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Cedar and Lavender

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Xavier family was an old one, everyone knew that. The Mansion in Westchester was built sometimes in the 15th century, and even though it went through renovations every 50 years or so, it still looked more like a castle than anything else. Charles absolutely hated it. Yeah, it was a nice building alright, but it was a nightmare to be raised in a thing like that. He still shivered at the thought of all these nooks and crannies he got lost in as a child. It was really helpful to have a mother who was a witch, or he doesn’t know how he would be found sometimes. The other thing it was really awful for, was cleaning.

Finding something was what actually occupied Charles’ mind right now. He couldn’t exactly use magic to help him along. Due to him having a penis, the family gift of being able to utter spells and move things without touching them, kind of skipped him. Good riddance if you ask him. He was a scientist, the whole magical mumbo jumbo was already screwing with his head and his experiments. He didn’t need to be the one doing the impossible too.

He knew that his father left biology notebooks somewhere in the attic, but when your house’s attic was bigger than the common apartments, it’s kind of hard to pin point where exactly every little thing was.

Just when he thought he finally had them, he bumped into something behind him and heard a resounding crush. A glance told him that he just broke an old vase, probably something priceless knowing his family history. He wondered sometimes how do these things kept happening to him. He sighed and bent down, notes about evolution forgotten, and started to pick up blue, ceramic pieces. He hoped he wouldn’t miss any, he thought sucking on his bleeding finger. Raven would have his head if he didn’t glue it together.

It’s not as if his sister was a great fan of every porcelain piece she came across, but if it was in their attic, chances were that it was something magical or priceless. Or both, in which case both Raven and their lawyer would want to have his head. He sighed and said goodbye to finding his father’s work, instead collecting all the pieces and taking them carefully downstairs. He was in luck that he hadn’t encountered anyone on his way, or the word would come out and he wouldn’t even have time to correct his little mistake before Raven was on him. He loved her much, but sometimes she was a very scary witch.

He put the porcelain on his papers and started rummaging through the drawers in search of the tube of glue he knew he put inside. As was his luck that day, the moment he found it, it slipped away from his fingers and fell under the desk. He went to his knees to retrieve it and was greeted with a sight of a pair of black dress shoes connected to what almost surely was a whole person. He cursed his luck and wondered why hadn’t he heard anyone coming in. In his haste to get up, he banged his head on the wood and emerged few seconds later than planned with a painful bump on the back of his head.

Charles blinked and looked around the room carefully, looking for an owner of the shoes, but the room was empty, if you didn’t count him. He took a shaky breath in and peeked under the desk, but there was nothing there. He really hoped he was just seeing things and not anything else. Like disappearing witches or ghosts. He had enough of these for a lifetime after visiting Raven that one time in her magic academy.

The vase pieces came together seamlessly and when he was done, there wasn’t even a slight mark left that would indicate it was broken in the first place. Charles could feel his lips tugging down in a frown. Of course it was magic, how could it not be. But on the other hand, it was locked in attic so no one would probably miss it much either way. And despite the healing abilities it looked like regular vase that one could buy on a flea market. He sighed softly and placed it on his nightstand. He didn’t have time to get back upstairs and put it where it was.

He sat to his desk and for a moment thought he could feel someone’s eyes on him, but as quickly as the feeling arrived, it was gone again. Charles frowned to himself and tried to focus on his work, not keen on having to explain to his professor why couldn’t he finish his thesis on time.

“And you’re still buried in these papers.” Resounded the voice from the doorway and Charles’ head snapped, his lips stretching in a smile even without his conscious decision. Moira stood there, smiling back at him and waving few old notebooks. “I thought you might not have time to fetch them yourself so I went up and brought you these.” She came closer and placed the texts before Charles, and he could kiss her from gratefulness in that moment.

“My father’s texts.” He said and went around the desk to pull her into a tight hug. “Oh, Moira, thank you so much, you’re a treasure.”

She laughed and blushed prettily, fiddling with his collar. He knew what his dear friend felt towards him and sometimes it made him feel really guilty that he couldn’t love her back in a way she would want him to. He leant down and brushed his lips against her temple before stepping away and sitting back at his desk.

Charles thought she would just leave for the day, go to talk to Raven or to anyone else in the mansion. It wasn’t as if they had lack of the company these days, what with the school opening soon. But Moira was always able to surprise him and this time it wasn’t much different. Instead of smiling and closing the door behind her, she plucked one of the books from his desk and sat in the nearest chair, sending him a coy look.

He felt really, really bad sometimes that he couldn’t give her what she wanted. She was beautiful, that’s true, tall and curvy with soft auburn hair and warm chocolate eyes, but as far as he was concerned, she was his friend. They knew each other since they were in nappies and it was hard to imagine her as anything else but a closest confidante he ever had.

Well, maybe not that hard to imagine. If he was honest with himself, it wasn’t that unheard of that he dreamt of her. Of running his hands over her honeyed skin; pressing his lips into that place behind her ear that makes her shudder ; cupping her breasts and licking over hardened nipples, making her arch into his lips and tug his head closer to her bosom, he could almost hear the broken moan she would make. He could so easily feel the delightful slide into her tight, wet heat and see her bowed back, her entire body welcoming him in, pulling him even deeper. He would be so good for her, better than anyone else.

But she was his friend, and he wasn’t going to jeopardize that for a night of sex that could ruin years of their relationship. It could also start something even better, but he wasn’t going to risk it. He shook himself from his thoughts and glanced at Moira one more time, wanting to slide his fingers between her reddish locks and cover her lips with his own, finally owning to the fact that he maybe liked her more than he intended to. He was almost going to say something to her when he felt icy fingers sliding on the back of his neck.

Charles shivered and looked behind him, making sure that there was nowhere there and he was imagining things, waving away Moira’s look of concern. He concentrated instead of the papers before him and reading his father’s notes, jutting some of them down into his own notes for the finished project. It would be so much easier if he just could talk to the man himself, ask for his help, but unfortunately Brian Xavier passed away when Charles was three, right after the birth of his daughter. His great-great-grandmother who somehow lived still to this moment said that it was a good sign for the little girl. That she would grow up into a strong woman with great power.

Charles personally thought that Raven would prefer to know their father than be a magical prodigy, but he kept wisely silent. It wasn’t very wise to disagree with someone who had over one hundred years to learn how to change someone into a frog. He felt really bad for his sister sometimes. As family’s last witch it fell on her to inherit everything, and she had to grow up to these great expectations everyone had of her. Charles could do anything he wanted, as long as he didn’t put the family in the bad light.

Raven used to come to him at night and cuddle close, whispering how much was she scared about some things Grandma and Mother taught her, how much didn’t she want to use some  of the spells ever forever. But she grew up and everything changed and now she wasn’t afraid anymore. She didn’t need him, and to be honest, he didn’t really know what he was still doing  in Westchester. It’s not like he could help with anything at the future magic school or with spells or anything. He was just a future Biology professor, completely unmagical, and completely human.

Maybe he really should have taken Moira on her offer to move into her condo in London. They could live together and maybe the start something else than friendship, without nosy wizards and talking portraits of family long lost. It would be normal and calm and everything Charles ever wanted from life. He looked at Moira, her head bowed over the physics book, her neck making a graceful arch that he wanted to follow with his fingertips and wondered why didn’t he do that before. He should go to her now and kiss her and forget about anything like magic ever existing. They could build their own little world when everything was science and Charles’ head didn’t hurt from trying to understand physics and rules of the world he didn’t even belong to.

Charles turned back to his papers and started scribbling furiously, his ears burning from the blush covering his face. He couldn’t do that to her, couldn’t use her like this just to get away from this world he didn’t understand. He couldn’t make her think he loved her and then break her heart. Maybe it made him a bad person that he wanted to sleep with her without having further plans of staying with her, but he couldn’t help it. She was his dearest friend, and yes, she was very attractive woman that he wouldn’t mind spending the night with, but he didn’t love her like a husband should love his wife. It shouldn’t make him feel as guilty as it did.

~*~

That night Charles dreamt about a woman. She was blond and she looked vaguely like Raven with her long golden tresses and brown twinkling eyes. There was magic there too, it was so vibrant he could smell it even through the layers of dreams. She had a husband, tall man with sandy hair. But it was a black servant that fucked her against the wall while someone who might have been his sister or just a black mind, casted a spell right next to them. He thought it was weird that they didn’t even notice her, but the blond woman thrown her head back and he could see her eyes glowing in the way that he saw when Raven was training her mind-controlling spells on their servants.

He recoiled and bumped into someone, but before he could turn around, run away, move, move away from there, as far away as possible, arms were locking around him and warm lips pressed to the back of his neck.

“I got you.” A rough voice whispered into his ear and instead of sounding comforting, Charles could feel every little muscle in his body tensing in the urge to flee and to flee now. “I have  you just as I’ve had her.”  Charles eyes inevitably drawn to the woman, bouncing happily on the black man’s cock and he shuddered with terror.

He woke up with a scream, flailing to get out of his bed, his hair sticking to his forehead and shivers still wracking his frame. It must have been just a dream, he knew that. He wasn’t a part of a magical world in any way and that might have been the first time he felt really grateful for that.

~*~

The next few days had a pattern to them that Charles has grown to hate on the sheer principle that it was making him exhausted and on edge. He kept getting flashes of that woman’s life, first in dreams, then during daytime hours and it was really starting to fuck with his brain. He wanted to mention it to someone, ask for an advice, but he didn’t want to bother anyone unnecessarily. They were getting school ready to open and everyone was so very busy. It was already apparent that most of the people living in their house now was tolerating his presence only because of Raven.

He knew however that whatever was happening to him, it was clearly tied to that stupid vase he found in the attic, and it was magical in nature. So it didn’t matter if someone would help him really. In the house full of magic, he could just go to the library and find out what was happening. It would be easier of course if he has a slightest inkling as to what he was looking for, but he could guess. It was probably a curse of some sort.

It would be just like him to get cursed right before something important. He was lucky he was done with his thesis or otherwise it would drive him crazy, to be unable to focus on his work because every time he closed his eyes he saw the woman doing magic with a shadow of a man looming over her. He’s never seen the man’s face, only a figure. Sometimes, when the light during the vision, memory?, hit just right, he could see a silhouette of wings, but he wasn’t sure about that.

Moira kept sending him worried looks and took to spending more time with him than usual. Charles would love to reassure her that everything was fine, but it wasn’t and he couldn’t bring himself to lie to her so blatantly when he obviously was so much out of his league that he was almost running into walls.

And then he started seeing the flashes of a man.

It wasn’t unusual for some warlock or a witch to come visit the mansion, especially lately, but this man stuck out. He was always standing somewhere in the distance, alone, looking at Charles and Moira walking or taking their tea at the balcony. Always looking, but never coming close. He was there for a split second, enough for Charles to take notice, but when he blinked, the man was gone, as if he dissipated in the air. It was quite frankly, freaking him out, but he didn’t put much weight to it. Raven had many and varied unsettling guests and if one of them wanted to be creepy stalking her non-magical brother, said non-magical sibling would had to grit his teeth and endure it.

 

“Charles, are you listening to me?” Moira’s voice rung out and he turned back to her, blinking in confusion. “You’re not. Again.” She added exasperated at the sight of confusion on his face.

