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Leather and Gold

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Todd’s tongue moves lazily with both of Pepito’s, the split tongue twining around Todd’s one while they recline on the couch; Pepito’s laptop and Todd’s science notes are strewn over the floor next to them.

Pepito is stretched out along Todd, lapping into his mouth and enjoying his unique flavor; copper, skin, and a hint of cinnamon from the pancakes Todd had made them before they got to work on the science project. Pepito wonders what Todd would taste like after sopapillas. He’ll have to figure it out sometime.

Pepito nips at Todd’s mouth, pulls at his lip, and enjoys the moan that fills his ears. It isn’t horribly often he gets to do this. Todd and intimacy is...strange, especially when it comes to them.

“Friends don’t do...this,” he had told Pepito after their second night together.

“So what are we?” Pepito had asked him with a grin.

Todd had looked at him, opened his mouth, and closed it.

“What, you want me to be your novio?” he’d teased.

“No, you’re my friend.”

Pepito hadn’t expected to feel his chest clench like it had, but he had managed to keep his grin going.

“Then, hate to break it to you, amigo, sometimes friends fuck.”

It had reassured Todd, though he’s still skittish about them having sex. Oh kissing and cuddling fine, but fucking —especially when Pepito asks Todd to get rough— isn’t nearly as frequent as Pepito wants. That is the part that drives him crazy.

Todd has a hell of a sex drive, really he does, but he also has the patience and ability to suppress his wants and needs like nothing Pepito has ever seen. So while Pepito can smell the underlying current of arousal on him almost constantly, Todd can shove it down to a point that can’t be healthy. Pepito is still not sure why he does it, thinks that something must have happened in the asylum —though Todd insists nothing did— or that maybe it’s his kink. Build up and up and up until all it takes is Pepito whispering something dirty in the lecture hall and has Todd dragging him into a bathroom stall for a quick suck and fuck.

Well, really it’s just a suck. Pepito still hasn’t gotten Todd to just fuck him raw in a bathroom stall yet. They're getting there, though. Fuck he hopes they’ll get there. Or, like, regular sex would be nice. Hell, he’d just be happy with it once a week...okay, once a night, who is he kidding. Todd’s cock is his new deity, and he wants to kneel before it nightly.

The arms around him tighten, and Pepito smirks as Todd shifts under him. He’s always been a skin slut, wanting to touch and hug and all that shit, and it’s such a beautiful gateway into his pants; when he’s pent-up enough. By the way Todd's tongue keeps finding its way into Pepito’s mouth, he’s pretty sure he is. Maybe not enough to bring some knives into the bedroom —fuck he loves it when Todd agrees to knives— but maybe enough to let Pepito’s head between his thighs.

“Hmmm, wanna go to your room?” Pepito murmurs as he pulls back a little. He can feel Todd half-hard against his hip.

Todd’s cheeks are red, and Pepito can feel his cock twitch at the idea.

“Maybe later,” he says finally, and Pepito puts on his best pout.

“Awwww, por favor?”

Todd shakes his head. “We need to work on the paper first. I won’t have time this weekend with work.” He chews on his lip as he side-eyes the papers on the floor. “Maybe we should—”

“Come on, it's Friday,” Pepito whines. “Live a little. I mean, do you really want me to stop?” Pepito leans in as if to kiss him, and before he’s even an inch away, Todd has his eyes closed and is leaning in. He feints to pull back, but Todd’s mouth catches his. Pepito’s sternum grows warm at the gentleness of the kiss, lingering in his chest, and Pepito has to will his focus to his groin instead of whatever the fuck his heart’s doing. He is not letting Todd off this couch until he’s had a fill of his mouth, or Pepito gets his mouth filled.

The arms around Pepito tighten again, and Pepito sinks down into Todd. He places a hand over Todd’s chest and feels the heartbeat there. It is quick but steady, thudding against his palm.

I want that.

As quickly as he thinks it, Pepito pushes it away.

They’re friends, and friends fuck. Even if he wanted to try and add anything else, which he doesn’t, he wouldn’t. His father may do relationships, but not him. He collects hearts, but he doesn’t give his out. That’s fucking stupid, who would do that? Not even Todd does that.

And if he did, then Pepito would hunt the fucker down who had it and—

He throws himself into the next kiss, takes Todd’s breath away, and then pulls back.

“Sure you don’t want to go to your bedroom?” he murmurs. “Because I don’t know if we can clean your couch.”

Todd goes to say something, and Pepito takes the opening to fuck Todd’s mouth with his tongues. Immediately, Todd’s body melts, and Pepito lets the spark of heat in his chest grow.

He pulls his tongues out, nibbles on Todd’s lip and then tugs at it just hard enough to make Todd groan. It’s a beautiful sound, better than any angelic horns or horrified screams, and Pepito isn’t ready for it to stop. His teeth close a little tighter, he pulls a little harder, and before he knows it, he feels skin split. Copper spreads over his tongue and fills his mouth with a purity Pepito still can't fathom. It isn’t a flavor, but a tingling, almost like drinking holy water. It skitters over his tongue like the acidicness of sweet fruit, burns him slightly, and he can’t help himself. Pepito sinks his fangs into the soft inner skin of Todd’s lower lip and floods both of their mouths with copper. He can never get over the flavor of Todd’s blood.

Todd lets out a sharp hiss.

Shit.’ Well, there went his chance of getting laid, and he’d been doing so well, too! No cuts, no bites, and now he’s gone and fucked it all up. All that time seducing his ángel mal colocado and he wasted it with a fucking kiss.

At least, that's what he thinks as he slides his fangs out of the broken skin. Then Todd lets out a sound like a perra en calor.

Looks like Pepito should have started drawing blood sooner.

“You’ve never made that sound before,” Pepito murmurs.

Todd goes so red in the cheeks that Pepito has a brief worry they might just pop. Then again, that wouldn’t be so bad. He’d get to lap it all up and taste that purity slide down his throat and all the way to his belly.

A drop of red traces down over Todd’s chin and threatens to drip onto his chest. Pepito licks it up.

“I-I—” Todd stammers.

Pepito smiles and sucks Todd’s bleeding lip into his mouth.

Got you now,’ he thinks as the body beneath him goes seemingly boneless while he sucks and worries at the cut. Against his hip, Pepito can feel Todd go rock hard in a matter of moments.

’I wonder…’ Pepito pulls his tongues in for just a moment, warming them in the cavern of his mouth before pushing them out and against the cut in Todd’s lip, cauterizing it. The loss of Todd’s blood is a pity, but the sharp jolt of Todd’s body and the groans that wind back and forth on the line between pleasure and pain are worth it.

He pulls back with a sly grin, the taste of Todd burnt on his tongue.

“Okay, so when were you going to tell me you’re a pain slut?” Pepito asks.

Todd bites his lip out of habit, and Pepito grins as he watches Todd’s face battle not to show how much he enjoys worrying the small wound. Pepito hates that he’s fighting it. He wants to see Todd writhe, maybe with claws around his neck and Pepito’s named carved lightly into his belly. Maybe he can tie him up, bring out his own knives, set up a healing bath and...Pepito needs to get home; now.

“Nos vamos a divertir mucho,” Pepito almost pants as he dives back in for one more rough kiss, making sure to run his tongue over the burn in Todd’s mouth. “My place, 6'0 clock. I’m bringing you down tonight.”

“D-Down?” Todd stammers. “You mean to—”

“Hell, yes.” Pepito kisses him again and grinds against Todd’s still hard cock. Oh, fuck he wants him, but not yet. He can make it so much better.

“There’s not enough time on Earth for me to do what I want to do,” Pepito pants against Todd's mouth. He nips Todd’s lip again and then pulls back with a grin. “Or for you to recover before work tomorrow.” He winks.

Todd’s cheeks go darker as he looks up at Pepito with wide eyes.

“What are you going to do to me?” His voice is small and breathless.

Pepito grins and leans in, his lips hovering over Todd’s, and says, “What am I not going to do?”

Todd is still for a moment before he tries to claim Pepito’s mouth. It makes Pepito’s heart race, but he needs to get moving. He slips from Todd, being nothing but smoke for a moment before solidifying at the end of the couch.

“Remember, 6,” he pants, and then adds with a grin. “And don’t touch yourself.”

Todd lets out a groan that makes Pepito almost throw himself back onto the couch, but he fights it. He’s not used to suppressing his wants, but he needs to get some shit taken care of back home. Pepito blazes through whatever dimension it is that he can teleport through, and he falls onto his bed. He’s hard as fuck, his mind is racing, and he really needs to get planning.

“I’ve got time,” he murmurs to himself as he looks at his open closet. Near the back is a painted door. He watches it raise from the wood and grins.

He already has so many ideas. Now he just has to choose which ones to use. That, and maybe to take care of himself. He’s going to be down in hell for the equivalent of days, after all. Todd only has to wait a few hours.

Pepito is already unbuckling his pants as he heads through the door to hell.

------------------

Todd stands awkwardly on Pepito’s front stoop. Well, technically it's his parents front stoop. Easier to have only one portal hub to hell or something like that. Todd thinks Pepito still lives with them because his mother, Mary, still does his laundry.

Lifting his hand, Todd goes to knock, only for Mary to pull the door open and give out a small shout as Todd's knuckles almost rap against her forehead.

“Todd! You nearly gave me a heart attack!”

“Not that it would have done much,” the slightly balding, latino man says next to her. It still blows Todd's mind that Senor Diablo can put all of his essences into such a small form. If anything, seeing him with actual skin is more disquieting than seeing him as the devil, at least for Todd. He’s been friends with the family long enough to see Senor Diablo more often as the fire eyed Devil than Joseph, the developer.

“Oh hush,” she swats at Senor Diablo though she smiles at him. “I can still have one; I just won’t die, thanks to you.” She pecks his cheek, and the smile that crosses Senor Diablo’s human face is of general happiness and adoration.

“What are you doing here?” Senor Diablo asks him.

“Oh, uh, Pepito told me to come over. We have a science paper.” Todd shifts the pack on his back. Might as well use hells time shenanigans to get their work done. After whatever it is that Pepito has planned, of course.

“That rascal, he should have told me. I would have made an extra plate and put it in the fridge for you.”

“That’s all right, Mary,” Todd says. “I already ate, but thank you.”

“Well, you two have fun.” She goes up on the balls of her feet to push a kiss to Todd’s cheek. “This handsome man here is going to wine and dine me tonight.” She gives a wink and a giggle. Todd can’t help but smile at them.

“Help yourself to anything in the fridge,” she adds as she walks down the steps and towards the car in the driveway.

“Don’t let him carve too much off you,” Senor Diablo adds in a low tone as he walks past with a wink. For just a moment, Todd sees the blaze of a fiery eye. He stands, dumbstruck, with his heart pounding and his face as hot as a sunbaked parking lot in the Sahara.

“Lock the door behind you!” Mary yells up to him before he hears two car doors slam. He jumps, turns, and gives a small wave as they drive away. The second they go around the corner, Todd drops his hand and nibbles at the sore spot on his lower lip.

“Shit, you’re early.”

He turns to look inside and finds that Pepito is halfway down the stairs. Todd finds his mouth going dry as his friend slowly walks down the rest of the steps. The first thing Todd notes is that Pepito is wearing the most ridiculous platform boots. Four inches high, at least, and they encasing his feet and calves in black leather with rose gold buckles. The boots practically melt into Pepito’s leather pants, which are so tight that Todd wonders if he just dipped himself in tar. It is very hard not to note how low they sit on Pepito’s hips, and his scrap of a tank top barely covers anything with all the holes in it. Flashes of skin peek out with each movement as he makes his way to Todd. His ears are studded throughout with rose gold, he has simple bands of leather and rose gold around his fingers and wrists, and a choker of delicate rose gold chains wrapped around his throat.

To anyone who didn’t know Pepito, they may have thought he was wearing dark eyeshadow, though Todd knows better. Dark circles around his eyes just happen, though he does put on eyeliner sometimes to accentuate it, like now, and it makes him look like he is up to no good.

“What do you think?” Pepito asks with a slow twirl.

Todd realizes that the choker has a thin chain that hangs down Pepito's bare spine in the back. The end is tucked into one of the tight pockets, and Todd can tell that whatever is connected to the chain is blade shaped.

“Wow.” It’s about all he can get out as Pepito stands at the bottom of the stairs.

“You going to get in here?”

Todd quickly steps inside, absently closing the door behind him. Pepito moves quickly, presses up against Todd and pushes him back against the closed door. The books in Todd’s backpack bite into his spine.

“Someone’s excited,” Pepito murmurs. With his added height, Pepito can grind his hips into Todd’s. His cheeks blaze as he realizes that he’s already half hard. "Did you touch yourself?"

Todd swallows and shakes his head.

Pepito leans in and breathes over Todd’s mouth, “Good.” There is a click off to the side as Pepito locks the front door.

Todd’s stomach does a little flip and his cock strains against his jeans. Pepito grins at him before giving a small nip to his lip.

“Vamos.” Pepito turns in the boots as if he is barefoot and saunters up the stairs, giving Todd a show of just how the leather clings to his backside.

Todd licks at the cut on his lip and follows.

Pepito leads him upstairs, through his room, and then through the closet. Todd expects to step out into the usual, central area of the ever watching eye of hell, but instead he finds himself standing in a pool of light. The door shuts and disappears behind him.

“P-Pepito?” he calls into the dark. He starts to set down his backpack. What is going on?

“I have a couple of questions before we start,” Pepito purrs, his voice seeming to come from everywhere.

“Um...okay.”

“Did you like what I did today?”

Todd tongues at the burn on his lip and then nods.

“Do you think you’d like being held down?”

Heat pulses in Todd’s groin. He did that with Pepito once; it had involved knives and a large wooden table. Could he do that to Todd here? Could he survive that?

“Asked you a question.” Pepito’s voice is a growl in Todd’s ear.

“Y-yes.”

“Good,” Pepito purrs. “If it gets too much, you tell me. The only way I’m going to enjoy this is if you do too.”

Todd doesn’t trust his voice; just nods. He’s not sure if he should be okay with whatever he’s about to do, seeing as this is Pepito and all, but he’s too curious not to try it. And it’s not like it means anything. Pepito had said it himself, friends can fuck, and the lord knows how much Todd has been craving a sensual touch.

“Your word is sangre,” Pepito murmurs. “And I’ll replace the clothes.”

“Wha—” Pressure wraps around Todd’s wrist and pulls him into the dark. He sees nothing as his back is pushed into something with enough force to take his breath away. Cold bindings wrap tight around his wrists as more pressure pushes down on his ankles. It binds his legs together and pulls him tight against the slight padding of whatever he is pinned to.

“Remind you of anything?” Pepito asks from the dark.

It makes him think of crucifixion, and the time he pinned Pepito down with blades. Todd shudders and looks to the side. He finds Pepito’s eyes glowing in the dark. Todd gasps as something hot and sharp presses just below his belly button.

“Couldn’t help but get a little sacrílego, though if they ever put you on a cross, it might as well be the second coming.”

Todd’s face blares with heat.

“I’m not that goo-oh.” He chokes on the sound as the sharp point traces upwards, over his navel, his stomach, and then his chest; pushing his shirt up as it goes. He feels the cloth bunch beneath his chin, but he can’t tear his eyes from Pepito’s as the sharp item slices upwards through the fabric and splits it.

“They could use your blood to bless babies,” Pepito murmurs, voice silky. “A demon could get drunk off it; choke on it.”

Todd pants as four more heated points push into his chest. ’Claws,’ he thinks. ’He’s using his claws.’

Two more swift movements over his skin and the rest of the t-shirt is left in tattered ribbons on his chest.

“Better.” The room lightens as a dim, blue flame spreads down Pepito’s horns. He looks horrifying, his visage lit by nothing but his own silvery-blue light, and Todd finds it hard to breathe.

“Shhhh,” Pepito hushes as he leans in and kisses Todd deeply.

Todd whimpers as he tries to pull his hands up and wrap them around Pepito, but his hands are unable to do anything but twitch.

“I’m going to hurt you so good, amigo.”

