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Don't Trust Me

Chapter Text

Deep breathes, Elizabeth. This is it.

I could feel my temple throbbing from the uptick in my heart rate. The pounding music certainly didn’t help, but I couldn’t be bothered to try and make heads or tails of what the club was playing over the loudspeakers. My eyes zoned in and out of focus across the mob of dancers as I tried to keep my cool.

I must have looked like I was on my last leg because the bartender slid a shot glass in front of me with an encouraging grin. His eyes saying, ‘Drink up. You look like you need it.’

And I did. But I couldn’t - not right now. Not when we were this close . So I offered him a half smile as thanks and he went back to serving much more enthusiastic customers. I pushed the shot glass away and turned back to watching the crowd.

Immediately, I could pick out the others here with me. Howzer across the way, looking like one of the many frat boys here to party - ladies practically throwing themselves at him. I had to chuckle as he seemed to be both simultaneously flirting and trying to shoo them away. My eyes flickered to the second floor. There I find her. Looking down with her calm gaze was Veronica. A scowl on her lips as if she were too cool to be seen in a club like this.

Both of them able to blend so effortlessly into the crowd.

And here I was, looking like I was guilty of a crime.

Deep breathes… I reminded myself again even as I fought the urge to bang my head against the counter in frustration. I never did quite have the patience for these kinds of operations.

This wasn’t my first time in the field. But this was my case. This was the culmination of all our hard work paying off, and I couldn’t find it in me to pretend like it wasn’t a big deal.

We were about to take one of the city’s worst up-and-coming drug gangs out of commission. Once and for all.

When I was first handed the case, it was nothing special. That’s why they gave it to me in the first place. My supervisor believed it would be simple, nothing too hard for me to handle and a good way to get my feet wet. A new drug was on the street but it hadn’t yet gained any popularity amongst the populous. Just the normal gang bangers and the like, mostly.

But it was killing people. That made it our concern. Faster than anyone thought possible, though, the distribution of the drug skyrocketed.

Making the case a lot bigger than anyone wanted me to be in charge of.

I had to do this right. One misstep and they would take it away from me.

“What’s a lady like you doing in a place like this?” a confident voice cut through the music. A scowl immediately found it’s way on my face. This wasn’t the first time tonight I had been hit on. No doubt it wouldn't be the last.

I rolled my eyes, “Working.” I retorted rather abrasively. It was almost midnight. I was watching the back door under the stairs to the upper floor for my target. My green light that said the deal was on and our bust was a go. I didn’t have time to entertain some drunk idiot who thought he had a chance at getting laid.

“On what?” The man asked again, being a little too insistent for my liking. I turned with a rejection already primed - something sharp and degrading when my words fell short. Something in my experience as a cop making me pause as I took him in.

Despite my original guess, if he was drunk, he didn't act like it. In fact, his emerald gaze held mine confidently - not in a bad way either, but definitely lacking the swim of focus indicating alcohol consumption.

But it wasn't his eyes that had stopped me, though they certainly were distracting. It was his face. I recognized him from a poster hanging in the precinct. Or at least I recognized the contours of his face. The wanted poster didn’t really do him justice. The age had been all wrong. The eyes too. But the underlying structure; I could see it. This man was wanted for the assault and attempted murder of three officers in my precinct.

But… could he really? The man offered me a crooked grin at my speechlessness. It was charming. And his emerald eyes just danced with mirth. It was hard to imagine he was responsible for putting three heavily armed and trained officers into comas. Was I just projecting? No, there weren't many things I hung my hat on, but my keen eye for details had never lead me astray before.

So why here? Why me?

Could he tell that I was a cop?

Those emeralds darted away from their stare-off with me and his mood shifted to disappointed as his grin dipped into a small frown, all before he took the shot I had refused, threw it back, then stood from his bar stool, “Well, it was a pleasure.” He said haphazardly, then began to walk away with a wave.

What?! No! I can’t let him leave!

“Wait!” I called out to him before I even had a chance to think about my actions. This wasn’t my job here. He wasn’t my target, and I began to fumble over my words when he turned that charming crooked grin back on me again, “Wh-What’s you’re name?” I asked. Anything… anything at all that would lead me to him later.

That grin spread like wildfire into a full-on smile, “Maybe next time.” He said, disappearing into the crowd.

Next time?

He was gone. No amount of searching seemed to help. And no sooner had I given up, did my attention catch the signal I had been waiting for all night. From across the bar, I could see my target slipping his way around the back of the dance floor towards the door underneath the stairs.

Already, Howzer to my left and Veronica above me were on the move - so I shook the charming man from my head and quickly made my way through the crowd to rendezvous with them outside of the door. I reached under the hem of my skirt, pulling a small 10mm Glock from the hidden holster on my thigh, holding it low as to not scare any clubbers who were watching.

This is it…

“Alright, the target has made contact,” Veronica said softly, the music completely washing out her words, but Howzer and I had heard her perfectly clear.

Howzer pushed himself against the wall, Veronica taking the doorknob in one hand and keeping her Glock poised in the other. I stood just off the side, ready to take lead. We would go on Veronica’s count of three.

That was until we heard gunshots from behind the door - the bangs loud enough that the entire club went up into a frenzy behind us as we threw open the door, guns raised. “Freeze!” I shouted.

If the movies get one thing right, it’s the chaos that ensues during a breach and clear . The flurry of people attempting to run and hide, the mad dash to get rid of evidence.

But the scene we were met with was a far cry from what we had expected.

Standing in the room, seemingly alone was a single man - the same man who had approached me at the bar - his arms raised above his head, and a rather calm expression on his face despite being surrounded by stacks of money on one table and carefully wrapped packages of drugs on another. A gun laid out amongst the money. Did he shoot? Where was our target?

I kept my gun trained on him as I ordered my team to, “Fan out and look for others. He can't be the only one here.”

Howzer and Veronica swiftly carried out my orders. One taking the right, the other going left. It wouldn’t take them to long to make sure everything was clear. Cautiously I step closer to the blonde man. What was he even doing here? Was this why he'd left so suddenly?

Too many questions were spinning in my head. I can’t seem to pin one down to put into words.

A smile works its way on his face as his eyes meet mine, “Long time no see.” he commented sarcastically.

Just... who the hell was this guy?

Chapter Text

The police station was buzzing, not uncommon for this time of night on a Friday, but there were certainly a few too many people hanging around just to see if we had managed to pull off our sting.

I hate office rubberneckers. They were the ones you were sure to keep your private life away from if you didn’t want to be the talk of the department. That being said, this was a big case. And we had brought in a suspect. There was bound to be talk whether I liked it or not.

“Hear you caught a fish!” one of the other detectives called out as I hustled down the hall towards the interrogation rooms. I didn’t have time to acknowledge him. I had to question my suspect before he got wise and lawyered up.

It’s about half-way down the next hall that I find my destination, a closed door labeled 'Interrogation Room 3' and I take a steadying breath. I don’t even need to check the adjoining room to know that it's occupied by my team. All just as anxious as I was to close this case and nail it shut.

I opened the door, peering in at the room's occupant with an air of confidence about me. Interrogation 101: make the perp feel like you have all their dirty secrets before you even open your mouth.

The man looked up the moment I walked in and he shot me quite a confident grin of his own - no matter. It wouldn’t be there for long.

I open the folder tucked in my hand, “Possession of several pounds of illegal substances, intent to sell, carrying of an unregistered illegal firearm, money laundering, and possession of counterfeit bills. We have enough evidence here to put you away for a long time.” I say, lingering near the door, but eventually finding my way to sit in the chair in front of him. “Make a confession, and the D.A. may cut you some slack.” I say like I’m doing him a favor.

There was a moment of contemplative silence before he hummed, watching me speculatively, before a grin found its way over his lips, “No, you don’t.”

“Excuse me?”

“You don’t actually have anything on me. Otherwise, I’d be in a cell and not Interrogation Room 3 .” The cocky bastard leaned back into his metal chair, hands resting lazily behind his head.

I forced myself to take a deep, calming breath before responding to his overconfident ass. Impulse control has always been a struggle. A dangerous thing to lack in my line of work. Thankfully a few years on the job and meditation on a daily basis helped keep it under control.

Deep breathes…

“You were at the scene of the crime,” I told him, twirling a pen in my hand to seem just as confident as him.

“Sure,” he shrugged easily. “But so were you… and roughly two hundred other people.”

I bit the inside of my cheek to keep from retorting. This guy was going to have a comeback for anything I said. But still… “Those two hundred other people weren’t caught in compromising positions.”

“Just trying to find the bathroom.”

“In a restricted employee’s only area? With a gun?”

He stared at me, unblinking before replying, “it was really dark in there. You can’t honestly tell me you’ve never taken a wrong turn in the dark? And I wasn’t actually in possession of a gun. It was on the table.”

His responses were quick and precise. As if he’s done this a hundred times before. He masterfully dodges anything I say, not letting me pin a single thing down on him despite finding him amongst the drugs and money. It’s hard to believe this is the same man that approached me at the bar before everything went to shit.

“You shouldn’t scowl so much, Princess. Ruins that pretty face of yours.”

I bristle, my eyes narrowing dangerously. “Princess?”

His lips quirk, “Sure. Why not? Princess seems like a good name for ya.”

“I am not a princess.”

He propped an elbow on the table, emerald eyes dancing with the mirth he displayed earlier in the night. His chin settled in his open palm as he smiled. “Coulda fooled me.”

The blonde is trying to get under my skin, I know he is. Yet, I can’t help taking the bait, “and what’s that suppose to mean?”

“You looked so out of place at the club.”

I pursed my lips. The question I had for him when we first met rising to the tip of my tongue. “You knew I was a cop?”

I internally cringe. What is wrong with me? Why would I ask him that? I sound ridiculous!

“Didn’t say that,” he leans back in his chair. “Just said you looked outta place. Though,” that crooked grin appears on his face. “Kinda obvious you are one now.”

I can feel my cheeks heating. Quickly I glance down at the forgotten file I had brought in with me. I hold it up at an angle so he couldn’t see that the files inside were fewer than I let on. Only a couple of documents from the scene and the poster I had linked to him.

Looking between it and him again, I'm reminded how badly the sketch represents him. It would hardly hold up in court. But I could still see the uncanny resemblance.

“It says here that you’ve assaulted three officers. They remain in critical condition.” I comment, taking a chance. If he was so prepared for anything having to do with the club, maybe bringing this up would throw him off his game.

There is the slightest twitch of his eyes as he watched me, but he didin’t falter, “Is that so?” He asked, unconvinced, eying the folder, “Do I really look like I could do something like that?” He quirks a brow and gestures at his stature.

He’s short. Shorter than me even, with semi-boyish features. If I hadn’t seen him out at the club I may have thought him merely a teen. But I knew better than anyone how deceiving looks could be. I reevaluate the piece of paper. The descriptions and the picture are just beyond wrong. Despite that, I can still see the similarities between them. I bite the inside of my bottom lip.

Something seems wrong with this.

I glance at him over the top of the folder. He’s looking around the room, not at all bothered by being here. He knows something, the thought nags at the back of my head. And he’s confident enough that what he knows will get him out of here. I close the folder and set it back on the table. My hands fold over the top of it as I decide how to reply.

“I don’t necessarily believe that looks are a good judge of what someone is capable of.”

“Fallen victim to a few hasty judgments yourself, huh Princess?”

He’s right. This line of work doesn’t favor the young and beautiful. I lost track of how many times I’ve been written off because of my age and large bust. They put me behind a desk for two years , before I was given a chance to get out to the field. This was the first case I was in charge of and I wanted, no, needed it to go right. Otherwise, they may just stick me behind that damned desk again - forever the poster girl of gender and age diversity in the department.

The thought strengthens my resolve. I can do this.

“We aren’t discussing me here, Sir, ” I respond with mock politeness.

My tone doesn’t seem to bother him as a large smile spreads across his face. “Aren’t we though, Princess ?”

I’m torn between the urge to slap him for the stupid nickname and falling for his charm. His smile is, admittedly, pleasant to look at. Those emerald eyes, so expressive with his glee - like he were joking with an old friend. It boggles me how he can be so at ease in an interrogation. Not even completely innocent people get out of this without breaking a sweat.

“Look,” I level with him, shaking my head to get my fascination with him out of my mind and back onto the job. “We found you at the scene - that in itself is enough to hold you, so, you aren’t getting out of this without giving us something.”

“I could give you my number?”

My patience was wearing thin. I was tired of playing this game with him. And it was just that - a game. It was time to throw out my trump card. “Alright, I was trying to be nice, but you’re impeding on my investigation. And I don’t know if you realize this, but that’s a felony, and I can lock you up for obstruction of justice.”

His brows raised, but the grin never left, “Wow… those are some really impressive words.” He breathed, mulling over my threat, “Alright, since you twisted my arm.” He sat up, folding his fingers on the table - finally a seriousness falling over his features as he regarded me. I too lean closer, thankful that this little dance was over.

“I didn’t do it.” And just like that, his grin was back.

My nose and lip began to twitch as I restrained a growl. I wanted so bad to grab him by the tie he wore loosely around his neck and strangle him. Luckily for him, his saving grace came in the form of a quick knock on the two-way glass.

I picked up my folder, sparing no glance towards him as I fumed my way out of the room, slamming the door behind me.

“What the hell are you doing in there?” Veronica threw her arms up as I entered the observation room, motioning to the window as if I needed another reminder of how badly this was going. “Don’t wait till he lawyers up. Charge the bastard and let’s get this done!”

I frown, knowing that at least one thing the blonde man said was true. We have nothing to hold him indefinitely. Anything we do have is circumstantial at best. Even a bad defense lawyer would be able to pick the case apart.

Howzer was standing cross-armed in front of the window watching our suspect intently, “Do you really think this is the same guy who took out the cops in the hospital?”

Veronica groaned, “That doesn’t matter!”

“It does matter.” I said, shooting her a disapproving look, “But to be honest…” I joined Howzer at the window. The man inside rocked back on the hind chair legs, confident and cool as ever. “I just don’t know. I think he’s involved, but to what extent, I’m not sure.”

“What are you sure of?”

Howzer and I spun around, completely at attention as soon as the chief's voice washed over us. The head of the department stood in the doorway, his outward expression said that he wasn’t in the mood for failure. “Sir!”

I felt my heart jump into my throat, “Well sir, he’s-”

“We can do more than place him at the scene! This cocky asshole is good for it.” Veronica interrupted me, and I was starting to get a little more than annoyed with her. Why was she so damned determined to see someone charged? Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?

“The evidence we have is circumstantial, Veronica. The defense would have a field day.”

Chief Bartra gave me a long look, “So we have nothing?”

“No sir. On the contrary, I believe I can get the evidence needed to close this case. This man,” I turned back to the window, and I shouldn’t have been surprised to see the blonde was smiling at the mirror as if he could see right past it to me, “I am positive that this man is responsible for putting three of our own into critical condition. I also think he knows more about what’s going on than he’s telling me.”

“Why are we not charging him with that?”

“The evidence isn’t there to-”

“So, nothing.” The chief groaned, pinching the bridge of his nose to alleviate his growing headache.

“Sir please!” I raised my voice and even I could hear the desperation there. “I can get the evidence. Just give me a chance.”

The older man watched me, gauging me, before finally asking, “Would you stake your career on it?”

My mouth fell open. My dreams of becoming a cop, of making the city a better place, all of it was suddenly on the line. And why wouldn’t it be? The Chief of police was a man who didn’t humor failure. He ran a tight ship. And worse of all… he was my father. It was no secret that he didn’t want me on the force. Call it misguided over-protection, or just down-right discouragement, but he would do anything to see that I was sent packing.

Not today.

I closed my mouth, feeling a sense of courage surging up through me as I squared off to the old man, “Yes.” I replied, feeling the resolution echoing in my response, “Yes I would.”

I’m not sure my answer satisfied him, but he relented, “Fine. If it can be done, do it.” He said dismissively, on his way out the door, but before he could leave, he leaned back - meeting my gaze seriously, “You have a month, Elizabeth. If you can’t get the evidence you need to close this case in one month, then I want your badge and gun on my desk. Do I make myself clear?”

One month?! It took nearly three months to set up the sting from last night! “Yes, sir.” I affirm, keeping my fretting inward. He narrows his eyes on me again and then he was gone.

“What the hell just happened?” Howzer asked, sounded just as befuddled as I felt. I didn’t know how to respond. I had just wagered my job for this case and I had thirty days to close it.

Nothing else was said as I left the observation room.

I took a long breath as I stood outside of the interrogation room door, feeling less confident than the first time I had entered. It was a different game this time, with so much more on the line than before.

Finally, I steeled my nerves and opened the door. I was greeted once again with that charming smile, but this time it didn’t fill me with the conflicting feelings it had before. This man was my only hope for keeping my job.

I took my place in the seat across from him, eyeing him for a long moment. I had one chance. I had to be sure about this… no, I was sure about this. Finally - without a word, I open the folder, pulling the wanted poster with the poor representation of him out and turned it so that he could see.

“Don’t talk. Just… just listen.”

The blonde’s mouth closed loudly to emphasize his cooperation, and I took that as my cue to continue. I placed a finger on the poster, tapping it as I spoke as if to drive my point harder, “I know this is you. But I don’t care about that right now.” I watch him, searching his face for any crack in his facade, only to find there was none.

“I have a feeling you are involved with all of this somehow. You let us catch you - for only god knows what reason. But despite that, I believe you. I believe that you didn’t do it - whatever it is.”

“Why?” His question was unexpected, and I found myself asking the same question internally. Why did I believe him? Because he was charming? Because he knew how to avoid incriminating himself?

“Because…” I trail off. What could I possibly say that wouldn’t sound like I… was desperate? I’m sure Veronica and Howzer are still watching behind the glass and even if they weren’t, all interrogations are recorded.

“You haven’t lied to me,” I settle with saying. Once the words leave my lips I know them to be true. Maybe he hasn’t answered over half of my questions, but the one he did. He told the truth. I can feel it.

His green eyes study me silently. “You sure about that?”

“I am,” I nod. “Now that kind of trust should go both ways.”

“Trust?” His lips quirk. “I’m in an interrogation room. I don’t think there’s much trust between us right now.”

I smile and his own drops, seemingly caught off guard. “Yes, but it isn’t a cell. You pointed that out so helpfully. The difference between when I first brought you in and now is that I can, at the very least, hold you for what we do have on you.”

“It wouldn’t be for long,” he lounges back in his chair, arms crossed over his chest, undisturbed by my small threat. But for the first time, I could see the wheels turning in his head.

“Maybe not, but I’m sure you’d have things you’d rather be doing than sitting in a jail cell for an undisclosed amount of time.”

He mulls it over for a minute before replying, “and what, exactly, do you think I can help you with?”

I fight back my eagerness. That simple question is probably the most headway I’ve made with him so far. “Like I said, I know you’re involved. I just wanna know the specifics.”

“Specifics huh?” He hums, a finger tapping against his chin thoughtfully. “And what are you going to do with these… specifics ?”

“Depends on what you give me.”

“Well,” that damn crooked grin comes back full force. “I did offer you my number earlier.”

I grit my teeth. So much for that headway.

He chuckles at my stern expression. “Tell you what, Princess. I’ll help you out.”

“Really?” My jaw practically unhinges. All this back and forth is starting to make my head spin. And didn't this all but confirm my suspicions? Unless of course, this was another one of his jokes at my expense.

He holds up a finger to stop me before I can say anything else. “I have a few conditions of course.”

I try not to scowl. “...and they are?”

The blonde grins widely. “First off, as much as I like calling you Princess, how about a real name?”

“My name?” I realized then that I'd never introduced myself when first entering the room. It was such a simple request. Almost seems too simple but at the same time… A name could be dangerous. I was going to use his to try and track him down just a few hours ago.

“We’re going to be working together for a while,” he clarifies, watching me, passing his motivation to me through his gaze. He had no intention of telling me what I wanted to know now… I’d have to work for it. “Unless you want me to keep calling you Princess?”

My nose scrunches up, “No.”

“It’s Princess or your name,” He shrugs.

“Well, what about yours?” I counter childishly.

His eyes light up. Obviously enjoying the game - a game I was now being forced to play. “Show me yours and I’ll show you mine.”

“Show?”

“Tell, sorry,” he chuckles lightly. It’s a nice laugh. “I meant tell.”

I don’t think he meant tell at all…

Whatever this guy had planned… I was in it for the long-haul. He’d regret challenging me. “Elizabeth,” I say pointedly.

“Elizabeth,” he tests my name out, rolling it around on his tongue like a fine wine. Or maybe he was trying to figure out if I had given him a fake name. Either way, he nods, satisfied with my answer.

I fight back the urge to fidget. Long-haul. I can’t become impatient when the game has just started. However, I can’t help but ask, “Well?”

“Meliodas,” he replies with a crooked grin. “Maybe you’ve heard of me?”

Chapter Text

My eyes go wide. “Meliodas?” I slam my hands on the table as I stand up abruptly. “As in leader of the Seven Deadly Sins, Meliodas ?”

“That’s me,” the blonde replies, voice light and cheery.

“That’s - that’s a notorious gang!” I sputter, before narrowing my eyes on him suddenly, “If you’re lying to me, I can have you thrown away for-”

“Interfering with an investigation. It’s a felony, yeah, yeah,” he interrupts me and rolls his eyes. That damn smile still in place. The cocky bastard. “I’m not lying. My name is Meliodas.”

Before I can continue, another tap comes across the glass. I don’t hide my frown at being interrupted again. The blonde in front of me, Meliodas , merely smiles. I pick up the toppled chair and try to calm the sudden racing of my heart.

I can’t believe this is the leader of the Seven Deadly Sins. This could break the case wide open!

Another, impatient tap.

I shake my head at them. Probably Veronica, I fight back rolling my eyes. I turn to Meliodas. “I’ll be right back.”

His emerald eyes search my face and he smiles, “Hope so, Elizabeth.”

My heart lurches in my chest at the sudden use of my name. I forgot that I had given it to him in all the excitement of figuring out who he was. Instead of replying, I simply nod and walk out of the room in better spirits than when I first went in. I barely open the door to the observation room before Veronica is hounding me.

“Are you trying to get yourself killed?!”

My brows furrow, “No, I’m trying to solve a case.”

“With him?” Her hands fidget uncontrollably at her side, probably resisting the urge to slap some sense into me. “Do you know who he is? I know you just put your career on the line Ellie, but this isn't the way.” Her voice softens in an unusual display of affection from her.

My older sister.

I wasn’t the only one who wanted to follow in Father’s footsteps. While Veronica and I took the more direct path, our eldest sister, Margaret, took a different approach. She was the Assistant District Attorney for our precinct. A path Father would have preferred we all took, but especially me, the youngest. According to him, I just didn’t have the same fire and street smarts as Veronica - something I’ve always resented her for.

This case was going to help me prove him wrong.  

“Yes, Veronica, I know who he is,” I reply patiently. “I told you I had a feeling he was involved with this.”

I just didn’t realize how right I was.

The Seven Deadly Sins. A highly skilled, highly lethal group of thugs. It’s not really clear when the gang was formed - even our city’s organized crime unit has had little to no progress in tracking them down or gathering intel. Everything we knew came directly from the source - that is, whenever we came across their calling cards at crime scenes. There was no telling just how long their rap sheet really was, but so far; murder, attempted murder, grand larceny, grand theft, arson, and drug trafficking were rumored to be at the top of a very long list. Despite that, the only thing they ever left behind was a simple note with a picture of a dragon eating its tail. There was no actual evidence tying any of their members to any of the crimes they claimed to be responsible for.

There was only one member we had a vague idea of appearance on, and that wasn’t the one sitting in the interrogation room.

While we did have a poster that somewhat resembled the blonde, it was in no way tied to the Seven Deadly Sins. The crime on that poster was from a few years ago. We were able to get the description from a witness who’d seen the attack, but that misrepresentation of a sketch was all we ever got out of them. No name. Nothing.

We only knew Meliodas as leader of the Sins by word-of-mouth on the street.

The one member we were sure of, was named Ban.

It happened by mere chance. After investigating a random burglary, a child admitted to seeing the culprit. Apparently Ban had told the kid who he was and claimed to be second in command of the notorious gang. That was a year ago. His poster was still hanging on the board - how could we be sure that his picture wasn’t wrong too, though? And what kind of gang member went around bragging about that sort of thing to kids?

My eyes drifted over to the blonde in the interrogation room. Even after telling me his name, he’s still so at ease. And why wouldn’t he be? We couldn’t confirm he was who he said he was, and there was no proof to connect him to anything!

That’s why he was so damn confident earlier! I realize with a start. He and his band of… god, could there really only be seven of them in total?! It didn’t matter. Seven, twenty, they were all untouchable.

“If he’s telling the truth, then this may be our chance to not only dismantle the city’s biggest drug cartel, but also it’s worst crime syndicate!” I explain to my team. With the Seven Deadly Sins involved, this case had just become ten times more dangerous - if that was even possible. I couldn’t let an opportunity like this pass us by, despite Veronica’s obvious disdain for it.

“He’s got to realize that by helping us, he’s only opening himself up to being caught. What makes you think he’ll cooperate?” Howzer comments. And he has a point.

“I have to make him trust me. Make him think I won’t turn them in when all is said and done.”

Veronica groaned and I could see the disgust on her face in her muted reflection, “Right. Elle the tell-all is going to convince a crime boss that she isn’t all about the law. You couldn’t even fake a smile at the club last night. You’re not suited for this.”

The directness and complete lack of support had me baffled. I turned to watch her cross her arms, “I was the one to convince Dad to let you on the force. I can convince him that you weren’t serious about this whole mess. You can keep your job, alright?”

“To what end?!” I yell back, feeling my control slipping from me once more with each passing word, “You do that and he’ll throw me back to desk duty for sure - or worse!”

She shrugs, unfazed by my anger, “And maybe that’s where you belong, Ellie. Trust me, you just don’t have-”

Something inside me snapped. My own flesh-and-blood didn’t even have my back… But that didn’t mean I had to stand here and take her abuse. “THIS is MY case.” I roar over her, effectively silencing her, “I am the lead on this investigation. The chief has already given me permission to do as I see fit on it. If you don’t like that, you can transfer to another task force.”

There was a long silence between the two of us, the tension palpable, until Veronica scoffed and left the room.

“That’s a bit harsh, don’t you think El?” Howzer comments with an audible sigh. “She’s just trying to help.”

“Well I don’t need her help,” I snap at him. Not this time. In truth, Veronica has been helping me out for far too long and while I appreciate her sisterly need to look out for me, I’m more than frustrated by it. Her words about getting me on the force stung .

Finally he takes his eyes off the glass. That normally easy going smile is set into a tight line. “You can’t do this alone.”

I mull over the statement. “I don’t want to. But I will if I have to.”

He sighs heavily, his shoulders slumping back into that relaxed posture I know so well. “You know I got your back, El,” he smiles. “Besides, you’d be totally lost without my help!”

I laugh lightly and shake my head, “Of course, Howzer, thank you.”

Howzer and I have been friends for as long as I can remember. If it hadn’t been for him I may not have even made it through school. His positive attitude was sometimes the only thing that kept me going when I felt like breaking down. He has always had my back. It was by mere chance that we ended up in the same precinct. Or maybe my father’s interference, I never asked. If he did pull some strings to get Howzer here, I, for once, wasn’t going to complain about it.

“So what’s your plan here?” The blonde redirects his attention back to the room.

I'm thinking on that very question when I notice the stack of open, fanned out files sitting on the table between us and the glass. In all the back-and-forth with Veronica, I hadn't even realized Howzer had brought the case files in with him - but retrospect tells me this isn't exactly a new habit. He once told me that bringing the files in the observation room, helped him think of the victims. Of why it was so important we close each case as fast as we could.

The first one is open to a police report with pictures clipped to the folder. One of the newest crime scenes we'd come across in connection with the drugs and gang we were trying to dismantle. The kid had been fifteen. His body had gone three days subjected to the elements before it had been found. The pictures were enough to make me rethink wanting to get breakfast when all of this was said and done.

I remember the anguish in his mother's face and wails when we had informed her of his death. And he wasn't the only one. There were no fewer than twelve other confirmed deaths attributed to this damn drug - another six unconfirmed. Our contacts in the field said that dealers were calling it XGEN; meaning new generation. A drug that was supposed to make you faster, stronger, smarter… all it was really doing was killing people.

But apparently client death isn’t nearly as bad for business as it should have been as XGEN continued to flood the streets. People keep dying… mother's keep wailing for the loss of loved ones...

I step up to my longtime partner, taking a long moment to remind myself why this was so important. It wasn’t just about my career… it was about the victims and their families looking for closure. With that in mind, I feel my resolve solidify and my eyes lock on the man named Meliodas in the room beyond the glass. “Let’s hear what he has to say first. Then we can go from there.”

“Don’t agree with anything, right away,” he advises. “We don’t need him to think he holds all the cards.”

“Even if he does?” I deadpan rhetorically, giving Howzer a sidelong grin for pointing out the obvious. The banter with him is always calming. Reminding me to enjoy the small doses of laughter when I can because God knows in this line of work, it’s easy to forget about the bright side.  

He laughs, a smile on his face. “Well he doesn’t need to know that!”

I push his shoulder lightly. “I’ll be sure to not let him know.” I move towards the door.

“I’ll be right here.”

“I know you will.” I give him an appreciative smile before adding, “Otherwise you’d be doing paperwork.”

“Ugh,” he groans, “Don’t remind me. I have a huge stack waiting on my desk. I hate paperwork.”

I leave the room and head back towards Meliodas. A hundred thousand possible scenarios playing in my head, and I come up with answers for all of them.

However, the moment I open the interrogation room door, Meliodas’ bright smile is on me again, as if to say ‘welcome back’ and despite the advice of my friend and partner still watching on the other side of the mirror, my next words flew right from my mouth without a second thought.

“So, about those other conditions?” I asked, my own grin spreading, feeling a flare of rebelliousness igniting my blood.

I could practically feel the facepalm Howzer was doing on the other side.

Chapter Text

“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” I mumble to myself as I pace back and forth in an old abandoned district.

Meliodas’ demands had been simple enough. Pardon me and my friends and we’ll make sure you get what you need to pin down the people you’re really after. His voice replays in my mind. He spoke with such confidence.

He didn’t expect me volunteering myself to go undercover with him.

A sense of pride calms my steps and a smug smile works onto my face. The split second of utter bewilderment that crossed that carefree attitude had been more than rewarding enough. Even if I got my ass chewed out by Howzer, Veronica and my father after. The finer details worked out and I was able to convince my long time friend that there was no guarantee to get the Sins to come back unless I went with them.

There was a huge risk with this whole plan. The biggest currently being; What if he doesn’t show up?

Meliodas gave me a set of coordinates to meet him at in a day. He said, let’s both get a few things ready, with a bright grin. Oh and don’t forget to pack a bag.

One glance around the abandoned shipping crates had all of my red flags flying. It was an old ship-yard, a place shipping containers went to die. Something about that notion creeped me out.

“Yo, Elizabeth!”

I spun around to find the blonde walking towards me - having appeared from one of the many paths leading to this spot, that ever present smile on his face. His hands were in his pockets as he approached me. My mind immediately jumped to worst case scenario.

I braced myself as Meliodas removed his hand from his pocket, pulling with it a black sash.

He must have noticed my sudden alertness because he laughed and waved the fabric around like it was part of some magic show, “No worries, just a blindfold.”

“Blindfold?” I’m starting to get really skeptical about all of this…

“Yeah. Sorry, you understand, right? We’re not quite close enough yet for you to know our secret hide-out.” He shrugs, like this is middle-school again. Exactly how old was this guy?

That being said, despite every alarm in my head telling me this was a terrible idea, I did understand, and I let him tie the opaque cloth over my eyes. He was being rightfully cautious. I’d be more suspicious if he wasn’t.

The next thing I knew, there was a warm hand grabbing mine and pulling me along. The initial contact was… strange. It sent a jolt up my spine in the weirdest way. I ignored it though, in favor of counting our steps and the turns he had us taking.

68...69...70… right turn, then a sharp left. Another 10 steps… then we stopped. I waited, listened. I could still hear the traffic from the expressway that I had taken to get to the docks. I could still hear the water, smell the salt in the air. We hadn’t gone very far.

“Sorry, Princess, but no more counting for you.” Meliodas’ light, jovial voice cut through the darkness and I was suddenly off my feet falling - no - being pushed. I landed on something rather soft though, and then the sounds around me were cut off by the sound of a heavy metal sliding car door shutting behind me.

“Took you long enough boss!” I heard an unfamiliar voice slur loudly, and I could smell the overwhelming stench of booze. What the hell?!

“Ban, get the hell out of the driver’s seat, you wasted bastard…” Meliodas’ voice was present again and I hated how relieved that made me feel. I shouldn’t have been relieved at all. I was blindfolded in the back of a vehicle bound for god only knew where. Silver lining: at least he wasn’t selling me off to someone. Yet.

He said boss… the realization hit me like a ton of bricks. The man had called Meliodas boss and he in turn called the man Ban… I was in a vehicle with two of the Sins?!

I couldn’t help myself, slowly, I reached up to move the blindfold.

“I wouldn’t do that.” Yet another unfamiliar voice, and he was even closer to me. Sitting in the back to make sure I behaved? “Boss, I don’t get why I have to sit back here with the girl.”

I could smell the wafting cloud of booze suddenly hit me, so I assume Ban turned to look back at whoever was sitting next to me, “Because~ You’re too damn short to be good for anything else King~” He cackled, and the one he called King grumbled something about being taller than Meliodas under his breath.

I had been so distracted that once the two of them went silent, I noticed that the car had already been moving. I was already lost. No idea how long we’d been driving or what direction. I cursed myself internally, relenting to just learn as much as I could on the drive.

Was King another sin?

“She’s prettier than I thought she’d be, being a pig and all,” the voice belonging to Ban stated. “Too much boob though.”

“Can you not make that gesture?” King comments drily.

My mouth drops open, all concentration I’d managed to focus on the turns falling at the brass statement. Did Ban just… insult my chest? “Excuse me?”

“You’re excused,” he responds. He takes an audible whiff off the air and his voice lowers slightly. “Not sure what she’s excusing herself for… I don’t smell nuthin…”

Meliodas chuckles from where I can only assume is the driver’s seat. “I think she was referring to you talking about her boobs.”

“Oh… well they are big.”

King mumbles something under his breath yet again. This time I can’t catch it. I’m way too mortified to even concentrate on where the hell the car is going or care to pay attention to what the man next to me said.

“Wanna repeat that, King?” Meliodas cheery voice fills the car.

“... no.”

Ban snickers. “Don’t think he needs to repeat himself. We all know his preference.”

My face feels warm under the blindfold. Why is it so warm in this damn car?

“Speaking of,” Meliodas steps into the conversation, “did you remind her to close down shop for the day?”

“Yes, Boss,” the man next to me replies. “Told her again before we left.”

The stench of booze fills the car yet again as Ban laughs. “Was that before or after the two of you-”

“Hey!” King’s voice cancels out his. “Let’s not play that game right now, alright?”

Ban snorts, “I’m sure the lady doesn’t mind.”

“Yeah, well I do!” King stubbornly replies.

I’m half tempted to ask what the two of them are talking about. The other half wants to sink down farther into the soft leather and pretend I’m not here. I shake myself out of it. I’m here because of a job. I need to pay attention to everything that they say.

“We’re suppose to be keeping her occupied.”

“That doesn’t mean we need to talk about-”

“Guys,” Meliodas interrupts the twos’ spat with a chuckle. “You did your job so keep it down a bit would ya?”

“Sorry Boss,” they both mumble together.

“Wait…” I think it over. “You wanted me to listen?” My accusing tone is only for Meliodas and must be apparent as he answers.

“Well sure, I told you no more counting, didn’t I, Princess?”

I can practically hear that smug smile.

“Princess?” King spoke. “Does it have to be that?”

“We can’t very well go around calling her by her actual name, now can we?” Meliodas answers lightly.

“No, a code name makes sense. But,” the man next to me pauses. “Does it have to be Princess?” he repeats himself.

Ban cackles. “What? You worried people are gunna associate her with you, King? Maybe they’ll think she’s your daughter!” The drunkard continues to chortle.

“Doubtful,” Meliodas chimes in, effectively squashing Ban’s suggestion. Thank god. I have no idea who this King character is, but Ban’s suggestion painted a picture of my own father sitting next to me, scolding me if I fail. Not something I needed to be reminded of. “How much did you let him drink already if he’s making suggestions like that?”

King snorts. “As if I could stop him from drinking even if I cared to.”

“You probably should.”

“Being his babysitter all the time gets tiring,” he sighs heavily.

Meliodas chuckles in response. “But you’re so good at it!” King groans. “At least he sleeps like a baby when he has too much booze.”

“Is that why he’s so quiet all of a sudden?” I mumble under my breath, but my voice carries in the small cabin.

Laughter fills the vehicle.

“About the only time he is,” King confirms.

This was all very cute and all… but I was supposed to be undercover. This was all supposed to lead up to Meliodas helping me close my case. Being blindfolded and kidnapped wasn’t part of the deal, “I know hostages aren’t supposed to be demanding, but I’m starting to get a little impatient.” I growl out, “You said you’d help me catch the people responsible for releasing ‘new generation’ and-”

“XGEN.” His voice cuts me off, correcting me - and I find I don’t much appreciate it. Before I can voice my lack of fucks-to-give, he continues, “No one actually calls it new generation .” Meliodas chuckles and I hear the tick-tick-tick of the turn signal before we merge to the left, “And you’re not a hostage. You can leave any time you’d like. If you’re going to do that, though, I’d recommend tucking and rolling.”

