She’d found the book of Daemonology at her local library. It was old and dusty, the pages yellowed and torn, the writing faded so much that she had to hold the book all the way up to her face to read it, and she couldn’t see it at all without her glasses.
She’d read each old page reverently, tracing her fingers over the sigils used to summon various demons. Most of them sounded nasty and were noted as untrustworthy, even when trapped inside summoning circles. They had animals growing out of their horrible heads, were known to eat people, or bring a pestilence of flies with them wherever they went.
And then…there was one daemon who caught her eye.
He had inky black wings, like a bird, wore a simple toga, wasn’t pictured with weapons or a terrifying visage like the rest of them. He had a snake wrapped around his shoulders, staring out of the book with golden yellow eyes, but his eyes were closed, turned away from the reader. His sigil was more complicated than the others, and it required so many little, intricate details that it almost seemed impossible to get right.
She wanted to get it right.
Hours were spent in class at school doodling the sigil in the corners of her notes. She’d compare it to the picture in her book, trying to learn each and every ancient symbol that went into it. The heart of the sigil looked like a serpent coiled around itself with an infinity symbol resting in the serpent’s lower coils. Surrounding it in waves that looked like a viper sliding through sand were the words and letters that were meant to help bind the daemon to its summoning circle. Every night, she ran her fingers across it before she went to sleep, whispering the words of binding to herself before she turned out the light.
She felt violated.
Cold and hurting and sore, she lay curled up in her bed trying very hard not to cry as the door to her bedroom closed behind Him. He wasn’t always like this, she told herself. Only when He drank and smelled like whiskey. Only when He told her to sit on His lap. Only when He told her that she looked slutty in a tank top.
She’d been wearing baggy clothes around Him, but it didn’t seem like that was going to stop Him anymore. He blamed her as He slammed into her. It was her fault for being pretty. It was her fault…
She sat up in bed and opened her bedside drawer. The Daemonology book was there. It had been on sale for 99 cents at her library’s book sale, and she’d happily handed over a dollar, even though she was going to be a little short for ice cream on the way home. She felt drawn to it. Well, drawn specifically to the one daemon who looked kind, who had a snake draped around his shoulders, who looked like an angel except for his black wings, whose sigil she’d memorized by heart.
She took the sidewalk chalk out of her drawer. It was pink and blue instead of black and red, but she hoped it would do. She turned on her phone’s flashlight and set it on top of the trunk at the foot of her bed. Kneeling on the hardwood floor, she pushed aside the rug and carefully drew the sigil, checking every stroke against the book just in case she’d made a mistake.
She didn’t have real candles. She wasn’t allowed to start fires in her room. But she’d bought tons of battery operated candles to try and make her vanity desk look a little bit more like the rooms of her favorite beauty vloggers, so she lay them out at the important points in the circle, turning on each one as she went.
She could see the moon through her window. It all seemed rather silly, to draw out this old sigil and pretend like it was going to work. She felt like a child again, reading a book on wizardry and pretending that she was a witch, like in the legends she used to read, about King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. She used to pretend she was Merlin, casting spells, hoping that He’d go away.
But He never did. And no matter what she did, He never stopped hurting her.
So she sat cross legged on the floor, with the Daemonology book open in front of her, and read aloud the passage under his name:
“From farthest reach
Of Heaven’s space,
Cast down to fire,
But not to hate.
Wings of ink and eyes of gold,
Let he who is bound
To one in white
Step into this summoning circle
She closed the book and sat shivering on the floor. She still hurt from when He’d touched her, and she quickly closed her legs in fear. But in fear of what? The room was still, the night was warm, and she hadn’t done anything.
Daemons weren’t real.
Just as she was about to pull her rug back in place and go back to bed, however, the sigil suddenly lit up. Each letter began to glow gold, as bright as the sharp light the eye doctor would shine into her eyes. In awe, she backed away, breath caught in her throat, as the heart of the sigil was traced in gold light and smoke that smelled almost like car exhaust floated upwards from the edge of the sigil. Two large black wings with a distinctive gap in the feathers towards the base extended from the smoke and filled the room. A flash of golden eyes and the hiss of a snake seemed deafening, and she cowered in fear, covering her ears, her heart beating fast. It’s not real, she kept repeating to herself, trying to take deep breaths like her therapist told her to. It’s not real, it’s not real, it’s not real…!