“I’m sorry, love.” Charles said with an apologetic smile and took her hand into his. “I thought I saw something. You know how it is around here.” He turned his head briefly back, but as he predicted, the man who stood under the tree on the other side of the lake was already gone. He was always gone when Charles turned back.

“Yes, I do.” She said and laughed, the sound of it ringing like a clear bells around the glass balcony, making him smile back. It was a tired expression, a little frayed at the edges, but it was the best he could do for the last few days, the visions and dreams not letting him rest enough to be fit in a polite company.

She didn’t mind, his Moira, too kind or maybe too much in love with him, he couldn’t decide which one would be worse really. She started repeating what she said already, giving her opinion on the book they were supposed to read to discuss, a new publication in the genetics field by Dr. McCoy from Columbia University. He realized with a start that he hasn’t even picked up the book since the whole curse started and he winced guiltily, which didn’t escape Moira’s attention.

“You didn’t read it, did you?” She sighed with a sad smile and he dropped his eyes to his lap, feeling like the worst kind of person for forgetting.

“I’m sorry, I’ve been rather busy lately and I completely forgot.” He answered honestly and played with the remnants of the cake on his plate. He loved sweets, they were one of his few weaknesses, but lately he didn’t have an appetite.

“You’ve been spending hours in the library though.” Moira said, frown marring her beautiful forehead. “You haven’t been reading?”

Charles groaned and rubbed his temples with his thumbs, feeling another headache coming on. “I have” He answered honestly and sighed at the confusion on her face. “Magic books mostly. I’ve been having some unsettling dreams lately and I’m almost certain the cause is magical.” He admitted silently and pretended not to hear her softly spoken “Oh, Charles.” It was always a thing between them, being non-magical people in a house full of witches. But unlike him, Moira was actually fascinated by the subject.

“I’m fine, I just need to find a cause and stop it from happening.” He said with a tight smile. He blinked and rubbed his hand over his eyes and when he opened them he didn’t see Moira. Instead there was a black woman from his dreams sitting opposite him with concern edged in her features. She reached her hand to him and he flinched, leaning back automatically, hand bumping into a sugar bowl on the table and toppling it over the side.

He reached his hand and the bowl stopped an inch above the ground, sugar sipping from the edge slowly to the ground. Moira, because of course it was Moira the whole time, his mind was playing tricks on him again, and really, it was getting tiresome, gasped and sat heavily back in her chair from where she was leaning into his space.

“Charles? Did you just-?” She said, eyes glued to the levitating sugar bowl.

Charles could feel his breath leaving in short gasps, not able to turn away from the damn bowl, his brain not comprehending what just happened. “No. I- You know that’s impossible.” He croaked out and forced himself to look away, ignoring the sound of glass breaking on the cold concrete of the balcony.

“I think,” Moira said slowly, giving him a measured look that he absolutely hated already. “that you should talk with Raven about all of it.”

~*~

Raven looked up from whatever paperwork she was working on, greeting him with a smile that slid right off her face when she saw his expression. They had few fights when he was in the thick of his thesis, but he always knew he could count on his little sister, even if he sometimes couldn’t understand what it is she was doing. Even right now, in the most busy times of her future school, she didn’t hesitate to hurry to his side and pull him to the sofa in the corner of the office.

“Charles? What happened?” She said, her voice shaking slightly, her hands keeping him tight to her, as if she could sense there was something wrong. “You have dark energy all over you.” She added and he bumped his forehead on her shoulder. Of course she could see something was not right. And of course it was something bad.

“I don’t know.” He admitted in the small voice, hugging her back, for the first time since the whole situation begun letting himself be swept by the fear of the whole situation. “I broke a thing from the attic, but then I fixed it, but then everything started going wrong and I don’t know what’s going on.” He said, realizing with a start and a wince that his voice shook more than he would like it to.

Raven took a deep breath above him and started murmuring soft words above him. These were spells for sure, but he couldn’t help but think that they sounded more like a song or like children’s lullaby, made to soothe someone and not to harm him. He has never seen his sister use her gift to wrong anyone, so maybe that was partially the reason why he associated her voice only with the good magic.

“I can’t tell what’s wrong.” She said and he could hear the frustration in her voice clear as crystal. She was a talented and by now a very knowledgeable witch and if she couldn’t sense what’s wrong, then it had to be bad. “Tell me everything with as little detail as you can recall.” She commandeered and started running her finger through his hair, her long nails scraping his scalp in the way that almost made him want to purr.

He told her everything, from the search in the attic and the vase, to the pair of shoes he saw under his desk and the dreams that started plaguing him that night. He added the bit about cutting himself on the piece of porcelain after remembering it and about continuing visions and the man that kept appearing wherever he went. When he reached the bit with the sugar bowl that morning, his voice caught and he realized he was on the verge of crying, Raven murmuring soothing nonsense in his ear, holding him even tighter. He didn’t know what was going on, but he didn’t have to, to know that it was something very bad.

The witch didn’t say anything for a long time, humming softly old lullabies that Charles could remember the servants singing in their shared nursery years ago, and that he himself long have forgotten. He relaxed into her arms, melting into her embrace and letting himself be lulled into a sense of protection and safety by his sister’s love. He was a fool for not coming to her sooner. Maybe she wouldn’t be able to help, but everything was always better when they face it together.

It was his fault that they drifted apart slowly, he just felt too out of place during her various magical meetings. Everything in their home was slowly changing and he didn’t like it so he blamed it all on Raven. Unreservedly. He knew she would never alienate him on purpose, she always went out of her way to make him feel welcome even during celebrations that shouldn’t include him since he wasn’t a magic user in any way.

“Charlie,” Raven said finally, her voice low and unsure. “I’m pretty sure a demon is shadowing you.” He could feel himself tense, all his muscles going taunt at her words.

“What?” He finally choked out, his breath coming faster than he would like it to. “How can you be sure?”

“Well, the guy outside my window, glaring at the anti-demon sigils on the window pane is a good give away.” She stated, chuckling nervously and loosening her embrace only enough to let him turn around and look behind him.

And there he was, the man he kept seeing in his dreams and in his awake life. Tall and imposing, dark hair and smile full of teeth. Charles shivered instinctively and pressed closer to Raven, the man- the demon smiling wider as he set his hand down and both him and Raven held their breath terrified as he started burning the sigils out from outside the window, just with the gesture of his finger.

Suddenly, Raven was screaming and throwing her arm forward, the words of the spell resonating in Charles’ ears like the sound of a church bell on Sundays when they were still young enough that their father took them to the nearby cathedral. The demon disappeared on a wind in a cloud of black dust, the sigils still smoking from whatever he was doing to them and Raven breathing heavily, her skin taking on a blue hue that it took whenever she used one of the really strong spells.

“Only you, Charles,” She said after few minutes spent staring tensely into the window, waiting for the demon to come back, and following it with a rough, unfunny chuckle. “could somehow have enough bad luck to summon the Great King of Nephilim to yourself.”

Charles whimpered and hid his face in her shoulder, cursing himself and his fate and everything that could be possibly cursed in this world. Raven laughed above him, the sound being mirthless and grating on his ears like salt on the open wound. He realized that whoever this monster was, his beautiful powerful sister, the one who was being called prodigy of a magical world, the most powerful woman in a wizarding world, she was as terrified of him as Charles was. And that didn’t bode very well for him.

“What now?” He asked in a small voice, leaning back enough to let her have some breathing room. He was shaking, but it wasn’t from cold and until they fixed whatever it was he’s done, there was nothing that would stop his shivers.

“I don’t know honestly.” Raven admitted and put her face in her hands, slumping over her knees with a tired sigh. He felt suddenly guilty for putting this on her shoulders in the time when she didn’t need any additional trouble least of all one that seemed to be over even her level of competence.

Charles reached out and put his arm around her shoulders, putting the strand of her golden hair behind her ear and kissing it softly, murmuring soft apologies.

“Don’t.” Raven interrupted him with a small sigh and a tired smile. “It was grandma’s fault for putting all this magical jumbo in the attic with the non-magical thing, and honestly, who even keeps something that can summon and arch-demon, honestly.” Raven was getting irritated and Charles allowed himself a small smile. Angry Raven was better than the tired and sad one.

“I’ll look for something to at least keep him away.” She said and planted a kiss on his cheek before standing up and going to her desk, her skirt swirling between her ankles like a mist between trees at their lakeside. He was pretty sure she put a spell on her dresses so they would swish like this. “For now,” Raven said, laughter in her voice knowing exactly what he was thinking every time she was walking in front of him and bringing him back to the subject at hand. “try to keep away from anything suspicious and be careful, alright?” She looked worried again and he nodded and send her a grateful smile before biding her goodbye and leaving her to her work.

That could have gone worse, but it could also have gone better. On the one hand, they knew what was wrong and they could start working on the solution, but on the other hand he somehow had some high demon stalking him for one reason or the other. He bypassed the doors to his bedroom completely, knocking on Moira’s door and accepting the embrace she greeted him with gratefully. He slept curled into her side, for the first time the nightmares not plaguing him, and if there was a shadow of a figure outside her window when he looked there before putting out the light, well, this time it might just have been his imagination.

~*~

Raven and her council of witches congregated and agreed that the mansion needed more protection from any demons higher than the lowest cycle, which his sister explained to him wasn’t really going to help at all if Charles really had tied the guy somehow to himself. And if he’s somehow connected to the building which he proved to be by erasing the sigils on the window pane with such an ease. She didn’t like it any more than he did, but there was little they could do without more information.

It was surprisingly hard to find anything concerning the era in which the woman, one of the Xavier’s ancestors, that Charles kept dreaming about was living in. It was as if the records were cleaned from anything that might be useful or relevant, which in truth turned to be almost everything as anything they do found was to do about her husband dying in his mid thirties due to grief over her own death. She apparently died in a childbirth and Charles shivered and bit his lip at the memory of her having sex with the tall slave in the kitchen. He wondered whose child it was. Maybe it was unwarranted from him, but he just had a bad feeling about how there was no mention about that child even though it obviously survived the birth. They looked later, but it was as if it disappeared from the family history somehow.

Professor Blackwood promised to look into the ways to repellent demons or at least to protect someone from their influence and power, which would be satisfying enough for Charles. The demon didn’t seem interested in anyone but him and as far as he couldn’t do anything bad to him, Charles could care less if he’s hanging around being all creepy and stalkerish. Raven would want something more permanent, banishing him from the grounds or something similar, but she knew better than anyone that it would be extremely difficult and she was ready to chose her battles.

Foolishly, Charles got himself be lulled into the false sense of security, Raven’s protection almost tangible around him during the day and Moira’s arms locked tight around him during the night. So when the first dream about the little girl came he woke up screaming his throat raw, two pairs of arms holding him back to the mattress and attempting to calm him down. He eventually melted back into the pillows, probably more with Raven’s magical help than anything physical either of them did.

The images stayed with him however, the sunken eyes of the child and her torn dress, the stuffed rabbit she clutched to her chest with horror, looking at something just out of Charles’ vision, obviously terrified. All around her the walls of the almost barren room were filled with drawings of a nature Charles would be happier not recalling at all, people dying in various ways, hanged, burned, tortured and drowned. The worst part of it was maybe that he didn’t know who was the victim there, the child who was obviously an author of the macabre drawings, or whoever locked her into that little room and left her to slowly lose her mind there.