The inside of my cheek is raw with how hard I keep biting it to keep from going off on this man. My long silence however, is met with a sudden change in tone, “I said I’d help you, and that’s what I’m doing, Princess. I’m nothing if not a man of my word.” There’s another shift of the car to the right this time, and then I have to brace myself, grabbing cold metal to keep from sliding as the vehicle turns right.

“But I can’t help you from just anywhere.” He finishes, and I can read between the lines. He’s asking me to have some patience. Humor him.

Easier said than done. I’m a cop, blindfolded in the back seat of a vehicle being driven by the boss of a notorious criminal gang… Patience and humor are in short supply.

But a flash of the stack of case files in my head, and the images of mothers and families wailing makes me think I can find it in me to hold out.

I sigh, allowing some of that pent up aggravation to ease away. “Alright, fine. Point made.” I concede.

“Good.” He replies, and that damned grin is in his voice now. I could hear it. I don’t get long to ponder on how much I hate it before the vehicle comes to a very sudden stop - making me tumble forward.

“DAMNIT BOSS! I WAS SLEEPIN!” Ban groans. I’m pretty sure I heard him hit the dash at about the same time I had to keep from hitting the floor.

“Should have been wearing a seatbelt…” King retorts quietly, but there was a hint of satisfaction in his voice that was undeniable.

“What the hell?!” I yell, pushing back up onto my knees, just about ready to yank the blindfold off my face to strangle Meliodas with it, “Why the fuck would you do that?!

He hums nonchalantly, like nothing was wrong, like I was the strange one for being so angry, “Cause we’re here.”

Chapter Text

My mouth opened as I eyed the building in front of me speculatively. I took a breath, prepared to let all the questions building in my throat out in one long exhale, but found myself snapping it shut once more. Nothing I could possibly ask could adequately sate my morbid curiosity and confusion.

“I didn’t break you, did I?” Meliodas’ voice cuts through the millions of questions racing through my head and I glance over to see him watching me - no doubt entertained by my reaction after having pulled the blindfold from my eyes.

“... a bar?” I hated how incredulous I sounded. How many times was I going to let this jack-ass blind-side me?

“Yep! Welcome to my place, Princess,” Meliodas makes a grand gesture to the building. Hanging by the front doors swayed an engraved sign that read ‘Boar’s Hat’ . What the hell is a boars hat? “This is where we’ll be staying until we get your shit sorted.” He beamed, pulling my attention away from the odd name.

I eyed the bar again suspiciously. It looked like a complete dump - like someone had set up shop in an old abandoned grocery store and was trying to pass it off as a functioning business. It was surrounded by shitholes on the right and left, smack dab in the middle of ‘the wrong part of town’. Why anyone in their right mind would come to this place for a drink was beyond me. And what was worse was that in the time that the department had known about the Sins, not once had anyone found this place? Was the entire force completely incompetent?  

He slipped his hand in mine and once again I was struck by the strangeness, not to mention forwardness, of his actions. It was so… casual. Intimate even.

“The place should be cleared out by now. King’s parking the car and Ban is supervising. Though I think his drunk ass just wasn't ready to walk,” he chuckled as he tugged me along. “Downside of the base being a bar, I suppose. We get drunk a lot .” That last comment had a hint of pride behind it.

“Your base… is a bar? ” I furrow my brows as I repeat my question. I’m still dumbstruck by the sheer ridiculousness of it. There’s no way that a powerhouse group like the Seven Deadly Sins operated out of this dingy shack. I’ve seen drug dealers with better digs.

He throws a cheeky grin over his shoulder. “Sure is, Princess.”

“Thought you were going to start calling me by my name.”

Meliodas hums as he places a hand on the door. “Pretty sure I said I’d call you Princess or Elizabeth. Just figured Princess would be better for now.” He quirks a brow at me, smile still resting on his features. “Unless you want everyone to know who you are ?”

Was that a threat? I frown as I watch him, choosing to remain silent instead of arguing further.

“Well,” the blonde pushes the door open. “Let’s introduce you to the-” he stops, face blanking as he eyes the packed bar.

“Meliodas!” The voices cheer.

“The Boss is back!” someone shouts.

“Who’s that Mel?”

“She’s awfully pretty.” Someone else shouts from further back before a chorus of catcalls and whistles erupted out. I have never been so aware of my v-neck tee-shirt as I am right now, and I can already feel my face start to heat up, but quickly fight the flush that threatens to overwhelm my complexion.

Seven - yeah right! There’s gotta be fifty people here easy! Are all of them Sins?

Suddenly Meliodas lets go of my hand only to wrap an arm around my waist. “Yo everyone. This is my new girlfriend. Feel free to call her Princess.” The wide grin answers all the questioning glances.

I’m stunned. His girlfriend? I stared at him before the wink he sends me shakes me out of my daze.

“I am not your girlfriend.” I growl out through teeth clenched so tight my jaw starts to ache from the pressure.

Instead of responding to me he merely turns to the crowd, arm still around my waist. He makes a show of rolling his eyes and chuckles. “Princess is a bit shy, so don’t bug her, got it?”

Sounds of acknowledgment echo through the bar and then just like that, everyone’s back to their drinking.

A barely audible sigh passed his lips. “Damnit Di,” he mumbles and pulls me along with him towards the bar. Weaving our way around tables full of men and women alike, all of whom look like they might break me in half at first word of my profession.

Despite the crowd, I’m able to take stock of the area. It’s much nicer than it appeared from the outside. Hard wood floors and walls that are a combination of wood panel and stone, like a rustic wine cellar. Against the far wall near the bar were aging barrels stacked to the exposed metal rafters above, which were wrapped in lights that gave the room a warm glow. Alright, so even I had to admit this place was a gem - a real diamond in the rough, and apparently it’s charms were not wasted on the groups of bikers who seemed to be regulars here.

“Di,” Meliodas called as we continued to weave our way towards the large counter that made up the entire back wall of the open tavern, it’s wooden shelves stocked with every brand and type of alcohol imaginable. He frowns slightly, as no one calls back. “Diane!”

“Yes boss?” A young brunette, pigtails swinging dangerously as she popped up from behind the counter, answered with wide eyes.

“Didn’t King tell you to close up?” He asked her as we finally find ourselves standing at the bar counter.

Her face fell for a second before she directed her attention to placing three large beer mugs under their respective spigots and pulling all three levers, filling each to perfection without so much as a bat of an eye. “I tried! People wouldn’t stop coming in and ordering drinks and I know how you hate it when we turn away customers!” She spun back around and her amethyst eyes are shining with unshed tears. “I’m really sorry!”

There’s another audible sigh from the blonde as he looked out at the crowd in contemplation, “Well, nothing we can do about it now,” Meliodas stated. He looked at me with a questioning gaze. “Know anything about waiting tables?”

I raise a brow at him. That’s a joke, right?

Before I can even respond, Diane’s already talking again, all traces of tears gone. “Is this her?” She holds out a hand to me, “Hiya! I’m Diane or Di for short.” She winked.

“Uh,” I take her hand uncertainly. Is this woman just a worker, or another Sin? “Elizabeth.”

“But call her Princess in front of the customers, alright?” Meliodas swiftly added in a hushed tone.

“Sure thing, boss,” she nodded and smiled kindly at me. “Nice to meet you, Princess .” She giggled. “I have a spare uniform if you’re going to be waiting tables with me.”

Wait… so… not a joke?

“Go ahead and grab it,” Meliodas answered for me. “I’ll take this, what table was it?” He finally removed his arm from my waist to take the tray from her.

“Table five. Wait here, I’ll be right back,” she tells me.

And just like that, I’m alone - not even a chance to argue. I use the opportunity to casually study the bar and it’s occupants. The Seven Deadly Sins, the name of Meliodas’ ruthless gang runs through my head. But who in this bar is a member? Or are all of them? Maybe everyone down at the precinct had it wrong. The self proclaimed title of Seven Deadly Sins, was just that, a title. Not the actual amount of members.

And I just willingly walked into their lair. Alone.

A chill runs up my spine at the thought. Alone suddenly had an entirely different meaning for me. I could feel it. Suffocating - sapping the air out of my lungs.

“Here ya go!” A chipper voice breaks me out of my thoughts. I find the owner to be Daine. “If you want, there’s no one in the break-room right now, you can change there.” She points to a door behind the bar.

I gingerly accept the outstretched clothes. One look at the small pink top and I cling it to my chest as if she had just passed me lingerie and I was afraid everyone in the bar would see it. “I can’t wear this!” I hiss.

Diane frowns, “why not?”

What she’s wearing finally registers in my mind and it’s just as I feared. She’s wearing a pink crop top. My frown matches hers as I reply, “it’s hardly appropriate.”

“Appropriate?” The brunette quirks a brow. She then giggles as she says, “we’re waiting tables - in a bar no less. I think this uniform is suited just fine for that.”

“Or shows that your boss is a total perv,” I mumble under my breath, shooting the man in question a glare from across the bar.

“Aren’t all men?” Daine snorts with a wide smile as she tilts her head, pigtails falling over her shoulders.

For the first time since this whole ordeal started, a small giggle passes my lips.

“There’s a laugh!” she beams. “I was hoping you wouldn’t be a super stick in the mud,” she sticks her tongue out teasingly as she winks. “I know these uniforms aren’t exactly ideal but trust me,” she leans in close to whisper. “You’ll get really good tips.”  

I can’t help but chuckle again. The absurdity of working at a bar frequented by questionable clientele while I’m supposed to be hunting down criminals is too much. I smile at Diane, thankful that at least someone normal happens to be in this bar. I can’t let myself get too close to her, but having someone to talk to besides Meliodas is reassuring.

“Hey slackers!”

Speak of the devil, my smile dips as Meliodas’ approaches the bar.

“We’re not slacking,” Diane argues. “I just got her the uniform. Are King and Ban back yet? There’s been people wanting to order food.”

“Should be back any minute now, just putting the car away,” the blonde answered her vaguely.

“Gotcha,” she nods. She turns back to me and says, “come find me when you’re changed, alright Princess?”

“Okay.” I respond and Diane disappears into the crowd. I round on Meliodas. “How exactly do you expect me to work here?”

“Well, I’d suggest taking orders and then fulfilling them, but that’s just how I like to run the place,” he shrugs and the sarcastic tone to his words is not wasted on me.

I ignore him and hold up the pink shirt and small skirt, “wearing this ?”

“It’s the tavern uniform.”

“You call this a uniform?” I hold it up to my chest, the disgust for the outfit is all over my face, “It’s like a costume straight out of the playboy mansion or something,” I hiss lowly.

A smile plays on his lips. “Had to get the inspiration from somewhere.”

My jaw unhinges for a second before I regain my bearings. “This is not appropriate attire for a waitress to wear. It shows way too much skin! And this is a bar! Shouldn’t everyone be walking around in leather pants or something.”

“Ah, ah, ah Princess,” he shakes a finger at me in mock disappointment. It’d be a lot easier to believe if he didn’t have such a large grin on his face. “I really don’t like to label the people that walk into my fine establishment here. There isn't really a theme to speak for so the workers wear whatever I want them too.”

“You’re a perv.”

Meliodas shrugs, “I mean, if you don’t like it, you could always go back to your department .”

I chew on the inside of my cheek, repeating I will not shoot this asshole in my head. “You know, it’s illegal to blackmail an officer of the law.” I state low under my breath so he was the only one who could hear it.

He doesn’t respond to my statement, instead his grin renews as he suggests, “you should go get changed. Diane doesn’t have much patience.”

I frown, both annoyed with his lack of respect for my stature as an officer and finding it hard to believe that such a sweet girl like Diane would get upset. At anything, really.

CRASH!

Both of us turn to find a tray of drinks on the ground. A table of men laughing while the rest of the bar is eerily silent. All eyes are on Daine as she spins towards the chortling men.

“Alright, you got one chance bozos,” she speaks in the same sweet cadence she had when talking to me earlier, contradicting the look of murder on her features. “I know you’re new in here, so let me fill you in on the number-one rule of the bar: NEVER touch the waitresses. Now,” she cracks a knuckle, a terrifyingly sugary smile on her face - one that radiated the fury of a woman scorned. “Which one of you idiots, touched me? Come clean, and I won’t throw your asses out.”

“Ah, come on sweet cheeks,” one of the men spoke up. “Wes was just having a little fun,” he slurs.

Diane punches him square in the nose. The guy falls to the ground in a heap of pain.

My eyes widen at the display.

“You need to redefine your definition of fun,” Daine suggests as she pulls back her fist.  

“H-hey!” Another man at the table yells, him and his group having jumped from their seats. “What the hell do you think you’re doing!?”

Diane frowns. “Putting an asshole in his place. Wanna join him?”

“You really think you can take the three of us all at once girly?” A man with black hair questions tauntingly, squaring up to Diane in an attempt to intimidate her.

I can see where this is going. I instinctively reach for the holster hidden under my jacket, only to find a hand on my wrist. Instantly I know it’s Meliodas.

“Let me help her,” I whisper.

He snorts. “Trust me, she isn’t the one that needs help here. Besides, pull that gun and you’ll blow your cover. Your chance to crack that case of yours, poof - up in smoke.” I glare down at him to find that somewhere along the way he had grabbed a mug of beer. He casually takes a sip, eyeing the scene with lazy interest. “Glad King isn’t back. Don’t feel like dealing with that mess.”

“King? What does he have to do with this?” I'm completely flabbergasted at his lack of concern for one of his workers.

“Hmm?” He hums as if forgetting I was even there. His green eyes land on me. “Oh, the two of them are dating.”

“Oh,” I glance at Diane and then back to Meliodas. “So Diane is the one all of you were talking about in the car?”

He grins. “Put that together, did you?”

Another smack of flesh against flesh.

I whip around, another one of the men is a pile of limbs on the floor. Diane’s standing there casually, a hand on her popped out hip. A bored expression on her face.

“Look, can ya guys just leave? You’re not much of a fight and I have other things to do,” she explains as her other hand gestures around the room. The bar responds with calls of agreeance. “See?” She taunts the men. “So just scram.”

The men from the rowdy table get up to leave.

Diane sighs as she hunches down to clean up the mess, her back to the men.

One of them grasps a bottle, clearly wanting to cause her harm. My eyes go wide as I open my mouth to yell.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Meliodas suggests. I had been so focused on the hooligan that I hadn’t seen Meliodas move through the crowd to stand between Diane and her attacker. He has a death grip on the man’s arm, forcing him to drop the makeshift weapon. “See, I’m all for a good brawl, but attacking someone when their back is turned? One of my waitresses at that?” A far too innocent smile plays at the blonde’s lips. “Do you have a death wish?”

“N-n-no!” The man stutters, tugging at his arm uselessly, his fingers turning a sickening pale white from the lack of blood-flow.

The man cries out as Meliodas’ hold on his arm tightens. “You’re lucky you caught me in a good mood today,” he lets go of his prisoner. “Also pretty lucky her boyfriend isn’t here.”

“Boss!” Diane interjects, a blush on her cheeks.

He wouldn’t have been so nice,” Meliodas stresses his point even as he sends Diane a teasing smile. She merely huffs and crosses her arms. “Now,” he directs his attention back to the men. “Get out. If I ever see you at this bar again, you’re dead,” he said with a cheeky grin.

Goosebumps erupt on my skin. Despite the expression on Meliodas’ face, I can feel the malice behind his words.

So this is the leader of the Seven Deadly Sins.

Chapter Text

No sooner had the men scrambled out the door, do two more men walk in.

The pair shoot scowls at the group as they bump into them. The extremely tall white haired man - looking every bit the punk thug in his worn tee, torn Jean jacket and red leather pants - looks to be contemplating chasing after them. But the weirdly contrasting younger (and shorter) prep-school looking man, wearing a large navy jacket over a pale yellow sweater with a light blue plaid button up underneath, tugs him into the bar instead. They walk right up to Meliodas and Diane.

“What got those guys’ panties in a twist?” the white haired man asks, his voice familiar.

Diane frowns, “one of them grabbed my ass as I was walking by.”

“They WHAT?!” The shorter one shouts and now he’s the one darting for the door.

The tall one holds him in place by the hood of his oversized jacket. “Really?~” The man drawls, a wicked smile on his lips.

“Yep!” Meliodas chirps, hands folded behind his head. “Di took out two before they made to leave.”

“And then the jackasses tried to attack her from behind,” I add and the group of four turn to me. I fidget.

The tall one lets out a low whistle as he leans forward to study me. “Almost forgot about you,” his smirk grows as he says, “whaddya think of our place, Princess?”

I frown, raising a questioning brow at him, “do I know you?”

“Ah,” he straightens, hands sliding into his pocket as he regards me. “I’m hurt that you would forget me so soon~”

“But I’ve never-” I stop, eyes widening with realization as the stench of booze wafts off him. “...Ban.” Suddenly, my eyes are narrowing on him further. This is the one who had commented on my breasts, and the memory of that has renewed the acid taste in my mouth.

The white haired man beams. “You do remember me after all!” He places an elbow atop the man’s head who he walked in with. The younger man scowls up at him, but Ban pays him no mind. “I was almost worried that you were a complete ditz. All looks, no brain.”

“The same could be said about you,” the ginger growls as he shoves Ban off.

“So you do think I’m pretty?~” Ban taunts with a large grin.

The ginger rolls his eyes. He holds out his hand and offers me a small smile, “nice to meet you officially, Princess.”

“You must be King,” I eye his hand cautiously. This is the one who sat in the back of the car with me. He seems to be okay. Ban hadn’t been lying when he said the man was short. Not sure how the white haired buffoon thought we could be mistaken for father and daughter. Siblings maybe. His youthful appearance rivals that of Meliodas.

My eyes shift to him. The blonde bar owner is watching me converse with his lackeys. An amused smile tugs at his lips. I look back to King.

“And you’re dating Diane?” I ask as I finally take his hand.

Red crashes across the man’s cheeks so much that I feel I may have said something incorrect. I open my mouth to apologize only to stop as Diane throws her arms around King from behind.

“Mhmm,” she hums with a happy smile.

The brunette places a soft kiss to the ginger haired man’s cheek and his knees buckle. She giggles and the bar laughs. The patrons have been extremely patient with this whole scenario. Aren’t Diane and Meliodas the only workers? Shouldn’t they be upset at this display and lack of service?

“You’ll have to excuse King,” Diane explains with an affectionate glance at the puddle of a man on the floor. “We just started dating a few weeks ago. He’s still not used to it.”

Ban snorts before taking a swig of his mug. “You two have been making goo-goo eyes at each other for a lot longer than that.”

Diane pinks, but doesn’t deny his claim.

“Surprised King even had the balls to ask you out in the first place,” Ban continues.

“Hey!” Diane huffs on behalf of the man on the floor. “It’s not like everything falls on his shoulders! I coulda asked him out too.”

The white haired man chortles. “Then I really woulda made fun of him.”

“There’s nothing wrong with a girl asking a guy out!” Diane argued taking a step over her boyfriend. The poor man on the floor had just about been ready to get up too before she did so.  Now he’s back in puddle form.

“How about we get to back to work,” Meliodas interrupts what looks to be the start of a brawl between Diane and Ban. The words sound like a suggestion, but, the tone was unmistakable. It’s a command.

“Yes, boss,” the two respond.

Diane pulls King off the ground and he helps her clean up the mess the hooligans made. Ban slips behind the bar and through another door. I’m assuming it leads to the kitchen. A hand on my wrist pulls me out of my observing.

“Let’s go get you outta those clothes and into that uniform,” Meliodas beams up at me. He tugs gently and I find myself staring.

The blonde glances over his shoulder and blinks innocently. “What’s up?”

“I can find a place to change on my own.”

He studies me for a second before he chuckles. “Think I’ll just lead the way. Don’t need you snooping about my bar this early in the game, Princess.” He grins smugly, somehow figuring out exactly what I had wanted to do. I guess it was a fair assumption - if the tables were turned I know I would have done the same to him.

We follow the bar’s counter all the way to the wall, and down a corridor hidden behind the barrels stacked on the wall. Down this hall there is a set of stairs that lead up one flight, then twist around another corner. We head to the stairs and he throws a, “be back in a few,” over his shoulder to the nearest worker, King.

“Don’t take too long,” he eyes us suspiciously before dumping the mess left by the men in the nearby garbage.

Meliodas makes no comment and just laughs.

We climb the metal staircase up and follow the hall to stop at the first door along the hall. He unlocks it, pushing it open so that he can wave me in. “Here,” he says, waiting for me to enter and turn back to him. “Get changed quick. We’re gunna be real busy soon.”

And then he shuts the door.

Alone again, but this time it’s welcomed. I needed a moment to myself - to collect my thoughts, to breathe. I glance around the room and find that it’s actually pretty spacious, with furniture - the vast majority of which were covered with white sheets. I glide a finger over one of the uncovered dressers and find a layer of dust. Whoever’s room this was, hadn’t been here for some time now, and it didn’t seem like anyone made a point of keeping it dusted.

I wonder who stayed here?

A quick knock brings me out of my thoughts, “You ready yet?” Meliodas’ voice filters through and I start disrobing with a start.

“Y-yeah! I’ll be done in a minute!” I yell back.

This whole situation is… peculiar. I’ve gotten glimpses of Meliodas’ supposed title, but that’s been it - I hadn’t seen anything that even remotely gave me cause to suspect he was a criminal - you know, aside from him kidnapping me. If I didn’t know who he was suppose to be, they all easily could have been written off as overly protective. And in the crazy world we live in, no one would have blamed them for being so. Especially on this side of town. More than a few times I’d ended up in an area much like this where the thugs were tough and threatened everything that moved just because they had to in order to survive. It was a way of life for people here. To protect their own.

Is that what happened to Meliodas?

I close the buckle on the leather belt I was given to wear over the tight skirt, then pulled the ridiculously tight pink collared crop-top tee-shirt over my breasts. The damn thing made me look even bustier than I already am! How was that even possible?!

Now I was left with the pile of clothes I had come here in. Immediately, I turn to pull open the uncovered dresser, and place my old clothes inside. I opt to keep on my jacket over the skimpy uniform. Not only to hide all the unnecessary skin showing, but so I can wear my gun and holster as well. Despite Meliodas’ words of warning on drawing it, I’d rather be safe than sorry.

I pulled open the door and find Meliodas waiting for me, leaning against the wall directly across the hall. I frown at him. “Are you really so worried I’m going to snoop when you’re not watching me?” I can’t blame him for his caution. But I can find it annoying.

He doesn’t answer right away. Instead his eyes are drinking in my new look. A smirk forms on his lips, and he gives a small nod of approval. “Nice. Legs for days.”

I take a swing at him.

He catches my wrist, using my momentum against me to push me against the wall - my chest pressed to the surface as he pinned me there with more strength than I had expected from him. The wrist he had caught, was twisted behind me and secured to the small of my back. I glare at him over my shoulder, completely pissed at the damnable smirk that has only grown at my impulsive action.

“Do you always attack people when they give you compliments?” His voice is gruff but hushed as he tilts his head for me to see his face. He quirks a brow, obviously finding pleasure in our... position.

I’m half tempted to kick him in the nuts. At the same time, I’m fighting the sudden urge to shiver. “In my experience, people don’t give compliments unless they want something in return.” I spat, with my cheek pressed to the white wall. My heart is hammering in my ears.

“And what is it you think I want from you?” Even more hushed - he’s practically whispering in my ear now. His expression has shifted - just with the change of his tone. It’s actually… kind of… alluring.

I swallow, but continue to glare at him, “free labor…” I debate saying what most men seem to want from me. Leaving it vague I merely add, “or worse.”

He surprises me with a chuckle. “Don’t worry, Princess. I won’t touch you unless you want me too.” He smirks as he releases his hold on me and backs away, allowing me to spin around and face him. He takes a few steps towards the stairs before saying over his shoulder, “don’t forget you’re my girlfriend, though. Appearances will have to be kept while we’re in public.”

I’m fuming. “I’m not your girlfriend!” I insist with a childish stomp of my foot.

“When you’re here, you are. It’s safer that way, trust me.” He throws a cheeky grin over his shoulder as he mocks the word I used to him during the interrogation.

Now that kind of trust should go both ways, my own words swarm in my mind.

“I don’t think there’s much trust between us right now,” I repeat his reply back to him.

An amused crinkle forms at his eyes as he pauses long enough to glance back to me, allowing himself one last sweep down my form. “That’s probably for the best anyways, dontcha think, Princess?” He walks down the stairs, waving at me to follow him, leaving me standing there staring at him.

Despite his… let’s call it ‘jovial’ nature, the last of his words stuck to me like a warning. Yeah, I guess trusting a career criminal would probably be detrimental to my health - not to mention my career.

The next few hours pass in a blur. I never realized that waiting tables could be so taxing. Not to mention I was absolutely terrible at it. I got orders wrong, tripped over my own feet, spilled on customers and made a mess of the floor more than a few times. Despite all of that, the patrons and fellow workers, King and Ban joining the fray along with Diane and Meliodas, were nothing but kind and patient. I have no idea if it was because of my looks, their own generosity or the simple lie Meliodas insisted on being a truth;

Princess is my girlfriend.

That appalling sentence is engraved in my mind. Anytime someone new came in, Meliodas would repeat the lie. It didn’t take long for it to stick. Not a single person questioned him on it.

By the time the tavern closed, I was exhausted. I collapsed in a chair by the bar. Diane smiled sweetly as she slid a plate of food and a mug of beer in front of me.

“Here ya go! Some food will make you feel better.” She chimed. It smelled heavenly and a drink sounded oh so tempting. “You didn’t do too bad for your first day.”

My brows furrowed. “You’re kidding. I was horrendous!”

She shrugged, “you got some stuff right.”

I give her a flat stare. If this was her idea of consoling me, it wasn't working.

“It was your first time waiting tables, course you’re gunna mess up,” Diane shakes her head with a soft giggle. “Though I gotta say, I was expecting a bit more grace given your… previous line of work.”

That doesn’t require grace. Just fast reflexes.” I mumble as I try to suppress a blush by taking a swig of the mug in front of me. The liquid is a bit stronger than what I’d normally drink and I sputter a bit as I put it back down.

“Oh, I shoulda asked what you wanted,” the brunette frowns. “Sorry, I just gave you what the rest of us drink.” She holds up her own mug and takes a drink. A refreshing sigh leaves her lips.

“It’s fine.” I stare at the food and wonder if I should eat it.

“It’s not poisoned.”

I snap my eyes up to meet Diane’s mirthful grin. “If we were going to do that, we woulda just put it in your drink.”

My mouth drops.

“Kidding!” She laughed. “This ale is from the same barrel we all drink out of. We wouldn’t waste the good stuff by poisoning it.”

Her statement does little to relieve my worries.

“You shouldn’t joke about that, Diane,” King’s voice joined the conversation. He drops into a seat at the counter, not far from me. “She’s in an unfamiliar place with people like us, she’s going to take it seriously.”

Part of his sentence jumped out at me. “People, like us?”

The ginger haired man tilted his head and looked at me. He sighed heavily and called out, “Boss. You take this one.”

“Wouldn’t have had to if you could keep your mouth shut,” Meliodas rolled his eyes as he appeared by King’s side. He punches the other man lightly in the shoulder. “Maybe I wasn’t going to tell her.”

“Given the situation, you kind of have to,” King responded and rubs his shoulder with a frown. “Assumed you did already,” the ginger mumbled under his breath.

“Guess you’re right.”

“What are you talking about?” I interrupt the small squabble.

Meliodas grinned. “Ready to meet some Sins, Princess? Well… technically you already have,” a smug smile dances across his lips. “And by the way, this is all off the record, as covered under our agreement . No turning around and turning us in, got it?” He gave me a pointed look.

No way, I think to myself. He couldn’t possibly be insinuating that.

He waves Ban over. “You’ve probably already heard of this guy.” Meliodas taps his knuckle against the taller man’s chest. “Meet Ban, Sin of Greed.”

Well that was one suspicion confirmed. My eyes dart between King and Diane. They were outright the most normal out of all the people that I’ve run into. Sure, Diane beat the crap out of some assholes earlier, but I would have done the same thing if I was in her position.

“King, Sin of Sloth,” Meliodas speaks up again, gripping said man’s shoulder. “He’s a bit of a blabbermouth so you can thank him for these introductions.”

King didn’t respond, simply rolling his eyes before giving me a half hearted wave as acknowledgement of his title.

“And last we have Diane. Sin of Envy.”

Even with my guesses at her being one of the Deadly Sins, hearing the statement out loud is still a bit of a shock. This girl is a sweetheart, through and through, how in the world did she get tangled up with a bunch of criminals?

“Surprised?” Diane smiled at me.

“Yes… and no,” I admit. I take them all in, one at a time. Ban was the only one I would have assumed to be any sort of trouble-maker, but even then… it was based off of his choice in clothing alone.  

The others looked… so normal.

“Any questions so far?” Meliodas asked me, clearly reading the confusion that must have been written all over my face. And I sputter with an incredulous chuckle. He’s joking. This is all one big joke to him, right?

“I would say that’d be fairly obvious .” But where do I start? If I asked the wrong questions, they were bound to shut me down. How was I supposed to get the answers I needed without making them feel like I was fishing?

I take a breath, “Alright… well, I guess I’ll start with the most obvious question first.” The one that’s been bugging me all day in fact, “How many people actually make up the sins?”

Meliodas grins, and I’m half expecting him to drop a ‘You’ll just have to wait and see’ on me when Diane chuckles, “You're right… that is pretty obvious, isn’t it?”

Wait… really?! My eyes find Meliodas again and his grin hadn’t wavered at all. “So… wait, there’s really only seven of you? B-but I thought that the bar was-”

“I told you we don’t judge people here.” The blonde chided. Damnit… did he always have that fucking grin on his smug-ass face?! “We serve anyone who walks in, assuming they haven’t pissed us off in some way or another. But, yeah. The name says it all.”

So I’ve met four of the Seven Deadly Sins… Where were the others? Were they lurking around here somewhere too?

“Okay. Why?” My question didn’t seem to register as they looked at each other confused.

“Why are there only seven of us?” King asked as clarification, but I shook my head. While that too was a good question, it wasn’t what I had meant.

“No, I mean, why form a gang? And yeah… I guess… why are there only seven of you?”

More glances, but this time their collective expressions were wary - cautious. None of them seemed willing to be forthright with an answer.

Except Meliodas. “That’s something you’ll have to learn later. For now, let’s just say, we’re all on the same side .”

Same side? Hardly. I was on the side of justice and peace in the city. On the side looking to take gangs like his out of the game for good. What on earth would make him ever believe otherwise? But in the interest of keeping my communication lines open, I left it alone. There’d be plenty of time to interrogate everyone later.

“I guess my last question is: what’s next? Do you blindfold me and take me to a safe house? I don’t assume I’ll be able to go home.”

There was a round of chuckles, and I’m starting to get tired of being the only one not in on the jokes. That’s when Meliodas slid a little key ring across the counter to me. It was the same one he had used to open the room I had changed in.

“Welcome to your new home, Princess.” He said.

That was the other thing I was tired of. That damned grin of his...

Chapter Text

Dust flies in the air as Diane and I remove the white sheets off the furniture of my new room . I cough as I inhale just a little too much of the foreign particles.

“Ops,” Diane’s awkward chuckle is muffled by her hand. “Guess I shoulda opened a window first. Hold on a sec.” She unlocks one of the nearby windows to air out the dusty room. “There we go, much better!” The brunette gathers up the sheets in her arms and gives me a pleasant smile.

I still can’t get over the fact that she’s one of the Seven.

“I’m gunna throw these in the wash,” she holds up the sheets. “Want anything before I head off to bed?”

“No, I’m fine.”

She nods and makes for the door.

Feeling a weird need to thank her, I say, “wait!”

“Hmm?” Diane hums as she turns her attention back to me.

“I, uh, just wanted to thank you,” I explain as I tuck a piece of hair behind my ear. I folded my hands behind my back to stop from fidgeting. I should have just let her leave.

“What for?” She cocks her head to the side curiously.

“Well… you’ve been kind to me since I’ve arrived,” I nibble my bottom lip for a bit. “You don’t have to be.”

Diane studies me and for the first time since I’ve met her, she’s almost... cold. “Isn’t that what good people are suppose to do? Be nice to the cops?” Her stare is hard before she blinks and that kind smile is back on her face, as if she’d never said anything at all. “Think nothing of it, Princess. G’night.” She excuses herself from the room, shutting the door behind her.

I frown at the odd turn in the conversation. I shake my head, deciding that I have other things to worry about at the moment. I need to get a hold of Howzer, I muse as I reach for my phone. My fingers graze only the leather of my belt and my eyes widen. I pat myself down, searching in vain for a phone that clearly isn’t there.

The dresser, my panicked mind suggests. There really is no place for a phone on this uniform. It’s possible I put my phone with my other belongings without even realizing it.

Frantically I tug the drawer open. My clothes are just where I left them. I search each article intensely before it dawns on me.

“They took my phone,” I whisper. I look around for a clock and cringe.

3:00 a.m.

My check in time with Howzer was three hours ago. I groan. Somehow having to face what I know is going to be one hell of a scolding from my partner is worse than having my phone taken from me.

“He’s going to be so pissed,” I mumble as I strip down to return to the clothes I arrived in. I had to find a pay phone or something to get a hold of him. The last thing I needed was for my longtime friend to send out a search party because I didn’t check in when I was suppose to.

I reposition my gun holster and throw my jacket back on over my vneck tee. I glance at the still opened window. No, I think better of scaling down the side of the building. Even if it is only one floor up, if I got hurt… It was too risky.

My hand grips the doorknob and I take a deep breath.

The hall is dark and quiet. I look both ways before slowly creeping out of the room and closing the door behind me. I stand there silently, waiting, listening. The only sound was that of my own heartbeat in my ears.

Good.

I took the stairs just as slowly. I was already late, so Howzer could wait a little longer. Luckily for me, the staircase was a thick metal, so there was no fear of creaky steps, which made my descent that much easier. Now at the entrance to the bar area, I’m thankful to find no one occupying any of the chairs or bar stools. It seems like everyone had gone to bed.

I make quick work of navigating the bar and getting to the door, finding that it was still unlocked. Instinct has me looking over my shoulder a few heartbeats before I dare opening the door and stepping out into the early morning air.

My body instantly relaxes as I shut the bar door behind me. I only hope that they aren’t to big about locking up after they close. If worse comes to worse, I did leave the window open. The thought helps to urge my feet forward in the unfamiliar territory. My steps are fast and I keep my eyes open for any potential threats. Finally, after a block, I find what I was looking for; a payphone.

A deep breath leaves my lips as I mentally prepare myself. I’m both looking forward to and dreading this call. I punch in the number I’ve known by heart for years.

“It’s me.”

“Elizabeth?” I internally cringe. He’s only ever used my full name a handful of times and only when he’s pissed. “Where the fuck have you been?! Check in was hours ago!” Howzer immediately berates me.

I sigh, leaning into the payphone cover, thankful that no one else seemed to be roaming the streets. “They took my phone. I had no way to get in touch with you until now.”

“Where the hell are you?”

I peer around the street, finding a crossroad sign, but deciding it best not to say, “I’m safe.”

“That’s not what I asked.” I can hear the frustration in his voice and picture the disapproving scowl on his face.

“I know that… but I can’t tell you. Even if I knew for sure.”

“What?! That’s ridiculous! You’re a cop, El. If they’re holding you against your will-”

“They’re not. I gave my word, Howzer. There is too much at stake here for me to just go back on it.” I sigh again, pulling my jacket tighter around me, “So for now, you’ll have to settle for knowing I’m safe.”

There’s a long silence on the other end, “Is there anything else you can tell me? Anything I can work on while you’re putting your life at risk?” He finally asks, his tone terse and begrudging.

“Don’t be like that.” I shake my head even though I know he can’t see me, “I don’t have anything for you.” Howser is my partner, but at this point everything is still too new… there wasn’t enough to go on to send him on any wild goose chases. “I’m too green. They’re not telling me anything.”

A lie. Necessary. In order to keep my word to Meliodas, I needed to keep the things they told me close to the vest.   

“Fine,” Howzer relents with a heavy sigh. “Just… be careful, El. These guys aren’t to be trusted.”

I smile lightly at his concern. “I know.”

“I wish I was there. Someone shoulda had your back on this.”

You have my back Howzer,” I stress the importance of his, what he probably thinks is minimal, role. “Even if you aren’t beside me, I know that.” I think of his support back when I first brought the idea up. He didn’t like it anymore than anyone else but still, he spoke up for me like he did. Howzer’s never failed to be there for me.

“Ugh, stop flattering me,” he groans into the phone. He’s rolling his eyes at me, I know it.

I giggle softly and with a fond shake of my head I say, “goodnight Howzer.”

“Night, El. Call me when you can.”

“Will do.”

I hang up the phone and let out a long sigh. It was comforting to hear his voice after all of the craziness of today. I have no idea when I’ll be able to reach out to him again, but at least he knows I’m safe for now and won’t do anything stupid. I make the short walk back to the bar.

Cautiously I reach for the door handle and turn slowly.

It clicks open.

An excited smile forms on my lips. I have to bite the inside of my cheek from squealing at my good fortune. Not wanting to wake anyone, I tip toe through the door, shutting it quietly behind myself. I freeze the moment I hear them.

Voices.

“C’mon boss… do you honestly think anything’s gunna change? I mean, she’s a spitfire for sure, but she’s one of them . The pigs’ve never done anything useful before, what makes you think she’s any different?”

I hold my position just inside the door, while my face ignites. They’re talking about me… There was no mistaking the first voice. It was Ban, and this was the most sober I’d heard him in the time I’ve known him.

“Wishful thinking I guess.” There was a long silence then before I heard the thud of a half empty beer mug on the wooden countertop. Meliodas’ voice did not hold his usual confidence, “The girl’s got something to lose. I guess when I saw how determined she was to crack the case, I figured she’d be more motivated than others to help us out.”