Todd’s stomach jumps as something hot and thick drips onto his belly. He gasps and feels Pepito grin against his mouth. The smell of sandalwood and something spicy fills his nose.

“What’s the word?”

“Sangre,” Todd gasps as more drips onto his belly.

“Do you want to use it?”

Todd shakes his head.

“Good, because I still have more wax.”

Todd’s muscles jump as more of the heat drips onto him and slowly solidifies; the wax spread outward. Pepito moves his hand above Todd, who can see now that he is gripping a block that is melting beneath his palm. The block moves upwards, working its way in a zigzag slowly over Todd’s chest. Pepito pauses over one pert nipple and lets the wax drizzle over it. A groan escapes Todd as he arches into the heat.

“Thought you might like this,” Pepito says as he moves the ever-shrinking block above Todd’s other nipple. This time, he swallows Todd’s groan before leaning down and lapping at his neck. Pepito’s tongue is uncomfortably hot, creating two stinging trails as it laves over Todd’s throat, but Todd has no qualms as Pepito climbs up onto the table so he can have better access to Todd’s collarbone.

Todd clenches his teeth around a groan as Pepito’s fangs come into play and move back over the tender skin, pricking it; he can’t tell if the wetness is saliva or blood.

“How does it feel to be under my blades?” Pepito asks him, his nails dragging down Todd’s arm. He can feel the welts growing along his skin, though blood doesn’t spill. Pepito pushes his other hand on Todd’s chest, and he arches up as the last of the wax is spread over his skin by the searing palm.

“Pepito,” he whines as Pepito licks heat over the shell of his ear.

“What?” Pepito sits back, his leather-clad ass grinding down on Todd’s still clothed groin. “You want me lower?” He grinds gently. Todd’s head thuds back against the table as he nods and tries to spread his legs, but the pressure on his ankles keeps him pinned down.

“Needy.” Pepito snaps his fingers and Todd gasps as his jeans and boxers rip away from him, leaving the sting of friction burns beneath his thighs and the cheeks of his ass. The coolness of whatever padding he is laying on soothes them slightly. It feels like it might be silk, though it could be burlap for all the attention he’s paying to it.

Without the denim of his jeans, Todd can feel the soft glide of leather over the tip of his weeping cock. It is almost more torturous than the heat slowly cooling on his chest. He tries to part his knees, but the bindings keep his legs pulled tight, though they do start to move. Todd’s legs begin to pull apart, exposing him, as the bonds around his ankles move out to the side. He still can’t bend his knees.

“One more thing before we continue,” Pepito says as he starts to slide down Todd’s body. He kisses between the wax, heating the skin that escaped with kisses. It makes Todd’s muscles jump with each burning press of lips and makes his squirm when Pepito nips hard at his hip bone.

Beneath the glow of Pepito’s horns, Todd can see him grin, his teeth shark-like as he looks up at him. Pepito lifts his hand and snaps again, this time having a black ring appear, or are there two? Todd can’t quite tell in the dark; all he can tell is that there are buckles on the thick rings, and they look like they too are made of rose gold.

“Can’t have you ending playtime early.” Pepito licks up either side of Todd’s cock with the split of his tongue, making Todd arch as his dick weeps. With quick hands, Pepito wraps the leather and gold around Todd, tightening it almost painfully both around the base of his cock and around his balls.

“I should get you matching earrings,” Pepito murmurs, more to himself than Todd as he glides his claws in gentle lines up Todd’s dick.

“Pepito,” he whimpers.

“¿Qué es, mi amor?” He pushes a kiss to the tip before lapping away the pre-cum. Todd shudders, Pepito’s words making his cheeks heat.

“Amor? Doesn’t that m-mea—” He cries out as Pepito pulls him into his mouth and sucks. The question dies as his brain drops what marbles he has left and drunkenly tries to chase after them.

Pepito pulls off with a pop and Todd whimpers.

“You saying something?” Pepito asks before he starts to lap at Todd’s dick, treating it like a popsicle on a hot day.

Todd shudders under the tongue, brain trying to figure out how to explain that he wants more of Pepito’s mouth; or maybe more of the wax; Pepito’s claws in his thighs; fucking something because he’s overstimulated and aching. The ache is so much worse than the actual sensations Pepito can instill in him. The most he can get out is a breathy ‘more’ as Pepito sucks the tip of his cock into the heavenly heat of his mouth and threatens the skin with his teeth.

The mouth stays, moving down Todd’s shaft as he watches something fly to Pepito’s fingers. Todd can see the bones in Pepito’s flesh for a moment as his fingers heat. It is only a flash, but the digits are an after image in his retinas. The cube of wax starts to drip over his thighs.

’Distal phalanx, interphalangeal joint, middle phalanx, proximal pha-’ The names of the finger bones start to run through his head as he gasps and looks wide-eyed at the dark ceiling. They keep him grounded in the pain, and he begins the list over again when he feels the fingers of Pepito’s other hand start to push bruises into the underside of his thigh.

Everything he is reciting stops as wax drips above his pubic bone. It doesn’t make it past his pubic hair, but it threatens to burn the base of his dick, and he knows it will be hell to get the wax off later; a subtle promise of pain in the future.

Pepito pulls off Todd’s cock and blows over the wax, his breath warm enough to turn the hardening droplets back into liquid, forcing it back up towards Todd’s naval. The wax spreads like a fan, with Pepito adding more liquid as he blows the droplets along Todd’s skin.

“Can’t wait to get all of this off of you,” Pepito murmurs as he looks down at his handy work. “You’re gonna be such a pretty shade of red.” Pepito licks a line up Todd’s cock before pulling back. “But, enough with this shit.” Getting up, Pepito flicks his hand, and Todd hears excess wax splatter away as if it were nothing but water. Again, he watches Pepito’s hand glow, and the last of the wax sizzles on his skin before hitting the floor with a hiss.

“This is going to be the tricky part,” Pepito says as he wipes his hand with a towel. He’s next to a cart, one that Todd can just make out from the flames on Pepito’s horns, and on it is a large bowl with a cover on it. Pepito pulls the top off, and Todd smells something like brine.

“Do you know what happens when you put salt in water and try to freeze it?”

Todd would like to say ‘I don’t know, ask again later, when I have more than two firing neurons,' but said neurons are having a hard enough time coming up with the sentence. Thankfully, Pepito must realize this, or hadn’t been expecting a response at all.

“You have to get it a hell of a lot colder, or at least a few degrees colder, but I think it’ll be enough to withstand my body temp for a little while.” Pepito reaches out with the hand that had not been using the wax and pick up a large, circular ice ball. “Let me soothe your burns.” He gives a wink with one bright eye before pressing the ice to Todd’s side.

He lets out a shout as the cold skims along his ribs, barely touching anywhere the wax had dribbled. His flesh seems to shrink against him, feeling too tight along the lines of wax, still warm even though they have solidified.

“Your word?” Pepito hums, the ice continuing to trace over Todd’s side, down over his hip, and left to melt against his inner thigh.

It takes Todd a moment to realize what he’s being asked, but he stammers out, “S-sangre.”

“Want to u—”

“No,” he interrupts, his voice sharp. He closes his eyes and shudders as rivulets make their way down his thigh. “No.” If Pepito stops now, he might die, really he might, because the sensation is too good to stop. Everything is on fire and burning, and then that pinpoint of cold is so sharp and serene between at it all that he wishes it could cut him to the bone; freeze his flesh and muscle all the way down while the rest of him bathes in the heat of his hellacious paradise.

More cold presses against him, all at different points, and Todd’s eyes fly open to find half a dozen cubes floating over him. The ones that float don’t melt as quickly as the one in Pepito’s palm, leaving only slick trails in their wake as they move over his navel, nipples, pelvis, throat, and other thigh.

“Hable a mi, amor,” Pepito murmurs. His words unravel in Todd’s head slowly, the Spanish escaping him as he gasps. All he can register is the command.

“So good,” Todd pants as Pepito moves the cube he is holding up his thigh. It is almost gone, and it tapers off into nothing but water before it can reach his balls. Todd whimpers.

“Do you like the ice?” A new piece flies to Pepito’s fingers and then back to where the other had melted. Todd’s body jumps as Pepito slides the small sphere under his balls and presses it to his taint. It’s so cold, too cold, and so fucking perfect after the wax and heat. Todd sobs out a sound that he hopes conveys that yes, yes he likes the ice.

“Syllables, hombre,” Pepito mutters. “Gonna need some syllables.”

“Yes,” Todd grits out as the ice slides around his balls and up to his cock. The sensitive flesh fights the cold, but the ring around it keeps it flush and sensitive, making Todd twitch and dribble precum that mingles with the water dripping down his cock.

“You can do more than that,” Pepito murmurs sweetly as more ice floats over and tickles up Todd’s sides.

“It burns,” Todd gasps as Pepito moves the ice back down. “B-burns like the wax, but so deep and, f-fuck,” he arches his spine as Pepito pushes the small lump of ice against Todd’s hole.

“Deep, huh?”

Todd keens as the smooth ice is pressed against him, works into his resistant body, and then slips inside. He’s never felt anything so cold, and his insides spasm around it as he gasps. It is growing smaller by the second, disappearing, but the ache of the cold still sits inside him even when it’s just a chip.

Pepito leans down and kisses Todd who whimpers into his mouth. There is more ice line up with him. It is smaller than those drifting over him, maybe the size of a small marble, but it’s so damn cold.

“I think you’d like it even deeper,” Pepito whispers before the ice slips inside, followed in quick succession by two other, slightly larger globes. Todd arches off the table as much as the restraints will let him, eyes wide and body spasming against the cold. The smallest piece pushes deeper than anything he’s had in him, at least that is what it feels like. It and the other two are equally spaced, with the largest just far enough in that it won’t slip out. Todd groans and grinds down on nothing, his cock aching and insides twisting. The middle cube is just to the side of his prostate, delicious and cold, and he wants it, but it is already melting. They all are.

“Wonder if I can learn to go cold,” Pepito murmurs. “This is just ice, what if I could get my dick like this and fuck you with it?” Pepito spreads a hand above Todd’s lower belly and moves it.

The ice inside him moves with the hand, acting as if it is thrusting in and out. This time, the second piece does scrape his prostate, and Todd screams. For a moment there is white-hot pleasure, but there is no release. The pressure in his groin is still there, and he feels like he can count his nerve endings. The ice truly feels like a blade as he spasms around it and pieces slide over him.

“Pepito,” he begs, hips bearing down as he tries to gain the sensation again. “Please, please I w-want—” He bites his lip as the ice on his body slides off of him, but the spheres inside him stay. He finds Pepito hovering over him.

“What do you want?”

Todd turns to Pepito and shudders. Pepito’s eyes are almost pure flame, the irises barely holding back the fire. His horns crackle with heat, and Todd finds it hard to speak.

“Fuck me.”

There is a small flash of surprise before Pepito becomes something more predatory.

“That’s a first,” he murmurs and trails warm claws over Todd’s chest. “Usually the other way around.”

“Please, just, anything. Anything, I need-” Todd bites his lip and whimpers as he feels the wax on his entire body go runny for just a moment, and then with a swish of Pepito’s hand, it is gone.

“I know what you need,” Pepito murmurs. He pulls something out from behind his back. “Siempre lo sé.” The rose gold knife presses to Todd’s skin and traces down as Pepito walks around him. It doesn’t cut, but it does threaten, and Todd sobs as he feels the naked blade against his wax free flesh. The restraints move again, pull his legs apart further, and Pepito walks down his side, dragging the blade down Todd’s leg, over his foot, and then back up his inner thigh..

Todd feels the table shift as Pepito comes forward until it has receded so far back that Pepito can press his leather-clad cock to Todd’s ass. The knife trails carefully over the dip of his hip while Pepito’s other hand pops something open.

The lube that dribbles over his hole makes him keen and writhe. Something about it tingles, and the temperature of it is indescribable; being somewhere in the realm of hot and cold at the same time.

“Please, please please please,” he begs, and Pepito delivers with the slightest breach of a finger. The claw is gone, but not all of the ice is, and Todd feels the last small ball of ice twirl around Pepito’s finger as he presses inside.

“Tight little bitch, aren’t you.” Pepito doesn’t look away from him, his eyes drilling into Todd’s as the knife traces up his belly. “Bet you’d let me fuck you without prep.” He crooks the finger, and Todd thrashes.

“Yes, please, yes.” He’s edging on oblivion and looking into it’s smiling maw; it looks a lot like Pepito’s grin.

The finger inside him stills. “Vas a matarme hablando así.” Pepito’s voice is tight, body rigid.

“D-do it. I need it, Pepito, please. Anything, I’ll give you anyth—” His mouth is snapped shut by an unseen force.

“Don’t tempt me, Todd.” Pepito’s voice is harsh and breathy. “Because I may just make that deal. How can I not when you’re like this.” The knife presses down just beneath his sternum. Todd aches with the pleasure of orgasm but none of the release. “You’d sell yourself to me like this, wouldn’t you?”

“Yes,” he gasps, his brain unable to pause or even think. “Yes, yes, yesyesyes.” The word pours from his mouth as a second finger enters him and the small dagger slides an inch down his flesh, letting blood flow from the skin but not going deep enough to cut the muscle beneath. The fingers in him scissor and he tries to pull his legs up so that Pepito can have more room. The restraints allow it, though they are still there to hold him apart.

“J-just fuck me, I’ll give-give you—” The fingers in him crook upwards, and Todd cries out before devolving into a panting mess.

“Can I have your heart?” It is the smallest whisper, barely registering in his ears.

“Yes, take-” Before Todd can finish, the fingers in him twist, press, and begin to fuck him roughly. He cries out and thrashes, and soon they are replaced by something somewhat thick, definitely longer, and so much warmer.

His back comes off the table as Pepito slides inside him; his mouth pressed to the cut on Todd’s sternum as Todd tries to remember what breathing is. The knife is gone, but in its place are Pepito’s tongue and teeth, working the torn flesh and sending shocks of pain to writhe in his belly along with the pleasure from Pepito’s thrusts.

The twin prongs of Pepito’s tongue slip into his flesh, push, and it feels like he’s splitting him apart with one on either side of his sternum. They press down as Pepito presses in, and Todd swears he feels them lapping at his pulse, at his heart.

“Is this mine?” he hears more in his head than his ears. The words roll through him, and he arches into Pepito’s next thrust.

“Yeeeeees.” His voice is a hiss of drawn-out air as he feels pleasure spike for the third time and the pressure becomes unbearable. He knows the word that will stop it, but he can’t. Not while Pepito is tasting his pulse in the most literal of senses and his body is a mix of misfiring messages.

Todd’s breathing hitches when he feels a sudden flood of heat inside him. Pepito holds him tight as Todd’s body milks him through orgasm, begging for its own in return.

The tongue wriggle out of Todd’s chest as Pepito slides from Todd, and the sense of loss and need overcomes him. Tears are on his cheeks, he can feel them, and his throat is no longer working.

Pepito climbs up onto the table, body shaking slightly, his eyes on Todd. His clothing seems to burn off of him like smoke, leaving only the rose gold glinting in the light of his horns.

“Shhhh,” he hushes as he climbs up him, his body bare. Todd can feel lube dribbling down his cock, and it is torture against the swollen skin.

“I’ve got you,” Pepito whispers before sitting back.

The heat of Pepito’s cum is nothing like the tight heat of his body. Todd thrashes and sobs, tugs at the bindings and suddenly finds they aren’t there.

He sits up quickly, the cut in his chest throbbing, and he feels blood run down his abs as he grips Pepito tight. He wraps around him, thrusts up into him, and he bites down on the Prince of Hell’s shoulder as his body tremors with the need for release. He tastes skin for only a moment before it is eclipsed by the flavor of sulfur and copper. It is dirty, thick, and it sits on Todd’s tongue like the burn of booze. When Pepito pulls his head up and kisses him, he adds the taste of Todd's blood to the mix.

The taste of them mingled together, coupled with the cut on his chest and Pepito on his dick is the last straw. Pepito seems to realize this. The buckles on the cock ring open, the leather falls away, and Todd makes a sound like he’s dying.

