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Asmodaios

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Enticing. So utterly enticing, the scent of flesh. Though it had been many centuries since he had caught the scent on his petrified nose, the demon of desire knew the scent much too well. How long he waited to revel in the scent of flesh on flesh, human sin. Oh yes, how he couldn’t wait.

Asmodaios, stuck in the bindings of stone forced upon him by one of the holiest of creatures— sickening in his eyes— began to boil internally. It would be one thing to be found by the curious humans that seemed to be losing their direction— oh, how he hated their stupidity and petty instinct— but another to be released from this ridiculous petrification. Ah, the consequences of sin...

The sweaty human, scent heady and intoxicating, was approaching close enough that the sealed demon could almost taste the salt on its skin. Soon enough, the demon could hear the sound of a single set of footsteps, followed by low muttering from a tenor voice. Male, apparently. Although beginning to lose interest— after all, the last and only human he loved before his stone grave was female— he listened to the stupid human’s utterances and complaints anyway. It was something to occupy his mind with other than the beetles and snakes at his feet.

“I can’t believe I fell into another damned crypt hole and got myself lost this time,” came a smooth voice. He sucked his teeth. “Useless chalk, disappearing as soon as I use you.” The man’s footsteps became louder and his voice became more audible as a light came into Asmodaios’ view. He caught one of the features of the human, only his tanned skin, as the demon’s senses were not at their full strength in his current state of entrapment. “Julia is going to kill me. Again,” the mortal continued as he made his way down the corridor. Further approaching the dead-end the demon occupied, the mortal’s features became completely visible. Along with his tanned skin, the human possessed olive eyes that almost seemed to glimmer from the light of his artificial flashlight, surrounded by dark lashes, coppery tendrils with slightly darker roots that almost reached his shoulders; his mane was tied behind his neck with a headband around his crown to keep the shorter strands from falling into his eyes. He was muscular, built enough to know he was capable of taking care of himself should he find himself in a fight, but not necessarily the skill.

The human glanced at Asmodaios, his jeweled eyes catching the light of the flashlight. As he continued towards the chamber, he observed the walls and floors silently for several moments. The expression on his face made the demon smirk internally. “Why is there anything but glyphs here…?” He continued into the chamber, only then noticing the full stone figure of the demon. “Holy shit… There’s no way I’m in Egypt.”

Asmodaios smirked. Beautifully stupid human; I think I’ll play with you…

***

The college student awoke in the dirt, moving his shoulder as if it were sore. He opened his eyes, noticing the small beam of light above him. He then remembered how much of an idiot he was. “Rias,” he spoke to himself, slowly rising to his knees and then his feet. “You’re not fit for this field with your clumsy feet.” He reached for his belt, realizing his right arm was a bit sore. But he grabbed at nothing, the rope that was supposed to be on his utility belt certainly wasn’t there, but the flashlight was. “Great, time to wait for Julia and the rest to come find my big ass.” He shrugged, lighting the flashlight and removing a small piece of chalk from his pocket. At least he could explore in the meanwhile.

As he moved through the corridors, the student found nothing of interest. No glyphs or furniture, not even old, everyday pottery. Deciding to just wait back at his makeshift entrance, he looked at the wall he recently made a mark on at the beginning of a turn. Nothing. He let out an exasperated sigh, knowing now that not only was he stuck underground, slowly becoming dehydrated, he was now lost. He could remember a few lefts and rights, but the walls lacked anything noteworthy that could be used as a benchmark; he would undoubtedly become further lost. The dust at his feet quickly resettled within a few steps, the only other viable marker of his movements gone. The dyed redhead shook his head, turning around to move forward again. “No use in standing put. Maybe I’ll find something of interest deep inside.” He slowly continued down the halls, eventually reaching a long hall he couldn’t see the end of. The human continued to make marks on the walls as he muttered complaints, hoping they wouldn’t disappear as he progressed. As the coppery redhead observed the blank walls again, he realized the chalk disappeared as soon as he used it. He dropped the small piece of talc, mentally kicking himself for not realizing it was a waste sooner.

He caught the glint of jewels as he continued through the corridor to the chamber. He then noticed some writing on the wall. Those certainly were not glyphs; so much for being in Egypt. Practically gliding down the rest of the corridor to the chamber— he was really interested in knowing if he found something of worth other than words that could mean nothing to what was here— the redhead stopped short in his steps. In front of the man stood a tall, stone statue with an overpowering presence, possessing a pair of long horns that curved slightly back toward its head and demonic fangs. His hair reached the beginning of its serpent-like tail that lay lazily on the floor. It was definitely male, judging from the impressive length between its legs. The mortal removed a soft brush from his utility belt, brushing away some of the debris and dust on the statue, careful not to touch the figure with his hands. The way the amber jewels caught the light, he couldn’t help but feel it was alive. “Such a silly thought. Azarias, you’re losing your head already and you haven’t even graduated yet.” The redhead chuckled at himself, swaying the brush over the statue’s horns quickly, moving down to its nose.

It would be much appreciated if you moved that item away from my nose.

Azarias flinched and dropped the brush and flashlight, slowly backing up after he heard the baritone voice without a source, his head looking to either side of him. Now he was hallucinating, too; he must be seriously dehydrated or something. The redhead sat down on the few steps he barely noticed he went up in the first place, leaning on one of the two columns at the top. “Hopefully, I don’t go insane before I’m dug out.” The sound of a snake moving nearby caused the redhead to nearly fly to the opposite side of the room. “Fuck… I’m going to give myself a heart attack.”

Worry not, mortal; all the creatures here are docile, but me.

Azarias found himself back at the columns, almost hiding behind one, his brows drawn together as he stared at the statue in disbelief. Well, if he wasn’t a donkey’s mother… “You? Seriously. A statue talking to me?”

I am no statue, boy. The voice spoke coolly, almost in a soothing manner. The redhead felt the voice internally, as if the words were coming from himself.

He felt himself begin to pant slightly, his heart beating in quicker succession. “This is ridiculous. I’m going to go get lost someplace— aaah…” He moaned as he swore he felt a hand groping the bulge in his jeans, but saw nothing. Wait, when did he get hard?

I believe I will play with you first. The doors to the chamber closed, much to the redhead’s dismay. The grasp on his erection began to tighten and the pressure of the rubbing increasing, causing his own grip to tighten on the column. “What the fuck… are you doing…?”

I’m teasing you, because it is the only thing I am capable of at the moment. Azarias found himself being pushed to the other side of the column by what felt like strong hands, but he knew was not. His back was pushed against the column, pressure on his shoulders forcing him onto his backside. His pants were suddenly pulled off hastily, his boots forced off and his hips pulled forward in the same movement. Let us make things a bit more interesting, shall we? The redhead felt his hands move towards his erection against his will, as if being moved like a puppet. The first touch made him shiver, as if it wasn’t a furnace in the chamber.

“Wha-what’re…? Aah....” He began to pant and moan as his hand slowly worked the head of his length, his thumb slowly sliding over the slit of the opening. His hand felt so foreign and so good… Too good… His hand slowly came to his mouth as invisible hands caressed his chest, agile fingers attaching themselves to sensitive nipples. Azarias moaned as he licked his palm and fingers, his now lubricated hand descending to stroke the full length of his cock, the thick vein on the underside pulsing. He heard a throaty laugh as he groaned loudly, his hips bucking into his controlled hand involuntarily. A finger from his free hand was jammed between his lips before the redhead could retort, automatically finding the urge to suck on it wantonly. The invisible hands on the redhead’s chest pinched the nubs there, forcing another throaty moan from his lips. His lubricated finger moved down to his puckered opening, slowly and forcefully caressing it in circles. The human beauty leaned his head back at the touch, his lids becoming heavy as he moaned loudly. “Don’t… Ah, don’t stop, please.” The hand on his cock sped up as the teasing fingers pulled at his nubs harshly.

I do not plan to; your scent is sweet and intoxicating… If I were not stone, I would have you until you saw oblivion. The demon chuckled as the redhead’s hips continued to buck spasmodically. Now come for me, mortal. With a few more hard strokes from his hand, Azarias was moaning his release, his seed spilling onto his hand and onto the statue’s feet and tail. As he came down from his euphoric high and regained control of his limbs, he noticed the stone of the statue began to crumble. Beneath heavy lids, he saw deep violet, practically black skin appear beneath the crumbling stone, the tail suddenly flailing against the floor as the rest of the stone fell to the ground. The demon’s amber eyes glinted with lust as he stalked toward Azarias, the impressive length between supple and muscular thighs now fully erect, making the redhead feel his own cock put to shame. The coppery redhead shuffled to his feet, much like the snakes and beetles dispersed to their respective holes as the black demon moved. As he was pinned between the silver-haired demon— whom he observed was almost a head taller than him— and the stone column, the demon spoke with a smirk across his lips. “What magic do you hold within your seed?”

Azarias shuddered as the voice sent a spark of lust straight to his groin. “N-nothing. Who are you?”

The silver-haired demon practically purred in the poor student’s ear, sending shivers down his spine. “I am Asmodaios, if I must be named by mortals.”

“Uh, I’m Azarias,” the redhead spoke, causing the demon’s eyes to narrow slightly. He raised his hands between them, trying to push the taller man away from him and inadvertently rubbing his palms against the demon’s nipples. “Could you… Let me out now, Mr. Asmodaios, sir?” Azarias’ pulse was through the roof, his voice tight with both panic, for more than just feeling his life at risk, more than just being pinned to a column by a living, breathing demon. Asmodaios’ scrutinizing stare was making him hard again.

And they both noticed.

Asmodaios licked the rim of Azarias’ ear, practically purring again. “I said if I were not stone I would have you. And I will keep my word.”

Heavens, no.

***

What a wonderful gift to receive simply for an indirect handjob. If he simply needed human seed to become flesh again, he would have attempted to lure any old thing years ago, when he was stronger and better able to communicate with the world around him. Though, he wasn’t complaining about the fine specimen before him. The redhead was attractive— tall for the demon’s tastes and a bit masculine, but attractive nonetheless— and his scent was simply indescribable, like a mix of savory and sweet that filled his senses to the brim and could make him harden. That is, if he didn’t already have an erection standing slightly above Azarias’ own. He wasn’t exactly screaming innocence either, which was a good thing; although, breaking in the innocent was usually an enjoyable event. Besides that, at least he wouldn’t break the coppery redhead as he took him. Maybe; but he would try not to be too rough.

Asmodaios licked the soft skin at the mortal’s neck as he placed his palm above his heart, eliciting a moan from the redhead’s lips. “There is no need to attempt to lie; we both know you are willing to receive as much as I am willing to give.” The demon began to suck on his neck, Azarias hands moving from Asmodaios’ chest to his upper arms, leaning his head back to give the black demon the access he wished for, his retort being lost on his tongue. Asmodaios moved his head lower, nipping at the redhead’s collarbone as a suddenly extended talon ripped open his shirt swiftly and with ease; Azarias’ skin was delectable, the taste causing a soft moan of contentedness to leave the demon’s lips. As his tail began to caress the smaller man’s leg, he shook deliciously, his grasp tightening on the arms beneath his hands. “You like the caress of my tail, do you not,” he purred into the mortal’s ear before nibbling on it. The serpent-like tail was raised to the smaller man’s backside and spine, the smaller man arching into the silver-haired man.

Suddenly, Azarias wrapped his legs around the taller man’s waist, wantonly rubbing his own arousal against the other man’s abdomen, his arms now around the demon’s neck and his breath not far from joining. “Please… No more… Just fuck me already.” His wet tongue slowly ran up the side of the demon’s neck, straight to his ear where he nibbled on relentlessly, the taller man shuddering slightly. There’s a first time for everything, it seems.

“I fully intend to. As much as I wish to force my way into you, I will not; it would be nothing but pain for you.” Asmodaios gently pulled off the smaller man’s limbs from around him, turning the redhead around to face the column. He nuzzled his cheek against the side of the redhead’s face, whispering and eliciting a shivering moan from him. “I do not destroy desires; I manipulate and exploit them.” The demon lightly traced the tip of his tongue along the wrists of the man beneath him, silk ties appearing in complicated knots around the flesh and the column. Azarias yanked at them before the black demon spoke soothingly in his ear. “So you do not fall from the pleasure that precedes you beneath me.” The human moaned, rubbing the cleft of his ass against the taller man’s throbbing length. And to think, the young man was no longer under any spell of his after his release, succumbing to pure carnal desire. The demon chuckled as he licked slowly down his spine, stopping at the cleft of the redhead’s ass. He nipped at both firm mounds before squeezing them apart and setting his tongue firmly through the tight muscle. The redhead’s legs shook, his mouth agape in a silent scream of pleasure; his body began to slide down the column, the ties at Azarias’ wrists keeping him standing as his back arched and his ass jerked backwards, forcing the demon’s tongue deeper inside. He began to grind his hips into the demon behind him, Asmodaios responding by nipping and sucking at the outer ring, hitting the smaller man’s prostate as his demonic tongue re-entered the portal.

The redhead refrained from rubbing his groin against the column as Asmodaios replaced his slithering tongue with a finger rather hastily. To his amusement, his finger was sucked in easily with a quiet moan. He entered two more, the man beneath him almost as relaxed as he expected. The taller man slowly worked his fingers in and out of the redhead’s entrance, standing to plaster his chest against the spine in front of him. He sucked profusely at the redhead’s neck as he leaned his head back and to the side, moaning shakily and forcing his hips back. “Please…” Azarias pulled his arms again, shivering slightly as he did.

The knots on his wrists disappeared and the redhead slumped down a bit. In a moment’s time, the taller man had the redhead in his lap, slowly lowering the man on his lubricated cock with a quiet hiss. The smaller man’s head fell back on to Asmodaios’ shoulder as he let out a small grunt of displeasure. The demon knew he was quite large, in length and girth, but the mortal would adjust—he had no choice, after all. The demon continued to slowly push into the redhead he held captive, until he was completely buried inside Azarias, the redhead sitting on Asmodaios’ lap. He breathed heavily but calmly, unlike Azarias, who was panting almost hysterically, holding back a loud moan. Asmodaios chuckled against the skin by his lips, sucking on the redhead’s neck as he thrust his hips up gently. It only amused him more to hear the smaller man let out a long moan. “Oohh,” Azarias panted as his legs were lifted and the demon continued to thrust into him, forming a normal rhythm.

Asmodaios held back a moan of his own as the mortal clenched tightly around him, the head of his cock hitting the smaller man’s prostate with each deep thrust. As Azarias began to plead uselessly, the redhead caught the demon’s lips passionately, both pairs of eyes catching the other with a glint of lust. Azarias attempted to gain dominance over his mouth as their tongues twined with each other, turning to submissive goo as the silver-haired man grasped onto his length and slowly worked his fist up and down. The demon purred into the kiss as he was clenched tightly upon inside Azarias again, speeding up his thrusts significantly. The smaller man moved his lips from Asmodaios’, panting. “H-harder…. fuck me harder!”

Asmodaios smirked; he was never one to leave a lustful plea unfulfilled. He dropped the redhead’s legs and shoved him onto his hands and knees not-so-gently, reinserting his erection into the redhead’s portal with a single, heavy thrust as he grabbed the firm hips in front of him. Azarias groaned in pleasure as Asmodaios continued his onslaught of hard thrusting, the mortal’s upper body falling to the ground as he bucked his hips in counter rhythm. Asmodaios growled, his hips moved like a jackhammer into the man beneath him. With several more bucks of his hips, the redhead was screaming his release again, hips moving with spasms beneath the demon’s grasp. He growled almost possessively—or was it?—as he flipped the smaller man on to his back, sucking hard on the erupting cock and swallowing every drop of seed.

Azarias groaned as Asmodaios continued to suck on his flaccid length as if he were trying to suck the mortal’s brain out from his cock. While an interesting though, it would serve this demon no use. Asmodaios slowly ran his mouth back up from the base of Azarias’ manhood as the redhead began to harden again and removed his silver hair from Azarias’ confused grasp. It seemed the smaller man couldn’t decide whether to keep the silver-haired demon’s head down or attempt to pull him off. While the pretty mortal was still basking in the euphoric high from his second orgasm of the evening, Asmodaios turned Azarias onto his side, raising up the smaller man’s leg at the knee before forcefully ramming into him again; had he not been holding on to the mortal, he probably would have scrambled across the room like before. Asmodaios snickered as he listened to Azarias’ pleas again, thrusting against the smaller man’s prostate with every word. “Wait… Nnn, hold on…. Wait… Too much!” His hips bucked as Asmodaios licked a line from the nape of his neck to his earlobe, where he nibbled for several moments and returned down his neck to his rapid pulse, sucking and biting by his jugular.

A mirth filled purr escaped Asmodaios’ throat, nearly biting down hard enough to draw blood as Azarias’ muscles clutched down upon his large cock again. The demon growled again, sending a shudder through Azarias, the movement of his hips increasing in pace and becoming erratic as he felt his release nearing. Azarias continued to babble incoherently as he came a third time, clamping his anal muscles harshly and sending Asmodaios over the edge, his cock practically exploding inside the redhead. With a last grunt, Asmodaios stilled his hips, panting lightly as he came down from his release. He nuzzled his face into the crook of Azarias’ neck and rubbed his abdomen gently, causing the redhead to sigh lightly.

Yes, this definitely was a pleasant human to be with. Very pleasant…

***

Azarias’ heavy lidded eyes began to close, his comfort levels maxed out for the night. Was it evening yet? The buzzing noise he heard from his discarded pants confirmed his thoughts; the alarm he set for eight in the evening went off recently enough that it was still playing. He should have been at a dinner party, then. No on had come for him. He would be damned if this demon thought he was going to stay here; as comfortable as he was now, being fucked continually lost its charm after a while. Azarias groaned quietly as he felt the black demon pull out from his abused hole, feeling at a loss from the emptiness. He shivered a bit, beginning to feel the cold that came with night. The warm breath he felt at his neck also made him shiver, nearly forgetting Asmodaios’ presence after he moved away slightly. “The nights here are frigid, even beneath the ground; I offer you my heat as long as you are willing to stay in my arms the night.” Azarias only now noticed the furred rug they were laying on that did little to warm him. He nodded his agreement, turning around and half-heartedly wrapping an arm around Asmodaios’ chest as the demon did the same to his waist. He tensed as the serpent tail contentedly caressed the redhead’s back, relaxing into the touch after several moments. His eyes began to close, failing to keep him up; there was no use in fighting it if he felt safe in the arms of this insane, sexual creature, no matter how insane he felt.

…..

..
.

“… Rias! Rias!” Azarias moved to cover his ears, but stopped as he realized he was sweaty and no longer laying on fur. Plus, there was that alto voice he could never confuse for another. He opened his eyes, catching the brown eyed brunette in his sight, and behind her some of her other workers.

“Julia..?” Azarias sat up, noticing he was fully clothed and that his backside was quite sore. His eye twitched once he realized all those things were not dreams. His face began to turn red; had they found him down there in the ruins, wrapped around that demon, possibly leaking his semen? Oh, why me and my pathetic life?

“Yes, it’s me, not a mirage. What the hell are you doing here and where’d you get this fancy tent?”

The redhead took in his surroundings. They hadn’t found him? Then, Asmodaios let him go? Time to spit out some lies. “Uh, it was getting late and I was too far out to go back. This just happened to be in my duffle.” He sighed as the brunette shrugged.

“You had us all worried. I knew you went into town, but not that you left completely and went digging, you idiot!” She punched him in the arm, earning a small yelp from the redhead. “It’s dangerous to sleep out here. And it looks like you’ve been bitten by several bugs already.” Azarias’ cheeks reddened as he shuffled through his bag for a small mirror; indeed, there were several hickeys along his neck. Opening the top few buttons of his shirt, he saw several more, particularly around his collarbone, leading down further beneath his shirt. He didn’t want to see what it looked like around his hips, that was for sure. “Azarias,” Julia began as she stood. Now he knew he was in trouble. “What were you really doing?”

He almost panicked. “I fell in the hole I was digging and passed out for a while, so I probably was bitten then. I crawled my way out with rope. It’s just embarrassing that I keep falling into those damned holes I dig up myself, alright?”

The brunette nodded, sighing. “OK. Regardless, pack up your stuff; we’re leaving in the next couple of hours and you’re headed back to University until I find another dig sight for us.”

Azarias groaned. Back to writing papers on junk he couldn’t care less about. “Understood, captain,” he said in mock obedience. As everyone else moved to leave his tent, he looked through his duffle again for the notebook he kept his travel logs in. Turning to the last used page, he noticed a different penmanship under his scribbles for Egypt. He groaned internally before closing the book.