It was a relief when Henry turned up in the morning room when him and Moira kept to spending their free time with a shining onyx necklace hanging from his wrist. He explained that there was nothing certain he could propose, especially when it came to such a high standing, powerful demon like Azazeal, explaining to their confused faces that this was a name of the demon following Charles. He brought a book with him, full of stories explaining who that demon exactly was and Moira went straight into reading, Charles not even trying to pretend he wanted to know anything more than he necessarily needed to.

The necklace was a reassuring weight on his chest after he put it on, the black gem swinging from the silver chain. Raven teased him briefly over starting to become accessorized and giving him some advice about matching his shoes to his jewelry, but he could see the relief in her eyes that he was somewhat safe again, so he laughed instead of getting offended. It was good to feel even a little in control again, even if it wouldn’t protect him from the demon fully. At least the dreams left him alone for now.

He was almost tempted to start sleeping in his own bedroom again. But he was still unwilling to leave the comfort of Moira’s arms, even if it was unfair of him to lead her on like that. She just gave him a knowing look and curled into him until they were slotted in every place, matching like two pieces of a puzzle. Sometimes it really blindsided him how good they would be for each other. Not now of all times however, he wasn’t going to bring any demon troubles on her head more than she had to live with being his friend and confidante. He was already uneasy about her safety. He remembered vividly the face her changed into this fateful morning at the balcony and the dream that followed starring the same maid. It was fair to say she didn’t end up well.

The dream that he saw her in was unusually vague and blurry as if it couldn’t decide what it wanted to show him, and that worried him the most. There was a splash of blood and there enough water to make him dread baths for a week. And then there was a body hanging from a tree, swinging on the rain. It was one of the records they have found in the library, black maid hanged for practicing voodoo in the house. Charles had an uneasy feeling that whatever she was doing wasn’t harmful in any way. But whatever happened to her, there wasn’t even a name to remember her by, just her race and her station, and the fact she apparently did magic.

Magic that was nothing to be scorned upon or killed over now, something that his sister was basing her school upon, opening her doors to people that wanted to learn it and had some talent over it. When it came to his newly acquired powers, they tried to keep them dormant at any moment even if it didn’t work out when he was distracted or really tired. They too have gone away when he put the necklace on, so there was one more thing he could relax about.

He was really glad he was living with the house full of people who knew more about these things that he could ever have hope for. It was unfair of him to ever think of them badly. Everyone was helpful and kind if you only gave them the chance. Maybe Moira’s fascination with everything magic and their new housemates could be explained after all.

~*~

It was around three in the morning when Charles woke up, feeling weirdly lost and bereft, something in him aching with bad feeling, the necklace heavy weight on his chest, almost suffocating him. He drew in a panicked breath and reached across the bed, just wanting to reassure himself with touching Moira that he was safe. But she wasn’t there. Charles sit up with a gasp and looked around the room, the bathroom light was turned off and nothing seemed out of place. Even the linen on Moira’s side was crisp and put up. As if she didn’t even come to bed in the evening.

That couldn’t be true however. He remember clearly her sliding under the duvet, pulling him close, the rabbit on her pajamas smiling at him cheerily. She run her hand over his back and kissed his forehead, murmuring calming words to him, helping him fall asleep despite the fear he could feel choking him at the thought of any more dreams. That was the only thing that stayed with him despite the necklace he was wearing, these macabre dreams that he didn’t want to see.

And now she was gone. Charles jumped out of the bed and run to Raven’s room, knocking on the door nervously and looking around, irrationally afraid of every moving shadow that moved in the light of the moon. His sister answered quickly and he explained the situation, watching her lips thinning and her eyes darken. Raven told him to go back to his room while she puts together a search party, and although he wanted to argue and help, he knew that with a demon hanging over his head he’d probably be more of a nuisance anyway.

That was the plan. To go back to his room and let Raven handle things. He didn’t want to get involved any more than he had to and if someone strong and capable as Raven wouldn’t be able to find Moira than what chance did he have. But then he noticed light in one of the less used corridors and he couldn’t swallow against the hope that maybe Moira just went out for a walk, because she couldn’t sleep and he panicked without any good reason.

There was no sign of Moira. There was however, door open. Charles was almost sure there was no door in that corridor yesterday, and to prove his theory the one he  was looking at now didn’t look much different from the wall paneling surrounding it. There was even one of the gauche paintings his mother loved hanging off of it. Secret room then. Perfect.

What he should do is to turn around and get Raven, hell, get anyone of the staff. Right now, anyone would be more suited to handle the situation that he was. But on the other hand, it was him that the demon wanted, so maybe if he just went in and talked to Azazeal or whatever was his name, everything would be okay. He didn’t believe that one moment and he was just turning when he heard Moira’s voice inside the room, her scared tone making the blood in his veins turn to ice.

Before he knew what he was doing, he was pushing the door open, stepping into the room, surprised at its brightness. There were candles everywhere and he blanched, breath catching in his chest when he recognized the chamber he was in. It was here that the girl from his dream was locked in, all four walls covered in the drawings he could so vividly recall.

And in the middle of it all, bound to a chair was his dear Moira, shaking and crying, looking at him scared. Charles took the necessary steps separating them and fell to his knees, tugging at the bonds and trying to loosen them up, the leather not giving slightly, making him curse.

“Charles, no, get out, they’re magical, you’re not going to move them, just go, you can’t be here.” Moira babbled at him, and he listened with one ear only, murmuring to her soothingly and kissing her cheek, struggling uselessly with the ties.

The door closed with a click and they both froze, afraid of looking away from each other. Charles was the one who finally caved, letting out a short yell at the sight of the demon standing with his back against the door and smiling at them dangerously, like a predator would at his prey. The demon produced a curving blade from behind his back and advanced on Moira, Charles finding that sometime in the last minute or two he backed away from his friend somehow. Moira screamed and tried to wiggle free, despite the logic she was trying to feed him before.

“No!” Charles yelled and both the demon and Moira stopped as if under the spell. For a short moment Charles was afraid of exactly that happening, but right after the demon turned to him, his eyebrow raised inquiringly as if waiting for Charles to say something specific. Charles didn’t know what it would be, but he knew what he had to do. “Don’t hurt her. You want me, right? Then take me, but don’t hurt her.”

Moira screamed at him and cursed, struggling even harder with the leather straps around her wrists, while the demon smiled as if proud and turned his lazy gait in Charles’ direction. It wasn’t even a conscious decision of his, to give himself for Moira, but he knew it was good. She didn’t deserve to die for him. So he stood calmly, chin up, looking his death straight in the eye and that’s why he saw the demon falter, something sparkling behind his eyes, before he started forward again with a determined expression.

Charles’ breath caught and he could feel his eyes straining, wanting to close, but he would be damned if he gave that monster a satisfaction. Hand raised, blade glistened in the candlelight and then it was falling. Charles didn’t even have time to blink before Moira was falling into his arms, bleeding, her eyes open wide. He didn’t even notice where she got free and now she was bleeding out in his arms.

He looked up, angry and betrayed only to see the demon throw his head back, black smoke surrounding him from where Moira’s blood fell onto the floorboards. He was laughing and it was like the rustling of trees in winter, branches falling against each other without the cushioning of leaves. Then he was transforming and Charles couldn’t look away, even when the form the demon took was something out of his darkest nightmares.

Goat legs and elongated torso, ribs startlingly prominent without any muscles on the bones. There were claws at the end of the demon’s hands and horns on his head, long and curled at the ends. His face only barely resembled the one he had before, eyes huge and sunken, fangs hanging from under his upper lip. He looked like death itself.

Charles felt his breath shorten, catch in his chest and he couldn’t breathe, couldn’t take in enough oxygen and there were spots in his vision, and Moira was dying in his arms, with that wicked blade still stuck in her heart, and he just- He had enough time to see arms reaching out to catch him, the claws weirdly gentle against his skin, before he fell into unconsciousness.

~*~

Charles woke up back in his own bed, covers tucked securely around him, feeling more rested than he did for weeks. Careful look around his room proved nothing out of place and he gave a sigh of relief. Maybe it was just a dream. It was weird that Moira wasn’t with him, but she did have business on some mornings. She usually left him a note, but maybe she just forgot. It was nothing to worry about yet, the nightmare was nothing more but that. The scared imagination fueled dream. He probably ate something bad for dinner. Moira did warn him against that spinach casserole.

Still, he put on his clothes hurriedly and left his bedroom, trying not to think why was he in the room he hasn’t used in months instead across the hall in Moira’s. Raven would know if something bad had happened. He remembered seeing her in the dream, telling her that Moira was missing. If it was true, then she would know. And if that part wasn’t his imagination than the other probably wasn’t either and he had to tell her immediately anyway. Only he couldn’t find her.

There were steps behind him and he turned around fast enough to see Professor Blackwood running out of the side door, his pet Incubus following closely behind. Coward never left the mansion, not even to go to the gardens so whatever was happening had to be important. And that meant that Raven was surely there. He followed two men quickly, forgetting a coat in his haste to find his sister and regretting it immediately when the cold November air punched him in the face.

Shivers weren’t enough to stop him though and in the minute he was on the verge of the lake where seemingly everyone from the mansion were congregated, Raven weeping quietly at the front. Charles was confused for a minute as to why she was crying before he turned to the water and saw one of the nymphs carrying Moira’s lifeless body out of the water. Her hair were dark with water and her eyes were open wide, staring at the sky above her, the veil of death turning her brown eyes to almost pale blue. He realized he was panicking, his breath coming in too sharp gasps, but he couldn’t stop, couldn’t tear his eyes away from the lifeless body of his best friend.

There was no sign of any stab wounds, but he wasn’t foolish enough to not know what really happened to her. After all, he was present there, and it was foolish of him to think even for a minute that what he has remembered was just a nightmare. His reality was a nightmare, he didn’t need his imagination to do its job anymore. He would have collapsed if it wasn’t for Raven’s arms, suddenly closing around him and keeping him upright, her concerned face flickering into his vision.

She tried to turn his face away from Moira’s body, but he could be stubborn when he wanted to and the image before him was like a magnet. It was all his fault, if he didn’t involve her in it, nothing would have happened, she would be alive. Strength left him suddenly and he collapsed into Raven’s arms with a sob, closing his eyes and burying his face in her shoulder. How could he have allowed for that to happen, his one friend murdered because she cared about him. This was a sin that he wouldn’t be forgiven for and he didn’t want to. He would deserve any punishment that came his way.

~*~

Raven was watching him more closely now, but he wasn’t about to do anything stupid no matter what she thought. Charles didn’t have any intentions of seeking out his stalker or approaching him under any circumstances, no matter how much he wanted to vent out his rage about the death of his friend. He was too afraid of the demon to do that. So he spent his time buried in the library, under the ever watchful eye of Mr Baggins, the keeper of the books, and read. He read about demons and about nephilim, looking for any clues of what was going on in his own life. There was nothing, but he didn’t expect much.

