Caleb Widogast summons the wrong demon at 23 minutes past nine on a bright Saturday morning when his cat, Frumpkin, jumps down from the dining table, walks across Caleb’s summoning circle, and smudges one small, but very important, chalk line out of existence. The circle fizzles for a moment, flashing gold and orange and blue for the space of a breath, and when Frumpkin finally leaves it lets out a gust of quiet arcane energy, and sets about slowly readjusting itself.
Caleb sees none of this.
Caleb doesn’t see as the planar link between the Material Plane and the Nine Hells tilts slightly. Caleb doesn’t see as the channel that he set up, ready to siphon through one demon for a limited amount of time, finds that its end address has been abruptly changed, and shifts to accommodate. Caleb doesn’t see as the channel realises that the circle containing it in the Material Plane holds inside it everything that it needs to summon this new demon, and a few things besides.
Caleb doesn’t see as his magic, pressed in alongside the chalk, and crystals, and tiny vial of steak blood that technically counts as a sacrifice, decides to open the connection.
Caleb doesn’t see as a standard, mid-tier demon is abruptly pulled out of his home in the Nine Hells and into the middle of Caleb’s dining room.
And Caleb doesn’t see any of this because he’s in the kitchen, impatiently poking the kettle with his magic in an attempt to get it to boil quicker, which means that when he returns to the dining room to see a very purple, very ornate, very naked demon sprawled in the middle of his summoning circle, the first thing he does is scream loudly, drop his mug of tea, and splash scalding hot water all over his legs.
It’s probably a good thing, Caleb thinks as he finishes sweeping the shattered porcelain into the bin, that prestidigitation is a simple enough spell to cast. It hadn’t been enough to vanish every shard of broken mug away to some other plane of existence – more’s the pity – but it had cleaned up the spilled liquid and it had kept Caleb busy as the demon, still trapped within the confines of the salt circle, had laughed itself silly.
It’s still laughing now, its split tail making the tarpaulin beneath it rustle with every amused twitch. Caleb frowns to himself, feeling the tips of his ears turning red with embarrassment as he dusts his hands off and straightens up, satisfied that no one’s going to find themselves stabbed through the foot with porcelain any time soon. He hadn’t meant to drop his second-favourite mug! He’d just been caught off-guard, as he’s sure anyone would be when returning from their kitchen to their dining room to find a tattooed, purple demon lying face-down in the middle of their summoning circle when they hadn’t even started the summoning. He’d dropped his mug, and soaked his jeans, and had let out what even he would admit was a somewhat undignified scream, and there’s still a demon sitting in his dining room and laughing like its just seen the funniest thing in this plane of existence.
All in all, it’s not shaping up to be a good day.
Caleb sighs, lifting a hand to press it against his face for a moment. The demon’s laughter seems to be fading, reducing from guffaws to chuckles to tiny, barely-audible giggles.
“Gods,” Caleb mutters to himself. “Gods.” He can still feel the heat in his ears and knows that his face must be a similar shade of combined embarrassment, mortification, and frustration. This was not how his morning was meant to go.
Caleb takes another second to breathe, listening as the demon finally seems to laugh itself out. It’s only when the demon finally falls silent, giving a long, quiet sigh that Caleb can hear all too clearly in the silence of the house, that he finally drops his hand, mentally shakes himself, and walks back into the dining room.
Only to be immediately greeted by a reminder of exactly what state the demon had been in upon its arrival.
Caleb should probably do something about that.
“Um,” he says. The demon, who’d been absently gazing at the artwork adorning the walls, spins around at the sound of Caleb’s voice. Caleb tries his very best not to stare.
“Do you, um,” he starts again, feeling himself blushing harder. He tries not to look at the demon’s… bits. That’s rude, and impolite, and he was raised better than that. Caleb swallows, feeling the weight of the demon’s amused gaze on him as he pulls his gaze towards the demon’s face instead.
The demon smirks at him.
Caleb doesn’t like that, but he supposes it’s better than having it talk. He’s honestly not sure what he would do if the demon decided to comment on the current situation. He’d combust, probably. Or flee. Or throw his hands up, declare himself done with magic forever, and leave the city to become a hermit in the woods forever which, right now, honestly sounds incredibly tempting. How hard can it be to be a hermit, after all? Beau calls him a hermit all the time and he leaves the house very nearly every single day. Surely he’s at least half-way qualified for hermit-dom.