Ban let out a humorless chuckle, “Yeah, yeah… You got a heart of gold. We get it.” He too takes a long swig of his drink and sets his mug down with a louder thump, with a contented sigh, “Don’t get me wrong, boss. I like the broad. But what’s keep’in her from turn’in us in?”

Meliodas must have been in the upswing of a comment because Ban immediately spoke up again – I could see him wave his arms sarcastically, “Yeah, I know, she gave her word .” His tone was mocking and I could practically hear his eyes roll, “Grow up, man. Her word means jack-shit when the only thing between her and a shiny commendation is a pack of half-wits stupid enough to let a cop into the gang.”

There was silence again. It was contemplative, heavy. Meliodas didn’t say anything, just took another long swig of his drink.

Ban took his silence as an invitation, “You know I’m right. We’ve got to do something about her before she stabs us in the back.”

“You said the same thing when I brought Diane here,” another voice joins them. King. Where did he come from? “Though,” he pauses and I can almost hear the gears in his head spinning as he takes a seat. “She wasn’t a cop.”

“Exactly,” Ban snaps. “We can’t trust her.”

“Well, I wouldn’t say that either,” King contemplates calmly, pouring himself a drink. “We don’t exactly know enough to say one way or another.”

“She’s a pig!” Ban slams his mug on the counter. “That’s all we need to know.”

“What we know is that cops can be swayed,” King’s tone hardens. “It’s still up for debate which way she’ll end up. I say we give it some time. She’ll show her intentions eventually.”

“That’s a piss poor way of avoiding the issue here,” Meliodas’ supposed right hand man growls. “Pick a fuckin side, Sloth .”

“I’m not gunna let you goad me into making a decision without seeing all the facts first, Greed, ” King fires back.

“Just an excuse for your wishy washy attitude.”

“Not everyone goes with their first gut reaction every time, jackass.”

“If we wait for you to make up your damn mind, we’ll be behind bars, shit for brains.”

“Oh, that’s rich coming from you.”

“What’s that suppose to mean?”

“Exactly how it sounds. You’re an idiot. You act first, think never.”

“At least I had enough balls to ask out the girl I care for. You took almost two fucking years!”

Another tense silence.

“You don’t get to judge me,” King finally replies. His tone lacks any real emotion. “You can’t possibly compare you and Elaine to me and Diane.”

Elaine? I can’t help but think. Who’s Elaine?

“...you’re right… sorry,” Ban’s apology barely reaches my ears. It’s somewhat shocking to hear. I didn’t think a man like him had such a word in his vocabulary. “I know that was… complicated.”

“It’s fine,” King responds. “I’m sorry too.. I shouldn’t have gotten so fucking defensive in the first place…”

“Seems like we’re all a bit on edge,” Melidas speaks up for the first time since King joined the conversation. “Thanks for the wonderful insight guys, but I think that’s enough for tonight. We’ll talk more tomorrow.”

“Alright.”

“Sounds good.”

I hold my breath, straining my ears to hear the sound of their footsteps fading. I count the seconds as I wait for a good time frame to leave. After five minutes I chance a glance around the corner. It appears deserted. I slip off my shoes and carry in my hand to move swiftly and quietly across the floor. I take my time climbing the steps, careful not to catch-up to any lingering sins.

Pulling the door of my new room open, I slip inside. A heavy sigh leaves me as I softly shut it behind me and lean against it. Safe, I smile in triumph. I have successfully left the building and returned without any of the Sins being the wiser. I even managed to get a few interesting bits of information. They make zero sense to me at this time, but they could be useful later.

My eyes sweep over my room and notice an extra door. I investigate and find I’m lucky enough to have my own bathroom along with a closet.

I decide to change into some different clothes before heading to bed. Some simple pjs are tucked neatly in one of the drawers. Unlike the dust that seemed to have covered the entire room, the clothing was fresh. My brows furrow.

Did someone leave these here for me?

My first thought is Meliodas. A shiver passes through me at him knowing my size. I push the thought away and reason that it was probably Diane. The female Sin was taller than I, but not by much. I strip down. Pulling on the pants and then putting on the shirt. As I fiddle with fastening the buttons, one pops off.

A frustrated sigh leaves me. Could this night get any more irritating? I lean over the bed, face pressed to the bed sheets as I fish for my missing button. My fingers graze along the wood floor below, dancing back and forth to find the round annoyance keeping me from going to bed - when I touched something else. Paper. I grab it and pull it up, blowing the dust off.

Not paper. It’s a photo.

I recognize Meliodas immediately. He looks the same in appearance. Well, not completely. He looks happier in the photo - he’s practically glowing. He’s got his arms wrapped around the shoulders of a woman I don’t recognize. She’s pretty; short bobbed pink hair, bright happy eyes. Both of them are wearing camouflaged patterned uniforms.

BDU’s? Those are definitely military uniforms…

I flip over the picture and find a note scribbled on the back top left corner: “Mel and Liz, 57th Brigade”

Who the heck is Liz?

Chapter Text

The next morning comes too fast. I'd hardly slept as my mind whirled with the unanswered questions I had. Who's Elaine? And who's Liz? What connection do they have to the Sins? I have a feeling they're important, I just can't put my finger on why.

As I walk down the stairs and pull up a seat at the bar, Diane's bright smile greets me. "Mornin' Princess!"

"Good morning, Diane," I return her smile. She sets a plate of food in front of me. "You know you don't have to call me Princess right? Elizabeth is fine when it's just us."

Diane places a thoughtful finger to her chin as she thinks it over. "Eh, Princess will do for now."

Her tone is a bit off, like the one she'd slipped into the previous night for a split second before it was gone. I say nothing else, though, instead finding a yawn escape me, rolling my shoulders back as I stretched out all the kinks from my restless night in a strange bed.

"Tired?"

I jumped slightly, unsure of where exactly Meliodas had come from. I hadn't heard him come down the stairs. "Uh... yeah." I mumble quickly, trying my damnedest not to let a guilty look pass over my face. "New place and all."

Thankfully, Meliodas only shrugs it off on his way to the kitchen.

"Midnight strolls down the street certainly don't help." Diane murmurs from behind the bar the moment the kitchen door closed behind Meliodas.

My eyes go wide, watching her and then darting to the kitchen door.

I'd been tailed...

The Sin of Envy leaned over the counter, her face inches from mine. "I won't say anything this time. But only because you kept your word and didn't tell whoever you were talking to anything." Her voice is cold as she levels me with a hard stare. "Don't do it again."

I'm too shocked to do much more than nod obediently.

"Good," Diane's face brightens instantly. "It's a rough neighborhood, Princess," that same sugary smile she'd used yesterday on the thugs crosses her face. "We wouldn't want anything bad to happen to ya."

My jaw slacks slightly. Is she... threatening me?

"What are you guys doing?"

We turn in sync to see King and Ban watching us with curious stares. The two of them are wearing much the same thing they had yesterday. Diane sends me one last warning glance before she pulls away from me and straightens and gives the men a blinding smile.

"Just some girl talk," she responds easily.

"Yeah right. Looked more like you two were ready to make out to me." Ban snorts, elbow resting atop King's head. The ginger-haired man seems too stunned by Ban's wrongful observation to worry about being used as an armrest.

"We were not!" I insist, my cheeks heating up slightly.

Diane rolls her eyes as she responds to him. "You'd like that too much."

"Well~," Ban draws with a crooked grin. "I wouldn't say no." He pokes King's cheek with his free hand. "Don't think your boyfriend would protest too much either."

King's face lights up in color as he glares daggers at Ban, shoving the taller man's arm off his head before punching him in the stomach. Ban laughs, easily holding King back with a hand to his forehead.

Diane's giggle draws our attention back to her. She's got a wide smile on her face, eyes only on King as she says, "maybe we will then."

And then she winks.

King's knees buckle and Ban catches him by the scruff of his hood. "You shouldn't joke about things like that so early in the morning, Di. You may kill him," he explains through his chortles.

"Who said I was joking?" She shrugs with a teasing smile.

My mouth drops and Ban just continues to laugh his ass off.

"What the hell's going on out here?" Meliodas quirks a brow at the peculiar situation he finds as he walks out of the kitchen. "Who killed King?" He points at the barely standing man.

"I'm fine!" Said man protests as he wrestles out of Ban's grasp. One step and he trips over his own feet.

Luckily Ban catches him once again, saving him from a faceplant. The taller man heaves him up under one arm and carries him over to the bar. He drops King on the stool near me and takes the empty seat on his opposite side. Ban's care of the shorter man surprises me with how viciously they were arguing last night. Their relationship has to be a lot more complex than I originally thought.

"This is Di's fault," Ban explains with an amused chuckle. "I swear she's going to send him to an early grave."

"Why am I not surprised?" Meliodas shakes his head. "Whaddya do this time?" He accuses Diane with a half hearted glare. Even I can tell he's holding back a grin.

"Just said that I might make out with Princess at some point," she blinks innocently, playing for nonchalance even as a smile fights to overtake her face.

I sink lower into my chair, not sure how to handle the sudden scrutiny I'm under as Meliodas just... stares at me. His eyes crinkle with his obvious enjoyment. I'm half tempted to punch him in the face before he makes, what I'm sure will be, a lewd joke.

"I'd pay to see that," he says casually, gaze still locked with mine.

"Meliodas!" I hiss at him. I can feel the heat crawling up the back of my neck. "I'm a member of the law!"

He quirks a brow and I just know he's fighting back a smile. "And that means you can't make out with a girl? I was under the impression that even cops like to have fun sometimes. You could always make out with me if that's more your thing." He wiggles his eyebrows suggestively, a smug smirk on his lips.

"I don't want to makeout with Diane! Or you!"

"Ahh," Diane pouts breaking me out of the death glare I was sending at Meliodas. "You don't think I'm attractive?" She gestures down her body. I finally realize what she's wearing. Skin tight, black low riding yoga pants and a tank top that is about two sizes too small for her bust, displaying both a large amount of cleavage and midriff.

I'm really digging myself a hole here. I can't help but respond even though I know they're all just picking on me for their own amusement. "O-of course you are!" I admit with warm cheeks. "But..."

"Don't think she's into girls, Di," Ban comments over the lip of a mug. Is he drinking already? "Though, I bet if we get her drunk enough she would be. She seems like she'd be a closet freak, if ya know what I mean."

I glare daggers at the man. He isn't bothered by my stare one bit.

"Think we'll have to put that to the test," Meliodas nods sagely. "I can see that too."

"You guys are horrible," King finally rejoins the fray. At least one person doesn't seem hell bent on making my stay here as awkward as possible. "Why don't you give it a rest?"

"Don't act so high an mighty," Ban rolls his eyes. "You wanna see it just as much as the rest of us. Hell, she almost has the same body type as Di-"

"Elizabeth's boobs are bigger and butt smaller," Meliodas interjects sending a cheeky grin my way. How the hell does he know that?

"So she's just your type!" Ban continues with a large wave of his hand. The other three Sins laugh.

King's head thumps against the bar. "I hate you all..."

I find myself agreeing with the sulking man. I don't think I've ever been so mortified in my life. They were talking about such... intimate things so openly. I wasn't new to their suggestive ideas but it was not something that was brought up in casual conversation.

"Ah, don't say that," Diane sways over to stand in front of him. King's eyes follow her movements religiously. She bends over the counter, granting everyone a fantastic view down her shirt. King gives her a lazy stare. Diane leans even farther over and presses her lips against his.

"Gross," Ban says almost immediately. "I said I'd be game for you and Princess making out. Not you and King. Get a room if you wanna do that shit."

A content sigh leaves King's lips as she pulls back. "That's not a bad idea," he mumbles. Diane beams and hops over the counter. She grabs King's hand and drags him up the stairs with her.

I stare, completely dumbfounded for the second time that morning.

"Better eat up, Princess, your foods getting cold with all that gawking you're doing," Meliodas says, the mirth in his tone unmistakable. The jackass is getting a kick out of all my reactions.

"I'll be glad when the two of them are done with this phase," Ban grumbles.

Meliodas snorts. "Yeah, right. You're just as happy for them as everyone else is."

"Don't mean I wanna see or hear it all the fuckin' time."

With that, Ban and Meliodas make themselves scarce, leaving me to my food. Not that I had much of an appetite now. Even with the jovial turn the conversation had taken, I was still feeling the burning flush under my skin and tumbling in my stomach for having being caught sneaking out.

Strike one.

I didn't exactly want to know what happened when people struck out around here.

I'd have to be more careful.

The rest of the day goes on and I keep tabs on the four Sins I know. Diane and Meliodas are the only ones who don't seem to leave the bar. King and Ban are in and out of the bar practically all day. I stopped keeping count after the twentieth trip. They always left together, I noticed. And they always seemed to be bickering. If they were doing any kind of sneaking on any of their trips out, they'd be heard from a mile away.

I had attempted to hear what they were saying on more than one occasion. Usually, it was just Ban telling King he was a wimp or King telling Ban he was a complete moron. They're conversations got very... colorful at times. Meliodas was usually the only one who even bothered trying to put a stop to it and even he didn't bother most of the time.

Apparently, their fights were a norm at the Boar Hat.

Ban would pay my presence no mind. He neither went out of his way to avoid me or acknowledge me. He was probably still waiting for me to run him through with a knife - figuratively speaking - if his words from last night rang any truth. King, on the other hand, would attempt to make small talk with me when he had the time for it. If I hadn't heard his part in the conversation, I honestly would have thought he was just being nice. He was easy to talk to.

But even he was probably waiting for the other shoe to drop on my motives.

When I had tried asking where he and Ban had been, King would easily shift the conversation to something else. A talent I wouldn't have thought him capable of from his mannerisms around Diane. Evidently, it was just her that he got all tongue tied with, not women in general like I had hoped. He would've been a useful tool to get information out of if that was the case.

Most times when the two returned, they would have nothing, but in the few instances they did return with something, it was never very large. It was by mere chance, right place right time, that I was able to see the small box King hid under his oversized jacket as he passed it off to Diane.

That was another perplexing situation. Diane.

She was the same kind and caring girl I'd met yesterday. To her, it was as if this morning's conversation never happened. I kept on high alert around her anyways. There was no way I could let go of the fact that she'd tailed me. It wasn't even that I was upset with her. I understood why she did it. I was pissed at myself. How hadn't I noticed her following me?

The other odd thing I noticed was the number of people who would come into the bar asking for the bathroom. They'd walk right up to the counter, not even bothering to sit at a table first, and ask the same damn question:

"Where's the bathroom?"

Diane would always be the one to answer saying, "around the corner, but the men's room is broken."

Despite her saying that, everyone who asked still rounded the corner and disappeared. Diane wouldn't look their way again.

Not even when they returned a whole fifteen minutes later to leave. Not buying a damn thing. It was so strange. Didn't most businesses hate when people used their restrooms but not pay for anything?

"Lots of full bladders today," I mumbled, dropping off a tray of empty mugs. She simply shrugged in response, intent on taking the glasses from me so I could return to the floor.

It took me until the second day but I finally realized after the fifth person asking Diane the same question and her giving the same answer, who these people were;

They had to be the Sins' contacts.

The next day passed much the same. More random restroom inquiries, more trips in and out of the bar, more silence, and more questions being left unanswered.

By the time the fourth day rolled around, I'm fuming. The day itself wasn't any different. Not a thing out of the ordinary - as all the random occurrences of the last few days suddenly felt ordinary. King and Diane still made small talk with me while Meliodas and Ban made wise cracks. It wasn't until we're about to shut down for the night that a... peculiar character walks in.

The bar door opens, and I look up from the table I'd spent too much time wiping down in my frustration. There's a not-so-kind comment about how we're closing soon on the tip of my tongue, when I take in the figure standing at the entrance.

My first thought is that he's young. He couldn't have been older than nineteen... twenty at the most. Either way, he was still too young to be walking into a bar at 2 am. He's a lanky kid - tall and thin, an obvious fact despite the thick, oversized hoodie he wore. His jeans were worn and dirty, smudged around the knees and dusty everywhere else. Was this kid homeless?

"Sorry, but, we're closed." I say, and I expected him to make some sort of excuse. Actually, I was expecting him to do anything other than what he did, which was walk past me like I hadn't said a damn thing.

I spin around to watch him walk right up to the bar and pull out a seat for himself.

I'm just about to say something else when Meliodas walks out from the kitchen. He glances up to find the kid at the bar. But I must be in topsy-turvy town, because the man just smiles! He smiles and without a word walks behind the bar counter and pours something into a cup for him.

Are you fucking kidding me? I was completely dumbfounded. Not only does he insist on making a mockery of me, he blatantly breaks the law in front of my face!

My blood starts boiling and I can't stop myself anymore. Fuck keeping up appearances. I'm done with this asshole making a joke out of me.

I stormed up to the bar and gave Meliodas the dirtiest glare I know I'm capable of. "What the hell do you think you're doing? He's a minor."

A grin starts to creep over Meliodas' face again and I swear I'm moments away from back slapping him, before a deadpanned voice freezes me in my tracks.

"Approximately five-foot-four-inches. One hundred forty pounds. Approximate measurements: 38 - 24 - 36. Normal symmetry; falls within ideal ratio standards."

My cheeks flush immediately as the boy sitting at the bar-counter lists off my physical attributes without so much as a glance in my direction. As far as I know, he hadn't looked at me at all - even now, he kept his head turned away from me, his eyes locked with the table-top.

Then he speaks again, "Are you sure it's alright for her to be here? " He asks Meliodas, and I find my mouth falling open. Just who the fuck is this kid?

Meliodas' grin forms completely as he addresses the kid without acknowledging me, "I don't know Gowther, you tell me."

Gowther?

The kid named Gowther pauses a moment before finally turning to look at me. However, he never once meets my eyes. His gaze darted wildly over my figure before turning his face away from me again, "Well kept, moderately-strong physical stature, above-average spatial reasoning, records indicate higher than normal IQ, but is known for having poor emotional control. Psychological profile states loyalty and sense of morality as her strongest qualities. Threat level... moderate. Requires further research." Gowther's voice had remained stale, almost robotic the entire time he had spoken.

What...?

"Then I guess we'll keep her around until you decide otherwise." Meliodas jokes.

I can't make heads or tails of this kid. How the hell did he know so much about me? He was practically listing off my service record like it was sitting in front of him!

"Princess, meet Gowther. He's one of us." Meliodas replies to my unspoken question. "You'll have to excuse his lack of tact. He's has High Functioning Autism, so he doesn't process emotions the same way as the rest of us." The smile he keeps shifts as he's speaking - it's almost... proud as he watches Gowther finally reach for the mug he had put out for him and take a sip.

"And he's a sin?"

"Yeah. The Sin of Lust. With an IQ over 160, we'd be stupid not to have him on the team."

So he's a super genius then? Weren't geniuses kept in universities to solve world hunger and the meaning of life? This kid looked like he lived in a box somewhere.

"How does he know all of that stuff about me?"

"Oh, that? He's an extremely gifted hacker. Not many things he can't get into. The police department human resources database is no exception."

My teeth grind in my mouth, "Great." I say with as much sarcasm as possible. "All that aside, the fact that he's a genius doesn't mean he can drink underaged."

"Gowther only drinks one thing." Meliodas reaches under the bar and pulls out a carton, "Apple juice."

I feel my skin heat up as I realize the mistake I made - and for the first time in a long time, I felt a wave of guilt crash over me. Meliodas wasn't breaking the law right in front of my face. He wasn't making a joke of me and my profession. At least not right now.

"Now the real work begins, Princess."

"Princess," Gowther states and I'm unable to tell if he means it as a question or not. "Incorrect. That is not her name according to records."

"That's what we've been calling her."

"Why?"

"We don't want anyone to take her name and use it against us." Meliodas explains patiently. "If they had someone who could do what you do, it'd give us away."

"I... see," Gowther nods his head slowly. "That makes perfect logical sense."

"Glad to hear it," the blonde smiles. "Do you want to say hi?"

"No."

Meliodas shrugs, "Okay."

I ignore their exchange and ask a question of my own. "What did you mean.. The real work begins ?"

"Well, I told you I was waiting on someone. That someone is Gowther."

Again with this kid. But Meliodas is making me work for this one, "Alright, I'll bite. WHY? "

"Is she here too?" Gowther asks, and I realize that they are completely ignoring me. As if I needed another reason to pull out my hair today.

"Who, Gluttony?"

Now that caught my attention. Gluttony... another sin. Another woman? And what the heck was with the nicknames? Did each of the Sins correlate to something? I'm fighting the urge to grind my own teeth into dust as the frustration nearly overwhelms me. Too many questions. Not enough answers. And every time I feel like I'm getting my bearing, something else comes up.

"That is not her name either." Gowther mumbles in his same monotone.

Meliodas chuckles, taking the unfinished mug from Gowther and dumping the rest into the nearby sink, and I briefly wonder why he would waste so much. "She's not in. She's working late on another project."

Gowther's eyes dance for a moment like he's processing this information before he carefully stands from his bar stool, "Then I'll go home." He says, pulling something from his hoodie pocket and placing it on the counter with a surgeon's precision - lining it up perfectly with the grain of the wood. It's a flash-drive. Worn and used much like his jeans were.

And then he leaves. Not a word more, not a glance at either me or Meliodas. He just walks right out the door. To say the encounter had been strange was... an understatement.

"You said he has High Functioning Autism?" I ask, and I remember having read about it before.

"That's right." Meliodas confirms, and I bite back a comment about how I'm no longer invisible to him. But, then it hits me.

"He's not good with other people, is he? Not just at processing emotions."

The blonde nods, looking impressed, all the while, he's slipped the flash-drive from the counter into his pocket, "You really know your stuff." For once his tone doesn't come off as condescending. "Gowther's been diagnosed with several other disorders attributed to his Autism. OCD and severe social anxiety are the most prominent. He's only recently really started speaking to me."

And for once, my mind isn't stuck on my case. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder - that explains the apple juice and the need for aligning the flash-drive. How does a kid with Autism get mixed up with a gang like the Sins? But more pressing on my mind... "When he said he's going home..."

Meliodas sighs, no grin to be found, "As you've probably guessed, living in a home is... difficult for Gowther. If Gluttony isn't around, he doesn't stay. But, should we need him, I know where to find him." He finishes, and rounds the bar, walking back towards the staircase. He pauses when he realizes I haven't followed, "You coming or what?"

Chapter Text

Meliodas opens a door that I hadn't noticed under the stairs, ever the gentleman - a thought that makes me roll my eyes - he waves for me to enter first. It's a small office space, kind of cramped with a couple of desks lining the walls directly on either side of the entrance. Paperwork of all kinds; I see a couple of order sheets immediately on top of the piles - nothing out of the ordinary for a bar. The shelves had binders full of old orders, tax information, employee information… All of the binders were labeled and organized. Hard to believe a gang was so meticulous.

Once inside, Meliodas reached over one of the desks, pressing a red unlabeled button on the phone sitting at the back of one of the stacks. Immediately it hummed to life with a familiar voice, "Yeah, boss?" Ban answered.

"Time to get to work. Gowther dropped off the goods." Meliodas replies quickly, fishing the flash-drive from his pocket to examine it.

Ban snorts on the other end, "I didn't even see the weirdo come through. Alright… I'll grab the others." He says, and then the phone goes silent. Not moments later, the blonde presses a separate button and there is a click somewhere beyond him before a door opens up along the wall opposite me. You've got to be kidding me…

"A secret room? Seriously?"

He lets his usual grin shine through brighter than ever, "What can I say? I'm a sucker for the dramatic." He chuckles as he walks through the new opening and turns on a light inside, "Bet you can't guess my favorite movie series…"

I follow him in, and find the room to be much larger than the first. One wall has pictures and notes pinned to it, red string tied around pins connecting them to other pins. It was a map of sorts, jumping from articles to pictures, from reports and news clippings to notes scribbled on pieces of paper. There were connections with gangs, with political figures, police officers. I followed strings connecting seemingly unrelated pieces of information, until my eyes landed on the image of a man I knew. The man in the photo wasn't looking at the camera - it was a shot taken from a distance.

This was my target from my failed drug bust…

Questions were all I had right now, but I could not find the words to express them. I'm still studying the map when I hear the others filter into the room.

"We're letting her in on this one?" Ban asks, and I turn to study them a moment.

All of them are dressed differently than I've seen them over the past few days. It's obvious what they're wearing now is for mobility purposes. Ban's the only one with outright disdain dancing across his features. He doesn't think I should be here. He hasn't since the very beginning. King and Diane don't seem as bothered, at least on the surface.

Diane shoots me a smile while King merely nods in my direction as he walks past me and takes the flash drive from Meliodas. "This is it?"

"Came right from Gowther," Meliodas nods. "What we've been looking for should be all here."

The ginger haired man slides behind a beat up desk and inserts the flash drive into the laptop. Ban and Diane busy themselves about the room, getting things ready. Something about the way they are moving, almost in perfect sync around each other, like they have done this a thousand times before, strikes me. Another glance at the board and I can't help but think;

It's just like at the precinct.

A list of criminals up on the wall. All of them are connected together. The board isn't all that different from the one my team and I have been working on for months. This setup just seems so much more… complete than mine.

I glance around the room at each of them. My eyes finding Meliodas last.

These people… "You're not a gang at all, are you?" I finally find my words, and that's the first question I can manage to spit out. It made sense now. Why Meliodas would agree to let me join them - hell why he'd offer to help me at all.

Meliodas has found a chair, and leans back into it, watching me carefully but there is an air of confidence to him, "By definition, that's exactly what we are. A group of organized criminals."

"But this," I wave back to the wall, "This is…" I take a breath as I try to put a name to what I'm seeing. I follow multiple lines, allowing for my fingers to graze the red string, "...about other crimes. Other criminals. This is all investigative work. You're vigilantes."

"Last I checked, vigilantism is still a crime, isn't it?"

I pause… did I really just try to justify the things they've done? Yes, vigilantism was most definitely a crime. It was taking justice into one's own hands. Being the judge, jury, and executioner. I don't get any more time to think on the matter before a piece of sequined material is being waved in my face.

"Here ya go!" Diane beams brightly. "This is the best one I have and despite you having bigger boobs than me," she sends a pointed glare at Meliodas. "This should look fantastic on you!"

"Uh," I sputter, completely surprised by the very sudden change in topic as I take the odd material in my hand. "What's this?"

"A dress silly!" She shakes her head with a small chuckle. She holds it out for me to see and I notice it's a long black evening gown. "It may even look better on you than me, since your butt's smaller and all. Mine sticks out a bit when I wear this."

"You have a nice butt Diane," King insists, not even bothering to look up from the laptop he's bent over. "You in that dress is a gift to the earth."

Diane pinks lightly, a bashful smile on her face. Ban and Meliodas share a chuckle.

"Only smooth when he's not paying attention," Ban pokes the man's cheeks.

King looks up and blinks to refocus his eyes. "What?"

"Nothing," Meliodas smirks at him.

He scowls and returns to his work.

"What…" I start and then shake my head thinking better of it. Instead I take the dress Diane brought for me. "I need this because…?"

I glance at Meliodas, a smug smile dancing across his features. "We're going to a party."

"Right now?"

"It's fucking three in the morning. The kinda party you're going to starts at a much more respectable time," Ban chortles from his spot peering over King's shoulder.

I have a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. "Who's all going?

"Just you and me, Princess," Meliodas speaks over Ban. "It'll be like a date!"

I'm so close to punching him in the face, when Diane speaks. "Ops, I forgot shoes. You should come with me anyways," she grabs my hand and drags me out the way we came in. All I catch before the door shuts behind us, is Meliodas waving with a smug grin on his face. "You'll wanna be well rested tomorrow and we gotta brainstorm ideas for your hair!"

Speaking of hair, "where are your pigtails?" I haven't seen her in anything but for the past four days. Now her hair is pulled back in a practical pony.

"Huh?" She sends me a confused glance. "Oh, I only wear those for work. Men leave bigger tips when I do that, some girls too. Not sure what it is about them, but people really like a girl in skin tight clothes paired with pigtails. I think the only way I'd make more money was if I was wearing a pleated skirt and a low cut button up." She giggled. "Not that I haven't had to do that before."

For the first time I find myself curious about what Diane did before she became a Sin. She's been the only one fully staffed at the bar along with Meliodas. The other two, and Gowther, seem to come and go. The question is on the tip of my tongue as she continues pulling me along up to her room.

Only once we are fully in her room and the door is shut, does she let go of my hand. The room is a bit smaller than my own, but it could just be the amount of stuff she has making it feel that way. Like her personality, the room is bright and colorful; pinks, purples, and oranges cover the walls, sheets, curtains… even the large vanity against the wall next to the bathroom door is spattered with different shades of pink paint - a strangely artistic choice, but I wasn't exactly in any position to judge. I was also surprised by how messy the room appeared. There were clothes spilling out of every drawer and the closet like fountains. Which was also strange as I'd never really seen her in anything but her work uniform. Some of these pieces looked pretty fashionable...

As I examine her room, Diane prattles on about which shoes would fit me and if I should wear red ones to add a splash of color or just black ones. Diane even pulls me over to the closet and shows me a few of the other options she had for dresses. We both decide the one she first picked was best.

It was like the sleepovers I would have with my friends as a child.

It was nice having someone I could hang out like this again. It had been a long time.

It was about the same time that thought crossed my mind that I realize my mistake. And the true purpose of this "hangout".

"Diane…" I say her name cautiously, not wanting to poke the scary side she seems to have. "Can we go back to that room?"

She turns her bright amethyst eyes on me. We study each other for a minute before she sighs heavily. "Why don't you just come out with what you really wanna say?"

I nibble my lip. How is it possible for her to be able to read me so easily? "They left, didn't they? As soon as you got me up the stairs. That's why you all were dressed so odd."

"You got it," she winks and points a finger gun at me.

I scowl. "Why didn't you go?" I ask even though I already know the answer.

"Someone had to keep an eye on you," she tilts her head slightly as a teasing smile pulls at her lips. "It was either me or Meliodas."

"Ugh," I groan. I suppose it could be worse though, so I sigh. "Thank you for staying behind."

She chuckles. "No problem. I don't get many chances to hang out with other women, it's a nice change of pace." She sits down on her bed, pulling her knees up. "Though, it'd be better if you weren't a cop."

"And it'd be better if you weren't a vigilante," I reply before I can think better of it. Starting a fight with her is definitely not in my best interest. But it's hard to deny the mixed feelings I have about her right now. It was too easy to slip into that "friends" mindset with Diane, and in all honesty, there was a part of me that resented the fact that we couldn't be friends. Real friends.

Diane smiles and shakes her head. "You're funny."

"How so?" I'm getting pretty sick of not being in on all the jokes that go on around this place.

"You use vigilante, not criminal - even though, in the laws eyes, they're pretty much one in the same." We stare at each other, and again I wonder why I'm making that distinction. Like I was trying to convince myself that they weren't the bad guys here.

It was a long moment of my own contemplative silence that invites Diane to speak again. This time, her voice is soft, almost reassuring, "We aren't bad people, Elizabeth." She says almost reading my mind, and my eyes widen at the use of my name. I've hardly heard it the past few days and never once was it from Diane. There's a pang of guilt in my chest that I can't ignore as I watch her.

Something's wrong with me. I'm letting these people sway me with sweet words and kind looks. I can't let myself be taken in. I swallow, urging that guilty feeling away.

Another moment of silence before the brunnette drums on her knees awkwardly and then hops to her feet, "You better get to bed. Don't bother waiting up for them or trying to sneak out again. I'll know if you leave your room."

Then she pushes me into the hall and shuts the door.

I don't even consider stepping out of line. I go straight to my room.

I don't remember falling asleep; but I dreamt of a life less complicated, where I was friends with a bubbly brunette.


The following day passes in a blur. The next thing I know, Diane is getting me ready for the party. I'm wearing the stunning black sequined dress she showed me the night before while the brunette is dressed in much the same thing she was last night.

"What are you guys doing tonight?" I can't help but ask. I think I'd rather go along with whatever they're doing than be forced to a formal party with Meliodas. Then again, considering the mixed feelings I have for Diane, I suppose I'd rather be locked in my room.

"Hmm?" She hums as she finishes curling a piece of my hair. "Don't worry about it. We can talk when we're all back here."

I frown but accept her answer anyway.

"Aaand done!" She says, brushing a curl here, and pulling another one into place there, "Go on, take a look!" Diane spins me around in the chair and smiles brightly at me. I stare at my reflection in the mirror, unable to remember the last time I'd been this… dressed up.

My hair is curled loosely down my back with a few strands pulled back into a half updo. Diane was right that her dress would fit me, if not a little tight in the bust. "It's a bit… lower cut than I'm used to," I admit as I finger the long slit going up my left thigh. "I don't usually show so much skin."

"You and I went through my closet last night. This is the most modest dress I have," Diane rolls her eyes at my reluctance. "I don't know why you don't show off your figure more. You're a total babe! Meliodas is gunna be one lucky bastard walking in with you on his arm."

I groan at the reminder of my "date".

"It'll be fine," she insists with a kind smile - reminding me of the pep talks my sisters would give me growing up. "He's really not so bad when you get to know him. That I know everything act that he does isn't always there. Just… most of the time." Diane chuckles to herself. I scowl as she leads me out of the room. "Eventually you just learn to ignore it."

I doubted I would ever get to such a level of familiarity with the man.

The bar was still open, at least for the next hour, so the moment I hit the main floor, I caught the attention of everyone still nursing their drinks. I don't think I've ever actually witnessed a man's jaw hit the floor in response to my presence, but tonight I seemed to be in luck as at least four did just that. Others hooted and hollered from across the room. I feel like a piece of meat surrounded by a pack of dogs.

"Holy shit…"

I'm so caught up in my embarrassment, I don't hear Meliodas come up beside me until his voice cuts through the ruckus in the bar. My face is burning, so it takes me a moment to glance over to him. With one peek, I can feel the the rest of my body ignite in a flush.

Meliodas is staring at me, eyes wide. But it's different than the other stares I'm getting. It's making my stomach do weird flips. What the hell is wrong with me?

A low whistle allows me a minor distraction as I contemplate maiming whoever that was. To my glee, I find it's Ban. "Looking good, Princess~!" He cackles as he steps up next to Diane, and King. I hadn't even noticed them watching us. "You clean up nice." Ban continues, giving me a crooked grin that has me wanting to follow through with my plan of harming him.

Too bad I'd stain Diane's dress.

"I know right!?" Diane beams widely. The girl is buzzing with excitement. Only King's hand on the small of her back seems to be keeping her from bouncing off the walls. "I have to say I do some damn good work!" She boasts and then pauses turning to me. Her amethyst eyes sweep up and down my form. "Actually. I think I did too good of a job. Princess looks better than I do in that dress!"

"That isn't possible," King mumbles next to her.

Ban snorts and makes some joke that I can't hear. Which of course, sends the three of them into some kind of argument.

The blonde shifts next to me, reminding me of the reason I was searching for a distraction in the first place. "It's just a dress. No big deal." I mutter, unable to control my complexion. The group of three doesn't acknowledge my words but I swear I hear a low chuckle from Meliodas. In my flustered state, I can't make eye contact with him for more than a moment at a time.

The next time I meet his eyes, though, he's recovered from his own surprise and there's a soft grin on his lips, "Whatever you say, Princess." He then offers me his arm, again reminding me of the chivalry of a true gentleman, "Shall we be off then?" he asks me teasingly. As if I had a choice in the matter.

I eye his arm and him respectively - taking in the sharp black suit he's wearing, then loop my arm around his so he can lead me out of the bar and into the night. A night, I'm sure, I will not soon forget.

 

Chapter Text

Meliodas had once again decided I needed to be blindfolded during the car ride. He talked and talked about meaningless garbage to make sure I couldn't focus on the turns. I was silent for too long at one point and he'd placed a hand on my knee that was exposed through the slit of my dress. It took all I had in me not to squeak in surprise at the feel of that calloused hand against my skin. And the strangely pleasant shiver it sent up my spine.

Needless to say, I didn't ignore him again.

When we were a block away, he removed the cloth from my eyes. The first thing I did was glare at him. He, of course, was smiling brightly. "Almost there," he told me with a vibrant smile. "Can't have you showing up with a blindfold on. People might talk." He chuckled at his own joke and I rolled my eyes.

It's the first time I'm able to get a bearing on the vehicle I'm in. The seats were a nice soft black leather, and with all the shiny buttons and lights making up the dash, I could tell it was something sporty - classy. Perhaps too classy for a bar owner to have sitting around. I idly wonder if this was the same vehicle I was in before - but realize that it was too small. It was more likely the sins had a van too.

I choose not to comment on the car, instead looking out the window to take in the neighborhood. Well, I suppose neighborhood isn't quite right. We seem to be driving down a long driveway, lined on either side by trees pruned to perfection and lit up with string lights tangled in the branches. It wasn't until we had nearly reached the end that I began to recognize where we were. I wasn't expecting the party we were going to, to be at the Mayor's estate. I'd seen it on the news a few times when the mayor was running for reelection and held the press conferences on these grounds.

Suddenly, I understood the need for the dress.

We round the fountain and pull to a stop at the front steps leading to the front door. People milled about outside in the same black-tie garb as Meliodas and I, sporting champagne flutes and an air of prestige that I did not feel I was worthy to breathe.

Before I know it, though, Meliodas had climbed out of the car and come to open my door, offering me his hand to help me out.

What if I just… don't take it. Would he let me just sit in the car until he had what he needed?

No. I can't let him do this alone. This is my case. I have to see it through. No matter the obstacles.

I take his hand, and he lifts me from my seat so that I can find solid ground in my stilettos, before he tosses his keys to a man waiting nearby, "Take care of her, will ya?" he asks the valet, who nods obediently before taking the car down a separate path.

Deep breathes. And smile… it's a party. People smile at parties.

Meliodas leads me up the small flight of marbled stairs where a tall burly man steps into our path, "Invitations, please." He demands, no-nonsense.

Invitations? Do we even have those?!