“What do you want?” A sharp voice snarled, emerging from the smoke like a cockroach from a dark corner. “My sigil isn’t even supposed to work anymore, and…! Oh.”
The atmosphere in her room seemed to change. She was hyperventilating now, barely able to breathe, her damn inhaler was all the way over there, and she was…she was still hearing things, seeing things, she must be. Is this what happened before you died? She never got to tell her little sister goodbye.
There was a snap, and her inhaler was suddenly in her hand. She clasped it firmly, holding it to her mouth, and pressed down, taking a deep breath as the medicine filled her lungs. She waited, counting her breaths until her panicked breathing calmed down, and then looked up.
She was not expecting what she saw.
He didn’t look like a daemon. Didn’t even look like his picture. He had short cropped hair, stylish sunglasses resting over his eyes, and an expensive-looking suit jacket paired with black skinny jeans and a tee shirt. His large black wings fluttered gently, his arms crossed over his chest, his thin mouth twisted. But she couldn’t see his eyes…she had no idea what he was feeling.
“You all right?”
She jumped. It was the same voice that she’d heard, but not as…mean-sounding as before. He sounded…apologetic. If daemons were capable of that. The daemon’s hands slid down to his pockets and he slumped slightly, looking like a kid she knew from school who pretended to smoke prop cigarettes from his dad’s novelty shop to look cool. She knew, somehow, that he was looking at her, even though she couldn’t tell where he was looking because of the sunglasses.
She nodded. “Are…are you…real…?”
The daemon crouched down, reaching out a hand towards her. It looked like an ordinary hand. His wrist was veiny, his fingers long and bony and spindly. They reminded her of her piano teacher’s fingers. She reached out to touch him, but then hesitated.
“You can do a lot more harm to me than I can do to you,” the daemon said gently, fingers flexing in front of her. “Go on. Don’t be scared.”
She swallowed and placed her hand on top of his. It was cold, as if he’d been out on a winter’s day without gloves on for hours on end, but otherwise, it felt like a human hand. She could feel his fingers against her wrist, and she pulled away, still half in disbelief.
She looked down to where his arm was still stretched out and realized something which made panic rise up again in the back of her throat.
He was reaching over the sigil.
The sigil that was supposed to bind him, that he wasn’t allowed to cross, that he’d be burned for even trying to burst out of…it wasn’t holding him back. She gasped, looking at him, terror written all over her face.
“Don’t—don’t panic again,” The daemon placated, pulling back into his own space. “I swear, I’m not going to hurt you. You just startled me…”
If she weren’t currently so worried, she’d have found his statement ironic. ‘I summoned a daemon I didn’t even know was real, realized he’s not bound by sigils, and he’s the one startled?!’ She stared at him, gaping like a fish. “How…what…?”
“You’ve drawn everything right,” the daemon began conversationally, his fingers tracing the sigils, which were now only glowing a subdued amount, like a glow-in-the-dark toy that needs recharging in the sunlight. “I’m impressed. I made myself hard to reach on purpose after the 14th century. You can’t imagine how many pleasant nights were interrupted by rich nobles who wanted demonic reassurance their daughters would marry well. What’s with you humans and bloodlines, anyway?” He chuckled, shifting to sit cross-legged. His wings half-folded, resting near his sides.
“Why aren’t you bound?” She demanded, her eyes turning hard on him.
The daemon raised an eyebrow. “Getting brave, are we?” He showed her a hint of a forked tongue as he talked, a hiss creeping into his speech that made her regret her ability to speak. “Thesse aren’t binding runess. I don’t want to be ordered around like a prisssoner. I’ll go where I pleassse.” He sucked his tongue back into his mouth, leaning his chin on his arm. “By the way…where did you find my sssigil?”
She held up the book, her hands shaking. “I, uh…I didn’t think it would work…”
“Can I see?” The daemon held out his hand lazily. She felt compelled to hand over the book, so she did. The daemon flipped through towards the much-loved, dog-eared page with his information on it. He chuckled. “The picture’s outdated.” He went to press his hand over the book, and she jumped, leaping forward into the sigil.