He can’t be a hermit today, though. Today he’s got to greet this demon, and send it back, and then do everything else that he was meant to do. He clears his throat, still flushing, and pulls his gaze away entirely from the demon’s smirk, staring instead at the far wall of the dining room. The wall is safe. The wall isn’t purple, and covered in tattoos, and naked.
“Do you- would you like something to, ah, cover up?” he asks weakly. Staring directly ahead like this makes most of the demon’s body blur together into a vague blob of purple, distinguished only by the bright swirls of colour that twist across its skin. It feels a little bit rude, actually; normally Caleb takes every care to be as polite as possible with his summons, making sure that they are comfortable for the time that he calls them to this plane, and a lot of the time that means forcing his way past his natural dislike of eye contact and doing his very best to make his gaze meet theirs. This can be tricky sometimes, when the demon has extra eyes, or eyes in strange places, or no eyes at all, but Caleb tries anyway.
He’s not trying right now. Right now, he’s doing his absolute best to look as close to the demon as possible without actually having to look at it. It’s not even nine-thirty in the morning – there are some things he just isn’t ready to deal with when the tea that he was going to drink is still drying in patches on his jeans.
But even staring at the far wall, he can still see the demon’s wide grin.
“Oh,” it says easily, “I don’t mind.”
No, Caleb thinks, but I might.
“I do not wish for you to be uncomfortable,” he manages to say instead. He shifts his gaze slightly, making contact with one warm red eye. There’s a line of gold brushed into place along the lid, shimmering and sparkling in the soft morning sunlight, and just below the eye there’s another one. And then another, even lower down the cheek. Caleb frowns a little, temporarily distracted by this strange placement of make-up, but he doesn’t question it. This is a demon, after all – he knows from experience just how… unexpected they can be.
The demon gives a small laugh. “Oh, I won’t be,” it assures him. Behind it its tail sways back and forth in relaxed, lazy sweeps, hindered only by the outline of the circle – it cannot pass above the line of salt neatly marked out around it and so instead it gives the occasional impression that it is pressing up against some invisible barrier. It makes Caleb feel a bit bad, knowing that he’s preventing the demon from being as comfortable inside the circle as it could be – he hates being cramped, and imagines that it must feel similar for the demon – but everything that he’d read had told him that the demon he had been summoning was tailless, and so he’d arranged the circle and its contents accordingly.
But then again, everything he’d read had also told him that he would have to perform the ritual himself. There’d been no note in any of his books to warn him of an accidental summoning.
There’d also been no warning that said summoning would arrive nude.
Thankfully, the demon seems to sense Caleb’s discomfort; after a few awkward moment Caleb watches its wide grin reduce in size to a somewhat more understanding smile. “Hey,” it says easily, its voice soft and gentle like its trying to calm him somewhat. “It’s alright. Seriously. I don’t care. Don’t worry about it, Mr…?”
“Oh, I’m Caleb,” Caleb says. He doesn’t tell the demon his surname. Even now he feels uncomfortable giving it out to his fellow witches, and wizards, and mages, and warlocks; there is power in a name, born of old magic and old truths, and while Caleb is well aware that the vast majority of demons are much closer to the people of this plane than most would think, he has still heard too many horror stories to ever dream of giving away something as precious as his name.
Let alone this name – the name he chose for himself. That name is far, far too dear for him to ever risk losing.
Before him, the demon smiles.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Caleb,” it says. Its voice is soft, warm and rough like half-crystallised honey spun through with smoke. There is an accent to it that Caleb can’t find a material plane equivalent to - a subtle lilt and tone to the words that somehow still speaks of a hellish origin. It’s- well, all things considered, it’s surprisingly pleasant. “I’m Mollymauk Tealeaf,” it continues, bowing with a flourish.
Tealeaf, Caleb thinks. That sounds… hopeful.
“I don’t suppose you are a, ah, gardening demon, Mollymauk Tealeaf?” he asks weakly, doing his best not to stare when Mollymauk straightens up out of its bow.
“Not a chance in hell,” Mollymauk replies cheerfully.
Caleb frowns. “But you came from hell,” he points out, “So are you saying that there is a chance?”
There’s a long, drawn-out pause.
Caleb feels that he may have misunderstood something.
And then the demon bursts into laughter, practically doubling over, and Caleb’s feeling turns into a certainty.
“I mean,” he says, crossing his arms as the demon continues to laugh, “You are a demon, ja? So you must come from one of the Nine Hells.”