I'm already losing my cool. I'm ready to turn and run, but Meliodas breaks my fretting thoughts with a smile as he reaches into his suit coat and pulled two crisp envelopes from within, passing them to the man without missing a beat.

The man eyed Meliodas and I, taking the papers from the envelopes to inspect them. My ears were ringing. How long did someone need to stare at a piece of paper?

As if answering my question, the man nodded, handing the papers back to Meliodas, "Thank you, please, enjoy the party." he said, waving us through.

"How were you able to get an invite to this?" I hiss under my breath as Meliodas and I arrive in a large room. People decorated the area as music played softly in the background.

"Hmm?" Meliodas hummed as his eyes trailed across the room and it's occupants. "Gowther, mostly. King helped with the final touches." He replied quietly.

My eyes widened as I remembered Gowther's late arrival and King working at the laptop. "The flash drive." I whispered in realization.

His cheeky smile was all the confirmation I needed to know I was right.

"But how was King able to get that?" I ask under my breath. "They had to have used special paper and maybe even a watermark or something to make sure no one could forge it. Not to mention a set list of people and number of invitations. This is the mayor's home, they don't hand those things out to just anyone."

"You ask a lot of questions."

"Meliodas," I hiss a warning.

He sighs. "I already told you. Gowther got all the information, set us up under some fake names and upped the number of invitations by two."

I gawk, "he can do that?"

"I told you he was a gifted hacker." Meliodas grinned. "King took care of the actual execution of making the invitation. He's not as skilled as Gowther, but he's still pretty good. A better eye for those kinds of details anyways. Gowther's more analytical, King's gifts are… a different kind of brainy I guess you could say. He found the exact place that made the paper we needed, sent Ban to fetch it and came up with the watermark on his own."

"...how…?"

My head is spinning. King came off as a pretty average guy, nothing special about him other than being the only normal person at the Boar Hat. Sure I have mixed feelings on Diane and wish there was a way for us to be friends, but that didn't mean she was without her quirks. Most people don't threaten cops within twenty four hours of knowing them. Ban was even more eccentric than the bubbly brunette and Meliodas, as he seemed to thrive off pushing people's buttons.

Yet, with what Meliodas was implying, King was also a genius in his own right. Not as gifted as Gowther but that had to be expected when the kid had an IQ over 160. Just how far off was the Sin of Sloth? And if he was so smart, what the hell was he doing with a group like the Sins?

Gowther I could understand, at least somewhat. It was hard for the Sin of Lust to function in normal society. But from what I've seen of King so far, he could easily blend in with a higher standing crowd and have no problems mingling with any of them. The only time he seemed to struggle was with Diane and even that seemed more from the embarrassment of P.D.A than actual behavioral problems. The ginger haired man was just as easy to talk to as Diane at the bar and I much prefered conversation with them over Meliodas' smug ass.

"Each of us has something we're good at." Is all Meliodas tells me before redirecting the conversation. "Apparently Diane should have given you something a little less… flashy." I don't miss the mirth in his casual statement. "You're really turning some heads, Princess."

Heat flares to my cheeks. I glance around the room finding that there were, indeed, quite a few people looking my way. "Don't call me that," I grumble not meeting his gaze.

"Glad Di gave you something to showcase those legs of yours though," he continues as if I hadn't said anything. "Woulda been a shame to hide them." He says it in that same easy going manner he always seems to have. His gaze is hardly even on me as those bright green eyes lazily observe the room. "Looks good on you."

My stomach does those weird flips again at his last comment. It's the first time he's given me a compliment that hasn't sounded like some lame pickup line. I take a deep breath, hoping it'll calm the sudden racing of my heart. What is going on with me? Why am I so nervous? Sure, I'm in the middle of a case that will make or break my career, but that doesn't seem to be the reason for my discomfort tonight.

I need a distraction. Again.

Snatching a glass from a passing waiter, I down the contents. Meliodas quirks an amused brow before grabbing one of his own. He takes a slip. "Don't be in too much of a hurry. We'll have plenty of time for drinking later."

"If you told me what, exactly we were doing, I wouldn't have to drink to pass the time."

"Mingling," He answers, making a point to keep his voice down as he leads me away from anyone who might overhear us, "Take some time to eat, drink," he starts listing off things as he smiles and nods at those we pass in some sort of effort of being social, "Check out the mayor's office, maybe do some dancing and of course meet up with everyone back at the bar for some fun."

"What did you just say?" I gape at him, grip tightening dangerously on my glass and stopping dead in my tracks. I drop my voice with a quick glance around us, "You did not just say check out the mayor's office!"

"Sure I did," he tilts his head like he's looking for someone in particular. "Why else would we be here?"

I'm starting to feel like the butt of a really bad joke. "What exactly do you need me here for?"

Finally, Meliodas turns his attention back to me, "Well, this is what you wanted my help for right? I know where to find some of the information you're looking for," he stares at me. "Plus, a guy coming to this alone is a lot more suspicious than one with a hot date."

I knew it… "You're insufferable," I scrunch my nose at him and he merely smiles.

"One of my more redeeming qualities," he jokes. "We should dance," he throws in out of nowhere and grabs my empty champagne flute to set it on a nearby table. He gently takes my wrist and leads me to the highly populated floor.

"W-what are you doing?" I stumble with my words as his hand comes into contact with my hip.

He quirks a brow, "dancing."

"Why?"

"A lot easier to look around a room this way," he explains lowly.

That intolerable grin on his face has me second guessing him. "Really? No other reason?"

"Well," he drawls, hand slipping slowly to rest on the small of my back, leaving a trail of goosebumps that very quickly spread like wildfire over my skin. "Wanna make sure everyone here knows you're with me." His hand is strong and steady and possessive all at the same time. A statement of ownership to anyone watching.

I roll my eyes, hoping my cheeks aren't as warm as I think they are. "We've been together since we got here. Seems obvious."

"I don't know, lots of rich people show up with one person at these things and leave with another," Meliodas' tone is teasing, but it seems to have a hint of truth hidden in there as well.

"How do you know that?" I frown.

He doesn't answer me, his eyes following someone behind me. "Think it's about time we make our move, Elizabeth."

My heart lurches at the sound of my name. "Already?" I try to ignore the odd sensation. His hand begins to roam a little too low to be appropriate. "W-What are you doing?"

A sly smirk greets me. "Setting the scene," he whispers.

"What?"

He pulls me off the dance floor, saying nothing more. His steps are faster than needed as we duck into what appears to be an empty hall. There's not a soul around as Meliodas slows his pace. My heart is pounding against my chest. Not even remotely prepared to be looking through rooms right now after his hands moved across my body so easily. We don't make it far down the hall before we are stopped.

"Hey! Where do you two think you're going?" The voice rattles me to my bones and I feel my entire body ignite. We'd been caught so easily, and we probably aren't even close to the main office yet.

I am in the process of coming up with an excuse when Meliodas wraps his arm around my waist, turning to see whoever had called after us, "C'mon man… you're being a total cock-block!" He gives a daring glare to the man, then looks back to me, pulling me close. Too close. I can feel every hair on my body stand on end as he pulls me closer still. "Isn't that right, baby?" he asks me in a gruff tone, that I'm embarrassed to admit I find seductive.

I hate you so much… His sudden actions on the dance floor making much more sense, though. He wanted us to be seen.

Without another thought, I wrap my arms around him too, pulling him closer to my cleavage than I ever want to see him again, "That's right," I pur, somehow managing to make my tone sound deep and sensual.

Veronica's voice in my head has me on edge. I can hear her telling me how terrible of a liar I am; 'Elle the tell-all'. I'll show her…

My fingers trace up Meliodas' back and I feel him shiver against me as my hand climbs all the way up to his unruly blonde hair. Twisting it in my fingers, I pull until I can lean in and kiss him. He's surprised, I can feel it in the way he hesitates to reciprocate. But he's quick to overcome his shock, pulling me so that he is dipping me towards the floor. It's long, and deep, and I lose myself in it. When was the last time I was kissed this… passionately?

We break apart and we're breathless. My heart is pounding. I can't get my head to stop spinning.

What was I doing?

Right… I don't take my eyes off of Meliodas as I address our audience, "Tell us where the bathroom is or this hallway is going to get messy."

The man growls under his breath, saying something about 'this generation' and 'rabbits' before he finally concedes, "Down the hall, third door on the right." He says flatly before leaving us there in the hall.

Alone.

Meliodas pulls me upright.

Mortified didn't even begin to describe how I felt.

Even the blonde is quiet. A miracle that doesn't last long as a shit-eating grin replaces silent contemplation, "Definitely a closet freak." He says, confirming his and Ban's suspicions from days prior.

Yup. Mortified was only a tenth of the emotion coursing through me. I spin in my heels trying desperately to hide the shade of red that currently made up my entire body and start down the hall without him, "Let's get this over with before I have to sacrifice any more of my dignity."

He catches up to me too easily, "Wonder what else you'd do for the sake of staying undercover. We may need you to makeout with Diane at some point. That'd be a damn good distraction." I can hear the ill covered amusement in his tone.

"Meliodas, I swear to god, I have a gun and I will shoot you."

"In that dress? There is no way you managed to bring a gun." he gives me the once over, before walking a step further, taking the lead.

Try me, asshole.

 

Chapter Text

It takes almost ten minutes before Meliodas' finally picks a damn door.

I scowl at him as he picks it then pushes it open. "How do you know this is the right one?"

He throws a dubious look over his shoulder. "You think I'd just drag you in here without knowing where I was going?" He begins cautiously checking the room, searching for, unexpected guests I assume.

Yes, I mentally answer. Given how often the Sins seem to disappear at any given hour, I suppose it is highly possible that one of their trips included scoping out the Mayor's home. How exactly they managed to do it without getting caught is beyond me. Is the security in this place really so shitty?

"How'd you get past security?" I too begin searching without touching anything, even though I have no idea what I'm looking for. Something incriminating, I tell myself. That has to be why we're here.

"Ban and I've scoped this place out a number of times to get a schedule down." He replies as he pulls out a book and removes something from inside it, placing it in his pocket. "Something Ban is particularly skilled at. Sent King and Diane to a few of the parties too, before they officially got together. They made a really convincing couple. Blended in really well."

"Really?" I find it hard to believe given how King acts now.

"Sure. King's got the knowledge for mingling with the rich while Diane, well, she's a good looking woman and she knows it."

"You say that, but… I mean, with the way they act now? I can't imagine it was easy before they were together."

"It's a lot easier to pretend you have feelings than actually admitting to having them. Especially in their case," he removes another item from a plotted plant. There's a smile on his face as he looks at me over his shoulder for the first time since we entered the room. "You should really ask one of them how they met sometime." He laughs at his own private joke. Something about their story seems to be highly amusing to him.

It makes me extremely curious, but I push it aside and ask something else that's a bit more pertinent. "What are you doing?"

"Huh?" He pulls out something from underneath the windows edge, holding it out for me to look at.

An extremely small and highly advanced listening device rests in his hand. "A bug?" I stare at him dubiously. "You actually managed to bug this place?"

"Yep! King and Diane's handiwork, actually," he told me proudly. "Took them two trips to do but they managed to plant a couple."

"How?" I can't wrap my head around them being this skilled. "How were they able to get back here more than once?"

"The same way we did, I'd imagine," his eyes scan me up and down, a sly smirk on his features.

I glance away from him, trying to suppress the reminder of our heated kiss. "I really can't imagine King being able to pull something like that off. Diane, yes. King, definitely not."

He shakes his head as he sits down behind the desk, placing the old flashdrive into the computer there. "I told you, it's a lot easier to act on feelings under the ruse of a cover. That way you don't have to own up to them. Can say it was all for show." His green eyes bore into mine so intensely, I can't hold his gaze. "Let's just say King was really good at playing his part and Dianes' never had a problem with it before."

"What does that mean?" I furrow my brows.

Meliodas shrugged. "Ask her yourself if you really wanna know." He directs his attention back to the computer. "Damn," he curses under his breath. "This is gunna take a little longer than I want it to."

"How long?"

"Probably a couple of minutes," he answers and leans back in the chair - clattering away on the keyboard. "Thank god we had Gowther get this ready before hand or it'd be a lot longer."

Fantastic. My nerves are just about shot. We've been lucky so far, but that luck rarely lasts. My own curiosity is telling me to go look around the room. It wasn't everyday you found yourself in the mayor's office - I certainly never got the invitations. But, the cop in me knew that fingerprints can be pulled off of almost any surface… better to not tempt fate by leaving any.

With how alert I felt, I should have heard the door behind me opening. But I didn't. I didn't realize anything was wrong until I felt sharp, cold metal against my exposed back. I gasp silently, more surprised than scared, then roll my eyes.

Our luck just ran out.

I cleared my throat, making Meliodas glance up at me from behind the computer screen, confused, then understanding - staring hard at the person holding me at knife-point as my arms slowly raise from my sides in surrender.

I don't get a chance to raise them much further than shoulder height before a strong arm is wrapped around my body - trapping my arms at my chest, pulling me against them with the knife pressed to my throat. I could feel the blade scrape against my skin, feel it dig in. Just a little more pressure and he'd be slicing right through my jugular.

The man pushes us further into the office, using his foot to kick the door shut behind him. "What the fuck you doing in here?" I can't see my attacker, but his gruff voice tells me he isn't the same man that saw us leaving the party. Is he extra security? Or someone else entirely?

"Just looking into some things," Meliodas answers easily and slowly walks around the desk. "But, we're not looking for trouble."

"Stay right there!" The man demands, and the knife gets just a bit tighter. "How'd you get in here?"

"Had an invitation."

Meliodas glances to me every so often, and I can see the gears shifting in his head. He's trying to come up with a plan. His mind was running scenarios, trying to get us both out of here alive.

"Who's this, then?" The man hisses in my ear. His voice is dripping with want and desire; for me, for my blood, I wasn't sure. My hands grip his forearm tightly. "Your bitch?"

I suppress the growl that threatens to escape me at being captured and the idea that I would be considered anyone's bitch - let alone Meliodas'. Deep breathes, Elizabeth, I tell myself. Meliodas' expression is blank as his eyes meet my own for a split second longer. This glance had been different than the others. Filled with a new emotion, not just calculating. It was... angry...

"Let her go. She has nothing to do with this." He attempts to make another step towards me, his voice taking on a new tone. It's calm but demanding.

The man presses his knife harder into my throat and I can feel it start to slice into my skin. Was I just imagining the sensation of blood sliding down my chest? "Stop. Not another step or I'll cut her fucking throat!"

Fuck patience, I grit my teeth.

I throw my head back hard to smash his face, stunning him long enough to get a firm grip around his knife wielding hand. His grip is stronger than mine. I can tell by his muscle definition, but that won't help him here.

I push his hand and the knife away from me, using my grip and my hips, leaving a gap between us to swing back with a chop to the groin and then an elbow to his gut. The knife falls with a precise smack to his hand and I grin as I spin out of his grasp, rotating his arm. Using all of his weight and momentum to slam him into the nearest wall; I reach through the slit of my dress, pulling my firearm free from my thigh holster to press the barrel to the back of his head.

"Didn't anyone ever tell you not to sneak up on a lady?" I growl at him. My pulse is racing and my finger twitches on the trigger. Just give me a reason… I can't help but pray.

"Bitch!" He chokes out, having found his voice after my assault to his family jewels. "What are you?! A fucking narc?!"

My eyes widen. Narc… a narcotics cop… Meliodas' words from my first day at the bar flood me; "Pull that gun and your cover is blown…" He had been right. My training made me stand out. My gun only made it worse. If this man managed to get word out… all of the work I've done up till now would be wasted.

There is only one option for me here.

I get up, real close and personal with my would-be attacker, my eyes darting to Meliodas who watched me silently - waiting to see what I would do. "No." I purr in the most crazed way I possibly could, "I'm just a crime-boss's girlfriend."

I hate to admit how well I pull off the crazy lover…

Meliodas seems pleased with my performance too, as his brows shoot up, and that cocky grin makes its appearance once more. I had played right into the lie he'd been spewing since he first brought me to the bar.

Hate is too pedestrian. I loathe you, Meliodas. With every fiber of my being.

I could see the words forming in his mind before they could even reach his lips, and I hoped to whatever god was listening that he wouldn't say it.

"I am morbidly curious as to where you could have possibly hidden that and still managed to walk around comfortably."

He said it.

His smile only widened as I glared at him - grinding my teeth to refrain from snapping at him, hoping that my silent threat of death-by-multiple-gunshots to the head was reaching him regardless. The jackass even had the audacity to chuckle as he approached us. Meanwhile, I pull the man away from the wall, keeping an arm tight around his neck, and my gun sealed to his temple.

"As you can see, my girl here is something of a lethal weapon," he eyes me up and down. He seems almost… proud… or perhaps I was misreading that darker look he was suddenly giving me. "So, why don't you go ahead and tell me who you think I am?"

I can hear my own pulse again. The man standing in front of me and our intruder was different than the Meliodas I'd come to know over the last few days. Like he took pleasure in the torture of others. Like he craved bloodshed.

The man's eyes widen, fear apparent. He gulped audibly, I can feel his adam's apple move against my arm, and he says, "M-Meliodas. Leader of the Seven Deadly Sins."

I bite the inside of my cheek to keep from saying anything incriminating. This is Meliodas' game now, I'm just a pawn for the moment. His crazy queen.

"What makes ya say that?" Meliodas tilts his head as he looks the man in the eyes. "I could be anyone, really. Why the leader of one of the most deadly gangs out there?"

At this, the man scoffs, apparently finding his balls. "We know you."

"We?"

"... your b-"

A punch to his face silences the man I'm holding captive. He goes limp in my hold. I drop him and the gun, scowling at the blonde and his sudden shift. "What the fuck did you do that for?"

Meliodas is silent for a moment, his hair hiding his eyes from me. He seems oddly tense and my normal bravado falters. Reassuring myself that the man on the floor isn't conscious, I place a hand on his shoulder. He stiffens. "Um, Meliodas?" I nibble my lip anxiously.

"We should get going," he responds, placing his hand over mine only to remove it from his shoulder. He hunches down and starts pulling the man before his mood shifts again and he gives me an overly bright grin. "Let's toss this guy out the window."

My jaw drops. "What?! You can't be serious."

"Sure I am. We're on the first floor, he'll be fine!" He tells me cheerily, already opening the window behind the desk.

"But-!"

"Elizabeth," he silences my protest. The gaze in his green eyes is no longer playful. His patience is wearing thin. "He can't be found in here. They'll know something's up. When he wakes up outside, he isn't going to risk coming back in. We'll be long gone by that time anyways."

"You don't know that," I try to argue softly, wary of him. "He could be working for the mayor."

"He isn't."

My mind is spinning with questions. But one look at those hard green eyes tells me no more questions would be tolerated. Not right now. I nod and Meliodas pushes the man out the window. Despite myself, I rush over next to him to make sure the stranger is okay.

"Bushes, perfect," Meliodas' cheery tone is back. "Almost forgot about those. They'll make good cover."

He spins on his heels and sits down behind the desk again. I glance at the man, barely visible from above, he'll be completely hidden from any other angle. I shut the window slowly. By the time I turn back to Meliodas, he's already sliding the flash drive back into his pocket, and pulling a cloth from his jacket's inner pocket to wipe the keyboard.

"Arlight. Let's go."

He goes to the door, looking out into the hall while I retrieve my gun from the floor. With my back to Meliodas, I heft my dress only high enough that I can hide my firearm in the holster wrap clinging to my thigh. When I turn around, Meliodas is still watching the hall. Miracles do happen, it seems.

We make our way back towards the main area of the party. Meliodas pulls me closer. Remembering how we left, I loop my arm through his and practically drape myself over him - but the strange twists I felt earlier in my stomach are not there this time. The same man who stopped us earlier turns and scowls at us as he takes in our disheveled appearance. Guess getting in a fight wasn't the worst thing. It seems to add to the ruse we had setup as the man makes no comment, glancing away uncomfortably.

To my surprise, Meliodas shifts direction, instead leading me right back to the dance floor. "What are you doing?" I ask under my breath.

"Be kinda suspicious if we just left right after sneaking away to," he smirks at me. "Ya know." He's acting the same as usual, but something is different. Off. It's almost like he's forcing himself. There's a hint of agitation in him that I can't quite place.

I scowl at him. "You really think they're paying that close attention to us?"

"Yes."

We dance for a few songs. Mingle with a few people and before I know it, we're back in the car, leaving the party. Everything had passed in a blur after our conversation. It felt good to be in the car once more. Not having to worry about prying eyes. We're about a block away from the Mayor's house when Meliodas stops the car. He blindfolds me once again and I say nothing against it. In fact, he doesn't even try to distract me during the drive. We sit in complete silence the entire drive back.

My mind wanders to the man who caught us. What was he going to say? And…

Why didn't Meliodas want me to hear it?

 

Chapter Text

Being alone with Meliodas in the bar was… weird. Neither of us said much of anything as we drank to help pass the time. It was strange seeing the Boar Hat so empty on a Saturday night compared to how full it was until the early morning during the week.

We'd gotten back and I wordlessly made a bee-line to my room to shower and change. I wanted to wash away any hint of the party and what had transpired there. It was also a good excuse to get away from the blonde for a bit. He'd shown me a side of himself that was closer to what I imagined a crime boss would look like. Cruel. Demanding. Downright scary.

But that peace could only last so long. So I had rejoined him in the bar.

Finally, after what seemed like hours of waiting; Ban, King and Diane returned.

A surprising amount of relief washed over me at seeing their faces once again. No one appeared hurt on the surface - though they did seem to be covered in… ash? King and Diane offered me tired smiles, and I found myself returning them. Meliodas eyed me, I can see him raising a curious brow and I hoped that he hadn't noticed how much tension left my body at the realization the three of them were okay - or at not being alone anymore. I recovered quickly, smile gone from my face as quick as it had come.

"... Please tell me you guys didn't set a building on fire…" I joked with a deep frown at the trio - remembering the Sins' record of alleged arson.

"Uh, technically… no…" King responded, but refused to meet my gaze. Never a good sign.

My frown quickly turned to concerned shock as my joke turned to reality.

Diane chuckled awkwardly and Ban snorted. His crimson eyes had no trouble meeting my aqua. "Not that it's any of your business. But no. We didn't," Ban towered over me as he crossed his arms. "Dumbasses tried to put out an oil fire with water."

"What?" I furrowed my brows, confused that he actually knew what that meant. "Why was there a fire in the first place?"

"Um, that actually, was… kinda… my fault…" King interrupted the stare down between Ban and I.

"Really?" Meliodas drawled with obvious interest as he smiled. "How'd that happen?"

The Sin of Sloth scratched the back of his head sheepishly. "Well… I was trying to create a distraction by lighting a small, really, small barrel of oil on fire. It wasn't near anything else!" He quickly added as he saw my mouth open to chew his ass out. "I left the metal lid right next to it. I assumed the bozo's nearby would know not to throw water on top of it and use the lid I left behind….. They didn't…."

"Yeah, they came in with a bucket of water, dumped it in and WHOOSH!" Diane threw her hands up in the air. "Wasn't really what we wanted but, it worked," she shrugged. I stare at her blankly and she smiled before sending me a wink.

"Work it did!" Ban chuckled as he rested his arm on King's head. The shorter man stared at the ground in embarrassment. "The building starting on fire was their fault, not yours."

My mouth dropped open. "You actually set a building on fire? I was JOKING! I can't believe you guys did that!"

"Whoa, cool your jets, Princess," Ban's smile fell slightly. "I toldja we didn't. If the morons woulda used the lid nearby, there wouldn'ta been one. Plus," he gave me a crooked grin. "We are criminals."

I'm fuming. Ready to smack that smile off his face. As if he could sense my irritation, the tall oaf just smiled even wider.

"Was anyone hurt?" Meliodas' flat tone cut through my angry haze.

"Of course not!" King snapped his head up at that, finally looking him in the eye. "The fire was my stupid idea," his hand gripped his shirt tightly over his chest, "but there were only five guys there at the time. As soon as it started to spread, they left."

"We made sure of it," Diane nodded her head, a hand gripping King's shoulder, Ban's elbow still on his head.

With Meliodas standing in front of them like that, they really look like a team. I pushed the thought aside. This was no time to get caught up in how the Sins were almost like a task force. Not the criminals the law thought them to be. No matter what way I diced it, there was still a blinding difference between us.

I was on the side of the law.

They were carrying it out on their own.

"Good!" Meliodas easily slipped back into that cheery attitude. "I'm assuming you got everything then?"

"Course we did." Ban grinned as he removed his arm from King. He tapped at his shoulders, then his back and frowned. "Wait, where did I put that?" He grumbled as he continued patting himself down.

"I took them," King sighed as he pulled a bag off his back and placed it on a nearby table. "I could hardly let you keep track of something so important."

I'm surprised to see Ban's grin return and instead of an insult he said, "Always looking out for me, aintcha?"

"Elaine would be upset if I didn't."

Diane giggled. She leaned in and gave King an affectionate kiss to the cheek. "You're a good big brother."

"I've got a lot to make up for… being Ban's babysitter is the least I can do," he responded with a sad smile. Diane shook her head, not responding with words but instead a chaste kiss to his lips.

"How many times have I told you, you gotta learn to let that go," Meliodas frowned slightly at him. King answered with a mere shrug of his shoulders.

"You… have a sister?" I couldn't help but ask. Suddenly the conversation I overheard my first night here jumped to my mind. The name, Elaine, it was familiar.

"Uh, yeah," King answered unsurely. He appeared to mull it over before sighing heavily, as if this wasn't actually a topic he wanted to discuss. "I have a little sister. Her name is Elaine."

"A little sister?" I could hardly believe it. I thought all the Sins were loners who were thrown together by some odd sense of justice. To hear King had family was something I hadn't really considered before. I hadn't entertained the idea that any of them had.

"She ain't that much younger than you," Ban rolled his eyes.

King scowled up at him, the gaze holding no real anger. "Two years, five years, either way you'd still be a pain in my ass."

"You couldn't ask for a better in-law than me!"

"Yes. I could. And I have," the ginger haired man deadpanned.

Meliodas chuckled, "he's not so bad. You coulda got a lot worse than him, King. Elaine is quite the looker."

"Boss!" King shouted as Ban laughed heartily.

"Though I do prefer my girls a bit curvier," the blonde sent a side glance at me.

I feel my skin heat. My mind betrayed me, thinking of the passionate kiss we shared at the party. I stuff those thoughts down, instead focusing on the now, and reminding myself that just an hour ago I was scared of the guy. If I dwell on that too long and my own embarrassment of it, I may combust.

"I keep telling ya," Ban shook his head with a mirthful grin. "Flat chests are the way to go!"

"Damnit Ban!" King took a swing at the much taller man, Meliodas and Diane sharing a look before they laugh.

"Wait," I combined the rest of the conversation from that night, thankful for the mental click putting it all together. King said Ban couldn't compare his relationship with Elaine to his with Diane. "You're dating his little sister?"

"Sure am!" Ban sent me a blinding smile. I blinked at the sight of it. Not once had I seen such a genuine expression of happiness on the Sin of Greed's face. "Been with her for about two years now."

"It's about the only time I've seen him nice is when Elaine is around," Diane added with a giggle.

"Does she come here often?" I questioned. Even to my own ears it sounded like I was fishing.

King and Ban's pleasant expressions turned hard as they narrowed their eyes in sync at me. "No. She isn't involved in this so don't try to add her name to that list you're keeping," King told me flatly.

His tone wasn't unkind, but it definitely wasn't one he'd directed at me before. It threw me off. "I-I wasn't-"

"You were," Ban cut in. "Elaine isn't involved and she won't ever be. So leave her out of whatever little investigation you're doing in that pretty little head of yours." He tapped my forehead none too gently.

I scowled up at him, cursing his height. "I didn't mean to sound like that. I was just curious…" I gave King an apologetic smile, knowing he was only looking out for his sister. Reluctantly, I did the same for Ban. Both were still on edge, but they seemed to relax. At least a little.

Whoa, they must really care for her. Which somehow just made me want to know even more about the mysterious Elaine. They could easily be lying to me about her. At the same time I couldn't help but think they wouldn't want her to be involved. The Sins lived a dangerous life after all, even if Ban and Meliodas were the only publicly known members.

"Curiosity killed the cat. Isn't that how the saying goes?" Diane hummed as she delivered a tray of drinks to the nearest table. "Why don't we all just have a drink and go over what we found, okay?"

"Whaddya guys find in that dirt bags office?" Ban asked as he collapsed into a chair. He nodded his head in thanks to Diane and then grabbed a mug.

"Not as much as I was hoping," Meliodas admitted with a small frown, plopping down to Ban's left. King sat on the blonde's other side and I took the open seat next to him. Diane ducked back into the kitchen.

"We were almost caught," I added. A reluctant shiver passed through me at the embarrassing memory. "Twice."

A smirk formed on Meliodas' lips. "And Princess here saved my ass both times."

"Really?" King quirked a brow curiously.

"Find that hard to believe," Ban mumbled into his mug.

"I don't," Diane arrived back at the table with some food. "The way she carries herself spells total badass." She winked at me.

"I didn't do anything that great…" I ignored the heat building on my cheeks. If I didn't think about it, didn't acknowledge it, I could pretend it never happened.

"Well I don't know about that. The fact that you snuck a gun into the party is pretty great." Meliodas' expression was smug and seemingly impressed. A weird combination that made me want to throw something at him.

Diane's eyes widened and I can only assume that she knew how difficult it was to hide anything in that ensemble, "Oh.." I blushed under her knowing gaze. "Oh wow. I didn't know you had that kind of… skill, Elizabeth." She bit her lip to keep from smiling. "Very impressive." She winked at me again.

"What are you guys talking about?" King glanced between the three of us.

"Just some of the unknown capabilities of Princess' that I was lucky enough to be a part of." Meliodas' smirked deviously at me. I wanted to slap him and yet… I couldn't help thinking of that stupid kiss again.

I took a long drink from my mug. I slammed it back down on the counter. "Can we just move on please?" I scowled at him.

"Sure, sure," Meliodas replied easily. "So we found a few more locations, didn't get too much time to look over it. Got it all right here though," the blonde held up the flash drive.

"Nice~," Ban droned with a nod of his head. "When we gunna take a peek?

"King can look it over tomorrow," Meliodas shrugged. "What about you guys?"

"Lots of files," King answered as he opened his backpack, fingering through the papers. "Don't think we should look at them up here though."

Meliodas nodded. "So despite the small… hiccup," he sent a look at King that had the Sin of Sloth sinking in his chair, mumbling another apology. "Everything went smoothly?"

"Yep!" Diane smiled. "Nothing to it, really. One of our smoother operations."

"How often do you guys do these kinds of… operations," I asked cautiously.

With how often King and Ban would leave the bar throughout the day, it's hard to pinpoint what they may have been doing. But Meliodas mentioned that he and Ban had scoped out the mayor's place more than once. Did they do this the previous night with King? Logic told me that they would have recently checked the place out and I couldn't help but wonder if they'd done so with me being none the wiser.

"Whenever they're needed," Meliodas answered vaguely. I rolled my eyes at him and he merely smirked. "Alright let's move elsewhere, shall we?" He must have been talking about the "inner sanctum".

We all made to stand, but before I could even take a step, the building shook violently beneath me. I tripped and expected to meet the hard floor. Instead I found Meliodas' body under mine. His green eyes were a mixture of amusement and worry. How could they be so contradicting? And why did I feel so conflicted about him? I placed my hands on his chest, trying to push off him, but he held me firmly in place with an arm around my waist.

His other held his ale. Not a drop spilled.

"What the hell was that?" Ban grumbled as he stood.

"An earthquake?" Daine questioned and began cleaning up the spilled ale on the table with a rag.

"I don't think so…" King pondered outloud. "It kinda felt more like…"

"Huh," Meliodas commented from underneath me. His expression had relaxed much more. "Didn't think she'd be showing up tonight."

I glared down at him. His hand moved to press against the small of my back and I involuntarily shivered. "Let me up," I demanded with pursed lips.

He grinned at me, "no thank you?"

A biting retort was on the tip of my tongue. Ban answered instead. "Uh… you guys smell smoke?"

My eyes widened and I sniffed the air, Meliodas copying the action. "Well, that's not good," the blonde replied casually as he sat up, my legs falling to the side to straddle him. My face heated at the intimate position.

"We're gunna go check that out," Diane spoke from the hall, a sly smirk on her features as well as Ban's. King must already be down the hall.

"You two come when you're ready~" the white haired buffon wiggled his eyebrows suggestively at us.

"May be a while!" Meliodas responded with a cheeky grin. That stupid smile caused my stomach to flutter.

"Ugh!" I groaned as I pushed him away and scampered out of his lap. "You can stay here. I'm going to check that out."

"Damn," he sighed as he stood up next to me, following my hurried steps. "Was hoping for a repeat from earlier." My arm swung out in an attempt to backhand him. The infuriating blonde merely ducked under my blow and walked past me, but not before sending a smug grin over his shoulder.

"Holy shit," I heard Ban curse. "What the fuck were you doing down there?"

I rounded the corner as two figures emerged from the black smoke pouring out of yet another door I had not really noticed. Ban, King, and Diane stand just outside the doorway, shirts pulled up to cover their mouths.

"I informed her that it was an ill advised combination and the likelihood of an explosion was 67 percent." A somewhat monotone cadence answered. The voice was not unfamiliar to me. It was Gowther - the young man I had met the night before.

"And I told you that I was looking for something with a violent reaction." This was a woman's voice now. She came out of the smoke, waving to clear the air and coughing.

"That was too violent of a reaction. Your calculations were wrong." Gowther removed his glasses and rubbed the blackened lens with the - mostly - unsoiled undershirt he wore under his hoodie.

The woman laughed at his humorless words, finding the utter chaos fuming behind her funny. "My calculations were perfect. I chose to increase the ratio to see what would happen."

Wait… I… know that voice. And that morbid sense of humor…

I studied the woman carefully. She was covered in dark smudges and her black hair was frizzed at the edges when it normally hung perfectly at her neck. Despite all of that, I recognized her.

"Merlin?" I asked, even though I knew it was her. Something in me hoped I was wrong, I guess. I had to be wrong. There was no way that this woman was here.

The tall languid woman stopped chortling before turning to me with mischief lighting up her already bright golden eyes, "Oh my, well hello there detective. Nice to see you outside of the crime lab!"

 

Chapter Text

"What the hell are you doing here Merlin?"

My insides twisted as I glare down a woman I know… or at least I thought I knew. She eyed me a moment, searching me before a cheshire grin spread over her lips, "I assume we're here for the same reason, detective."

"She's being called Princess." Gowther added, pushing his glasses back up his nose.

It didn't take a genius to figure out this was the woman Meliodas had mentioned the other night. The only person Gowther stuck around the bar for. Gluttony.

Ban leaned into my peripheral vision, and I try to ignore him as he looked between me and the object of my intense stare-off. "If I didn't know any better, I'd say you two know each other~" his sing-song tone came off a bit suspicious, but given his previously stated distrust in cops, I suppose I'm not all that surprised.

King sighed with a shake of his head, "Get a clue, moron. Of course they know each other."

The second in command looked down at him petulantly and there was a flurry of insults thrown between the two, not that I could hear them. No, I didn't care to hear a repeat of an argument the two had almost daily. My jaw tightened as my focus switched to Meliodas.

His gaze was on me. Watching. Waiting. A bystander observing the implications of this encounter hit me, wave after wave. Merlin was a sin. The Sin of Gluttony. But that wasn't all. Merlin was a scientist. A forensic scientist and an outside consultant for the crime lab. This woman was responsible for helping our department crack some of our most high profile cases. Her expertise had aided in the incarceration of mob bosses, politicians, corrupt officials, serial killers...

This woman had been something of a hero in my eyes. A woman with fire. A woman who could stare the worst of men dead in the face and prove their guilt. A woman who could play hardball - refusing to be defined by age or sex. And she would do it with that same grin she was giving me now.

Right here… standing in the middle of a bar that was the headquarters of the Seven Deadly Sins.

It was no wonder we never found anything tying them to the crimes. That had been bothering me for a couple days now - wondering how a ragtag group of accident prone vigilantes managed to leave no trace. They probably had. They just had someone on the inside who could destroy or corrupt it. The department never once suspected they had infiltrated our ranks.

I couldn't help but feel this is some sort of power play. Meliodas could have told her to stay away. Forever kept me in the dark; kept me from knowing that my own office wasn't safe from his prying eyes.

It was like he was asking me, "What will you do now? Knowing this newest piece of information…"

Was it a test? For my resolve; of my loyalty to the cause; my loyalty to my word?

I glanced away from him, unable to speak. But my chest ached with the decision I'd made. I had no choice but to look the other way. It's the price I had to pay to break my case open.

"Esh, you really did it this time, Mer," Ban commented, leaning into the open doorway, careening his neck to better his view of what lay below - and again, I was forgotten. My presence, my plight, my struggle here; a changed subject in favor of something else.

"We may wanna call Pride…" King suggested with a quirked brow as he studied Gowther and Merlin. His gaze flickered from me over to Meliodas, but he made no comment on my obvious distress.

"That would be a wise decision." Gowther said without looking at anyone. "Merlin would have inhaled her concoction upon its explosion."

"I already called him," Diane assured them as she wiggled her cellphone. I hadn't even noticed she left to make the call. She too glanced my way, but said nothing to me. "Said he'd be right over."

Ban and Meliodas shared smug grins. "Course he will!" The blonde laughed, elbowing the much taller man in the stomach good naturedly.

"Never known the man to say no when it involved his, Sweet Gluttony," Ban chortled along with him.

King rolled his eyes at the pair but even he couldn't stop from cracking a smile. "He would have came either way, ya know."

"Of course, he would," Diane nodded and smiled along. "But he'll get here a lot faster knowing it's Merlin who needs his help." She giggled and bumped shoulders with the older woman.