Maybe I will see you again, my tainted one. Forget me not, for I am never far…

***

Chapter Text

I blinked my eyes, finding myself in a gigantic bed, the sheets a large pool of deep red satin. This definitely was NOT my bed. In fact, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a bed so large. What is it, double king? As I felt something wet on my neck and a hand on my abdomen, I tensed up. Another almost molestation; great. This asshole was going to get it for drugging my drink! I might be foolish when it came to my drinks, but I was not—

“Azarias,” I heard my name spoken in my ear, filled with lust. That voice, I couldn’t mistake it; the person was confirmed by the serpent-like tail that gently inched is way up my thigh, sending shivers through my spine. It had been weeks, and I hadn’t heard from the big guy behind me. Though I hadn’t expected it; I was back in the states, and who knows where demons frolic in the land of the living? He wasn't a blind date, and a part of me wasn't sure that I hadn't hallucinated the whole event in some sort of stupor. As much as I wanted to ask the dark-skinned demon questions, I didn’t. I simply turned my head to the side, catching his amber eyes in mine before kissing him passionately, not easily giving up the small quarrel for dominance by our tongues. I turned to goo once he began to pull on the sensitive buttons on my chest, sucking on the tongue practically down my throat.

“Mmm,” I moaned, knowing what that long tongue could do to me and what it had done to me, slither inside and rub against my prostate nonstop.

“Azarias,” He panted into my ear again, causing me to wriggle in his grasp. His tail wrapped around my leg, lifting it up much like that previous night. “I want you beneath me… Forever.” I felt his large cock against the cleft of my ass, slowly moving in front of my entrance. I wanted him so much; I could almost taste my desire. I could feel his thickness begin to push into the outer ring…

But it just wasn’t meant to be! I cringed as I felt myself wake up. That’s right; no gigantic bed, no satin sheets, no fucking demon, and therefore no sinful sex. Phooey.

“Azarias?” I opened my eyes to find the librarian sitting across from me. Apparently they got a new librarian while I was “studying abroad,” as they call it, in Egypt. The thin—and rather flat, might I add—brunette was replaced by a rather muscular guy, his shoulder-length black hair framing his face and ice blue eyes, which were probably contacts. He didn’t look like a bookworm, but he knew where everything was, unlike that other lady. And he was sexy; actually, he was probably the reason why I had that dream of Asmodaios. The librarian’s voice was a smooth baritone, much like Asmodaios’, and practically dripped sex too. “Mr. Dimitriadis?” The librarian spoke again, almost sounding a bit worried. I guess the pretty man didn’t want to have a dead student with a high GPA on his hands.

“Uh, yeah,” I responded drowsily. School papers were boring. Maybe this guy would have a couple of drinks with me…

“You didn’t look too good there; you were groaning in your sleep. Are you feeling alright?” His smile was more like a smirk, as if he knew what I was dreaming about.

“Everything’s dandy; thanks for the concern…” I glanced up at his name tag. “Tobias.” I smiled as I stood up. Tobias happened to be only slightly taller than me. His brow arched up in question, as if my body language was enough to tell I had something more to ask. “Since the library should be closing soon, I was wondering if you’d have a couple of drinks with me.”

He smirked fully now, seeming to ponder it. “I’m not sure. Why should I trust you?” He turned with grace unfit for a human, leaning slightly to pick up several books and giving me a great view of his nice, firm backside. I nearly forgot his question.

“Doesn’t my angelic face give you enough reassurance?” I plastered the most innocent look on my face as possible. I walked around to the other side of the table, leaning on it a bit.

Tobias turned around, placing his hands on either side of my hips on the table and leaning into me. “The most innocent looking are often the most dangerous.” He licked his lips as he stood straight again. “Nonetheless, I will go with you. A little bit of fun never hurt a soul.” He moved to the front desk with a large stack of books, and I followed, taking several books off his stack. I arrived first to the desk, which probably wasn’t a good thing; he didn’t see me or my legs and somehow managed to trip over my leg as he placed the books down, taking me down with him. His fall was very defensive, if I’ve ever seen a defensive fall. Technically, I should’ve been on top of Tobias, but I was pinned heavily to the floor by his muscle mass; he grabbed me by the arms and flipped our bodies all before we hit the carpet.

He pulled away from me a moment after; I swear I felt him smell my neck. Maybe I’m paranoid and it was just a sharp intake of breath. “Or did you want to skip the drinks?” I tensed as I heard that voice again.

Maybe, my darkened one. Tobias pulled his upper body up, sitting on my thighs. The light caught his eyes funny, making them seem amber-colored. “Not at all. Are you afraid of becoming too drunk to drive?” His lips curled into that smirk I was beginning to like as he stood, offering me his hand which I took graciously.

Although I had gotten that drunk recently, that certainly was not what I was insinuating. “Well, no. But it could happen, I suppose.” I scratched the back of my neck lightly as I sat up, hair getting partially in the way.

“If it does occur, I will bring you home.” For a guy that looked around my age, he had a verbal grace I just didn’t have; just the way he spoke was charming in a sense. I just nodded, really believing I wouldn’t get piss drunk.

Boy was I wrong.

I didn’t get drunk immediately, but after getting comfortable around Tobias—you know, once I got him to call me Azarias and not Dimitriadis anymore—I guess I didn’t realize how many drinks Tobias ordered and passed me until I was too drunk. And then I began to make a complete ass of myself. “You know,” I began, another shot of whiskey in my hand. “You look like some guy I met in Egypt.”

“Is that so?” He looked amused, laying his chin in both his hands; he didn’t look the least bit drunk. Bastard.

“Yep. You just don’t have purple skin and silver hair. Oh, and your eyes aren’t like pumpkins.”

“Contacts.” I knew it.

“Whatever. You’re still hot anyway.”

Tobias simply laughed at my drunken confession. “It seems you have become too drunk to drive.” He glanced at his watch and placed his arm across the table, picking up my car keys in one smooth movement. “It’s getting late, so I will drive you home.”

“Wait, wait. I’m serious,” I slurred as he stood and began to pull me out of my seat much too easily. “Come on, you’ve got to believe me!”

“Yes, yes, I do. Now let us go before you make a fool out of yourself.” He sounded almost annoyed so I just went along, walking to my car and into the driver’s seat. Tobias shook his head, leaning in and practically shoving me over the gear stick. “Petty mortal,” I heard him mumble before he cleared his throat, as if to cover what he said.

“Hey, that ain’t so cool! I could’ve busted my ass on that thing!” I almost began to shout. Drunken rage is just awesome.

The bastard closed the door and snickered, sticking the key into the ignition. “I’m sure you have taken much larger.” My retort was caught on my tongue as I saw the light catch his eyes funny again.

As he drove away, the devilish part of my brain—or the perverted part—began to work; it only comes out to play when I’m drunk. Otherwise, I’m quite modest and sometimes even a bit timid. But alas, I was more drunk than usual, and this guy was driving me home without knowing where I lived. And I just had to talk. “Have you gotten road head before?”

He arched a brow. “I don’t believe I have. What are you suggesting?” He stopped at a red light.

A devilish smirk played across my lips as I released my seatbelt and leaned over to his seat. “I suggest,” I began, unbuckling his belt, my hand moving to lower his zipper. “You keep your eyes on the road and get us to my apartment in one piece.” I lowered my body and yanked his pants and boxer-briefs down enough to pull out his length. It still didn’t occur to me that I had not told him where I lived; for all he knew I lived in another town.

He laughed a little as he drove at a normal pace again, bucking slightly as I licked the slit of his thick manhood and pressed my lips to the head. Instead of resting his hand on the gear stick, he left it on my head, willing my mouth over his cock and nearly forcing it down my throat. I moaned around his length, loving the taste; it reminded me of honey, sweet as if he ate sugar quite often. I lifted my head and sucked at the tip, licking the pre-come at the top. The car jerked a bit as it sped up and I lifted my head a small distance from his erection. “Don’t get us killed, now.” I lowered my head again as he laughed, a low sound in his chest following soon after, the head of his cock making its way down my throat. Tobias’s hand landed on my head after switching gears again, petting my head softly; I moaned and leaned into the touch a bit, feeling his hips buck under my ministrations.

There was no way he was not speeding; I could feel the car weaving through lanes continually, and probably burning red lights, too. My poor little Integra. The car jarred to a stop and Tobias’s hand grabbed tightly to my hair as his head rolled back onto the headrest. “Azarias....” His hips bucked, nearly causing me to jerk up as well. A moan played deeply inside his chest, sounding almost like a cat’s purr. I had little warning of his release, only knowing once his semen began to flow into my mouth, the taste much like honey. Once the small spasms stopped in his hip, I let go of his twitching cock, slowly running my tongue over the tip again. I thought I heard Tobias growl as he pulled me up into a kiss—not too sure, being drunk and all—roughly sticking his tongue into my mouth as I moaned loudly. He pulled me into his lap easily, pushing his chair back as he did. I rubbed my denim clad length into his bare length, hearing him hiss at the contact before he bit my lip; I was acting like a needy bitch.

And I didn’t care.

Tobias released my lips after a moment, whispering in my ear as he sat up. “There is no way I’m fucking you in this car without breaking your neck.” That wouldn’t have been so much of a problem for me, or so I think; I have an odd thing of healing quickly from injury and not getting sick often.

But he didn’t need to know that yet.

He removed me from his lap—of course, not without my constant, drunken whining—and pulled up his pants, pulling out the keys from the ignition and tossing them to me. I’m surprised I caught the damned things. I slinked my way to the door, looking for the proper key. Tobias decided to distract me, attaching himself to my back and rubbing my ass against his groin. “Hurry; or I might just take you in the hall,” he whispered in my ear before licking the rim. “I’m not too sure they will enjoy hearing you scream in pleasure beneath me as much as I will.” I whimpered as I opened the door, nearly up the staircase and at my apartment door in several seconds. He was right behind me again though, my fingers fumbling with the keys and just dropping them. I moaned quietly as Tobias’s hand came around my waist to cup my arousal; the touch felt too familiar. “Too difficult for you, angel,” he whispered huskily in my ear.

I moaned and leaned back against his chest; I was nearly sobered up. “If my landlord wasn’t on this floor, I’d totally let you fuck me right here.”

Tobias laughed, a quiet rumble from his chest. He turned the doorknob and the door opened. He waddled my form inside, kicking my keys in as he did; my door was always locked, so this was just odd to me. Before I could really think of it, he had my wrists tied together in front of me with my belt and I was lying on my back. He slowly undid my jeans with his teeth, pulling them down around my thighs. He nipped at my erection through the briefs, my hips jerking a bit. He licked from my sac upward to the tip of my erection; he then pulled down the waistband with his teeth and tongue, taking his sweet time as it got caught on my length. Once he got them down to my thighs, he pulled off all my lower garments and propped me up at the head of my bed. He removed his belt from his slacks with a devilish smirk on his face. I eyed him a bit warily as he raised my arms above my head, attaching his belt to mine and then to the canopy bar above me. I was kissed quickly before his head retreated between my thighs. Ooh, that was a sight I could definitely get used to, nonetheless the feeling. This guy must have been the god of giving head, because he was just too good. I quickly began losing what little control I had left over my hips.

I rotated my hips slightly as he pulled away his head. “Tobias,” I nearly whined, placing my legs on his shoulders. He laughed as he took the leaking head of my cock, sucking profusely before quickly taking in my entire length. A high-pitched moan escaped my lips as I yanked on my restraints and let my head roll back; for a moment, I didn’t believe it was me. Tobias’s head quickly bobbed up and down on my cock as he twirled his finger with slight pressure against my opening. I bucked against his finger, forcing it inside with a loud moan from my throat. “Impatient, are we?” He smirked as he entered another finger and ran his tongue along the underside of my arousal, flicking from side to side right beneath the head. “Do you want me…?”

My brain-to-mouth filter decided to stop working. “More… Please, more, Asmodai--aah!” Tobias forcefully pulled my arousal into his mouth again, growling loudly as he sped up all his movement, his fingers fiercely working in and out of my portal. My eyes rolled back into my head as I screamed my orgasm, my body tensing up as he sucked me dry. I whimpered as he continued to suck on my overly sensitive and tender length and continued to stretch open my entrance. He moved away from me and removed his slacks, whispering into my ear as he leaned into me after.

“I will fuck you until you scream yourself hoarse in pleasure; then I will fuck you again until you barely have enough energy to breathe.” I opened my eyes to smirk up at him, but it just turned to an ugly grimace as I stared at the ceiling; there was this hideous thing up there, the ugliest demon of demons if I had ever seen more than one. Its eyes were red and beady, surrounded by mounds and mounds of hair over a round body with long, branch-like arms and huge claws reaching for the bed. I was beginning to hope I was dreaming. It was the fastest I sobered up, from both orgasms and alcohol.

“Tobias, fucking untie me now.” I tried to remain calm, but it was probably apparent that I wasn’t, and it was becoming hard to stay calm. He noticed my sudden distress and turned around; the feral growl from his throat was definitely not a sound a human could make. I felt my arms flop down to my sides before the ugly thing retreated back into the ceiling with a smirk. “What?” I rolled my shoulder a bit, still a little shocked.

Tobias sighed before standing and replacing his clothes on his body. “I should go.”

“Whatta? W-wait, you didn’t think that thing was usually there, do you?” I panicked; how fucked up would that be?

“I know it is not; I just should have known better.” He leaned down and quickly kissed me again as he saw my confusion. “A short tale for another day. Besides that, I have to work early tomorrow.”

Yeah, sure. Oh, but I had a literature class to attend. Fuck.

I sat a little flabbergasted. “You can’t tell me now if it’s short?”

“That wouldn’t be wise. Now you have a reason to see me again. So long.” With that, he was out the door. Worry not, my angel; I shall not let harm come to you as long as I stand in this realm.

“Oh, shut up,” I mumbled into my pillow, uncomfortable arousal hitting the mattress. “I’m gonna have a fucking hangover.”

I had the worst luck with men.

Chapter Text

How foolish I was. I should have known better—and I did, though I was beginning to doubt my wisdom.

I should not have followed Azarias out of Egypt, but curiosity got the best of me. Undoubtedly, I thought I could restrain myself; how wrong was I? It was only my second encounter with him in the library and I already lost any semblance of control and composure that I had. The first day, I was ignored and I was glad for it; I probably would have taken him in the library, right when the janitor would arrive and see him in all his sensual glory. I surprised myself when I still had enough restraint to keep my clothes on outside of his apartment. It was not him that I needed to hide from, but I hoped disguising myself and power was enough to keep others away.

I sighed as I closed his apartment door, leaning heavily on it. How so very foolish I was. I could find out what I wanted away from Azarias; it would undoubtedly be more difficult, and I wouldn’t be able to test any theories I developed, but it would keep him safe. My being with him was attracting my brethren already, and not at a desirable time; it was perhaps confirming my suspicions, which I mentally tossed aside in an attempt to remain unbiased. I opened my eyes and growled a bit. “Reveal thy form, Belial.”

At my recognition of his presence, Belial appeared in all of his fake, angelic glory, pompous as always. His white feathered wings fluttered slightly, moving flaxen hair like honey out of his icy blue eyes. “Good evening to you, Asmodaios.” Belial dusted off his robe lightly.

I stared at him maliciously. My brain knew barely posing as a human was idiotic, but I was careless nonetheless. Now I had to deal with this. “Whatever do you desire from me to disturb my peace?”

The smug blonde laughed. “I want nothing from you.” He angled his head to the side. “Actually, what have you learned about this one you cannot seem to leave to himself?” I growled my warning, which he ignored altogether. “Why not just ask Purson or Vine? Make your life simple and ask, like I did?”

I nearly hissed my displeasure. “If I wanted this to be anyone’s concern but my own, I would have. Now leave me.”

“Certainly.” He moved to walk around me. “I’ll just keep him company instead. I heard his screams are most delectable.” Belial feigned a sexual pant before my hands were a vice around his throat, forcing his back into the door.

As I lost control of my rage, I began to shift back to my demonic form, my tail smacking the floor. “If you dare show yourself to me or Azarias again…” I growled as talons broke the skin of the blonde’s neck, small rivulets of blood spilling down his neck. “I shall personally do unto you critical harm.” I certainly was not in a good situation; I might actually kill him. “Have I made myself clear, blondie?”

Belial coughed as he spoke. “Alright, alright; I comprehend your nonsense.” I lessened my grip around his throat as I changed to a human guise again. “What’s yours is yours, and if you so desire, so is what’s mine.” He rubbed his throat. “Bastard.” Belial covered himself with his wings and his form imploded, leaving behind only a few white feathers. It was back to his side of Hell for him.

Moving away from Azarias’ door, I glanced down, eying the gigantic dent in the floor. Foolishness became my mantra as I dissolved, leaving for my own realm of Hell.

***

Acting human was becoming exceedingly annoying. It was toilsome enough being the university know-all and librarian; I simply had to torture myself more by replacing an employee in the English department. It should be illegal for professors to become pregnant when they have classes to attend.

Humans.

I grimaced as I heard another group of girls speaking of me. Sexual restraint was not one of my strong points, even if desire was subdued in this ridiculous form. I easily found my way from the courtyard—or better called “gossip central”—to the lecture room, taking a seat at the bureau. Ten minutes to the start of class and students were already seated and waiting; how diligent. I opened the professor’s planner, checking what they were discussing—modern junk, apparently a sort of love story from the prompts she wrote—and closed it just as quickly. This was going to be more boring than I thought. I would be glad to return to my own research afterward, continuing my slow trek through various sources, unreliable, reliable and useless alike. From what I learned, my suspicions were becoming more than preconceived bias.

My thoughts quickly shot out the window as I heard and smelt Azarias nearby. I sincerely hoped he was not in this room, at least not today; it would be too soon for me.

Hope flew out the window, as well.

Azarias walked into the room, throwing several pills of Excedrin into his mouth before glancing toward the front of the room; as soon as the redhead spotted me, he nearly turned around and walked out. He instead chose to glare at me as he sat, and continued to throughout the rest of the class, speaking not a word until the class was dismissed. It seemed he planned on staying, so I closed the door before leaning on the bureau in front of the room. “How is your hangover treating you, Mr. Dimitriadis?”

“Save it, Tobias.” My, what a stupid name I chose; it sounded worse coming off of his lips now. He displayed a stereotypical, redheaded rage as he approached my figure, causing me to sigh. He grabbed my jaw tightly, still glaring through heavy, dark lashes, forcefully joining our lips together. I couldn’t stop the smirk from forming on my lips; even through his anger he couldn’t help himself. My eye twitched imperceptibly as he bit my lip harshly.

Still feisty, I see. “What in hell are you doing here?” A sour look played across his face.

“And here I believed you were happy to see me.” I rubbed my eyes before removing those accursed contact lenses from them and tossing them; they were useless once I was upset or aroused anyway. “My attempts to stay near but far from you are just failing with each day.” I grabbed Azarias by the waist, pulling him closer. “I’m putting your life at risk; your life in danger would be of no use to this one.” My teeth scraped gently along the side of his neck.

“What…? What the hell are you talking about? Hairball again?” His hands played with my hair, rubbing my scalp gently.

“You haven’t figured it out yet, have you?” My pupils changed to slits as I inhaled his scent.

“All I figure is you’re a creepy bastard with sexual insecurities. I just figured you had ED as well or something like tha—argh!” I flipped him onto the desk with ease, one of my hands grasping his calf and the other lying on his chest. “What the fuck is your problem?!” He stared into my eyes, bewildered; he looked like he was beginning to understand though.

“You clearly do not understand the situation you are placing me in.” The hand I left on his chest lowered to the hem of his t-shirt, snaking my way under to rub the nubs at his breast. My redhead yelped as I pinched one and turned my head to the left, slowly licking a line from his ankle to his calf.

“You’re a bastard, you know?” He let out a small gasp and kicked my side with his free leg. “Why do you look like that?”

I laughed at his kick, earning a scowl. “A failed attempt at keeping you safe, once again. Would you rather,” I paused as I began to shift to my true form, nipping at his calf with my fangs. “I stayed like this, having contact with you in public, scaring those around you?”

“Good point. But seriously, now is not the time to be fu—“

CLAP.

“Hey!” He scowled again, a blush creeping across his cheeks. I was having a hard time keeping my tail to myself; my tail smacked his backside before I could think better of it. I caressed the inside of his thigh, an unvoiced apology. He sighed, relaxing into the touch; despite his protests, his scent was thick with arousal, which in turn caused me to harden. My tail lowered to his developing erection from his thigh, his hips bucking from the touch. “Fuck, I won’t go to class today.”

“Oh, you still have class?” I moved away slightly, my tail moving from between his legs. Azarias attempted to sit up, only then noticing his backside was not on the bureau and was supported by nothing. His hands reached for my waist instead, grabbing the jeweled chains on my shendyt and fauld.