Maybe he is. His heart seems to have stopped, all of the muscles in his body have gone stiffer than rigamortis, and the only thing that seems to be working is his cock as he cums deep inside Pepito.

“I’ve got you, amor, I’ve got you," Pepito whispers.

The hands on Todds' back are tight, so are the legs around his hips, and Todd gives a sob into Pepito’s shoulder as he remembers how to breathe. His body aches beautifully, horribly, and his brain is done sorting it all out.

“Shhh, here, I need you to let go.”

Todd doesn’t want to; he wants to keep Pepito against him and stay like this until his heart stops. But Pepito is stronger than any human, and he untangles himself from Todd easily before helping him lay down. When he slides off of him, Todd gives a choking sound at the last drag of flesh over his cock.

“Come here,” Pepito murmurs and lifts him. It should be awkward with their height difference, but it isn’t at all.

“Pepito,” Todd murmurs as the light from Pepito’s horns fades; or maybe that’s just his consciousness.

“Yeah?”

Todd opens his mouth to say something; he’s not sure what, but whatever it is dies on his tongue as his brain and his body make a mutual decision that it is time to shut down.

-------------------

The tub is tepid to Pepito, but he knows it is the perfect temperature for Todd, not that he’s awake to enjoy it. He’s a lump of bones and skin that has managed to curl his over six-foot frame against Pepito’s chest.

“Idiota,” he murmurs as he rubs his hand through Todd’s damp hair and then down over his skin. The water is doing its job, healing the worst of the damage; stemming the blood flow, covering the cuts and diminishing the burns. The hickeys will stay, mostly, and there will be bruises and the red outlines of burns. Only the cut will scar, and that’s only because Pepito wants it to. He wishes that the bite on his shoulder would scar too, but already it’s nothing more than a bruise.

Pepito looks up to find a piece of paper hanging before him. A full contract, signed and sealed, and completely legal by the standards of hell. Demons have done more to get a willing agreement before, and while his father might not agree with those tactics, it is a contract none-the-less. Todd’s name is on the dotted line.

“Do you have any idea how badly I’ve wanted this? To have a reason to keep you from heaven?” Pepito asks him gently, fingers grazing over Todd’s scalp. He gets only a slight sigh in response. “And now I have it, tasted what could be…” He trails off and looks at the small contract. Take away all the legal bullshit, and it dictates one simple thing. He owns Todd’s heart, the beating muscle, and only that. He could fight for the soul once his death day came, but with the heart in his possession that would never have to happen.

“After all these years saying you wouldn’t make a deal and all I had to do was fuck you for a signature.” He gives a bitter smile and sighs. “But you’re still not really mine, are you. Not the way—” ’I want you,’ he adds to himself. Pepito can’t bring himself to voice it.

He rubs at his face with a wet hand while he pushes the other to Todd’s back. He can feel the pulse of his heart there; how it tugs a bit like it wants to escape Todd’s chest and sit in Pepito’s palm.

He could put it in a box. Keep it safe and away from the world. Make Todd into something not entirely human.

“Only you could ever make a devil feel regret, huh ángel?”

Todd mutters something and smiles, his body language filled with nothing but trust.

Pepito feels his chest tighten.

“Fuck.”

He stares at the contract a moment longer before the parchment goes up in flames, bright and blue, and he thunks his head back against the edge of the tub.

The pulse against his hand goes back to normal, the tugging dissipating as the ash of the contract floats around them.

Pepito already wants the tug back.

“Mmmm, you okay?”

Pepito is startled by the slurred words. He looks down to find half-lidded, barely focused eyes looking up at him.

“Fine, amigo. Though pretty sure I’m supposed to ask you that.”

“M’ good,” Todd replies as he shifts in the water and snuggles closer to Pepito. Pepito feels his long legs stretch out before he winces.

“Sure you’re okay?”

“Yeah, jus’ sore.” Todd yawns.

Pepito chuckles. “That mean I get to do that again to you sometime?”

After what they had done, Todd shouldn’t look as pure and angelic as he does with the dusting of blush over his cheeks. “Yeah,” he says shyly and spreads a large hand over Pepito’s side. “I’d like that.”

Pepito snorts. “Bet you would.”

Todd gives a little laugh before relaxing against Pepito again. It only takes a moment before Pepito can feel his breathing start to even out.

“Oh no you don’t, you want to sleep then we’re doing it on a bed.”

“Five more minutes?” Todd pleads as he curls up in the water.

“You’ll be a prune in five more minutes.” That and the water isn't going to do much more for him.

“But I don’t think I can walk yet.”

“Then I’ll carry you, cabrón. Now come on.” He pushes Todd back and helps him stand on incredibly shaky legs.

Like a little lamb,’ he thinks as he scoops Todd up again and heads out of the bathroom. Todd keeps his arms around Pepito’s neck and sighs as Pepito walks their dripping bodies towards the bed; a conjured wind dries them as they go.

“You’re the best, Pepito,” Todd murmurs.

Pepito’s chest tightens, and he tastes the phantom pulse of Todd’s heart on his tongue.

Those aren’t the words he wants to hear.

“Bet your soul I am,” he murmurs to Todd.

Todd presses a smile to Pepito’s shoulder and giggles.

“Thank you," Todd says as Pepito lays him out on the bed.

The words are sincere, soulful, and nothing like the ones Pepito craves.

Pepito snuggles in next to Todd and presses his head to Todd's chest.

“Your welcome mi amigo.” He sighs as he listens to his relinquished prize beat steadily in Todd's ribcage.

Amigo is not the right word, not anymore, but what else can he say?

He’s the one who told Todd that friends fuck sometimes.

Chapter Text

Pepito thinks he may finally know how a junkie feels. He saw Todd under 4 hours ago, and here he is, fingers pressed to his phone, looking for a fix of attention from the ángel de ojos marrones. Hell, he can still taste Todd on his tonsils, or at least he thinks he can.

6:30 pm: still up for later

Pepito stares at the ceiling and waits to feel the buzz of his phone, one foot jiggling. They’re supposed to go out, Pepito’s treat, to go see a late, drive-in double feature of ‘The Blob’ and ‘The Thing’. It had been like pulling teeth to get Todd to agree, but it’s a weekend, and Pepito had promised Todd that he can sleep in hell for the night to recuperate before work the next day. That and, who is he kidding, to hopefully get his brains fucked out while Todd is still turned on by the site of well done practical effects gore.

Pepito glances back down at his phone and finds that there is no response. He frowns.

6:32 pm: dude i know ur on break
come on answeeeeeeeer
i will haunt teh store i s2g

Pepito stares at the phone hard enough that a dark spot starts to appear near the center.

“Shit.” He quickly looks up and sighs. He’s going to need another screen protector. Thank fuck he buys the things in bulk.

“Come ooooon,” he groans as he glides his finger over the screen again.

6:33 pm: toooooooodd
i’m just gonna keep messaging
You
6:34 pm: stop playing w the meat @ work at talk abt playing w mine

He stares again, not caring as much about the burnt spot since he’s going to have to replace the screen protector again anyway. Thirty seconds pass and the messaging app doesn’t even acknowledge that the messages have been read.

“Fuuuuuuuuck,” he groans and sprawls out like a ragdoll on his bed.

“What’s wrong, honey?” he hears behind him.

“Knock,” he calls back.

“Haven’t opened the door, sweet-heart.”

Pepito cranes his neck, horns digging into his bed, and finds that the door is indeed closed. No wonder his mom sounds so muffled.

“Can I come in?”

“Fine,” Pepito calls as he rolls over onto his belly. “But if Todd messages me back I need to respond,” he adds as Mary walks in.

“Oh, do you have another project?”

“Nah, going to the drive-in, and need some info from him while he’s on break,” Pepito grumbles.

“You don’t sound happy about that. Are they no good movies?” She sits next to him, a hand reaching out to scratch his back.

“It’s not the movies, it’s his sh—stupid work,” Pepito rests his head on folded arms and closes his eyes, “Todd barely gets a break in the first place, and if he’s not eating then they make him move around the shipments in the back.”

“Well, he is a good worker.”

“He’s a good worker because he can’t say no.” Pepito shoves his face into his arms. He wishes he could just have him work in hell, then everything would be taken care of for him, but he won’t do it, the stubborn ass.

“Then why don’t you go give him a reason to?” Mary’s fingers scratch up between Pepito’s horns, and Pepito melts a bit beneath his mother’s fingers.

“To what?” he murmurs, cocking his head just a little so that she scratches at the base of one horn.

“Say no.” She pats his head and pulls her hand back.

Pepito looks over at his mother with an arched brow.

“I just put away the leftovers, so they should still be decently warm, and if you do that fun little teleporting trick you and your father are so fond of then—”

Pepito jerks upwards to push a kiss to his mom’s cheek.

“Thanks mom, eres el mejor, bye!” Pepito doesn’t give her a chance to respond as he hurtles down the stairs. The leftovers of chicken, rice, and broccoli are sitting in tupperware; full meals for Pepito and Senor Diablo to take as lunches the next day. Pepito grabs the one for himself, and no sooner does he have the fridge shut, he is zipping through the space between dimensions and finds himself around the side of the local grocery store.

Pepito practically sprints around the corner as he feels his pocket buzz. He ignores it and instead jogs past the evening shoppers on his way back to the butcher’s shop.

“He’s in back,” the older man behind the counter says. He looks bored out of his mind, a hand on his chin and the meat case half empty; the best cuts already picked clean by the early birds and elderly daytime shoppers. The way his fingers push up into the meat of his cheek makes the crows feet on his face become deeper, and they almost touch the greying temples of his dirty, dishwater-brown hair.

“Gracias, cabrón.”

“God damn it, it’s Carson,” Carson calls as Pepito heads for the double doors to the back. “And speak goddamn English, ya lil’prick.”

“También te amo, cabrón.” Pepito’s voice is sickeningly sweet as he says it. He doesn’t hear Carson’s reply as he heads into the back, his eyes already looking for the object of his affections. Lust, it’s just lust, he tells himself. Yeah, right, because it’s lust that makes his stomach do a silly little flip as he finds Todd sitting on an old foldout chair, a lunchable that’s probably just old enough that they can’t sell it on the card table next to him, and blood splattered over his almost too short smock. Todd’s fingers tap away at the old, cracked screen of his phone and stop just before Pepito’s pocket buzzes again.

“Demasiado lento, amigo.”

Todd jumps, his head jerks up, and Pepito grins. He practically throws himself into the surprised guy’s lap, one arm around Todd’s neck while he presents the tupperware with the other.

“Brought you dinner.”

“You didn’t have to,” Todd replies, though he does smile.

“Gonna need your energy for later,” Pepito replies as he wiggles in Todd’s lap. The blush that spills over Todd’s cheeks is gorgeous, and Pepito can’t help but kiss the flushed skin.

“Pepito,” he hisses. “Cars—”

“Carson can eat my ass,” Pepito replies as his hand heats, not enough to melt the plastic in his palm, but enough to warm the tepid food inside. “Not that he’d be very good at it. His tongue is as dull as a bent spoon.”

“Still, I’m at work,” Todd replies as he gently nudges Pepito off of him. “I already get enough questions on if we’re dating. I’d rather not add to that rumor mill when, ya know...”

The we’re not hangs silent around them, and Pepito’s good mood dips a bit. He still saves face, though. He’s good at that.

“Let them talk. I can promise you at least half your co-workers are fucking someone they call just a ‘friend’. Not nearly as well as you do either.”

Todd’s cheeks go pink again, and Pepito forces himself to keep his ass in his chair.

“Now eat. You keep eating this shit and you’re going to get sick.” He pulls the lunchable to him and picks out a cracker, ham, and swiss.

“It’s only two days expired,” Todd replies, but doesn’t add anything else. He pops the top off the tupperware and, using a plastic fork from a cup on the table, starts shovelling bites of food into his mouth.

“Uh-huh,” Pepito responds as he eats the cracker and toppings. He’s not hungry, but he’s not just going to watch Todd eat. He knows Todd hates that, and it’s not like Pepito can get food poisoning. The shit will burn off in his system just like any illness or disease.

“Free food is free food,” Todd says with a mouth-full of rice and chicken.

“And salmonella is still death.”

Todd gives him a withered look, but doesn’t push the issue. Instead, he keeps eating at an alarming rate.

“Did you eat before work?”

Todd looks up with his puppy-like eyes, his hand stilling as he stares at Pepito.

“Juro por mi Padre, you’re going to make yourself sick.”

“I didn’t mean to; I just...you know, forgot.”

“How do you forget to eat?”

“Same way you forget to take off your eyeliner.”

Pepito quickly reaches up and smudges a finger under his eye. When he pulls it away, he finds his finger clean. Todd smirks up at him, his cheeks full like a hamsters.

“Haha, but seriously, I’m about to start showing up and just feed you, or teleport you to dinner when you’re working.”

Todd’s face scrunches. “Please no. You know I’d throw it all up the second you got me back here.”

“If you let me teleport you more often, you wouldn’t react so badly to it, ya know.”

“I don’t think I’ll ever get used to having my molecules pulled apart and put back together.”

“Bet you’d like it if I did.” Pepito eats another cracker.

“Did what?”

“Pulled you apart and put you back together.”

Todd pauses, eyes wide. The jolt of arousal is practically palatable to Pepito. He adds that to the list of ‘tries’. Well, at least mentally replicating how it would feel. He can do a lot of things in hell, but pulling apart the living and keeping them living is not one of them.

“Casil, we got any more chops?”

Pepito just about lights Carver’s hair on fire he glares at him so hard. Damn it, just a little more prodding and he might have gotten to have a little fun in the back bathroom before Todd has to start back up.

“Oh, uh, I’m not sure. Let me ch-”

“Eat,” Pepito replies as he reaches over and shoves Todd back down. “Cabrón puede hacer su trabajo sin ti.”

“What did he say?” Carver growls.

“That if we don’t, you’re a great butcher and can do a few cuts quicker than I can.”

Pepito smirks as he watches Carver look him over.

“Sure he did.” Carver closes the door to the counter.

“Someday he’s going to figure out what you’re saying,” Todd whispers.

“If he ever picks up a Spanish dictionary, I’ll absolve him of all sins myself.” Pepito shoves another cracker in his mouth.

“You can do that?”

Pepito looks at Todd and smirks. “What do you think?”

“I think you’re full of shit,” Todd replies with his own grin.

Pepito grabs his chest and gives a dramatic gasp. “Dios, ayúdame, mi secreto se revela.”

Todd laughs hard enough that he almost chokes.

“You’re too easy, amigo.”

“Pretty sure that’s just you.”

Pepito laughs. “You’ve got a sharp tongue tonight.”

“Better to eat you out with.” Todd winks.

Pepito doesn’t pray, but if he did, he’d be praying that Todd doesn’t notice how red his ears are; judging by how hot they’ve gotten, they’re probably pretty damn red. Todd’s tongue can do quite a bit and Pepito’s sure he hasn’t seen, or felt, everything it can do yet.

“Don’t tease, Todd.”

Todd smiles before he shovels more food into his maw, the container almost empty.

“Going to guess we’ll need the large popcorn tonight, huh.”

“Is ‘at o’ay?” Todd asks with a full mouth.

“Wouldn’t offer if it wasn’t. Besides, I know you’ll pay me back.” Pepito watches Todd pause, the gears in his head turning.

“Do you mean cash or-”

“Dios mio, idiota, no.” He leans in. “I’m going to take it out of your ass.”

Pepito can’t stop himself from pushing a smooch to Todd’s cheek when he blushes a violent red.

-----------

“Two tickets, please,” Pepito says from the driver-side window. The night is cool, the early October night having settled in to roost for the evening.

“That’ll be twenty dollars,” the man behind the register replies. He reeks of sin, and not just the usual.

“I think you mean free,” Pepito replies. He feels Todd shift uncomfortably next to him in the passenger seat.

“Um...no, twenty.”

“You sure?” Pepito asks, head tilted in mock confusion.