“Don’t!” She gasped, her hand gripping tightly around his wrist. “Don’t burn my book! Please!” Embarrassed, she wiped tears from her eyes. Her mother always scolded her for crying; she was too damn old to cry. Nonetheless, her voice trembled. “Please. I…I like it. I bought it. It’s mine. Please don’t destroy it.”
This close to the daemon, she could smell him. And he didn’t smell like what she’d expected, like fire and brimstone and vomit. He smelled like sharp, crisp notes of cologne, like leather, like soil. As she looked up, she could see through his sunglasses. His eyes were gold, with slit pupils.
The snake that was around his shoulder in the picture…had he been the snake?!
The daemon flexed his wrist in her hand, and she realized that, though he was probably supernaturally strong and could hurt her gravely if he wanted to, he…wasn’t doing that. He was watching her like she was watching him, patient but…not like a predator waiting to strike. She let go of his hand.
“I was only going to update my picture,” he explained, his voice calm. It sounded like bubbling water over rocks in a tiny mountain stream. “Do you not want that?”
She wrung her hands together, realizing her knees were touching his. Realizing that her pajama shirt was still open from when He’d come into her room and touched her. She clutched her shirt closed, realizing the daemon could hurt her like He’d hurt her. And that terrified her. “N-no,” she began, her voice sounding very small to her ears. “I like the picture of you in the book.”
The daemon tilted his head as she sat back, away from him. “Can I put it somewhere else? It’s just that it’s been over six-thousand years since I’ve looked like this, or gone by this name.”
Her words felt caught in her throat. Daemons didn’t normally want to give out their names…did they? Wouldn’t that make her more powerful? Powerful enough to make him do what she wanted?
But he already said…he wasn’t bound to her. She looked at the sigil, which had been smudged now. She knew that meant he could leave, and she’d be cursed, because she hadn’t sent him back properly.
“I wish you weren’t afraid of me,” the daemon said softly. She looked up at him, confused. “I can practically taste the fear around you. You’re scared I’m going to hurt you.” He sighed, the book still and open on his lap. “Look. I know it’s hard to take a demon at his word, but I’m really not interested in causing more than a little mischief.” He extended his hand with only his pinky extended, the rest of his fingers encased in a gentle fist. “I promise.”
She locked her pinky against his, and felt a surge of electricity run through her. She gasped, feeling her hair stand on end as if someone had just rubbed a balloon all over her scalp. “Wh—what did you—?”
“It’s a sort of loose contract.” The daemon smiled in a way that she would consider genuinely kind. “I’m not allowed to curse you or hurt you or do anything you don’t want me to.”
She pulled her hand back, smiling despite herself. “Oh. Okay. So…what now?”
“You destroyed the sigil,” The daemon grinned mischievously. “Bad thing, that. I can leave now.” He snapped his fingers and a new picture slid into place above the old picture in her book. He handed it back to her. It was like a flap. She could lift up the new picture and see the old picture. His new picture matched the style of the book. The daemon was wearing sunglasses, his wings folded away, leaning against an old, sleek car, holding a plant in one hand and a snake cane in the other. He seemed to be looking out at her. The page was also freshly restored, with some added information. “In case you want to be a bit more welcoming.” The daemon chuckled. “I like oysters and wine, though I’m guessing you’re not old enough to buy alcohol.”
She giggled despite herself. “No.”
“Well, it’s just offerings, anyway. It’s a bit naughty, leaving offerings for a demon.” He smirked, but somehow it was playful, not malicious.
She looked at the name, written in fancy script. “Crowley?” She glanced up at him. “Your name is Crowley?”
“Not much different from Crawly. It’s like changing your name from Catherine to Katherine, only spelling it with a “k” this time around.”
The daemon was quiet for a moment, then he laughed, actually falling backwards using one hand to steady him while the other rested on his stomach. “I never thought of it like that. You’re clever. I like you. What’s your name?”
She knew better than to give her name to a daemon. Even if he seemed like a very nice daemon. “Belle,” she said, which was half-true. Her name was Belinda, named after Belinda Carlisle. But pretty much everyone called her “Belle.”