“You’re not going anywhere.” He looked up at me with a devilish gleam in his eyes.

I smirked with full fangs. “And how do you believe you will keep me here, with you?” My hand lowered to the prominent bulge in his jeans again, squeezing tightly. My redhead twisted his hips sweetly as he moaned; writhing beneath me already.

He wrapped his left leg around my waist, pulling me closer, my groin flush against his denim-covered ass—at least, as close as he could get it, considering the fauld between us. Azarias groaned at the lack of contact. “I’ll let you fuck me. Right now.” He moaned loudly as I removed his arousal from beneath his jeans, humming in pleasure myself. I was pleased by his desire to please me. Although it was for his personal gain, it mattered little; I fed off his desire anyway.

Slowly, I slid my hand down to the base of his pulsing length and back up repeatedly, occasionally squeezing the head. I lowered my head, licking the small pearl that formed at the tip of his length. His body jerked, my elongated tongue wrapping around the head of his cock. “Aah… I love what you do to me.” I quickly took the entirety of his length into my mouth and throat, eliciting a long cry from those beautiful, full lips of his.

A small, timid knock came at the door, as well as a small female voice; I could have detected this earlier, but my nose was doused in my redhead’s scent and my ears filled with his cries of joy. “Rias? Are you in there?”

I furrowed my brow; I detested audiences when they weren’t required. Surprisingly, my first thoughts were not threesome, but rather, leave! “Fuck, Cadence, go to class without me.” Azarias caught the hair spilling over my shoulder and whispered to me as I raised my head off his length. “Please, don’t stop…”

It would be cruel to leave him with such an erection. Regardless of what I thought was a valid reason to stay, the look in his eyes trapped me. I would play around with him, then. Dismiss your mortal. He broke into a small smile and sighed. I took in his length quickly, causing him to loudly cry out. “Fuck!”

“I’m not leaving. I waited outside the building for you and I got all worried that something happened to you, like usually. What’s going on in there?” She banged on the door again. She was too timid and proper enough to not open the door; by now she must have noticed this school didn’t have locks for many of the class doors.

“Uh…” His voice trailed as I inserted three fingers into his twitching portal, lubricated by the secretions from my own length that he seemed to like a bit much. With each prod of his prostate, my redhead couldn’t help but curse. “I’m getting… my fucking leg fucking… ah… amputated!” Azarias arched his back and neck as I sped up my hand and my tongue flicked across the very tip of his length repeatedly.

“Rias, this isn’t funny! What’s going on?”

Oh, she would know soon enough. “Cadence…” He sighed and moaned as I sucked hard on this length, suckling noises becoming loud alongside the squelching sounds coming from his entrance. “Just… Just… Oh god, I’m coming.” My redhead’s arm smacked the bureau as he grabbed the edge and cried out his release, every drop of his seed falling down my throat.

“Rias?! Who are you sneaking around with? It can’t be Kyun!”

My redhead whimpered as I continued to suck his cock and removed my fingers from inside of him, but chuckled soon after. Releasing him from my mouth, I arched a brow at my mortal, his forehead glistening with a bit of sweat; he was staring at my tail, the whole length of it swishing contentedly. I narrowed my eyes at him and raised his lower garments back to his waist.

He stood off the bureau, leaning over and sticking his hand quickly under my shendyt and through the loincloth, as if I would stop him. He squeezed from the base to the tip of my length and removed his hand just as quickly. “Dude, you’re practically leaking this… lube?” His tongue slowly lapped up the liquid pooling in his hand, face becoming flushed again.

I pulled my redhead up by his arm and stopped his licking; as much as he loved the taste of it, the last thing my mortal needed was a not-so-mild aphrodisiac in his system—that is, more than he probably already had from the fingering. I licked off his hand as the banging continued at the door. “It’s lubricating secretions to ease my way into you.” My mortal bit his lip tentatively; he was expecting me to bend him over the bureau. “But, for another time. Your lady friend is waiting for you.” I noticed the banging stopped and a small quarrel started on the other side of the door. My redhead tensed as he heard a male voice; that would not do. I shifted back to my human guise, adjusting my pants as I moved.

“Are you serious? He could be getting raped you just don’t want to be rude? Idiot, move it!” As he placed his hand on the door knob, so did I, and pulled the door open forcefully as he pushed, the brunet’s body falling into mine as I grabbed his arm. The girl, Cadence, stood at the opposite wall, strawberry blonde hair cut close to her face, green eyes wide with worry.

“May I help you?” I looked down at the man whose face was plastered to my chest. His hazel eyes glared up at me before a smirk crossed his face, and he attempted to kick my side. He happened to be much too close for any success against me; I caught his leg and swept him onto the floor in one easy movement.

“Kyun!” I nearly glared at the girl; I liked her more when she was banging on the door.

“Shit, get the fuck off! Aren’t you the guy from the library?” He attempted to kick me again from the ground.

“You don’t give up, do you?” I held both the brunet’s legs, practically spread wide; the poor thing was enjoying being beneath me too much; I could smell it.

My mortal walked to my side, glaring down at the man beneath my grasp, fidgeting in his leathers. “Seuk-chul…” He sighed. “I told you to stay away from me, and I meant it. I’m not interested, alright?”

“I’m afraid he was not paying much attention.” As my redhead spoke, the brunet stared at the bulge in my slacks and unconsciously licked his lips; if only he saw my actual size, not the sized-down human length this form kept.

“Whatever. Just get going, you lech.” I let myself be pulled away by Azarias, releasing his friend's legs.

“It is of little consequence; we are done here.” Seeing his confusion, I kissed my mortal gently. Later, my darkened one; call for me tonight when you are settled, or before then should something happen to you. He moaned as I nipped at his lip.

“Alright,” my mortal mumbled before picking up his bag and walking out the doorway. He seemed embarrassed as soon as he stepped out. “Well, Cadence, let’s get going!”

The blonde glared up at him before stepping on my mortal’s foot, which I did not enjoy at all, despite the comical look on his face. “You’re such a bad man, Rias! Sneaking around with the librarian! What if the dean happened to be around?” He yelped as he was dragged away by his lady friend.

I glanced down at the Korean I dropped earlier. His eyes were still glued to my slacks. What a fool. I offered my hand to him, and as soon as he grasped it, I slammed his back into the wall, pinning his form with my own. “Heed my angel’s warning; or you may lose something of great use to you.” I squeezed and stroked his sprouting arousal through the tight leather he wore. “Have I made myself clear?” I lowered my lips to the brunet’s ear and nibbled on it.

“Oh god, yes.” That probably had a double meaning.

“Good.” He began to hump my hand as I lowered my biting to his neck. So pitiful, like a fly in my hand. I could hear his thoughts running through his head loudly.

Why can’t I control myself? I’m acting like a whore and I can’t stop myself…

Poor thing, you never had a choice in the matter. You’re just trapped in my web until I let you go.

As his panting increased, I removed my hand and lips from his body. “But I never said I was giving you anything for it.” I smirked at the lost look on his face I found after raising my head away from his neck. I moved away and walked out the door without another glance behind me.

I had other things to worry about.

When I returned home to my district of Hell, a letter awaited me on my bed, from my Lord. My tail coiled in vehemence as I read it; in honor of my return—which my Lord was upset that I did not report to Him immediately upon my return—He wishes me to host an orgy. Splendid. And when would I have the time for that nonsense now?

I leaned back in the pool of dark sheets in my bed, pillows spread over most of it. How horrid and wonderful it was to be home again. I knew I had no choice in the matter; my Lord had written the letter Himself instead of having a slave listen to Him dictate, which meant He took this as a personal matter.

I rolled over onto my stomach, beginning to doze off with thoughts of how I was going to keep myself away from Azarias long enough to host a night of hedonistic sin and debauchery. I had become very relaxed after a while, not noticing the hands on my back until they lowered to the base of my spine and caressed the skin right above the beginning of my tail, a loud purr forming in my chest. I instantly hardened; that just wasn’t fair. And only one person knew how to do that to me. My tail jerked to either side of my hips, smacking away firm arms.

“I thought I would help relax you.” I nearly shuddered at the voice behind me. I rolled over, attempting to glare and failing miserably. Things were just not going too well for me today. “Welcome home, Daios.”

“Amaimon,” I sighed, looking into brown eyes and touching fiery red hair like silk, caressing red skin that could appear black like my own. His black wings fluttered at the touch, several feathers falling. I closed my eyes and sighed again.

I should not have come home.

Familiar hands covered my erection and my back and neck arched, lips attaching themselves to my throat as I expected they would. It was like an old, mastered dance; even though it had been over a millennium since I last participated, it was a dance my body would continue to enjoy. I purred as his lips descended upon my own, my tongue not bothering to fight his. My purr turned into a growl as I felt Amaimon’s hand stray behind my sac and continued further; my tail swatted away his arm. “Asmodaios…?” The confused look on this demon’s face bothered me just as much as when it was on my redhead’s face; I wanted to kiss it away.

“I have business to attend to.” I quickly dissolved afterward, hearing his protests as I did. I appeared in Azarias’ home as Tobias, sighing heavily, energy surpressed. I did not need to return to my past; some things deserved to remain untouched again for eternity.

But hearing his voice again could surely make me change my mind. Asmodaios… The one time I need you more than you need me, you leave. I palmed my forehead for a moment and dragged my fingers through my hair. Are you afraid of being beneath me again?

Would I go back? Would I subject myself to the intense pleasure that would be had, writhing beneath the demon I no longer wished to be with?

I did; I had little choice in the matter. Desire runs my life, and he had control over mine.

***

Chapter Text

I really know how to piss off my friends. Cadence continued to nag me a mile a minute as we waited around for our next class, or rather, her next class. I was done for the day and should have been working on a research paper while simultaneously bothering Julia, berating her to hurry up and find another place for us to dig up so I wouldn’t have to hand in said paper. But alas, Cadence chose now of all times to nag me about promiscuity.

“You’re going to wind up getting herpes or AIDS or something!”

That was probably the worst thing she could have said. I always knew Cadence was paranoid about disease, sexually transmitted or not, and it always got on my nerves. “Listen, sweetie; I’m not sleeping around, so bug off. Just because I stopped dating that bastard Kyun who treated me like a fucking blow-up doll doesn’t mean I’m fucking any guy with a big dick in his pants, alright?” She blushed at my outburst, and I nearly regretted it. “I know you’re concerned, but don’t be too quick to assume things. I got a hot head on my shoulders, you know.” I smiled as she did.

“So what’re you going to do about Kyun? He looks a bit too interested in the professor. I don’t blame him or anything, considering I had him for class earlier.”

I chuckled, for more than one reason. His fake name sounded really stupid, especially since I knew his name sounded nothing like it. “Please, I highly doubt Tobias is even interested. Kyun probably just wants to top him, which Tobias wouldn’t let happen.

Cadence giggled. “You’re still just a bottom?”

I narrowed my eyes a bit. “Bug off.” I laughed, too. Things weren’t going so bad lately. And Seuk-chul didn’t appear after we left him with Asmodaios. So, life was good. I leaned back on the bench, closing my eyes.

For some reason, at that moment, I didn’t feel like I should be happy, but I was. How could that be? As I walked Cadence to her next class, I still couldn’t shake the feeling. Even as I made my way home, the feeling was still there, though it began to dissipate. “Well, no feeling a bath can’t take care of.” I dumped my bag by the door and headed straight for the bathroom. I was stripped and sitting in the round tub in no time at all, comforted by the warmth. In a few moments, all my mixed feelings were gone.

I sighed, leaning back and nearly sinking. I had a feeling things were going to stay pleasant. I smiled as my phone rang, answering it on speaker. “Good morning, beautiful sunshine, apple of my eye!” A common greeting for my favorite lady in the world who got me out of writing papers for stupid classes (sometimes).

“Hi, Azaias,” Julia answered, positively rolling her eyes as she did. “I have a question about our recent trip to Egypt.”

I furrowed my brow. “Yeah? We didn’t find anything. The info you got was false garbage and didn’t lead to anything.”

“Yes, yes. I’m not talking about that. The hole you dug, you didn’t go through it or anything? Didn’t find anything?”

I didn’t like where this was going. “Uh, no. I got out as soon as I got in. What’s up?”

“Well…” She paused, probably thinking of how she should say certain things. I didn't begin to worry, but I didn't like where things were going. “A friend of mine happened to find the area and went inside. She found markers on the walls and chalk. Chalk disappears after a while so they were recent.”

I really didn’t like where this was going. “Well, I still have all my crappy chalk, so…”

“That’s not really the issue. It seems the place was some sort of shrine. The thing is, there was nothing there to worship, not even a broken statue. However, there is debris that looks out of place with human features. But it looks like a shell, not a statue. I’m afraid that…” Another pause. “You may have released something by your presence. And all those bruises you had…”

Oh, if only she knew what happened. But it sounded like she was beginning to put things together, just not as pleasantly as it happened. “Come on, don’t get all superstitious on me now.”

“It’s not that!” Oops, I think I got sunshine mad. “You know that… Weird things happen around you sometimes. With that fall, you probably would have broke something.”

Great time to bring up my peculiar body and history. “My arm was sore.”

“It probably should have been broken! Remember that time you put Seuk-chul’s shoulder back in place, but he felt not an ounce of pain?”

Bastard shouldn’t have even been there, but I brought him along anyway. Stupid idea, considering I hate him now. “Now’s just not the time, alright? I don’t want to hear about Seuk-chul or any of this dumb shit that happens around me, alright?” There went my good mood, right out the window and over a nonexistent rainbow.

Julia sighed, sounding just as upset as I did. “I just want you to be careful, OK? That’s all I really wanted to say. If you are followed by an evil spirit, may the good ones protect you.”

“Whatever. Bye.” I ended the call before she said another word. Rude, yes, but I couldn’t care less at the moment.

I sighed, dunking my head under the water. Asmodaios told me to call for him when I was settled; well, I was as settled as I was ever going to be. And annoyed, can’t forget that. But how was I supposed to call him, exactly? “Yoo hoo, Asmodaios-kitty! I’m home...?” He would probably rip my head off for that. Nothing happened, so I said it internally instead. Results! An odd feeling gathered around my back, black legs materializing next to my own and arms around my chest.

“One call was enough,” Asmodaios began, his lips resting briefly against my neck in a kiss. “But since when were you allowed to call me a kitten?”

“Well, you purr like a cat.” I snickered, leaning back comfortably. I was definitely asking for a beating.

He licked along my neck and sucked hard, making me moan in a pitch that should not come out my mouth. “And you sound like spoiled bed pet. Would you like to be my pet, peisma?”

“I’m no pet, so don’t call me that!” I hit him in the stomach with my elbow, but it felt like I was hitting a rock, and probably just as useless. “I just want something shorter to call you by, and it was the first thing I thought of.”

Asmodaios laughed. “Then call me Daios.”

“Fine. And you’re still calling me Rias.”

“Maybe. I am not fond of shortened names.” I could feel him smirk against my neck. “However, may I try something?”

I arched a brow, looking back at him. “Maybe…? You asking makes it sound bad.”

“I will bring you no harm; that would be detrimental to my goal of protecting you.” He caressed my abdomen with one of his hands.

“Fine. But—nnn…!” Before I could question him, his hand was around my length, stroking slowly, rubbing his finger against the slit at the head. “Daios…” I sighed as he nudged my head to the side with his cheek and nibbled on my earlobe, nipping at my neck as he moved lower. He kissed and licked the skin between my neck and shoulder, making me sigh again.

Then I swore he was about to eat me for lunch; I felt Asmodaios’ fangs sink into me. I almost began to thrash around, but he held tight to me with one arm, placing my arms under his grasp as well. I whimpered once he continued to stroke my length. “What the fuck is wrong with you,” I yelled loudly, wanting to turn my head and give him a fully earned glare.

Asmodaios’ fangs released my shoulder, and his tongue replaced them, lapping at the wound he somehow thought wasn’t harming me. “Your blood tastes human enough, yet it is apparent you are not since your wound is already healing rapidly.”

I grimaced. “I am what I am. Shut up.” He squeezed my arousal a bit and I shuddered.

“Do not shun what you are; simply use it to your advantage.” His hand sped up, my hips jerking from the movement. “There is no pleasure to be had in hiding yourself.” He suddenly stopped, staring at the bathroom door.

“Eh?” I heard footsteps approaching the bathroom.

“Rias, I need to talk to… you…” The door swung open and that stupid, stupid bastard Kyun was standing in the doorway, staring at Asmodaios, who just smirked.

Before I could start yelling, Asmodaios shoved his tail in my mouth. What the hell? “May I help you, Seuk-chul?”

I pressed my tongue against and sucked on Daios’ tail; it was textured and a bit rough, but it was smoother than it looked. Once I felt him shiver a bit, I did it again and he removed his tail. He was more sensitive than I thought!

“Uh… What the fuck?” Kyun was still staring like a deer. “T-Tobias?”

Asmodaios let out a single chuckle. “Is there a reason for you being here?”

“Rias, what the hell?” He finally remembered I was there.

“What do you want, Seuk-chul? Do you want me to call the police for breaking in?” I glared at him.

“Hey, didn’t I tell you to call me Kyun?” My goal was to make him feel as uncomfortable as possible and make him stay away; it wasn’t working. “Anyway, the door was unlocked and I was a little worried. Guess I shouldn’t have been… Uh, I’ll just call you later and leave you to your, um, new friend.” Kyun turned around, shaking his head.

“Asshole,” I muttered quietly. Asmodaios kissed my shoulder again before grasping my chin and turning my head, kissing my lips with only a hint of lust. His tongue entered my mouth, stroking my own. I nearly bit his tongue as I heard a noise and saw Kyun run back into the bathroom, slamming the door behind him.

“Since when did you harbor more than one freak in your home at a time?” Kyun was panting, a look of shock all over his face.

Daios mirrored my glare as my lips left his. “What are you talking about?”

“Well, there’s a creep with wings looking like a god-damned Adonis in your room. He saw me and attacked me like I was some sort of beast!” I noticed he wasn’t moving his arm. Great, just like old times.

Asmodaios let go of me and stood before I could speak another word. “Take care of his arm, if you so wish.” Kyun moved away from the door, staring at Asmodaios’ lower half before he walked out.

I stared at the door in wonder. “What hellish crap is going on now?” I sighed, grabbing the towel near the rim of the tub as I stood and wrapped it around my waist. “Come here, bastard.” I pointed to the floor in front of me. “You know how I did it last time.”

He frowned as he moved to the floor, lying on his stomach. “You’re a fool for letting things like that into your house, idiot.”

“Like you’re any better than Asmodaios, bastard.”

“Pervert.” I placed both my knees on either side of his lower back, leaning over him. Leave the two of us alone in a room, and we became children.

“Lech.”

“Slut.”

“Whore.” I shoved his shoulder back into place. As expected, he didn’t scream out in pain, since he probably didn’t feel any. “Now get out of my apartment and don’t come back, or I’m going to get a restraining order. Got it, Kyun?”

Kyun rolled over under me, smirking. I called him Kyun, so he was probably happy. “Bitch.”

“Fucktard.”

“Skank.”

The door flew open and something flew over my head and slammed into the wall. And here I saw this winged Adonis. His body slipped into the bath water, blond hair sitting at the top. Daios smoothly walked inside the bathroom again, still as nude as before. “You fail to heed my warnings, Belial.”

The demon’s head rose from the water, a hard glare set on Daios. “You’re a hopeless lecher. Don’t you do anything but fuck this boy brainless all day? What about the orgy you have to prepare?”

“Orgy?!” I looked between the two of them, water likely falling in Kyun’s face every time I shook my head to the side. I was not about to let Asmodaios host any type of sex party without hearing me complain until his ears bled.

Why? What can I say, I'm easily attached to the wrong type of men. How could I resist making something my business that was his?

“Quiet, angel.” Asmodaios’ eyes never left the guy in the bath. “Belial, tell me why I should not terminate your life right now.”

The blond grimaced. “Who said I would let you do that?” He stood, his wings spreading out a bit as he backed up towards the window. The door slid open without him touching it and he dropped out.

“Don’t say you’re going after him,” I nearly whined as I saw Daios’ clothes appear on him suddenly.

“I have little choice in the matter. He challenged my superiority.” He pointed to the large streak of blood down his arm.

“You've got to be kidding me…” I stared out the window as I saw Asmodaios jump out after Belial. “This is stupid.”

“Well, you still got me!” Kyun patted my chest.

I stared down at him and got up. “You can leave now.”

“I’m not leaving you here with the beasties!” He followed me out of the door.

“I’m done talking to you.” I walked into my room and paused as soon as I glanced at my bed.