“Yeah, I’m sure. If you’re not then I can let security know and have them turn you around until you are.” The guy is moderately handsome, Pepito can give him that, but how he’s got a little love square going on is beyond him. But hey, a man’s sins are known to Pepito without question, and Pepito knows one of the girls in his square is underage just by the smell of him; it makes his adulterous sins even darker on his soul.

“Oh, I’m sure their free, either that or I can let your wife know you’re sleeping with both of your babysitters,” Pepito says smoothly.

“W-what?” All of the color drains from the man’s face.

“Though I’m sure Jenny and Sarah would love to know about one another. Hey, maybe you can do a threesome? Melinda would love to walk in on that, but then who would watch the kids?” He poises the question with a lilt of despair, as if that would be the worst part of the whole endeavour.

“Please,” the cashier hisses as he leans down. “You can’t tell her. I’d never win the custody battle.”

“Then, two tickets, please.” Pepito makes sure the guy can see how sharp his teeth are.

The tickets are shoved at Pepito by a very clammy hand. The teller looks like he might just puke.

“Thank yoooooou.” Pepito waves the paper at the cashier before driving into the lot. They’re late, the previews already playing, which means they’ll have to park either in the far back or up close, though Pepito doesn’t care too much. At least, not about the movie. He’s more upset that work kept Todd late: again.

“Did you really have to do that?” Todd whispers, acting as if the teller can still hear them even if he’s far behind the car and closed windows.

“No, but you have to admit, having to put 20 bucks in the register out of pocket is a pretty small price to pay for being a cheating dickwad.”

“But…” Todd pauses.

“But what?”

“Haven’t you been a cheating dickwad before?”

Pepito looks at Todd, feels his flicker of surprise, and quickly smoothing over his features. “Can’t cheat if you aren’t in a relationship, and you can ask anyone I’ve been with, there were no strings attached.”

“Oh...okay.” Todd murmurs.

Pepito’s stomach suddenly feels like it is filled with slimy, icy eels. He really doesn’t like that. Maybe popcorn will help. Yeah, lots of popcorn, sugar, and soda. At least then he’ll have a reason for feeling sick.

“One of the girls he’s cheating with is 16,” Pepito tosses out, trying to derail whatever is going on in Todd’s brain.

Todd is silent for a moment. “Should have asked for snack vouchers.”

“Damn, you’re right.”

“Are you going to—”

“Report him?” He reaches over and pats Todd’s thigh. “I will, just for you, and I’ll make sure he doesn’t have a restful night of sleep for the rest of his life.” Pepito makes a mental note to put a dream demon on the cashier’s case asap. Maybe he can get suicide added to the guy’s hell sentence.

Todd gives a thankful smile as Pepito finds a spot near the hedges that surround the lot —an ingenious way of keeping onlookers out without a ticket— and squeezes in next to another car. He may or may not use a little demonic power to push the van next to him over a bit, but if Todd notices, he doesn’t say anything.

“Come on, looks like we still have a few previews left. Let’s go get snacks.” Pepito throws open the door to his car. The frightened faces of a few high schoolers stare at him from the van. Whoops, maybe he shoved the car a little harder than he had meant to.

“Do you think they’ll have candy corn?” Todd calls over the car.

“Didn’t know you like the taste of plastic.” Pepito flashes his teeth and horns at the kids before following Todd.

“Hey, I like candy corn.”

Pepito falls into step next to him as they head for the mostly empty snack bar, the majority of moviegoers already situated with their snacks. “That means you like plastic.” He does his best not to grin when he sees, out of the corner of his eye, the van pass them on its way to a new spot.

They end up getting forty dollars in snacks. Popcorn, candy, soda, couple of hot dogs; the works. It’s a balancing act getting it back to the car, but much easier to get inside without the van next to them. Pepito moves their seats back with barely a thought, with no warning to Todd, who jerks to keep from spilling the items in his lap.

“Little warning?” he grumbles.

Pepito wiggles his split tongues at him as he reaches for the radio. There used to be speakers people would attach to their cars, at least that is what his father told him, but now it comes through a radio tower right on the premises. Using the AM station shown on the ticket, Pepito picks up on the announcer voice giving the rules about not annoying other cars, keeping the headlights off, blah blah blah.

Settling back into his bucket seat, Pepito unwraps his hot dog and starts to eat it, not bothering to try and make it look phallic; Todd’s to distracted with his own hot dog. The opening credits are starting and Todd’s eyes are already locked onto the screen. An icy tundra appears with a lone canine running across the white landscape. Pepito lets himself get into the story, a king-sized bag of Sour Patch Kids breaking his attention now and again.

About a half hour into the movie he reaches into the popcorn bucket and is surprised to find that it is still mostly full. Glancing at Todd’s lap, he finds that only one candy bag has been opened. By this point, Todd should be poking at what Pepito has left, what with his seemingly unending stomach.

The eels stir in Pepito’s belly again. He glances up at Todd’s face. He’s staring right at the screen, eyes intent on the pictures, though Pepito can’t tell if he’s really seeing them.

“You feelin’ okay, Todd?” he asks as he reaches out and touches his shoulder. Todd jumps so hard he pushes up against the door.

“Whoa, whoa,” Pepito puts his hands up. “I thought you liked these movies.”

“I do,” Todd replies, his voice a little off. “And I’m fine, just focussing.”

“You’ve barely touched your popcorn.” Pepito motions to the bucket.

Todd blinks down at it. “Not really hungry, I guess.” Still, he picks up a kernel and pops it into his mouth.

“Uh-huh,” Pepito looks him over, “What’s going on in ese cerebro tuyo?”

“Just watching the movie,” Todd replies, his hand moving back to the popcorn and taking another singular kernel. His eyes drop to the dashboard instead of looking back at the screen. Yeah, convincing.

“I’ve known you since we were kids, Todd, somethings wro—”

“I’m just tired, Pepito,” Todd sighs as he looks over at him, and his features do look to be ringed in an exhaustion that wasn’t there earlier. “Can we just watch the movie?”

“Yeah, sure.” Pepito shifts in his seat, the leather no longer moulding to him quite right. Every few minutes he finds himself trying to get comfortable again, though it never lasts for long. Todd sits next to him, quiet, and it makes Pepito even more restless. Explaining practical effects is one of Todd’s favorite things; something about how it helps him see the horror movies as just that, movies, and reminding himself that nothing in them is real.

Pepito starts jiggling his leg.

“Could you stop?” Todd asks a short while later. “You’re kinda moving the whole car.”

Pepito crosses his arms and sinks down into the chair, making it so he can only see half of the screen. He watches Todd out of the corner of his eye, sees him go to open his mouth and say something, and then he shakes his head and turns back to the screen.

The popcorn bowl is still mostly full.

The men are all lined up in a room, tied to chairs while one threatens them with a blowtorch.
Pepito can’t take it anymore.

The lack of Todd’s commentary is driving him insane and his spine is starting to ache while sitting so slouched. He snags the popcorn bowl, the few snacks in Todd’s lap, and tosses them onto the dash.

“Hey, wha—”

“Can’t get comfortable,” Pepito grumbles as he climbs into Todd’s lap.

“Pepito, not now, this is the best part.”

“Then tell me about it.” Pepito arranges himself so that his back is against the car door, his boney ass balanced in Todd’s lap with his legs thrown over the center console and his own seat.

“Pepito,” Todd sighs, his hands not settling around Pepito like he usually does.

“Tell me what’s wrong.”

“Nothing’s wrong. Can we just watch the movie?”

“No. You’re not telling me something.”

“Pepito—”

“You tell me everything, Todd. I’m your mejor amigo, so spill.”

Todd leans his head back and rubs at his forehead. “Please, Pepito, I don’t want to do this right now.”

“Do what? You’ve never had a problem talking through movies before, especially not ones you’ve seen 8 Billion times.”

“I’m just tired,” Todd replies, annoyance now clear in his tone.

“Then how about a nap?”

Todd barely gets out a ‘huh?’ before Pepito has their molecules flying between the spaces and they land on a bed. Not his bed at home, at least not in the mortal realm, but the one in hell.

“Pepito!” Todd yells before suddenly shoving Pepito off his lap. He throws himself to the side of the bed and starts to retch up his food from earlier.

Pepito feels a pang of remorse for the sudden teleport, but not much. Something is off, and he wants to know what it is.

When Todd finally sits up, Pepito has a glass of water in hand and holds it out.

Todd, despite looking queasy, manages to glare at him before he reaches for the water.

“Spill,” Pepito demands as he sits cross-legged on the bed. Todd doesn’t respond as he drinks the water slowly, the glass never leaving his hand. Pepito grits his teeth and suppresses the urge to shatter the glass, removing Todd’s excuse to be silent. He doubts that would go over well.

When Todd finally stops drinking, he stares down at the glass. “We’re missing the movie.”

“We’re in hell. You talk quick enough and we’ll have been gone for less than a minute.”

Todd glares at him. “I want to go back, Pepito.”

“And I want to know why you’re being a dick.”

“Me!?” Todd’s tone takes Pepito by surprise. “I’m being a dick? I didn’t just teleport your ass through time and space so I could throw a tantrum!”

“Hey! I was trying to take you out on a nice date! You’re the one who—”

“We’re not dating!” Todd’s voice echoes through the room, his face a mask of anger that Pepito has rarely seen. “‘Dating’ implies being a couple, and we’re not! We’re just ‘friends’ that ‘fuck’!” Todd pushes himself backwards so he can throw his legs over the side of the bed.

Pepito stares at his back; his chest feels like he's been stabbed with an icicle.

“Todd—”

“Don’t.” Todd’s voice is tight. “Whatever you’re going to say, just, don’t.” Todd rubs a hand over the back of his neck. “It’s not your fault. I’m the one who asked to sleep with you in the first place. Pretty fucked up, huh? Using your best friend for sex.”

“That wasn’t sex.” The words pop out of Pepito before he can swallow them down.

“Huh?” Todd looks over his shoulder at him, confusion easily readable on his face.

“That shit you pulled the first time wasn’t sex.” Pepito’s voice comes out angrier than he means it to be, or maybe not. That first night of reverent whatever-the-fuck is constantly on replay in the back of his head every single time Todd’s been inside him. It’s never been quite like that first time since, but he can feel it; that reference is there, waiting to be taken, and every deity out there probably knows just how hungry Pepito is for it.

Todd’s face flickers between confusion and sorrow before he turns away from Pepito. “I—It was just sex. You said it was.”

The icicle in Pepito’s chest turns a little more. “I’ve had ‘sex’ Todd,” Pepito bites out as he crawls off the bed so he can stand in front of him. “I’ve ‘fucked’ plenty, but what you did wasn’t either of those things, it was…” Pepito motions to the air as he tries to find the word. “Mierda, I don’t know what it was you did, but that wasn’t sex! It wasn’t fucking! It was…” Pepito drops his hands and asks in a shaking, quiet tone that startles even him, “Qué fue eso, Todd?”

Todd doesn’t look up at him.

“What was it!” He grabs Todd by the face and forces him to look up at him.

“Why do you call me amor?”

Pepito freezes for a single, harsh heart-beat before he jerks back.

“That time on the table, with the knives, you told me you were just joking, and I believed you because what else was I supposed to believe? You’ve told me over and over you’ve never loved anyone like that, romantically, so why...so why say it?”

Pepito’s heart is in his throat; a burning thud that makes him feel like bile is trying to creep up behind it.

“I didn’t—”

“Stop lying with your right tongue and tell me the truth with your left.”

“I’m not—”

“You made a deal for my heart, Pepito,” Todd snaps as he suddenly stands. “You bought it, I know you did, and then you burned the contract.”

’Shit. Shit, shit, shit, shitshitshi—’

“It was the heat of the moment!” he blurts. “An accident! I made a bad deal, and I fixed it. I didn’t want you to freak out, so I toasted the contract.”

“Don’t bullshit me, Pepito. I know when you’re lying. I’ve known you long enough.”

“Por el amor de mierda, I’m not ly—”

“‘Only you could ever make a devil feel regret,’” Todd cuts in as he takes a step forward, his height looming over Pepito in a way it’s never done before. Pepito’s belly has never felt so cold. “That’s what you said before you burned it, isn’t it?”

’This must be what it’s like for him to teleport,’ Pepito thinks as his stomach twists; the eels in his belly roil in a battle against one another.

“You were awake?” he whispers.

Todd ignores him. “If it was a screw up then why would you regret un-doing it?”

Pepito takes the smallest of steps back. Todd takes one forward, eyes unwavering. “Tell me why.”

The tone of the demand is so foreign. It is dark, hard, and so different from any sentence Pepito has ever heard that it makes his claws grow. He snarls and halts his retreat, body heating as he steps forward. “Why did you give it to me in the first place, huh?” Small balls of fire flare up around him, uncalled, and Todd jumps back. Pepito steps forward.

“You were so fucking beautiful like that, you know? Begging me, telling me you’d give anything to have me, and I wanted you so badly that I took you. I took your fucking deal and I tasted that.” He points squarely to Todd’s chest, the clothing blackening slightly under Pepito’s gaze.

You gave me that, Todd.” He moves forward again. “I didn’t have to do shit to get it. You gave me an open deal. Who even offers that? All I did was name a price, a ridiculous fucking price, and you agreed! I could have asked you for anything and-”

“But you asked for my heart Pepito! Not my soul, not my body, my heart.” Todd doesn’t step back when Pepito comes towards him, his feet firmly planted. “Why? Just tell me why!”

“Porque te quiero!” he roars. He finds himself above Todd, looking down, and he doesn’t care if the room around him is being lashed by the wind that holds him. “Or I lust for you, I don’t even know anymore! I’ve wanted you since the day you stepped foot in my home! But you never wavered, not even once, on making a deal until that night. And it wasn’t for a long life, or money, or protection, or any of that shit, it was for me,” Pepito jabs his thumb back at his own chest, “You wanted to sell yourself for me!”

“Pepito.” Todd’s voice barely breaks through the wind.

“So why don’t you tell me, Todd, out of all the shit I could give you, why was my cock the most appealing piece of real estate.”

Todd’s face screws up into an ugly look. “You thought it was for your— Jesus, Pepito, no wonder you wanted my heart!” he yells over the roar and crackle in the room.

“Why? I’d love to know.”

“Because you don’t fucking have one!”

Todd’s anger and pain has a sharp edge, and it cuts Pepito down out of the air so suddenly that he stumbles. The rage on Todd’s face melts quickly into worry as he takes a step forward.

“Don’t,” Pepito hisses as he knocks his hand away.

“Pepito, I didn’t mean—”

“Don’t lie, Todd,” he snarls. “It smells awful on you.”

Todd’s eyes go wide, but he drops his hand. The room smells of burnt wood and metal, the walls are scorched, the bed smoldering in places, and what few items Pepito keeps in this second room are broken and scattered all over the floor. The silence surrounds them, bloated and rotting the longer it festers.

“I-I’d like to go home, please,” Todd whispers finally, his arms wrapping around himself, eyes looking down at the floor.

The eels in Pepito’s belly dance.

“Whatever you want, amor.”

Todd’s head snaps up, eyes twisted with a pain that Pepito has only ever seen in the pit. Pepito sends him away with a flick of his wrist; two tears still manage to fall to the burnt floor before Todd disappears.

“Maldición.” Pepito’s nails bite deep into his palms as he stands in his destroyed room. “Maldición!” Flames blaze around him, sizzling through the room. He grabs the base of his bed and throws it to the side, the metal frame hitting the wall and warping with a thud that isn’t nearly loud enough. He picks it back up and rams it against the wall again, and again, and again until strong arms wrap tight around his waist.

“Pepito, está bien.”

Pepito lets out a roar as he tries to whip the bed backward. A single, boney hand catches the frame easily.

“ Hijo, silencio, ¿qué pasa? Shhh. Está bien. Shhh.”

Pepito tries to wrench the bedframe back, but the hand grips it tight and the arm around his waist pins him against the tall body behind him.

“Juan, is he okay?” he hears from the doorway.

Pepito drops the bed.

“Pepito, hijo, está bien. Papá te tiene.”