“Th-third,” Mollymauk manages to get out, slowly straightening up again. It wipes away a tear from its eye, still giggling to itself. “I’m from the Third of the Nine Hells, love. And I can promise you – I’m many things, but a gardening demon is not among them.”
“Oh,” Caleb replies quietly. He can feel his heart start to sink, worry and concern twisting along his nerves. He’d known that something wasn’t right when he’d returned to the dining room to find a demon already present, the summoning not even initiated, but this is… this is bad. This is worse than bad. This is awful. Because somehow, despite all his care and all his planning, Caleb has managed to summon the wrong fucking demon.
That doesn’t happen. It doesn’t happen in general, and it definitely doesn’t happen to him – Caleb is practically a wizard in how careful and precise he is in laying out his spell components, for all that he is a witch-caster at heart. He is exact, and a little bit obsessive, and he never does anything until he’s completely prepared for it. He researches everything as much as he possibly can in advance – he’d spent weeks going through books and notes and trawling the internet to find the exact demon who could help him with a commission for a client. He’d found their preferences, and figured out exactly what to pay them with (a magpie skull, an orange and ginger candle, and a small plastic container of coffee-flavoured cookies), and he’d set everything up absolutely perfectly. There’s no mistake in his circle that he knows of. He’s Caleb Widogast, after all. Very few members of the magical community know his true name instead of the name that he dons for clients, but they know his reputation nonetheless; Caleb Widogast does not make mistakes. Caleb Widogast does not do anything unintentionally. Caleb Widogast can summon and talk with even the trickiest of demons and have them return to the Hells contented.
Caleb Widogast does not scratch his cat under the chin, go to boil the kettle, and then summon the wrong demon accidentally. That doesn’t happen in general, and it especially doesn’t happen to him. Gods, what will happen to him if news of this gets out? He has a reputation to uphold after all, and he has clients to complete jobs for, and if they were to find out that he can’t even summon a demon properly then- then… well, he hardly even dares to think about what will happen.
Before him, the demon is still speaking.
“I do know an excellent guy, though,” Mollymauk continues blithely, deaf to Caleb’s inner panic. “Name’s Caduceus Clay; he’s a much more nature-based demon than I am. He’d definitely be able to help you out with any gardening stuff that you may need.”
Caleb swallows, trying to calm the panic squeezing at his lungs. “Do you, ah… do you think Mr. Clay would be amenable to helping me? You were, um… you were not quite my intended summon…”
Mollymauk grins. “Oh, I gathered that. Not to worry, though – you just send me back and I’ll drop in and see Caduceus. I’m sure he’d be happy to help you out. He’s a very, ah, relaxed individual. Likes his plants.”
“Good,” Caleb mutters. “That is- that’s good.”
“I could pop in and see him once I get back, if you’d like. Give him some warning that you’re going to be summoning him at some point?”
That sounds… that sounds pretty good, actually. Caleb’s never had a demon offer to do that for him, but then again he’s never summoned the wrong demon before, either. “Bitte,” he says, smiling weakly. Mollymauk smiles back at him.
“I have no idea what ‘bitter’ means,” it says cheerfully.
Oh. Right. “It means ‘please’.”
“’Bitter’ means ‘please’. Got it. ᚱᚾᗑᚱ'ᖨᗇ, Caleb,” Molly replies, sounding perhaps just a little bit smug. Caleb blinks.
“You’re welcome,” the demon translates. Caleb blinks again. He’s pretty certain there were a few sounds that in that that the human mouth couldn’t even attempt to make. “A word for a word. It seems fair to me.”
“…Right,” Caleb says slowly. He half turns, making a small motion towards the kitchen. He should do… something. Something other than panicking. Something more along the lines of calming down so that he can gather himself enough to send this demon back so that Beauregard doesn’t come home to find him halfway to a panic attack, again. “I am, uh, I am going to- I am-“
Mollymauk waves a hand, already moving to sit down inside the circle. “Go do whatever you need to do,” it says, the tarpaulin crinkling beneath it as it coils its tail neatly around its legs. “I’ll just sit here.”