Lying idly was Belial, the bastard I thought my devil was beating to a big wad of pulp by now. What a dolt. “An honor to see you again, Azarias.”

“I never met you.” I shuffled a bit, leaning on the doorway.

“Oh, you don’t remember me? I was on the ceiling.” He smiled, completely smug and asking to be punched in the face.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” My palm hit my face as I heard Seuk-chul behind me. The idiot just didn’t learn. I felt his arm on my shoulder. “What do you want with Azarias?”

“I can take care of my damned self!” I kicked him in the shin and he winced. “If you’re looking for Asmodaios, he went chasing after your double.”

“Oh, I know. My demons are obedient enough to let themselves get beaten to death for me. But I am here to speak with you. You do know you’re putting yourself in harms way, opening your arms to such a lecherous being?”

What was this, “Keep Asmodaios Away From Azarias” day? “I can keep an eye on myself. What does it matter to you?”

“Well, you’re also out of control right now. You have powers rising to the surface that could harm you and those around you… Therefore, I have a proposition to make.” Belial rose from my bed, moving to stand in front of me and raising my chin. “But first, call off your human guard dog.”

I nearly laughed; he was like a guard dog at the moment. “Back off a bit, Kyun.” I heard him snort before I spoke again. “I’m not actually interested in your proposal, but I’ll amuse you. What do you have in mind?”

He smiled, charming with his pearly teeth and gentle touch. But it just wasn’t enough to convince me of anything. “You might just be a danger to my kind; I will cage you and keep you… Safe.”

I laughed, nearly bending over. That was funny! Me? Caged like a bird with clipped wings! Yeah, right! And my father was Jesus. “You have some humor in you. What makes you think I care about ‘your kind?’ I can protect myself fair enough, and if there’s something I can’t handle I’m sure Asmodaios can do something about that.”

Now he laughed in my face. “You’re kidding. Do you think he cares for your well being that much? Asmodaios desires are fleeting; eventually he will tire of you like he does of everything. Until then, he would cage you like I would. He will do no better with you; you’ll just be a slave to his desires, a common whore to be used and emotionally abused. Do you actually think he loves you? He's a demon, for crying out loud.”

I glared at him before moving his hand from my face. I couldn't stand the look of humor on his face. “You’re all just a bunch of fucking bastards that can’t get anything decent in your holes in Hell. Just screw off.” I heard him laugh again and I punched him in the jaw, barely having an effect; his head moved to the side just barely.

I felt Kyun’s arms around my waist and he shoved me to the side before I saw Belial shoved into the floor, Asmodaios straddling him with his claws in his throat. I think I heard his wings break against the floor as they bent improperly. Ouch. “You are not but an irritating bug flitting around my head; do you know this?” His growl was fierce and feral, enough to scare the skin off of my body and out the door.

Belial coughed in response, probably the only thing he could let out. His arm rose to scratch down Asmodaios’ back with his own talons, but it was futile; Daios’ tail grabbed his arm and ripped it from the socket, a large pop sounding before the skin and flesh tore off with a spurt of violet blood.

I looked away. It didn’t seem likely that I would be having lunch today. “Uh, I think that’s enough. He must’ve learned his lesson by now.” It wasn't that I hadn't seen wounds or blood before, but brutally severed limbs was a but much for me.

Asmodaios looked at me, his pupils such narrow slits that I could barely see them. He looked back down and removed his hand from around Belial’s throat, chunks of flesh coming off of his talons. His tail dropped the arm on the floor. “You should thank angel for your life; he is more merciful than I.”

Belial’s form disappeared beneath Asmodaios. I sighed as Asmodaios approached me, blood dripping from one hand. Kyun’s grasp around my waist tightened as Asmodaios’ clean hand touched my face. “Are you unharmed, my angel?”

I stared up into his normal eyes again. I couldn’t shake what Belial had said. I am an overthinker by nature, even over things that might be absurd. Was he really just going to throw me away once he was bored of me?

I’d be damned if I let that happened. I would ditch him before he got to chance to cause me any heartbreak, just like Kyun; I didn’t need that crap.

In hindsight, stupid. I knew it wasn't true. But I'm human.

“I’m fine.” I removed Kyun’s arms from my waist and moved away from the both of them. “I’d appreciate it if you guys just left already. I have things to do.” Other than throwing out my rug and buying another one, I didn’t have anything to do, other than that paper I didn't want to write. But they didn’t need to know that.

“Azarias…?” I had Asmodaios confused. He could stay that way for all I cared, but my heart told me otherwise.

“Yeah, you too.”

“Uh, I can help you if you want.” Kyun offered his services at rolling up a rug and dragging it out. I didn’t need that.

“Leave him.” Asmodaios grabbed Kyun by the arm and dragged him as he walked out the doorway.

I just needed to erase all the junk that happened today from my memory and get my head back on my shoulders. Yeah, that’s all I needed; no demons and no ex-boyfriends, just my head and logic.

I rolled up the rug and kicked it against the wall. Life really was a piece of shit.

Chapter Text

As I pulled Seuk-chul away, I only thought of all the things Belial could have said to my angel. I may have begun to pull too hard, as the mortal began to squeak once I closed the apartment door. I let go of his arm, his voice becoming irritating. “What did Belial say to Azarias?” I pinned the brunet against the wall, looking down to stare into his eyes.

Eye contact was important when one wanted to look threatening without actually harming anyone.

“Uh, he pretty much just called you a bastard.” Seuk-chul was practically shaking against the wall, though stood stalk straight as if unbothered. I was wondering who was more threatening, him or my angel.

“Please be more specific.” My hand rested on his shoulder.

He glanced at my hand before speaking again. “He said you would, uh, throw out Azarias once you were bored of him, that your desires were all fleeting and you would emotionally abuse him.”

I grimaced. That Belial… I would have left to kill him if the mortal didn’t continue to speak. “But, I don’t think that so much.”

“Is that so? And what do you assume you know about me?” I moved away a bit so that he could move if he so desired.

“Well, considering you hate my guts and seem to want to please the guy as much as possible, I’d say you’re not so bad of a guy.” He leaned on the wall calmly, obviously having more confidence now that I was out of his personal space. "Despite the freaky tail. And horns. And I'm guess you're a demon?"

“Hn.” I crossed my arms in front of my chest. “Is that all?”

“I didn’t want to say it, but you’re sort of like me.” I snorted; what an insult. “Rias attracts the same type of guys, just earlier they were also the type to toss him after a while. He dumped me because he thought I would. He doesn’t think he can have love anymore, and he thinks the fact that he can love makes him vulnerable. He doesn’t know love from another person when he sees it, but his subconscious remembers. That’s why he seems kind of attached to you now. But he’s still too cautious, so he’s gonna believe that guy.” He paused before leaning off of the wall. “Just give it an hour or so and he’ll be calling you and apologizing.”

I smirked. I guess this mortal wasn’t as bad my angel assumed. But he was rather ill-mannered. “I suppose you do not deserve as much hate as you receive. Maybe.”

“Tell me about it. He said I treated him like a blow-up doll—which is a lie—and as if he had no feelings. He just blew up on me one day, telling me I told him I loved him only so he would continue to open his legs for me. Talk about the worst way to end a relationship!”

I smirked, but frowned as soon as I did. I heard quiet footsteps approaching quickly; I was worried for only a moment, as I realized they were too silent to belong to a human. Seuk-chul was fidgeting as I only stared down the hall. Who else wished to have their throats ripped out?

I kept myself from running into Azarias’ apartment as I saw a redhead with hair longer than mine appear around the bend, clad in only tight leather pants, a tribal tattoo around his navel. It seemed Amaimon was afraid of being seen by mortals, and glared at me as he saw me standing there, my tail as stiff as a board. Nothing keeps us from walking as true selves, but it is frowned upon especially by Amaimon. Not all humans can handle the sight of demons. “Amaimon,” I sighed out as he approached me, raising my hand to his lips and licking the blood off.

“Uh, what the fuck?” Seuk-chul spoke and visibly regretted it afterwards; he covered his mouth as soon as the words left his lips.

“Silent, mortal,” Amaimon and I ordered simultaneously. Amaimon sighed and stared into my eyes. “What are you doing? You attacked Belial, and you’re around humans as yourself when you were not summoned.” He kissed my neck as he shifted with a small burst of wind released, his wings fluttering for a moment; I leaned my head to the side instinctively to leave him more room to do as he wished.

Seuk-chul’s eyes practically fell out of his head. Not that I cared, but it was annoying.

Amaimon nipped at my neck to get my attention again. “You were almost in a daze earlier… And Belial said you are with a human. Is this him?” His hand lowered down my back, caressing just above my tail again.

I purred loudly, my tail swishing behind me as I buried my face into his shoulder. My body felt unbearably hot. “Yes,” I mumbled. He would know eventually that I was lying, but he would take my word for it now.

Amaimon glanced at Seuk-chul. “Hn. I don’t know why.” He nipped at my neck again as he continued to stroke my back. My legs instinctively opened for him as I purred louder.

“This isn’t going too good,” I barely heard Seuk-chul mumble, and certainly didn’t care to listen. I could smell his arousal mixed in with Amaimon’s at the sound of my delight. It took very little effort from me to arouse others.

I could feel myself losing control beyond how I normally would once beneath this devil; I was losing myself much too quickly, and I was beginning to have suspicions as to why. My clothes disappeared from around my waist, leaving me bare and my arousal rubbing against Amaimon’s thigh. I mumbled into his shoulder again. “…fuck me…”

“What was that? You’re too muffled.” He raised my head by my chin before furrowing his brow.

“Please, fuck me. Now. Hard. I don’t want to be able to walk.” My hands clung to his waist tightly, panting.

Amaimon sucked his teeth. “Your eyes are flaming… Your heat…?”

Suspicions confirmed. But it was much too early; I had this stupid millennial heat about 9 years ago, and it was a complete nuisance going through it as stone again… But that left over 900 years to go.

I growled loudly as he seemed to ignore me. My legs were lifted, the backs of my knees resting on his shoulders. “Amaimon…” It came out almost as a whine.

“I’m not ignoring you, love. I’ll take good care of you.” He took my lips forcefully, but it was what I needed. My tongue slid across his in obedience, curling back as he pushed it, moving forward as he pulled back. I gasped as his hand took hold of my erection. “But we really shouldn’t do this here; you’re loud normally and might be louder now.”

“…don’t care…” I groaned loudly as he stroked the inside of my thigh and my back again. How could I possibly think logically with him constantly touching me in all the right places?

“Uh, I don’t think that’s a good idea!” Seuk-chul was pointing at the door as I stared at him. That’s right; Azarias lived here. I forgot for a moment. Not that he knew all the sounds I could make anyway.

I was not capable of being patient with either of them. My hips began to jerk, my arousal rubbing against him again. “Impatient like a kitten waiting to be fed.” Amaimon sighed, leaning into me. “I will make you come, and then I’m bringing you home. I’m going to fuck you until we break the bed in half.” I purred loudly again as he slid my body higher before taking my cock into his mouth, cutting off my purr for a moan that neared a yell as my fingers curled in his hair. Amaimon sucked so hard on my cock, I thought my vision would black out. His fingers were forced between my lips and I sucked on them just as hard, feeling him moan around me. Before I could realize my mouth was empty, his fingers were thrusting inside of me and making me groan in frustration and pleasure as my head fell back; it was pleasing, but I wanted him buried inside of me, much thicker and longer and satisfying than his fingers. He bobbed his head as he sucked, the head of my length occasionally hitting the back of his throat. I could not keep the small gasps inside. I was as desperate as a bitch in heat.

Ah, that’s right. I was.

“Amai—… I can’t…” He hummed around my cock, telling me to come. I purred loudly as my release came, feeling Amaimon swallow my seed and the head of my length, my hips attempting to buck in his grasp. As I slipped out of his mouth, I realized I was still hard; this was definitely a heat.

“Shit. I’m bringing you home now, seriously.” Amaimon lifted his head and wrapped my legs around his waist. “Will you be my pet for the day?” His eyes shifted to silver in lust as my arms wrapped around his neck.

“Yes, I will; tie me to the bed for all I care.”

Everything else seemed to pass by in a haze, regaining full consciousness as I woke in Amaimon’s bed feeling satiated. I dug my forehead into the pillows, my horns likely ripping them. Who knew it would be so difficult to keep my loincloth on once I was released? Then again, why was I in heat?

The bed shifted slightly as I sighed, soft lips kissing the back of my neck. But they felt different, like a gesture of kindness. “Amaimon?”

“Try again.” I attempted to sit up, but a hand stopped my movement. “No cheating, now.”

“My Lord?”

He lifted His hand from my back. “Yes, I suppose that would be me, although you listen to Amaimon’s word more than my own.”

I rolled on to my side, attempting to ignore His comment; He knew I could not help but be obedient eventually. “What might be the occasion, my Lord?” I felt out of place, unable to bow from the slight pain in my back. I hoped I would not have to walk anytime soon.

“I heard you were in heat, making it an odd time for you. Therefore, I’m holding off the party for a week.” He pat my cheek lightly with his hand.

I stared at my Lord as if He had twenty heads. He was the most beautiful of us, and of any creature I had laid eyes on. He could be considered revoltingly so, if beauty could be revolting. My last time in His presence, His hair was like honey, kept braided away from His face. Smooth, pristine even. He still looked every bit the angel that He had been. The fallen angel before me looked almost human, golden eyes and thick, tousled hair as black as the void which ended somewhere passed his shoulders framing His face, tanned as if He spent much of His days playing on beaches instead of trapped in Hell. His beauty was always distracting, but I digress. “A week, my Lord? My heat could last over 6 months.” This was going to be painful.

“Of course; I would never forget that. But within a week, you will probably have most of the population going into a state of heat due to the pheromones you release. A creature of lust like you cannot be left alone through his heat.” My Lord paused, golden eyes narrowing momentarily. “Actually, that might be why you’re in heat now.”

That would make sense. But I was not pleased by the idea of a heat-enraged orgy; while it would keep the other demons safe from me, it would keep the party from ending. “My Lord, I do not believe that is a good idea.”

A smirk spread across his lips, black hair swaying slightly as my Lord moved His head. “That's why I did not ask you.”

I at least tried. My eyes fell easily from His face. “Yes, my Lord.”

He grabbed my chin roughly, lifting me up. “By the way, it would do you much good to keep away from humans for more than what is necessary. If you had listened to me the first time, more than likely you would not be in heat at the moment. So take this as your punishment. Have I made myself clear?”

I grimaced; He could pull out my jaw if He wanted to. “Yes, my Lord.” Unfortunately, I still could not listen to His request. I would not leave Azarias alone. I could not.

“Good.” He dropped my chin and stood to leave. “I will check on you later.” He turned to the door, pausing. “Oh, I forgot something.” My Lord sat on the bed again, his hand resting on my thigh. “Just to further your punishment. Do you object?”

It was a trick question. Although I did not know by what means I deserved His punishment, I knew objecting would only make His punishment longer or more cruel. “No, my Lord.”

“Good.” What looked like an odd, metal thong appeared around my groin. Other than how it trapped my length between my thighs, it didn’t seem to be a problem. I arched a brow at my Lord; how exactly was this punishment? “Roll over.” I did as I was ordered; that was new. I attempted to watch as He tapped the back and it opened. Magically bound to my ass? I was getting a bad feeling.

I moaned as something large slowly pushed into my ass, stopping only once I felt a large base touch my cheeks. Now I know why I was beginning to dislike this. He closed the back, rolling me over again. My Lord smirked again. “My Lord?”

“Do not question me.” His lips quickly came to my inner thigh and sucked hard, a purr forming deep in my chest. “It is a chastity belt. Some of the demons can open and close it for you, but only if they choose to ease your pain at that moment.” I began to feel the device at work; the damned thing kept me from having a full erection. The perfect form of punishment for me. I was beginning to believe he hated me. “I will leave this on until the orgy, I believe. If I feel generous, you might be free earlier.” He stood again, leaving me in a near-whimpering state. “So long.”

I rolled over and shoved my head back into the pillows once He left. What an unbearable week I would have. I raised my upper body from the bed as I heard the door open again; Amaimon walked in this time, grimacing. “Fucking Lucifer…” He stared at my waist. “I thought he was kidding…”

I shook my head; he would never learn to speak of our Lord in better terms. “He unfortunately does not kid.”

Amaimon crawled onto the bed, adjacent to me. “You know you don’t have to leave my room.”

“Do not be foolish; I do not plan on taking this thing off any time soon. I will deal with myself by myself.” I stood, stretching before I moved for the door. There was pain, but I was well enough to manage. “I will be fine, and the orgy will be done as it should in a week.”

“You don’t get it. They will tear you apart because of that human you’re harboring.”

I sighed, facing the redhead again. “And how does that concern them and you?”

“I know you were lying earlier; you never did smell like that brunet.” He paused, lying down completely and shaking his head. “I thought you were out of your mind, but you’re trying to protect him, aren’t you?

I turned away from him. “I shall take my leave.”

Amaimon sat up. “Asmodaios, I won’t let you.”

“What will you do, place a collar and leash around my neck?” I sighed quietly, shaking my head. “I will see you next week.” I planned on staying in the human realm for that week. It just never happened.

Amaimon mumbled something inaudible as I made my way to the door. I fell down to my knees and he chuckled; a heavy vibration worked through my filled portal, the pleasure of it weakening my back and knees. I shivered uncontrollably for a moment before turning my head. “Amaimon?”

“You just don’t listen. I think you need a small taste of what could happen to you if someone like Belial got their hands on you. I’ll just be less torturous.” He carried me bridal style back to the bed, his arm shifting the plug inside of me with a grunt of discomfort from my throat. “I assume this is getting tight for you, my love.” He tapped the leather crotch.

I could only nod and pant. Internally, I damned myself; why ever was I loyal to this demon?

“You’re going to lose control.” Amaimon mumbled something incoherently again to me and the belt unlocked. I was sure I had enough sense to remain conscious of my actions.

While I was no longer restricted, the vibrating plug was still inside. I gasped as it sped up. My hands moved down to my erection, my body shaking as I curled my fingers tightly around it, my head jerking back as I moved along it.

“Now, now… For once, I don’t think I like just watching you.” Amaimon pulled my hands away from my body, chaining them above my head, leaving them taut and giving me little movement. “My, my… You seem to be enjoying yourself.”

My cock twitched from his stare as my ass clenched tightly around the plug, the sensation almost too much to bear. “Amaimon… Just turn it off. I won’t—” My plea was cut off by my own purring, my captor sucking and nibbling on the inner thigh of my right leg. My tail slid along his chest as my legs opened and gave him room, coaxing him to continue while my mouth continued to protest through pants and purrs “Amai—… Stop…” My legs remained open, never attempting to close or push him away.

Amaimon laughed at my half-hearted plea, removing his mouth from my thigh with a loud suckle. “You have no idea how jealous it makes me to know someone else has your attention, even though he does not accept it fully—just like the human woman before him. Nonetheless, this person is human once again. You don't learn.” He pulled out the plug and rammed it back into me half way, my hips bucking and pushing the black plug the rest of the way.

My angel was not human. He was demon in the simplest sense of the word, in that he possessed powers that could be described as magic. But I had yet to find what powers he possessed, and now I did not have the mental capacity to ponder it; my heat was taking over.

My tail wrapped around Amaimon’s upper thigh, the redhead smirking at me as the end caressed his ass. He continued to pull out the plug gently and shove it back into my portal forcefully as he crawled up beside me, his lips almost touching mine. “What do I need to do so that you can only see me again?”

I tilted my head down more to kiss him fully, gently. There was nothing, and I would not apologize for that.

Amaimon moaned lightly and I glanced past his pretty face, lids heavy with lust; although his loose hair obstructed the view, it was not a hard guess as to what his hand was busy with behind himself. Both his arms moved in time with each other, my purrs becoming louder as they became faster and the hand around my erection tighter.

I stared dizzily as Amaimon slipped on top of me, sitting on my legs. “I still loved you through these years of you missing.” He took hold of my length and forced himself onto it, moaning uncontrollably as I purred. He looked down at me, silver eyes shining with lust. My heat indeed had a domino effect; no wondering as to why he was stretched so easily.

I jerked my hips upward, my tail smacking the bed lightly. Amaimon groaned as he lifted and lowered his hips with me, his forehead rubbing into my neck. I attempted to speak through my purring again. “Why…?” Failed miserably.

“I don’t want you to leave me again.” Amaimon leaned back, moaning, a hand on my thigh and the other reaching for the vibrating plug again. “But don’t get the idea that I don’t still own you!” He angled the plug upward and pushed it back inside, hitting my prostate spot on. I screamed as I came inside of him, his hips never creasing in their movement. “I’ll make you mine again, even if I have to kill him.” Amaimon lifted himself from my lap, still moaning. He slid back and sat on the bed after releasing my arms and mumbling again to turn off the plug. “Now suck me.” His eyes seemed to shine brighter.