The bed clangs to the floor, and Pepito slumps and lets Señor Diablo turn him so that his face presses into his father’s sternum.

“Juan, what’s happening?” Mary calls from outside the door.

“It’s okay, amor,” he calls back as Pepito grips him tighter.

Bile taints Pepito's tongue.

“¿Qué pasó, hijo?”

Pepito finds he can’t respond. His chest hurts too much with his heart trying to escape out his throat.

Chapter Text

Todd leans over the toilet and wretches. There’s nothing left in his stomach, but that doesn’t stop it from gurgling up bile and demanding it leave. Tears squeeze out between his lashes, his nose runs, and he gags again.

“Don’t lie, Todd. It smells awful on you.”

Another wave of nausea hits him, and when he pulls in a breath, it is broken by a sob. He hadn’t meant to say something so awful, had he? Todd doesn't actually feel that way about his best friend. Pepito is like his family, he and his parents had been there for him while locked in that horrible asylum. Hell, Juan had been the one to get him out and had it sorted so that Todd was to be paid for the time he had spent in that hellhole doing test upon agonizing test.

And then his libido had gone and fucked it all up.

His legs shake as he rises from the floor. He feels like he’s gone through a round of shock therapy; all of his muscles tight and jumping, his skin cool with sweat and the pads of his fingers and toes numb.

He barely registers the shower he forces himself to have before heading back to his room.

Clothing isn’t something he cares about just then, and he forgoes anything, opting to fall face first onto his bed; his face pressed into his pillow.

“I screwed up, Shmee,” he mumbles, the fluff inside all that is left of the teddy bear he loved to tatters as a child. “I think—” his throat constricts and he lets tears squeeze out between the lids. “I think it might just be you and me again.” Nausea returns, his chest constricts, but he keeps his jaw shut tight; holds everything down. Screaming won’t help. It didn’t when he was a child, or in the asylum, and it won’t now. It’ll just attract things that Todd won’t like; things that might hurt him, abduct him, tear him to shreds.

He opens his mouth and shrieks. Shrieks and screams until his throat feels like it’s in tatters and the Shmee pillow is damp with tears, snot, and saliva. Todd doesn’t care. He just lays in the house with the same address as heaven and feels an old hell march towards him.

Todd feels alone.

----

He doesn’t remember falling asleep, but at some point he did, and he wakes up with his face feeling sticky and swollen, Shmee held tight against his stomach as he pushes his back into the wall behind him. On the floor, in the pile of yesterdays clothing, his phone is going off.

Shmee goes flying across the room as he vaults off the bed for the pants. He snatches the phone out of the front pocket so quickly he almost tears out the inner fabric. It stops ringing before he can answer.

“Shit,” he bites out a he turns it on to look and… “Dib?” He looks at the cracked screen in confusion. Why was his chemistry partner calling him on a Saturday? Todd ignores it for a moment to check his messages.

6:34 pm
stop playing w the meat @ work at talk abt playing w mine

6:40 pm
Sorry.
They had me finishing some slices

6:41
Are you still there?

9:03 pm
holy shit hurry
were gonna be late
ur shift is over
cum on

9:04 pm
Coming!

9:04 pm
not yet u arent
There are no new messages.

Why should there be? After everything Pepito had tried to do for him last night, and he’d gone and snapped at him; berated him. And out of all the things to point out and attack, it was Pepito’s heart. The thing that Pepito had told Todd over and over again didn’t feel things like his, work like his, even if somehow his mother and father had one of the most loving relationships Todd has ever seen.

Yet, when Todd would lay with him, he’d hear it beat; the comfortable thud of another living being. A sound that, if Todd ever really thought about, he’s sure he’s the only one who has ever heard it in the warmth of afterglow. All of Pepito’s other bedmates were booted out afterward or abandoned. He doesn’t need a bed warmer; he can do that himself.

Still, even before sleeping with Todd, he would still just show up at his house. Lithe Pepito, with fading bruises and reeking of sulfur and sex despite being damp from a shower. The demon that would headbutt him into rolling over so he could use Todd’s chest as a pillow despite there always being an extra waiting for him.

Todd sniffles a little, though no tears find their way out of his eyes. There isn’t anything left in the ducts. They are too numb to provide more than the minimum needed moisture, and they’re doing a pretty shit job at that with how dry and itchy they feel.

Picking up Shmee, Todd climbs back onto the bed. He sits cross-legged with Shmee in his lap and stares down at his phone. Both thumbs hover over the digital buttons, brain trying to think of something to say. Should he apologize over text? Would Pepito even respond? Maybe he should go over and talk to him, or at least ask his Mom how he is. He hopes he’s okay. The last time he’d seen Pepito even close to that mad, Todd had still been in the asylum. To have that anger thrown at him, though, well...now he knows how that orderly had felt. At least he still has all of his skin.

Todd just about drops his phone as the ringer goes off again. He fumbles it only once before sliding the green circle and snapping it up to his ear.

“H-hello?” Wow, is that his voice? Todd tries to clear the muck out of it.

“Uh...Todd?”

“Yeah, it’s me.” He tries to clear it again and feels something thick try to slide down the back of his throat. He quickly leans over the bed and spits into his trashcan.

“Man you sound awful. You sick?”

“No just…” Todd trails off before spitting in the can again. “What do you need?”

“Oh, uh, could I get a copy of your notes from last week? Caught mine on fire and if I don’t do the homework just how professors-stick-up-his-ass wants I’m gonna get another fail.” Todd hears the clacking of keys in the background. “The fact that he isn’t willing to look at other possible methods is so limiting, and if it weren’t for the fact that I need this class to get my fucking degree, I would rearrange every beaker in the cabinet and—

“I don’t have a scanner,” Todd cuts in. He doesn’t feel like being privy to this rant again. He’s heard it enough in class.

“Just a pic will work,” more keystrokes in the background, “I can enhance it on my computer.”

“Okay, sure,” Todd sighs. “Just let me find my backpack.” He stands up, fully aware that he’s still nude, and instead opts to search for underwear first.

“Seriously, man, you sound like shit. You doing okay?”

“It’s nothing,” Todd replies as he pulls out some boxers from his dresser and puts them on one-handed.

“Hey, I may be a social outcast, but even I know from movies and shit that those are code words for ‘I’m fucked’.”

Todd gives a miserable chuckle as he walks out of his room. “That easy to tell?”

“You sound like you gargled tacks. So yeah, that easy.”

Todd doesn’t respond as he walks towards his kitchen table, his bag sitting against one of the lopsided wooden legs.

“Soooo, you gonna tell me what’s up?”

“Do you really want to know?” Todd pulls the bag up and drops it on the table.

He can almost feel Dib’s shrug from this end of the line. “I don’t have anything going on, and think of it as a thank you for listening to my jersey devil theory last week.”

Todd inwardly sighs. This is not something he wants to talk about with Dib, though his weird stance of ‘eye for an eye’, even when it comes to positive things, is hard to shake.

“No reason for a thank you, it was interesting.” Todd pulls out his chemistry book. Would that smell like a lie? The theory had been interesting. Well, the first five minutes had been, contextually at least. The rest he had listened to because, well—

“Really?”

Todd finds himself giving a little smile at the amount of energy that bubbles out of that one word. That, that was the reason he always listened to the rest. Someone with so much passion about something deserves to be listened to.

“I mean, I didn’t understand all of it, but what I could I thought was cool.” Not a lie. “Though why Bigfoot would make a deal with aliens to create a diversion is kind of beyond me.” Also not a lie. So that meant the first one hadn’t been a lie either, right? He wouldn’t smell.

“See! That’s the beauty of it,” Dib starts, a grin spreading through the phone. “The government would never think of it! The aliens use Bigfoot as a basis of study to get the general principles of humanoids without humans talking about their abductions. Then, Bigfoot gets a break from the press whenever the aliens send the holographic version of the Jersey Devil shooting through the forest! Then they—”

“Gonna take the pictures,” Todd cuts in as he flips the book open and holds his phone over the paper. He opens a fresh message to Dib, goes to add an attachment, and snaps the photo. He makes sure to get the full page in frame and then repeats the action two more times before sending. When he puts his phone back to his ear, he hears mumbling.

“—aybe if I focussed in on the Ferris wheel with the laser sight then-”

“Ferris wheel?” Todd asks, stopping Dib before he says anything he might not want Todd to hear. The guy talks to him more than, well, Todd.

“Shit!” The word fades sharply at the end and is followed by a thud. “God damn it,” is barely audible before it is followed by rustling. “Sorry, dropped the phone.”

“I could tell.” Todd sits down in one of the mismatched kitchen chairs. “Why are you going to a Ferris wheel?” He won’t eavesdrop, but a Ferris wheel sounds simple enough. Anything to distract him at this point.

The buzz of the phone line is the only thing he hears.

“Dib?”

“Just a little hunt I’m doing, nothing big,” he says finally.

“Hunt?” Okay, so maybe not so simple.

“Yeah, I think there may be a...you know what, no, your turn. You’re the one who sounds like you’ve gone through an abduction. What happened?”

Todd winces. Abductions are not fun, he remembers, even if they are only snippets. They don’t usually leave him feeling this wrecked, though. He’d trade this feeling for an abduction any day.

“I-it’s nothing. I mean it.”

“Nuh-uh. You were going to tell me before you got me sidetracked on Bigfoot.”

Todd can’t hear any keyboard clicks in the background.

“Come on man, spill. Who knows, maybe I can help.”

Todd chews on his lip. Is this a good idea? Dib does have some ‘theories’ about Pepito. Some very accurate theories, though Dib has never been able to get anyone to believe him. He has others, of course, mostly dealing with the occult, cryptids, and space. Todd believes in quite a few of those theories as well; at least some of them. Their classmate Zim being an alien isn’t one of them. He’s seen aliens, and while Zim does have an odd complexion, he’s not the right shape. Plus Pepito would tell him if he was one, right? Zim is Pepito’s lab partner after all, and Pepito would know.

“Um, well…” He wishes for a cord suddenly; the long coiling ones that he used to twirl himself up in as a child; at least until his mother had grabbed the mouthpiece and spent an hour talking to someone while asphyxiating him with it. Still, having something to wring in his hands would be nice.

“Pepito and I had a, uh...a fight.”

There is a small beat of silence. “Oh man. I’m sorry. Are you two still together or—”

Todd can’t help the bitter bite of laughter.

“What?”

“We were never together, Dib.” Todd’s voice holds a tinge to it that makes even him feel uncomfortable.

“R-really? I thought—” Dib bites off his own question. Todd silently thanks him.

“Yeah.” His voice sounds thicker than before. Todd rests his forehead in the palm of his free hand and sets his elbow on the table. He suddenly can’t keep his head up on his own.

“Way you two were always hanging on each other, I just kinda assumed. I swear I saw you two kissing in the parking lot a few times.”

“Yeah, well,” Todd tightens the grip on his forehead, “Pepito doesn’t do relationships.” The words burn bitter and acrid on his tongue.

“Oh.” The syllable settles heavy in Todd’s ears.

“Yeah.”

Silence stretches between them as Todd holds his head. He wants to go back to bed; put some of that sick time of his to use maybe. He works an evening shift but going in sounds absolutely awful right now. It would be the first time he’s taken a sick day without being violently ill.

’This feels pretty violent,’ he things to himself as his body aches.

“Can I do anything?” Dib asks gently.

“Got a time machine?”

“Not a working one.”

Todd chuckles as a few tears drip from his face. “Of course not,” he chuckles weekly. “Just my luck.”

“Do you want to come out with me tonight?” Dib asks tentatively, “On the hunt I’ve got planned I mean.”

Todd goes still. “Huh?”

“The thing with the Ferris wheel.” The clacking starts up again in the background. “See, there’s some weird shit that keeps happening to anyone who goes on it. They see stuff that isn’t—”

Todd rips the phone from his ear as it is filled with the high pitched sound of feedback and sudden yelling.

“—IR I SAID NOT TO TOUCH THAT! What are you doing with that cord? Gir. GIR! That is not a jump rope!”

“Uh...Dib?” Todd asks over the line.

There is a stretch of nothing but background rustling and soft swearing, though neither seems to be connected. Todd swears he hears a high pitched cackle as well.

“Dib, what’s—”

“You fucking tapped my phone!?”

Todd has to pull his head away from the phone again.

“What? Now what is the Dib-stink talking about? The Todd does not tap things.”

“I’m talking to you, Zim!”

“What!? But I— GIR!”

“Um...what’s going on?” Todd’s brain can’t take much more insanity this morning. Oh, right, he should probably go take his meds after this.

“Zim tapped my phone!” Dib shouts. “Why kind of dirty, no good—”

“You did the same thing to me last week!” Zim shrieks. It is followed by a larger volley of accusations and something about...salami?

“Uh...I think I’m gonna go,” Todd says gently, thumb reaching for the end button.

“Wait!” Zim’s shrill voice is not helping Todd’s head, but he waits.

“You are having issues with the satan child, yes?” Zim’s voice is even but curious.

“So he is a de—”

“I AM TALKING!” Zim’s voice rips through Dib’s sentence and Todd’s temples. There is definitely a thudding in them now.

Todd gives up and sets the phone on the table, switching it to speaker.

“Are you still there, tallest Todd?” Just the tone of voice makes Todd feel like he's under a microscope.

“Um, yeah," he mutters while rubbing his bare arms, "We had a fight.”

“And you want to apologize?”

“Well, I—”

“Then present him an artifice of soft meat crowns and viscera, yes? Those are things his kind enjoys.”

Okay, the fact that Zim knows what Señor Diablo gives out at the winter solstice party is slightly unsettling

“Some phone tapper you are, can’t even tell Pepito’s the one being a dick,” Dib snorts. There is the hum of frantic typing in the background.

“What?" Zim Squaks. "Then why does the Todd sound so sad? He only shows remorse when horrible things are done on his behalf.”

“What?” Todd hears Dib echo his question.

“Not once have I ever seen the tallest Todd become emotional when horrific happenings strike him. He is renowned for keeping calm beneath the scalpel. Especially among Joulks.”

“Jou—whats?” Todd’s voice has gone a tad high as thin memories push at the back of his head. He feels a very sudden and intense urge to hug Shmee.

“Jocks! The evil jocks from our youth!” Zim yells frantically. “You had them in your secondary education facility, correct?”

“I didn’t go to highschool, Zim. I was…” Todd trails off. Wait, didn’t Zim already know about him living in the asylum?

Dib clears his throat. “Todd is sad because his boyfri—, I mean because Pepito is being a jerk to him.”

There is a hum of thought that is clearly from Zim. “That makes no sense. Todd is the tallest human I’ve seen, and Pepito has been subservient to him in most wants. Why would Pepito not succumb to his whims now?”

“I-I don’t have any whims.”

“You mate with him, do you not.”

Todd’s face burns hotter than he’s felt for a while.

“How did you—”

“My superior nose can smell it on him.” Disgust drips through the speaker. “He always smells of your exotic freshness and you his horrible spice. It burns, BURNS! You both need stronger soap!”

“You have a nose?” Dib asks.

“SILENCE!”

“Hey, it’s a decent question! You’ve never let me take a close enough look to tell if those slits on your face are prosthetics!”

“I thought you said it's a birth defect,” Todd tries because he does not want to switch back to the prior topic. That had been getting just a little too weird. And what the hell is a Joulk and why does it sound so familiar?

“I...yeeeees. I did not develop the cartilage needed to—”

“He’s a fucking alien, Todd!” Dib cries. “Don’t let him fool you! I know you’re smart enough to not believe his lies! Or is it because of Pepito. Has he done something to your mind?”

Okay, Todd’s head is starting to pound. He rubs his hand over his face, unable to answer before there is a sudden blip from his phone.

“What was that?” Zim hisses. “Gir, trace that transmission!”

“Can I use a pen?” Todd hears faintly.

“You’ll never hack my encryption, Zim!” Dib gives a strangely energetic (crazed) laugh. “That’s the address, Todd. Let me know if you’re in!”

“Wait, but I—”

The phone cuts.