Caleb nods. “Okay,” he says to himself, starting to move towards the kitchen. “Okay, alright…” He can do this. He can calm down. He can sort this out. This is just a- a hiccup, that’s all. He somehow managed to summon the wrong demon, but that’s fine. He’ll just send it back, like he’s sent back every demon that he’s ever summoned. Nothing to it. He’s a witch, after all – unlike wizards, who need the exact right sequence of words and intonations for every summon and banishment that they perform, Caleb merely needs roughly the right ingredients and the correct intent. He may not have intended to bring this demon here, but he sure as hell intends to send him back. He’s got the intent, and he should have the items that he needs floating around in the cupboards somewhere – he knows exactly what they all are, his perfect memory keeping the list clear and visible in his head. It just remains to see if he has them in the house.
Apart from intent and ingredients, though, there’s just one last essential for a Widogast demon banishment.
He’s going to need another mug of tea.
Caleb nods to himself, his plan settled on. He’s going to go back to the kitchen, and make himself a mug of tea, and maybe grab Mollymauk a tea towel to cover up it’s… well. To cover it up. And then he’s going to find everything that he needs, and double-check his book, and send this demon back to the Nine Hells, and finally summon the right one in its place.
… He should probably stop calling it ‘it’, too.
Caleb turns around suddenly, stopping in the open archway between dining room and kitchen. “Um,” he says, hoping that his voice is loud enough to carry. “Mollymauk?”
Mollymauk glances up, the small chains on its horns jingling quietly. “Yeah?”
“What, ah, what- which pronouns would you prefer that I use? For you?” It’s a question that Caleb normally likes to ask before they exchange names – much like offering his summons a drink, he feels that asking their pronouns is only polite. He knows all too well what it’s like to have people assume.
For a brief moment, Mollymauk looks completely caught off-guard. Its eyes widen slightly, glowing like embers in the warm sunlight painted across its skin, but then the moment passes, and the smile returns. “Any you’d care for, love,” it says easily. “I’m not particularly picky.”
Unfortunately for Mollymauk, that’s possibly about the worst answer Caleb could hear. He’s terrible at making decisions and he knows it, and he’s even worse when there’s the chance of potentially upsetting someone. He knows that Mollymauk literally just told him that he can use any pronouns at all for it, but what if he uses a set that Mollymauk doesn’t actually like? What then? What if he upsets the demon that he summoned to his home?
Mollymauk seems to recognise Caleb’s inner panic – after a moment it gives a small sigh, its smile softening. “How about we just go with he/him for now, hm?”
Caleb can deal with that. Caleb can definitely deal with that. “He/him sounds good to me, ja,” he replies faintly and watches as the demon flicks its- his- tail.
“Excellent,” Mollymauk replies. “And if I happen to feel like changing them while I’m here, I’ll let you know. How does that sound?”
“That sounds- it sounds good.”
“Marvellous.” Mollymauk grins, wide and delighted, before leaning back on one hand, lifting the other to shoo Caleb towards the kitchen. “Now run off and do whatever it is that you were going to do. Getting the things you need to send me back, I hope.”
“Oh, ja,” Caleb says, nodding. “That was, ah, that was the plan.”
“Glad to hear it. Hop along.”
Caleb does exactly that. He doesn’t exactly flee to the kitchen but he does move swiftly, stepping through the open archway to the little room and immediately crossing to the kettle. He fills it up and sets it to boil before grabbing a mug off the shelf and dropping a teabag into it, leaving the kettle boiling in the background as he moves over to a small cupboard in the corner of the room. A bright yellow post-it stuck to it reads ‘pantry of holding :)’. Caleb glowers at the smiley face. It’s stupid, but it feels a little like it’s mocking him, being so bright and cheerful when he’s so confused and stressed.
He flicks it gently where its forehead would be and then opens the cupboard. He sticks his hand inside, shivering a little at the touch of air that’s just a few degrees cooler than it really should be, and tries to calm himself. He just needs to collect these ingredients, put them back in the circle, and try again. This is going to be fine.
This is going to be fine.
Caleb clears his throat. Yew berries, he thinks. There’s a soft hum from within the darkness of the cupboard and a moment later he feels the cool touch of glass against his palm. He closes his hand, pulling out the small jar of berries, and sets it on the countertop before putting his hand back inside the pantry. In quick order he removes the other required ingredients from the pantry of holding and soon they sit in a neat row on the countertop, waiting to be used. It’s the work of a moment for him to count out the exact amounts and pour them into a tub, and the methodical nature of it helps soothe him further. This is something he’s done a hundred times before. This is something he knows how to do, something he knows he can do.
He can banish demons, and he can definitely banish this one.