I leaned over but paused briefly. Azarias called my name, but not like earlier; his voice was breathy and full of desire, full of need. It then occurred to me: he took in my seed the other day. My angel must be feeling my heat. I growled; my poor angel. Lowering my head, I brought Amaimon to his peak quickly and he replaced the chastity belt around my loins. I rolled on to my side, feigning tiredness; it was impossible to see my angel without this obstruction on.

Amaimon pushed my hair aside, kissing the back of my neck as he spoke. “Don’t try leaving now; I might actually put a collar and leash on you if you try.” It was easy to hear him move out the door and down the hall.

Once I figured he was occupied, I dissolved away to Azarias’ home. I appeared in his room, leaning lightly on the wall and fully dressed.

My redhead panted, his back facing me. He shivered in the sudden arousal he did not understand. He cursed loudly; masturbating did nothing to soothe him. Azarias rolled over, attempting to glare at me; there was no energy behind it. “My angel…” I moved from the wall and onto his bed, my hand caressing his cheek.

“I don’t know what’s going on,” he panted.

“You shall be fine.” I kissed him gently. I was causing him a great deal of trouble.

“Help me… I’m sorry for throwing you out earlier; my head is just…”

I covered his lips again with my own. “Do not worry yourself too much. I know you do not mean it now.” My lips traveled down my redhead’s bare neck down to his collarbone; he squirmed around enough to roll over again. I pulled him to me and rested down next him, gently stroking his abdomen. “This being my fault, I am ashamed to say that I have little to help you with…” In truth, being next to him would probably make him worse.

Azarias clung tightly to me once I inched away from him slightly. “Don’t leave.”

I kissed his forehead. “I did not plan to. Sleep.”

Although he struggled to, my angel eventually fell asleep. I sighed as his afflictions seemed to pass and he quieted down. It was odd that he not only had a delayed reaction, but he also felt my heat when I did not. I closed my eyes; sleeping seemed like a good choice.

When I awoke not long after I dozed off, I felt hands at my hips, pulling on the belt at my waist. My angel let out an exasperated grunt. “How do I get this thing off…?” He panted as he continued to yank, his erection prodding my thigh.

I opened my eyes and he flinched visibly, backing off a bit it. “What is it?”

“Your eyes are fucking red!” He stared at me as if I should know this already.

“It is my heat,” I sighed. Although my disposition was calm now, I knew if I did not leave soon I would give my angel a hard time.

“Then, shouldn’t you be fucking around like a wild dog or something?” He moved up my body again, sitting on my thighs.

The sight of his arousal made it hard for me to think. I forced my eyes closed briefly, attempting not to inhale too deeply. “Not being able to is my punishment and a preparation for my… duty.” I did not explain things to him, and I did not plan to.

My angel leaned forward while arching a brow, his coppery hair moving into his face. “Orgy, huh?”

I nodded, keeping my expression as blank as possible.

“What’s this thing, anyway?” He poked the leather crotch.

“It is my punishment; I did mean it when I said I could not help you earlier.” I sat up, moving Azarias onto his back as I did. “Unfortunately, I must take my leave of you. Staying would only make things complicated and stressful, particularly with this device.” I could feel my skin prickle with heat uncomfortably.

“I don’t want you to have that party.” I received a glare, even as I kissed his forehead and stood.

“I have no choice; I could not honestly care less for these things at my age.” I sighed; why should he believe me?

“Sure,” he mumbled as he rolled over. “Go have all the fun fucking your demon friends back home all night; and don’t show up after that.”

“Azarias…” Humans had the hardest time understanding things as this, not used to the laws of “obey or risk death.”

“Fuck off.” He attempted to ignore my presence, but the occasional twitch in his neck showed he could not. Now that he was calm, I was hated again.

I bowed my head in a nod as I spoke. “I shall see you in a week.”

At least, I hoped I would.

***

Chapter Text

I would have expected a week of chaos and avoidance, but besides the occasional disturbance by Belial—in an attempt to annoy me and my condition—and Amaimon—in an attempt to soothe my heat and annoy me—I remained unbothered by my brethren. There would have been few complaints from me if I could have worked in my station without the occasional advances from my legions and glances from the dead. Everything was tolerable for the first few days; mid-week, peace was too much to hope for.

One of the nearly sleepless nights of the week, my door creaked open, the quiet padding of feet approaching my bed. I had not bothered to turn around, only assuming who came to bother me rather than sensing it. “I do not appreciate your presences at this time.” The bed shifted after I spoke and a horn nudged my shoulder gently.

Amaimon did not have horns, nor did Belial.

I was rolled onto my back and my hips straddled, a cream face the same as mine staring down at me. “So my ‘twin’ really is back.” I thought impostor would be a better term. Balaam was almost more of a nuisance than Belial. Almost. His duplicity was often hard to decipher even with other demons, and was solely for his own amusement. “When did you come back to life?”

I shoved him off to my left, rolling partially onto my side again. “A while ago.”

Balaam looked slightly offended, but continued to speak casually, as if I were not trying to rest. “I apologize; I should have come to see you sooner. I was caught up in my station.”

Should I have cared? “How kind of you to visit me; at the moment, however, I am incapable of keeping your presence.”

He chuckled, apparently taking his time to annoy my senses with his presence. He hadn't done anything to get under her skin, but I could not tolerate him. I felt unable to tolerate anyone and remain in control. “I see you are in heat at an awkward time, and you are causing a bit of chaos down here. What trouble are you getting yourself into?”

“What concern is it of yours? Since when did you attempt to do anything but harass me?” I palmed my forehead; I was getting tired of all of this.

“There are better things for me to do. . . I cannot say I am as concerned for you as Amaimon is, but my passion for you is nothing like Belial’s.”

Passion? He must be insane. “Do you hear yourself?” I rolled onto my left side to watch him.

Balaam laughed. “You haven’t noticed? He wants to annoy you to the point where you retaliate and he has a reason to bend you over his bed. “

I scoffed; the thought of Belial touching me in a manner other than to cause injury was disgusting. And that he would ever have the ability to bend me to his will in any way was humorous.

Balaam’s tail slithered around his ankles as he curled up a bit. I took the time then to notice his expression and aura were off; it was as though he were a different person. Duplicity, I was sure. There was no reason to believe he had changed while I was gone, as no other demon had changed in ways that matter. Speech, appearance, these always changed in time. Personality did not. “Well, I suppose it’s nice to have you about again.” Balaam stood to leave. “I will see you in again in a few days.”

“Would you mind doing an important favor for me?” As a splendid idea wormed its way into my head, his suspicious glance caused my lips to curl in an amused smirk.

“If it has to do with your heat or chastity belt, I may consider it. . .” Balaam’s smirk mirrored my own, but his response lacked the snappy remark I would have received several millennia ago. “You want me to somehow help you at the orgy, then.” I nodded slowly as he sat back down. His expression changed deathly serious. “No.” For once he didn’t beat around the bush with a response, nor ask a whole slew of questions before giving an answer; he didn’t care to humor me. The demon changed much, it seemed. “Or rather, why do I owe you such a favor?”

“You owe me not a thing. You should, however, be there anyway. Although you do have a choice unless called upon by our Lord, I highly doubt you will keep yourself company with work the entire evening.” There was also the possible next morning and afternoon as well, judging by my infernal heat.

“I will think of it. As of now, I still refuse. If I change my mind, we’ll speak again before the end of the week.” His exit was quiet, but the lack of his odd aura was evidence enough that he was gone. Perhaps I was wrong, and duplicity was not his game.

While it was an odd encounter and left me with questions and little hope for another plan, it wasn’t the most confusing of the day.

Azarias called for me soon after Balaam took his leave of me. While unexpected, it wasn’t undesired wholly at the time. Azarias typed idly on this laptop, his legs crossed as he glared at the screen. I sat on his bed gently and he seemed a bit startled. “Good evening.” My angel only stared at me, sitting quietly with questioning eyes. “Did you not call for me?”

He sighed, placing his laptop beside himself. “Yeah, I did; just so many things to say and ask.”

“I see.” He beckoned to me, but I did not move closer; his words would be the same whether I sat next to him on the bed or on the other side of the room. Besides that, it was safer if I kept my distance; I may have ravaged his body and never left.

“Are you sure you’ll be OK?”

“In what sense?”

“You don’t seem to have many friends in Hell.”

I arched a brow as I lied down on my side. “Only Belial is truly a problem.” Balaam used to be, too, but he looked harmless now. Not docile but... Tamed, maybe.

“I just figured you’re in a lot of trouble or I’m more trouble than I’m worth.” Azarias began to fiddle with his thumbs. What ever was he talking about? “I’m afraid something awful is going to happen to you at that orgy.”

I couldn’t help but feel that there was more bothering him. “There is something else bothering you, love.” He continued to stare at me without speaking. There was guilt attempting to hide under that worry. “What is it?”

“Well, Kyun told me you were harassed outside my door when you left with him.”

“Hn.” That human surely didn’t know how to keep his mouth shut. At least he stated things in vague terms; harassed simply was not the word to use for such a situation. “It was of little consequence.”

“Regardless, I would hate to cause trouble I can’t be involved in.”

I smirked, only a small curve of my lips. “You’re undoubtedly refusing to tell me something, using this to cover it.” I locked my eyes with his as he tried to look away. “Now why try to hide?” My angel sighed and looked away. I moved beside him, gently taking hold of his jaw and tilting his head up to lock eyes again. “Apparently you believe I will be annoyed or angry, but I only will if you continue this refusal.”

He nipped at my wrist. “I was just talking to someone and he said I could get you killed. Or harmed. Something like that.”

“While endearing, you need not worry.” I smoothed my thumb across his bottom lip. “Your eyes still have questions in them.”

“Don’t know what you mean,” he mumbled, his eyes swaying to the left.

How stubborn he was. “Who spoke with you?”

Azarias’ eyes drifted from my own again. “Some guy you know, I suppose. Demon.” From the stare I gave, he realized this answer was inadequate. “I don’t remember his name. Your buddies all have funny names! But it isn’t really important… Take me with you.” He clung to my arm as my hand left his jaw. “I can’t stand knowing that something could happen to you.”

“And what do you presume you can or will do?” He sighed and released my arm. “No harm will come to me. If luck is in my hands, I may be there for only a short while.” Of course there was no way I could walk away from the entire ordeal as I wish I could. But if I could, I would attempt something drastic and hope to leave quickly.

Luck was never on my side, but I hoped it would be that night.

“How is that?” Azrarias’ eyes nearly sparkled.

“Only luck.” He didn’t seem too pleased by that.

“I really hate your kind.” He lied down on his side, facing away from me.

A dry laugh escaped me. “Many do. We have become accustomed and nearly immune to the contempt.” I hoped those words were never directed towards me.

“You could at least stay a while. You’re always leaving, like I’m unimportant or a. . .” Why did hearing those words seem to hurt, though I did not believe them to be true? I feared Belial’s ranting was settling in his head.

Then there was myself. I was suspicious of love beginning to stir in my heart. For me to love again? It was both a pleasing and horrid thought, something to approach with caution. But not something I could think of now.

I shook my head before lying behind Azarias, my tail slowly caressing his side. “I only leave to keep the others way. It would be horrific if a demon with worse intents than Belial came to you.”

My angel stiffened a moment before sighing and turning over; I was beginning to have an idea of who came to bother him while I was gone. “I’m not safer with you gone, so there’s no point in you leaving.” His lips curled into a sweet smile.

“I wonder myself.” He put on an adorable pout. “Azarias. . .”

He smirked, knowing he would receive what he wanted and I would not leave. His arms hooked around me as my tail caressed his back and I kissed his forehead. My fiery, redheaded angel; damning yourself to be with me. . .

There was no need for me to be cautious; I was already trapped.

***

By the end of the week, I realized my hideous luck and continued making what little preparations were left. I had not spoken with Balaam again. I cursed myself and my position as servants arranged the room accordingly with pillows, futons, couches and the like. Several large fountains were spread throughout the chamber, placed by tables of fruits and glasses; a mere precursor to sex as usual. Normally a much larger fountain and a gigantic table would be in the center of the room, but it would not do for the evening.

The centerpiece for the evening would unfortunately be me. My Lord ordered it—stating that as hose I only had to remain there for the first few arrivals—so there was little choice in the matter. Once again, I was out of choices. While I was likely to make this decision myself, being forced sat much more sourly in my stomach. It seemed He had plans.

From the ceiling, several adjustable chains, their ends resting on the floor. Soon, I knew they would be raised much higher, manacles dangling from one chain and a leather hammock from the others. I would be lucky if I were not used upright. It would at least save my shoulders the trouble if my legs gave out.

I shuddered at the thought. What was “a few arrivals” to my Lord? That could be all but the legions, or just the kings and princes for all I knew. I could only hope Belial was not coming at all, and that things moved swiftly. But I feared the worse. The mere thought of being tied up was causing my heat to act, my skin beginning to tingle uncomfortably.

It seemed things may just last until tomorrow afternoon if I completed my duty as host.

I sighed at the thought, quick to stop from cursing my Lord. Melting away in my thoughts, I failed to realize I had company. Warm arms wrapped around my waist loosely, feathers tickling my arms. “I see things are coming along well.”

Amaimon chose the most pleasant of times to approach me. My skin jolted from the small contact. I cleared my throat before speaking, preventing myself from squeaking or making any other embarrassing noise. “Well enough, I suppose.”

I clenched my eyes shut in an attempt not to moan; Amaimon pulled me close to him, my back flush against his chest. “You’re feeling it, aren’t you?” His questioning was a soft whisper in my ear that made me shiver from head to toe.

“I would feel much less if you let go of me.” It was a lie spoken through clenched teeth, and he knew. But my discomfort was not desired by him.

“You’re feisty today, aren't you?” His lips briefly touched my neck and he backed away from me. “Though, I do have a question about your layout.”

It was expected; I was not surprised that he noticed. “Go on, though you shall not enjoy the answer.”

“Why so many small fountains and tables? Or never mind that.” He eyed the chains hanging from the ceiling above the platform. “Don’t tell me you’re going to be up there.” I nodded and he cursed under his breath.

“Sometimes I must do as our Lord wishes.”

“Our Lord is a raging asshole.” He sighed and sat on a nearby couch. “How long will you be stuck on that dais?”

“’For the first few arrivals,’ or so He says.”

“You will be mine the entire time. I’ll make sure no one else touches you.”

What was the point? “What use would that be in this place if afterward I would still be used? What comfort could it be when I’ve attempted to stay away from you this entire week?”

Amaimon smirked and remained silent. It was a silent promise that he would change my mind. Just another reason for me to pray time would stay still or regress to several days ago. Soon after, he left me to my agony.

Within the next hour, one of my servants locked my wrists and adjusted the length of the chain, my arms pulled above my head. The chain was taut, only enough left loose for me to bend my arms slightly, Bowing, she left me in this vulnerable state to wait for my Lord in the hall. I could only hope he would arrive early—or first—and I would get out of this position sooner than later; my Lord was a hellish lord, but could be kind.

Sometimes.

To my dismay, Belial came in first with a small entourage of servants, looking more smug than usual. “Well, what have we here? Asmodaios on a platter?” Before I could hiss an insult, his girly face was in front of my own. “I guess this is what Amaimon meant by an unusual centerpiece.”

I stifled a growl, being near a warm body was nearly driving me mad, even if it was a worm like Belial. “How about you sit in a corner with your servants and wait for our Lord?” Belial grinned, which only made me want to rip out his throat more. “Better yet, how about leaving altogether and saving me the pleasure of seeing your ugly face?”

“Angry, are we? I think it’s all that locked up heat bothering you.” He raised both his hands to my chest, simply moving down my abdomen and stopping at my hips. I shivered under the touch, biting my lip. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you like me.” There was a laugh hiding in his throat.

“You will be punished.” No event started without my Lord’s presence.

“This is just payback and a learning experience; no one is starting a thing.” His hands moved back up my abdomen and chest, tugging harshly at the nubs there. I gasped and let my head hang in front of me, my forehead landing neatly on Belial’s shoulder.

I was beginning to believe what Balaam said.

Both hands left my chest, one moving to my back with teasing strokes and the other lifting my chin slightly. His eyes were nearly white with heat. “Will you amuse me this evening?”

I was very tempted to spit in his face, but that would have done me no good. I knew he could probably injure me while I was chained. Injury might have been easier to deal with, however. “I despise your very existence.” His hands lowered and moved in circles just above my tail. Aiming for a growl and a harsh bite, I whimpered and only managed a nip at his wrist before a purr began in my chest.

“Sensitive, are you?” He licked my lips lightly and kissed me gently. Had he been rough or forceful, I could have bit him, snagged my fangs on his lip even, but he eerily was not. My lips opened up almost immediately to him, my tongue being sucked on just as soon. What had become logic over the years of feuding with Belial struggled in the back of my mind with need. Without him running his mouth, need was winning.

Our lips parted and he moved around me, placed an arm around my waist and removed the plug from inside of me, shivering from the sensation. “I love the sounds you make.” His arm left my waist.

“I hate—” His tongue moved down my spine and lingered above my tail, the rumble in my chest cutting me off.

Over my shameful purring, I heard a disappointed sigh. “You are very impatient subordinates.” My Lord stood in the archway with several of the brethren and his servants, of them Vine, Purson, and Paimon. Vine looked as smug as Belial had, Purson seemed indifferent, and Paimon mirrored my Lord’s expression of amusement. “Belial, I hope you’re not thinking of causing any harm?” Vine and Purson took a seat with the servants, Paimon joining them after taking my Lord’s robe.

“None at all; only pleasure.” Accenting his intent, he stood again and licked my neck as my Lord came to me. Once He was close enough, I moved as far away from Belial as possible, which was not very far. I leaned into my Lord, his presence much more desirable and appealing. Belial growled, my Lord chuckling at the noise.

“Maintain yourself, Belial.” My Lord pulled my head back by my hair, sucking on my bottom lip before kissing me fully.

Belial sucked his teeth and slacked the chain, pushing on my back as he spread my legs farther apart. I leaned further into my Lord, His teeth nipping at my tongue as I continued to purr and Belial’s tongue rimmed my hole. My Lord’s kiss was better than I remembered. He practically devoured me now; or perhaps it was the heat-induced lust that created an illusion. My legs shook as Belial continued rimming my ass, his tongue occasionally slipping through the sphincter and teeth occasionally nipping.

My Lord released my hair and lips, allowing me to bend forward at the waist and wrap my lips around his engorged length. He let out a barely audible groan before shoving my head down, stuffing his cock completely down my throat. I choked and moaned, my own length twitching between my thighs. He shivered as my teeth ran along the crown. I knew better than to bite for blood, but He liked the touch of teeth.

Belial released my hips and stood upright. I heard him strip his clothes before he leaned over me, his chest warm and comfortable against my back. “I wonder how loose you are now that you’re free again. Has your human boy fucked you yet?” I wanted to grunt in displeasure at this presence once more, but only managed to gag and whimper once Belial’s fingers roughly entered me.

My hips swayed in pleasure as I grunted my frustration; as much as I hated his presence and the smug expression that was bound to be on his face, I needed every bit of attention Belial and my Lord were willing to give me. At that very moment, I was finding it hard to care. Once Belial took my erection in hand, I practically squealed around my Lord’s cock. “Ah, is it that good already?”

I pulled back my head to speak. “Don’t touch me—” I didn’t manage more as my Lord shoved his cock down my throat again.

“Focus more on your pleasure than Belial’s taunting, pet.” My Lord smirked while patting me on the head like a kitten. “Or mine, if that is of little concern to you. He continued to stroke my head. “I have yet to maim you for disobedience. And I’d hate to pull out a horn from your head; I quite enjoy them." He pulled my head up by my horns to emphasize his point. All I could do was whimper and wince at the pain.

I could feel Belial staring as he pulled my ass cheeks apart for his entry. “He’ll be obedient soon enough.” Belial slowly ran the head of his length against my entrance, making me squirm and buck my hips back against him. He leaned over my back again, whispering lustily in my ear, “Beg me for it.” My tail loosely wrapped around and stroked his thigh, the tip of it caressing his sac, and he laughed. “Is that all?

My Lord shoved his length fully down my throat again, closing his eyes momentarily and licking his lips. “Take what you want now, Belial, before I move you out of the way.” I swallowed around his cock, forcing a small, pleased growl from his throat.