They all started to push into the main bar area, chatting, exchanging remarks about only god knew what, leaving me where I stood.

How much of myself would I need to sacrifice to accomplish what I came here to do?

"You alright?"

I didn't realize Meliodas had stayed with me -and while his words were soft and concerned, I only found his presence infuriating. I turned an incredulous look on him, scoffing, "Does that even fucking matter to you?" I hissed at him rhetorically under my breath, catching a glimpse of his surprised expression before I found my way to the kitchen. The answer was simple. I didn't need him confirming or denying it to know the truth.

In the meantime though, there were still two people in need of medical attention. And until the person called Pride arrived, I would make sure all of the first aid was ready.

For the most part, the others left me to do just that. Thankfully. I just couldn't stand being in anyone's company for very long, right now. Unfortunately, there weren't enough things to gather to take up the time I needed to reign in my wayward thoughts. Mindless chores it was then. I found myself washing the dishes left in the sink before I'd even thought much on it. Anything to keep from going off.

Was nothing sacred anymore? My office. My records. My coworkers. What else did the Sins have their hands on?

I needed to talk to Howser. But what could I say? It'd been a week since my initial check in. He was bound to be worried again. Maybe it wouldn't matter so much what I said. The comfort of a longtime friend's voice would be far more soothing than just sitting here and wallowing in my own self pity. Even if I didn't offer specifics, Howser always had a way of knowing just what to say.

Now if only I could get to a phone…

Lost in my own thoughts, I hadn't noticed the sharp edge of the knife hiding beneath the bubbles, until I felt the undeniable ache of skin slicing open. "Ow! Fuck!" I pulled my hand out of the water quickly, waving it like it was on fire. I held my palm, watching as blood pooled to the surface, mixing with the water still on my hands.

It wasn't deep, but it was certainly painful. I cursed under my breath again, ready to turn to look for a towel, but found my view of the injury suddenly obscured by a white cloth pressed firmly to the open wound. And the person holding said cloth did so without looking up at me.

"You should be more careful," Meliodas murmured, peeling the cloth back to inspect the injury and then reapplying it. No grin. No sign of his typical devil-may-care attitude. But he also hadn't shifted to angry either. There was a tenderness with which he handled my hand and my wrist as he encouraged me to come to a chair in the back corner of the kitchen. A set of shelves sat to my left, and I watched him fish out another first aid kit that had been hidden behind a stack of pans.

Without a word, he knelt in front of me, pulling cotton swabs from the little pack he placed on the ground next to him, then dabbing and cleaning the hand he cradled in his own. He was so diligent, and it was probably the quietest and most thoughtful I've seen him.

Why?

Didn't this guy realize how much he pissed me off?

"I can bandage my own hand." my voice betrayed just how done I am.

"I'm sure you can." He replied, easily, but it didn't deter him from treating my wound. Always the chivalrous knight in shining armor...

My words to him earlier echo in my head. It made me angry that his actions towards me actually mattered to me in any way. He was a criminal. He was a means to an end. And when this was all over, I planned on taking him and all his other lackeys down…

So why did it bother me so much? Why did his acts of kindness and feigned interest get to me so bad?

"Why are you doing this?" I asked him, my heart taking the reigns. I wanted to know why he insisted on playing the good guy.

He was smart. Smarter than I gave him credit for. Every single move he'd made in this relationship had been expertly planned and executed. Every time I thought I had a leg up, he would prove me wrong - allowing me to know about Merlin was positive proof of that. He had all the cards. He had to realize that. So why? Why bother pretending?

I watched his eyes study his own movements as he expertly wrapped a gauze around my palm. His expression didn't shift and he made no attempt at answering my question. How very typical of him.

A frustrated sigh escaped through my nose. I'm angry. And humiliated. I was just another tool at his disposal. Just another pawn in his game. "Just stop it," I hissed, turning my face away, unable to watch him touching me, "You don't have to keep pretending, Meliodas. I'm a big girl. I can handle myself."

Stop pretending like I matter at all to you.

"You're wrong about me, Elizabeth."

I glanced back at him, surprised by how gently he said my name - the fact that he used my name at all. And this time, he was looking right at me. I'm caught by those emeralds. Entranced by their shine, by the resolve there. Why did my stomach always see fit to start a gymnastic routine when he looked at me?

He allowed himself another moment staring me in the eyes before he glanced down - long enough to finish off the tie of the gauze, "I'm not pretending. It does matter to me."

There was the smallest pull to his lips, as he passed to me the most genuine grin I've seen on his face. It was reassuring - kind. The type of grin that said "You matter to me. I'm on your side".

But was he really? Or was that my thudding heart putting words in my head, hoping that was the case? I swallowed hard, watching as he stood from his place on the floor and meandered to the door separating us from the rest of the bar, shooting one last soft smile over his shoulder as if to re-iterate his words. A plea for me to think on what he'd told me.

And then he was gone.

Was it wrong for me to hope he did mean what he said? My rational brain said yes - that this was nothing more than a poor attempt at getting me to sympathize with him. My less-rational heart, however, was less convinced. My mind replayed the words Meliodas had said at the party, about King and Diane. Lot easier to pretend you have feelings than actually admitting to having them, his voice rang in my head. The reminder did nothing to relieve any of my confusion and only made me wonder more.

Was he only talking about King and Diane?

I frowned down at the hand he had wrapped so carefully. There's no time right now to sift through all of the emotions I'm feeling. I'm too tired. Too much had happened for me to organize it neatly. I sighed again, much louder now that I'm the only one in the kitchen, and decided I've had enough time pouting.

I left the kitchen, finding everyone where I had left them, sans Meliodas, who now sat at one of the bar stools. He allowed more of his usual grin to filter through as he looked back at me and my reappearance, and I found that I couldn't keep eye contact with him without feeling heat in my face - instead, busying myself with filling a couple of mugs with beer and passing one to him.

I'm mad, not rude. No sense in drinking alone.

No sooner had I finished filling the second mug for myself that the bar's front door flew open and a blonde man with glasses stood there, panting heavily. "M-merlin? Is she… okay?"

His grand entrance had nearly made me jump out of my skin, but somehow I managed to keep a tight grip on my drink. This man had to be the one called Pride. Who else would be showing up at this time of night in such a bold fashion?

"I'm fine, Escanor," said woman assured him from her spot at a table with Gowther and King. I got the sense the three of them had been discussing something. "There was no need for you to come. Diane got a bit trigger happy with the phone."

The accused merely giggled and whispered something to Ban, both of them laughing loudly.

"You need to be checked," Gowther insisted - or at least what he could pass for insisting. "You did not wear a mask as I suggested."

"A calculated risk," Merlin answered with a smile.

"I told you, your calculations were wrong," Gowther responded flatly.

"Uh," Escanor interrupted the two swiftly. "I'd feel better if I could just take a look. At both of you."

"But I am fine." The young genius defended montone. "I took the necessary precautions, unlike Merlin."

If I didn't know anything about Gowther, I would almost think that he was arguing. But he wasn't. Just stating facts like he did the time before. He wasn't trying to be rude. Just trying to understand what, to him, must be a simple matter.

Escanor hummed. "That Merlin doesn't listen much, does she?" His question was directed at Gowther, neither men looking at each other. He set up a bag on the table and began digging within it. Apparently my gathering of the first aid kit was a fruitless effort.

"No."

For the first time since knowing Merlin, I saw a small scowl on her face. "I listen just fine. I chose to do the opposite for the sake of better understanding."

"I'm sure," Escanor answered her politely before ripping open, what I assume must be a disinfectant cloth. He approached Gowther and kindly asked, "may I take a blood sample? I know you are at a lower risk than Merlin, but I'd like to take one just in case. Better to be safe right, Gowther?" His ocean blue eyes were nothing but sincere as the young genius' gaze flickered to his and then away just as quickly.

"Very well."

"Thank you," Escanor's smile softened. "I know you don't much care for needles. I'll be quick."

Gowther said nothing in response and I realized the bar was weirdly quiet. One look around the room told me everyone was just as engrossed by the pair as I was. I had the feeling Gowther didn't converse with many people outside of Merlin and Meliodas. Was Escanor also on this list?

Escanor continued chatting, as if to distract the young man. His voice was calm and soothing, unlike when he'd first shown up. "It's a good thing Merlin has you here to look out for her."

"Yes," Gowther agreed with a single nod of his head. "She takes too many risks."

"Calculated," Merlin reminded them even as the small smile on her face renewed. "They aren't risks if they're calculated."

"By definition, risks are those that expose to danger, harm, or loss. Purposefully ignoring faulty calculations are, thus, risks." The genius replied flatly.

Merlin chuckled.

"There, all done," Escanor placed a band aid over the spot he drew blood from. "Thankfully I brought my kit with. We should know if you need further treatment within a few hours. Will you please stick around until then Gowther?"

"Yes."

"Thank you, now," he turned to the forensic scientist and suddenly, his calm demeanor seemed to dissipate as his gaze had skipped up from Merlin to me across the bar, and then he did a double-take. "Oh… uh…" He looked like a deer in the headlights. "I… had no idea we had company." He finished, stepping closer to Merlin, but peeking up at me like I might attack.

"No need to worry," Meliodas assured him with a grin. "This is just Elizabeth. Elizabeth, meet Pride. Pride, meet Elizabeth."

"I thought we were referring to her as Princess?" Gowther tilted his head.

"Princess?" Escanor repeated the code name. His eyes shifted to King as he said, "you have another sister?"

"No!" King shouted a little louder than necessary. His cheeks were pink and I had to wonder if it's from alcohol or embarrassment. "See!" he pointed an accusing finger at Meliodas. "Told you Princess was a bad name."

Meliodas rolled his eyes at the Sin of Sloth, an amused smile on his face. "It's fine King. At least he thought she was your sister and not your daughter."

"Uh," Escanor quirked a brow, making quick work of drawing blood from Merlin's arm. "Who would think that? King looks like he's sixteen… No offense of course."

"Offense taken," King grumbled as he downed the contents of his mug. "Take a wild guess Escanor. Who do we know that's a complete moron?"

"Ban?"

"Bingo!" He waved his empty mug in the air. "Who else but his drunk ass?"

"Hey!" The white haired man yelled.

The two men ignored him. "If I had to place a bet on her being someone's daughter, it would be Ban," Escanor commented thoughtfully. "Hair color is at least the same."

"Her features are more accurately in common with Diane," Gowther joined the disturbing topic. "They have the same round face and nose construction. Eighty percent likeness."

"Hear that Elizabeth!" The burnette threw an arm around me - somehow finding her way to me before I had realized it. "We're sisters!"

"Why am I the only one who's a father? I'm not that old!" Ban growled and slammed his mug on the table. "Fuck you guys!"

Definitely drunk, I thought as King, Ban and Diane got into another argument. All three of them.

"As lively as ever I see," Escanor chuckled. He's already pulling out something else from his bag. I didn't recognize the equipment, but assumed it must be how he's going to test the blood. He set it up on the bar, far away from the bickering trio.

"Been awhile, Escanor," Meliodas grinned at the fellow blonde. His whole attitude seemed to have shifted back to the jovial man I've gotten to know the past week. It's almost like everything that happened up till now was forgotten. Or maybe he's just that happy at having his team together again.

"I'd say that's a good thing," Escanor told him with a kind smile. "Considering the only time we see each other is when someone is hurt."

"True," Meliodas admitted with a chuckle, "but that doesn't mean you can't stop by more." The two paused in a contemplative silence. "Work tomorrow? Why don't you stay and have a beer with us while you wait for those results?"

"Well…"

"Come now, Escanor," Merlin placed a hand on his shoulder. "It's been too long since we last had everyone together. You can stay for a few hours. At least until the your test is finished." She fluttered her eyelashes at him.

Another first from Merlin that I hadn't seen before. Never once had I seen her pay mind to any man who tried hitting on her. And now here she was, fluttering her lashes just to get the man to stay for a drink or two.

"O-kay," Escanor agreed quickly, red splashing across all his visible features. That couldn't be healthy.

I found myself curious about what Escanor's role for the team was.

Meliodas was obviously the leader. Ban was his right hand man and carried out numerous tasks along with King. Diane helped to manage the bar and went out when needed. Gowther was a genius who could apparently hack into and access anything the Sins may need. While Merlin… she's the reason they never got caught. How she ended up with them was beyond me. But now wasn't the time for that question.

Instead I asked a different one. To someone who seemed less able to dodge my questions. "It's nice to meet you, Escanor," I held out my hand and offered the sincerest smile I could given all the shit I'd been through tonight. "I was thinking I wouldn't meet the rest of the Sins and yet I get to meet you three in the last twenty four hours." My eyes send an accusing glare at Merlin.

The woman just smirked.

"Ah, nice to meet you too, Elizabeth," He smiled kindly, taking my hand firmly - a business man's handshake. That, combined with his pressed buttoned-up shirt and dress slacks said something. Meliodas had mentioned work... "I actually didn't think I'd be meeting you at all. Unless you were injured."

I quirked a brow. So Meliodas had been playing his cards close to the chest.

"N-not that I think you'd be getting i-injured," he stuttered as he tried to explain himself, mistaking my expression for distaste. "I j-just don't come here unless it's for that reason, as you can see." He held up his bag and I finally realized what it was.

A medical bag.

"You're a doctor?" My jaw unhinged slightly.

 

Chapter Text

No way, I couldn't help but think. I had figured he was just a scientist or something like Merlin. How can a team of seven criminals be this well rounded?

Not only did they have someone within the precinct, along with a hacker, they also had a freaking doctor on the team? Just how the hell did this group come together? Despite everyone having specific jobs and probably reasons for being here, I just couldn't believe how well off they were. It was no wonder we had nothing on them. There was absolutely no way for us to find them with Merlin covering their tracks at crime scenes and Escanor making house visits for injuries.

"I am," Escanor answered my question with a tilt of his head. "I uh, thought that was apparent…?" He turned to Meliodas. "What kind of people are you introducing her to that a stranger showing up in the middle of the night and drawing blood is not a doctor thing?"

Merlin chuckled, "I'm sure Princess," she purred my code name, clearly finding amusement in the title, "is just in a bit of shock."

She was right, of course. How could I not be, given this new development - along with everything else that had happened so far. It's hard to believe how much had happened in such a short amount of time, when only earlier this week I was hounding Meliodas for kidnapping me and not giving me immediate answers. While I had received some, it wasn't on what I wanted and also left me with more questions than actual answers.

"Ah," Escanor nodded understandably. "It is a lot to take in. I don't blame you for being a bit… surprised. I was too." He offered me a kind smile and a half hearted shrug. "You get use to it… kind of."

"Says the guy who doesn't even visit us!" Diane yelled and popped out her lip. "I swear you don't even like us most of the time and just come for Merlin!"

Escanor flushed. "T-that's not true!" He attempted to argue.

"It's totally true~," Ban chortled and threw an arm around the red faced man. "If it weren't for Mer, you may not even be here."

"That's not fair guys," King slurred.

"Thank you, King," the doctor sighed in relief.

Too soon it seemed as King continued his explanation. "Sure, he totally came here for Merlin-"

"Not you too!"

"-but he's one of us now and unlike most of us, he has a life outside of this," the ginger haired man finished, resting his head against the table. "A normal life. Can't expect him to give it all up for this kind of existence…"

My eyes widened at yet, another new piece of information. A heavy sigh from Meliodas didn't give me much time to process it. "Told you he was a blabbermouth," the leader of the Sins shook his head at the now sleeping man.

"Hear that King~?" Ban poked his cheek. "You suck!" He laughed loudly, slapping his own knee and falling out of his chair.

"Shuddup," King grumbled in response, "I'm seeping…" he slurred.

"Perhaps King should lessen his alcohol intake," Gowther suggested from the bar. A glass of, what must be, apple juice sat in front of him.

"I'm fiiinnne," the Sin of Sloth lifted his head to try and find the genius. His eyes had trouble focusing. I hadn't realized he drank that much in the short amount of time they'd been back.

Diane giggled and wrapped her arms around his waist while rubbing her face against his neck. "You are, but let's go to bed okay? I'm sleepy too."

"M'kay…"

"Ban, carry him for me? I'm gonna grap us some waters."

"But I don't wa-" One glare from Diane had the white haired man sighing heavily. "Fine~." King must have fallen asleep again as Ban picked him up with no sign of protest. "Be back in a few," he said, seemingly more sober as he carried the smaller man away.

Diane's behind them a second later. "Night everyone!" She called with a smile. "Nice to see you again, Escanor!"

"Ah, you too, Diane," he responded a half second too late, the trio already gone upstairs. Escanor turned to Meliodas. "Does King normally drink so much?"

"No," Meliodas frowned slightly as he thought it over. "Usually it's him taking care of Ban, actually. Probably just feels guilty about the fire."

"Fire?" Merlin sat down at the bar, a drink for herself and Escanor in hand. "What fire?"

"They were looking into one of our locations and needed a distraction for a getaway. King set up a small oil fire, providing a lid for them to put it out with."

"They didn't use it?" Merlin quirked a slender brow, a small frown playing at her lips.

"They didn't use it," Meliodas confirmed with a nod of his head. "Idiots dumped water on it and it escalated from there."

"Of course it did," Merlin chuckled. The woman had a weird sense of humor. "If not for me, the four of you would have been caught many times over," she clicked her tongue. I couldn't tell if she was pleased about having to clean up after them, or not.

"We do have quite the run of bad luck, don't we?" Meliodas hummed in agreement.

"Why would they not use the lid provided," Gowther chimed in unexpectedly. "He gave them the proper tools to put it out themselves. Water is an ill advised choice for that kind of fire."

"Sadly, not everyone thinks like we do, Gowther, dear," Merlin explained for him. "What we think is obvious, others struggle to grasp."

"You guys do have the worse luck," Escanor shook his head before taking a drink of the mug Merlin provided for him.

"Tell me about it," Ban chuckled morbidly as he rejoined us. "Put sleeping beauty to bed. He'll have one hell of a hangover, that's for sure."

"You two can nurse them together then," Merlin smirked at the white haired man.

Ban snorted. "I'm perfectly cable of suffering alone, thanks."

"I could prepare you one of my homemade remedies?" The forensic scientist suggested slyly.

Ban visibly shivered. "Nope. Not trying any of those ever again. Not after the last shit you made me." He gagged, skin actually taking on a green hue as he recalled the memory.

"I'm guessing we aren't going over what the three of you found anymore?" I frowned, interrupting the conversation and directing my question at Ban.

"With just me?" The white haired man chuckled. "No way in hell, lil lady. I know my strengths and explaining that information shit in King's bag is not one of them."

"Great, so another night of nothing," I grumbled before taking a drink. I was sulking, not even trying to hide it.

"Well, I wouldn't say that," Meliodas shot me a grin. It lacked the normal cocky tone, reminding me more of the soft smile I'd received in the kitchen. More genuine. I looked away from him, finishing the contents of my mug. "You did get to meet the remaining two Sins, so that's something. Not many people can say that."

I scoffed as I placed the mug on the counter. "One. I already knew Merlin."

"Of course," Escanor nodded sagely. "It would be expected given your profession and Merlin's that you'd run into each other at least once." His blue eyes darted between the two of us as I glared at the ravenette woman. "Are you… upset with her?"

"Yes," I responded without much thought. Upset is putting it mildly. And it wasn't just Merlin I was mad at. Once again, my eyes found Meliodas. He's calm, waiting to see what else I had to say. I let out a deep breath and turned back to Escanor. "It isn't completely her fault. I am curious as to how, you managed to get caught up with the Sins, though, Merlin."

Her eyes flashed with something darker - a brief moment of insecurity? Was I just imagining that? "Not a story for tonight, I'm afraid." One of her smug smirks danced across her lips, her normal attitude returning. At seeing my scowl she added, "it's a bit long and I'm only staying until the results return."

We stared at each other, locked in a silent battle of wills.

One I was much too exhausted to partake in right now.

I sighed heavily, "Fine. Another time then."

"Perhaps," she responded noncommittally.

My teeth gnawed on my tongue to keep from retorting harshly. Suddenly, following King and Diane's example and going to bed didn't sound so bad. It was that or say something that I would regret, possibly pushing me further from the Sins and shooting myself in the foot as far as this investigation was concerned. I couldn't risk it. I pushed away from the bar.

"I'm heading to bed." I offered up as explanation to the confused stares. Only Meliodas didn't seem surprised. His was more curious than anything if I had to put an emotion to his blank expression. I ignored him in favor of bidding the others goodnight. "It was nice to meet you, Escanor."

"Oh, y-you too, Elizabeth, er, uh, I mean Princess," he stumbled over his words at my unexpected turn of conversation.

I smiled at him, then turning to the only other female awake, "Merlin." I said simply, finding it difficult to feign politeness.

She didn't seem to mind as she returned my smile with her signature smirk, "goodnight, Princess," she purred once again. "We shall see each other again before all this is over."

"I'm sure," I responded clippidly. "Goodnight," was all I say to the other three. Gowther wouldn't care about my lack of acknowledging him personally, nor would Ban. Meliodas on the other hand… I caught a small frown as I turned to leave. He appeared almost... hurt, at my lack of attention towards him.

And there was a part of me that felt guilty for that. His words in the kitchen drum up a whirl of emotions. But my anger toward him and the others kept those emotions in check.

One foot was on the stairs when I heard Ban's teasing voice carry over. "Shit, what did you do?~"

"Not really sure," I heard Meliodas reply. He quickly changed the topic, "so Merlin, anything interesting happening on your end?"

I should stay and listen. I know that I should.

But at hearing his question to Merlin, my blood boils even hotter - reminding me of my humiliation at finding her as a member of the Sins. The sense of betrayal was still too fresh. I'd looked up to that woman for too long to stay and listen to her all but stomp over what I believed in. My precinct. I stormed up the steps, not even caring if they heard me, just wanting to get away from everything.

I yanked open the door to the bedroom I'd been given and slammed it shut behind me. Overwhelmed tears began to fall down my face. Meliodas, the Sins, Merlin… it was all too much. A shaky breath escaped me and I do my best to calm my erratic breathing. I locked the door behind me, paranoid that someone - that Meliodas, would come check on me. I couldn't take the confusing feelings that he kept conjuring within me. Once was more than enough.

My body bounced in the air as I collapsed upon my bed. A frustrated scream threatened to bubble to the surface. I squashed it down, wrapping my arms around my pillow as I pulled it over my head.

My fingers scraped against something.

I frowned, reaching inside the pillowcase to pull out something I'd almost forgotten about; the picture of Meliodas and Liz. I bolted up in bed and stared at the picture with wide eyes. My mind ran with possible ideas of what this picture could mean. It was a welcomed distraction. But how could I find out more information?

Howzer came to mind.

The idea was quickly scratched. If Merlin's working with the Sins, who knows how far into the precinct their reach is. She'd know if Howzer ran any searches.

I studied the picture again. The pink haired woman was beautiful. Meliodas… he looked so happy. They both did. I flipped it over.

"Mel and Liz, 57th Brigade," I read quietly.

Then it hit me.

"Of course," I whispered, excitement taking over all my other ragged emotions and I eagerly embraced it.

They're part of the military. Asking Howzer to look into this wouldn't have made any sense. But I knew someone who could. My sister's fiance, Gilthunder, was a marine. If I could somehow get this picture to Margaret and have her get it to him, I could find out more about Meliodas. I was hopeful for the first time since entering this bar.

I tried to convince myself that I needed to know of Meliodas' past to understand his motives. And while that was true, part of me had to wonder;

Is this really just for the case?


I didn't sleep at all.

It's early when I decide to sit back up in bed. I didn't even need to look at a clock to know that. I should have tried to sleep, I knew I should.

Yet my brain wouldn't let me - mind abuzz with how I was going to convince Meliodas to let me see my sister. To let me get the picture to Gilthunder.

It's seven a.m. when I finally decide to shower and get dressed. Not knowing what else to do with myself, I wandered downstairs, too alert for having no sleep under my belt. But I couldn't help the anticipation I was feeling. I needed to convince him. No matter what, I needed to start getting some more answers.

By some miracle, when I peered out into the bar area, Meliodas was awake. Not a one of the other Sins appeared to be wandering around except him. He was sitting at the counter, reading the paper and having a cup of coffee. I thanked my lucky stars. Finally, it felt like things were going to go my way.

If there was ever a time to make my move, it was now.

But, there was a part of me that hesitated too - making me pivot from foot to foot anxiously. I'd been so harsh to him. I'd made it all too clear I was not his biggest fan last night - words and actions I was seriously regretting now. Would he listen to me, even if I begged? I'd have to swallow my pride and apologize. I didn't like it, but I would do anything to make this work.

I gulped, imagining the part of me that hated what I was about to do was now locked deep down, and stepped out into the bar.

"Hey, Meliodas-" I had just gotten his attention when the bar's door flung open - much like it had the night before. We both swung around to find a boy standing in the doorway, his eyes scanning the quiet bar then narrowing once they found Meliodas.

"Here we go…" The blonde groaned under his breath, I had just barely heard him as I focused on the boy storming in. He's a short kid - dusty, pink hair, cute unassuming features despite the glare he shot the bar owner, big dark eyes, small. Too small to be rampaging into a closed bar with that much fury. Especially when cradling a stuffed animal under his arm. That thing looked half his size!

I looked between Meliodas and the kid and intercepted, kneeling down to his level before he could get any closer, "Can we help you?" I asked sweetly, if not terribly confused.

The boy eyed me speculatively, "Who are you?"

I opened my mouth, "I'm uh-" I glanced back to Meliodas, who was watching with his mug hiding what I knew was a grin on his face, "I'm… Princess." I smiled back at the boy to hide my disdain.

His big, dark eyes studied me longer and narrowed before they turned on the blonde, "What have I told you about giving people weird nicknames?" He chided the bar owner, and I'm shocked as he turned back to me with brow raised, "What's your real name?"

"E-Elizabeth," I stuttered out. This kid had the commanding tone of an adult.

At hearing my real name, he nodded, then smiled, "Nice to meet you, Elizabeth."

"What are you doing here, Hawk? I thought you and your mom were on vacation." Meliodas placed the coffee mug on the counter, leaning back against it easily.

Hawk? His name was Hawk? I thought there were only seven sins… so who was this child?

Hawk adjusted the large stuffed animal under his arm - a rather large and cute pig, and then glared at Meliodas once more, "We just got back! And the first thing I see waiting for us when we come home is a note saying you're letting someone else live here. This is a bar, not a hotel Meliodas! I'm increasing your rent!"

Wait… what?

"I'm sorry, but... I'm lost." I looked between them again, "I thought the bar was Meliodas' place?"

Hawk sighed - the kind of sound someone his age shouldn't have to make. It spoke of experience there was no way he could have. But he did, all the while keeping his unrelenting gaze on the man in question, "Technically speaking, yes. But it's not in his name, and the land belongs to my momma." Finally, Hawk turned kinder eyes on me, "We pay for the expenses under my mom's name, and Meliodas pays us back."

I couldn't help the grin that started to creep on my own lips. "Oh, is that so?" I asked Hawk while turning a victorious smile on Meliodas. He didn't share in my victory, though. He's scowling, shaking his head with a roll of his eyes.

"It's a miracle we haven't been caught yet with all these blabbermouths around."

The ease with which he said it surprised me. He was so open in front of Hawk - which meant he was involved too, right? A kid this sharp would be hard to hide anything from. I assumed he's well aware of why Meliodas' name wasn't on any of the property. That's not exactly something you agree to without knowing why.

As if answering my unspoken question, Hawk rounded the bar, completely disappearing behind it due to his small stature, "Has Gowther been through recently? Momma wanted to know if she needed to make a new batch of juice for him."

Neither of us answered him. We were just staring at each other now. More answers that just gave me more questions. How many more secrets did this guy have? That thought has me glancing away from him as I remembered my goal for today. The picture tucked in my jacket feels like it's burning a hole right through me.

Even if Hawk was one of them too, I needed to do this. It had to be now. Maybe the sudden appearance of his land-lord's son would throw him off...

"I need to see my sister." I said, changing the subject abruptly.

Meliodas furrowed his brows at me. "Huh?"

"I didn't think I would be dark this long," I explained, the gears in my head turning to make the lies and the truth meld into one. "I see my sister every other Sunday. She'll know something's wrong if I don't show up at ten for tea."

"Tea?" The blonde couldn't help the sly smirk that formed on his lips. "You meet your sister… for tea?"

"Yes, it's a nice way to catch up." I defended. Meeting my sister for tea was actually the truth. It was usually only once a month though, not every other week. But I needed an excuse to see her. The sooner the better.

Hawk came into view carrying one of the cartons of juice from the fridge, "Hey, don't knock it, Meliodas! Besides, today is a great day for tea!"

The blonde hummed as he watched me, "And… which sister is this?" he asked a little suspiciously.

I swallowed, keeping my gaze fixed to his. "Not the one you've met." Surely he already knew Veronica was my sister. It's in my file on the database. Hell, he probably knew about my entire family tree at this point. But as long as I steered clear of the precinct, it would be fine, right? I'm keeping my word. I wouldn't be telling anyone anything about him and his friends. The woman in the picture, however, was fair game. And my gut told me she was important to everything going on here.

"Why are you asking this guy's permission? It's not like he's your boyfriend, right?" Hawk asked, curiously tilting his head at me.

My face paled the moment Meliodas' eyes seemed to light up. No… I completely forgot about that...

Meliodas had a grin that I could only categorize as pure evil as he slipped from his chair and wrapped an arm around my waist, "Actually, I am. And as your boyfriend, I think it's time to meet the family! Let's do it." He beamed at me from my side, and I had to bite my tongue hard enough to draw blood to keep from cringing.

"Great,"I mused sarcastically.

I won… I was going to see my sister. With the very man I was trying to get away from. This was just fan-fucking-tastic.

 

Chapter Text

I had never been so nervous sitting in my sister's living room as I was now.

"So, who is this?" Margaret asked, voice as sweet and kind as ever, if not a bit curious. I couldn't blame her. Men were never much of a priority for me. The only member of the opposite sex I even acknowledged being Howser. And my family had known him just as long as I had. For me to bring a guy around… it was unheard of.

But here I was, sitting opposite of my sister with Meliodas sitting far too close to me.

"Um," I nibbled my bottom lip. Margaret would be angry with me when this was all over, but there was no getting around it. I would have to say it eventually, may as well just get it over with. "This is Mel…" I decided on a name change, catching Meliodas slightly off guard if his raised brow was anything to go by, "my… boyfriend."

As expected of my eldest sister, Margaret's eyes lit up like stars in the night sky. "Really? A boyfriend?"

Smugness rolled off the man to my right in waves. But he stood and offered my sister his hand as he said, "yes, I'm Mel, it's nice to meet you, officially." His smile was kind and sincere and… completely throwing me for a loop. He had a totally different air about him. The kind I'd expect from a man in the military.

"Oh, how rude of me," the lavender haired woman rushed to stand. She took Meliodas' hand and shook. "It's nice to meet you as well, Mel. I'm Margaret."

They returned to their seats, a smile tugging at the blonde's lips. "Your father must like those older names, huh?"

I gritted my teeth. If he thought he was going to mess with my sister, he had another thing coming.

"Oh? You've met father and Veronica already?" Margaret questioned innocently - a hint of hurt at the edges of her tone. Completely unaware of the identity of the man she was speaking to.

He chuckled, shooting a sidelong, playful glance my way before answering her. "Well, not officially. More like, seen them at a distance I suppose."

The bastard was messing with me, not my sister, I quickly realized. I shouldn't have let him come. He was going to give both of us up and Margaret would kill us. She seemed sweet, but she could be just as fierce as Veronica. She had to be for her job.

"Well," Margaret smiled as she went through the steps of preparing the tea. "Maybe next time we can all get together then."

"No!" I shouted causing Margaret to drop the spoon on the tray with a clatter, tea spraying the surface. She stared at me with round honey eyes. I didn't need to look at Meliodas to know his expression would be one of barely masked mirth. "I-I mean I'm not ready f-for that yet. You know how Father and Veronica can be."

She laughed lightly. "There's no need to be embarrassed, Elizabeth."

"I'm not!" I insisted even with heat rising to my cheeks. Why did Meliodas have to come with, I whined as I chance a glance at him. A wide grin was, of course, on his face.

"It's alright. I think she's adorable when she's all flustered like this," he continued to grin at me as he took my hand in his. The same hand that he had mended the night before and I'm suddenly all too aware of his fingers interlacing with mine; those memories bringing my heart beat to a quickened pitter-patter.

"Can't really blame her, though, can we? I mean, I am her first lover…"

I was sure my face was on fire now - every fiber of my being urged me to get up and walk out the door in utter embarrassment. I'd been subjected to and survived everything this man had thrown at me, but this… this was a whole new level of torture. Punishment, perhaps? For my coldness toward him the night before?

I couldn't look at him anymore. My wide eyes turned to my sister who was watching us with her own flush. "Oh…" she muttered, bringing a hand up to cover her mouth in her shock, "oh my…"

Mortified, why did this seem to be a common feeling I had wherever Meliodas was involved? I sunk into the couch, wanting to disappear from this level of hell. How did I ever think this was a good idea? I should have tried harder to come on my own.

A squeeze on my hand reminded me that he's still holding it.

Reluctantly, I glanced his way. He gave me a quick wink before turning to address my sister. "Sorry, about that," he laughed pleasantly. "Elizabeth is just way too easy to embarrass sometimes. I couldn't resist!"

"Oh?" Margaret was barely regaining her ability to talk, but at least the color on her face was returning to normal.

"Yep! Seeing the normally confident Elizabeth get all flustered at just a few intimate words is really endearing," he smiled at me. His expression was… difficult to read. Just how much of what he's saying, if any of it, was true?

"Ah," Margaret cooed. "That's really sweet."

I tore my gaze away from Meliodas to look at my sister. Did she just completely forget what he said?! I did my best not to shout, "it's really not sweet. Not at all."

"Don't be like that," Meliodas' grin widened as he bumped his shoulder against mine. "I'll make it up to you later, promise."

"Uh, huh," I raised a brow at him. "I'd like to see you try."

Because there was absolutely no way I could forgive him for pulling this shit in front of my sister.

The infuriating blonde only chuckled. "Challenge accepted."

"You two are just darling," Margaret's giggle interrupted our, my, death stare. My eldest sister had a small smile on her face as she studied the two of us. I didn't want to know just how much of a couple we must look like in her eyes.

Neither of us got a chance to say anything before we heard a low hum.

Meliodas reached for his phone, glancing at it then back up at us, "Sorry… But I really should take this." He said with an apologetic grin. "I'll be right back."

I got a quick glance at the screen as he finally let go of my hand and stood. It was a number I didn't recognize - the caller ID reading Restricted.

This was my chance!

I watched as he went for the front door, closing it behind him. Despite the urge to follow and listen in on his conversation, I knew I only had a moment to do what I came here to do.

I sighed with relief, quickly pulling the envelope I had stuffed the picture into from my jeans pocket. "Margaret," I whispered with a sense of urgency. "I need you to take this and have Gilthunder look into it for me. As much info as he can."

She furrowed her brow and stared at the envelope in my hand. "What is this Elizabeth?"

I shook my head, "It's nothing. But it is important that Gilthunder sends me everything he finds according to the instructions I left inside."

She eyed me suspiciously then. All of those years in the prosecution box had taught her to tell when someone was lying… if only those skills had been around earlier, but I couldn't think on that now. She's watching me too closely, "Gilthunder is deployed currently."

"Overseas?"

She shook her head, "No, just cross country."

Good. "I need you to send this to him. I'll give you the money to mail it first class. I just need this."

"Why do I get the feeling this is more important than you're letting on?"

I glanced over my shoulder at the door, "It's not," I insisted. "just do this favor for me, will you, please?"

She looked between me and the envelop again, then sighed, taking it from my hand and tucking it into her blouse. "alright… but, I expect you to explain when you are able to."

I merely nodded as Meliodas walked back in through the door and into the room. "Sorry about that," he said with an apologetic smile settling back on the couch with me. "Just a business call."

Thankfully, Margaret made no mention of our private exchange. "What is it you do for a living Mel?"

I stiffened as the realization that I came in here with zero backstory for my supposed boyfriend hit me. Shit, I curse, eyes darting over to Meliodas.

The blonde appeared a lot more cool and collected than I was feeling. A proud smile worked across his face. "I manage a bar."

My jaw slacked. His answer wasn't technically a lie. But it wasn't really the truth either. Not that I wanted him to say anything about his life of crime to my sister, an assistant district attorney.

"Really?" Her brows shot up, obviously not expecting that. "What's it called?"

"Ah," he waved her question off with a perfect air of nonchalance. "You wouldn't know it. It's a little too close to the wrong side of town, but we manage alright."

"Perhaps, I'll get a chance to visit it someday," Margaret suggested, not at all bothered by his vagueness.

But why would she be? She didn't know who he was or what kind of business the both of us were mixed up in. All she saw was her little sister's boyfriend. The only thing that probably would give her pause would be that picture tucked in an envelope inside her blouse.

"Maybe," he shrugged noncommittally.

"Well," I stood up, "It's about time we get going." I ignored their confused stares. "Thank you for the tea."

"Of course." Margaret was eyeing me suspiciously again, "But do you have to leave so soon? I was hoping to hear about how the two of you first met!"

No. God, no.

Meliodas chuckled, "Oh yeah, that is quite the story."

"Another time maybe?" I asked rather impatiently, but Meliodas and Margaret seem to ignore me as they literally leaned into the conversation.

"It was at a club, actually." He started, shooting me a daring look and that damnable grin. "I saw her on the other side of the bar, and I just... knew. She was there with a couple of friends, but I had to get her attention. So I stole her drink. She chased me out onto the dancefloor, and we danced the rest of the night."