Caleb gives a quiet sigh as he finishes counting. For a moment he stands in silence, shutting his eyes and calling the image of the scruffy notes in his witch-tome to the front of his mind. This is going to be fine, he tells himself again. This is just one mistake. You can fix this easily. So what if it should be impossible to summon the wrong demon by accident? He’s a witch; he deals with actual, literal magic. This is just a hiccup, that’s all. It’s a new part of magic that no one else has discovered yet. It’s a breakthrough.
With that thought in mind, Caleb returns to his tea. He pours the now-boiled water into his mug, quickly brewing the drink before grabbing a tea towel off the counter. With his tea in one hand, the tea towel in the other, and the tub safely tucked under his armpit, he returns to the dining room.
In his absence Mollymauk has made himself comfortable amid the cushions that Caleb had placed inside the circle prior to summoning him. Not all demons are able to use conventional chairs, but Caleb’s found that most of them appreciate a comfortable cushion, even if they are all decorated in a set of novelty cat cushion covers that Beau bought him when she first moved in with him and Nott. Mollymauk glances up when Caleb enters the room; his gaze quickly catches on the tea towel, and Caleb watches understanding dawn in a smirk across his face when he hands it to him. Mollymauk is quick to shake it out and place it over his lap, though, much to Caleb’s relief.
“Thank you, Caleb,” Mollymauk says politely, smoothing his claws over the elephant-patterned fabric.
Caleb shrugs awkwardly. He doesn’t look at the demon as he crossed to the book open on the dining table, dropping the small tub of ritual ingredients onto the smooth, polished wood. “Don’t worry about it,” he mutters, eyes already starting to skim the page. He knows that he hasn’t missed any ingredients but it’s always good to double-check, and after a quick read he nods to himself, straightening up and moving to the chalked summoning circle. He can feel the weight of Mollymauk’s ruby eyes on him as he drops ingredients into their positions, but he doesn’t look up at him. This is weird enough as it is. Caleb just wants to get this over and done with now, and then he wants to sit down, and finish his tea, and maybe watch an episode of some trashy early-morning weekend TV show to calm himself before he tries summoning a demon again.
Within a few minutes, the circle is complete again. Caleb stands upright, brushing chalk dust off against his jeans as he calls forth a touch of fire to light the candles scattered around the circle’s perimeter. From within the circle, Mollymauk watches on with a curious look.
“Is this all you need?” he asks.
“Oh, ja,” Caleb replies. He walks to the front of the circle, gaze scanning over it for anything he might have missed. “I am a witch, Mollymauk, not a wizard.”
“There’s a difference?”
“Absolutely.” There’s no point in explaining it, Caleb feels; at this point that would just be a waste of time. He nods to himself, content that the circle has been set out exactly as needed, and looks back at Mollymauk.
Mollymauk smiles. “I suppose this is goodbye?”
Caleb catches himself smiling a little. He feels better now, with the circle in place and his magic chasing along his nerves. He can fix this. This will be fine. “It is,” he says. “I apologise for accidentally summoning you, Mollymauk.”
Mollymauk waves a hand. “Don’t worry about it,” he says easily. “I’m sure it happens all the time. Thank you for having me, Caleb. You were a delightful host. I’ll be sure to tell Caduceus to expect a summoning.”
“Thank you,” Caleb says. And then, all pleasantries appropriately exchanged, he takes a deep, calming breath, and calls his magic to his skin. He rubs his hands together, feeling the magic starting to gather between his palms. It crackles like static against his skin, sparking beneath his blood and making his fingers want to twitch with the sheer potential of it. His magic is as familiar to him as it always has been; it is his oldest friend, his truest companion. His magic has existed within his blood for his entire life. Caleb knows how to wield his magic. He knows how to use it.
He knows how to send this unexpected demon back to the Nine Hells.
Caleb reaches out, sinks his magic into the crystals, and the required ingredients, and the meticulously chalked symbols and sigils surrounding Mollymauk, and he tugs.
At the end of his magic, at the whisper-fine veil between this plane and the hells, he feels his magic catch.
Caleb twists his hands, the action of re-opening a gateway so familiar to him now that he could do it in his sleep. He feels his magic rise within him, knows that his eyes are turning orange and gold with it, and seeks for the gap between the threads of the world that he needs to open a careful little tear back into the Nine Hells.
He finds one.
It’s definitely there, but something about it feels off – warped, like he’s looking at it through a sheet of water. Like there’s something missing. But there isn’t. Caleb knows that there isn’t. He knows that he’s got everything in place, and that his intent is certain, and this is absolutely, certainly, definitely going to work.