She decided that maybe she wouldn’t mind if the daemon called her “Belle” either.
“Belle,” the daemon said. “Nice to meet you, Belle!” He stood up, brushing the chalk off his jeans. “I’m going to leave now.” He looked down at her, spreading his wings again. “I can do something for you, before I leave, if you like.”
She tilted her head at him, then yawned despite herself. “Wassat?” She asked.
“These symbols in the sigil,” he indicated one with the tip of his boot, “I can make them binding sigils. If it would make you feel safer around me. Then, I’d be trapped in the sigil, only free on your say so. But I could still leave when I wanted. I just couldn’t walk around your room.”
“You’d…do that…? For me?” Her heart began to beat faster as her heart filled with joy. No one had ever done something nice for her like that before. “Really?”
The daemon nodded. “I want you to trust me.”
“I do,” she said, despite the warning bells of logic sounding in her head. “I don’t think you’re going to hurt me or scare me.” And she believed that, despite everything she’d learned about daemons in her book.
The daemon nodded, smiling. “Very well. I’ll be off.” He raised his hand. “Goodnight, Belle.” With a snap of his fingers, he was gone. The electric candles were all turned off, the chalk sigil was replaced with a dark paint that nearly matched the floor, and the carpet was covering most of it.
She climbed into bed, putting her book away, and closed the drawer.
Belle had to admit she didn’t know anything about wine.
She knew it went with cheese and sometimes fancy crackers, but that was about it. She knew adults drank it over boring conversations at Christmas. She knew He’d never hurt her after wine. So it wasn’t that kind of drink.
Tiptoeing quietly so she wouldn’t wake her sister, Belle went downstairs to the kitchen. Her mum had left a bottle of wine out from her birthday do at work, and she’d drank most of the bottle, so she probably wouldn’t miss the bit that was left. Belle got a cup from the cabinet and poured the wine into it. It smelled pungent, like cologne. Why did adults drink this?
She found some Ritz crackers in the pantry and some cheese cubes in the fridge. These were supposed to be for Babs, her sister, but she figured she wouldn’t miss them. She was only three, after all. After she’d arranged everything nicely on a plate, Belle snuck back upstairs to her room, getting out the candles and pulling aside the rug, setting them up with the help of her phone’s bright light. She set out the glass of wine and the cheese and crackers and opened up the Daemonology book to Crowley’s page, taking a deep breath as she spoke the incantation, her eyes closed.
“…Step into this summoning circle
Belle kicked herself, thinking she’d probably dreamed the first encounter with the daemon. I mean, there’s no way…
There he was.
He appeared in a cloud of exhaust fumes (she knew why now; he liked cars. That was part of the new information he’d added) dressed differently than he was in the picture. He had on a set of silk pajamas, inky black in color, trimmed with white stitching. His hair looked mussed and not styled like it had been before, and his feet were covered in rabbit fur slippers.
Crowley yawned, hiding his jaw behind his palm, and blinked. He had sunglasses on still, though Belle knew that he had snake eyes, not human eyes. Though, she felt ashamed, that she’d caught him sleeping. (Did daemons sleep? Apparently. Here was a sleepy daemon, sitting cross-legged before her in the center of his sigil.)
“Sorry I woke you up,” Belle apologized, using her fingertips to push the offerings towards him. “I, uh…I brought you something. It’s wine and cheese! And crackers,” she added.
Crowley chuckled, a bemused smile stretching across his face as he lifted the half-full dinner glass of wine up to his nose, sniffing it. It was cheap wine, but he wasn’t one to let an offering go to waste, especially one that was done so kindly. He took a sip. Not bad for cheap wine. He popped a cube of cheese into his mouth. It was just basic cheddar cheese, and the cracker was just a Ritz cracker. But it wasn’t unappreciated. “Did you just summon me here to feed me, or was there something you wanted?” He popped another cheese cube into his mouth.
Belle blushed, twirling a finger through her hair. “Can you fix the rest of my book? It’s old and falling apart, and I don’t want it to get thrown away if my mum finds it.”
Crowley nodded, holding out his hand. “Give it here.”