The surprise came on the third day after Moira’s death, the hushed whispers and quiet sniffles under his door waking him slowly until he was left blinking into the night, trying to persuade himself that it wasn’t his best friend’s voice he was hearing. He could have sworn it was though and he threw back the covers, jogging to his door and throwing it open.

Moira stood as elegant as always, her hair coifed perfectly and a small smile stretched across her lips. She was talking to Raven who was inconspicuously drying her eyes, the sniffles undoubtedly coming from her. It was only when he came forward, the sob escaping from his throat, and reached to his friend, trying to embrace her that he realized something was amiss. Moira wasn’t corporeal, she was a ghost, and his hands came right through her, resulting in him meeting the opposite corridor wall face first.

Charles went down with a whine of pain, clutching at his throbbing noise. But it didn’t matter when he could see Moira bending in half, laughing so hard. Apparently it was utterly amusing to her that he hurt himself this way and it helped him realize that it was sort of amusing, joining her in her joy readily. Raven was the next to be pulled into the mirth with them and they just sat there in the middle of corridor, laughing themselves sick. It took him a moment to calm down, but he finally succeeded, looking at Moira in awe.

“Wha-? How?” Were the only words he managed to breathe out, something still catching in his throat. Moira’s expression softened and she kneeled next to him, not trying to touch him, but shifting close enough for the illusion of it. She looks serene, calm like she never have in her life and Charles aches for a fact that she only got her peace in death. Even if it wasn’t quite the end for her.

“I’m not sure why or how, but there are many ghosts resurfacing lately.” Moira said, answering his half bitten questions and moving her hand to rest next to his, their finger not-quite touching. He could feel that something in his throat growing and he swallowed it forcibly down, not wanting to cry again, not in front of her. “I think it has something to do with your lovely suitor.” At that his head snapped up, his eyes widening. He could hear Raven choking somewhere to the side, but his focus was entirely on Moira then.

“What do you mean suitor?” Charles forced out from his throat, his voice coming more squeaky than he would have liked. Moira cracked a smile at him and hid it behind her hand, apparently sensing that he wasn’t in the mood for laughing again.

“I mean suitor, as in someone that tries to woo you.” Was Moira’s answer and he could see her eyes crinkling. “It’s a popular conversational topic among the ghosts and other spirits lately.” Raven snorted from where she was leaning against the wall and he moved his accusing glance at her, making her raise her hands in supposed surrender.

“Don’t look at me like that.” Raven said with a laugh clear in her voice. “Every Kind needs his Queen after all. I didn’t come up with the rules.” And then both her and Moira were off, laughing hard enough that tears were leaking from their eyes.

Charles personally didn’t see anything amusing in the situation. He wasn’t interested in the slightest in being some demon’s consort, wife or whatever he would be, even if it wasn’t strictly speaking a demon. Fallen angel or not, there was nothing angelic about Azazeal, his best friend’s see-through form being the best proof of that. He bit on his bottom lip to keep the sharp remark inside himself, not wanting to upset the girls, considering they probably needed the joy in any way they could find it with all that was happening recently. He just didn’t understand why it had to be on his cost.

They finally stopped, the sound of laughter slowly dying down and looked between him and the windows with more contemplative expressions. It seemed it finally sunk in that the demon was pursuing him, the one that was to blame for Moira’s death, and that it wasn’t necessarily a good thing. Maybe a little amusing from everyone’s perspective but his, but certainly not good. He wasn’t even sure if there was a way to stay clear of the demon, save doing what he was already doing, keeping the sigils around his room fresh and wearing the necklace Professor Blackwood gave him.

But would it be enough? After all, Moira’s death seemed to trigger some kind of transformation in the creature, it could just as well open the door for him to the stronger power. Not to mention all the books were clear that once the true power of the First Fallen was awoken, his servants would follow him to the mortal coil, the door to their prison slowly unlocking. Charles was so not looking forward to meeting any of these. Maybe they would at least look slightly human. Azazeal after all was prone to taking on quite a pleasant form, and the only other demon Charles knew, Coward, was a handsome man. They would all just have to wait and see.

~*~

The waiting didn’t turn out to be long as it was the next week only when Charles encountered the first one of possible many future visitors from hell. And unlike their expectations, these weren’t trying to blend in with normal people at all.

He was out of the mansion for the first time since this whole debacle started, Raven’s warning echoing loud and clear in his head. Or maybe that was just Moira, walking in her transparent glory next to him and repeating them over and over again. Charles would probably be more annoyed with her if he didn’t know that she’s just calming herself this way, she always had a thing for repetition. The point is, he wasn’t out because he suddenly longed for freedom of the city, but he simply had to. His dissertation has been read and graded and his professor wanted to talk to him about it, which meant that Charles had to leave the safety of his home and venture into a big scary world where at any moment he could be assaulted by some otherworldly creatures.

Nothing happened. They went into the city, to the university, seen professor and then back into the city and nothing happened. Not even a trace of supernatural presence, save Moira herself. Charles heard few times before that he tends to get a little overconfident when things are going his way, but he really should have known better this time. What they should have done was to get back to the mansion and celebrate his new title with their friends there, with tasty dinner and some wine from the basement. But they didn’t.

Poor judgment has been the bane of Charles’ existence since his young age, often ending in making not quite proper friends or getting in trouble than other people would easily avoid. That personal flaw of his said that it would be a good idea to celebrate in New York, in one of the pubs Charles used to frequent before he apparently made a nest in the old mansion. Moira was trying to tell him that it might not be a good idea, but faced with his stubborn enthusiasm she had no choice but to follow or leave him unsupervised. The latter would possibly end in a disaster.

That pub was the place when the trouble finally meet them. Or more so, the alley behind that pub. Charles stumbled out of the back door, Moira abandoning any pretense of being alive and floating behind him with disapproving frown on her face. He was quite drunk by that time so it didn’t came as a surprise that it took him a moment to realize they weren’t alone. By then, whatever the creature was, was already prowling towards him, skipping from shadow to shadow, its gleaming yellow eyes the only thing visible in the long black silhouette.

Charles kept backing away from it but unless he learnt to fly in the next few minutes he knew he wouldn’t have a way to escape. The door to the pub opened only one way and the mouth of the alley was blocked by the creature. By the time it finally slipped into enough light to reveal its shape, Charles was terrified enough and Moira’s panicked mutterings weren’t helping any. The creature looked like a crossbred between a horse and some kind of bird, only very very starved. The almost translucent skin stretched tight over the long bones, its hands ending with claws that looked sharper than most of the kitchen knives at the mansion. On its back laid a pair of broken wings, the only thing left of them thin bones, not even covered by skin anymore.

It was terrifying, but it also looked very pitiful and Charles’ heart clenched at the thought of what this thing, who was probably an angel once upon a time, must have gone through to end up looking like this. If it weren’t for the fact that it apparently was very keen on biting into his jugular and ripping him apart before eating him for dinner, he would even feel sorry for it. It prepared itself to jump and Charles steeled himself for the impact, his mind looking for an escape frantically, when something unexpected happened. If he wasn’t mistaken, a roll of newspaper fell heavily on the creature’s head, making it whimper and slink back in pain or reproach Charles couldn’t be sure.

“Um, what?” Moira whispered to him, voicing his thoughts as eloquently as they could be put. Charles shrugged in answer, still keeping his eyes on the creature in case it was going to change its mind and pounce again.

“Down boy.” Came the velvet voice from the shadows instead and right next to the creature stepped the owner of the newspaper, the creature slinking in shame behind their legs. Charles remembered that face as clear as his own nowadays.

“Azazeal.” He said, tensing again. The demon, because it wasn’t a question anymore of what it was, disappeared back into the shadow now that its master arrived and deprived it of its dinner and the man in question grinned toothily at Charles. He couldn’t help but notice that there seemed to be too many sharp teeth in the man’s mouth.

“Indeed.” Azazeal said and inclined his head slightly before straightening and looking at him searchingly. “What poses a question is why haven’t you used your powers to defend yourself from Caz.”

“Are you asking or are you wondering?” Charles snapped, feeling his jaws grind against each other. The man had a nerve to just stand before them, after he murdered Moira in cold blood and question things that weren’t of any concern to him. “Because either way I don’t have time to amuse you in any way.”

Perhaps it was his bad judgment resurfacing again, maybe he lost his temper a little too much, his common sense muddled by alcohol he drunk, but he pushed away from the back wall of the alley and walked past the man. Or rather, tried to, as his arm was caught lightning fast in the unusually hot hand and he was turned to face the fathomless eyes of what happened to be a millennia old creature.

“You should make time.” Azazeal purred, just breath away from Charles’ mouth and moved his face to nuzzle at the human’s ear. Charles stood frozen, paralyzed by a feeling that was one part fear and one part confusion, because if the demon could touch him that what was that stupid necklace good for? And if he could indeed be touched like that, then why everything Azazeal was doing was to just do this little gentle thing? It was a blessing and curse of Charles’ life, but he was scientist at heart, and with that came unhealthy amount of curiosity.

“What are you doing?” Charles whispered, turning his head around to look at the man holding him. Azazeal smiled only at him and pressed their lips briefly together, but before Charles could react in any way he was gone, the alley empty and Charles swaying, thrown out of balance by the sudden disappearance of the body that stood beside him.

“What the hell just happened?” Moira said from behind him, her voice as stunned as he was feeling and he could only nod unthinkingly, brows knit in thought. What was that demon playing at?

~*~

First thing Charles has done that night after coming back to the mansion was to dismiss Raven’s concerned questions and leave Moira with her, taking two steps at the time to the Blackwood’s office. The door was suspiciously unlocked and the man himself was sitting at his desk, looking as if he was already waiting for Charles to come in for some time now. Somewhere near the bookcase, Nicholas was floating an inch above the floor, moving his fingers over the spines of books in languages Charles couldn’t have a chance of understanding. Blackwood brought his attention back to himself with putting away a pen he was fiddling with into the metal ink bottle, making it ring and rattle. Charles was somehow satisfied to see that he wasn’t the only one to cringe at the sound.

“I suppose you’re here to enquire about the quest who you met tonight.” Blackwood said in his smooth baritone, his voice quiet but still holding no questions as to whether he really wondered about the answer to his query.

“You said he couldn’t touch me with it on my neck.” Charles said, anger at the thought raising in him once again. “You promised that to me and Raven both.

“I did.” The man admitted easily, throwing Charles a little off the track with his easy acquiescent. “I have put much work and power into it for that sole purpose.” And that’s when the man’s expression turned darker, with anger or frustration, Charles didn’t know him enough to know. Nicholas easily stepped next to his partner and puts hands on his shoulders, bowing down and pressing his pale cheek to Blackwood’s black hair, which made the man relax almost immediately. Charles thought sometimes that if someone wanted a proof of magic anymore, this here would be most powerful one anyone could find. And it didn’t even involve any spells or potions.

“Then what went wrong?” Charles asked in a small voice, bringing the scene before him to a stand-still. As much as he didn’t want to interrupt them what was clearly an intimate moment, he came to the office for a reason and it wasn’t watching two men in love canoodle with each other.

“He became more powerful than even my most daring estimates would suggest.” Blackwood said, straightening in his seat and moving a hand over his face. “I’m sorry Charles, but it seems that the only thing that trinket offers you now is protection from his magic. He can easily overpower you with his physical strength still.” And the crux of the matter was that the man really did look apologetic about it, even though his creation probably saved Charles being charmed or hypnotized dozen times already.

