternly. He was not about to let this get out of hand, not while he still had a fraction of control over the situation.
"No! That's final!"
"But Diiiiiie-" Clover began to whine, but suddenly stopped with a bemused look on his face. "Oh, hey, look, Crowbar's coming! Salutations, Crowbar!" Clover suddenly reached up and waved energetically to something behind Die.
"What? Where?!" Die yelped, whirling around in sudden panic to look behind him- only to see empty hall, and feel a sudden emptiness in his pocket. "What the- …CLOOOOVEEERRRRRRR!!" Die immediately gave chase, speeding after that incredibly fast little Felt.
All the while as he ran, Clover looked through the array of pins he had to choose from. "Oooh, this will be fun, I can tell!" he giggled to himself, and after a moment's deliberation, drew one pin and swiftly lodged it firmly into the voodoo doll. He snickered maddeningly and waved the doll behind himself at Die. A look of dawning horror was on the poor witch doctor's face.
"NO! NOT SAWBUCK'S PIN!"
Elsewhere in the Felt Mansion, Crowbar was striding purposefully through the main hall. He'd set up a game of poker with Itchy, Doze, and Trace earlier, and was now going to meet with the same three. As he walked, he passed Sawbuck in the hall.
"Afternoon, Sawbuck," he said politely as the other passed, nursing a small bandage wrapped around one arm.
"Oh, good afternoon, Crowbar," Sawbuck replied, politely returning the greeting the way mutual acquaintances or coworkers would. Each continued on his way down the hall, without giving the other so much as a thought after their brief greeting.
Or, that would have happened, if Clover had not stuck that exact pin into Die's doll right as Sawbuck passed Crowbar.
As a result, Crowbar slowed and then stopped as Sawbuck walked by, a peculiar, slightly confused expression on his face. For a moment, he stood stock still; then he turned his head to watch Sawbuck's retreating form. He didn't exactly know what, but… something about the other was just mesmerizing.
Suddenly, he recovered from his funk, and realized with a large degree of embarrassment that he'd been staring at a very… awkward place. He stiffened, a horrified look on his face, and immediately turned again, starting down the hall briskly and trying to forget that such an event had ever happened.
Meanwhile, Die had managed to catch up with Clover and wrest the doll from his hands. "You idiot!" he hissed as he yanked Sawbuck's pin out of the doll, throwing a poisonous glare at the smaller man. "Don't go around messing with it like that! It's a delicate piece of equipment! …As are the rest of my things. Give them back. …Right now." He held out a hand, looking pointedly at Clover so he would hopefully return the pins.
"Aww, but I was having such fun…" Clover pouted for a moment. Then, suddenly, he smacked Die's hand out of the way- eliciting a sharp hiss of pain from Die- and managed to swipe back the doll and Sawbuck's pin. With a crazy cackle, he slipped to the opposite end of the hall with all of the pilfered objects in tow, an occurrence which made Die begin to swear like a sailor.
"Let's see, who to choose next… Oh what the heck, I'll choose with my eyes closed!" Clover screwed his eyes shut, fingering the pins for a moment before pulling one out and shoving it into the doll.
"GODDAMNIT, CLOVER!" Die screeched, running towards Clover- only to trip over a small carriage clock left carelessly on the floor, landing flat on his green face. At this point, he mumbled something inaudible into the thick carpet; ignoring some of the more choice words, it was a short prayer to whatever heathen god he could think of at the moment that Clover would meet a very painful and gruesome end, when and if he ever did.
In another part of the Manse entirely, the poker game was underway and three of the four players were already cheating. Crowbar grumbled under his breath- he could see that both Trace and Itchy were about to implement various shenanigans to ensure their winning hand. Doze was harder to read, but he could see something scheming in his slowly-blinking eyes. The man gave a nonplussed 'humph.'
Suddenly, Itchy made his invisible move- the only indicators that something had happened were the slightly fluttering cards on the table and the fact that there was another King replacing the ten of clubs that had previously occupied the spot it laid upon.
Needless to say, Crowbar was a bit upset.
"I SAW THAT!" the man roared, suddenly throwing his cards away and surging up, nearly overturning the table. Before Itchy could move- a difficult thing to do, but not that hard once you had some practice- Crowbar was on him, lifting him off his feet by grabbing the front of his suit in one hand, and hefting his trusty crowbar in the other. "HEY, MAN! What gives?!?" Itchy struggled mightily against his captor, but it would be awfully hard to make someone who was not already predisposed to high speeds start speeding around faster than the eye can see JUST so that you could escape your grip once you were both at a safe enough speed to do so. (He had to make it safe, you see; otherwise, English would be less than happy. And nobody wants to see that.)