Belle did so. She watched him turn each page, running his hand over the words, restoring them. He then handed it back over, tipping the last of the wine past his lips. The glass magically refilled itself, and he took another sip.
Belle flipped through the page of the book, coming across some daemons she’d read about before. “Oh! You updated Beezlebub and Hastur’s pictures!” She turned the page, but found only a picture for Ligur, and an empty page. “What…?” She looked up at Crowley. “Where’s the information on Ligur?”
“He’s dead.” Crowley replied. “Gone. No more. Kaput. No need to know anything about him.”
“How did he die?”
“Holy Water. It’s the only thing that can kill us.” Crowley inspected a cheese cube between two fingers, then placed it on his tongue, pulling it into his mouth casually.
Belle looked down at the book. Ligur was one of the frightful daemons, but she missed seeing the information by his name. “Can you put it back, please? And can you put his sigil back in?” She held the book out towards him.
Crowley took it with a snarl and drummed his fingers over the page. There was a note in script at the bottom: “Dead. DO NOT CONTACT! That means you, mortal girl.” Belle giggled, running her hands over the loopy script she’d come to recognize as Crowley’s. She flipped back to Beelzebub’s page. Zeir sigil was one of the coolest she’s ever seen. It looked like a fly’s eye, so intricate, like a thousand little diamonds…
“Hey!” Belle glared accusingly at Crowley as he chewed on a cracker. “You took away Beelzebub’s sigil!
Crowley hummed an affirmative. “Hastur’s, too.” He scooped up the last of the cheese in his palm and crammed it into his mouth like a toddler.
“Why?” Belle demanded, hands on her hips.
Crowley stretched his arms out above his head with a grunt. “Because I don’t want you summoning them. They could cause real trouble if they’re allowed to come here. Hastur can already come to Earth, but he hates it, so he doesn’t come often.” Crowley leveled his golden eyes at her over the top of his shades, his thin lips pursed. “And let’s just say you don’t want the Prince of Hell in your bedroom.”
“Can’t you just put binding sigils on it, like you wanted to put on yours?”
Crowley shook his head. “Demons can’t bind other demons. I know the binding sigils for lower level demons because I had someone teach me, but they only work on me. And even then, not very well.”
Belle’s eyes were wide. “Whoa. Did you do that so your summoners wouldn’t be scared?”
Crowley rolled his eyes, pushing his sunglasses up his nose. “My sigil’s not supposed to work,” he clarified. “I offered that to you knowing I’d never be bound here. The binding rune would only keep me from stepping into the room or spreading my wings. It wouldn’t lock me in. I could still leave.” He tapped the spot on the page where the sigil used to be, replaced with what looked like a diagram of the M25 she’d seen in an encyclopedia once. “Beelzebub’s sigil is marked with binding runes that don’t suit zeir rank. If you summoned zem, zey would be free to do whatever zey wished. Including hurt you.”
Understanding dawned on Belle. “You did it to protect me.”
“Shut up.” Crowley drained the wine and set the glass down. Only a few crackers were left; his offering had been (mostly) accepted, though. “Can I go? It’s late and I’m tired.” He nodded towards Belle’s bed. “Get some rest. Isn’t it a school night?”
Belle shook her head. “’M off for summer term.” But she yawned herself, making the daemon sitting before her smile.
“I’ll clear up when I go.” Crowley stood, spreading out his wings. “Goodnight, Belle.”
Belle smiled, climbing into her bed. “Goodnight, Crowley.”
Everything was, indeed, cleaned up in the morning. Turns out her mother never missed the wine; it was like it hadn’t even been gone in the first place.
She’d bled all over her sheets.
He’d made her bleed, holding her down so hard, she almost couldn’t breathe. He threatened her that if she told her mother, He’d start doing it to Babs, too. She wouldn’t let Him do it to Babs, too, would she? She’d be His good little pet and keep quiet, wouldn’t she?
These were her favorite sheets, pastel colored covered in bats and eyeballs and pentagrams and silly little goat heads. She’d been eyeing them for ages from her favorite online store, and her mother had given them to her as a surprise. And now there was blood on them, from where He’d been…
The bed even smelled like Him. She couldn’t pull the covers up to her nose and hide like she usually did, because He’d gotten under the covers with her and just started…!