“It’s alright, I suppose.” Charles said, voice wavering only slightly, and gave the teacher a small smile. “It’s still good. Thank you, Henry.” He gave a curt nod before leaving the room, the pendant clutched tightly in his fist. He didn’t even want to contemplate what could have happened to him if it wasn’t for it, maybe he would be already one of Azazeal’s cohorts or slaves. It might have saved his life and he wouldn’t know it. It would be luxury to have it repeal the fallen angel’s touch as well, but as it was the pendant was already more valuable than anything Charles has ever had in his possession.

Suddenly, Charles’ head spun enough to make him lean on the wall for support, the corridor in front of him blurring and moving in uneven lines. He whimpers and almost fell on his face if it wasn’t for the arms supporting his weight, pressing him close to the warmth body besides him. A body much warmer for the fact than normal human’s one. He realized somewhere in his muddled brain who was holding him and tried to struggle free but the hold only tightened, Azazeals’ face swimming into his focus enough for him to see the frown marring the demon’s face. Charles would like to believe that whatever was happening wasn’t actually the demon’s fault, but judging by his luck as of late he would be wrong.

The next time he regained consciousness he was laying on his bed, stripped off his shoes and coats, leaving him in only soft t-shirt. Azazeal was sitting cross legged in a chair by his bedside and if that wasn’t bizarre enough, he was peeling an apple with what looked like some ceremonial dagger. Charles quickly checked his body for any additional stab wounds or cuts, but it didn’t look like he was hurt in any matter. Even the pendant sat untouched between his collarbones.

“I have allowed you to keep the silly trinket on.” Azazeal said in a smooth voice, not taking his eyes off the fruit he’s cutting. “You have no reason to fear my magic, but if you want an additional insurance I will not stop you from having it.” The demon looked up at then and smiled a little, a shadow of sharpened canine tooth flashing from behind his lips. “I do have to warn you however that the longer you are cutting yourself off from the magical bond I have connected us with, the more often the fainting spiels like that will occur.”

Charles sat up quickly at that, regretting it the moment the vertigo makes his head spin again. He had to put his head down between his knees for a few minutes just to stop the feeling of impending nausea. When he finally looked up he had to bat away a hand so helpfully offering him slices off apple, like he was Persephone being courted by Hades. It wasn’t even funny how much that comparison was appropriate for his life right at the moment.

“What do you want from me?” He asked the demon clearly, swinging his legs off the bed and looking at it (him?) straight on. He would not be cowed by this creature anymore, great hell power or not. He would not let it dictate his life.

“I want you.” Azazeal said, meeting Charles’ faze square on and making him fight to not drop his eyes. “It’s simple like that.”

“And you mean to tell me that this dizzy spell or whatever wasn’t your fault at the slightest?” Charles asked, anger clouding his words and making him lean forward into the demon’s space unconsciously, even if the creature wouldn’t be intimated by that simple show of mental strength. Quite the opposite actually, if the chuckle and then a low laugh the Azazeal let out was anything to go by.

“A little bit, yes.” The demon admitted, his eyes changing colour momentarily from blue to such a clear green that Charles thought it an optical illusion for a moment. “But only in a way that I chose you to be my Consort and we are bonded now. This,” Azazeal pulled the pendant up as if it was the most unclean trash he ever handled. “is blocking my bond with you. It will have consequences for us both, although yours might be more severe.”

“You think I will just take it off and let you put some spell on me?” Charles snarled in answer and snatched the pendant back, leaning back from the demon the second its eyes clouded with steely grey.

It didn’t stop Azazeal from catching his arm and pulling him closer again, their faces inches apart this time. “You might believe me or not,” The demon said, his words low and hissing. “but I have no intention of forcing myself on you in any way. I chose my consorts carefully, for their spirit and their mind, and then I let them come to me.” The man let his voice lower, the next words sounding almost like a purr in a warm breath caressing Charles’ cheek. “As they all eventually do.”

He was saved from answering to that by his door being knocked down and Azazeal literally vanishing into smoke from the place he was sitting at. Raven stood in his destroyed doorframe, her strongest wand clutched in her hand like a lifeline, worried Moira hovering behind her and a bundle of teachers standing frozen with various magical artifacts held defensively in front of them.

“Are you- alright?” Raven asked, her eyes jumping from the place the demon was at and Charles who found himself repressing a bad case of shivers. He could only nod jerkily and observe Raven efficiently sending everyone back to their beds as if the sort-of-demon-kidnapping was a daily occurrence at the mansion. Moira was sitting next to Charles and asking worried questions, but he didn’t really listen to her. His mind was too busy replaying the words the demon said.

Because what if they were true?

~*~

It seemed that this time Azazeal wasn’t lying when he warned Charles about the spiels of weakness. As time progressed and he refused to take the pendant off even while sleeping, they got worse and more severe, so much that even Blackwood himself cautiously suggested that maybe it would be in Charles’ interest to let his body rest from the protective magic. He wouldn’t though. He had the demon admit that it’d never put any spells on its supposed consorts, but the things about creatures like that was that they loved to lie. Unlike simple humans, they gathered their powers from deception and charm they spun around living. So Charles was playing it safe.

Safe being operative word as one of the down side to the whole fainting business was that it happened out of the blue no matter where he was. After he tipped over banister on the third floor and if not for Raven’s spell would crack his head open at the foot of the stairs, he was confined to bed, the key to his room confiscated by his worrying sister.

He found himself staring at the ceiling of his room, drained of energy enough to not be able to even pick up a book. He was actually considering his stance on the magical pendant business, which told him the most how tired he must be. Moira peeked her head into the room from time to time, her transparent body just protruding from the wall a sight that Charles would probably never get used to. He wished she would be alive, that she could just come in and run her fingers through his hair like she used to for years now every time he was down with something. Now it was impossible. She offered to stay with him and read aloud a book, but he refused, no really eager to spend a lot of time with her ghost lately. It just reminded him more and more about the bizarre situation he found himself in.

The sound of a window banging on the frame made him pull up his head, but he couldn’t see anything unusual in the half dusk that was covering the room. All the windows were tightly shut just like Raven left them when she came over with dinner about an hour ago. Or was it two hours? He was frowning at the closest window, the crack on the glass going from the corner to the middle something new that wouldn’t appear without any help.

Charles was on the verge of sitting up to check it out when he felt a hot hand on his chest pushing him back down. He turned back to the room and kneeling over him was the one he actually expected already. It was a testament to how shitty he was feeling lately that the sight of the demon didn’t bring any bad thoughts to him, but only something akin to relief. If it was somehow connected to Azazeal than surely the demon would be able to help at least a little.

A sob resounded in the silence of the room and it took Charles a minute to realize that it was his own throat that produced the sound. Azazeal cooed soothingly and cupped his face, rubbing his thumb over Charles’ cheek, his long nail scraping lightly under his eye. Charles should feel afraid, he should feel scared and call for Raven. But right then he could only feel the comforting touch he craved so much and tipped his face into the open palm, making a small pleading sound in the back of his throat. It seemed Azazeal didn’t need anything more than that, because in a second his other hand closed around the pendant around Charles’ neck and tugged, ripping the chain and flinging the trinket across the room, cupping the back of Charles’ head almost immediately and crushing their lips together.

Normally, that would be a moment when Charles started protesting the happenings, but the moment the pendant left his neck he felt such a surge of energy that he was breathless with this and Azazeal’s lips seemed to be the only place he could get more oxygen from. So he drank greedily, opening his mouth under the demon’s and letting the kiss turn into something more passionate than wild, something usually only two lovers would share between them. He slid his hand around the demon’s body and clutched at his back, the last thing he wanted for the man to leave.

It didn’t seem like he would have to worry about it. The moment the kiss ended, Charles’ lungs screaming at him for real oxygen, Azazeal started pressing his lips softly to the rest of Charles’ face, his forehead, his eyelids, his nose, his cheeks. There didn’t seem to be any discernible pattern and Charles relaxed fully finally, melting into the bed, his eyes fluttering shut with exhaustion over the energy pull he experienced over the last weeks. He was still clutching the black jacket in his hands and he made himself relax his fingers, smoothing the silky material before taking his hands away.

Azazeal didn’t leave though, like Charles expected him to, like he did every time he managed to screw with Charles’ mind to this moment. Instead, he slid from over Charles’ hips to the side of his bed, curling around him almost as if protectively. He buried his nose in Charles’ hair and breathed slowly, even though Charles could swear that he didn’t notice the demon even needing to breathe on the previous occasions they saw each other.

“Don’t endanger yourself like this again.” A voice murmured into Charles’ ear and he blinked sleepily, wondering if it was his imagination that it shook a little. “Don’t make me worry about you like that again.”

If there were any further words forthcoming, Charles hasn’t heard them anymore, slipping into the deep sleep of exhausted, any dreams he might have had chased away by a soothing touch in his hair.

In the morning, Charles was woken up by a knocking on his door and Raven’s voice declaring the arrival of breakfast. He was alone in bed and a quick glance at the window showed the crack he noticed yesterday was gone as well. He could almost believe it all a dream if it wasn’t for a red rose laying on the pillow next to him where he remembered another man being. After the meal, he searched the room for the pendant, wanting to at least give it back to Professor Blackwood since it couldn’t be cheap, but it was nowhere to be found. He wasn’t sure if Azazeal taking it away was the demon being concerned or just ensuring that Charles wouldn’t protect himself from his magic again.

~*~

With the chaos happening in the mansion in the wake of new arrivals and the school year starting it took Charles a little bit more time than it would otherwise to notice that things in his office has been steadily moving around. With his new shiny PhD and the fact that somehow he also has magic, Raven decided to rope him into teaching the first year students demonology. Because apparently she’s a queen of irony and thought it would be funny, especially if Charles got his suitor to show up one day maybe. Charles told her very loudly in detail what exactly did he think about that idea. But he agreed to take on the class, because with all the texts he’s been reading to be prepared for Azazeal he might be as well one of the most knowledgeable people on the subject. Mostly because masters of the subject had tendency to tie themselves to demons and disappear pretty quickly afterwards. It’s like they didn’t read with understanding.

Classes were giving him hell and the students were more than wild, especially when they inevitably found out that their professor didn’t have magical powers like they had. One of the afternoons Charles finally lost his temper and sent all of the children to the back of the classroom together with their chairs, positioning them in a shame circle. Just with a flick of his hand. He had a feeling that somewhere, somehow, one very powerful demon was crowing with delight. At least the children didn’t give him any trouble anymore afterwards.

It happens one afternoon as he’s trying to grade the tests despite the headache blooming behind his eyes. He chanced a look to the side of his desk and noticed a vase of roses standing on the side table instead of the horse figurine his grandfather had screwed to it decades ago. Once he blinked enough times to finally believe his own eyes and touched the flowers to confirm to himself that they were real, he started going around and checking other additions to the room. Every little trinket that Charles has ever once expressed dislike for has disappeared, replaced by flowers in expensive looking vases or books on demonology that would be useful in his studies. His curtains, that were almost three times as old as Charles, were fresh for the first time in his life and smelling vaguely of lilacs.