That daring look meant more now than it did before. The story he was telling Margaret sounded sweet and romantic, but to me… to me, I heard him reminding me that he was a crime boss. A man with eyes and ears everywhere. He knew I was at that club. He knew my team was there. He knew our objectives and knew we couldn't touch him.

Perhaps… he was even telling me he knew why I was here today.

Did he know?

Margaret's contented sigh pulled me out of my stare off with him, and I'm feeling a different kind of flush now - the kind one feels when they're caught in a lie, "That is quite the story. You have a real flair for it, Mel." She complimented while they both stand. "I would love to hear more, so I'm sorry to see you both leave so soon, but I suppose the life of a detective is a busy one!" She beamed proudly at me.

It's pride that I couldn't accept and it just twisted my insides.

"That it is," Meliodas agreed with her, and I feel a nervousness wash over me. How much trouble did I just get myself into?

Margaret walked us to the door, kissing my cheek as we leave. For a split second, I savored that feeling, because there was a part of me that wondered if I would ever get a chance to feel it again. She waved happily from her doorway as we climbed into the same sports vehicle Meliodas had driven us in the night before.

The car was silent as we both watched Margaret close the door, cutting me off from my lifeline.

The silence was deafening. I could hear ringing in my ears. My imagination was running wild with the things to come.

There's a soft hum from the man in the driver's seat as he clicked his seat belt into place. "I guess tea isn't so bad." He jested as he turned the key, bringing the ignition to life.

I bit my lip. I knew what came next.

Instead of reaching around me to tie a blindfold over my eyes, he put the car into drive and started to pull away. Which had all of my red flags flying, and sending me sputtering, "Wait, you're not going to blindfold me?"

Was he planning on just getting rid of me now?! Why would he change his M.O. so suddenly?

My heart was pounding. For the first time since meeting him, I'm afraid.

He looked back at me curiously as we came to a stop light down the street, "If you would prefer the blindfold, I can give it to you." His grin widened, and I'm both terribly confused and still scared.

I'm not sure what he saw in my face that made him soften his own expression, but now he was giving me a look close to tenderness - if not a bit of guilt. "You introduced me to your family, Elizabeth. That kind of trust should be met with a little of my own, don't you think?"

… What?

Was I reading him wrong? Meliodas was going to let me see where the bar was? So did that mean he didn't know about the picture?

The fear was gone. But in its place, I found my own guilt. Guilt that I had to swallow. I did what I had to do to solve a case. I wasn't here to make friends. My goal wasn't making Meliodas trust me.

My goal was to dismantle the gang responsible for XGEN.

And then, my next objective was taking out the Seven Deadly Sins.

 

Chapter Text

When we returned to the bar, there were a few regulars scattered across the area with Ban, Diane and King working. Was it bad I've only been here a week and I already know these people were regulars? I didn't catch any sign that the other three Sins were here, they must have left late last night. I wondered how the test results came back.

"Hey!" Diane greeted us as soon as we walked in, shaking me out of my thoughts. "Where were you guys?"

"Meeting my sister for tea," I answered truthfully. Somewhere along the drive, I had forgotten my uneasiness.

Ban laughed heartily from behind the bar. "You gotta be shitting me! The boss went for tea? With you and your sister? Who even fuckin' gets together for tea nowadays?"

"Hawk apparently," Meliodas replied smoothly. "He stopped by this morning," he slipped casually into the conversation. The rest of the drive had been quiet between us, but he wasn't giving me any indication that he knew about my motives.

"Master chew your ass again?"

"Again?" I quizzed as I joined Meliodas at the bar. Ban placed two drinks out in front of us. "And Master?" Why the hell was Ban calling Hawk 'master'? Then again, I'm not entirely sure I wanted the answer.

"Yeah, said we aren't running a hotel, blah, blah, the usual." The blonde shook his head at the memory. "Guess him and his mom got back this morning."

"You probably should start asking them before we let people stay here," King commented dryly.

He sat on Meliodas' other side, his features pulled together in thought. Honestly, he looked like shit. Ban hadn't been kidding when he said the guy would have one hell of a hangover. Apparently none of them were too concerned with the patrons at the moment as Diane too joined us, standing behind King.

Meliodas rolled his eyes. "It's pretty much my place in every way but name."

For a moment, I caught myself wondering why that was the case. What could make a man like Meliodas become a criminal? Why have a bar if you couldn't even really call it your own? But I pushed that all from my head. The why didn't matter. Meliodas' backstory didn't matter.

"I know. I'm in the bookwork just as much as you are."

"And where else were we gunna keep Princess if not here?" Meliodas challenged.

A small frown formed on King's features. "I'm not saying it wasn't the best choice, because I agree with you, it was. Just that we did have other places she could have stayed."

"You and your safe houses," Ban groaned before taking a large drawn out drink. "Those things are more trouble than they're worth I tell ya."

The Sin of Sloth shot a scowl at the white haired man. "You say that now, but if things ever go south, you'll thank me."

"Doubtful."

"It's not so bad," Diane came to her boyfriend's defense. "We'd be stupid not to have them."

"You only say that cause you never have to check up on them," Ban argued with a scowl.

I pondered over the possibility of their supposed safehouses. Diane was right of course. Given how much the Sins were involved in the inner workings of this town, not having a place to go when shit hit the fan would be suicide. Maybe that's where Ban and King disappear to all the time.

A small smirk danced across Diane's lips. "And you're an idiot if you believe that King and I haven't visited a few of those places."

"Diane!" King exasperated, his face red. "We're getting off topic here!"

"Actually, this is a much better turn of the conversation than you trying to lecture me, King," Meliodas grinned crookedly at the ginger haired man. The Sin of Sloth sunk lower into his seat, mumbling something under his breath. "What were ya saying, Di?"

Diane giggled, only getting the chance to form a sly smile before King spoke up again.

"I-I only meant that we should be more careful. Especially now." His amber eyes flickered to mine for a second, surprising me.

I bit the inside of my cheek to keep from retorting. He's being rightfully cautious, I convinced myself.

"Even better reason to just keep her right here, dontcha think?" Meliodas smiled at the man. His teasing tone was gone. Like he didn't blame King at all for questioning his judgement. A curious thing, considering Meliodas was supposed to be the leader. "Don't need to expose it all right away."

"You're right… Sorry for bringing it up."

"Don't be. It's good that we're all on the same page. I appreciate your insight King, you know that I do." Meliodas placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder.

Something about Meliodas statement had me wondering more on just what part the ginger haired man played. He's not the right hand man. No, that title fell to Ban. So just where did King fit that he could so easily judge his boss' choices? From what I'd seen, Meliodas wasn't exactly commanding, but he didn't seem like the type of man who'd let someone question his authority. Not on something like this, at least.

I shook my head of those thoughts too. It didn't do me any good to think like that. If Meliodas' backstory didn't matter, King's sure as hell didn't either. None of them did.

"You're right too. In a different situation, a safe house would have been better." The blonde spoke again.

"I'm right here," I grumbled, annoyed. My patience for being talked about like I wasn't even in the room, finally reaching its limit.

"Drink up, Princess," Ban insisted, pushing my mug closer - intent on stealing my attention away from the conversation at hand. "You seem a bit tense," he gave me a crooked grin and I scowled.

Of course I'm tense! I wanted to hiss at the man. I'd been here for a week now and despite what we found the previous night, that we had yet to discuss, I'm still no closer to solving this case. I had way more questions than answers.

I eyed him and the drink respectively, "It's not even noon yet." I said, pushing the mug back toward him, refusing to let them cloud my judgment any further, "Besides, don't we have something more important to be doing?" I emphasized the word while shooting a pointed glare at Meliodas.

Ban snorted, taking my rejected mug and throwing it back like it was water, "A mug a day keeps the doc away!"

What a moron...

"I'm fairly certain that catchphrase is actually going to be the death of you." I spat back dryly, earning a couple of chuckles.

Diane abandoned King at his seat in favor of coming to wrap an arm around my shoulder, "Well aren't you salty this morning." She teased with a grin, her arms wrapping around me and pulling me close to her. "All that excitement yesterday leave you in a bad mood?"

I'm reminded yet again of our… escapades… the night before. The party, the kiss, the break in, the fire, the explosion, Merlin, Escanor… and to top it off I just knowingly introduced a wanted criminal to my lawyer sister. Bad mood was an understatement. Perhaps they were going to be the death of me.

I rolled my eyes, attempting to sink lower - possibly out of existence, but found myself only buried deeper into Diane's floral-perfumed embrace, "Can we just please take a look at those files you found?" I muttered in desperation. I'm begging. Truly, I am a broken spirit at this point.

Meliodas gave a long hum at my side, just to piss me off, I'm sure, "Di, you got things?" he asked finally, and the brunette chirped a happy, "Yep!" before releasing me and going to speak with the customers, asking for refills and taking more orders.

"Alright," Meliodas downed the rest of his mug, "Then I guess it's time to get back to work." His smile was back on me, and it reminded me of that tender expression he'd given me in the car. Was he humoring me now? He'd given in so easily…

"Count me out," Ban quipped from behind the counter.

"Staying to help Diane?" Meliodas teased with a small smirk. "That's sweet of you."

Ban snorted. "As if. You know how much I hate the information shit you guys muddle through." He did make a similar comment last night when I wanted to look over everything after Diane and King went to bed.

"Yeah, yeah," Meliodas chuckled.

"I'll come," King sighed getting up from his seat.

"You don't have a choice."

The ginger rolled his eyes just as Diane came back to the bar. She placed a kiss to his cheek. "That's what you get for being smart," she teased with an affectionate smile. "Two specials Ban."

The cook grumbled his annoyance but got up to go to the kitchen anyway. Diane was back conversing with customers and King was already leading the way to the back room I was in two days prior. I quickly make to follow him, Meliodas right at my side. Not a word was spoken between us as the blonde shut the door behind him. King punched the button on the phone and the secret door opened.

"Well," the ginger started as he plopped down in the chair in front of the old laptop. His eyes locked with Meliodas before settling on me. "What do you wanna know?"

I blinked, caught off guard by the forwardness of his question. "Uh, everything?" I voiced cautiously. This had to be yet another trick. But it seemed unlikely coming from King.

"Everything is a bit much," he replied simply. The Sin of Sloth dug into a drawer of the desk, while motioning for me to take a seat.

My eyes found Meliodas, a secret smile playing at his lips as he just observed. He too gestured at the empty chair at the table. I found myself apprehensive but took the chair anyway.

"This," King held up a folder and then handed it to me as he joined me at the table. "Is just what we found last night. We'll start here."

"Start?" I couldn't help but voice. I guess I was expecting to start from the beginning. But I suppose that would give away the sin's involvement in all of this. A topic none of them seemed keen on shining too bright a light on.

"Like I said, there's a lot to go through," he gave me a small smile, head resting in his open palm. "We'll start with this since it's what you asked for."

"I don't care what we start with," I couldn't stomp down the irritation that I knew was laced into my voice if the men's matching expressions of mild surprise were anything to go off. "You guys said you would help. I want to know what you know." My patience was thin today.

Meliodas chuckled, hip resting against the desk as he shot the other man a grin. King sighed heavily. "I swear everyone only hears half of what I say," he grumbled under his breath, causing Meliodas to laugh again. "Just open the folder," King drew my attention back to the file in my hand.

A frown formed on my face at his comment but I did as he said. My jaw slacked at what I saw.

"What… what is this?" I began to finger through the collection of papers. My mind barely even able to process it.

There were sheets of data. Numbers, locations, more numbers - many of which were prefaced with dollar signs, company names, stocks, company stocks. Some of the rows had been highlighted, but that didn't help me make sense of any of it.

"A summary of what we found last night. Both from the warehouse and what you guys managed to get from the Mayor's computer," King explained, fingers drumming against the tabletop.

My brows furrowed and I glanced up from the evidence to glare at King. "A summary? You tampered with this already?"

His amber eyes stared blankly back at me. An unreadable expression on his features that I thought I would only ever see on Meliodas. The two men stared at each other before looking back at me.

And then they laughed.

"T-tampered?" King spoke through his chuckles.

Meliodas shook his head, taking over for the man. "We aren't the police, Princess. Everything we get isn't exactly by the book."

I flushed, embarrassed that I had said such a thing. Meliodas was right. They weren't the police. I should be working under the assumption that anything they gave me, King had, at the very least, looked through first.

"If there's anyone of us that you can trust here to get you the information you need to know about, it's him." He clasped a hand on King's shoulder. The ginger looked at him, obviously surprised by the statement. Meliodas grinned down at him and then added, "mostly because the rest of us don't wanna be bored with shifting through all this information."

King rolled his eyes, shrugging off the blonde's hand as he laughed sarcastically. "Oh, ha, ha. You got me boss. I just love going through all this crap when I'm hungover and sorting it out so it's easier for everyone else."

"I know, that's what makes you such a valuable member of the team." The leader of the Sins continued to beam at his comrade in crime.

"Ugh," he groaned, slumping against the table. "Why do I even stay here anymore?"

"Cause we're friends-"

"Debatable."

"- but mostly because of Diane," Meliodas finished with a crooked grin.

King flushed slightly as he straightened, but didn't contradict Meliodas' words. Instead, he looked back to me, all business. "Yes. This is a summary of what we found. I pulled the important data off the flash drive and put it in here along with pertinent sections of what we got from the warehouse. I do this every time we find something and this file," he tapped the folder on the table for emphasis, "is exactly what I'd give the boss before we'd bring it to everyone else."

Not once during King's explanation had he looked away from me, clearly trying to drive home the point that he did this all for the benefit of the team. Not me.

Oddly enough, I'm not at all offended by his words. Just the opposite actually. His clarification was… reassuring. I glanced down. If this is what he was going to give Meliodas anyway, then there's no reason from him to leave anything out. For the second time since walking in the bar, I felt hopeful. I was finally going to get somewhere.

"When did you even find the time to do this?" I asked him as I continued to page through the information. "Last I checked, everyone was still sleeping when we left."

I glanced up in time to see King settling back into his chair. He gave me another smile and I returned it, hoping to convey my thanks for his explanation. Meliodas wheeled over the chair from the desk and sat it on my side of the table.

"About an hour ago," the ginger answered. "Not nearly as much info as I thought there was going to be. Took me a half hour, numbers were spinning for a while there," he admitted with a disgruntled sigh. "Most of it was junk." He scrunched up his nose in disdain at the lack of data.

"Shit," Meliodas cursed, leaning closer to me to get a better eye at what King meant. I had to force myself to stay still and not shift at his sudden close proximity. Does this man have no sense of personal space?

"But, there's still so much here," I mumbled as I fingered through what they found. "How did it only take you half an hour to pick out what was important?" Throw in the fact that he's extremely hungover and I couldn't grasp how he was able to accomplish such a task in such a short amount of time.

King shrugged. "Been doing this kinda stuff for a long time," he answered vaguely, not meeting my gaze. A peculiar thing given how intensely he'd stared at me moments ago to convince me he wasn't hiding any information.

"Like I said last night," Meliodas took the reigns of the conversation. "Each of us has something we're good at. King helps me with the bar's paperwork and is the, let's call him, the Accountant for the Sins."

King gave him a strange look, but Meliodas didn't even glance his way. His green eyes were on me, waiting for a reply.

"I thought that was Gowther?"

"Gowther's smarter sure, and Merlin is too," the blonde nodded as he pulled at the papers in the file. "But Gowther isn't here enough to go through things on a regular basis, plus he wouldn't be good at it. There's an, art, almost to putting the pieces together. Gowther doesn't do art. He could find the data, but he couldn't tell you the motives." Meliodas paused enough to chuckle at the thought. "Merlin, well she probably could manage just fine, but she doesn't have the background for it. And, as you know, she's a bit busy with other work."

I scowled at the reminder. The other work being her place within the precinct. Helping keep the Sins out of the fire and probably feeding them the information they needed that way. Unlike last night though, I didn't feel the sting of betrayal as sharply. I wasn't sure why. Did it have anything to do with Meliodas' sudden trust in me this morning that spurred it on? I'm not sure I even wanted to think on it.

"You've probably realized it already, but the only Sins here full time are myself, Ban, King and Diane," Meliodas hand grazed over mine to get a particular piece of paper.

I drew my own back quickly and ignored the quirked brow from King across the table. Again, the hand Meliodas had touched was the very same he had mended last night - the same he'd taken at my sister's house. I brought it to my lap and ran my thumb over the bandage. I'd nearly forgotten about it until now.

"Why is that?" I questioned, determined to pay no mind to the memories and how they twisted my stomach in knots.

"Ran out of room," Meliodas replied with a cheeky grin.

King snorted and I welcomed the distraction from the blonde next to me. "She knows that isn't true. You have her in one of the extra bedrooms." He shook his head. "Really, it's 'cause the four of us don't have anywhere else to go. Merlin and Escanor had lives long before this and will after its done. Gowther, well, he has his own kind of routines he likes to stick to."

I nibbled the inside of my cheek. I'd never really thought about it, but King was right. He had mentioned it last night in his drunken state; Escanor having a normal life, that part wasn't new to me, the thought of Merlin though… It shouldn't have caught me off guard. The woman was someone I saw on a fairly normal basis given our line of work, but the thought of her life being normal seemed so far fetched when I thought of her involvement with the Sins.

The other curious thing was his mention of after its done... did that mean the Sins had only come together for a certain purpose? Did they plan on disbanding?

Meliodas moving next to me distracted me as he leaned over the table and flicked King in the forehead. Apparently I wasn't the only one who realized just how much King had given away.

"Ow!" He cried hands flying up to the attacked skin. "What was that for, boss?!"

"Blabbermouth," the blonde responded cheerily.

"Princess isn't stupid," King scowled as he rubbed his forehead. "I'm sure she figured that out without me telling her." He then grumbled under his breath, "As if I didn't have enough of a headache already."

Meliodas shrugged, settling back into his chair. "Maybe, but you don't need to talk about the past, at all. Got it?"

The two stared at each other, a silent conversation that I couldn't hear, but tried to as I glanced back and forth between them.

Maybe King isn't such a loss to me after all.

"What do these numbers mean?" I asked quickly, pointing to the highlighted portions, attempting to distract them for once. The last thing I needed was for Meliodas to drill the idea of silence.

King leaned over to see the paper, "Those are the accounts of a company we've been keeping tabs on called Commandments. Essentially, they're a shell corporation; one that's growing rather fast, and we've found them on the payroll of a lot of very high-powered people. The Mayor included." He explained, tabbing through some of the pages and yanking one from my hands to place on top, pointing to a similarly highlighted segment on this page. I assumed he's pointing to this because it had to do with the Mayor's finances in some way.

"Alright? Shell corporations aren't illegal." I remarked, remembering my brief education in business law. The concept he was driving was not foreign to me, but I was not quite grasping what he was hinting at.

Meliodas chuckled dryly at my side, his eyes glued to one of the sheets of paper. "This one is. It's a cover. A damned good one at that." That last statement came with a bit of a bite to it.

I looked down at the papers, trying to decipher for myself what seemed so obvious to them, "For what?"

"The criminal underworld." King said, like he was telling me a ghost story. Well… I suppose he was.

That didn't mean I believed it, though. "You're joking, right?"

"Not at all." Meliodas answered for him, sounding unusually serious for a change, "This company is making it easier for a lot of gangs, corrupt companies, and influential people to break the law under the guise of a legitimate business transaction."

I glanced back and forth between the two of them. Neither appeared to be lying. They actually believed that this company they were telling me about, Commandments, was being used to fund the worst kind of people. A frown worked its way onto my face as I tried, and failed, once again to figure out the papers before me. Business had never been one of my strong points.

"This is unbelievable," I found myself muttering.

"Did you think it would be all cut and dry, Princess?" Meliodas quirked a brow at me.

"... I was hoping…" I admitted with a heavy sigh.

My eyes shifted to the board, all the articles and red lines connecting them with people. This was a lot more complicated than I'd ever thought - and this was just where we were "starting". I walked up to the board, studying the picture of my target. The sting operation was just over a week ago and already it felt like it'd been a year.

"... how long did it take you guys to get this much information?" I couldn't help but ask.

"Longer than I want to admit," Meliodas answered vaguely, him and King sharing yet another meaningful look. Neither seemingly very happy with the fact.

I nibbled my lip, arms wrapping around myself. Just knowing how much was on the board, how much information, and time it had to take for them to get what they had. It was becoming all to clear the Sins knew way more than I could have ever dreamed of.

"This is going to take longer than a day to explain, isn't it?" I asked even though I already knew the answer.

"You got it," Meliodas told me with a wide grin.

I sighed again. "Then let's get back to work."

 

Chapter Text

A few days passed.

Each morning, King and Meliodas took the time to walk me through bits and pieces of what they found. It's more than I ever could have hoped for and honestly, a bit overwhelming. But the men had been surprisingly patient with me. They didn't answer every question I asked fully, and I didn't expect them too. Instead, they'd have one of those damn silent conversations before one of them answered enough to satisfy my curiosity.

It's weird. How well they could do that.

More often than not, my mind wandered to how the two of them could be on such a high level of nonverbal communication. It's something all three of the men seemed to be capable of actually, and I found it more and more annoying.

And also more curious about the past Meliodas had forbidden King to speak of.

Even more curious about what Gilthunder would find out about that picture I sent him. I tried not to dwell on that thought too much. It would be another couple of days before I expected to see anything from him. And that was with the condition that nothing went wrong - there was no guarantee that I would even get the info I was looking for.

My feet pat quietly against the steps as I made my way downstairs. It's another early morning, about the same time I'd normally meet with Meliodas and King. But as I hit the landing, it's oddly quiet. I'd gotten used to the sounds of the two's quiet chatter as they sipped their coffees at the bar, waiting for me so we could get started.

Ban and Diane weren't usually morning people. From what I've gathered, everyone being up so early my first day here was not a normal occurrence. King didn't seem like a morning person either for that matter - a surprise given our early meetings the past few days. Only the blonde leader of the Sins seemed to to be. Knowing Meliodas, he was probably the reason King even bothered getting out of bed. I doubted it was solely for my sake.

I turned the corner and narrowed my eyes at the bar's lone occupant.

King.

As I took a step closer, he lifted his head up off the bar where he was obviously dozing and offered me a lazy smile and half hearted wave. "Morning, Princess."

"Morning, King," I nodded my head in greeting. My eyes traveled across the room, trying to find any indication of the other body that should be here with us.

"Boss is out this morning." He answered my unvoiced question as he stretched out with sluggish yawn.

I flushed lightly. "I wasn't looking for him," I denied lamely.

"Sure," King replied simply, not saying anything more on the matter. His eyes gave me a once over and I swore I saw a small shake of his head. "It'll be just the two of us til he gets back."

"Oh."

"Coffee?" The ginger offered kindly, sliding an already full cup my way.

I nodded my head and gave him a thankful smile. For both the coffee and not pestering me any further on Meliodas. That was one of the things I had come to appreciate from the Sin of Sloth - his calmness. If Ban or Diane had found me searching the room for their Boss, they would have said something suggestive. Where King… I'm not sure if he didn't care, or if he just knew how uncomfortable it made me. Either way, the silence between us had become oddly comforting in this crazy two weeks.

The bar was rarely quiet when I was with anyone else. Diane was an energetic person. When I'm with her, there's never even a moment of silence. And while I had come to enjoy Diane and her antics - reminding me how I desperately wished we could be friends - they were also exhausting. Ban was still a wildcard. He went from hot to cold most days and I just couldn't seem to get a read on the guy at all.

Meliodas… He's a different subject entirely. One I refused to stop and think on if I could help it.

I took a seat next to King, the aroma of the coffee invading my senses as I lifted it to my lips. A pleased sigh left me and I set it back down. As much as I valued the silent moments King allowed, I knew I needed to capitalize on this opportunity. So far, most of the information I'd been able to gleam on the Sins had come from this man. The chance to talk to him without Meliodas around was too good to pass up.

"What is Meliodas up to so early this morning?" I ventured, taking another sip of my coffee as I attempted to appear indifferent.

King barely spared me a glance, but I caught the small quirk to his brow. "Not really sure," he answered with a shrug of his shoulders.

The ginger wasn't stupid. I knew that he wasn't. Despite Meliodas calling him a blabbermouth, I still had to be careful with my questions or I'd rouse his suspicions. "He didn't tell you?"

"I didn't ask." He propped his elbow up on the counter, resting his chin in an open palm. I thought over what I wanted to say next as he took a drink.

"That seems… odd."

"Not really. He usually disappears at least once a month about this time."

"So you do know where he went."

He shrugged again, unbothered with my observation. "I have a good guess." I scowled at him and he chuckled, a small uptick to his lips. "It may be early in the morning, but that doesn't mean I'm going to spill all the Boss's secrets, Princess."

My eyes widened and I scrambled to come up with something believable. "I-I wasn't - I was just trying to make conversation!"

"And you're very good at it," he waved off my explanation lazily with a roll of his eyes. "Too bad I have to take everything you say as you trying to dig for information."

"I- that's not-" I struggled for words, caught off guard with his statement. He didn't say it as anything more than a fact - not meant in an unkind way - but somehow his words still stung. "That's not fair," I mumbled, grasping my coffee cup tightly.

"Life's never been fair," he responded pausing long enough to take a drink. "At least in my experience," he added, almost like an afterthought.

I nibbled at my bottom lip. "Has it really been so bad?"

King smiled at me, somewhere between amused and sad. "I'm a Sin. It's not a title I would have chosen. But it fits."

The Sin of Sloth… ran through my mind. How did the Sins end up with these titles? Why the name Seven Deadly Sins in the first place?

He didn't give me much of a chance to think on it as he pushed away from the bar with a heavy sigh. "I suppose, we better get started. Boss'll be mad if we're still here chatting over coffee when he gets back."

"And that will be….?"

He smiled at my second attempt at getting information from him, clearly amused this time. King said nothing as he filled his cup and walked towards the underground lair. When he's through the door, I sighed, already knowing he'd wait for me in the room with the phone. I grabbed more coffee and joined the man, ready to continue from where we left off yesterday.

So far, everything came back to this company; Commandments. Meliodas and King seemed convinced they were funding the criminal market in the city. Nothing was out of the question. Drugs, gangs, corruption, murder… Each crime or individual listed on the Sin's board had some sort of connection to the company - connections that were so obscure sometimes, there was no way the police would have tied them together. It felt like some giant conspiracy. But the one question no one seemed to be able to answer was: were they responsible for XGEN?

"You can tie them to murders our own precinct hasn't been able to solve, but you can't tell me if they're the ones developing and distributing XGEN?" I asked King from my place at the board. I was cross referencing info he'd given me with pieces hanging up.

He shrugged from his usual chair, "none of this is a perfect science. There is a bit of conjecture to some of it, which is why we go out and find the data to back it all up." He swirled around to continue searching the digital data running on his screen, "So far, though, we've found that major dealers of that drug do have connections with Commandments. But we haven't been able to find anyone who can point a finger at the source."

A frustrated growl escaped me as I scratched relentlessly at an itch that wasn't really there, "I just don't get it! Why create something like this? What's the point?"

"There's a lot of money to be had in crime. Sometimes it's about more than that, but mostly, it's about money," his eyes flickered to mine for only a moment before darting back across the screen. "And to be honest, this kind of thing can be a lot easier than earning a wage legitimately."

That made me pause. How would he know that?

"That's another thing I don't get." I started, finding my way back to sitting at the desk with him, "I know why I'm here. But I just can't wrap my head around why all of you are tangled up in all of this." I had his attention. His eyes were glued to his screen as if he's ignoring me, but he had stopped scanning. "This company has a lot of hands in a lot of powerful pockets from what you've shown me. Why would you all risk yourselves by trying to expose them? What's in it for you?"

King was silent. Perhaps I had pushed too hard this time.

"There's nothing in it for us, Princess." King replied quietly just when I thought I had ruined my chances of getting him to talk. "This is bigger than all of us, and we just want to see it destroyed." He looked at me finally. There was no anger there. Just resolution.

Bigger than all of them, huh?

"But why?" I pressed maybe a little too eagerly. There was a familiar determination in his eyes, one I'd seen in Meliodas before. "This isn't the type of thing you just come across and throw yourself into, King."

He snorted, amusement flashing across his features before he returned his attention back to the computer. "Isn't that exactly what you did, Princess?"

My jaw opened and then shut. Why did his question leave such a bad taste in my mouth? "No. It's not. This is my job." I responded simply, feeling the need to say… something to defend myself.

King hummed; the only indication he gave that he heard my statement.

I didn't push my luck any further. I frowned lightly, replaying his poetic declaration in my mind, before going back to the papers in my hands.

An hour later, Diane walked in with breakfast and thankfully, more coffee. These early mornings and lack of sleep were starting to get to me. I'd basically been surviving off colombian dark roast and determination at this point. At least King drank the same amount if not more than me. It made me feel a little better about the newly developed habit.

As soon as the door had opened, King immediately stopped his work to just watch her. Something I'd gotten used to whenever the other woman would enter the room in the morning. It was actually kind of entertaining to watch. I'd never seen another human being so enamored by someone as King was with Diane. It was sweet.

"Morning!" The brunette chirped merrily. She did a quick glance around the room before setting the tray of food down. "No boss?" She held up the coffee pot, silently asking if we wanted more.

"It's Thursday." King offered simply as he slid his cup over for her to refill. I mimicked his action.

"Ah, that's right," Diane nodded her head in understanding at his, what seemed to me, vague response.

She leaned over the table after filling our cups and planted a kiss on the unsuspecting man. I looked away, trying to give them privacy in the small room. Not that Diane cared if they had an audience. That was something I learned fairly quickly. But King wasn't near as comfortable with P.D.A so I busied myself with the food she brought.

"Morning, King," she mumbled and I heard her kiss him again. "I missed you in bed again. You weren't there when I woke up."

I flushed at her insinuation.

"Sorry," King replied quietly, voice regretful. "Boss's orders."

Diane straightened in my peripheral and I took that as my cue to look back at the couple. The Sin of Envy huffed. "He could'a let you sleep in until he got back, at least. What's the boss's deal? Having you spend time alone with a beautiful young woman?"

I practically spat out my coffee as she shot me an inspecting glare.

"Diane, you're a beautiful young woman, too and I don't-"

"So you admit she's beautiful?"

King shook his head but I could see the light flush to his skin. "Yes, Princess is pretty but-"

"King! How could you?!" Diane whined. Her bottom lip jutted out as she openly pouted. "You're supposed to be all mine now!"

"I am but-"

"I mean, I have to agree. Elizabeth is a total babe," she went from whining to contemplative so fast it made my head spin. "But if you want to do anything with her, I have to be there too, got it?"

My eyes widened and Kings jaw dropped. "D-Diane! That's not-!"

"W-we wouldn't-!" I tried to argue along with the man. My skin was far too warm and the conversation way too lively for this time of morning. You think I'd be used to it by now

Diane's laughter interrupted our pointless sputtering. I should have known she was just trying to get a rise out of us. After me, King seemed like everyone's favorite person to torment. How they all seemed to have an unlimited supply of embarrassing suggestions, I'd never know. Nor do I think I wanted to.

"Diane!" King complained loudly. "Stop that!"

"Stop what?" She asked innocently with a tilt of her head. A smile tugged at her lips.

"Making those jokes!"

"Who said I was joking?"

Again, my skin heated to unhealthy levels. I had a hard time figuring out how one woman could be so suggestive all the time with someone she barely knew for two weeks. My thoughts were halted as Diane wrapped her arms around me, her chin resting on my shoulder as she stared at King across the table.

"I wouldn't say no if Princess wanted to have some fun with us while she's here," the other woman practically purred, cheek brushing against my own.

King fell out of his chair.

"D-Diane," I struggled to keep my voice even, thoroughly embarrassed.

The Sin of Envy giggled and planted a kiss to my cheek before pulling away. "You're too much fun Elizabeth! How did I ever fight off boredom without you here?"

"Hey!" King called from across the table, obviously offended. He frowned as he climbed back into his chair.

She rolled her bright amethyst eyes. "Of course we have fun King. But this is the most you've been here in a long time. You and Ban aren't usually around this much."

"... good point."

"Besides," she leaned on the table in between the two of us, pressing her arms together so even more of her cleavage was displayed. "We have a different kind of fun," she winked.

King's face lit up in color. "Diane," he groaned and there's a hint of a warning to his tone.

"Sorry, sorry," she chuckled and pecked him on the cheek.

"We need to get back to work," he sighed heavily as he ran a hand down his face. I wondered if these kinds of exchanges were as exhausting for him as they were for me.

"Are you kicking me out?" Diane teased with a quirked brow.

"Yes."

She hummed as she pursed her lips. "Fine. You're lucky I like you so much, ya know?"

"I know." He gave her a small smile as she made her way to the door.

Diane's just about to leave when she threw a cheeky grin over her shoulder. "Don't forget, no messing around without me you two. Or there will be body parts lost."

And then she left.

I stared at the closed door with wide eyes. "She's joking, right?" My cheeks were still warm as I glanced back at King.

He idly picked at his food. "About which part?"

"Uh… all of it?" The fact that Diane could make such a threat with a smile on her face had me wondering. She did the same thing back when I first met her. To the men who harassed her and to me when she warned me about sneaking out. A chill passed through me at the memory.

"The maiming, no. She's definitely serious about that." He looked up at me, brows knitted together in thought. "Honestly can't tell with the other part, though." He went back to picking at his food.

I began to eat my own. We ate in silence and it's welcoming. The time was spent trying to get my mind back on track to what we had been discussing before Diane stopped in. I found myself thankful that Meliodas hadn't been here to witness the embarrassing scene. Though I didn't doubt Diane would probably tell him and Ban anyways.

"... if Diane makes you uncomfortable at all, just tell her to stop. Or I can talk to her for you," King's voice interrupted my thoughts. My eyes met his and he gave me a somewhat nervous smile. "I know she - that they all can - be a bit… overbearing at times." He went on to explain. "I can't promise Meliodas or Ban would stop if you asked them to, in fact, I know they wouldn't." He shook his head. "But Diane would if you asked."

"What about you?"

"Huh?"

"They all tease you just as much as me… Doesn't that make you uncomfortable?" I played with the hem of my shirt so I didn't have to look him in the eye.

"I'm used to it for the most part," he replied as he leaned back in his chair. "And I really don't mind it coming from Diane."

"You really care for her, don't you?" The words slipped past my lips before I could stop them. My eyes snapped to him, ready to do damage control, but instead of the anger I expected to find, he's smiling. So I took a chance and add, "I can hardly believe that you two have only been together for such a short amount of time."

"Ah," he chuckled and rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. "I had feelings for Diane long before we actually started dating."

That brought me back to what Meliodas had said about the two going 'undercover' back at the Mayor's home. Which reminded me…

"Meliodas mentioned that I should ask one of you how the two of you met." I smiled and folded my hands on the table as I leaned forward curiously. "He didn't give me any details but he seemed to find it humorous."

King flushed and mumbled, "That jackass," under his breath. His gaze met mine and he chuckled awkwardly. He shifted anxiously in his seat before giving me an apologetic grin. "Another time, maybe? We really do need to get back to work."

Not long after that, Meliodas finally joined us. King continued as if he'd been there the whole time, not acknowledging him walking in, but easily incorporating him into the conversation. The ginger didn't give me a chance to question the blonde on where he had been.

And from the way Meliodas was acting, I'm not sure that I really wanted to.

From the moment Meliodas had entered the room, I could tell something was off. He was… irritable, almost. Something I wasn't really accustomed to but King handled as if it was nothing new. When Meliodas made an underhanded jab at him, the ginger merely responded sarcastically and shifted the conversation to something else pertaining to our topic. I thought it would have angered Meliodas, being blatantly ignored when he was so obviously trying to get a rise out of the Sin of Sloth, but he seemed… thankful. As if he didn't really mean what he was saying. And that made me wonder if King knew that.

Just what was Meliodas doing to put him in this bad of a mood?

Diane brought us lunch, no funny business this time - merely saying hi and dropping off food. She reminded us of the time, telling us not to get too carried away. The bar usually started to pick up people around four as people started getting off work. The Boar Hat offered a pretty good happy hour special that many people liked to take advantage of. Thursday was 'buy an ale get the second half priced'. One of our busier days because of the special. I could only imagine how good they would do if the special wasn't in the middle of the week.

"Diane, I've been meaning to ask you… where did you get that dress I wore?" I cautiously broached the topic. Diane froze in the doorway at my question. "It fit in perfectly at the party." It was extremely expensive. I could tell by the material and not to mention the tag. How did she get her hands on it?

"... it was a gift.." she threw a smile over her shoulder. But it's nothing near her usually bright face. Even her tone seemed off. I didn't get to question her anymore before she left.

I frowned, turning back toward King. I was shocked to find his knuckles white, hands holding far too tightly on a folder. His eyes were downcast. I blinked and suddenly he's back to sifting through papers. I half wondered if I imagined such a weird reaction from him at the mention of Diane's dress.

Because what reason would he have to act like that?

Meliodas was quick to change the subject, "so basically, this," he tapped a folder sitting in front of him, "is what lead us back to the Mayor."

"So you think he has a hand in running that Commandments company?" I dragged the folder to me and began looking through the papers within it.

"Running? No. But him or someone in his office is involved," King commented as he handed me a piece of paper. "I'm assuming you know what this is, right?"

"Of course I do," I rolled my eyes at him. "It's obviously phone records." My words come out a bit harsher than I intended.

The ginger didn't seem phased, shrugging as he answered. "Just double checking. You'd be surprised by the amount of ignorance on a police force at any given time."

"King," Meliodas warned.

"What is that supposed to mean?" I felt the sting of his words and it sparked my defensiveness. Who exactly was he talking about?

"Just as I said. Not everyone who joins law enforcement is a good person, Princess." He told me flatly.