“What was that all about?” Todd grumbles as he reaches for his phone.

“I don’t know; he’s always been like that,” Zim replies. Todd almost falls out of the chair. “You wouldn’t be willing to tell Zim where you’re going tonight, would you?”

“Um…I think it would be rude to tell you without asking him first,” Todd tries. Because, hey, it’s true.

“Waaaaaaaaait. Are you going on one of those horrible human ‘dates’ with him.”

“What!? No!” Todd cries, sitting up in his chair with his heart hammering in his chest.

“But you are going somewhere with a fair-as-wheel. Those are pinnacle points of human romance, and you are both some of the tallest specimens of the species.”

“In movies maybe but, wait, specimens?”

There’s a beat of silence.

“Whelp, got to go, Gir is trying to eat my homework, bye!”

“I am?” Todd hears a mechanical voice say just before the line fully disconnects.

Todd stares down at his phone, the red circle appearing to tell him that the call is now, indeed, over. He taps on the alert at the top of his phone screen. An e-mail appears with a single attachment.

“Fallout Fair,” he reads, the digital flyer accompanied by a nuclear hazard sign with a jack-o-lantern face.

He bites his lip. He has work, and really going out sounds horrible. Plus what if Zim’s right? What if it’s a...date. Wouldn’t Pepito get made if—

“Can’t cheat if you aren’t in a relationship.”

Something warm and unpleasant settles in his belly.

He hits a button on his speed dial.

“Hey, I’m sorry to do this to you, but I’m not feeling well today and won’t be coming in.”

At least it’s not a lie.

---------------

Pepito breathes hard as he pistons his hips, rocking in quickly while his claws sink into skin. The screaming soul beneath him isn’t getting anything out of what he’s giving them, and that’s the point. This is a punishment for them; each thrust feeling like a stab from an acid-laced knife into their body.

He usually loves doing these punishments. They get him off, count as helping his father deliver sentencing, and let him get out some aggression; at least until Todd started helping him with that last bit.

Pepito snarls and tries to go harder. This is what he needs, to blow off steam, or smoke, or a mixture of both as his hands heat and the flesh beneath his fingers bubbles and blackens. The only reason he is fucking this damned bastard is because it’s letting him release his rage. It’s not because from behind, if he squints, they look like they have a certain shade of brown hair, or that their voice hits a specific octave when he jerks in just right.

But they don’t feel right. Yeah, their tight and raw and all that, but the resistance is just not doing it for him. He needs something else, some small detail, but he can’t figure out what. Maybe if he stops the damn screaming? Is that what he wants, some damn silence?

With a snap of his fingers, their mouth is sealed, only muffled groans escaping. It sounds like someone stabbing a mute.

Nope. Fuck. Definitely not doing it for him anymore. Not even the scent of burnt blood in his nose is slicking his bloodlust. There is a specific scent he’s looking for; pure and soothing with an afterburn that—

“Damn it!” Pepito shoves the body forward into the pit of coals he had been threatening them with the entire time. They wail against their sealed mouth as Pepito steps down off of the platform. He’s not even half hard anymore.

“Take over,” he tells the demon waiting nearby.

“Y-you want me to finish, sir? Again?”

“Well someone here better fucking finish!” he snaps as he stalks to the door. It pops up from the wall, leads into his personal bathroom, and then shuts behind him. The frame sinks into the wall then pops back out a second later, his bedroom now at his back.

He hasn’t left hell in twelve days. Twelve long, irritating, days. He could leave, that’s not a problem, but what’s the point? Out in the real world, it’s Saturday morning; a lazy, useless time meant to be spent holed up playing games, or going out, or fucking your boyfri—

The mirror shatters for what is probably the forty-seventh time within those twelve days.

His fist aches as he pulls back, glass in the joints and digits, but it’s not close to what he wants; though what that is escapes him.

More like your running from it, his subconscious whispers.

He ignores it and focuses on watching the mirror stitch itself back together. The cracks fill and smooth into a whole plane of glass that makes him want to punch it again, maybe trash his room; not that it’s possible now. He doesn’t pretend to understand everything his father does —or how—, but whatever he did to Pepito’s bedroom is at work and no matter what he breaks it just repairs itself.

Maybe he should go find a few bones to snap instead. All sinners are at his mercy, after all, and not all those who are damned are in hell.

“Pepito?” His name floats through the bathroom door; the syllables tinged in maternal worry.

Rage flares for only a moment before he remembers his nudity. Demons, damned souls, he doesn’t give a shit if they see him nude. But his mom? No, that’s not okay.

The shower becomes his refuge as he jumps behind the opaque glass and cranks up the water. Steam billows up immediately, though the water isn’t warm enough; it never is for him. Hell hath no torture like a tepid shower.

“Oh, sorry sweetie. I didn’t know you were in the shower,” Mary calls through the wood.

“Was just getting in, Mamá,” he calls over the water.

“Oh, well, no hurry. Just wanted to tell you that you had a phone call up top.”

The tap under his hand breaks off.

“What?” He’s not sure if his voice sounds strangled from the surge of water forcing itself against his chest or from pure shock.

“Darling, are you okay?” The door opens a fraction but no further.

“Sí, bien, who called?” His heart is trying to crack open his chest from one side while the water leaves bruises on his sternum.

“Oh darn it...Tim? Kim? No, that’s not right,” there is a brief pause as Pepito tries to find a better angle beneath the raging water while the self-repairing handle tries to battle the flow and reattach to the wall.

“It was a very loud young man. Said he had information about the ‘Todd Human’. I think he was calling to check in wi—”

Pepito doesn’t have to worry about his nudity as he flies out of the bathroom. He’s too covered in steam for his mother to see anything; the towel in front of his waist is just a precaution.

“Oh dear, Pepito are—”

“Estoy bien, Mamá.” The snarl probably isn’t very convincing, but if that alien has done anything to his human, then there is about to be a war of the worlds the likes that the universe has never seen.

“Let me know if you need anything,” Mary calls after him as he heads through the door that pops open.

Pepito pushes through the back of his closet and out into his bedroom. It’s about the same as it was before his stint in hell, maybe a little cleaner; the laundry is gone. If he were human, he might thank God, but instead, he just praises whatever random number generator God set up for the roll that made his mother.

“I’ll be downstairs if you need me!” comes from the closet before it shuts with a flick of his hand. As the latch clicks, he feels the pressure in the house shift as Mary enters through the laundry room’s portal.

His phone is sitting on his side table, the burnt cover replaced, and the charger plugged in. There is little time to genuflect in thanks to his mother; not with the 30 or so messages flashing on his screen.

A flick of his thumb and he sees them all.

9:37 AM
demon spawn I have news!
you will want to hear of the things ZIM has to offer
for i have information about the stink human Dib
and your ward

9:38
are you participating in the strange human customs of mourning?
i did not think you would do such things
even human hellspawn is weak
the great ZIM would never fall to such weak things as feeling
i laugh at them for they are beneath me!

9:43
seriously
i have knowledge you want
why have you not answered?
this is worse than our project of partners

9:50
do you sleep like the humans?
fascinating
i’ll make a note of this for future plans
that you do not need to know about

10:05
ZIM has become bored with your silence
if you are not interested in what ZIM has to offer you then say so
being left to wait and hear from one such as you is below me
no wonder the tallest todd human is upset with you
you can’t even procure your cellular device in a timely fashion
i will try this land-line i have read about
how idiotic to keep books filled with personal numbers in it
no wonder you humans suffer from this need to stalk
it is made so easy

10:19
i have spoken with the matriarch of your family unit
she seems kind
i will be over for baked items within the week

10:27
is this a common thing for you?
the not answering of phones
maybe the dib-stink will find a way to woo the todd afterall

10:30
nonsense!
no human would ever stoop so low as to be with him
especially not one as kind as the todd human
though maybe that will be his downfall
allowing himself to feel so deeply that he lets the dib-stink taint him
can one be tainted after the devil?
your human terms and customs still get so convoluted