She threw herself out of bed, frantically searching for her candles. Her vision swam in front of her, tears streaming down her face. She felt so alone. No one would ever know what was going on. She had to tell someone. Someone who would listen to her, no matter what, because he was supposed to do that. Wasn’t he? Wasn’t that the point?
She was shaking with suppressed sobs as she placed the candles in position. She was missing a few, but she hoped it would still work, anyway. Maybe it meant it would be a flimsy connection. She didn’t know. But this was something she could control. She needed that right now.
She tried to speak his incantation as clearly as she could, but her voice waivered, sobs escaping her lips. She put the book aside, wiping her face on her sleeve. He’d ripped the buttons off her shirt, so she could only hold it clumsily closed.
The room smelled of car exhaust, and the whisper of wings suddenly taking up space cut through the atmosphere. She didn’t look up, still shaking, trying not to cry.
“Are you okay?” His cool hand reached out to gently brush against her shoulder. “Belle? Is everything—”
Belle crossed the sigil, wrapping her arms around Crowley’s neck, burying her face in his jacket. She started to cry in earnest, her sobs broken, muffled by his clothes. His body had a slight chill to it, but it warmed as he wrapped his arms around her, running a hand down her spine.
“Shh, it’s okay.” His wings curved downward, mantling around her protectively. She could hear the feathers rasping together even over her sobs. He adjusted his legs, letting his knees fall on either side of her, gently brushing against her, protecting her. “It’s all right. I’m here now.” His voice was warm like hot chocolate, and it washed over her like bath water. Safe. She felt safe with him. Strange, she supposed, but it was true. He’d never once tried to hurt her, had only ever been kind to her.
He let her cry, soothing her, shushing her, the aura around him calm, smelling like cinnamon and fancy cologne and some kind of flower—maybe magnolia?
Finally, she calmed down enough to stop crying, though soft sobs still rippled through her body and tears still fell from her eyes. She sat back, still not far from his protective embrace. His eyes were obscured by his glasses, but the rest of his face was all worried lines. He looked a bit distressed as well; clothes rumpled, the scarf usually around his neck absent, hair ruffled and hanging in his eyes. He smelled like wine, and he looked tired. But he was here.
“I’m sorry.” She looked down at her lap, realizing her shirt was open, her breasts spilling out of the shirt she was wearing. She clutched at the front of it again, shy. “I…I…” She jumped when Crowley’s hand clasped over hers, the other barely touching the front of her nightshirt. Her heart was in her throat, remembering when He had been rough with her, when…!
“Deep breaths, Belle,” Crowley soothed, taking his other hand away, but keeping the one on top of hers, his thumb tracing patterns on her palm. “Do you need your inhaler?”
Belle shook her head, looking up at Crowley with wide eyes. He’d never touched her, never tried to take advantage of her, and she was scared of him, more because he was a man (or, at least, man-shaped,) and could overpower her easily.
“I can fix your shirt,” Crowley said calmly. “I can do it without touching you; I just thought…” He tilted his head, looking a bit like a curious puppy. “Do you want me to do that? Without touching you?”
Belle nodded. Crowley smiled kindly, pulling away his other hand, and snapped his fingers. In an instant, her shirt buttons were repaired and fully done up. Belle dropped her hand into her lap, scolding herself for even thinking that Crowley would ever be the beast He was.
“It’s okay to be scared,” Crowley said softly, reaching up to remove his glasses. Belle looked deeply into the serpentine golden eyes that seemed so soft, somehow. “For what it’s worth, I’ve never hurt children, and I’m not going to start now.”
Belle shuddered as His swords echoed in her mind. “I’m not a child anymore. I’m a woman.”
Crowley frowned. “How old are you?”
“Sixteen.” Belle thought of her birthday party all those long months ago. She’d lost most of those friends after the abuse from Him started, her trust and interest in actual people drained away like blood from a vampire’s victim.
Crowley watched the changing emotions on her face intently. “You’re still a child,” he told her firmly. His wings sagged a bit, and he sighed, running a hand through his hair.