Caleb reaches out, ties his magic back into the components encircling Mollymauk, and pushes.
For a moment, the world seems to shift around him.
There’s a terrible flash of dark, amber magic, a sound like thunder contained within a bell jar, and a smell like the remnants of a storm.
It worked, Caleb thinks, and he opens his eyes.
Directly before him stands Mollymauk, tea towel held in place with one clawed hand, his eyes shining ruby-red in the morning sunlight.
Caleb feels his stomach grow cold.
“…So,” Mollymauk says after a few long, silent seconds. “I’m going to assume that was a bust.”
Caleb, to his credit, manages not to freak out immediately. He politely excuses himself, steps back from the circle, turns around, and leaves to sit with his back against a wall in the hallway, his head resting against his knees.
It’s only then that he allows himself to freak out.
He freaks out quietly for a good ten minutes or so, digging little crescent marks into the palms of his hands with his nails. He doesn’t know how this happened, and he doesn’t know why his magic didn’t work, and he doesn’t know why the demon is still sitting on the floor of his dining room. This was meant to be an easy summon! This was meant to be a simple task that he could get over and done with bright and early so that he could get on with his day! This was not meant to leave him feeling like his magic has, suddenly and inexplicably, stopped working.
Caleb squeezes his eyes shut. This is okay. This is going to be okay. He can fix this, somehow. He can’t be the first witch to summon the wrong demon and then not be able to send it back. He can’t be. There’s got to be some tale, somewhere, of a witch who fucked up worse than he did.
This is going to be fine.
Maybe if he says it enough time it’ll become true.
“Okay,” he mutters to himself after a few more mental repetitions. “Okay.” He takes a breath and slowly pushes himself upright, wiping his hands on his jeans before heading back into the dining room. Mollymauk watches him as he enters, his tail still twitching back and forth, and Caleb just about manages to muster a weak smile as he crosses to the dining room table where his phone still sits next to his book.
He might not know exactly what to do, but he knows someone who can help.
Caleb grabs his phone off the table, gives Mollymauk one last glance, and then does what he really should have done when he first saw Mollymauk sprawled in his dining room, and calls Jester.
He dials her number with fingers that are definitely not shaking, presses his phone to his ear, and waits. Thankfully, it doesn’t take very long for her to pick up.
“Hello?” asks an accented voice, drawing out the vowels.
Oh, thank God. “Jester,” Caleb hisses into the phone, “I need your help.”
There’s a gasp on the other end of the line.
“Oooooh,” Jester says, “With what? Is it girl trouble? Is it boy trouble? Is it-“
“It is none of that,” Caleb says quickly, turning away from the circle when Mollymauk, still sitting cross-legged inside the salt perimeter with only a tea towel to protect his modesty, pricks his ears up at the noises coming from Caleb’s phone.
“Who are you talking to?” he asks. Caleb moves to cover his phone, not sure if Mollymauk was speaking loudly enough for Jester to hear, but it soon becomes apparent that he was too late.
Jester gasps again. “Caleb!” she says. “I heard that! That was a boy, wasn’t it? Do you have company?”
Caleb can hear the eyebrow wiggle that he knows is going on at the other end of the line. He sighs loudly, lifting a hand to press it against his forehead as he shuts his eyes.
“Yes, I have company,” he mutters. Jester squeals.
“It is not- it is not that kind of company. I need to get rid of him.”
“Bad one-night stand? I get it, we’ve all been there, but I would never have expected this from you, Caleb. Still, no judgement.” She clears her throat. “Okay, what you want to do is-”
“This is- this is not a one-night stand, Jester!” Caleb says, finally picking his jaw up off the floor. “This is a…” He glances back over his shoulder. Mollymauk lifts a hand and dabbles his fingers in a wave. Caleb turns back to the wall. “This is a demon,” he hisses into the phone.
“Look, Caleb, I know men are garbage, but-”
“No, Jester, this is a literal demon. This is an actual, real demon, and he is sitting in my dining room with no clothes on.”
There’s a long pause.
“…Did you summon him?” Jester asks eventually.
“Did you deliberately summon him with no clothes on? Because there are demons for that, Caleb, if you want to have a good time-”
“I summoned him to help me with my plants,” Caleb says in a rush. “He was- he was supposed to be a, a gardening demon, you know? That encourages ivy, and wolfsbane, and all those sorts of plants to grow. I needed some for a potion.”