Belial chose then to hastily and forcefully enter me, causing a dull, burning ache in my ass, tail tightening around his thigh. He gently stroked above the base of my tail, his cock twitching inside of me has he waited. “You’re… Not loose at all. Fuck.” I swayed slightly as I reasserted my footing; his hand moved quickly to hold me still.

I freed my mouth again, my Lord grunting in displeasure. I glanced back at Belial through narrowed lids. “Afraid you’ll cum too soon?”

He chuckled, raising his arm to move my mouth back around my Lord’s manhood. Again, the touch was not commandeering, and it irked a part of me. “Not at all, I was trying to be nice. I just have the tendency to keep getting thicker as I fuck you senseless. I thought of giving you some relief.”

My Lord took a hold of my horns and began to fuck my mouth in earnest, obviously discontent with my inability to remain pliant. His cock head became cozy with my throat, each thrust forcing me to take him down completely.

Belial took hold of me by the length of my hair and hip, quickly progressing from a slow rock of his hops to a quick stutter of movement like a jackhammer to cement. It was unbearable; I purred without control, without shame. My cock throbbed in agony, the cock ring remaining just as secure as before, if not more so.

Belial leaned over me completely, nibbling and sucking on my neck as his hand wrapped around my length again. It was as much torture as pleasure could be, like a killing a child with heavily-sweetened chocolate. Once he was stroking my prostate with his cock, I was as close to Heaven as a demon could be, minus the stifled orgasm; the persistent enlargement of his cock only made it better. Soon I was milking Belial from the uncontrollable pleasure surging through me and he was cumming with his teeth in my neck, his weight almost entirely draped across my back. Several thrusts later, my Lord was holding my head down as he came down my throat, petting my head as I swallowed and cleaned him off.

“You’d make a beautiful pet,” Belial whispered in my ear. I shivered and moaned feebly as he thrust inside me again before pulling out slowly. “Don’t wander too far.” He stood upright again to kiss my Lord and walked off.

I looked at my Lord from under my lashes. “You were always the most pleasing of your brothers. Not the most obedient and stubborn as a goat, but the most pleasing.”

“If you’re done, my Lord, I would like to take him away with me.” Balaam stood close behind me, a loud slap reddening my thigh.

My Lord’s length slipped from my mouth. “Yes, I suppose it is time to release him.” A servant approached and released me. Balaam caught me at the waist as I stumbled.

“My Lord, the belt?” I stood straight and shivered. I could still feel Belial inside of me.

“After the party, unless someone else wants to release you first.” As he walked away, my jaw clenched with increased tension.

“That’s a tad bit cruel.” Balaam dragged me along to one of the unoccupied couches. He sat as I stood stiffly. I figured he would enjoy rubbing my nose in the dirt.

“I don’t care if you have your way with me, just take this forsaken thing off and let me leave afterward.”

“I don’t plan on having my way with you, but I will let you go since you previously asked without trying to make a fool of me.”

“Is that so?” He glanced behind me and pulled me into his lap. “I thought so.”

He silenced me with a greedy kiss, his hands gently caressing the small of my back. This shut me up quickly, my purr cut off only by Balaam’s tongue. He released my lips as quickly as he took them, staring behind me, continuing his gentle touch. “You’ve already had enough time with him, don’t you think?” His lips came close to my ear. “Don’t turn around,” quietly spoken before kissing beneath the lobe.

“Not really, no,” came Belial’s response. I wanted to gag. “I’ll share if you want him that badly; I just want a piece of that pretty mouth of his wrapped around my cock.” He grabbed my jaw, tilting my head backwards, making eye contact with me as top of my head rested against his abdomen.

I couldn’t refrain from being disobedient this time. I spit in his face, the shock in his expression more than amusing. “Fuck off.” He released me and stalked off, wiping his face as he went across the room. Balaam gently grasped my chin, tilting my head forward. “Now what do you want with me?”

He chuckled, a smile adorning his lips. “Nothing; just look occupied for a while and I’ll release you. You’ll be free to go.”

“Why?”

He released the chastity belt, my manhood twitching with relief. I nearly sighed, a shiver visibly running through me. “Does it matter?” He looked around casually, his arms loose around my waist, his hands petting. “Go.”

I never thought I’d be grateful for something Balaam did for me, but the sheer joy I felt form leaving there and being able to see Azarias without such humiliation deserved nothing but thanks and praise.

My relief was so great that I failed to notice Amaimon never arrived before I left.

Chapter Text

It was starting to grate on my nerves that I had this innate ability to attract hellspawn like I was hellspawn. I didn't get it. Asmodaios with me, demons. Asmodaios gone, demons. The blonde one liked to show up as if he owned the place, but always quickly retreated. He thought he could toy with my mind further, and eventually stopped once I was clearly untroubled and Asmodaios didn't show up in retaliation, and not at all. And now there was another.

This one, though. This one was different. He sat in wait for me several days after I last saw Asmodaios, would have scared the shit out of me had he looked like a demon. In fact, he didn't even appear as a a man, but as a woman. A year ago, I would have just been confused as to why a woman was sitting on my couch, waiting for me in the dark, dressed as if she walked out of an episode of Rome. Now, I knew better. Once I was no longer startled, I dropped my messenger bag on the floor beside the door and slammed it shut. "Alright, lady. You may look like a normal woman, but I'm not an idiot. What do you want?"

"I am an it, as is every demon," he began, voice warbling with different tones, male, female, something in between, with each syllable he spoke. "It" was easily making its point with little effort. "Asmodaios could appear as the most sultry of succubi if he wanted." Standing, her voice kept its feminine tone as she stood, thick black curls shifting as she tossed them over her shoulder. "But female suits me fine now, as it has for a while. I am Paimon."

"As informative as all of that was, I don't care." Her eyebrow arched quickly and briefly, and she chuckled softly. I bit my tongue briefly after that. I was an idiot with a death wish. Even without wanting to outwardly harm me, or anyone around me, I was still afraid; I wasn't safe, and somehow she felt more threatening. Her presence was more powerful than Belial's, or whatever his name was that visited before.

"I can see why Asmodaios likes you and why Amaimon hates you," she lilted with a tip of her head. Standing straight again, her tone changed. Still feminine, but stern, almost commanding. Her eyes glinted with gold briefly. "And I know you care about him, so I'll cut to the chase of what 'I' want, though it's not my actual desire, but that of my Lord." I rolled my eyes, unable to properly get out the sigh that bubbled in my throat; her hand was a vice on my jaw that knocked the wind out of me with pain. "I will offer it once, and I won't repeat it, because I don't actually care what happens to you. At all." She reminded me of Julia, if Julia was an angry, violent woman. Up close, she was almost too beautiful, hair tousled to look sultry, skin sun-kissed and freckled, highlighting her olive eyes, so close to mine. I imagined it was what others saw when I was violent, just not as enticing. The pain of her grip put me in a slight daze, and I forgot to respond. A slight shift of her arm rattled me, my head hitting the door behind me. "Are we clear or are you that much of an idiot?"

I nodded as best I could in her grip and she released me, her body seemingly appearing and reappearing into existence to move her away in an instant, now that I was watching.

Paimon was seated again, legs crossed at the knee. "I'm giving you an opportunity to keep both yourself and Asmodaios alive."

I could feel my jaw starting to heal, and I cleared my throat to delay moving it a moment longer. Yes, more threats of death and maiming. Whoopee. But her words didn't sound like a threat, not a direct one. "And why do you care?"

"I don't; Lucifer has no desire to see either of you dead, and his desire is my only reason for existence. He covets Asmodaios; as they say, distance makes the heart grow fonder, and Asmodaios was lost to him for two thousand years. He doesn't want to lose him again, especially not so soon. He is a king, after all. As for you, you are strong, and growing stronger, and that is why you may harm him and yourself, should you make the wrong decisions."

I stood motionless as she spoke. I didn't respond. I didn't know how to.

"Fate is not linear. There's choices you've already made to harm him, that both of you made. His heat isn't just from being freed by you, it's from being with you. You've been several kinds of triggers for him, and he allowed it. There are fates where you didn't release him, fates where you did, knowingly. Fates where he devoured you whole once he took what he wanted, and succumbed to no heat thereafter for two more millennia."

"I get it. Why should I trust a thing that you're saying?"

"I am the Knower of All Things. No knowledge nor fate is lost to me, of both man and demon. I know your origins; I know that your mother never uttered a lie to you for the entirety of her life; I know the web of protection you have around you, weaved by yourself without your conscious thought, and weaved by others without your knowledge; I know that it is useless, because you welcome Asmodaios with open arms. I know that you love him, that he loves you, and that he would die to protect you. And he might just."

That she brought up my mother irked me. She was a demon, so maybe it was easy for her to gather that kind of information. It didn't matter, because it was incapable of being proven. I pursed my lips, feigning thought. "Do you know why the chicken crossed the road?" I regretted the words instantly; a roll of her eyes and a flick of her wrist later, and I was pinned to the ceiling, unable to breathe. Every attempt I made to move my limbs, firm resistance met them, no movement made. I closed my eyes, beginning to panic. I was going to die, pinned down like a thoughtless animal.

"The impudence does not amuse me as it does the others. I am a reflection of my Lord, and he bears no nonsense, even when relatively amused by disobedience." She watched me with uncaring eyes as I whimpered slightly, whatever air that remained in my lungs now gone. "Please, spare me the bratty antics so I don't have to make this more uncomfortable for us both. I don't enjoy torture."

With that, I fell face first to the floor with a loud thud, my arms and a pillow magically thrown beneath me protecting my face. I panted loudly, my heart pounding heavily in my chest. "It's a fucking reflex, shouldn't you know that?"

"And it doesn't mean I have to tolerate it. I also know you have self-control buried somewhere in there, or else you wouldn't be the student you are. Shall we continue?"

Moving off my stomach to sit up, I sat on the pillow cross-legged. "Yeah, I guess. What the hell else am I going to do?"

"Ignore me and make your choices. That is an option if you so choose."

"Isn't there some kind of rule about interfering with fate?"

She seemed pleased with me, her features softening slightly. "There is no fate along this course in which I don't come here and 'interfere.' I knew this was to happen for many years, and despite that oddity, I knew it to be true, because I would never disobey a request from my Lord. Free will does not apply to me in this case." I stared, puzzled. How was it enjoyable to be a slave to another's will and whim? I didn't voice the concern, but she answered it anyway, knowing. "Sometimes there is freedom in slavery that is given willingly. Being obedient to his will has always been my choice. Should that change, it changes." She shrugged her shoulders. "Anyway, your fates." Sighing, she closed her eyes for a moment, and once they were open again, they swirled with black and gold. The Roman-style maxi dress fluttered, her body seemingly the source of the breeze which stirred it.

"There are always many paths to even a single fate; for as many events there are that matter, there are double that do not. There is one fate, where Asmodaios dies, unable to protect you; there is one fate, where he dies by your hand; and there are several where you're both alive and well. And I can offer you one fate where that is true. You could have a princedom, a kingdom. You could still see Asmodaios." She turned her hands outwards, as if asking for my hands in hers, talons pointed towards the ceiling. I didn't move. I knew better. "Should you reject my proposal, you are destined to fight an arduous battle, and harm will come to Asmodaios before then," she began again after a moment. "This can lead to any of these fates, even one where you are both safe. But I offer the quickest and surest: Come to Hell with me and submit to Lucifer. We will train you, and you will know power you have never known before, possibly to rival my own if we ever cared to test it; we will not. You will have legions of Hell to order at your whim and heart's desire, and Asmodaios will never be away from your side. He will still love you, and the other demons will learn to accept you and respect your power, grow to adore you as he was unable to prevent himself."

"Eternal slavery to the devil himself or take my chances?" Watching her eyes for so long, I nearly wanted to puke. It was dizzying, both the sight, and the information. Was it selfish to just want this to end? And where was the fate where I just died? I could have ran into the kitchen then and there slit my own throat, badly enough that my healing couldn't possibly prevent me from bleeding out. Or maybe I couldn't possibly go through with that.

Paimon's eyes returned to normal, and her hands layered over her crossed knees again. "If that is what you want to call it. Amaimon might agree with you. Asmodaios would not." It wasn't the first time she had mentioned Amaimon, and I didn't know who he was and why she kept mentioning him.

"And who is that?"

"You will meet him soon, whether you join me or not. He would rather be here in my place, but I have no reason to allow harm to come to you while I have my duty."

"Great, another one. What does it even matter?"

"Fate, yours and another's, intertwining as it was meant to. That is all it is." She smiled and tipped her head, her eyes glinting again in the light with a brief hint of gold once more. "And what is your choice?"

I rubbed my forehead as I leaned forward, elbows planted into my knees. "I have no choice but to choose now, huh?"

"That is correct. It is a one time offer, and I will not come to you to offer it again no matter how much you call for or summon me."

Sighing, I opened my eyes again and stared at her. She was still, patient, waiting. At least she gave me that.

It was tempting to just allow this all to end. But what about Julia? It was always clear to me that this was more her kind of thing— there was always something not quite normal with her— even if I denied it. What would she think when I was just gone without a trace, already suspicious of what happened to me in Egypt? What about Cadence? She'd lose her best friend to something worse than illness, and left without closure. And there was even Seuk-chul, who would drive himself insane just to find me, and might even summon a demon to do so, because that was the kind of idiot he was.

But I thought of my mother, and Paimon's attestation that she had never lied to me. I would never believe that my father was an angel, but if she believed it, was it technically a lie? I didn't want to ask, because I didn't want to know. Either way, she was trapped in an assisted living facility, and a part of me wanted to traipse out of her life and into Hell, forsaking whatever thoughts and events that put her there. I couldn't do that. My relationship, or lack thereof, with her would always be complicated but I couldn't abandon her, other consequences be damned. My uncle didn't care about her. And I could only feel guilty because other than her angel ramblings, she now seemed sane whenever I visited her. She couldn't accept me as anything that was truly tainted in the eyes of God. "Yeah, I can't do that."

Paimon nodded her understanding and stood. "I could see the cogs working in your mind. I imagine your mother would be proud of you."

Shaking my head, I looked up to her. "Don't... Don't do that. It isn't necessary." It shouldn't have hurt to think about. Why did it? Why did I have to choose between people? Why was this even happening to me? Oh, right. Fate banked in this direction.

"As you will. Thank you for humoring me, however, and thinking about it. It would have been nice to have you as a brother, but it wasn't meant to be. I can guarantee no harm will come to you tonight, and no unwanted demons will come to you. You are on your own after that, however. Live well." I blinked as her white dress fluttered, and she was gone as soon as my eyes were open again.

I crawled forward and rested my head on the couch seat, growling in frustration. There was no way to know what was the right decision. There was a chance that things could be fine. "Fuck!" I shouted into the empty apartment and punched the bottom frame of the couch, my wrist protesting the effort. Before I could think about it, my hand pulled out my phone and was dialing Julia's number. It wasn't until I heard her voice on the phone that I had realized what I was doing.

"Hello?" I didn't respond, silent. A part of me wanted to hang up immediately. "Azarias, are you there? Are you alright?" I closed my eyes tightly. Why did I call? Why did I want to pull her into this too? There was no reason to. "Do you need my help?"

Somehow, that made me respond. "No, I... I wanted to apologize. I snapped at you for being concerned and I shouldn't have. I know it's been a while, but yeah. You know me." It was a partial lie, but a lie nonetheless. I'm an asshole and actually forgot about the whole thing until that very moment.

Julia was silent on the other end a while, and a loud sigh told me she was still there at all. "You're a brat. It's fine, I'm not concerned. You're just being yourself. But I appreciate it. Good night, Rias." She hung up before I could say anything more. I had half a mind to sleep right where I was, uncaring of the condition of my neck in the morning. But moving on autopilot, I stood and went through the motions of settling down for the night. Grabbed my bag, set my laptop on the desk to charge, and bathed quickly.

I went to sleep, but it didn't last.

When Asmodaios materialized in my room, chastity belt removed and all, I was relieved. He was all sultry, flaming bedroom eyes, and strained muscles, erection leading the way to me. Yes, he was in heat and hurting, but I was still upset, over Paimon, and over his orgy. His fault or not, I couldn’t pull the feeling away. He slipped over me, not stopping until he reached my head, leaning over me and holding on to the headboard.

We stared at each other for a while, not able to say a word; he was in agony, panting heavily and unsteadily. It was sad, how desperate he looked and how stubborn I felt, although that was beginning to diminish. I placed my palm on his cheek, his head leaning into my touch. He nipped at my wrist, his lids becoming heavy and nearly closing, his voice was so quiet.“Sleep with me...”

How could I say no? He returned to me even though he didn’t need to. “Absolutely... Yes.” A part of me knew it was the influence of pheromones that made me say yes, but it primarily wasn't; I wanted him, and I always did, even without the budding fog. This wasn't like the first time, where I was confused and foggy and could only manage to call for him desperately.

My body was responding slowly as I wrapped my arms around his neck. pulling him closer to me. I was fully aware of his kisses, of his hands slowly— too damned slow— removing my pants so that we were skin to skin again. His lips and teeth against my neck, his cock throbbing, wet and heavy, next to mine on my abdomen, his hands pulling my legs apart and around his waist. I was conscious of it all, even as I felt myself slip deeper and deeper.

I shifted my hips beneath him, grunting as the tip of his length rubbed against my entrance. His hips rolled gently, light moans leaving my lips with each gentle push of his tip against my sphincter. I knew he could push through and I'd be just fine, but it might be too tight for him. He sucked several marks into my neck and the arm not propping him up played and tugged at my nipples. With the haze forming over my mind, it was easy to just lay there and let him do as he pleased, but I didn't want to. And I was "awake" enough to be myself. I reached low between us, gripping his cock and slicking my fingers as much as possible while stroking him. He attempted to keep still briefly, purring loudly, but failed after a few seconds and continued to rock into my grip. "I'm sure you've had enough of people telling you not to cum, but... Don't cum."

The sound that left him was a mix between a purr and a laugh, and he bit down harder on my neck, making me yelp. "You don't have to worry about that."

I released his cock with a tight squeeze at the tip, pleased with the grunt he released. I didn't say a word again, instead licking a trail along his earlobe to make him shiver. I slid two fingers easily into my hole, a tingling sensation causing me to shiver visibly. That was new. I knew there was pheromones in his secretions, too, and that they made me more pliable, but they never did that. I spread my fingers, and moaned loudly as I slowly rocked them in and out of myself. "What the fuck is up with your lube today?" I flopped my head back on the pillows, moaning loudly, uncaring that the position made it harder to spread myself open. I felt too good.

Still bleary, he looked up at me as he slithered down along my body, his tail high but curled. "Pheromones, angel."

"Yeah, but this is your pheromones on crack." I covered my mouth with my free hand, muffling the moan forced from my mouth with his tongue slowly stroking my length. His tongue was warm, hotter than my cock, easily forcing more precum from the slit as he pressed his tongue against it. He didn't play for long, his mouth wrapping wet and hot around my length, and two of his fingers joining my four inside of me. It was getting harder to think, but I held on tight; I didn't want to forget this.

I slowly removed my fingers and used my other hand to grip Asmodaios by his hair, pulling his mouth off my cock. He outright moaned, his mouth hanging open slightly as he stared me down. I may have been conscious, but I had no idea how conscious he was. "Come up here and fuck me already."

Conscious or not, he moved in a flash, his hands pinning my wrists beside my head. I didn't even fight his grip hard, instead enjoying his strength, letting it fuel my arousal further. "As you wish," he purred against my lips, and slowly, so very fucking slowly pushed into me. I wrapped my legs tightly around his waist, attempted to drag myself to him, or him to me, anything to get him deeper as fast as possible. But he didn't falter in his pace, just fucking grinned at me like this was the normal thing to do. Fucker. Once I accepted he would do what he wanted, he slammed into me, his hips slapping loudly against my ass. I roughly tugged my arms under his grip and gasped loudly, not expecting the motion, nor for him to start fucking me so hard and heavy. I was quiet if only for the reason that I could hardly breathe with the way he was moving. He growled down at me, staring, fangs peaking out from between his lips, and stopped, allowing me to catch my breath. "I won't last long, but suffocating you would be unpleasant." His voice sounded so foreign to me now. Not that his voice didn't do things to me before, but this was a different level while laced with arousal; he sounded harsher, like ten drinks and smokes into the night.

That or it was the pheromones like everything else. "Yeah," I breathed out, still panting in an effort to catch my breath. Before I could make any comment, his thrusts began again, releasing my wrists in favor of propping himself up on both elbows and kissing me. His pace wasn't as fast, but hit just as hard, giving me some time to inhale the air I lost with each slap of his hips into my ass. I tangled my tongue with his as long as possible, sucking his tongue each time he dipped into my mouth. I felt so good, probably too good. Groaning, I released his lips and tossed my head back, so close to cumming. My eyes were screwed shut, but I felt as his tail squeezed hard at the base of my dick, my hands moving to swat at his tail.