“Are you okay?” Belle asked, reaching out to link her fingers around his wrist.
“Just cold is all,” Crowley reassured her, letting her drag his hand back towards her, watching her manipulate it between both of her own. “I’m about 80% cold-blooded, which means I don’t do well in winter.”
Belle thought about the snow on the ground outside, how cold it had been while she’d helped Babs build a snowman. She tried to imagine being a snake in all that cold weather, having none of her own body heat. His hands in hers were icy cold, barely any blush to his skin, blue veins sticking out against his palm. She thought about how cold her room could get. “Can I help?” She asked.
Crowley blinked slowly, looking a little lethargic. “A blanket, maybe?”
Belle sat up, leaning on his knee as she reached for her bed. She had a fluffy throw blanket that was mostly used for making forts, or wrapping herself in to do homework. She draped it over his shoulders, thankful it was warm from her body heat, as she’d used it just minutes before in her trek around the room.
The pastel colors on it meant it clashed with Crowley’s aesthetic, but the daemon sighed deeply, snuggling into the warmth of it. “Thanks. That’s better,” he hissed, closing his eyes.
Belle scooted closer towards him, listening to him breathe easily, a serpentine tongue sliding out from between his teeth as he dozed. His wings curled around them, and she reached out to brush her fingertips along the inky black plumage, surprised that it felt soft, softer even than real bird feathers. Real feathers had that bit of coarseness to them from being lots of little strands woven together. The daemon’s feather felt like it was just one cohesive line, soft as velvet.
She only noticed he must have been watching her when the wing under her fingers flexed and tilted downward so she could touch the downy feathers towards the base of his wing. She could feel him shudder pleasantly as her curious fingers traced along the bone of the wing to where they were anchored in his back. By now, she was resting against his chest, his bony shoulder digging into her ribs. But he didn’t seem to mind; in fact, he seemed to be subtly leaning into her warmth, humming tiredly.
“Your wings are beautiful,” Belle breathed reverently. “Do all daemon wings look like this one?”
Crowley turned, and she turned to look at him as the daemon settled his body in a different position. With his glasses off, she could see the dark circles taking up residence under his eyes. “No, I don’t think so. They don’t show off our wings, down in Hell. No need for it. But Beelzebub’s are stripped of feathers and covered in cobwebs, and Dagon’s look more like fins than anything.”
“Is she meant to be a shark?” Belle asked, adjusting the blanket to keep it from slipping off of Crowley’s shoulders.
The daemon chuckled. “Dunno. I’ll have to ask her.” He leaned against the trunk, regarding her seriously. “Do you feel better now?”
“Can I do something for you before I leave? Normally, I’d be content to stick around for a bit, but I’m still quite chilled, and my flat is much warmer than your room, and thus more inviting, I’m afraid.”
Belle shook her head. “I don’t want to keep you…” She thought of the stain on her bed. “Though…could you fix something for me?”
“Certainly.” Crowley let her get up before he followed suit. He watched her pull back the covers on her bed, his heart stopping as he saw the blood there.
“I, um…I’ve got my period,” Belle almost whispered. “It’s messed up my favorite sheets. Don’t suppose you could, uh…make them look like new?”
Now, Crowley didn’t know very much about periods, having never had one. He did know they’d been a devil of a time for women before the invention of the modern menstrual pads and tampons. (Well, he said “women,” but what he meant, of course, was “people who had periods,” but his mind was only about 40% coherent because of how chilled he was, so he could be forgiven for not thinking about his choice of words right this moment.) What he did know, however, was what blood smelled like. And this was definitely not menstrual blood.
“What happened?” He asked. “Who hurt you?”
Belle looked away, shuffling her feet. “I told you…it’s just period blood.”
“Belle,” Crowley crossed his arms over his chest and straightened his back. (The effect was only somewhat ruined by the brightly colored blanket around his shoulders.) “I’m a demon. I know what blood smells like.”
Belle sighed deeply. She had wanted to tell someone, just so the weight was off her chest. But it was difficult to find the words. “My mum’s…got a boyfriend,” she began. “He’ll…come in to my room at night sometimes, and…” She glanced up, watching Crowley for a reaction.