A remark was on the tip of my tongue when Meliodas stepped in again. "Don't mind him. He's just crabby today. Probably woke up too early." He squeezed King's shoulder, the man wincing at the touch. "I think that's enough. Let's call it quits until tomorrow."

"At least let me finish this explanation," King mumbled, removing Meliodas' hand from him with a frown. "As I was saying, that," he pointed at the paper in my hand, "is phone records of calls from the Mayor's office. I haven't finished processing the information from the bugs we planted but I have a good guess at who's been making them."

"The mayor?"

"Close," that small smile King usually wore, returned. "His wife."

 

Chapter Text

"You're kidding?" I couldn't help but laugh. "The mayor's wife? That's who's behind all this?"

How cliche…

King shook his head, clearly entertained at my response. "I wouldn't go so far as to say all this but, the phone calls, yes."

"How much longer until you finish going through the recordings?" Meliodas asked, clicking a pen as he leaned back in his chair. "Thought you were gunna finish that yesterday."

"Between these meetings and helping out with the bar, haven't had much time," King's amusement was gone, replaced with the same heavy air that seemed to be around Meliodas. "I've been down here for at least two hours every night after the bar closes. I have to sleep too somewhere in there and then I'm getting up after a couple hours and doing it all over again."

"I didn't ask why you weren't done with your job, King," Meliodas' tone was as dismissive as I've ever heard him use. The two of them had always been on the same page. Why was Meliodas being so cold today? He just heard how hard the man was working. "I asked how much longer."

I expected King to respond with something quick witted, sharp. Anything but the submissive bowing of his head. "Sorry, boss," he mumbled before clearing his throat. "I'll have it done before tomorrow morning's meeting." He looked back up, his eyes meeting Meliodas' in some silent agreement.

The blonde nodded, "good." His chair came back to rest on the ground and he headed for the door. "Clean up the mess and be out on the floor in ten minutes, bar will be busy soon." He didn't turn around, didn't wait for a response before he shut the door loudly behind him.

King let out a disgruntled sigh. "And he says I'm crabby," I heard him grumble. He's already working to gather the papers back together, making sure each piece was in the correct order within the correct folder.

"Can I help?" I offered. I felt kinda bad for him. He'd obviously been overworked this past week and part of that was my fault.

"No, that's fine." He paused long enough in his sorting to give me a tired smile. "You can head upstairs to change if you want. I'll finish up here."

"If you're sure… I'll at least take care of the dishes," I said as I started gathering the empty plates and coffee cups.

"Thanks."

"No problem," I responded kindly as I lifted everything up to leave.

King stopped what he was doing to open the door for me. "Actually, Princess, I wanna apologize for earlier," he stared at the floor as his free hand rubbed the back of his neck, "I didn't mean to make it sound like I thought you were incompetent, because I don't." He raised his gaze and I could see the sincerity in his eyes.

The apology surprised me, though I suppose it shouldn't. King had always been kind to me.

I smiled at him. "It's alright. I got a little defensive about it. Sorry."

Because out of everyone here, King had been the only one so far to not make some snarky remark about me being a cop. When he had said those words ten minutes ago, I hated to admit it, but it had hurt.

"No, no," he waved his hands in front of him, clearly flustered that I was trying to apologize to him. "That was my fault too! I'm actually the one who is probably a bit too in the dark on the police here. My experiences may not apply."

My brows furrowed. What an odd thing to say

"Uh, anyway, I need to get back to those papers," he shuffled his feet back to the messy table. "See ya in a few," he waved over his shoulder, not sparing me a second glance.

"Yeah… see ya…" I responded lamely as I left the room to take the dishes to the kitchen and then changed.

Nothing particularly exciting happened once I arrived on the floor for my shift. Meliodas had been right, as the bar picked up not long after King joined us all. We were extremely busy. It still blew my mind how such a well kept bar stayed hidden within the slums of our town. Given its foot traffic, I would have thought one of the members of the police force would have stumbled upon it.

Though, it was entirely possible they had and just didn't know it, I couldn't help but think.

Ban was the only Sin we had a rough idea on physical appearance and even that wouldn't make anyone think of the bar's cook. He was in the kitchen most of the night until bar closed, so no one would have noticed him unless they were specifically looking.

"Oh, sorry!" I apologized quickly to Diane as I bumped her on my way to the bar.

She smiled widely at me, "no worries, Princess! It's a bit cramped in here tonight."

"Why is that?" My eyes scanned the bar as I waited for Meliodas to refill my tray.

"Thirsty Thursday!" The blonde responded, shooing Diane away. The other waitress huffed at his interruption but took her tray without a word. "Can't tell me you're that far outta your college days, Princess."

I had noticed the clientele seemed to be a bit more… lively than those who normally occupied the bar. Even in college I wasn't much of a drinker. On the few occasions Howser had convinced me to attend an event such as a Thirsty Thursday, I would drink way too much. I was usually a fairly reserved person, but on those nights I would step out of my shell and dance on table tops with other women. If I remember right, Howser had to punch more than one guy who decided to get a little too friendly.

"Well, that expression on your face sure is telling," Meliodas joked with a smirk. "Just what kinda shenanigans did you manage to get into, I wonder?" His smirk only grew as he eyed me up and down.

I rolled my eyes, fighting the flush threatening to take me over. Refusing to give him the satisfaction of an answer, I took my tray and left.

By the time the bar closed, we were all exhausted.

Diane, King and myself collapsed onto barstools. The three of us were tasked with running back and forth between the tables. Even with the smaller setting of the bar, there was still far too many patrons for only three people to be taking and filling orders. Add in that we only had one cook and one bartender and still carried out orders in a timely fashion while keeping customers in, was extremely impressive feat. I'm not sure I'd ever know how we managed it.

"Whoa," Diane sighed heavily as she rested her elbows on the bar in an attempt to keep her head up off it. King didn't even bother, face hidden in his arms and appearing to be sleeping. "I can't believe how many people were here! You can tell college is back in session, that's for damn sure. Thank god we had an extra body!" The brunette perked up as she gave me a side armed hug. "We woulda been lost without you tonight, Princess!"

"No, no," I shook my head. "I'm still not very good."

"Well, why do you think I called you 'an extra body', and not a 'server'?" She teased, squeezing me as Meliodas and Ban stepped out of the kitchen. Plates of food in their hands.

My mouth practically watered. I was starving. Meliodas dropped a plate in front of each of us before disappearing back into the kitchen. Diane chatted happily next to me, telling me a story of a group of girls she had waited on. I half listened as something more interesting tugged at my attention.

"Better eat up," Ban encouraged King as he shook his shoulder. "Heard ya got a long night ahead ya yet. You'll need some energy."

King smacked his hand away, shifting his body away as much as he could to keep sleeping. "You do it. I'm just gunna… rest my eyes for a…"

The tall white haired man scowled as King drifted off. "Ya, no. Pretty sure even Princess here knows you're the only one who can go through that shit." He nodded his head in my direction.

I flushed as I realized Ban knew I was listening. Diane wasn't even chattering next to me anymore. A frown played at the other woman's lips as she seemed to fight back the urge to comment. Meliodas reappearing from the kitchen halted anything she had been about to say.

He walked around the bar silently and kicked King's chair. The ginger jolted awake and scowled at the man. "What? I was only taking a five minute nap."

"It's been ten," Meliodas responded shortly. "Take your food and go work."

The two stared at each other, neither looking like they were going to back down, until King sighed heavily. "Yeah, yeah, alright, I'm going." He slid off his barstool and grabbed his plate. He yawned loudly as he shut the door to the basement behind him.

As soon as King was gone, Diane whirled on Meliodas, absolutely livid. "Damnit, Boss! Lay off him a bit, would you?" She hissed lowly, obviously making sure King wouldn't be able to hear her.

"I don't know what you mean," the blonde took a long drawn out drink as he settled onto a barstool by Ban.

"Bullshit!" She spat as she sprung up from her chair. "You're driving him into the ground! He's barely gotten any sleep this week."

"Guy sleeps too much anyways."

Ban sniggered, "Got that right." The two clinked their mugs together in agreement.

I could practically see fumes coming off Diane. "That's not funny," she told them through clenched teeth. "He only got to bed at six this morning trying to finish those stupid recordings and then you had him waking up at half past seven!? That's not healthy, he needs more than an hour of sleep a night!"

"If King has a problem with what I have him working on, he'll tell me," Meliodas responded coolly.

"No he won't!" Diane threw her hands in the air in irritation. "And you damn well know that Meliodas. He's never objected to anything you set him to work on."

"She obviously wasn't here in the beginning," I heard Ban mutter over the lip of his mug.

"I know, I know, the three of you had huge bonding experiences before I even showed up. The three amigos or whatever the fuck you called yourselves," her fingers tapped an impatient beat against her now crossed arms. She took a deep breathe. "Look, I'm glad that you guys are such good friends, really I am," Diane started to lose steam at the end of her rant. "But, you're really not being a good friend to him right now."

There's a silence after her statement.

"If he does his job, he'll get a break," Meliodas finally spoke into the deafening quiet. "No sooner."

"Ugh!" Daine barely held back a frustrated scream. "Then go help him instead of sitting on your ass drinking!"

His green eyes turned to look at her, thinly veiled tolerance was all I saw. "You know just as well as I do, Daine, that King works best alone." At the sight of her being so close to tears, his expression softened. "You know I'd help him if I could, Di. But I need the information tomorrow."

"Fine," she huffed and left for the kitchen. She's back a few seconds later with a cup and a pot of coffee. The brunette basically stomped past us, obviously heading to King.

"Diane," Meliodas called and she paused. "Don't distract him. Drop that off then right back up here."

She threw him a vicious look over her shoulder, shouting in a sickeningly sweet voice. "Yes, boss." Her head then whipped back around so fast, her pigtails were sure to leave marks against her cheeks.

"Shit," Ban cursed, taking a drink and then setting it back on the counter. "Been a long time since I've seen her so worked up over something."

"... yeah…" Meliodas said simply, walking around the bar to get another drink.

"Don't sweat it, boss," Ban told him. "She'll get over it. They both will."

I nibbled my lip, thrown by the entire exchange, but remaining still and quiet as I soaked up everything going on. Would the Sins ever stop surprising me?

"King didn't seem that upset when I talked to him earlier…" The comment left me before I could think better of it. I'm becoming much too involved.

"You wouldn't notice even if he was," Ban dismissed my observation. He turned his attention to me instead of the abnormally quiet Meliodas. "Guys pretty good at putting up a false front."

My brows furrowed. I couldn't see King being anything but honest. At the very least he seemed incapable of lying. He'd been so sincere when he apologized earlier. Was that an act? Did he really think I was stupid?

Ban chortled, bringing me out of my thoughts. "Don't worry too much, Princess. He's a lot better than he used to be."

Why did it seem all the Sins, even Ban - who was obviously not the sharpest tool in the shed - could speak in riddles?

"Diane's fault I'm pretty sure~." He shook his head, finishing up his mug and signaling Meliodas for another. "She's made him softer than he used to be~," he poked my shoulder. I slapped his hand away.

Meliodas finally joined the conversation at his comment. "Like Elaine hasn't changed you?" There's a small uptick to his lips. The ease with which he carried himself slowly falling back into place. "A good woman does that you know."

"Does what?" I almost dread the answer, thinking it may be something perverted. Given the two Sins I'm talking to, it was highly likely.

His green eyes met mine, seemingly deeper than they'd ever been before. I bit the inside of my lip to ground myself. "Make you wanna be a better man."

My eyes widened and I was unable to control the sudden fire burning over my cheeks as they flushed at his answer. That was definitely not something I had ever expected to hear from the Leader of the Sins. They were a bunch of criminals for crying out loud! How could he even say that with a straight face?!

"Elaine is one hellvua good woman," Ban sighed heavily. "I don't know how her and King are related. They're so different."

Meliodas broke his eye contact with me to look at his friend. "Not that different." He chuckled at Ban's scowl. "Given the circumstances, they both turned out pretty damn good. Though… you're right, Elaine is better off. But…" he stared at the white haired man seriously, "you know that's because of King, right?"

"Yeah, a lot of things that happened to her are his fault."

"Ban," Meliodas warned, an unusual sharpness to his voice. "That was out of his control."

The white haired man slumped against the counter and relented, "I know."

Their conversation had my mind once again spinning. Circumstances? What kind of circumstances would be severe enough for Meliodas to imply that the siblings turned out fine? Did they come from a broken home? And why would Elaine be better off because of what King did? And what exactly was out of the ginger's control regarding his sister?

"The fact she is the way she is, is nuthin short of a fuckin miracle," Ban grumbled against the counter.

"I'm gunna go ahead and be King here for a bit," Meliodas grinned before putting on a mock scowl and imitated the other man. "The real miracle here is that she even puts up with your drunk ass."

Both man broke out into gut-wrenching laughter.

I wondered if I should just go to bed. I'm obviously not on the same page as them.

"Elizabeth?" Diane surprised me, taking the open seat next to me. Her gaze was thoughtful and even a bit nervous. Something I hadn't really seen from her before. "Would you wanna have a sleepover with me?"

"H-huh?"

"I'm not ready to go to bed yet. Wanna do some drinking. But not with these guys," she poked her finger accusingly at the two men, glaring crossly at them. "So I thought we could just have a little sleepover in my room. A girls night." Diane turned to me to smile. "It's been years since I've had one."

Me too. The last time I had a sleepover would have been in college.

"Oh, um… sure?" I responded with uncertainty.

There really wasn't any reason not to. It actually could turn out to be a something I could use to my advantage. Diane liked to talk. Maybe getting a little alcohol in her system would get me some answers that my earlier conversation with King had me craving.

"Yay!" She tossed her arms around me in a tight hug. Her excitement caused guilt to churn in my stomach. "I was worried you'd think I was weird for asking."

"You are weird," Ban commented and the brunette pulled back from our hug to scowl at him. "Have to be to have any interest in that guy you're dating."

"Says the guy who spends more time with him than I do!" Diane snapped back in annoyance. She leaned over the bar, grabbing two bottles of wine hidden underneath and shoving them into my arms before going back for two glasses. "Let's go Elizabeth. Leave these bozos to boozing alone."

"Looks like it's just you and me buddy," Meliodas said as he too dug beneath the counter, pulling up a bottle of whiskey.

"Just like the good old days~," Ban grinned crookedly in Diane's direction.

She gave them both a big middle finger before grasping my hand and dragging me towards the stairs.

"Let us know if you guys decide to have a pillow fight in your nighties!" Meliodas called after us jovially. His normal spirit seemed to have returned fully now.

"If that happens I think we'd have to give King that break," Ban's sing song voice carried over to us.

"Good point," Meliodas hummed thoughtfully. "Nevermind. Hold off on those pillow fights!"

"Fuck you guys!" Diane yelled over the railing, flicking them off once again before we disappeared up the stairs to her room. I heard their laughter just before Diane slammed the door shut behind us.

She gestured towards the bed as she began to twist open a bottle of wine. Screw topped, a girl's best friend. "Okay, first," Daine took the glasses from me and poured. "A toast!" She handed one back.

"A toast?" I knitted my brows together.

"Yep. A night with no men. Just us girls."

She must be in a really bad mood, I couldn't help but think. Our glasses clinked together and we took a long drink. A crisp white wine. It reminded me of the party. I quickly shook my head to dispel that image.

The next thing I know, something's being thrown in my face. I pull it away and gasp, dragging it back to my chest. "D-Diane?! What is this?"

"A nightie of course!" She giggled as she turned her back to me and began to undress.

I spun around, giving her a sense of privacy. Though, it probably didn't really matter. Diane didn't seem to have much shame. "Why on earth do I need this?"

"You can't have a sleepover without cute pajamas, duh." She insisted like it was the most obvious thing in the world.

"I am not wearing this," I frowned deeply at the silk material in my hands.

It was light pink, and longer than I thought it would be, reaching to at least my mid thigh. Of course it was low cut, but thank god it at least had sleeves. I half wondered if Diane even owned anything that didn't showcase her chest.

"Ahh, come on!" She pleaded and I peeked over my shoulder to see her walking around in a pale orange nightie. Hers was a bit more risque than mine. Thinner straps, lace lining the sweetheart neckline and almost two inches shorter than the one she gave me. "If it's too modest, I could get you something else!" She teased with a wink.

"No!" I quickly shook my head. I glanced down at the article of clothing. It could be worse. "Fine. Turn around."

Diane rolled her eyes but complied with my desire. Swiftly I pull off the pink top of my uniform and slip the nightie over my head. I shimmy my skirt down my legs and put it aside in a pile.

"Man, you change fast!"

"Diane?!" I cried, heat flashing to my cheeks as I spun around to face her.

She shrugged, unbothered as she walked towards her glass near me on the nightstand. "What, not like you have anything I don't." She paused in front of me. "Except bigger boobs." She poked my chest.

I squealed and she laughed.

"Alright, so, Elizabeth," she started as she plopped herself down on the bed. I followed her cautiously, half worried about being attacked and the rest worried I'd trip amongst all the clothing she had scattered across her bedroom floor. "Let's talk."

"About?" I made a face at her as I sat on the bed, careful not to spill my glass. There was a dangerous gleam in those amethyst eyes. I was already regretting agreeing to this. As if wearing a nightie wasn't bad enough… I took a drink.

A slow smirk spread across her lips. "Boys of course!"

My hand flew to cover my mouth in an attempt to keep the wine inside. Once I composed myself enough, I wiped my hand on my pajamas and glared at Diane. "Are you kidding? Aren't we a bit old for that?"

To my dismay, her smirk only grew. "Speak for yourself, Princess. I'm plenty young."

"Given your usual topics of choice, I'm not sure I can believe that," I retorted with a roll of my eyes.

She laughed and I was thankful she didn't take it in a bad way. "I'm just comfortable with who I am, that's all."

"I'm not sure I could ever be as comfortable as you."

"It did take some getting use to," she took a long drink.

The gears in my head were turning. What would she be doing that got her used to displaying so much skin? As if reading my mind she shook her head, stopping me from saying anything.

Her eyes flickered away from mine as she said, "Ah… I used to be a dancer."

My eyes widened.

"Oh, not like that kind!" She laughed at my surprised expression. "I mean like, legitimately. I was a ballet dancer back in high school. A really good one." A wistful smile overtook her features. "I loved it, thought I'd make a career out of it someday."

"You don't dance anymore?"

She snorted. "Hell no! It's been years since the last time I really did."

I bit the inside of my lip. "When did you stop?"

Her expression shifted, the wistful smile morphing into something I'd never seen on Diane before now, nor did I ever think I would given her bubbly personality. Sadness. "The summer before I was suppose to go to college… That's when my mom… passed." She informed me quietly.

Regret hit me like a brick house, knocking the air from my lungs. "Oh my god, I'm… I'm so sorry, Diane."

"It's…. Fine," she took a long drink, finishing off her glass and pouring herself another. "I mean... It isn't but…" She gave me a soft smile. "I have a new family now and… I wouldn't change that for anything."

A new family? Did that mean…

"You don't have any living relatives?"

She shrugged, the dismal air that had surrounded her dissipating into one I was more familiar with. "Not that I know of and no one ever reached out to me after Mom passed so it's just me and the bozos living here. Those boys downstairs are all I have."

I bit my lip as her words remind me of a conversation I had with Meliodas and King when we first started our meetings. The four of us don't have anywhere else to go. Was that how they all worked so well? Because it's this or nothing for them?

"Meliodas and Ban are like annoying big brothers," she continued with a smile. "They look out for me - most of the time."

Despite myself a grin started to tug at my lips. "And King?" I prodded.

"Ah," a light flush formed on her features. "King's… he's…." Her cheeks darkened with each word. "I don't know!" She tossed her hands up in frustration.

I laughed, taking a drink before asking, "are you in love with him Diane?"

"I… might be," she admitted with a heavy sigh as she laid down on the bed to stare at the ceiling. "Can't really say for sure. I've never felt like this with anyone else."

"Do you think King loves you?"

She surprised me with a giggle. "Probably, but if I can't tell what this feeling is, he definitely can't!"

"What do you mean?" I tilted my head curiously.

"Let's just say," she sat up and gave me a sly smirk, "I have more experience than he does." She winked.

I almost snorted wine out my nose. "Well that seems fairly obvious, even to me," my lips moved before I could stop them.

Diane stared at me wide eyed

"O-oh I mean-" I couldn't even form a sentence. My hand covered my mouth, hoping to keep any other remarks to myself.

"Obvious huh?" She looked thoughtful before bursting out in a fit of giggles. "I guess it kinda is, isn't it?"

A relieved sigh left me. I thought for sure she was going to be offended and kick me out. "King's just a little timid around you compared to how you act around him, that's all."

"It's kinda like that with you and the boss."

I almost choked on my next sip, "What?!"

"I mean," a cheshire grin formed on her lips. "That anytime the boss tries putting the moves on you, you get all flustered, just like King does when I flirt with him."

"No Diane. Just no." This girl was delusional. There was no way there was anything going on between me and Meliodas.

She laughed again, as if expecting my reaction. "No worries Elizabeth, I won't tell." She teased me with a wink and a finger over her lips. I rolled my eyes.

"He's a good person." She continued, "King saved me, but the Boss… he let me stay here, gave me a job." Diane locked her eyes with me driving home the same point she'd almost a week ago. "We're not bad people."

I found her words much more believable this time as they hung in the air between us.

I wanted to believe her. Every bit of me did. Even knew that good people did bad things for the right reasons sometimes… but just because they thought what they were doing was right, didn't mean I could just… look the other way.

Even though there was a part of me that wanted to do just that. Especially in Diane's case.

"I don't know…" I mumbled, without thinking. Maybe the wine was getting to me. "You, maybe. I still haven't made my mind up about the others." I admit, a little too openly and received a grin from Diane.

"Give it time." She encouraged with a wink. Confident that she could sway me.

We changed the subject not long after that. Resorting to getting to know each other through talk of favorites and hobbies - finishing off both bottles of wine along the way.

A knock came at the door a few hours later just as we were about to call it a night.

"You two still up?"

Diane scowled. "Go away, Meliodas! Girls only."

He sighed heavily on the other side. "Diane… I just wanted too…"

A soft smile crossed Diane's features. "I know… But I don't want to hear it tonight. Alright?"

I looked between her and the door, surprised by the sound of guilt in the blonde's voice. More than surprised. But, given Diane's description of the man earlier - I guess I shouldn't have been. He was like a big brother to her.

"Yeah…" there was a silence for awhile and I thought he had left when he spoke again, "tomorrow then."

Diane waited a heartbeat listening to the silence that followed. Satisfied, she turned off the light.

She cuddled up into the blanket, wishing me sweet dreams.

And I briefly wondered if I would be able to sleep.

 

Chapter Text

Talking in the hallway pulled me out of my near slumber. I had started to drift while pondering everything Diane had told me, but now, I was awake.

I strained my hearing but couldn't quite make out who was speaking. My eyes shifted to Diane, making sure she was still sleeping before slipping soundlessly out of the bed, creeping toward the door and pressing my ear against it. The voices were easy to make out now.

Meliodas and King.

"So, that's it, huh?" Meliodas stated.

"Yeah," King responded. A yawn quickly followed his reply. "If this isn't exactly what you need, then it was never there to begin with. I had to do quite a bit of piecemealing to get this much. Honestly, I hadn't thought the code would be so extensive given who was initiating it."

Code? My lips pursed together at the word. Meliodas lead me to believe that Gowther was their hacker. If that was true, why would he have King work on something involving code? I shook my head of the thought. That couldn't be right. The leader of the Sins had just berated King this morning over not getting through the recordings fast enough. He couldn't have possibly had anytime to look over code. Perhaps he meant something else.

I could hear Meliodas hum, obviously thinking over King's words. "Unsettling, but not all that surprising. Thanks."

King grunted in response. "I'm going to bed now." The shuffling of feet followed his words.

"Probably wanna sleep in your own room tonight," Meliodas advised.

"Why?"

"Diane was lonely, so she invited Elizabeth for a sleepover."

My eyes widened as I realized just where King had been heading.

"You're kidding?" The ginger responded, not believing him.

I already knew where this was going. As fast as I could without making a sound, I slipped back in beside Diane. My body faced the door and I squeezed my eyes tightly shut.

"Go on and take a look." Meliodas prompted. His voice was closer know. The two of them must be right outside the door.

Light spilled in from the hallway. I rolled away from it and right into Diane. The girl hummed, her arm wrapping around my waist and sighing. It took all I had in me not to push her away in shock. If the door wasn't opened, I would have.

"Damnit," I heard King hiss from the doorway. "You weren't lying."

"Why would I lie about two beautiful women sleeping together?"

"... point taken."

Diane began to kick the covers off and I wanted to cry. I knew I shouldn't have let her talk me into sleeping in this damn nightie. There's a low whistle by the door. My face felt as if it were on fire. There was no way that the both of them weren't getting a view of Diane and I's legs.

"Are you… kidding me right now?" King took a shaky breath. "Why in the hell are they wearing that?"

"I dunno," Meliodas responded in a cheery tone. "I did make the comment about them wearing nighties and having pillow fights and coming to get us. But I really didn't think they'd take it to heart."

"Wait, what?" King's voice seemed a pitch higher than normal. "They had a pillow fight and you guys didn't tell me?!" I heard the rustling of fabric and imagined King shaking Meliodas.

"If they did, they didn't tell us either." The sound stopped and then the blonde spoke again. "Ban did make the comment we'd have to tell you and then you'd have to stop working soooo… I may have told them to hold off." Meliodas gave him an awkward chuckle. "But hey, at least they did the nightie part!"

"... I hate you."

"No you don't."

"No, I think I really mean it this time."

"Ah, come on! Look at the great view we're getting! How can you be mad at me?"

"Hey!" Feet slid across the floor. "You stop looking."

"What? You can look, but I can't?" Meliodas argued and I could hear the mirth in his tone. "That hardly seems fair King."

"One of them is my girlfriend." King promptly reminded him. "I get to look. You don't."

"That's fine. I was only looking at Elizabeth anyways."

"You shouldn't be looking at her either!"

"Again, but you can?"

"I-I'm not!"

"Please," Meliodas scoffed, "they're wrapped around each other, you can't look at one without looking at the other."

"Meliodas, I'm telling you-"

"Shut up!" Diane sprung up, glaring daggers at the men frozen in the doorway. "Some of us are trying to sleep here!"

"Sorry." They both apologized and I took the time to chance a glance at them. King appeared to be in the middle of trying to push Meliodas down the hall. The blonde remained unmoveable, hands casually in his pockets as he tilted his head watching us.

Green eyes meet mine and I quickly shut them tight. I felt Diane get off the bed and couldn't help but look to see what she was doing. She strutted up to the door, King's eyes on Diane and Meliodas… still looking at me. There's a spark in his eyes that was far too close to something I've seen before. I groaned, pulling the blanket all the way up to my eyes in an attempt to hide enough and still see what's going on.

"Uh, D-Diane…?" King sounded like he was choking.

"Goodnight, boys."

She slammed the door in their faces.

"Wait!" King knocked loudly. "What did I do?!"

"Guilt by association," Meliodas answered and I could just imagine him shrugging his shoulders. Not at all bothered that his friend got lumped together with him. "She's been pissy all night."

"Go away Meliodas, before I open this door and kick your ass outside and lock you out!" Diane warned.

"Nice try. We don't lock the doors."

"Do we even have locks?" King pondered out loud. "I honestly can't recall."

"I think so," Meliodas responded with a contemplative hum. "Can't remember the last time I actually had to use them, though. Message got around pretty fast not to even bother stepping into this place after two." There's a snap of fingers. "Ah, remember that guy with the stupid skimask who tried stealing the register?"

"Yeah… wait, didn't you and Ban chase him down and kick his ass?" King said slowly, as if trying to think back on the event. "Oh god… that's the guy who-"

"Yep!" Meliodas cut him off with a snort.

"And when Ban caught up to him, he got-," I could hear King start snickering on the other side of the door.

Meliodas was laughing too now. "Oh yeah, I almost forgot about that!"

I sat up in bed and gave Diane a curious stare. She rolled her eyes and slammed her fist against the door. "Go have your boring recollections somewhere else guys."

"Yes, mom," the blonde responded. I could just imagine him rolling his eyes and the smirk on his lips.

"Ah, but Diane… I, uh…" King's voice trailed off.

Affection overtook the burnette's features as she opened the door. Only King stood there now, Meliodas must have went back to his room. Diane placed a hand on her boyfriend's cheek and gave him a quick kiss. "Goodnight, King," she said before kissing him again.

"G'night, Diane," he mumbled and disappeared down the hall.

Diane shut the door slowly, letting out a heavy sigh. She had a soft smile on her face as she made her way back to bed. Once she crawled back under the blankets, I laid down as well.

"Well that was… eventful," I couldn't help but comment.

Her soft smile was replaced by devious smirk. "Totally worth it."

"Wait…" I glared accusingly at Diane. She couldn't possibly be insinuating what I thought she was. "You were awake?!"

She shrugged, a playful smile pulling at her lips. "Maybe."

"How long?"

"Oh, just since you slipped out of bed to go try and eavesdrop."

My mouth dropped open as my cheeks flushed. We just stared at each other for a few seconds as I replayed the past ten minutes. "So, you heard them… the whole time? When they were standing in the doorway even?" A horrified thought struck me. "You kicked off the blankets on purpose!"

She hummed, obviously fighting back laughter. "Would you believe me if I said no?"

"No!"

Diane laughed and I scowled at her. I felt oddly torn between breaking down and laughing right along with her. Or strangling her for willingly putting us on display. Instead of doing either, I just shook my head at her.

"What?" She beamed brightly. "It's fun messing with them every once in awhile."

I had to roll away from her so she couldn't see my smile at her admission. Now that the moment had passed. She was right. It was kind of fun. I actually had a lot of fun with Diane tonight.

And that worried me. More than I was willing to admit.


When I awoke the next morning, I slipped out of bed, hoping I wouldn't wake Diane again. I went to my room to get ready for the day. By the time I made it downstairs, I noticed one lone occupant. King. Again. I frowned, glancing around the room as I went to join him at the bar.

"Just us again?"

King's gaze flickered to mine for only a second before looking away anxiously. "Uh, no. Boss should be down here soon. Not sure what's taking him." Per the normal routine, he slid me a cup. "Coffee?"

"Yes, thank you," I smiled at him as I took the open seat beside him. "Diane kept me up later then I thought we would be." My lips formed a tight line as I thought back to last night. "You were up late."

He groaned, scrunching up his features in disgust. "A lot later than I wanted to be. Trust me."

"The recordings?" I broached, even though I knew that had to be the answer. He nodded. "Why did they take so long?"

King studied me for a moment before letting out a heavy sigh. "The code was far more elaborate than I gave them credit for being able to create."

"Code?" There was that damn phrase again. He'd used it last night too.

"Ya, you know," he gestured around with his hands. "An encrypted message. Like a riddle, or a puzzle. Ugh," he dug his hands into his hair with another frustrated groan. "Took me forever to figure out what the hell cipher they were using but I finally cracked it and, of course, felt like an idiot once I did."

"You... figured out a cipher without any indication of what the actual key was?"

He shrugged. "Done it before. It's easier when you know the person who created it. This one, I didn't." He pulled a face again, obviously disappointed with his work on it. While I just stared at him.

I always hated riddles and hidden meanings. I didn't have time for people who wanted to hide things and believed that if someone had to talk in code, they were probably guilty of something. Decoding was something I had little patience for. The fact that King spent hours to figure out recordings, not even having the physical aid of it being written out, just blew me away.

"S-stop looking at me like that," King shifted anxiously in his chair, his ears red. "It's really not that impressive."

"Are you kidding? Do you think anyone else would have been able to do that?" He couldn't have even been working at his full capacity given how little sleep he'd been getting these past few nights. How could he be so dismissive of something he worked so long on?

"Maybe," he shrugged, still refusing to meet my gaze. He almost seemed to be trying to get away from me now. "Gowther, probably could have."

"But you said you knowing the person made it easier," I pointed out his own words. "Gowther can't do motives." Meliodas' words from our first meeting between the three of us in the basement comes to mind.

"Did you and Diane have fun last night?" He threw me by completely changed the topic, staring intently at the liquid in his cup.

I frowned but answered him anyway. "I think so."

"Glad to hear it," he gave me a soft smile. "I'm sure Diane really appreciated it, so… thanks... For doing that… I know it isn't in your job description and that you probably had your own reasons for accepting but..." he shook his head, stopping himself from continuing. "Anyway, thanks. She's usually stuck with us three guys so having you here is a good change of pace for her."

Again, he's throwing me for a loop. I should find offense in his words. That he's implying that I didn't enjoy my time with Diane. That I wouldn't have hung out with her without some ulterior motive. And yet I can't find the normal bite I should have. Is it because, despite the lack of tack in his words, he's at least being sincere?

"It really wasn't a big deal. It was fun," I mumbled. Now it was me who couldn't meet his gaze. "Sorry I took your spot last night," I felt the weird need to apologize.

"It's fine," King waved off my concern. "Honestly if Meliodas hadn't been there, I may have just crawled in. But… uh," a blush threatened to overtake his face. "I didn't want to give her any ideas."

"Ideas?" He gave me a dubious glance, as if trying to figure out if I was messing with him or not. And then it hit me. "OH! Oh gosh, no, that would have been bad."

He shook his head. "Plus, at first, the only room was between the two of you. That would have been weird and possibly have gotten me murdered."

Despite the heat on my cheeks, I couldn't help but laugh. "Diane would not murder you for sleeping in between us, King." He'd know that if he would have seen the tender expression on her face after they said goodnight.

"You heard what she said the other day," he quirked a brow at me but I can see he's fighting back a smile. Obviously he's relieved that I'm taking his comments so well. "Body parts would be lost."

"Wasn't that only if she wasn't there?"

"Good memory, Elizabeth." A new voice joined us. Diane.

We turned around and found, to our horror, Meliodas standing next to her. The man wearing a large grin. I glanced at King and found him mouthing out, shit. I had to agree.

"Whatever could they be talking about, Di?" Meliodas quirked a curious brow at her.

"Oh, just that the only way King and Elizabeth are allowed to do anything is if I'm there. Otherwise, ya know," she shrugged nonchalantly, "body parts will be lost."

"King and Elizabeth? Don't think so."

The two made their way to the bar. King and I watching in silent horror. "Are you kidding? They get along so well! Look at them," she smiled sweetly at us. "Chatting about our threesome over coffee."

"Diane, that's not what-" King attempted to clarify the discussion. That we had actually been talking about last night's sleepover.

"You have King," Meliodas argued with Diane, cutting off the ginger's explanation. "What do you need Elizabeth for? Switching teams?"

"Oh no, I'm keeping both." Diane beamed brightly. King sunk in his seat next to me and I fought the urge to do the same.

"Well that's a bit selfish, don't you think?"

"Not at all. King and I are the ones she's closest to here. Of course we'd be her first choice." The brunette shrugged.

Meliodas snorted. "You, maybe. But I doubt King's made her list." He sent me a sly smirk that had me sinking in my chair just like King. I didn't even want to give a thought to where exactly the ginger was or wasn't on my list. Not that I had one.

Diane leaned over the counter with a challenging smile. "You shouldn't count him out so easily. King's got a nerdy charm about him that draws a girl in. He's good looking, easy to talk to and don't even get me started on -"

"D-Diane!" King sounded like he was being strangled.

"What?" She turned to him with innocent eyes. Even I could tell it was an act. "I'm giving you compliments!"

The ginger dropped his face into his hands, hiding his extremely red face. "Why?" He exasperated.

A smirk danced across her lips as her eyes flickered between King and I. "Well, I can't speak of the Boss's expertise in this field, but I can speak to yours. Figured Elizabeth should know before she makes her decision." She winked at me and I felt myself flushing.

"Hmm," Meliodas hummed thoughtfully and I snuck a peek at him. His green eyes were lit with amusement. The small uptick to his lips far more distracting than it should have been.

"Plus, picking King comes with me," Diane gestured down her body. "We could have lots of fun together." She purred leaning in close to me.

"I -uh, I don't…" Words were failing me.

"Why is this even a conversation right now?" King dropped his hands and intervened in an attempt to help me gather my thoughts.

"You brought it up." They both respond without missing a beat. The Sin of Sloth slumped against the counter, mumbling curses under his breath.

"Well, if it was you and Elizabeth, I don't think I'd say no to that." Meliodas grinned crookedly.

"Too bad the offer isn't on the table for you Boss," Diane stuck her tongue out at him.

King began to move next to me, reaching for the pot of coffee. He grabbed it and his mug. Catching my curious gaze, he tilted his head towards the basement door. I gave him a subtle nod. Slowly we slid out of our seats.

"Why isn't it?" The blonde crossed his arms in front of his chest like a petulant child.

"Because I'm not dating you. King is the only guy this would work with." Diane's comment had both King and I flushing as we continued to silently walk backwards to our destination.

"That's stupid. You used to like me." Meliodas pointed out. The statement had me pausing, glancing at King to get his reaction. A light scowl set across his still pink features.

Diane snorted out a chuckle. "The only one who thinks that's true is probably King. You and Ban both know I only did it to make him jealous." I caught her rolling her eyes.

Now it was King's turn to pause. He looked ready to say something so I nudged him in the ribs. His amber eyes locked with mine as I silently pleaded with him to continue our track to the basement. A contemplative expression passed his features for a second before he nodded. We were just opening the door when the leader of the Sins responded.

"Man, he was so pissed at me when you started doing that," Meliodas chuckled at the reminder. "Guy wouldn't believe that I had absolutely no interest in you."

"Really?" Diane took a seat. "What'd he say?"

"Something about me being a mental bastard and how could I not like you." The blonde's laughter echoed off the walls of the bar.

Diane's giggle joined him. "Aww, he's so sweet."

"He was crazy about you back then already." Meliodas shook his head. "Anyway, you have him so I get Elizabeth when she turns to the darkside." He said spookily with a large grin.