Who was a culprit of these little changes was a pretty easy question to answer, especially since when looking a little deeper Charles started finding a little notes with a stylized “A” on them. What really took him by surprise was the polished surface of a mahogany chessboard that was covered in sheet since his father’s death. It stood gleaming, uncovered, near the fireplace, with two of the white pieces already on the offensive, as if someone started a game and now was waiting for his move. It took few days for Charles to stop looking around himself paranoid every time he entered the office, and even more time for him to even contemplate touching the game. He did eventually, moving first his pawn and then a knight. He didn’t play in a long time, but with the kind of servants Azazeal had Charles doubted the demon had much opportunity to polish his skills either.

The demon creatures almost escaped his mind, the night behind the bar only a vague memory of a nightmare in his mind when they decided to remind him of themselves. He took his class outside on a misty October morning to look for lavender who was rumored to repel low level demons. The children were picking up flowers, while he was watching over them, rolling a stem of a flower between his fingers. The scream from near the woods was the first indication that something was wrong. The girl that went a little too far from the group, but not enough for him to call her back yet, was standing frozen in the middle of a small field of lavender flowers while one of the horrible creatures was advancing on her, its jaw snapping at her in warning or in delight, Charles couldn’t tell. The only consolation was that it seemed to pause at the line of the flowers and wasn’t moving anymore. It seemed then that these were low level enough to warrant only basic protection. Still, Kara, the girl was slowly backing off now and if she took two steps more she would be out of her protective circle.

Charles didn’t waste time in yelling to children to not move and jogging to the terrified girl, taking the creature’s attention on himself. It showed him its teeth and pounced, sidestepping the lavender and going straight for him. Charles was preparing himself to draw onto the magic Azazeal gifted him with after their bonding when there was a sound of impact and the demon fell on the grass, his thin limbs unmoving. A blond man was crouching next to it and sliding out a silver blade out its stomach. Once he did, he straightened and bowed curtly to Charles, preening what appeared to be a pair of leathery wings on his back. And then he was gone, as sudden as he appeared and Charles was left standing, confused among the children who were probably more terrified than anything. Getting them in beds that evening was a challenge even for Raven and she didn’t try to hide her annoyance with the situation, shooting Charles poisoned looks every time she knew he’d notice.

He almost sidestepped the office that night, wanting nothing more to take a hot bath and slide into his bed, forgetting that this day ever happened, but curiosity got better of him. Azazeal hasn’t showed up personally even since that night two months ago, but the little gifts and notes became frequent enough that Charles learnt to anticipate them. He wasn’t disappointed that night when he came in the room and saw all the roses exchanged for bouquets of lavender, rosemary and marigold. The fire was burning brightly in the chimney and the game was continued, the note left on his unusually tidy desk.

“Don’t come out when the sun isn’t showing.” It said in Azazeal’s elegant scrawl “My lieutenants would be honored to have a chance to protect you, but I’d rather you didn’t give them a chance.”

It almost made him think the demon cared, was worrying about him and after the day he had it warmed him from inside out. He sat down in the chair near the fire, curling his feet underneath him and looking into flames, contemplating that strange pattern he fell into. He hasn’t thought about Azazeal as of danger in a long time, but maybe he should start again. It seemed that the demon was actually putting slowly a spell on him, and one that Charles wasn’t sure he would be able to fight, or even if he wanted to.

He drifted off where he sat, pushing another one of his pawns before the sleep claimed him and woke up perfectly rested in his bed, clothed, he noticed with relief. He was afraid that the spell already took hold of him.

~*~

 They both continued in that manner for few weeks more, flowers in Charles’ office always fresh and his mind always ready for another game of chess or a sniping conversation in exchanged notes. Charles felt almost giddy, like a schoolboy passing notes under the desk to his friend, careful to not let the teacher notice. Teacher, who would be Raven or Moira in that case, and who would be very unhappy with him when they learned he not only kept it a secret from them that Azazeal was regularly visiting him, but also that they started a strange sort of friendship, one Charles has never experienced before.

It was weird to think of it that way, as a friendship, when he still remembered Azazeal standing over him while he cradled Moira’s body to his own, her blood sipping into the wooden floor beneath her knees. But it was as it never happened really, as it was all a dream. Moira was still with him, still ready to sit and chat over morning tea every Sunday, even if she was a little more translucent than she used to be. Charles didn’t have to use the strange magic the demon gifted him with and was actually very careful to not draw upon it at all after that day when the creature attacked, for some reason sure that the more he was using it, the more visible he was to supernatural predators.

Azazeal himself was a mystery to Charles. At first he was someone to avoid, someone- something dangerous that couldn’t be trusted and wanted nothing more than to harm Charles and everyone around him. Sometimes, he wondered if it was true even then, if the man didn’t have other reasons to act like he had at the time. It was all different now, the demon kept his distance while being close and Charles never felt so appreciated in his life. Even before Moira’s death, when they were closer than now, she wasn’t as close to him as Azazeal was now. She tried, but she could never understand him like he craved her to. It was part of the reason why he could never take this last step to strike a real relationship with her. That and his cowardice.

He didn’t want to be a coward anymore.

Charles knew that whatever was happening, whatever Azazeal was trying to achieve with his gifts and his snarky notes and his chess games and him just being close enough to Charles that he never felt alone- Whatever the demon’s plan was, Charles was sinking, not even trying to fight the pull he felt towards the man, falling for him so quickly it left his head spinning. It was as if something suddenly opened in his mind and he couldn’t not think about the possibility of just being with the man, having him right there and instead of sneaking around and having conversations on paper, just being able to curl in the armchair in his study and talk and talk and talk while playing their never-ending game of chess.

Love was a dangerous thing when it came to you in the form of a demon who wanted to open the gates to hell, and Charles wasn’t sure he was strong enough to deny it for long. He thought about talking to Raven or Moira about it, but in the end rejected the idea, aware of their reaction a little too much, and how horrified they would, sure that there was some spell put on him. There wasn’t, that he knew for sure. He didn’t know why, but he trusted Azazeal after the man swore to him to not attempt his magic if only Charles stopped wearing the protective amulet that was hurting them both.

So when finally one night he stumbled exhausted into his bedroom half an hour early and found Azazeal in the middle of scribbling a note to him, it didn’t come as much of a surprise that there wasn’t any fear in him. Only anticipation and sheer relief that he finally could touch the man he was pining after for so long.

Azazeal looked surprised at suddenly finding himself with an armful of short professor, but he was quick on the uptake, pulling Charles closer in a matter of seconds and holding him tight as if he was unsure the man would change his mind about this unusual show of affection. Charles wasn’t thinking ot it however and locked his arms tight around the demon’s waist, putting his head under Azazeal’s chin, noting with pleasure how well they fit together, as if they were made to meld into each other and become one.

That was a nice thought to have. And right after it came the desire to be just that, arousal crept up from the depths of Charles’ mind and flowed through his whole body. He moved his hands up and fisted them in Azazeal’s hair, pulling the other man down into a bruising kiss, their teeth clashing and noses bumping into each other from the awkward angle. It didn’t last long before Azazeal tipped his face a little and corrected their kiss into something more gentle but no less passionate, swallowing Charles’ moan readily and pushing the shorter man gently back onto the bed.

There was nothing slow or careful in the sex that followed. Clothes were shed, material crumpled on the floor, their owners uncaring about the state they would be in come morning. For someone who could probably snap Charles’ neck in half with just sheer force of will, Azazeal was a considerate lover, plying him into the mattress with searing kisses and stretching him carefully with oiled fingers until Charles was writhing underneath him and begging to be filled with something else, something bigger. It wasn’t quick and it wasn’t messy and Charles loved every minute of it, even as uncommon as this type of lovemaking was to him.

Afterwards, Azazeal curled on his side near Charles and kept pressing kisses to pale shoulders and neck, nuzzling the bright red hickeys dotted over the column of the pale throat, while Charles tried to regulate his breathing and keep his eyes open. He didn’t want to close them and then wake up to find his lover gone. He curled his fingers around the bony wrist and somewhere in the back of his mind had an abstract thought that Azazeal wasn’t eating enough. He wasn’t even sure what demons ate, and if it was something that he wouldn’t cringe at.

The demon chuckled as if sensing his thoughts and pressed his cheek to Charles’ heart, seemingly as unwilling to move as Charles was to see him go. He kept tracing some patterns on Charles’ stomach, smearing the man’s come over it in swirls and circles that tickled and made him shiver in turn. Charles ran his hand over Azazeal’s  unusually unkempt hair, the somewhat reddish strands falling over the man’s forehead in disarray and making him smile. He was too lazy to stop Azazeal from doing anything right now and eventually he gave up and succumbed to sleep, tightening his fingers on the bony wrist in hopes it would keep the demon in bed.

To his delight and surprise, it did. Charles woke up in the morning to sunshine sneaking in between his curtains and a heavy weight on his chest that he needed a moment to identify. Moira was floating near the foot of the bed with a disapproving frown on her face and just shook her head before leaving when she finally noticed that Charles was awake. He felt a sudden spark of guilt for sleeping with who was after all her murderer, but he couldn’t bring himself to really regret it. He was too far gone.

    ~*~

Nothing could compare with falling asleep in the arms of someone you cared about and then waking up to the sound of their heart beating steadily under your ear. Charles had this every morning ever since that fateful night and he couldn’t be happier. Raven and Moira of course weren’t the happiest with him, but they let up a little when they realized he wasn’t mind controlled and Azazeal wasn’t exactly using this opportunity to do anything harmful or evil. They still didn’t trust the demon, but they were willing to let Charles make his own decisions and his own mistakes for now. Not that Charles planned on this being a mistake in any way.

He tipped his head up and brushed his nose over the jaw covered in reddish stubble, still not over how human his lover looked when he was sleepy and relaxed. Azazeal’s breathing was regular and slow, his chest moving in a rhythm that Charles had found soothing since their first night together, his lashes fluttered slightly in what seemed to be peaceful dreams. Charles didn’t know demons could dream, but he supposed it was good that they did. How cruel would it be to just fall into blackness every night?

Just one gentle touch to the man’s cheek was enough though to have those lashes parting, revealing two green eyes looking at Charles with warmth that still made him blush. People who claimed demons didn’t have emotions and couldn’t feel like humans clearly never met any real demon. Charles arched his neck and pressed his lips to Azazeal’s, tugging lightly on the fuller bottom lip and making the demon gasp and shiver. He smiled into the kiss and pressed closer, slipping his tongue between the lips parted in invitation, deepening the contact and cupping Azazeal’s cheek with his hand, thumb rubbing over a sharp cheekbone.

The demon moaned softly and shifted slightly under Charles, reaching his hand back to pull the curtains closed and put the room back into darkness despite the sun shining outside. Charles murmured softly his approval and slid his thigh between his lover’s legs, rubbing it over the growing erection there. Azazeal moaned again and Charles swallowed the sound straight from his lips, leaning back for a breath and trailing his lips slowly over the man’s jaw.

Azazeal slid his hand into Charles’ hair and tugged slightly on the strands, making the slighter man shiver and tip his head obediently back, after which he received another kiss, this time gentler, much more chaste.