The demon’s eyes were wide and gold. The blanket had fallen off his shoulders and his inky black wings were fully spread, his hands turned into fists.
Belle could feel him seething and hurried to explain. “I…I know it’s my fault…I look like a grown-up, and I tease him sometimes, and…” Her voice was starting to waver as tears began to fall down her cheeks. “And…he told me not to tell anyone, or…or…!”
Long arms wrapped around her, a cool body pressing against her own. Startled, she hugged back, eager for the comfort, crying into his chest. Crowley ran his fingers through her hair soothingly, his wings brushing up against her. She hadn’t felt this comfort from anyone in a long time. She’d been told to “grow up,” that she shouldn’t need this from anyone. And she’d begun to style herself that way without realizing that she missed it.
When Belle had calmed down, Crowley leaned down towards her. “Belle,” he said seriously, “none of what happened to you is your fault.”
“None of it,” Crowley repeated firmly. “That man, he’s the one at fault. He’s just trying to pin the blame on you so you won’t tell anyone.” His golden eyes watched hers, tenderly wiping a tear from her cheek. “All right?”
Belle nodded, hugging him again. “Thanks, Crowley.”
The demon nodded, lifting his hand. With a snap of his fingers, her sheets were clean, and left smelling of freshly washed linen instead of Him. “I don’t think you’ll need to worry about him anymore,” he said with certainty.
Belle’s eyes widened. “Don’t kill him!”
Crowley chuckled. “I’m not that sort of demon.” He pulled back from her. “Come on, then. In you get.”
Belle padded over to her bed and climbed in, pulling the covers up to her chin. She yawned loudly, peeking up over the rise of her shoulder when Crowley sat on the bed. “Are you leaving?”
Crowley hummed. “Once you fall asleep. I’ve locked your door, so he can’t come back in tonight.”
Belle smiled. “You’re a rather nice demon, you know that?”
Crowley chuckled, turning to watch her fall asleep. “Yes, I suppose I am.”
“So, why did you bother going to that final summoning?” Aziraphale asked.
The angel and the demon were sitting in the bookshop, as was usual for a quiet Sunday evening. They’d just had tea and cakes and Aziraphale had asked if he could preen Crowley, seeing as the demon hadn’t done it himself. His sure fingers waded through the inky black feathers, smoothing them back into place and combing out loose feathers that needed plucking. Crowley’s eyes were closed, half-lying on his stomach against the loveseat, head resting on his folded arms. He was thoroughly enjoying the angel’s fingers in his feathers, and hadn’t heard Aziraphale’s question. “Hmm?” He asked lazily.
“The girl. The one that summoned you.” Aziraphale explained patiently, pausing in his ministrations to take a sip of his tea. “You said yourself that the pull wasn’t strong enough to force you to go last time, and I know you hate being dragged around like a puppy on a leash. Why did you go?”
Crowley rolled his shoulder. “Mmf. She’s just a kid, lonely, damaged, and in need of a friend. It might not’ve been strong enough to pull me there, but I could sense something was wrong, so I had to go.”
Aziraphale smiled to himself, pressing an affectionate kiss to the back to Crowley’s neck. “Look at you, going soft. So, whatever happened to that horrible Hell-bound man who was hurting her?”
Crowley grinned in satisfaction. “Had a rather nasty car accident. It’s all the ice, you know, this time of year, and if you’re half drunk and swerving already, something’s bound to happen. Last I heard, he’s paralyzed from the waist down, and Belle’s mum simply decided he wasn’t worth the trouble. They’ve moved as well, I believe.” He yawned, shifting his wing so Aziraphale could access a part with feathers that needed plucking. “Fresh start for all of them.”
“And well-deserved, too, I daresay.” Aziraphale agreed. “So, what happens now? Do you think she’ll want to summon you again?”
Crowley shrugged. “If she does, I’ll be happy to go to her. After all, it’ll be good to check in, make sure she’s doing well at her new school.”
Aziraphale chuckled fondly, wrapping his arms around Crowley and pulling him back into a hug. “You know, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say you’ve made yourself her honorary godfather.”
Crowley chuckled, leaning in to kiss Aziraphale. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you’re right on the mark, love.”