10:33
what is with this silence?
is this how you drove off your mate?
he is sensitive, yes?
this must be it
~~~~

Pepito watches the squiggles that mean Zim is typing with a snarl.

10:23
teh fuck do u want

10:23
if you still want this information message me later as i am done with this waiting
oh so you do live
your maternal unit told me she would contact you
i’m assuming you were awoken

10:24
whats goin on w/ todd

10:24
i don’t understand your species incessant need to sleep
yes
the todd human
he is going to a human gathering with dibstink
Pepito stares at the screen of his phone.

“What?” The lab partner? The one who practically talks Todd’s ear off and makes wild accusations in class? The Cassandra of the age, according to his father. That fucking ‘Dibstink’? He doesn’t even talk to Todd, outside of class work, so why would they go anywhere together?

Why was he even talking to Todd?

10:25
wtf r u talking abt

10:25
are those words?

10:25
fuck this im callin

10:26
good
your strange demonic grammar is not something ZIM has studied
it is confusing
Pepito hits the little phone icon, not that it even resembles what a ‘phone’ looks like anymore. Still, it does what he wants as his right ear is suddenly assaulted by the shrill voice of his alien science partner.

“Ah, finally, the satan child has responded. I have much to discuss with you.”

“What the fuck do you mean Todd is going out somewhere with Dib?” It takes all his control to keep from shouting; well that and not to melt the phone. He’s getting close to overheating it, though. For its own safety, and his sanity, Pepito hits the speaker button and tosses it on his bed.

“Yes, the Todd. It seems that he is in a very tumultuous state and the Dibmeat is using it to his advantage. Though they are both of the tall persuasion, so them becoming interested in mating is—”

“WHAT!?” The scent of burnt carpet fills his nose.

“Is this a bad connection? I said that—”

“Esa pieza con gafas de mierda. Le arrancaré la garganta y se lo daré a Peca!” He chucks a handful of fire at his bedroom wall. As with hell, the wallpaper begins to mend itself as the fire is smothered by whatever charm his father has set.

“Uh...yeah. I have little desire to switch my translator, so if you could stick to English I’d—”

“Where the fuck is he taking him!?” Pants, he needs pants. Maybe shoes. Fuck it; he’ll light up that fucking paranormal dweeb in the nude if he has to.

“Oh, some sort of gathering that has a fair-as-wheel.”

“A what?” Pepito tears his first set of boxers in half. He didn’t just hear that right. Dib is going to take Todd, his Todd, on a fucking Ferris wheel?

“Yes, a fair-as-wheel. It supposedly holds some sort of dark energy the Dibstink wishes to study, though it is most likely nothing. Still, his luck is—”

“Zim, fucking focus, where are they going?” The second pair of boxers only gets a slight tear in the waistband, but he’s not paying attention to that. Shirt, he still needs a shirt and actual pants. The jeans folded on his dresser get yanked on, and if he adds more tears to them, no one is going to notice.

“I told you! A fair-as—”

“A Ferris wheel, I got that, but WHERE?” Gracias a su Madre por camisas limpias. He pulls a red, ratty shirt over his head with a yank.

“I don’t understand what you’re—”

The pressure of shifting between spaces pops his ears as Pepito glares down at the green-skinned fuck that is about an inch away from being sent to his own species’ hell.

“WHERE IS THE FUCKING FERRIS WHEEL YOU SHIT FOR BRAINS IRKEN?!”

Zim looks only slightly different without his contacts, not that Pepito hasn’t seen it before. Still, the first time he’d seen the alien, Zim’s eyes are redder than Pepito had expected, and he had been expecting more than antenna. The same antenna he very much wants to rip off of the alien’s skull. Zim isn’t giving him what he wants, and he’s so very close to tearing it out of him.

His chest heaves as Zim stares up at him, eyes wide. Standing side by side the alien isn’t much shorter than him, but floating he has a good couple of feet and he is using every goddamn inch to increase his intimidation. Irkens like tall? Then fuck, he’ll give him tall, and maybe just cut a few inches off Zim in the process just to prove a fucking point.

His ‘tallest’ may be some bad-ass motherfuckers, but Pepito is death wrapped in a barb wire bow, and he is more than happy to present Zim with a first-hand taste.

“WOO! Someone is maaaaaaad.” The electronic voice cuts through the tension, turning Zim’s attention from Pepito.

Pepito doesn’t look, just twists his hand, and flames erupt behind him.

“WEEEEHEHEHHEHE! I’mma hot dog!”

“GIR! Out of the flames!” Zim screeches.

“¡BASTA!” The room shudders with his voice. The flames die, and with them, all sound. Dust motes hang suspended in the dim light as Zim’s eyes are glued once again to Pepito. He can taste the fear on him and for a split second wonders how the little Irken’s blood would taste. That doesn’t really matter, though, because there is only one sangre he wants gracing his tongue.

“Zim,” his voice is dangerously low, barely contained within his vocal cords. “Where is Dib taking Todd?”

Zim gives him a nervous smile. “Wherever the fair-as—” he stops and clears his throat as Pepito’s hands blare blue and white with flames. “Ferris wheel is.”

“Then we better fucking figure out where that is, huh?”

Zim starts to nod his head.

“Intruder alert.” The monotone voice sounds board as red lights appear.

“Wait, what? Computer, did you just realize tha—” Zim is interrupted.

“Flame suppressors initiated.”

“Wait, NO! THE FIRE IS CONTAINED!”

The system doesn’t listen as heavy foam pours from hidden nozzles. It coats Pepito’s body and almost immediately vaporizes as Zim screeches at the machine to stop.

Pepito decides that something is going to die. Possibly the laughing garbage can playing in the suds behind him, maybe the loud green fucker that is panicking before him, but for sure, at least one tall, fucking stupid-haired idiot is getting dragged to hell before the day is done. Pepito doesn't care if he breaks a thousand rules to do it.

Dib was damned the second he thought he could touch Pepito's Todd.

Chapter Text

Todd ends up getting to the fair earlier than he had planned. Dib’s message said to meet him around six, just as the sun was disappearing, but it’s closer to 5:30. Oh well, it’s not like he can control the busses, or how long his legs are. The fairgrounds aren’t too far from the last bus stop, thankfully, and it had been nice to stretch his legs after being cooped up all day in his home. After forcing down a small breakfast and his meds, he’d gone back to sleep for a few more hours and woke feeling at least partially human. Walking through the crisp, fall air has been a large help, especially with the tinge of fair smells; burnt sugar, oil, animal scents, and hay. Lots and lots of hay. There are bales set up all over the front of the grounds. The ones surrounding the ticket booths are also covered in pumpkins with flickering hazard signs carved into them. Above everything, he can see the large Ferris wheel with its lights flashing in the shape of a nuclear hazard symbol.

He’s all but committed himself to sitting outside the fairgrounds on a hay bale for the next half hour, which wouldn’t be so bad, but as he walks towards the gate, he sees a very familiar van sitting near the back of the parking lot. It’s probably meant to be inconspicuous, but there are too many antennas coming out of the dark van for that. The thick, black windows draw curious looks as people walk past and Todd hears a nearby couple asking if the van is from the local radio station.

The idea of Dib working at a radio station is almost laughable. There would never be any music, just theories. Though, wait...doesn’t he have a podcast? Todd’s pretty sure he’s talked about that before, though he’s never listened.

Glancing through the windshield, he sees no-one; just the driver and passenger seats with a thick curtain behind them. A crack of dim light shines between a break in the curtain, and he sees something pass in front of it. Tentatively, he walks around to the side of the car and knocks on the window of the sliding side door. There is a shadow of movement in the tinted window before it is pulled to the side.

“Oh, hey! You’re early.” Dib beams up at Todd as he stands on his knees. He has slight bags under his eyes, and his goatee is a little unkempt and surrounded by day old stubble. Todd wonders how long it’s been since he slept.

“Yeah, I—”

“Great, get in here.” Dib grabs his arms and all but hauls him inside; his thin arms are stronger than they look. Todd ducks to keep from knocking his head on the top of the van and shuffles in on his knees. The door closes behind him with a solid thud, closing him into a dimly lit space that smells oddly sterile. There are screens all over the place, a few speakers, and Todd hears the murmur of voices coming from one of them; a few energy drinks sitting around in seemingly random places.

“Um…” he stays on his knees, his back to the curtain that separates the cab of the van from the rest.

“Cool, right?” Dib beams as he shuffles around some cords towards one of the speakers. “I had an actual chair in here at one point, but I kept hitting my damn head.”

Todd nods in solidarity. Yeah, with their height, there wouldn’t be much headroom.

“Anyways, glad you got here early. Need to brief ya.” He grabs an unassuming green backpack and opens it. “I’ve been listening to the chatter since they opened. There have already been five people escorted off the grounds sobbing. Isn’t that great!?”

“Uhh…No?”

Dib blinks. “Oh, yeah, well I mean not great for them,” he says, trying to backpedal. “Horrible for them, because they had the bejesus scared out of them. They’re mortified when they get off the Ferris wheel, and I can usually hear them screaming in the background, but!” his face breaks back into a smile, “For us, that means that whatever has been happening is still going on! We’ll be able to get proof!”

“Of what?”

“Of the ‘what’!” Dib shoves some stuff around in the bag before pushing it to Todd. “ Here, that’s all your equipment. It’s got an EMF detector, mini-camcorder, voice recorder, black light, and a water bottle.”

“Water bottle?”

“We only get to bring in one, and their prices are freaking high for water. It’s stupid, a soda costs less,” Dib replies as he grabs his own bag.

Todd picks up an odd box with some sort of dial on the front. “Are they going to get mad at us for bringing this stuff in?” he asks before setting it back inside.

“Nah, they just care about food and weapons. I could probably bring a supercomputer in on a wagon, and they wouldn’t care as long as I could prove it’s not a bomb.” He pauses in checking his bag. “Do you think I should bring a computer?”

“Wouldn’t that be hard to carry?”

Dib thinks a moment, tugging at one of the rings in his left ear as he considers the idea, ignoring the studs in his right. Silver if Todd remembers right; something about deterring werewolves and the undead.

“Yeah, you’re right,” he laments, “We have enough here.” He pats his bag.

“So, the plan?”

“Oh, yeah!” Dib stands up on his knees, his strange hair-do touching the ceiling of the van as he moves toward a laptop set on a low table. There is a large cushion beneath it, and Dib fumbles around to sit on it as Todd scoots closer.

“Alright, so there have been these weird sightings ever since the fair came to town. People are saying that when they go up in the Ferris wheel, they see creepy shit the second they try to ‘make a move’,” he says with finger quotes. “Other people say that when it happens, the couples seem to freeze and the air around them gets kinda misty, so we’re going to go and try and capture that.”

“How exactly?”

“Get in line behind a couple and watch ‘em!”

Right...because that’s not creepy.

“And if we don’t get behind a couple who wants to… 'make a move’,” he says with similar finger quotes.

“Then we just keep riding!”

“Oh...okay.” Well, this is going to be an interesting night.

“Any other questions?”

“Um, are we going to ride anything else?”

Dib pauses. “Yeah, actually that’s a good idea. We can test the levels on some of the other rides and compare them. Great thinking!”

Todd gives a weak smile as Dib throws open the car door. He ushers Todd out first before following and locking the car behind them. Standing, he’s just slightly shorter than Todd, except for his hair. His hair adds a good four inches.

“Ready?” he asks as he pulls on his backpack.

“I guess so,” Todd replies as he pulls on his own. “I’ve never done anything like this.”

“Oh, ghost hunting is awesome!” Dib beams at him.

“I meant the fair.”

Dib pauses. “Wait, really?”

Todd shrugs. “Couldn’t go when I was at the asylum, and I’ve never really thought about it when it’s come through.”

“You mean Pepito never took you?”

Another shrug. He doesn’t want to talk about Pepito right now, and it must show because Dib doesn’t pursue the topic.

“Well, we’re getting you a funnel cake at least,” Dib says as they start walking again. “And maybe play a few games. You’ve really never been to one?”

“Nope.”

“Man, then we have to do more than just a couple rides.”

“That sounds like it’s going to get expensive,” Todd murmurs. He has a little spending money, but not much. Mostly he had been planning on getting himself dinner and maybe doing one or two things.

“Oh, don’t worry, I’ll get us wristbands.”

“Wristbands?” He cocks his head at Dib.

“Yeah, I asked you to come here. You didn’t think I was going to make you pay for it, did you?”

Todd blinks at him.

“Hey, as much as you’re helping me out tonight, I’m supposed to be helping you forget about whatever the hell Pepito did, so don’t worry,” he says as they walk up to the ticket line. There are a few people in front of them. “Everything's going to be on me. Oh, have you ever had a turkey le—”

There is a sudden scream off to the side of them.

“The fuck?” Dib asks as he looks over the other people around them.

One of the hay bales is on fire, threatening to spread to the rest as people rush away from it. Todd shoves his hand into the bag, looking for his water bottle when a ticket counter worker dashes over, fire extinguisher in hand. In a few seconds, the flames are smothered by white foam.

“It’s okay!” they hear thinly as they worker pushes the smoldering bale away from the others. “Pumpkin fell over.”

“You have lit candles in those?” the woman in front of them asks the ticket cashier.

“Oh, no, they’re battery operated,” she replies. “I guess one of them short-circuited.”

Next to Todd, a weird buzzing starts up. He turns to find Dib grinning down at the small box with the dial on the front. It’s going crazy.

“Oh, this is gonna be good,” he says gleefully.

Todd can’t quite get his smile to show the same enthusiasm.

-------------------------

“Are you insane?” Zim hisses as he pulls Pepito behind a car.

Pepito can’t respond, he’s seething too hard.

“He’s paying for him,” he bites out.

“Yes, yes, I could hear them,” Zim shakes the little device at Pepito that had been picking up their voices, “But that doesn’t mean you should give away our proximity!” Zim scream-hisses at him.

“I thought you were going to help me stop this,” Pepito snarls.

“And Zim will, when we have an opening, but rushing in and attacking the Dib-stink now is not going to earn you the Todd’s favor.”

Pepito rubs at his temples. How had the alien talked him into this shit?

“You want to prove you are a good enough mate, yes?” Zim asks as he hides the device into his odd backpack like appendage. Can it be called that? Fuck it; Pepito doesn’t care enough to ponder it.

“I’m not his mate, Zim.”

Zim rolls his eyes, the odd contacts allowing a sliver of red to be seen for a moment. “Whatever you wish to be for this human, you are failing at it and have upset him. That—” he says while pointing towards the gate. “Is going to be your example. See what the Dib is doing to make him happy and then you do it.”

“I already pay for all of Todd’s shit. It’s like the one thing I can get him to let me do consistently!” Pepito snaps.

“Then jumping in now will yield no new information!”

Pepito opens his mouth before snapping it shut. “Fine,” he growls. “Tell me when they’re gone so we can go get our wristbands.”

“Oh, they already went in.”

Pepito holds his hands at his sides, his palms sweating with heat. He wants to burn Zim’s face off, but if he were to do that now, then there would be no way to figure out how exactly Dib got Todd out here, and that’s what he wants to know. He’d never shown interest in Dib, so why now? Rebound? Actual intrigue? To make Pepito jealous? The last bit doesn’t sit well with him. Playing with people isn’t Todd’s MO, that’s more something he’d do.

“Come on,” he grumbles as he walks past Zim, eyes searching. Great, he doesn’t see them anywhere. How the fuck did they lose two people over six feet tall?

“One wristband,” he says absently at the ticket counter as he slaps down a few bills, eyes still searching.

“Two,” Zim says as he steps up next to him.

“What?”

“I don’t carry that stupid human currency,” Zim responds. “Besides, you owe me at least this much for-”

“Fucking fine, two.” Pepito watches as the woman takes the bills and returns only a few in return.

“Here ya are.” She presents them with two bracelets. They are thin strips of brightly colored plastic like paper with a peelable square of adhesive.

“I fucking hate these,” Pepito grumbles as he steps to the side of the booth and goes about putting it on.

“Why?” Zim asks as he watches Pepito closely.

“Because no matter how well I line it up, I always end up losing like a square inch of fucking arm hair.”

“You humans and your incessant hairiness. It proves just how little your species has evolved seeing as you still need something so insignificant.”

“Zim,” Pepito says as he finishes putting the band on; part of the sticky end attaching to his wrist.

“Yes?” Zim’s is on his wrist, perfectly aligned.

“Shut up before I tear off one of your fucking antennae and introduce it whatever it is you use as an ass.”

Zim responds with an indignant gasp of rage that Pepito ignores. His eyes are searching the crowd. Two people as tall as Todd and Dib shouldn’t be hard to find, or at least they wouldn’t be if the fairgrounds weren’t filled with rows of booths to obscure his vision.

“Shit, which way did they go?”

There is a beeping behind him.

“Left.”

“How would—,” Pepito turns to find Zim holding a strange little device. It looks somewhat like an iPod if iPods had a row of lights on the front instead of a screen. “The fuck is that?”

“My Dib finder.” He holds it out, pointing it to the left, and Pepito watches as the lights grow brighter.

“Why the hell do you have a Dib finder.”

“Why don’t you have a Todd finder?”

Pepito opens his mouth, shuts it, and does his best not to burn the band off of his wrist. “Just, fucking lead the way.”

Zim gives him an infuriatingly smug smirk before taking the lead. They make it down only a single row of booths before the Irken comes to a halt. “Wait, what is that smell?”

“What smell?” Pepito can feel a pulse of pain behind his left eye.

Zim doesn’t respond, just sniffs. He turns right at the next set of booths. Pepito grits his teeth as he watches the lights on his device dim.

“No tenemos tiempo para esto,” Pepito snarls as Zim sniffs at the air with...well he supposes he kind of has a nose.

“Translator is still set to English,” Zim answers absently as he stops in front of a booth. The words ‘Cotton Candy’ stand out in crazy neon pink.

“What is this cotton candy? Why would you turn textiles into food?” Zim musses.

“It’s not actual cotton, idiota. It’s spun sugar. Now can we—”

“Spun sugar?” He stares at the fluffy pink cloud on a paper stick.

“Yes, spun su- You know what, just give me the tracker and you can go explore.”

“Won’t work without my genetic code,” Zim replies as he looks over the other sweets in the booth. Most are just boxes of big-name brands with a two dollar price hike; except the cotton candy. Zim’s eyes keep going back to it.

Pepito’s going to kill him. Right here in the middle of the carnival, he is going to eviscerate this stupid fucking alien. Only that would probably make Dib happy; Pepito is not about to do anything that will make that bastard happy.

“If I buy you a fucking cotton candy, can we keep looking?”

Zim looks to be thinking about it, though Pepito is pretty sure it’s just a show.

“Yes, that seems to be a fair trade.”

Pepito slaps down some money in response. The board teen working inside the booth takes it and reaches for one of the prepared tufts of cotton candy.

“I wish to know how it is prepared,” Zim says before they can even grab it.

“Huh?” He blinks at Zim with somewhat glazed eyes; like he’s been breathing in too much sugar smoke all afternoon.

“How do you make the sugar so fluffy?”

Pepito shuts his eyes and takes deep breaths; careful not to exhale any smoke himself.

“Uh...with the machine.” The guy motions to something neither of them can see.

“What machine?” Zim leans into the booth, head turning this way and that as he looks about.

“This one.” The worker motions to a circular machine in the corner.

“And how does that contraption produce this?” Zim points to the candy.

“To be honest, I’m no—

“Oh for fuck sake, just make him a fresh one so he’ll shut up,” Pepito snaps.

The teen looks indignant for a moment before he shrugs and does as he is told. Pepito watches on in annoyance as he gets a cup of pink sugar crystals from a bag and pours them into the center of the machine. He checks something on the side and then turns it on. Almost immediately, wisps of sugar-dust start coming out from around the center, which the teen starts to capture with the paper cone. Pepito turns to Zim and finds him staring wide-eyed; so wide that the sclera contacts he wears are in full view, a line of ruby surrounding them.

Okay, so that’s kind of endearing, even more so when the fresh tuft of sugar is handed over to him, and Zim just stares at it in awe. He licks it once, then bites it.

“What do you think?” Pepito asks, more because he wants to get a move on than actually wanting to know.