"No way! When the time inevitably comes, she's totally going to be with King and me!"

"You're way too jealous for that to work."

"I think I could share with Elizabeth."

King shut the door, face looking ready to explode. I couldn't say mine was far off. We walked the rest of the way to the room without another word. He collapsed in his normal chair and I followed suit.

"How…" I started after a few minutes of silence. "How does this always happen?" I grumbled over the lip of my mug.

"I'm sorry. Today was my fault," King huffed out a heavy sigh. "Shouldn't have even brought it up."

"Ah, I really didn't help," I shook my head, unwilling to let him fully take the blame. He always seemed to do that. "I kept it going by reminding you that body parts would only be lost if she wasn't involved."

"Ya know, it wouldn't be so bad if it had just been Diane. I can manage her." The ginger admitted as he began gathering papers. "The boss though… how should I put this…"

"Just come right out and say it," I smirked as I folded my hands on the table, "Meliodas can be an ass."

He snapped his fingers with a wide grin. "That's it!"

We shared a laugh for a few minutes before getting to work.

"Hey you two!" Meliodas greeted cheerily as he stepped into the room. "Better stop sneaking off together or you're gunna give me and Diane the wrong idea!"

"I don't care if I give you the wrong idea," I immediately rebutted. To my ire, his grin only grew. "Besides, we were just going over a few more things."

"Which you said we should do," King swiftly pointed out after my statement.

"Did I?" Meliodas tilted his head in false innocence. "I think we'll put a hold on the information exchange today."

"Not much of an exchange when I'm the one doing all the talking," the ginger grumbled resting his chin in his open palm, elbow propped up on the table.

I pursed my lips at him, readying a response.

"I didn't mean it in a bad way," King quickly rectified in that weird detached tone he seemed to have whenever we were down here discussing the case. "Just that, well, so far you haven't had anything to add."

My brows furrowed. He was right. This whole thing had been them telling me information. I only felt guilty about my lack of knowledge for a few seconds. I was the cop. They were the criminals. They were supposed to be the ones giving me information. I didn't owe them anything.

"Anyway, why don't you head upstairs, Elizabeth? I gotta talk to King about something."

I stared at him, weighing out just what he would have to say. An annoying feeling swirled in the pit of my stomach. Something of the sensation must have showed through on my features as Meliodas added;

"I'm not going to hurt him for hitting on you or anything, Princess. No worries," Meliodas teased with a crooked grin.

"I do not hit on her," King defended himself. "Can I remind you again? The reason we spend so much time together is because of you."

"Well if you weren't the only one besides myself that knew the ins and outs of this whole operation, I wouldn't have to."

"Is that suppose to be an argument?" King scowled at him as he stood. "It's not my fault."

"You did throw yourself into all this stuff."

"You needed me too. You and Ban were completely lost without my insight."

"Maybe."

"Ugh," King collapsed back into his chair. "Whatever. I don't care. What do you want?"

"Elizabeth, head upstairs."

"Why?" I find myself extremely curious to what the blonde had to say. He didn't respond, just staring at King. The ginger scowled at him, as if he already knew what this was going to be about. Realizing neither was going to make a move until I left, I huffed. "Fine."

I opened the door and shut it loudly behind me. My feet made for the stairs and I walked a few of them before turning around and quietly going back to the door.

Meliodas was crazy if he thought he could keep me out of the loop that easy.

 

Chapter Text

"Alright," King spoke after a few seconds. "What's so important you're calling off the information exchange today?"

"I need a favor."

"Is this about what I found on the recordings?"

There's a silence. I assumed Meliodas responded with a shake of his head or nod.

A heavy sigh and then King spoke again, "I told you that we shouldn't go out anymore. Even sending us last time was too risky."

"I know, but it makes more sense for it to be you than me, doesn't it? Things have cooled since then. I'm sure you two could slip in unnoticed compared to us." Meliodas responded. I heard a creak, he must have sat down.

"You mean we could blend in better."

"You've always had a knack for this kind of thing."

"Not sure that's what I'd call it," King said lowly. There was silence, as if King was weighing his next words, "Fine. We'll do it. But… we should really have some back up this time, just in case."

"Already ahead of ya," Meliodas replied and I could practically hear his grin.

"Good. It'd be a real pain if we were caught tonight."

"I have faith in your acting skills."

"Yeah, cause that means a whole lot," King clipped sarcastically.

Meliodas laughed. "It should! This is a very important mission and I'm letting you take the lead."

"I'd rather you didn't."

"Stop worrying so much. It'll be fine!" I heard a thump and wondered if Meliodas just slapped King's back.

"You always say that," I could barely hear King grumble. He raised his voice. "So, assuming everyone is involved this time. What was the point of sending Princess out?"

"Wanted to run it by you first. Didn't need you holding back on your thoughts."

"I don't do that. And you know she's been listening the whole time, right?"

I stiffened.

"Course I do!" Meliodas chirped merrily.

"So sending her away was pointless?"

"Na, I like letting her think she's sneaky." He laughed and I stomped away. The last thing I heard was, "go get some more sleep. You're gunna need to be well rested for everything to work out tonight."

Despite the lack of meeting in the basement, the day was fairly normal after that. When Meliodas and King came to the main floor, ten minutes after me, King went right upstairs. I assumed he was going back to bed. The rest of us took care of the bar. It wasn't very busy, but I suppose that was to be expected given it was Friday afternoon. Ban had disappeared at one point for almost two hours. I had attempted to ask Meliodas more about what the rest of us would be doing tonight and where Ban had gone.

He'd just smiled at me lazily and said, "shoulda listened a little longer." After getting the same response at various points of the day, I had given up.

The dinner rush was just finishing as I walked up to the bar. I checked a clock, wondering just when King and Diane would be leaving and where exactly they were going.

"I hate these damn things," someone grumbled behind me. I turned around and was surprised to see King in a dark grey suit. He tugged anxiously at his navy tie, loosening it and straightening it and repeating the process. When he felt my gaze still on him his eyes flickered up. "What?"

"You're wearing a suit."

"Uh… yeah…?" He quirked a brow.

I flushed as I realized how stupid I must sound. "S-sorry, I just. I'm caught off guard is all." I had never seen King in anything besides his oversized shirts and jacket. Seeing him in something so well fitted was… weird. He no longer looked like the nerdy member of the sins. He looked older. Like a real businessman.

"Has Boss still not told you the plan for tonight?" King's brows knitted together.

His question got my mind back on right. "No," I scowled deeply. "Thinks it's funny, I'm pretty sure. Said I should have stayed outside the door longer." My eyes found the man behind the bar, distracted by a customer. "What is the plan?"

"Diane and I are going to a charity event."

My eyes widened at that. "Really?" Well, that explained the suit. "Why?" I leaned in closer so I could lower my voice. "Because of the recordings?"

He nodded. "Going to attempt speaking with… her," he answered vaguely and I immediately knew who he meant.

The mayor's wife.

"Who was she talking to anyways?" I asked realizing that I didn't actually know. In all the conversations I had overheard between him and Meliodas since last night, that information was never actually exchanged.

King finally stopped fiddling with his tie long enough to give me a curious stare. His eyes swept over the bar before sighing heavily. "Suppose we didn't actually get to discuss that this morning, huh?"

"No." I scowled immediately at the reminder. "Meliodas so kindly interrupted us before then."

He let out a soft huff of air at my comment. "That he did." The ginger agreed with a nod of his head, a small quirk to his lips. "Well, from what I gathered, the person Melascula was speaking to in the recordings is the one she was having an affair with."

"Oh?" I settled into a bar stool to let my tired feet rest. "What makes you say that?"

"She called him by a pet name. Love."

My lips pursed at the odd title.

"She never actually used his name. Just that damn pet name." King sighed heavily and slid into the seat next to me. He barely stopped himself from running a hand through his now styled hair. "I'm positive he's involved. Unfortunately, the recordings never really picked up the guy's voice."

A look of frustration crossed his features as he relayed the information.

"Tonight is about getting more info on him then?" I said the words slowly, testing out the weight of them. It had to be that. They had little else to go on from the sounds of it.

King simply nodded, not responding as he seemed to mull over something.

"So he's sending you two? Isn't that… risky?" I wonder why Meliodas wouldn't just have the two of us go again. The two of us had to be more adapt for subtle questioning than King and Diane.

"Less of a risk than you and him going, given your run in at their home," King pointed out, leaning against the bar. "I suppose Diane and I have built up a bit of a… rapport that may give us an in."

"How?" I had thought that Meliodas said they'd only been to a few parties. How did they get an in within such a small time frame?

"Diane mostly," he shrugged.

"Oh come on King! I'm just the eye candy at these things! You're the one people like talking to."

We both turned down towards the steps, Diane heading our way. Eye candy indeed. I don't know how Diane ever thought I gave her a run for her money in any dress. She was downright gorgeous. She wore a deep red trumpet dress with off the shoulder sleeves and a sweetheart neckline. Just like the one I had worn, this one had a slit up to her mid thigh and sequins everywhere. Her hair up in an elegant bun. When she leaned in and planted a kiss on the stunned King, I saw she had a small train with ruffles.

"Don't listen to him Princess," Diane turned to me with a smile. "He doesn't give himself nearly enough credit. The reason we know anyone there is because of his little story."

"T-That's not true," King struggled. "They talked to us because of you. You aren't just a pretty face, Diane." He insisted with a determined scowl. "Your whole persona draws people in."

"Hmm," she hummed and then shrugged. "Maybe, but you're the one who kept them interested enough to have a whole conversation with. King's quite the storyteller." She told me with a secretive wink.

I blinked, looking back and forth between the two, trying to follow the conversation with the little amount of details they were giving. "Um… what kind of story?"

King flushed and Diane beamed eagerly. "Meet Mr. and Mrs. Jones. Technical mogul extraordinar! Well, King is anyways. I mean, Mr. Henry Jones. I'm his lovely wife, Dorothy."

My jaw dropped despite myself. "What?" How did these two manage to pull off being a married couple?

"Surprised?" Diane giggled, looping her arm through Kings. I nodded. "I don't blame you. I almost blew our cover when I heard King say it!"

"I said I was sorry," King grumbled, ears a bright red. "It was… necessary."

The burnette winked at me and I felt the sudden urge to join in on her teasing. "Really? Meliodas didn't have us married."

The sharply dressed man glared at me. "Yes. It was. Only way to keep some jackass' hands off her."

I blinked in surprise at the man's sharp words. Diane merely laughed.

"What he means is, that some guys were taking a little too much interest in me and him saying we were married was easier than maiming them," the brunette was all too happy to explain.

"But… you guys weren't together then, I thought?"

"We weren't," King mumbled, unable to look at either of us.

I had feelings for Diane long before we started dating, his words came back to me. "Oh." I said simply, feeling like I just put my foot in my mouth.

"King's a bit overprotective," Diane shook her head fondly. Obviously she didn't care about the sudden lack of conversation from us. She leaned forward to mock whisper, a hand hiding her lips from her boyfriend as she said, "And maybe a little bit of the jealous type."

"That's real funny coming from you Di," Ban snorted as he joined our group at the counter. Meliodas right behind him. Diane merely stuck her tongue out at him.

Right, I thought to myself. I almost forgot that envy is Diane's supposed sin.

"Looking good you two!" The blonde smiled brightly. "You'll fit in perfect."

"Thanks Boss!" The brunette beamed.

King groaned, pinching the bridge of his nose. "I'm really not looking forward to this."

"I feel like I should be offended by that," Daine pouted slightly at his side. "Why are you so down? We're basically getting a free date night!"

"This isn't a date, Diane. We're working."

She huffed, "Doesn't mean we can't have fun." A slow smile started to spread across her lips as she pressed her body closer to his. "Remember what happened last time?"

The ginger's features lit up like he caught fire. "Y-yes, of course I do! But we-!" He paused lowering his voice from it's sudden shouting, "we will not need to do that again."

Meliodas and Ban began snickering and I looked around the member of the Sins, attempting to figure out just what they were talking about. No luck. But I did notice that the bar was already empty. Strange.

"Tonight will be a little different." The bar owner spoke up, as if he could read my thoughts. "The three of us," Meliodas gestured at himself, Ban and me, "will be working the crowd."

"Working?" I furrowed my brow at him.

He smirked at me. "Yep! As servers!"

He had to be kidding. But his smile didn't waver. I did my best not to shout profanities at the man. How on earth was I supposed to make a believable server at a charity event and, "what if someone recognizes us from last week?"

"You got two choices Princess," Ban spoke up, reaching underneath the bar and setting two small bins on the counter. "Boxed or wig."

"You're kidding, right?" My eyes flicker between his and Meliodas'. Someone touched my hair. I narrowed my eyes at Diane as she played with a strand. "What?" I snapped.

"I'd do a wig, Princess," the Sin of Envy recommended. "The box stuff says it washes out just fine but. Well, let's just say Ban's weird shade comes from using these one too many times." She leaned in closer to whisper. "It use to be white as snow!"

"It's just hair," Ban rolled his eyes grabbing a box. "It grows out and ya just cut the stuff ya don't like."

"Easy for you to say!" Diane shook her head. "It's different for girls! Especially when you have long hair and when it's a unique shade like this!" She held up the strand of my hair for emphasis. I tugged it away and she let go. "Do a wig." The brunette advised once again.

"It's up to you, Ban and I are just gunna color ours." Meliodas interrupted the debate as he grabbed a box and headed to the kitchen with Ban. "We've got about a half hour, so hurry and get changed."

I scowled as the door closed behind them. "If we're working, shouldn't we already be there?"

"Not necessarily," King answered as he walked around behind the bar, clearly looking for something. "With events like these, the staff tend to work in shifts. It's not unusual for some of the workers to show up halfway through an event." He hunched down and I could hear his hand patting against a shelf below the counter. "Besides, it's not like anyone there will pay too terribly much attention to whoever's handing out their booze. As long as they get it, they're content."

His experience almost made it sound like he'd done this kind of thing more than twice.

"Dammit," King cursed as he stood. He patted down his suit and began walking towards the kitchen. "Boss," he called as he pushed the door open. "Where'd you put those damn keys?"

"They're not under the counter?"

"No. I checked there."

There was silence and then, "Ban. Did you take the car out again?"

"Uh, maybe?"

Diane groaned next to me, drawing my attention away from the men in the kitchen. "That idiot." She rolled her eyes. She pulled her teeth between her lip for a second before smiling brightly. "Ah, I know just where to check!" Her heels clicked against the floor as she disappeared into the first room towards the basement.

"I need that car you, moron!" King yelled from the kitchen. "How in the hell can I show up at this event without a mode of transportation?!"

"Take the bus," Ban responded lazily.

"I'm going to kill you."

"Whoa, whoa!" Meliodas interrupted what sounded like the start of a fist fight. "Relax, King, you'll wrinkle your suit. I've got a spare set around here somewhere. We'll find them."

"Got 'em!" Diane's shouted loudly. She held up the keys with a victorious smile spread across her face.

"Diane!" King yelled as he came out of the kitchen with a wide smile. He lifted her up in a hug and spun her around once. "You're a lifesaver!"

A blush spread across her cheeks. "I know," she gave him a shy smile. "Careful when you put me down. These are new shoes."

"Oh, uh, s-sorry," King flushed, setting her gently back on the ground.

"Where'd ya find them?" Meliodas asked as he stepped up to my side.

My breath caught as I took in his appearance. His hair was matted against his head and pitch black. He looked so different. So… wrong. Seeing Meliodas with anything but his bright golden messy hair was going to take some getting use to. When he noticed my eyes on him, he quirked a brow at me.

"Underneath the phone!" The brunette answered, thankfully taking Meliodas' attention away from me. "That's where he's hidden them a couple of times when he's been drinking so I took a guess."

"There better not be any damage to the car, Ban," Meliodas gave his right hand man a wide grin.

Ban shifted anxiously, his hair also was black and matted against his head. "Course there won't be."

For some reason, he didn't sound as sure as he probably meant to.

"Well, we better get going," King said as he took Diane's hand and led them towards the back entrance through the kitchen. "See ya guys there."

"See ya!" Meliodas gave them a half wave.

"Don't forget to wash that stuff out!" Diane called over her shoulder as they disappeared. "Bye!"

Ban snorted, "kinda hard to forget about it."

"Wait," a thought struck me, "what are we going to wear? Aren't there specific uniforms for this kind of thing?"

"Sure is," Meliodas replied with a smile. "Your uniform should already be in your room. Right Ban?"

I shot the taller man a confused look as he nodded. "Is that where you disappeared to earlier?"

"You got it." He pointed a finger gun at me.

My eyes narrowed. "And just how did you procure these uniforms?"

"Found them on the street." He grinned crookedly. "How do you think I found them?"

"I am not wearing stolen merchandise!"

"You ain't got much of a choice if ya wanna work this gig with us," Ban countered smoothly.

I grit my teeth, ready to tell Ban just what I thought about his opinion and methods of… acquiring goods.

"Think of it this way," Meliodas interrupted our possible fist fight, "we aren't getting paid for working so the uniforms are the payment."

"Whatever," I spat as I grabbed a box containing a wig and stomped towards the steps.

When I arrived in my room, a bag was lying on top of my bed. I pulled the zipper down and tentatively touched the simple black vest and white button down. A pair of black pants rested neatly inside as well. I sigh heavily, stripping down and pulling everything on.

I was in for another long night.

 

Chapter Text

My fingers fidgeted uneasily against the seat.

Meliodas drove to the event and Ban rode up front, leaving me alone in the back with my thoughts. The two's idle chatter did little to relieve my nerves.

I shifted the dark wig on my head, hoping it would stay in place for the duration of the event - would someone recognize me? There was a reason Meliodas and I weren't going in ourselves. Would the wig be enough to fool anyone who'd been at the last party? The sin boss seemed more than convinced it would, otherwise we wouldn't be posing as wait staff.

I wasn't so sure.

I focused on the two in the front seat as much as I could in an attempt to distract myself.

I still couldn't believe they thought this was a good idea.

Having half the Sins and a cop infiltrating a charity event thrown by the mayor's wife? It almost seemed like a suicide mission. We were bound to be caught. Between my clumsiness, Ban's drunkenness and King's sheepishness, we were all but screwed. My only hope rested in Diane's ability to hold conversations and, sadly, Meliodas' ability to make sure we all stayed on task.

Hence my nervousness.

Suddenly, I couldn't focus on the chatter from the front seat any longer - I was lost to my own thoughts as I turned to stare at the city passing my window in a blur of lights and undefinable faces as people made their way around the streets.

"Well, from what I gathered, the person Melascula was speaking to in the recordings is the one she was having an affair with."

My conversation with King popped back into my head and I frowned at my own reflection and the unfamiliar short brown locks framing my face.

He seemed so positive that the man the Mayor's wife was speaking to was involved in all of this. Did that mean he had connections to the Commandments? What made him so sure? In my haste to get what info I could on our goal tonight, not once did I think to ask. Surely, there was more to the recordings that would make him think that. Not just anyone would be involved.

Not for the first time did I find myself skeptical of the whole thing. It just seemed so far fetched. A ghost story. But, it was also hard to argue with the evidence I'd seen to back it up - no matter how little evidence there actually was.

I sighed, finding my nerves settled enough that I'd stopped fidgeting. A start. Not enough to convince anyone of anything, but a start.

Just in time too.

"We're here," Meliodas spoke and I pressed close to my window to get a look at the towering hotel we'd begun to circle. It was a real ritzy place. At least a couple hundred a night for a "cheaper" room. Certainly not the kind of place I found myself at very often, if at all.

"Damn rich people…" Ban muttered with a distasteful shake of his head as he too careened to get a look at the building before we drove down into a parking garage. Apparently I wasn't the only one.

Meliodas took each turn of the spiraling turns, taking us further down into the belly of the structure.

"Staff parking is down here, but I'm going to drop you both off and leave the van somewhere inconspicuous." The blonde, who was now sporting jet-black hair said as he came to a stop at a loading dock in the lowest level of the attached hotel parking garage.

"Don't leave it somewhere I can't find it." Ban grumbled as he climbed out of the van first, and I followed suit, pulling open the sliding back door, then shutting it behind me.

I took a breath, eyeing the staff entrance and Ban's retreating form speculatively, mindlessly twirling the ends of the shoulder-length brown hair of my wig. Now wasn't the time for jitters and uncertainty. But I couldn't shake the feeling that we weren't prepared.

"Hey."

I jumped at the voice behind me, turning to see Meliodas resting his arm out of the van's window, "Everything will be fine. Promise." His lip pulled up in a reassuring grin, "Better hurry and catch-up to Ban or he'll leave you behind." He nodded to the man who was waiting impatiently at the entrance door, shooting me a rather irritated scowl.

I had a million questions - why we needed to come pretending as staff? Where was he going? What were we hoping to accomplish? But I could tell this wasn't the time. Instead, I offered Meliodas a half smile in appreciation for the pep talk before running after Ban, following him into the building without another moment's hesitation.

Even this entrance, so far away from what guests would see, had pleasant decor and the smell of cleanliness and hospitality. Like you had to be a certain class just to be able to work here. Training I'm not entirely sure I'd gotten in my time working at the bar.

"Keep your head down and blend in." Ban instructed as we quickly made our way down the service hall. "There's gonna be a ton of people here - as long as you don't do anything to stupid, ya won't run inta' any problems, Got it?"

I nodded without a word, focused on trying to keep up with his long strides.

Right. Head down, blend in. Easy enough.

We walked past others wearing the same uniform as us. All of whom were rushing around, going this way and that - too focused on their own jobs to pay any mind to us as we reached the end of the hall and called the service elevator that would take us to the main floor.

We entered the small cabin, and I felt myself relax as we crossed our first hurdle.

"Hold the door!" Someone shouted, and I cursed to myself as Ban and I were joined by another young waiter who just barely managed to run through the closing doors.

Head down, blend in…

I had distanced myself from Ban in the opposite corner of the elevator, hoping that it wouldn't be too conspicuous. It was better if no one thought we were together, right?

That didn't stop the young man from glancing over his shoulder at me, then at Ban curiously, "Haven't seen you two before." He commented

I swallowed, but Ban chuckled dryly, "Yeah, we're replacements. The company had some last minute call-outs and asked if we could fill in."

The man nodded at his explanation, "It's a big gig. Can't imagine anyone wanting to bail on it."

Ban shrugged, "If I didn't need the dough so bad, I'd be home drinkin'." He chuckled and the other fist-bumped him.

"I know that's right." He agreed, turning his attention to the elevator doors as a bell rang and they slid open to his floor, "Catch ya later," he called, before the doors closed and Ban and I were left alone once more.

A sigh of relief escaped me.

"Ya know~ freezing up ain't blending in."

I had nothing to say to my defense - I'm the first to admit, I've never been the best improvisor. The nerves certainly didn't help.

It didn't take long for us to get to our desired floor. The moment the doors slid open, the elevator was filled with the noise and chaos of the servers and cooks rushing back and forth.

"Blend in." Ban offered with a stern look before making his way out to meld into the crowd.

How someone as tall as he was could disappear from sight so fast was beyond me.

Blend in. Blend in. You can do this.

I slapped my cheeks, then hurried out of the elevator and into the crowd.

Standing in the middle of the hall isn't blending in… I could almost feel Ban shaking his head at me. I had to do something.

I'm a waitress. Be a waitress. I repeated those words like a mantra, looking around for something to do.

Immediately, I eyed a freshly plated array of horderves on a cart along the wall and saw my ticket into the main banquet room. Quickly, I picked up the plate before anyone else could and made my way out of the service area and down a long corridor, following other wait staff on their way to serve food.

The main event room was larger than I had expected. Tables lining the area around what was most likely a dance floor. Currently, it was being used for networking as no one seemed interested in dancing. A band had made their home on the stage across the room, and they swayed together with the light tones of soft jazz filling in as white noise.

There were quite a few faces I recognized as I made my way slowly through the crowd. Faces I'd seen on TV and editorials in gossip magazines. Some of the bigwigs, one-percenters, and celebrities of the country making an appearance like this was some sort of Hollywood debut.

This was not the kind of people I was used to being around.

Keep your head down.

I lowered my head, slightly, allowing for the foreign brown hair to hide my eyes as the scanned the crowd, offering horderves to people softly as I passed them.

I couldn't help but seek out Diane and King in the crowd. A flash of red and then grey and I found the two of them mingling easily with a couple much older than them. I blinked in surprise at the confident aura the two of them gave off, like they did this every weekend. Not even phased by the fact that they were probably talking to a couple who made more in a month than they would in a lifetime.

I'm actually relieved to see them integrating so well. Guess I was worried for nothing, I thought as I attempted to return to my own task for the night. Not that I really knew what that was. All I had been instructed to do was keep my head down and blend in. And so far, I was the only one not really blending in.

A second later, just before I could wander away, a loud shout of, "Dorothy!" pierced the air around the couple behind me.

Spinning around, I was just in time to see a tall slender blonde woman wrap her arms around Diane.

"It's been too long, darling! And Henry," she smiled at him, offering her hand. King took it and gently kissed her knuckles before wrapping his arm around Diane's waist. "You're looking just as dashing as ever. Gray and navy really are your colors, they just make your eyes pop. And Dorothy you are just stunning!"

"You're too kind, as always, Mrs. Harris," King replied politely.

"Oh please, Henry, I've told you, call me Victoria." The woman fluttered her eyes at him.

"Where is Timothy?" Diane pushed herself a little closer to King, resting a hand on his chest.

The woman's smile dipped slightly, "he should be around here somewhere." Victoria glanced around the room and then waved at someone. A tall good looking man with dark hair and dark eyes approached them. "Look who I found, Tim, dear."

"Mr. and Mrs. Jones, what a pleasure." He shook King's hand and then kissed Diane's. "We've missed you these past few months. What were you up to?"

I felt myself stiffen, thinking of something to direct the attention away from them - maybe dropping the serving platter would distract everyone. Not needed, it seemed, as King came up with an immediate response.

"Sold off some of the smaller companies I had under my belt for a lot more than I'd originally thought they'd sell for. The Mrs. thought we should take some time to travel." He answered loftily without missing a beat as he gazed at Diane affectionately.

"Oh it was amazing!" Diane gushed with a large smile. "Henry spoils me," she giggled, placing a soft kiss against his cheek. To my surprise, King didn't so much as blink. Anytime Diane initiated physical contact of any kind back at the Boar Hat, he always seemed so flustered.

It's like he's a different person.

I'd misjudged King's abilities here… Who else was I misjudging?

"Better get back to work," someone whispered, nudging me gently in passing, making me jump slightly.

My eyes flickered in the voice's direction, barely catching a glimpse of green eyes boring into me before they disappeared in the crowd. The darker hair threw me for a moment but there was no mistaking those eyes. Meliodas, of course.

Where the hell had he come from?

I shook my head, attempting to get my thoughts back on track. King and Diane obviously didn't need my help.

"Well I don't blame him for wanting to indulge a beauty such as yourself," I heard the man, Tim, speak.

I forced myself to leave, firmly ignoring the need to listen further. I had to trust that King and Diane could handle this. My 'skills' were needed elsewhere.

What seemed like hours passed as I waited on people who would barely look me in the eye. A fact that both relieved and pissed me off at the same time.

I was invisible to these people. Which meant that I'd been privy to a few conversations probably never meant for my ears. Gossip mostly - rumors of who was sleeping with who and who was stabbing who in the back these days. A few comments of the ever changing industry. Nothing to write home about, though. Which, I assumed, was my point here. To blend in and collect any nuggets of information that I could.

"I've heard there's a new facilitator on the circuit."

My ears burned as I caught the low whispers, and I did my best to not look suspicious as I suddenly came to a stop.

Facilitator? Circuit?

Those were terms I knew. I'd been trained in the many slang languages of gangs - these terms were prominent in human trafficking. A facilitator was a support structure - industries, companies, or individuals that helped to enable, support, or facilitate human trafficking. A circuit referred to a series of cities among which prostituted people are moved.

Now this was a conversation I needed to listen into.

I was about to back track my steps when the tray balancing precariously in my hand nearly fell to the ground as someone suddenly grabbed my arm and yanked me along, "C'mon," they urged under their breath before I had a chance to shout, and immediately I knew it was Ban.

I looked back to the crowd I was being led away from anxiously, but I allowed him to lead me out of the room without fuss to keep from drawing any undue attention. I didn't even give myself a chance to look around for the others. I just kept my head down, eyes on Ban's long strides.

Once we were out of the main party room, though, I dared to look up.

"Where are we going?" I whispered, trying to stay quiet, itching to tell him - or anyone for that matter, about the conversation I'd begun to overhear. The large hall of the hotel echoed with our quick footsteps - there was no telling how far it would carry our voices.

"Just shut up and follow me." He snapped back under his breath. It was obvious he was in a rush. Just where the hell were we going?

My answer came when he darted into the next room we came upon. It was another large, empty banquet room. Empty stacked chairs and tables lined up against a red velvet retractable partition wall that separated this room from another.

"Wh-" I didn't even get a full word out before Ban turned with a finger over his mouth and a glare that demanded my silence. I watched as he quickly made his way to the partition, moving like a ghost as he did.

"What is this? You said I had an urgent phone call."

A woman's voice had me quietly rushing to the partition next to Ban, careful not to touch it, in fear that any sway of the wall would alert the woman and whoever she was addressing to our presence.

"Yeah, well, convenient lie to get you away from your security detail."

Meliodas?

There was no mistake. I would recognize that cocky tone anywhere. But for some reason it seemed… colder… than usual. Like he was going out of his way to add bite to his words.

There was a short silence on the other side and Ban and I held our breaths as we waited.

"Oh? And what was so important that you needed to do that?" The woman sounded terse - annoyed. Certainly not like anyone who'd been lured into a private room with a stranger.

I didn't need to see who was in the room with the sin boss - I already knew. This was why we were here. But I hadn't expected Meliodas to corner the Mayor's wife like this. I thought that's why King and Diane had come. What the hell was going on? What had I missed while wandering through the crowd?

"Commandments."

I was surprised when that one word echoed in the room adjacent to ours in his voice. That's all he said. A single word that gave away everything we'd uncovered thus far. Wasn't this giving the woman too much? My gaze shifted to Ban and I watched a series of expressions cross his face - none of which I could read.

"I haven't the slightest idea what you're talking about." The mayor's wife, Melascula, responded after a moment, unconvincingly. Even without seeing her face, I could tell she was lying. The question was, how much did she actually know?

"You can cut the act, Madam Mayor. I'm on a rather tight schedule," Meliodas' coldness sent icy chills down my spine as he paused threateningly. Like King before, Meliodas seemed like a completely different person. Or is this the real Meliodas… some inner voice asked.

"So, then, if you could give me the answers I'm looking for, we can both be on our way."

Another long pause. What exactly was he doing in there that could keep a woman like Melascula - who seemed so confident before - in the same room, despite her personal security being just a shout away? Did Meliodas bring a weapon with him?

Melascula remained quiet for some time, and Meliodas spoke up in her stead. "Of course, you could make this difficult and I could go public with your secrets. You know… the money laundering? And of course, the affair..."

This time, the Mayor's wife erupted angrily, "This is ridiculous! I will not stand by while you threaten me with baseless accusations-!"

But her shout suddenly cut off with the sound of shuffling paper. "Not so baseless, actually." I could practically hear the cocky, menacing grin pulling at the corner of his lips, "I have the proof right here. So, what will it be?"

Proof? He has proof?! As in PHYSICAL PROOF? My eyes darted to Ban once more, but his stoic stare gave nothing away.

Just what were the sins still hiding from me?! I thought that King hadn't had much luck finding anything solid to pin on her. Just the calls.

ANOTHER long pause - this was getting unbearable.

Then suddenly… the atmosphere changed completely. Even on the other side of the partition, we could feel it, as Melascula's tone changed for pleading, "You don't understand… I - I'm being blackmailed!"

"I don't really care how you got involved. I just want to know the information you have. Why are the Commandments using you?" There's obvious disdain in his voice, despite her pleas. Why was he being so cold?

"I… I can't…" She sounded so torn.

"Can't, or won't?"

"I told you! I'm being blackmailed! If I… If I tell you, they'll-"

"They'll what?" The blonde challenged arrogantly, and the temperature plummeted further, "Because I'm pretty sure it's not nearly as bad as the hell I'll put you through for lying to me."

My gut twisted as I listened on - quietly staying my hand.

I hated this. So much. It went against everything I had vowed when becoming an officer.

But my brain told me to stay put. This was a common interrogation tactic. I should have been used to it. But something felt so wrong about this...

"You got yourself into this mess, Madame Mayor. That's not really my problem. But, you can do the one decent thing you've done since your husband ran for office."

The tension rose again as the two quieted. Their breaths were the only indication they were still there on the other side.

"What are they using you for?" Meliodas asked again, no nonsense. No more chances.

Infuriating silence.

Then… "Funding." Her voice was small - meek even. Almost too low to hear on this side of the wall. "I've… I've been syphoning off money from my husband's campaign and some of my more profitable charities and wiring it to an offshore account." She half mumbled.

"Why?"

Melascula took a deep breath, "T-they… made a major scandal go away… and helped fund my husband's campaign for office. I don't-"

Ban's suddenly knocking on the wall, making Melascula's words cut off. I stared at him, wide eyed and mortified. What the hell are you doing? I wanted to scream at him.

The next thing I knew he was dragging me out of the room, without hearing the consequences of his interruption. Once we are out I hissed, "Ban, what-"

"Not yet," he gruffed at me, dragging me through the hall.

We didn't go back to the party. Instead, Ban lead me through multiple paths and bursting through a exit door that led to a series of stairs. I nearly tumbled down them as Ban dragged me along three or four more floors, then out into a new corridor and a door that had us outside in the garage on a floor we hadn't come in on. Not once had he let go of the vice grip he had on my arm. Almost as if he thought I'd run back as soon as he let go.

A couple of vehicles made their residence on this level of the garage, but most notably was the van parked so that it was hidden behind a series of beams.

A minute later, after nearly sprinting across the garage, he shoved me in the front seat of the van. Wordlessly, he entered the driver's seat and tore out of the parking spot, spinning us around with a squeal of the tires, and zooming up a series of slopes back up towards the entrance.

"Wait, what about-"

Ban silenced me with a sharp glare. "Not yet." He insisted once again.

I gritted my teeth to keep from retorting. My eyes stared out the window, my fingers fiddling with the leather underneath me to keep myself occupied.

We're at the back of the building, two floors away from the main entrance when a flash of black caught my eye a second before the back door was thrown open. The figure threw themselves in the van. Meliodas.

"Go." He commanded harshly.

Ban stepped on the gas, peeling out of the parking garage before Meliodas could even close the van's back door. Through which I had caught a glimpse of a couple of figures running out of the building in dark suites, supposedly chasing after Meliodas, before the door finally closed.

I twisted in my seat so I could see both of them. "Will one of you please tell-"

"Not yet." They both responded.

It took all I had in me not to retaliate physically. But I bit my tongue, crossed my arms and sat silently in the front seat, waiting for us to get back to the Boar Hat.


I yanked my wig off the moment I walked through the Bar's door, ignoring the pain of bobby-pins ripping hair from my head.

The other two were not far behind me and I whirled on them, "Can I speak now?!" I growled angrily, receiving confused glances from both of them - like my outburst was completely unexpected.

"Yeah, of course." Meliodas shrugged and I almost lost it in the face of his shift to nonchalance.

"What the actual fuck was that?" I growled, pointing to the door like it was where we'd crossed the line into general chaos and nonsense. I had so many questions and they came out crammed into a single angry sentence.

"That, Princess, is how we get shit done." Ban answered for his boss - who was the object of my rage-filled glare. A glare he seemed unsure of yet completely unphased by.

I turned my rage towards Ban, "THAT was blackmail. If your goal was to make your only REAL lead shut her mouth and make yourselves an even bigger target of the police, congrats - that's exactly what you've done."

"I thought you wanted information. That's what we got."

"No, what you've done is confirmed there is money being laundered by the Mayor's wife. And even if we DID have evidence of that - which we don't - with the lawyers her husband has, she'd never see a day of jail time."

I expected someone to argue. I expected yelling. What I got was Meliodas' 'all-knowing' grin, "Oh ye of little faith." He patted my shoulder as he passed me and went behind the bar to pour a couple mugs of beer, "It's adorable that you think we honestly didn't consider any of that."

Ban took one of the offered beers, taking a seat at the bar as if this were any other conversation - both of them as easy going as ever, leaving me to stand on my own, staring wide eyed in this revelation.

"We've been watching the Mayor and his wife for some time now, remember?" His brow raised, as if to remind me of our time in the mayor's home, and our kiss. A memory I refused to let him distract me with.

"The one thing we do know about Melascula - she doesn't shut down. She's too confident in the protection her husband can provide her. More likely, she's going to tell the commandments that someone is on to them. That someone out there has evidence of the things they're doing."

There was a twinkle of something in his emerald eyes as he looked from me, down to his own mug - a spark of something that reminded me of subdued bloodlust, "And when they start making noise… We'll know." His tone was so… sure. Like he was reading the future moves of a chess game he was in complete control of.

I watched the confident man behind the counter finally turn his gaze up to me, pushing one of the other mugs towards an empty seat - an invitation for me to sit.

A familiar sense of dread washed over me as I realized how much of a stranger he still was to me. There was so much about him and the lengths he and his group would go to that I still didn't know. About how much of all of this he'd anticipated and played close to the vest - and how much of the real Meliodas I actually knew.

I'd come to know a man who was kind and charming when he wasn't being an ass. A man who genuinely cared about the people around him - with something of a hero complex.

But, now for the second time, I'd seen a much darker, much more calculating side of him. Someone who knew how to play hardball with people I could only dream of taking on. Someone who knew how to poke and prod at all the right buttons to get others to do what he wanted.

Which is the real you, Meliodas?

The knight or the mastermind?