"For the LAST TIME, you conniving twitchy bastard," Crowbar growled, "you are NOT ALLOWED to use time powers during po- ...ker."
Over the course of this sentence- with time making a double roundabout reacharaound back to the present moment, when Clover had inserted the new pin- Crowbar's expression was suddenly one of confusion, which in turn gained an odd, kind of awestruck look to it. And, without warning, Crowbar's face went a little pink (which, incidentally, clashed HORRIBLY with his green skin).
"Uh," he said.
"Uh," said everyone else besides Itchy. Itchy was too busy looking slightly confused and mostly horrified at Crowbar's… unusual expression.
"…C… Crowbar? You okay?" Itchy asked nervously. Crowbar seemed lost in thought.
Suddenly, everything snapped back to normal, and Crowbar, looking slightly bewildered himself, quickly recovered and dealt Itchy a sharp smack upside the head. "OW!"
Dropping Itchy to his feet again, Crowbar quickly turned away and stepped over to the poker table, leaning heavily against it. Bewilderment had turned into anger and confusion, and now Crowbar stared down at the table, eyebrows knit in thought.
"…Gentlemen… I believe I may be in need of your assistance."
Die sprawled backwards on the rug again, clutching his face in pain. "Aaaaugh, I think you broke my nose!"
"It's not broken. I didn't hear any 'crack' or anything. And besides, it's YOUR fault that I had to hit you!" Clover taunted, rubbing his knuckles a bit and recollecting the dropped doll and pins.
"Stop it! Stop it stop it stop it stop it STOP! GIVE THAT BACK!" Die jumped up, made another swipe for the doll, and missed by a mile. He was starting to expect that, with this being a hopeless battle, but by god if he wasn't going to try to get that doll back- !
Clover deftly slipped out of his way and to the other side of the room. He was beginning to get bored with this endless chase. Idly, he eyed the multitude of pins… and another terrible gleam came to his eyes.
"Have any of you three noticed anything… strange, going on today? Or rather, stranger," Crowbar asked his three cohorts. Itchy had nothing to report; Doze wasn't listening and probably wouldn't have seen anything anyway; but Trace did have something to say…
"Hey, Die," Clover called to the groaning witch doctor on the green-rugged floor; "what happens if I stick in ALL the pins at once?" With an almost evil grin on his face, he began to collect all 15 of the Felt's pins, as well as even Lord English's and the Midnight Crew's.
"You know," Trace observed, "I was talkin' t'Fin earlier, and he said he saw a future trail he hadn't seen a hair of in weeks- Die. Clover was with 'im too, I think he said. He didn't check it out- since, you know, Clover's always getting someone's goat- but it looked like they were fightin' over something. I think he said Clover'd actually punched Die in the face, now't I remember…"
Die gasped, trying to struggle to his feet again. "No!" he choked out. "Do you have any idea of what you could do?! I- I don't even know what'll happen! Don't do it, please, for the love of god!!"
"Die's back in this timeline?..." Crowbar replied quickly, his face gaining a dawning look of realization. "…Well, if Die and his crazy-ass mad-science voodoo are back, that explains everything... Where did you see them?-"
"You look kinda endearing when you're scared, you know that, Die?" Clover taunted patronizingly, a spiky array of pins glinting dangerously in one hand. "I wonder what you'll look like when I…"
Die didn't even need to look to know what he had just done. He could almost feel it twisting the fabric of space-time when Clover sent each and every pin diving into the doll's material. For a few seconds, he was petrified with fear, waiting for some sort of cosmic hat to drop and the universe to implode or a far-off explosion somewhere in the mansion or something…
And he kept waiting.
It occurred to Die, after about a minute, that nothing drastic may have happened. As he thought it out, he realized that what Clover had done would only make Crowbar qualify as very, very confused about his love life. And when Die realized that, he wasn't scared any more.
He was just… very, very angry at Clover for fucking around with his stuff.
"…Alright, NO MORE MISTER NICE GUY!" Die roared, jumping up from the carpet in a rage and managing to tackle Clover all at once. The two struggled for some minutes, Die almost gaining the upper hand, until they were interrupted in this way:
"SETTLE THE HELL DOWN!" Crowbar was in the hallway, watching their little wrestling match with great, seething ire. His crowbar thudded menacingly into his hand again and again as the two stared, somewhat dumbstruck. Happily, Die took this opportunity to snatch the doll out of Clover's grip and remove each and every single pin, causing Crowbar only a slight spasm, which he recovered from quickly. And just as quickly, he whacked the doll out of Die's hand with his crowbar. Curious, he picked it up and investigated it.
"What the hell is this? And who started this??" he demanded furiously, tossing the doll back onto the carpeting. Die and Clover were instantly blaming each other.
"It's his fault! He's the one who stuck all the pins in it!!"