"You can't be serious," I managed to whine out, my balls already drawn up tight. His grin was devilish, but I could feel him throbbing inside of me. He barely lasted a few thrusts longer, his cock feeling like it spread me open further as he filled me with his cum. And as soon as he finished, his hips didn't still, but instead he pulled out, leaving me empty. "You're fucking—" I nearly bit my tongue as he took me into his mouth again, his fingers gently prodding my rim before all four slipped in. He fucked me with his fingers harder than he had with his dick, and I felt like dying with how tightly his mouth was suctioned to mine. I came quickly down his throat, unable to do much more than lace my fingers through his hair and tug through my orgasm. The tugging made him purr and moan, the sensation making me oversensitive quickly. Soon I was pushing his forehead instead, and he rested his head on my abdomen and thigh.

I cradled his head there with my hand, his tail moving gently along the bed. It was kind of interesting to watch, sheets pooling around such a large tail, something that, for a normal reality, shouldn't exist, and then moving away as his tail swished in the other direction. I had probably never seen him this relaxed, actually. “Exhausted?” I definitely was. There was still some arousal there, but I could manage. I was too tired to care. Sitting up felt like a hassle, and I wasn't going to bother rearranging any more pillows to prop myself up further. And a shower was definitely in order for us both. I didn't want to know how much he came but I could definitely feel it.

“Beyond exhausted...” The soft lamplight gentled his face, eyes now a tame amber again. “Would you mind keeping me here for a while longer?”

I arched a brow lazily in confusion. “Well, yeah. Stay as long as you like. You’re usually the one that just up and disappears without staying.”

His eyes were somber as he looked up, creases forming along his brow.

Whoops, I gave myself away.

Again.

“Azarias, talk to me."

I moved a hand to his chest as he shifted, asking him to keep put. He didn't need to sit up and move around to listen to me. "I have as much insecurity as a teenage girl going through high school with a crush on the top jock of her graduating class." I could tell from the stare I received that it wasn't a good analogy.

"I barely understand the reference, but continue."

"It doesn't matter. I'm insecure with a fear of being abandoned, of being used and left behind. I know it, but it doesn't make it any easier to quiet those feelings and not act on them. So I overthink at the slightest suggestion, and sometimes no suggestion at all. And I either get away unscathed or fuck up something that could be good. But fucking up something that could be good is still getting away unscathed." His stare was unwavering, and I looked away from him to continue. Really, I had said enough. But there was no reason to not give context, and it wasn't like I was going to be seeing a therapist to get it off my chest any time soon. "There's the rational part of my brain that knows better than to listen to another demon, and while it's the majority of me that knows that whatever Belial would ever tell me could only be partially true, partial is enough for me to try to push you away."

He was moving before I noticed, sitting up before I could protest. His eyes were soft as he looked down at me. "Azarias." I looked away. I didn't need to be scolded and I didn't want anything like a "how could you!" response. His hand gripped my chin gently, and I stared back at him blankly. "It is easy to love but not as easy to admit it."

"No, I don't need or want—"

His voice was flat as he interrupted me. "And I am not making affirmations because of what you need or want." He wanted to shut me up, and it worked easily. "As arrogant as I am, even I can sit in denial. I am not a demon immune to feeling, and if that should seal my fate again, so be it; I love you. Centuries after centuries of being trapped and already I cannot resist a human again." A single, deprecating chuckle left his throat. I knew it wasn't a statement about me, but rather at his inability to learn, his inability to resist temptation, me. "I could not use you, and have not since I was able to flee my tomb. Even that you were there, trapped with me, was serendipity. Could it have been someone else? I don't know. And it is irrelevant."

I didn't know what to say, and I said as much as I sat up.

"You don't need to say anything."

"But this is stupidly uncomfortable."

"As it may need to be."

"Why do you have to make things difficult?" Sighing, I moved to cradle my face against his neck, my arm curling over his shoulder to run my fingers through his hair and gently massage along his scalp. I was terrified of falling in love with someone that more or less didn't belong on Earth. "Why did you come back to me?"

"Do you have to ask?" I knew it was rhetorical remark, but my fingers stopped briefly. "Azarias, there is duty and there is desire. I wanted to be nowhere else but here, and so it was here that I returned to once I was free to. I wanted you then, I want you, and I will always want you."

He moved my head to look at me again, and I felt that familiar fog begin to settle over me again, more powerful than before. I cradled his cheeks in my hands, my thumbs tracing invisible circles under his eyes. "Yeah. Yeah, I know."

***

Whatever haze I had been under broke again after a dry orgasm, probably one of many from the way I was feeling. Eyes aflame again, Asmodaios looked like hell, strained even. Panting over me, I used my legs wrapped around his waist to shove him off and away from me. "Okay, I can't keep up with this," I muttered as he groaned his displeasure once flat against the bed. Outside, dawn had come and gone, and the sun was barely hidden by the blinds. It was definitely daytime now.

"Azarias, I apologize. I'm barely conscious of where I am." His arm covered his eyes and forehead, his mouth curled into a frown.

"I'm barely conscious." I sat up, hissing as my back and hips protested the movement. My body really couldn't keep up with him and this heat. Asmodiaos' normal pheromones affected me, even if it was less than others, but this was like inhaling ten lines of pheromone coke over and over again.

He uncovered his eyes slightly, their normal color for now, and smiled, though it was strained. Of course I returned it. "I need to go— "

"I don't think so—"

"Or else," he spoke over me without much force, but was enough to shut me up. "We will stay in this loop. And I may harm you."

I sighed, knowing he was right. It didn't mean I had to like it. Being in hell meant sitting with demons who wanted to take advantage of him. And he would probably enjoy every minute of it, because he kind of had to. It sucked. Sighing, I nodded in agreement. "Yeah, whatever. I'm not mad, I'm just..." I paused, unsure of how to put it.

"Mad."

"Yeah, but," I grumbled and flopped back down on the bed, curling up to him for what I knew would be the last time for a while. "I'm not mad at you and telling you to fuck off, I'm mad at the circumstances and the people around you." I looked up at Asmodaios, who smiled down at me. He understood without me having to say it. That felt good. "Get gone before I can't resist again." And he did, but not before leaving me with a kiss that made it difficult to let him go.

Chapter Text

Arriving home felt odd. When I could have been spending this time on Earth, beside Azarias, it was even unwelcome. I ignored the feeling as much as possible, because I was here to keep him safe and sane. There was also the small likelihood that he would keep my heat going, even as it began to lull. This was the wisest and best solution.

Upon arrival to my dominion, my legions of incubi and succubi were unable to resist my unconscious call, attempting to coax me to bed with them. It was my own fault, and something that I should attend to for that reason alone— they were under my charge, and of all of our underlings, they felt my heats the hardest even without my presence. But I couldn't find the desire to lay with them, nor even to watch. I managed to pull myself away from their groping hands and to my privacy.

Even so, I was not alone.

Five minutes within the bath and Belial was there, appearing with a quiet burst of flames and feathers beside the pool. I eyed him idly, not caring for his presence. And then I looked away, allowing my head to tip back and rest on the marble with my eyes closed. Part of me remembered his infatuation with keeping me to himself during his orgy, and silently thanked Balaam for releasing me. "I'm surprised you're here," he started, his voice teasing. "I expected to see you on Earth until your heat was over."

"I am thankful that I have yet to be as predictable as you," I sighed. The demon was boring, and I was tired. But his presence did nothing for me sexually, so I was able to humor him for now. "What do you actually want, Belial?"

I heard him move, and felt the water shift slightly. I peeked with one eye; he settled himself nearby at the side of the pool, wading his feet in the hot water. Ugh. "Paimon sent me to check on you, that's all."

Odd. "Why? I'm not under her charge; I'm Amaimon's responsibility if anyone's at all." That was no mystery. He served Paimon, I did not. That he served Paimon was probably the only reason Belial still lived.

"I haven't the slightest idea as to why. She asks, I deliver. Maybe she's just eyeing the wheels of fate, like she does." I figured he would be of no use, but it didn't hurt to ask. That I was annoyed couldn't be helped. So much as smelling him at a distance was enough to set my mood foul.

"Belial, be gone from me. You've done your due diligence." My patience was gone, and I was ready to relax again. It was only a matter of time before another heat wave came over me in the presence of another.

"Sure, you've never made good company. I'm sure I can find someone else to occupy my time."

I knew his words for what they were, a way to goad me into a fight. And likely, because of my heat, he hoped to lay with me. Alone. I shuddered in disgust. "Belial, do you know why you're considered worthless and for the most part despised?"

He was silent, watching me with feigned disinterest. I closed my eyes again. I did not expect a response. "And why is that, oh wise one?"

I ignored the sarcasm. I had no reason to acknowledge it; if he wasn't arguing, he was catty and attempting to argue or fight. "You're too human. Over a millennia and nothing has changed."

"And you're still a relic that gets hung up on humans." The water thrashed as he rose, and I felt the shift in energy as he imploded to leave. It wasn't my intention to upset him, but he did always bring unwanted results. More importantly, I was alone, finally.

The bath was soothing after that, the water kept warm eternally by hellfire. Able to relax, I ran my fingers through my hair, removing any tangles that I crossed. It was an easy task, and while having an underling do it for me could have been more relaxing, I wanted to be alone. This was better.

Truly, it always amazed me that we, as demons, craved even the most human of comforts at times. The bath was extravagant, comfortably deep and large enough to fit more demons than would ever visit at once. Sleep wasn't necessary, yet many of us still did, and we still preferred laying down in beds; we didn't drop where we stood, didn't curl up in corners or sleep on slabs of rock. My own bed was more plush than would ever be necessary. We wore clothes that provided us with nothing but an aesthetic when we weren't around humans. Even sex, which was originally not much more than a means to an ends for my incubi and succubi, was something everyone indulged in, and frequently. Maybe our mostly human appearances affected our whims and nature, too. Perhaps that was why I continued to be attracted to humans. Perhaps that made me similar to Belial.

Rather than think of it beyond that, I slowly rose from the bath and wrung whatever excess water I could from my hair. A quiet snap of my finger and a gust of wind later, I was mostly dry save for some dampness clinging to my hair. Deftly, my fingers went to work in making a thick plait while I traveled from the bath area to my bedroom. As before, I ignored any stares and touches I received, no interest in diving deep into heated lust again. It was easier than before, and that lightened my gait. After a thousand years of numb boredom, I could not remember what it was like to be in heat. Was it always as bad as these few days had been, or was it more like this, where I could be easily inflamed but could refuse and control myself? There was no way for me to remember suddenly, but the thought still occupied my mind.

Occupied enough that I didn't realize my own bed had a body in it.

Fingers now free of my hair, I allowed the braid to sit over my shoulder as I approached the altar in my room. It was adorned with several crystal balls on stands, and a large scrying mirror. Normally, the crystals cycled through my worshipers and notified me if I was being summoned through a standard ritual. The mirror provided a better view, if I so desired, and could be used to communicate with others if I so desired. Quietly, I ran my hand over one of the balls, Azarias' image shining through. Sound asleep now and seemingly at peace.

"He survived into adulthood without you, I imagine he wouldn't suddenly die an hour after you left him." Amaimon's voice startled me briefly, and luckily did little else. If there was anyone else that could keep me in heat, it was him. I kept still and stared at him, blinking slowly. He looked annoyed as he lazed in my bed, by either my obsession with Azarias or the fact that I didn't notice he was there immediately, I do not know. Still, he raised his hand to beckon towards me, seeking my own hand in his. "Come. I missed you the other night."

Brow furrowing, I followed his demand and set my hand in his, moving to sit beside him in my bed. A shiver ran through my body once he wrapped his other arm around my shoulders. I remembered then that he did in fact miss me the other night; Belial set me free and I didn't see Amaimon preceding that. Perhaps that annoyed him, too. Comfortable, I rested my head on his shoulder before I spoke. "Where were you?" There was no hurt, no sign of unmet expectations in my voice; it was difficult to be disappointed about it when I didn't remember him at the time.

"Consider it a gift from Paimon to you, I suppose." He sounded disgruntled, even as he placed a kiss to the top of my head. The simple gesture sent a jolt of pleasure down my spine. "I don't think I've ever seen him so... Animated."

I looked up to his face, barely doing so from his shoulder. "Paimon?" I vaguely remembered seeing him during the orgy, but once things started, I couldn't be sure. If Amaimon wasn't on my radar, Paimon would never cross my mind. Despite being female now, he changed the most out of all of us, and was often times hermaphroditic. Gender and sex meant little to demons, and even less so to Paimon. Above all else, Paimon was the most loyal to Lucifer, so it was rare for him to do anything unrelated to his whims and wants. Now, it seemed even more odd that Belial was supposedly sent to me by Paimon. Was Lucifer scheming something?

"Yes, he attacked me without much warning, bound my magic, and then bound me to my room. I freed myself a while ago, and shouldn't have been surprised to find you weren't here."

I felt no shame at his words; I was loyal to him to no end, but Azarias would always be separate from that. How human of me. The heat that rose to my cheeks had nothing to do with his words, only a reaction to his teeth grazing the shell of my ear. "Amaimon..."

"I know, your heat is dimming. Both a shame and a boon." A kiss behind my ear was his last heated touch, his hand releasing mine to set my head properly on his shoulder again. "I missed out, but having you sober again is so much better."

I waited a few moments longer before speaking. "Then why do you intend on staying?" I assumed he would have released me and left, leaving me to my solitude and my slowly diminishing heat. But he did not move an inch.

"Because I want to hold you. You can allow my poor soul such an indulgence, no?" His fingers briefly ran through my hair, stopped by the loose braid it was tied in.

"You're soulless," I scoffed, but relaxed against him. I could feel his smile against my scalp. I was well enough that if he didn't respond to my pheromones, then I was likely to be fine. Eventually, we rearranged ourselves, lying down and cuddled properly next to each other. My tail curled around his leg between my own, and eventually I fell into a deep sleep.

I awoke hours later, my face smothered in Amaimon's chest. It was a murmur from Amaimon that brought me to consciousness, I vaguely recalled. "What?" I gently rubbed my face against his chest, not wanting to move from the warmth. It wasn't as if I needed the room to breathe.

He shifted his head, his chin now resting atop my head. "Stop grinding your dick against me, or else I'll take advantage." There was a bit of tension in his voice, and I then took note of his erection beside mine. So tempting...

"Make me," I responded on instinct, a low sigh vibrating Amaimon's chest against my face. I moved my head back, looking up at him. "Actually, don't. Don't do that."

His hand moved to my chin, keeping my head tipped up so that he could kiss me. The kiss was light at first, his teeth against my flesh pushing me to ask for more. My lips slid open and his tongue briefly tangled with mine before pulling back, his fingers on my chin keeping my head in place. I fought it, wanting to chase, and did grind down against him intentionally this time. He chuckled smoothly. "Stay here with me for a few days. You'll be a few kisses from going crazy for a while, and you still need to recover." There was the unstated promise of protection, which he never had to state; it was always implicit with Amaimon, regardless of if I needed it or not.

I was silent for long enough that he knew my answer would be no before I knew. It was tempting to keep put and just stay here, but I could recover fine enough with Azarias. I couldn't define why I was so concerned with his well-being that I felt the need to be nearby even when I needed to recover. "We shall see," I responded softly, and shook away his grasp to set my face against his chest again. I ignored his sigh, and allowed his petting hands to lull me back to sleep.

I can't be sure of how long it lasted; when I woke, I was alone, roused by a deep ache of pain that told me Azarias was in trouble. It shook whatever vestiges of sleep clung to my consciousness and quickly moved me into action. I closed my eyes, and willed myself to be beside Azarias. But try as I might, I remained still, sitting up in bed without a single atom on Earth. It was then that I felt the weight on my ankle.

I eyed the silver, serpentine anklet with chagrin. The source of the trinket was of no mystery to me; Amaimon had the nerve to attempt to keep me bound here, and I would have none of it. I stood with ease and moved to my altar. None of my crystals were working, clouded completely in regard to Azarias. My anger doubled; he lulled me into comfort, only to stab me in the back. These were the type of actions I assumed he disliked Lucifer for. Growling my discontent, I sat back down and set my right ankle atop my left knee. Firmly, I wrapped my hands around the anklet. Burning heat surfaced from the metal to damage my palms, and I ignored the pain. It would take time, and even more so in my weakened state, but it wasn't impossible to remove.

A short wave of energy permeating the room distracted me briefly. I turned my head to see Balaam. He had the appearance of a human despite being nude, and again could have easily passed as my twin if I, too, looked human now. The sight of him confused me, but I didn't have the luxury to care then, and refocused my efforts. Even as he moved to sit on his calves on the floor in front of me, I didn't allow him to distract me. Pain radiated up my arms as I focused my power, something akin to panic running through my veins. He watched, without comment for a while. "It would seem you're stuck," he eventually purred.

"What do you want, Balaam?" I had no intention of begging for his help once more.

"To taunt you." I looked up with furrowed brows to his subtle, calm smile. It was out of place. "You're stuck here, and your poor, mortal boy is out there, bleeding to death. Do you think he's hurt enough that I could go to him? Would he be able to tell the difference between you and I? He'd have to feel for it, after all; I look just like you."

I watched him with unblinking eyes. I could not understand what was so interesting about Azarias to other demons, or what was so interesting about frustrating me now that I was free; was Hell so bereft of activity that any change called for mischief?

Receiving no comment from me, Balaam continued, manicured fingertips idly tapping my knee. "I could take him, nurse him back to health and confuse him, leaving his love for you in the dust. I wouldn't mind sharing him. You were never very good with sharing, were you?" He paused, his hair covering part of his face as he tipped his head. "He'd make a very pretty slave. No doubt that he'd sound beautiful, too."

Having had enough, I released the anklet with one hand and took hold of Balaam's throat. My claws extended quickly, piercing the large veins at either side of his neck. It didn't matter if he bled out, he'd still live. A large spurt of blood splattered onto my cheek, bothering me little. A small croak left his throat once I tightened my grip, my palm crushing his esophagus. His fingers digging into my forearm was ignored, the sensation nothing compared to the pain Amaimon's anklet fought me with. "If you are ever so much as in the same building as Azarias, I will, without hesitation, kill you. Not banish you back here, not tear you limb from limb. I will kill you." The surge of power I felt as I kept him stuck there was enough to disenchant the anklet. It crumbled to pieces within my grasp and onto the floor. Perhaps Balaam wasn't as useless in this situation. Smiling, I pulled my hand from his body, along with this esophagus, with a sharp tug, his body falling over and to the side in pain. Standing, I tossed the organ to the side and flicked my wrist, chunks of viscera and blood mostly cleaned from my hand. Without sparing him another glance, I left little more than a wisp of smoke behind and reappeared in Azarias' apartment.

The sight that greeted me tore my heart into pieces.

Chapter Text

The first thing I did when I woke up again was shower. My mind wasn't free of all its usual overthinking, but it nearly felt like it during that shower. My body, despite the aches and pains that still popped up, was loose. I didn't feel a bit of tension. And there was definitely things to think about, like if Asmodaios was OK, if Paimon was legit, who the hell was Amaimon and when would he be showing his ugly face, but I wasn't bothered by it. In fact, I wasn't for hours.

Once thoroughly clean, and the majority of my aches gone, I reheated Chinese takeout— it was way too late in the day to think about breakfast foods— and I sat at the kitchen island to eat, one leg curled to rest my heel on the seat of the stool I sat on. I couldn't help but stare at my phone the entire time I ate, not even to scroll through memes or articles. I wanted to call my mom; I never had. It was just one of those things I never did. I would visit her once or twice a month, but never called. And it was like I never needed to, really. She always knew when I was coming.

I only ever thought of it as she was crazy and assumed I was coming every day, or that everyone was me. I questioned that more than I had before now. I was upset with Paimon, because I didn't want to think about these things. But I was, and I had to. Sighing, I set the fork full of pepper steak back in the bowl and dialed my mother's number. Listening to the usual ringing on speaker filled me with anxiety. I hoped she wouldn't answer, hoped she was eating out on the veranda or in the garden or something that would just make her not answer.

"Azarias," I heard before I managed to tap end call. I chewed my lip. She sounded both surprised and happy.

"How did you know it was me?" My eyebrows drew together as I stared at the phone. I never gave her my number, and I had never bothered to edit the name on this phone; any caller ID would come up as my uncle.

"Do you actually want the answer?" I could hear the smile in her voice. Regardless of if this ended well, I think she was just happy to be hearing my voice.