“So what went wrong? You’re normally super good at summoning – Fjord said you helped him set up a meeting with his patron just last week.”
“I don’t know what went wrong!” Caleb hisses into the phone. “I- it should all have been fine, I triple checked my circle, and my sigils, and I charged my crystals a month ago, and then I went to make tea because it is always polite to greet a demon with tea, and when I came back he was here!”
“You greet your summoned demons with tea?”
“Yes, it is polite, and it tends to make them less antsy. But as I was saying-”
“What kind of tea? My summons are always super annoyed, I might have to try that. Is it chamomile? Do you have a special demon-tea?”
“It’s a blend my Mutti used to make me-”
“Can you get me the recipe?”
“Yes, I can get you the recipe, but that is not the point of this phone-call, Jester!”
There’s a sigh on the other end of the line, the connection turning it into a rush of static. “Fine. Then why are you calling me? And especially this early in the day, Caleb. I mean, it is the weekend, you should be relaxing.”
“I am calling you,” Caleb says, trying desperately to stay calm, “because I cannot get rid of him.”
There’s a pause. When Jester replies Caleb can practically hear her confused frown. “But you’re, like, really good at that.”
“I do what everyone else can do-”
“Just accept the compliment, Caleb.”
Caleb glowers. “… Fine.”
“And calm down.”
“I am calm.”
“No, you’re not! You’re doing that thing where you pretend to be all chill and super cool, but actually you’re freaking out inside! And it’s not good for you, Caleb.”
“I’m not freaking out.” He is.
Caleb groans. “Jester. Will you help me or not?”
Jester sighs again. “Fine. Take a deep breath for me first.”
“…Do I have to?”
“Yes.” There’s no room for argument in Jester’s voice, and so Caleb complies. “Good. Now take another one.” Caleb does. “And another.” Slowly, Jester walks him through levelling out his breathing, until Caleb feels noticeably less twitchy. “Feel better?”
Caleb can’t see Jester’s smile but he knows that it’s there. “Good,” she says. “Now, go grab your witch-tome, and lets see if we can’t send this demon back.”
Mollymauk Tealeaf sits inside the circle of salt, idly trailing his claws over the tea towel that’s draped across his lap as he continues to listen in on the phone call that Caleb is having with someone that he’s been referring to as Jester. He’s been speaking to this person for a good ten minutes now, occasionally thumbing through a large, heavily annotated book that he’s got laid open on the dining table, and Molly is bored. He’s clearly not meant to be here. The tea that Caleb, still talking into his phone, gave him five minutes ago is nice, yes, but they’ve already established that Molly isn’t the demon that Caleb wanted to summon. Caleb wanted Caduceus, or at the very least a demon with Caduceus’ skill set. Molly doesn’t have that skill set. He knows that, and Caleb knows that, and yet for some reason he’s still here, sitting on a chalk-covered tarpaulin sheet in the middle of this human’s dining room with absolutely nothing to do.
He doesn’t have left-over summoning-tingles now, but that’s about all he can say. Summoning is always an unpleasant experience, typically leaving him feeling like he’s just dunked his head in ice water and then sprinkled salt on his brain, but the feeling had left within about fifteen minutes, and it had taken the novelty of the situation with it. He’s not meant to be here, and he should be home by now. He should be home, in his bath, relaxing amongst the bubbles, but instead he’s here, listening as some scruffy witch has an urgent conversation about how he accidentally summoned Molly.
Molly lifts his mug of tea to his lips, narrowing his one visible pair of eyes as he peers at the sigils chalked onto the tarpaulin that he’s sitting on. They certainly look like they spell his name - there’s a few extra embellishments, sure, and a couple of symbols that really don’t need to be there to summon him, but everything that is necessary to pull him away from his nice, relaxing bath and into this man's house is definitely there. There’s his name, and his summoning statement, and he can see a now-empty vial that he assumes once held the blood the ritual required, and there’s even the scent of lavender still hanging faintly in the air beneath the crackly ozone smell of witch-magic. Everything needed to summon him has been laid out, set up and ready for his arrival.
It just seems that Caleb, for some baffling reason, hasn’t realised that. It just seems that Caleb, somehow, actually did manage to summon the wrong demon by accident.
And it also seems that, for reasons unknown, Caleb can’t figure out how to send Molly back.