"Die's to blame! He's the one who actually made that dumb doll! I was just messing around!"
"If you hadn't stolen it, this would have never happened and we wouldn't be in trouble!"
"'We?' Who's this 'we?' As far as I can tell, you're the only one who's-"
"SHUT UP!" Crowbar yelled, silencing the bickering Felt. "You," he growled, waving his crowbar at Die's ashen face; "what is this, and why is it affecting me?"
Clover squeaked out, "It's a personalized voodoo doll- Die said he was doing an experiment and he needed a guinea pig-"
"Be quiet, you little insect!" Die yelped at Clover before answering Crowbar: "Uh, I, uh, yes, err, it was a, ah, an experiment… I- I, uh, I was t-trying to see if I c-c-could maybe, err, change how a p-person was feeling with what I c-could manage with m-m-my voodoo… Uh… I, ah, I only used you for the doll be-because you were the first person who came to mind. Honest!" There, that wasn't REALLY a lie… Die screwed his eyes shut, anticipating a sharp blow over his head, which was promptly delivered. Clutching his head, Die swore under his breath, eliciting another smack from the crowbar.
"I don't want to hear that language from you," Crowbar growled, "and especially not when I've just been informed that I was being used as an emotional test subject all day! Ugh…" He pinched the bridge of his nose in anger and annoyance. Finally, he continued:
"You," he pointed to Clover; "I don't want to hear another peep out of you for the rest of the day. If someone so much as opens their mouth to complain about you, I'll make sure that you get what you deserve. Capiche?"
"Sir, yes, sir!" Clover barked, instantly rigid. When Crowbar threatened punishment, he really meant punishment, even for Clover.
"And you!" Crowbar began again, turning his head and sending a sharp glare towards Die, who was gathering up his scattered pins. He looked up with a yelp. "Y-yes, Crowbar?"
"Don't think I'm done with you."
Die gulped. This was the part he didn't like about Crowbar. "Y- Yes, yessir. I won't."
"…" Crowbar stared the two down for a moment, scrutinizing them with an irate eye- and then he said simply, "Now get the hell out of here." Given this order, both of the two Felts proceeded to get the hell out of there- Clover to look for another diversion, and Die to flee in shame.
He practically sprinted through the halls, covering his face half the time to hide the grimace of embarrassment smeared across it. Finally, he reached his rooms- his dark sanctuary, which no one was ever allowed to see. (Unless, you know, it was really important.) Die rushed inside and slammed the door behind him, panting and gasping and trying to calm himself down. It was almost completely dimmed in there, save for a few candles scattered around where there weren't too many flammable things; and with all the various implements of voodoo and magic he had piled up in the rooms, and sometimes hanging from the ceiling, it was almost like a cave for how dark and treacherous it would be to traverse. However, Die pretty much lived in there 24/7, and so took the exact right path to his bed, which he flopped down onto face-first.
Damn it, damn it, damn it!! He thought to himself, trying to fight back the angry tears coming to his eyes. Gods damn it, why did I even try to do that?! I should have known it wouldn't work out how I wanted it to! Nothing EVER works out the way I would want it… He uttered some loud curses into his bed sheets, which only slightly muffled the profanities, and flipped over, onto his back. Then, he realized that he still had that accursed doll clutched in his hands.
Abruptly, he sat up, and almost mechanically brought the doll up so he could look at it. Its fabric was almost riddled with holes, now, for how much Clover had stabbed it with pins- it was extremely delicate, now.
Ironic, Die thought to himself cheerlessly, that such a delicate item represents such a stony heart.
He was getting angry, now- angry at himself, angry at Clover, angry at Crowbar, angry at anyone he could think of. When Die got angry, he tended not to think- and so he didn't when he let the doll dangle precariously from one hand. He wasn't thinking of what could happen when he put both his hands to it, one on each side of the doll. He didn't even bother to consider the possible consequences when he finally tossed it away from himself in a rage and flopped back down on his bed, fuming silently.
It was only a few minutes later, when a quiet riiip came to his ears, that he opened his eyes and let his brain function again.
"…Oh god." Die jumped up from his bed and immediately began scouring his room. "Oh god, ohgodohgodohgod, where is it, WHERE IS IT?!" he murmured aloud to himself, gaining volume as he began to panic- and then, when he found it, he gasped. "…Oh shit. Oh shit oh shit oh shitshitshitshitSHIT…"
With trembling hands, he gently scooped up one half and then the other of the shorn voodoo doll, accidentally cut in half by landing on the opened blade of a pair of shears.
Die felt light-headed and nauseous. He was genuinely afraid that he was going to puke for a few dreadful moments. "Oh god…" he whispered in a cracking voice. "How the hell am I going to explain this one?..."