“This is an abomination,” is Zim’s response.

“Huh?” The clerk looks about as confused as Pepito.

Zim doesn’t answer him. Instead, he rounds on the worker. “I desire sugar, and you provide me with this facade of its sweet sustenance!?” Zim brandishes the cotton candy as if he could cause actual damage with it.

“Listen, I have no idea what you’re ta—” the teen tries, but Zim cuts him off.

“I DEMAND DENSITY!”

Watching a five foot one alien perform a flying tackle over a counter shouldn’t be nearly as funny as it ends up being, but it has been a long day, and the pure horror in the worker's eyes is too hilarious to not laugh at. There is a hard thud as something inside the booth is knocked over, but Pepito can’t tell what. He’s too busy being doubled over with laughter.

“GIVE ME THE SUGAR!”

“I gave you sugar!” the teen yelps.

“You gave me SWILL! I desire the base ingredient!” There is some intense shuffling behind the counter.

“Holy shit, yeah, fine! Dude, take it, take the whole bag!”

Pepito wipes tears from his eyes as he stands up and finds Zim walking around the side of the stall, a large bag of pink sugar held to his hip.

“Here,” he shoves the tracker at him.

“I thought you said this wouldn’t work without your genetics.”

“A deception so you would not abandon me,” he replies before shoving a handful of pink crystals into his mouth.

Pepito feels a prickle of rage, but it dies as a now very rumpled cotton candy worker stands up behind the counter. His eyes are enormous as he stares at Zim.

“You’re wigs falling off,” Pepito says as he begins to walk away, the device blinking again.

“As if anyone pays enough attention to notice,” Zim replies, though he does reach up to fix it. Behind them, Pepito can hear the cotton candy worker talking into a radio. He makes sure the thing short-circuits into a small, fiery ball.

“Dib did.” He has to speak up a little to be heard over the worker’s screams of surprise.

“Dib is an outlier and should not be counted.” Another hand full of crystals are shoved into Zim’s mouth.

Pepito ignores him and follows the blinking lights.

Chapter Text

“You’ve seriously never been on a carousel?”

Todd doesn’t even feel sheepish anymore when asked about what he ‘hasn’t’ done, which is pretty much every single thing that has been pointed out so far.

“I would think you’d notice a pattern by now,” Todd replies, a slight smile on his face as he pushes more funnel cake into his mouth. The crispy dough covered in powdered sugar and strawberry syrup is simultaneously one of the best and most disgusting things he’s ever eaten. How can something fried in fat and made of nothing but bread and sugar taste this good?

“Oh man, okay. Let’s start with that one,” Dib says as he points to a ride. “See how you do with motion sickness.”

“Motion sickness?” Todd looks at the unassuming ride that spins slowly in a circle; slightly off-tune music coming out of the old speakers.

“Yeah, this’ll be a good gauge as to what you can handle spinning wise. I mean, I don’t want to take you on a scrambler or something without knowing if you can handle that. So let’s start with the Merry-Go-Round. Nice and calm.”

“Um...okay.” Todd follows Dib towards the ride to get in the small line that is mostly filled with parents, children, and a few couples with arms slung around one another. Todd feels his chest tighten slightly as he watches one pair cling close, the taller of the two resting their head on the shorter. He quickly looks down and focuses on finishing his food; there's no sense in wasting it.

Dib pulls out the same little box as before while they stand in the line, tapping buttons on it with his right hand while typing notes into his phone with the other.

“Looks like this one is completely normal,” Dib assures him as he sets the phone back into his pocket and gives a slightly disappointed smile.

“Um...sorry?” Todd says before polishing off the dough.

“For what?”

“There not being ghosts.”

Dib looks at him slightly confused before laughing. “Not like you can control that. Besides, riding something not haunted for your first ride is probably a good idea.”

Todd nods in agreement, unable to come up with another response to that. There is a trashcan near the front of the line, and as they flash their wristbands, he tosses the scraps of his funnel cake into it. Climbing onto the raised platform, Todd looks at the multitude of horses. They are decorated in different colors, faded though they are; a few are missing hooves, chunks of tails, even a couple have parts of their snouts missing, but he can’t find anything ugly about them. Todd rubs a hand over the tan rump of a rather small horse and smiles. Chipped as they are, they look more loved than discarded.

“Man these are small,” Dib grumbles as they walk through, looking for horses.

“Or we’re just big,” Todd murmurs as he eyes a jet black horse done up in reds and oranges. He tares his eyes off of it to the white one near it, the bridal and bit a mixture of green pastels and bright reds that have almost gone pink from sun-bleaching. He climbs onto it without a word. Dib takes the black one.

“So what do you want to do after this one?” Dib asks him as they wait for the other people to get situated.

“Um…” he looks around, trying to find something that catches his eye. A little ways away he watches what looks like a small ship swing up into the air. “That maybe?” He points, and Dib follows.

“Oh! Good idea. That will tell us more about how you do with vertical movement, not just horizontal.” Dib is typing into his phone again. Todd sees his name.

“Are...are you turning me into an experiment?”

“No! That would be fucked up. I’m just writing down your reactions so that we can make sure that we don’t go onto anything that will make you super sick after we get your baseline of…” Dib trails off as Todd smirks slightly at him. “Okay, fuck, I’m experimenting.” He shoves his phone back into his pocket. “Sorry, hard to turn this thing off.” He taps at his head.

Todd shrugs, “It’s okay. Least you’re not trying to dissect me.”

“Now that would be fucked up.”

Todd laughs and does his best to keep his hand from going to touch the thin, almost invisible scar that spans his sternum. He’s still not sure where it came from, but he feels a skittering itch over it.

The ride starts with no warning, no fan-fair, just a little jerk before his horse begins to rise. Todd clings to it, the sudden movement sending panic racing through his belly.

“Whoa, hey,” Dib says as he leans over to steady him, which isn’t needed; Todd has a death grip on the pole. “They go up and down too. You’re good.”

“O-oh,” he blushes a little as Dib squeezes his arm and then moves back. They move in a slow circle, Todd rising up and then down on the horse. After a moment, he relaxes, because there is nothing to be scared of. They are going in a circle, the horse is going up and down, and nothing else. The music is a bit annoying, and if he tries to look out at the actual fair and not in front of him he feels a little ill, but it’s not bad.

Then he smells smoke.

“What the fuck?” Dib murmurs.

Todd looks over at Dib who is staring at where the pole of his horse disappears into the ride. Smoke is spilling out of the little opening around it.

“That can’t be good,” Todd says as he leans away, ready to flag the attendant.

“Uh…” Dib starts to climb off his horse before it suddenly jerks out of sync.

“Dib!?” Todd shouts as the horse jerks upwards and then suddenly down, the inner mechanics completely out of sync with the gentle spinning of the rest of the ride.

Dib’s response is a panicked cry as he clings to the pole. His horse, in turn, tries to buck him off.

“Stop the ride!” Todd yells as other riders around them let out little calls of panic.

Dib yells again as the horse lurches sideways, the bar trying to unhinge. Todd grabs on instinct, hauling him off and practically pulling him into his lap as the horse continues to go haywire. Todd’s horse moves languidly up and down, ignoring it’s bucking brethren like a good little cog in the machine.

“The fuck,” Dib pants as he clings to Todd. Todd holds him tight with one arm as the black horse lurches sideways again, appearing to want to kick at them.

“I don’t think it likes you,” Todd mutters.

He hears beeping and finds Dib holding the box again, the lights having sprung to life.

“No, it does not,” Dib replies with a wide grin as he looks at Todd. He’s balanced on Todd’s thigh and part of the saddle, putting them eye to eye. “I don’t think this place likes me at all.”

Todd’s not sure why that’s making Dib smile.

———-

“Why are you like this?” Zim hisses as they watch Dib and Todd clamor off of the ride with the other guests.

“Fuck you, I was only messing with him,” Pepito growls. He’s cutting rivulets into his palm as he watches the two walk away from the ride. Behind them, he can see the ride operator using a fire extinguisher the black horse he had been possessing.

“You are awful at data gathering,” Zim huffs. “You just skewed any possible information we could have acquired.”

“And why the fuck is that?” Pepito begins to walk away, following the two as they head towards a gap in the booths.

“By interfering in a normal activity, you produced a scenario that triggered the Todd’s protective instincts. If you had just left the humans alone, then we would know if Dib-head’s contact at the start was platonically received or otherwise. But much like the humans you lord over, you are not thinking logically but with whatever this jello-of-the-sea that you all seem to ingest.”

“Mio Papa, it’s ‘jealousy’ dumb ass. It’s a fucking emotion, not something you eat. Jodido idiota.”

Something smacks his side, and Pepito turns to snarl. He finds Zim standing with his hands on his hips, the half-empty bag of sugar hanging from one hand. “Encendí mi modo de lenguaje dual.”

“Bueno por tu,” Pepito bites out as he continues to follow their marks. “Now come on.”

Zim is silent behind him as they follow Dib and Todd. They don’t get far before their marks stop in front of a large tent that is covered in styrofoam blocks, Dib pointing. The grey spray paint is chipped off in places, showing the dirty white beneath. Some have painted windows, dingy lines that might have been vines, and Pepito pauses as he watches Dib tug Todd into the short line.

“Oh no, no entras ahi.”

“What? Why should he not enter the house?” Zim asks as he steps up next to him.

“Because he hates scary things,” Pepito mutters as he quickens his speed. “If they go in there, he’s going to have a fucking panic attack, or punch someone, or…” Pepito paused. A grin spreads over his face.

“You’re thinking something,” Zim shoves sugar into his mouth, “ ‘ell ne,” he tries to say around the sugar, though Pepito gets that he’s trying to say ‘tell me’. He’s dealt with enough full mouths begging him to stop whatever torture he’s putting them through down in Hell.

“They go in there, he freaks out, they leave. Date over.”

Zim swallows his crystal confection, “And you learn nothing.”

Pepito ignores him and gets in line.

One good thing about his size is that it’s easy for him to blend into a crowd, a much-needed trait for sneaking around after people, and with Zim being roughly the same height, they can get close enough to the other two to hear them talking a few heads away from them. Or, well, Pepito’s demonic hearing can listen to them; if he were a normal human, he wouldn’t have been able to hear anything besides the chatting of the gaggle of kids in front of them; daring one another and being obnoxious little shits.

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Todd’s voice is definitely worried, and Pepito feels his chest grow tight.

“Yeah! It might be best if we stay away from anything with a motor in it. Just for now. Plus I have a reading coming off of this one!” Dib shows Todd something that Pepito only gets glimpses of. “Besides, these things are always cheesy as hell; just a bunch of jump scares put to recordings of chains rattling that were done back in, like, the 60s. That buzzing sound that goes with them isn’t on purpose; it was the crappy recording equipment from the time. I wouldn’t be surprised if they still use a tape player for this place.”

“What’s a tape player?” Zim asks.

“Shut up.” Pepito tries to listen in as Todd gives a little laugh. He’s never hated his laugh before, but it sends rage bubbling inside of him. How can Dib not hear how uncomfortable he is?

“But what is it?” Zim hisses. “How do you play adhesive?”

“It’s por musica.”

“On adhesive?”

Pepito fixes Zim with a glare, and watches as his shoulder starts to smolder. He does not expect to have three fingers smack against his cheek.

“What the fu—!” The hand pushes against his mouth.

“You will give away our position,” Zim hisses at him.

Pepito opens his mouth and feels one of Zim’s finger slip between his teeth. Pepito starts to bite down.

“Did you see how that big guy was grabbing that goth fucker? What a pussy.”

Pepito’s teeth suddenly don’t care about the fingers covering his mouth as he whips around to look at the group of kids in front of him.

“¿Que acabas de decir?”

The kids don’t pay any attention to him, not seeming to realize that he’s speaking to them.

“Yeah. Seriously, does the tall baby need a binky?” Says a teen girl with too much eyeliner and not enough skirt.

Pepito’s teeth grit together, his hands smoke and the grass beneath his feet starts to curl.

“And what’s with that other guy’s hair? Think if we put a cig up to his head it’ll go up in flames?”

“Yeah, I bet he’d burn with all that gel in his hair. Maybe his bitch of a boyfriend can cry on him and put the flames out.”

Pepito’s fingers sharpen into claws, the grass around him starts to blacken, and Zim takes a step past him before he can eviscerate the group before him.

“Excuse me,” Zim says, to which all the teens look over and then down. Zim’s holding a small device in his hand.

“The hell do you want?” the first boy asks.

“Does this smell like poison to you?” He juts the device into the group and pushes down on it.

“Does— HEY!”

The little group all starts coughing as a puff of yellow enters the air around them. Pepito gets a whiff of something noxious, feels it try and settle into his sinus cavity, but it burns off before he can even get a bump from it. The others don’t have the gift of a demonic nasal cavity and are all turning a nasty green, gripping at one another as their eyes bulge.

“What—” the girl starts before she heaves. A rainbow of half-digested confections spill out of her like a rancid pinata.

The others start gagging as well, vomit spouting from a couple of them before they run off as a herd towards the portapotties. Pepito watches them go, a mix of a smile and shock on his face.

“What the hell was that?” he asks Zim as the Irken steps around a puddle of puke.

“They were going to make you skew the data again, so I got rid of them,” Zim replies.

Pepito opens his mouth, ready to say that he was not about to send a new group down to his Papa, but he pauses as he watches Zim fiddling with the little device. “What is that?”

Zim shrugs, “A mix of things normal humans senses find disgusting and causes general discomfort and anal leakage for the next forty-eight hours. I was originally planning on testing it out on Dib-stink, but it looked like now was a good time to do so.”

“Huh.” Pepito looks back over at the portable bathrooms and shrugs. With a wave of his hand, the toilets that house the human shit-stains fall forward onto the doors. Screaming, mixed with gagging, can be heard even from where they stand.

“Uh...you two going in?”

Zim and Dib look at the carnival worker who is watching them both with a tinge of fear in her eyes. She also looks a tad green.

“Oh, yes, thank you.” Zim goes to walk past her before pausing. “What did you think of the weird haired human from before?”

“Didn’t think much of—” she makes a slight gagging sound before swallowing. “Didn’t think much of anything.”

Zim lifts the device, and pink mist fills the air. The woman coughs a little, waving it away, but the green is completely gone from her face.

“Is-is that peppermint?” she asks with a confused face.

“Yes, your breath was smelly like the children from before. You needed it. Come on, hell-spawn.” Zim strides into the tent, Pepito following behind him. The girl breaths into her cupped hand and sniffs. He hears a gentle ‘it’s not that bad’ as they walk into the haunted house.

“What was that?”

“The cure,” Zim replies. “Made no sense to make the other human suffer for something she was not included in. Especially when she paid no mind to the Dib human.”

“Why would it matter if she had?”

Zim looks over his shoulder at Pepito before walking forward, “We need to hurry and find the tall ones. We’re losing data.”

Pepito raises an eyebrow. “You got a bit of a thing for your ‘Dib-stink’?”

“If by 'thing' you mean hatred and the desire to destroy, then yes.”

“Hate and obsession are a fine line, extraterrestre,” Pepito replies with a grin, happy to talk about Zim for a moment. "Keep a close eye on those feelings. Who knows; you might have a little love in whatever your equivalent of a heart is.”

Zim turns to him, arms crossed.

“And for someone who says they do not care for humans, you are overly obsessed with the Tallest-Todd, are you not? With that information, it is easy to tell that you harbor more than the desire to copulate with him.”

Pepito pulls his lips back in a snarl, “Keep walking.”

“You’re the one who wanted to talk,” Zim scoffs before he keeps moving. The place is pretty shitty for a haunted house. Its corridors are mostly made out of cloth and half panels of wood hanging from crisscrossing lines of wire.

After a few moments, Pepito hears a strangled yelp followed by laughter ahead of them. Both sounds send rage bubbling into his chest as he recognizes the yelp as Todd’s, and the laughter as his current soul marked for death.

“Can I just light this place up?” he asks as they walk, heading down a hall only to find what looks to be a dead end. Their warped reflections glare back at them.

“I do not think the Todd is fireproof.”

“I could have made him fireproof,” Pepito grumbles.

“Oh? Why have you not?”

Pepito glares at himself a little harder.

“Wouldn’t have been a fair trade.” He turns around and starts heading down the opposite path.

“You and your ‘trades’, they are so simple-minded,” Zim huffs as he walks with him, much closer than he had before. His large eyes dart about in the dim hall with the sound of distant, rattling chains. Pepito hates that he notices the buzz. “If it benefits them as a whole why wouldn’t you do it? It makes no sense to give a choice when one choice doesn’t provide any benefiiiiIIIIAHHHH!”

Zim grabs at Pepito, almost climbing him as a worker jumps out from around a corner.

“Zim, ZIM!” Pepito yells as he tries to keep the bag of sugar from hitting him in the face.

“CALL OFF YOUR HELLSPAWN, DEMON-SON!”

“IDIOTA, IT’S A COSTUME!”

“Your Highness?”

Pepito pauses, and Zim stops trying to climb onto his shoulders. Pepito looks at the demon before him and realizes that it is, indeed, a demon. A demon he knows.

“Matheliow? The fuck are you doing here?”

The goat eyed, blue-skinned demon is wearing something akin to a torn up butler suit that ends in tatters over his hooved feet. He gives a skittish smile and a small bow.

“Working,” he replies, large, four-fingered hands rubbing together nervously. “Y-your pop’s didn’t tell you?”

“¿No me dijiste qué?” he growls.

“O-owner of this carnival made a deal a few years back and tried to weasel out of it. We’ve been sent to—”

“WE?”

“Y-yeah.” Matheliow looks like he’s about to start shaking. “Me aa a few of the other top-side guys are here tryin' to cut down his business, make him go bankrupt. No matter what happens, your Pops is still gettin’ his soul, but he wants him to suffer for trying to break his deal.”

“And?”

“And, well that’s it. I figured he’d 'ave told you since you brought Todd and some friends. Don’t worry!” he adds quickly. “I made sure not ta jump him and yer other friend. They’ve only gotten the regular spooks, promise. We all know not to touch your human.”

Pepito blinks. “What?”

“Y-your human, Todd.” Matheliow motions down the hall. “No one would ever hurt the kid anyways, too nice, but we knows how ya feel about ‘im, so we—” Matheliow yelps as the canvas on either side of Pepito lights on fire.

“¿Y cómo me siento con él?” He takes a step forward.

Matheliow opens and closes his mouth, eyes looking at the flames before Pepito gets a hard smack to the back of his head.

“What the FUCK!?” he screams as he whips around. Zim is standing with his bag of sugar held like a mace, eyes on the fire.

“You will NOT KILL ZIM! Turn the fire OFF!”

“I...jesus christo, fine.” Pepito flings his hands into the air, putting the fire out. He fixes Matheliow with a glare.

“How do we get out of here?”

“Th-that way.” Matheliow points down one of the passages. “Two rights and a left.”

Pepito says nothing as he pushes past the demon, Zim following closely behind him. In the walls, they can hear workers murmur in fearful whispers. Pepito can feel eyes on them as they go, can make out panicked conversations back where he had burned the canvas. Now and again, he sees demons peeking out of the shadows, watching Pepito with fearful eyes.

“Which way did they go?” he grumbles at Zim as they step out of the tent.

“Left,” Zim replies, the device already out. “And no more flames. You almost lit Zim’s wig on fire.”

“Yeah, well, it’s a shitty wig.”

“Take back that blasphemy before Zim beats you with his confection!”

Pepito glances at him, then the bag of sugar, which ignites.

Zim squeals before flinging the bag away. Back into the tent.

“Come on,” Pepito grumbles as he walks in the direction Zim had pointed.

“My sugar!” It is answered by fearful screaming within the tent.

Pepito rolls his eyes and keeps moving. He has to keep going, if he doesn’t, then...well that means thinking. He doesn’t feel like thinking right now, so instead, he focuses on Zim’s demands for more sugar and the ever-present beeping of the little machine that tells him which way to go.