 “Charles,” The demon breathed into his lips and then whimpered and promptly lost his train of thought when Charles closed his fingers around his cock, scratching his nails teasingly over the base. “Wait. You know I need to go.” He finally said, breath hitching when the shorter man twisted his wrist right under the head of his leaking cock. “Charles” He groaned, head falling back.

Charles took this opportunity to scrape his teeth over the offered throat, his lips closing over the skin in the hollow and sucking lightly until a red bruise bloomed under his mouth. He licked over it with a satisfied hum and tightened his grip when his lover shivered at the touch, making the other man arch and moan loudly. There were hands on his ass now, pulling him closer and squeezing the flesh, making him tremble and bite his lip on a keen that threatened to escape. He didn’t like making that noise.

He pressed closer obediently though, opening his grip for long enough to get a hand around both of their cocks at the same, stroking slowly and ignoring the low whine coming from his lover, the non-verbal plea for a harder, faster rhythm.

Azazeal had some businesses to attend to outside of the mansion every day and Charles was going to make him stay as long as he could, prolonging their time together with any means necessary. Even if it meant torturing them both with the slow rhythm of sex, instead of their usual heated couplings.

The heat was pooling in the base of his spine and he knew there wasn’t much time left before it was over for him and judging by the way Azazeal arched into his touch, biting on his lips and looking at Charles from under his lashes, it wasn’t long for him either. Charles pulled the abused lip from between his lover’s teeth and sucked on it lightly, soothing the red marks and making the man under him moan needily, his lips open in an invitation that Charles took him up on.

The kiss was lazy and slow, counter to the rhythm of Charles’ hand which sped up, bringing them off with a force and efficiency that was almost painful in its intensity. Finally after what felt like hours of kissing, Azazeal broke off and hid his face in Charles’ neck, his come painting hot stripes over both of their stomach. The sight of his bowed neck, his shoulders shaking and covered in a flush of arousal was enough to tip Charles over the edge also, his groan muffled into his lovers hair.

They lay together, spent, for a short while still before Azazeal pressed a soft, apologetic kiss to Charles’ lips and slipped out of the bed, his clothes somehow pressed and immaculate hanging on the chair. It took one hand gesture for him to be clean again, even the demon’s hair fell into its usual neat style without any need for a comb. Sometimes Charles really hated magic. It was far too easy for his lover to just erase any evidence of their coming together like that.

There was no goodbye, just like there never was any good evening when they met, just another kiss and hands that lingered a little too long for it not to break Charles’ heart every morning. He wished that they could stay together, no responsibilities, no work, just them and their bed and infinite time to make love and kiss and hold each other.

It was one of the last mornings when he wished for that.

~*~

Admittedly it wasn’t Charles’ best moment when it took him few days of fatigue and a sudden nap in the middle of his class to realize that something was going wrong with his body. Every morning after breakfast he had to take a walk around the patio just to calm his stomach enough with fresh air that whatever it was that he ate wouldn’t come back up. For now it worked, but he should have known from the start that being nauseous like that every morning had to have a cause of some sort. He was just too happy to think of anything bad that could be in his life right now.

But then came the fatigue and he was stumbling along the corridor and had to take a break in what was a fairly short distance walk just because he felt tired. And then of course he was watching his students working  on a writing exercise and his eyes got heavy, before he knew it he was sleeping, his cheek propped on his fisted hand, and only the cleared throat from somewhere in the classroom got him to open his eyes. It was embarrassing, but it was mostly worrying which he read from his students’ faces, who instead of being gleeful of catching their teacher in such defenseless position were sitting with unsure expressions, clearly concerned over what was happening.

Charles took it straight to the nurse’s office where Raven was almost immediately summoned, if for nothing more than moral support. He was grateful to her, because no matter how much she disagreed with his life choice, she was still his sister and if there was something wrong going on with him, he wouldn’t have anyone else by his side than her. Everything was better when Raven was near, if she couldn’t fix it than she has always found someone who could. His magical sister.

The first thing he learned was that despite him skipping on the evening meal recently more often than not he gained few stones, the weight he was standing on showing him the highest results he ever got on the machine. That was worrying too, no one just suddenly gained weight and had it be something good and healthy and safe. Nurse Sharon took his blood and other readings and retreated to her mini laboratory next door, leaving Charles clutching at his closing vein and chewing on his lip in stress. Raven sat next to him and curled an arm around his shoulders, pulling him closer to her.

“I’m sure it will be alright.” She whispered softly to him and he let himself sag against her, tucking his cheek on her shoulder and feeling her head settling on his. This was nice, familiar and warm – loving. “You’ve probably just ate some magical mushrooms that didn’t agree with you.” He barked out a laugh at that, because it was certainly a possibility, however slim one, and the danger of finding something too exotic for them to handle on the table since the school’s opening was an on-going joke between all the stuff and their headmistress. It was hard to please all the differently dieting students.

“What if it’s something serious though?” Charles asked, his hands shaking. He put them between his knees and squeezed, immobilizing both and pressing closer to his sister, seeking comfort that he knew was his for taking whenever he wanted.

“Then we’ll deal with it.” Raven answered, her voice soothing and warm, her hand moving through Charles’ hair in an entirely too relaxing manner. “We’ll find you a good expert and then he’ll heal you and that’ll be it.” She said, while he fought to keep his eyes open and not fall asleep on her. He wanted to know the diagnosis before falling unconscious again, so this time at least he’d have an excuse of a shocking news.

It was that moment when Sharon reentered, frowning down at the results she most likely procured by magic and not simple lab work, since it was too quick for anything else. Both Raven and Charles straightened, although the arm around his shoulders didn’t budge, instead squeezing his. He wasn’t alone, he had to remember that no matter what, he always had someone to count on.

“I don’t know how to break it to you,” Sharon finally said, looking up at them, chewing on her bottom lip nervously. “especially since it’ll be painful to know under your personal circumstances, Charles.” By which he had to mean his relationship with Azazeal, which was the most badly hidden secret in the whole school and fodder for weeks worth gossip material.

“Just tell me?” He asked, trying not to cringe at how his voice shook.

“You’re pregnant.” She answered and continued in the shocked silence that followed. “The levels of hcG in your blood is staggering and considering that and the amount of weight you put, not to mention all the symptoms you’ve told me about, you’re in about 15 week too.”

“It’s not possible.” Raven interrupted her, her voice steely and her arm like vice around still shell-shocked Charles. “Charles wasn’t in relationship with anyone 15 weeks ago, much less with a demon that he could get pregnant with.” Charles didn’t even know he could get pregnant with that demon, much less any else. They didn’t even get to the penetrative sex yet, how could have that happened?

“Not from the human biology perspective, it’s not.” Sharon readily agreed, nodding her blond head. “But we can’t forget that the father here seemed to be a demon prince, which means a heavy sort of magic is involved, which might be a reason to the faster than normal development of the embryo.”

The women proceeded then to discuss the repercussions Charles’ body might face because of that, how he would have to be monitored to make sure that nothing went wrong, and what could be done about his lower than needed levels of estrogen. Meanwhile, Charles’ head was spinning with the information he was offered that not only a man he started to tentatively trust put a spell on him after all, but that he also planned who knows what with the baby he created from both of their bodies.

Memory was a helpful thing, quickly pushing sensation of Azazeal drawing on his stomach with the mix of their come to the forefront of his mind, making him curse inwardly. He should have questioned the swirls and patterns when it was happening, not just accept it as a sign of affection, he was sleeping with someone dabbling in the strongest types of magic after all.

Charles found himself curling unconsciously around his stomach, in some sort of protective instinct, swearing to every deity known to him that even if it was going to be hard, it already happened, and he was going to bear the consequences of his actions. He would deliver the baby and then he would raise it like a normal child, away from any demons that would want to use them.

“Charles?” Raven’s voice finally penetrated his angry haze and he looked up at her with determination.

“We need to find something to make it grow normally once it’s born.” He croaked out and talked more when she looked like she was going to protest. “It’s already done and it’s also mine baby so I’m not terminating it. But we need to do something about its growth once it’s out of me and we need to do everything to protect it from Azazeal.”

That was what finally seemed to give her a pause. She looked at him long and careful, at his set jaw and arms curled around his stomach as if he could already protect the baby from whatever danger was waiting for it. Finally she nodded.

“Alright.” She said and he was so painfully grateful that she didn’t told him ‘I told you so’ or questioned him in anything, but supported whatever he chose like she always did.

“Thank you.” He murmured softly and melted into her embrace, pretending that the tears stinging his eyes were from exhaustion and not from heartbreak.

Demons could not be trusted after all, and he should have known it since the beginning.

~*~

It wasn’t a big surprise when Azazeal was waiting for him in his office this evening, but for the first time in weeks Charles was decidedly unhappy about it. His jaw hurt from clenching his teeth, his head hurt from all the protective information he perused with Raven since they left the nurse’s office, and his eyes itched from crying that he’s done about an hour ago and that Raven magnanimously didn’t tease him about. He was in no mood to deal with demons who wanted to use him as an incubator for the key to the Hell’s Gate, which they found out was what Charles’ baby would eventually become.

“I heard you were feeling unwell today, are you alright?” Azazeal asked while caressing the smooth marble of the chess board and Charles could feel his jaw popping from the force with which he was keeping it together.

“Get out.” Was his only answered and he didn’t even look to see if the demon complied, turning on his heel and marching right to his bedroom. He craved a long bath right now that would turn his aching muscles into a mush and then just falling asleep to nothingness and not having to think about how naïve he was, and how he let the Prince of Hell seduce him and then use his body in a worst way possible. He felt like a fool and it didn’t matter that Raven kept herself from making any comments, when he himself knew what happened. The fact that Moira made no effort to hide her judgment didn’t help matters any.

“Charles?” The demon said, following him after all. “What’s wrong? Did something happened?” And the crux of the matter was that he did sound worried, did sound like he was concerned about Charles’ health and Charles’ day and Charles’ general well-being and knowing now that it was all a lie, an elaborate ruse to woo him into the demon’s bed so they could have a baby together, it hurt like nothing before.

Maybe it wasn’t so bad to never really fall in love if you didn’t have to feel a heartbreak like that later.

“Stop.” Charles said, and maybe it was unusually cold tone of his voice that stopped Azazeal in his tracks, or maybe it was the closed off expression on his face that did it, he didn’t care. “Stop acting like you care about me.”

Azazeal blinked in surprise and took a step back, but came closer in few quick strides, cupping Charles’ face and tipping it up so they faced each other, despite Charles trying to dislodge him.

“Let me go this instant.” Charles hissed at him, eyes sparkling with fury and nails biting into the skin on the demon’s hands. Of course it did all of nothing, Azazeal not even noticing the angry red crescents appearing on his palms.

“Charles, you know I do care about you. I wouldn’t be here otherwise.” He said in a level voice and the level of bitterness it produced in the laugh Charles’ answered him with surprised them both enough that they separated, Charles hiding his face in his hands, desperate to not show the demon the tears streaking down his cheeks. “Charles?” The demon’s voice was unsure, questioning and it occurred to Charles that only now was he being taken seriously, not as if he was throwing a tantrum over a silly thing, which only made him more angry and luckily was enough to stop the tears from flowing.