Molly tilts his head back, sighing loudly and pointedly. “Caleb,” he says, hoping to catch his attention, but Caleb does little more than shoot a quick glance in his direction before going back to his book.
“I know,” he mutters into the phone, “I- yes, I know, Jester, I am looking for it.”
“Looking for what?” Molly asks. He might as well speak up. It’s not like he has anything else to do.
“I- ja, Jester, I am aware, I have tried that-”
There’s still no response from Caleb. Molly drums his nails against the warm surface of the mug, lifting it to his lips to take another sip. He’s bored, and he wants to go home, and while it is rather amusing watching and listening to Caleb grow increasingly more frantic as he flips through pages and mutters into his phone, it is also starting to get just a little bit concerning.
“Caleb,” Molly says. Caleb doesn’t glance over at him, starting to scratch down a few notes on a sheet of paper that he pulled towards him. “Caleb,” Molly calls again, louder this time. This time Caleb seems to notice; he freezes for a moment before turning around, his phone still held tightly in his hand as he lowers it to his side.
“Ja?” he says cautiously.
Molly smiles. “Not that I’m not enjoying this delightful tea, darling, but I was beginning to wonder when you’ll be getting round to sending me home? I had a very lovely bath set up and waiting for me, you see, and I’m dying to get back to it.”
Caleb blinks. “You- a bath?”
“Of course,” Molly replies. And I’m going to need it after all this. “Surely you don’t think that I wander around nude for fun?” He does, admittedly, but Caleb’s already starting to flush a delightful pink colour, his bright blue gaze dropping briefly down to the tea towel on Molly’s lap, and Molly rather feels that admitting that he does actually enjoy lounging around his home naked might just make Caleb’s pretty face combust.
“I-” Caleb begins, and Molly delights at the slight stammer in his voice. “I, um, ah, I don’t- I wouldn’t- I try not to, um, presume anything about my, uh, my summons, Mr. Tealeaf.”
“Call me Molly, please,” Molly replies. He contemplates standing but quickly remembers the tea towel resting in his lap - Caleb may not have combusted from sheer embarrassment quite yet but he’s certainly looking close to it. And seeing how he’s really Molly’s only ticket out of here, having him quite literally go up in flames really wouldn’t end well for either of them. “But as I was saying – when will you be able to send me back? It’s probably cold by now.”
“Oh!” Caleb says. “Oh, um, about that…”
Molly narrows his eyes. That doesn’t sound good. “What?”
“I, ah-” There’s a sudden squawk of static from Caleb’s phone, cutting off whatever he was about to say, and he quickly lifts it, pressing it back against his ear. “Ja?” he asks. “Yes, no, sorry, Jester. I am- yes- okay, I will try that. Ja. Thank you.” A pause. “I know.” Another pause. “Ja, I know. I love you too. I will see you this afternoon. Thank you. Goodbye.” Caleb slips his phone into his pocket, lifting a hand to quickly rub at his forehead.
Molly raises an eyebrow. “Was that your girlfriend?” he asks.
Caleb gives a short laugh and drops his hand. “Oh, nein,” he replies, “just a friend. A very dear friend.” His gaze shifts, moving to the circle encasing Molly. “A very dear friend who just gave me a few suggestions on how to dismiss you. Do you mind if I…?”
“Please,” Molly says, waving a hand, “go right ahead.”
Caleb grabs something off the table, steps forwards, and starts pacing around the circle. He pauses a few times, moving items from place to place and muttering to himself quietly. Molly doesn’t understand any of it but he watches all the same, leaning back and observing as Caleb replaces one bowl of stuff with a another bowl of seemingly-identical stuff. After a handful of minutes Caleb seems, if not happy, at least satisfied with the situation, and he walks back to stand before Molly.
“Alright,” he says, rubbing his hands together. “This is a, uh, modified banishment circle. This should be able to send you home.”
Molly grins. Finally, some progress. “Wonderful,” he says, his tail flicking happily. “Do get on with it.”
Caleb nods to himself, already starting to gather amber-gold magic in his hands. “Goodbye, Mollymauk,” he says. “Hopefully for real this time.”
“Goodbye, Caleb,” Molly replies politely. He leans back, shuts his eyes, and waits.
There’s the same, familiar boom of magic.
There’s the same taste of ozone.
There’s the same shivery-sharp rush of magic over his skin as, for the space a moment, reality twists around him.
Mollymauk opens his eyes, and does not see his now-cold bubble bath.
“Well,” Caleb says faintly, “fuck.”