“Get out.” He ordered again and saw Azazeal flinch at his tone this time. “You have no right to just come in here, use me however you please and expect that I would be okay with everything just because I learnt to care about you. It’s not how it works, you have to work on the trust I gave you and you did nothing but break it again and again. You crossed the line and now it’s time for you to go.” Charles’ voice shook and he knew it, but he didn’t care, plowing onward, not noticing the glances the demon kept shooting at his stomach and the pinched expression his face took. “I want you to leave and never get close to me again.” He finished with. “Now.”

“Charles,” Azazeal said, and for a moment Charles fancied he could hear a desperate note in his voice, but he dismissed it quickly. He wasn’t going to be so gullible again, and no one knew better than him what a good actor the demon prince was. “please, at least let me explain.”

“No.” Sounded the voice from the doorway and they both turned to see Raven with her strongest wand pointed straight into Azazeal’s chest. “You will leave now or I will shoot, and maybe it won’t hurt you for long, but the pain, even for seconds will be excruciating.” Professor Blackwood was standing right behind her with a flagon of something that looked like colorful oil and smelled like a forest after rain. Charles didn’t have any doubts that whatever it was, it was designed to hurt any demon it came in contact with.

Azazeal turned to him with a pleading expression, but it was too late, Charles already moved behind Raven, not ashamed in slightest to take cover in her shadow again, not when it came to saving his life and the life of his unborn baby from the hell’s power. The demon looked like he was going to argue still, but there were red sparks exploding from the end of Raven’s wand now, her hand shaking with barely suppressed anger and he chose to retreat, at least for now.

He was there one second and gone another and Charles suddenly remembered all over again how powerful this creature was. He slumped into Raven’s arms when she offered her embrace and hidden his face in her neck, shaking, from anger or sadness, it didn’t even matter, maybe both.

“You’ll sleep with me tonight. Henry put the strongest wards we could find in the ancient tomes over my bedroom and he will do so to yours now, but for now, come with me.” She said, carding her fingers through his hair and he didn’t have strength for anything more than a nod, smiling weakly in gratitude at Professor Blackwood who immediately started drawing something on his floor with a chalk.

“I’m scared.” He admitted later in the night, curled under Raven’s lavender sheets, smelling cedar all around him and wondering at the glowing symbols on the ceiling.

“You don’t have to be.” His sister answered, her hair splayed in an aureole over the pillow next to his. “I’ll protect you.” And he believed her. After all, she always had protected him before.

~*~

It was mutual agreement that for the time of pregnancy, short as it was going to be with how quickly the baby was growing, Charles’ classes would be cancelled and he’d stay inside his room, the protective seals and circles a new mosaic on every surface available that he couldn’t help but admire. His bedroom looked like a giant art exhibition with a supernatural theme. It was breathtaking when he didn’t think about a reason why all of the pictures appeared there in the first place. When he did, well, it wasn’t pretty, especially with his hormones on a swing.

Sharon checked up on him regularly and both Raven and Henry were often guests, usually bringing him something to eat or read so he wouldn’t get too bored laying motionlessly in bed. Few times, he got a visit from Nicholas, but it was clear that something about the situation was distressing enough for the incubus that Charles wasn’t very offended when he stopped turning up. Moira didn’t appear in his room even once, and he wasn’t sure if he should be worried or relieved that she wasn’t there to remind him constantly that it was his own fault for trusting a demon. He cautiously veered on the side of a latter, which in turn made him feel guilty, because it was his fault and she was his friend, he was supposed to want her by his side in the time like this.

The rate at which the baby was growing seemed to worry not only him and after a third day when Sharon once again finished taking his reading with a pinched expression on her face, the monitoring machine was brought into the room and he was strung on various cables and wires that made him feel like some kind of a cyborg.

Fatigue became Charles’ constant companion from then, and it was a miracle if he stayed awake for long enough to have any sort of normal conversation with anyone. His visitors didn’t seem to mind, but it brought him no small amount of embarrassment when after waking up he realized that he dozed off in the middle of the discussion, again. Sharon wasn’t happy with it, but she said that it was per course since his body wasn’t made to carry a child and the whole process was taking out of it more than it would from a woman. Charles could understand biology if nothing else and that worried him the most. He might have had acquired a womb by magical means as well as the egg to be fertilized, but nothing about his body was made to support the growing fetus.

The hormones in his body lacked the needed levels of estrogen and progesterone, not to mention the fact that his whole body wasn’t build to accommodate a human sized entity. It became apparent around the end of his first week of bed rest that despite all the help he was getting, it wasn’t going to be easy.

It started with a pain around his ribs that left him gasping for breath and making the monitoring machine wail like it was on fire. Charles didn’t have to wait for long until both Sharon and Raven were storming into his room, the latter swiftly turning off the horrendous noise while the nurse started examining him for the source of any potential problem. It turned out that even though there was indeed a fully functioning womb pushed into his stomach, no one told his other insides that and they were getting pressed on the more the baby grew, causing him pain and in case of his lungs shortness of breath.

He didn’t need his shiny diploma to know that this was not a good thing. Both of the women seemed to agree and they all had a long discussion about what they could do. The only decision they could think of was that they would have to risk the early surgery and hope for the best. According to Sharon’s scan the baby was supposed to be around 30 weeks old which would make it okay for it to be born naturally, but none of them could really tell for sure the outcome as they couldn’t exactly tell if the fetal development would be the same in the male body as it was in female one.

Still, Charles’ body was not taking having anything foreign in it well, and if he wanted both him and the baby to have any chance of surviving this, the caesarean section as soon as possible was his only option. Raven pressed closer to him after they reached the decision, squeezing him hard enough that it was painful before leaning back with apologetic words. He waved her off and weaved their fingers together, smiling despite the fear coursing inside him. She promised to be by his side for the whole time and he was counting on her to keep her word.

The bedroom quickly changed into an operation room, Sharon bringing her tools to him instead of risking moving him to the infirmary. She was setting up the surgical tools when Henry and few other teachers came in. Raven quickly explained that they would attempt to put a spell on the baby that would let it develop normally instead of super fast, and Charles could almost sob with relief in that moment, so grateful for her presence and her thoughtfulness. His gorgeous sister almost made him believe that everything would be alright from now on.

The last thought he managed to have before Sharon slipped the anesthesia into his system was that whatever the baby was, human or demon, he would do anything to protect it from the world of its father that was waiting just outside the protective barriers. His child would grow up normally, with happy childhood and no responsibilities of opening any evil gates.

~*~

Consciousness evaded Charles for a long time, something constantly pulling him further into the darkness. There were soft words spoken all around him and bursts of light that he could almost see without having to open his eyes. What finally awoke him was the sudden silence, the eerie lack of any sound in the room. There should be something, his drug muddled brain was telling him, something loud and shrill, but happy, something he was waiting for that whole time he was confided to the bed. But there was nothing.

The room he was in was still recognizably his, the mosaic of protective sigils on the ceiling quite telling, but he couldn’t shake off the feeling that there was supposed to be something there that he couldn’t see. Charles turned his head and saw that his rug was rolled to the wall, making place for the huge magical circle in the middle of the floor. There were still half burned candles surrounding it, the smoke still snaking its way up from the blackened candlewicks. It meant that whatever spell they were casting, it wasn’t long ago that they stopped.

The spell. If it wasn’t for Sharon coming in and holding him back to the bed, he would be right out of the bed. There was no place in his mind for worrying about stitches or IVs. Charles remembered now what was supposed to be in the room and wasn’t – his child. The little human he carried in his own body and that was his. He choked on a breath when he tried to ask Sharon about it, the panicked thoughts too much for his mind to make sense of.

“Charles, calm down, take deep breaths, you need to calm down.” Sharon was repeating to him, still keeping him pinned to bed and considering she was smaller than him probably using magic to help her. “You’ll know everything, but you have to calm down now.”

Calming down was the last thing he could do then though, the worry swirling in his stomach almost too much to bear. What if the spell didn’t work and the baby was dead or changed into a demon? What if it worked and that killed it? What if all the protection wasn’t enough to stop Azazeal after all and he came to claim his child?

“No.” Charles moaned at the last thought, tears spilling down his cheeks in despair. Anything, but that, even death would be better than the fate the demon was planning for their little baby.

It took him a considerably long while to finally notice a figure standing in the doorway, the long navy robes swishing around bare ankles. Raven was smiling fondly at him, patiently waiting to be noticed, a small wiggling bundle held in her arms. The noise Charles has made when he realized what that meant was nothing he ever made before or after that one moment. The relief, the worry, the sheer amount of different emotions he was feeling then wrenching a raw sound from his throat. He collapsed back into the pillows, Sharon finally free to let go of him and sobbed out, reaching his hand to his sister.

Raven came closer obediently, sitting on the edge of Charles’ bed and leaning over him enough that he could see a little pale face peeking out from the blanket, tiny fist curled near the face smoothed out with sleep.

“It’s a boy.” Raven whispered quietly to him and snorted at the smile blooming on his face. “Of course you’d be happy to have a boy.”

“I’m glad to have anything.” He murmured in answer, his throat still feeling too sore to speak any louder. He wouldn’t anyway, afraid to wake his little angel up. Sharon heard him though and helped prop him up, tipping the glass of water to his lips. Charles drank gratefully, his eyes straying time and again to his son, sleeping so peacefully in his aunt’s arms.

“He’s human.” Raven said, looking up at him from under her bangs. “The spell was supposed to slow his aging, but it resulted in completely stripping him from any demon influence and power he could have possessed.”

That was a relief, Charles supposed, nothing to tie this little bundle to the demon world who just wanted to use him. It also meant that the child was now useless for Azazeal and Charles couldn’t decide if the thought made him happy or even more heartbroken. How cruel one has to be to only want their child when it’d be of some use to them?

They were in the middle of transferring a waking child into Charles’ arms, his hand flying automatically to support the delicate head, when Henry entered the room, trailed by Nicholas who stopped for a moment in the doorway before coming in further with a shiver. Charles blinked and finally realized what it was that made the incubus so unwilling to visit – the wards. Nicholas wasn’t a fully fledged demon and the usual protections wouldn’t work on him, because of his ties to humans, but they still had to make him mighty uncomfortable. Charles supposed they could clean the room from it all now that everything was over anyway.

“Moira is gone.” Henry said and smiled apologetically at Charles. “I stopped sensing her presence the moment the boy became human and the sweep of the whole place proved her gone.”

“So we were right.” Raven said and Charles turned to look at her in surprise, hurt that there was something so important she didn’t tell him before. She patted his cheek with a sad smile and he winced guiltily, realizing he wasn’t the only one who lost a friend. “Once the key is gone, the gates to the other world shut tightly once again. No more surprise demons, ghosts, nothing. At least, no more than usual.”

Charles pressed his nose into the bundle in his arms, the scent of a newborn baby comforting in its sweetness and pretended he wasn’t crying again. His bond with Moira certainly loosened over her time as a ghost, especially lately, but it didn’t mean that losing her again wasn’t a blow. This time she was dead for good, no coming back, and he didn’t know how to handle that.

“Charles?” Raven said, her thumb rubbing circles into his arm.

“I’m fine.” He answered, voice wet and shaky. “I’m perfectly fine.” He was grateful that no one called him on that obvious lie.