"I guess not," I sighed softly. If I was honest, I was happy to hear her voice, too, even if I didn't know what to say. I was never good with phone conversations, and it was worse with my mother. "How are you?"

***

While our conversation wasn't long, it was sweet. I'm not sure why it put my mind at ease, but it did. I still intended to go see her that week, but just hearing her prattle on about mundane things helped me relax. Really, it didn't matter if Paimon was lying through her teeth. My mother didn't feel trapped where she was, thank God; she was happy and still very much alive. She was active and wasn't deteriorating like people generally do in nursing homes. So there were small blessings in the situation; I had to learn to see and appreciate the best of things sometimes.

My phone rang just as I flopped onto my couch, preparing to work on homework I had put off like the excellent student I am. I bit my lip as I looked at the screen. Seukchul, of course. He didn't have much of a reason to call, but there he was, calling. Granted, I should have called and apologized— for a lot over the past two years, honestly— but I didn't. I felt like I had enough awkward conversations lately to last twenty years. I had no intention of picking up the phone, but my finger was answering before I could stop myself.

"Kyun," I managed to get out without sounding annoyed. It had been a long time since that happened.

"Wow. I, uh, wasn't actually expecting you to pick up. Now my tongue is tied." His voice was a bit hoarse as he answered, likely from sleep.

"I would be happy to hang up and pretend you never called," I replied flatly. I had no intention of doing so, but he was never really good at reading me like that.

"Wait, no no. C'mon, Rias." He sighed, muffled shuffling on his end. "Cadence was just here, and I wanted to check on you. It's been like 2 weeks since I left with your... friend. And you know me, I'm gonna worry my ass off." My instinct was to yell and tell him I didn't need him as some sort of bodyguard or chaperone, but I bit my tongue. If I always acted like that, nothing would change. It didn't feel like my own thought, really, but it was there in my head. And it wasn't a bad one, wasn't unwise.

"I know, I know. I'm OK. I appreciate the concern, really, but I'm OK. I don't think Asmodaios would harm me intentionally." I paused briefly. Again, a thought in my head that didn't feel quite right. I knew what I said was true, and yet, there was doubt. It was weird that his choice to leave instead of remaining and fucking me until I was broken solidified that knowledge, but it did. So this stray, odd thought, I ignored. "Yeah. And the other one acts out harmlessly, and left me alone once Daios didn't come back. So you don't have to worry, I don't think."

"Has he hurt you unintentionally?" I really should have learned to appreciate his concern sooner, because it was stupidly hard trying not to be annoyed. But he was like an over-attached girlfriend, could you blame me?

"No, he hasn't harmed me in any way. I'm serious, I'm good. Me having no control over my anxiety isn't his fault. Nor yours."

"OK, alright. Wait, what?"

I curled up on the couch a bit, crossing my legs as I leaned over its arm. "I'm sorry I kicked you out the other day, though it was weird that you were in there to begin with. And I'm sorry for how I've been treating you, generally speaking. Sometimes it's warranted, but I pretty much bite your head off as soon as I see you and there's no reason for it."

"Are you going to tell me you're dying next, because this is kind of freaking me out."

I rolled my eyes. "I hate you."

"Dude, I'm just. This came out of left field. Like, way out. Did something happen?"

"Mm, not really." Yes, but no. But I didn't know how to bring up any of that, didn't want to either. Talking about a fate-knowing demon that saw me, followed up several hours later by more sex than I can literally remember isn't something to talk to Kyun about. "But you know what, you're right. This is weird. Just... Acknowledge it and we can both do better. I'll be less of a cunt, you can be less overbearing and worried like we're still dating and running from bar to bar every night." I hoped he would just agree and he would move on. There was definitely something going on in my head, and I didn't like it. Not that apologizing was bad, and I had definitely been wrong, but this was weird.

"I can do that. Or I can at least try. My second, more pressing question. I have enough beer to knock out an elephant. Wanna chill? Cadence was here, but she decided to be a goody and run back home to her homework." I heard the clink of several cans over his side.

Laughing, I closed my laptop that I never wound up turning on. I had next to no tolerance for alcohol, but it never stopped me from drinking myself sick, or near to it. "I mean, if you insist."

And if I was lucky, it would shut up the nagging voice I was feeling in my conscious.

Ten minutes and a short walk later, I pranced into his apartment down the road from my own and dropped my keys on his accent table by the door. I was much more interested in the beer and drowning out my feelings and thoughts, but whatever concoction of food he was brewing also smelled delicious. I left my shoes at the door, and it wasn't long before I started the drowning on his leather couch.

"You know, Julia knows about him." Kyun shoved another mouthful of whatever Korean noodle dish he prepared into his mouth once he was settled. I was sprawled on the couch beside him, can of beer barely held between my fingertips. One of his Fast and Furious DVDs was playing, of which I was hardly paying attention— I was more of a horror kind of guy but he pissed his pants at the smallest scares— but I knew it was one of the more drama-filled parts because he was talking.

"Knows about who?" He wasn't drunk, but definitely tipsy. I was getting there, but I was pacing myself. I didn't have anywhere to be for 2 days, so I didn't much care about a hangover, and they didn't last very long for me anyway. And as much as his cooking was fantastic, I didn't want to puke it up.

"Asmodaios. She actually asked me about him the other day. It was fucking weird, man." More food in his mouth, his tongue chasing egg yolk off the corner of his lip.

I rubbed my head gently. Of course she did. She called and questioned me, without much of an answer. Of course she went to my personal stalker next. "What did she want to know? What did you tell her?" I sounded more upset than I actually was. Alcohol did that.

"I mean, I did mention that he protected you and was dragged off by another demon. I didn't try to make it sound like he was all evil and shit."

"Kyun, my questions." I wasn't upset by any means, but my patience wasn't really there. Alcohol also did that.

"She had asked if anyone strange had been around you. I know you don't believe in her shit, but it's legit. I haven't seen demons before, but I've seen some of the shit she deals with. Literal fucking monsters, dude. I know Cadence wouldn't be able to sleep at night knowing some of these things existed. Sometimes, I couldn't. Anyway, tangent. So, obviously I mentioned the demon that attacked me for so much as being in your home and the one you were fucking on the classroom desk. I mean, this is me we're talking about."

"Wait, you said a demon dragged Asmodaios away?" My brain had a hard time focusing with the bit of alcohol fuzz.

"Yeah, after you tossed us out. Something about 'heat' or whatever. Honestly, I just didn't want anything to do with them at the time. Sex things in the middle of the hall with literal demons just made me nervous. Anyway, I told her about the situation and she asked about his name, which she knew. And she went into venting mode and started going off, mentioning she wanted to protect you and get him away from you before it was 'too late.' Seriously, Rias, if you think I'm bad, you don't know Julia. She will dig her claws in so deep to protect you, she might actually hurt you more than help you." He sighed, tossing his empty can into the designated trash bag and opening another can to down its contents until probably half full.

I sighed, downed the can of beer in my hand. I didn't reach for another, yet. "Fuck."

"Yeah. Sorry, but I can't lie when she's direct like that. And I honestly thought she could help with something if something happened to you. So I don't regret it, if you're wondering."

"I don't want you to. You did what you thought was right, and maybe it was." I hoped this didn't bring about Asmodaios' death. I was scared.

And I knew for certain then that there was someone in my head, because there was another thought there that I would never have.

Good.

Fuck that. I was not going to turn into a voice-hearing lunatic. I was not my mother. I grunted my frustration, unintentionally grabbing Kyun's attention again. "What's up?"

I shook my head and sat up to grab another beer. "It's nothing. Nothing I can actually describe and talk about right now, at least. Don't worry about it." Luckily, he did. Against my original wishes, I picked up the bowl of noodles instead and sat cross-legged, eating slow enough that I wouldn't be sick immediately. I didn't trust myself to get drunk if there was something— or someone— in my head. As much as I wanted to make it stop, who was to say it wouldn't get worse when drunk?

Regardless, it didn't matter much. A full stomach and some time listening to the TV and Kyun's inane rambling, and I was out, sudden as a light bulb.

When I sleep, I mostly have dreams that I remember. Many of them are lucid, fun adventures that rarely turn into nightmares. This dream I knew was wrong as soon as it started.

It was empty.

Or at least, empty of anything else save for light and myself. All I felt was my body, standing, in what was nothing more than a white room. It didn't much feel like a room, and felt more like I was just enveloped in light. I knew I was on my feet, but I felt nothing at my feet to solidify that thought. What the hell was this?

"Finally," I heard a voice, garbled and barely understandable, come from all directions. It reminded me of the scene Paimon played for me when I first met her, voices layered over voices, but this was much less pleasant. My skin vibrated with the sound around me, my hair standing on end. Were the demons beginning to infest my dreams now, too? "You naive child, what are you doing?"

Hearing the voice again perplexed me, and it took me a while to understand what it even said. "What the fuck is this?" Even without the feel of footing, I managed to turn around. My steps made no sound. I was uncomfortable and disoriented with the lack of balance, but managed not to fall over; the idea of falling forever into white nothingness was more disturbing than hearing a voice I found difficult to understand.

I heard the voice again, unable to make out what it was saying. The more it spoke, the more frustrated I got. And somehow, it seemed to prattle on endlessly, without any input from me. I turned again, wanting to figure out where it was coming from; it sounded unfiltered, like it came straight from someone's mouth and not from a loudspeaker, but that it surrounded me completely, even from beneath me, made that seem impossible. The sensation was unbearable. "Listen!" I shouted into the air, not knowing if it could even hear me. What sort of dream was this? Was it even a dream? I felt like I didn't exist. "I don't understand a word you're saying, and I don't care. Get the fuck out of my head!"

There was more garbled noise from this voice, only the initial, "How dare," making sense to me. At best, it sounded like several people were attempting to speak to me while I was drowning, and I felt as if I was going insane. No longer caring if I plummeted to my death, I allowed my body to drop, sitting down with my knees to my chest, my hands covering my ears. There were pauses in that voice, not a word making sense to me. My skin stopped vibrating with each pause, and any time the voice felt angry, my skin vibrated more, my body feeling ready to explode. Some time passed in agony, and I was gasping as I woke, staring at the ceiling of Kyun's apartment.

"Dude, are you OK?" I stared at him in confusion, unsure of where I was and why his hands were on me. My heart beat rapidly, not unusual if I was just forced awake, and my breath came in small pants.

"What happened?" I spoke softly as I tried to catch my breath. I remembered the odd dream, but I questioned what it actually was. I was unsettled enough that it might as well have been a nightmare.

"I don't know. You fell asleep, and a few minutes later you were hyperventilating and twitching in your sleep. You weren't waking up and I was about to call an ambulance." I sighed, pushing my hair away from my face. Kyun moved his hands from my shoulders and stood upright. "I know some people have weird dreams and shit when they eat spicy food or whatever, but I've never seen you like that."

"It's not your food, don't flatter yourself." I moved to sit up, resting my elbows against my knees to shove my face into the palms of my hands. I still questioned what I had just experienced. Did I make it up in dreamland, as dreams were, or was someone trying to communicate with me? I didn't understand it. When demons pestered me, they showed up at my doorstep— or rather, directly in my apartment because they lacked manners— and did whatever it was they wanted. This was the first time I was harassed in my sleep. Did this involve Julia instead, somehow? But again, I didn't understand why she wouldn't just come to me, not attempt some failed form of communication.

Kyun was on his knees in front of me once it was obvious I wasn't going to say anything more. "Azarias," he spoke softly, quiet enough that I moved my hands away from my face to look at him. He was watching me with too much concern.

"I don't know what happened, but I'm kind of unsettled and don't know what to think." I answered as honestly as I could. It's not as if he had no clue what was going on with me. Technically, he knew the best between him, Julia, and Cadence, barring whatever Julia gathered on her own. "It was a weird thing that I can't even call a dream, because I'm not sure what it was. And I don't think it was demon-related. So I don't know what to think."

Kyun nodded and kept still. "Alright. Maybe trying to figure it out isn't the best idea now. Either it will happen again or it won't, and either it will make more sense than last time, or it won't. Can't force yourself to think about it if you have no clue where to start." Sometimes, his simplicity made sense and helped me not worry as much. It wasn't a solid solution, but he wasn't wrong; what was I going to do about it now? "Do you want to stay so you're not alone?"

The idea was tempting. Who knew how long I would have been stuck in that dream state without Kyun interrupting it? There was no way to know if I had been released, or if he interrupted and woke me up. But if something happened, the last thing I wanted was for him to get hurt. Not knowing was beginning to frustrate me beyond belief. "Thanks, but I'll go home. If I'm lucky, it only happened because I was drunk, and I'm 100 percent sober now." He wasn't impressed, and neither was I, but he wasn't going to force me to stay anywhere I didn't want to.

"Stubborn as a goat." He ruffled my hair quickly before I could slap his arm away. "Don't hesitate to come back, alright? Or call. Or not." I could tell he was trying to sound less overbearing. It wasn't working yet, but the effort was there.

"Thanks. Really. I'm gonna run before I decide to stay and drink until I pass out."

"Ugh, responsibility." He grinned as he stood up, and without any prompting from me, grabbed my hand and lifted me onto my feet without much effort. I punched him in the shoulder instead of grumbling about it, and hugged him before I left.

Walking outside felt colder this time, though it was likely no different from before. The lack of alcohol in my system suddenly cooled me down quickly, which only made me walk home faster. And home was, thankfully, quiet, and in the same state in which I left it. Not a demon in sight.

Without much care, I left my shoes at the door and, after locking up, I crawled into bed soon after. It was too soon to have forgotten what just happened to me, but I peacefully sought a normal rest under the blankets. I was bothered by it, and yet, I wasn't. It's not as if I died.

Rest wasn't meant to happen, for multiple reasons. Sleep and dreams came eventually, and the dream itself was initially fine. I was in the garden of my mother's home, which was rare but not unusual. Alone, I didn't feel drawn to do anything, and I didn't feel hazy like a normal dream. Lucid it was, or so I thought.

The breeze against my skin felt smooth and perfect, my hair flowed gently with the wind across my face, soft instead of whipping my cheeks on occasion. Behind me wasn't the assisted living facility, the large, stately building replaced with a cozy, two-floor country home. It looked right out of a Southern Living magazine, complete with a veranda, and indeed looked like something my mother would have enjoyed. Squinting slightly as the sun got into my eyes, I moved to approach the house. No reason not to, right?

I noticed more that the area wasn't just empty as dreams were, but more like the garden had turned into acres and acres of land, no longer just the garden surrounded by buildings and security fencing and gates. Where the hell was I?

The front door was locked, contrary to what I would have expected. It was a dream, after all. I peaked inside through the glass window, attempting to find anyone in the house.

"I'm afraid no on is home." I turned to find the source of the voice. What I saw was unsatisfying; what I could call nothing more than a ball of light floated at the bottom of the steps. It confirmed that this was nothing more than a continuation of whatever the fuck I was dealing with last time I fell asleep. I released the doorknob and turned completely to the light. It was nauseatingly bright, and I covered my eyes slightly by raising an arm to block them.

"Ooh, look, you're talking in a way I can understand this time. Big whoop." Despite the statement, I was actually relieved. It was the mind-numbing, incomprehensible diatribe that would make my ears bleed in reality that was the main issue with that "dream." Of course, my mind being infested was also an issue, but being able to understand what was being said to me was kind of important.

The light stretched out of shape repeatedly, going from a ball to an oblong shape and back, the aura that sparkled around it doing the same. It gave the impression of being agitated. "I would wonder aloud how you're still alive but it would be idiotic. Humans are so visual."

"What does that have to do with anything?" Watching the light bend and oscillate, I could only think of ways to force myself to wake up. Did Kyun wake me, or was I released and allowed to wake? Would any of my usual tricks for nightmares work?

The oscillation soon turned to stretching, and the aura surrounding the reshaping light dissipated. As it became more human-shaped, the light dimmed. I lowered my arm, and soon enough I was staring at a man that looked like me. Similar, but not quite. The same hair, if I didn't bleach and dye mine to hell, the same jaw, the same eyes, but a shocking gray. If anything, he looked slightly older than me, and more severe. And he reminded me of how Paimon appeared to me. His hair was thick and voluminous, dark auburn curls that dipped between his shoulder blades, and his chiton stark white against lightly tanned skin. A small sword was sheathed at the small of his back, and both a spear and shield sat stationary on his back, though they seemed to float with light. "There has to be a direct source to a voice for you to focus and understand, usually. And as a human, your preference is human, or human-like." It was odd to listen to him, sounding too much like myself. More melodious, but I could still hear myself in his voice.

"What do you want?" I just wanted to sleep. I didn't care who he was, I didn't want to have a long, drawn-out conversation with this man, if that's even what he was. Though my day had only been a few hours, I was very much done with it.

"I need you to stop galavanting with demons. Have you no sense?" He crossed his arms and lifted his head further as if it gave him some authority over me. Why would I feel threatened if my lover was a literal demon?

"Sure. Can I go now?" His expression changed to disgruntled quickly. I wasn't being sarcastic, and his patience was already gone. I watched idly as he climbed the steps, and took several steps back myself, my fingers digging into my palms. No, I still wasn't waking up, but the pain did feel not right, like there was a numbness in my body that protected me here.

"There are repercussions to your actions, don't you understand that?" He stood with a foot or so between us, staring me down. As if that would convince me.

"So I've been told, more than once," I answered monotonously.

"I imagine you want your head space to belong solely to you again?"

I narrowed my eyes slightly. That got a bit more of my attention. "Then who are you and why are you in particular in my head?"

He sighed as if disappointed. "Archangel Raphael, unfortunately at your service currently."

I blinked several times, which only served to irritate him more. Perhaps I was turning into my mother. If she was to be believed, this was my absent parent. But it wasn't something I wanted to dwell on, and somehow I just didn't care. I was practically adopted, what difference did it make now for him to show up? "Sure."

"Whether you believe me or not does not change the fact that I'm currently here. We're connected, and I will be hyper-aware of you and what you're doing until your body is no longer yours if things continue this way."

I furrowed my brow as he spoke. "That wasn't a lot that you said, but you skipped from point A to point D without much in between. Like the why and the how. People don't usually lose their bodies." It wasn't that I didn't understand what he was getting at, but I wasn't one for assumptions. But if he was here, and from what I understood, stuck here in my mind, I wanted actual information, not my educated guesses.

"I don't need to. Just listen to what I've already said."

"Are you done now?" I paused my desire to say more. Suddenly his eyes were off of mine and he turned, looking to the sky as if it would do something to ease the tension in his brow. "What is it?"

"I wasn't paying attention. You need to go. Wake up."

"First you drag me here, then you—"

He turned to me again, his eyes ablaze with golden light. "You're in danger. Shut up and wake up!"

My breath caught in my throat as my eyes opened. I was awake again. And seemingly safe and sound. I sighed heavily and rubbed a hand over my face. "Maybe I should have stayed with Kyun," I muttered aloud to myself.

A sudden weight manifested on my chest, leaving me breathless and unable to inhale. "You could have, but he would have just died, too." A demon sat cross-legged on my chest, comfortable as if he belonged there. Red skin and flaming red hair was enough to tell me what I was dealing with. The danger was real, then. He leaned over with a smile as I thrashed about, and before I could throw him off, gently blew his breath into my face.

The pain I felt in my eyes and throat was enough to force my body to shove him off and onto the floor with a loud thud. The need to do too many things happened at once. I inhaled deeply as I sat up, which caused my throat to burn more, and the burn traveled to my lungs. Coughing only made the sensation worse, but coughing and holding my throat was all I could manage as I attempted to crawl across the bed. I could no longer see, and besides the pain, my eyes felt like pure liquid, even as I could tell they were starting to heal. Had my eyes melted? I tumbled off the bed in a heap of misery, and once I caught my breath, I opened my eyes. They still burned like hell, but I could see, even if it was blurry. Goop that I didn't want to think about further irritated my eyes and dripped off my face. Despite my distress, I spoke between coughs anyway. "I've heard of really bad halitosis, but this takes the cake."

I heard his whistle from the opposite end of the bed. "I knew you weren't normal, but that healing is even abnormal for a half-breed rat. Just means I can't torture you." His booted feet appeared before my vision, and I looked up from my hands and knees. That I was kicked in the jaw barely registered before my back was planted against the nightstand, the lamp falling off the side and shattering. I looked up again, panting in pain. Black wings sprouted from the demon's back, and the long-sleeved crop top he wore was immediately shred to pieces. What looked like a trio of large, phantom claws twirled beside him, spun by his fingertip. Panicked, I looked around the room quickly. The window was nearby, but I was 3 floors up. If I healed fast enough, I might survive. Considering how fast he moved, I doubted I could make it to the door. "It's rare for me to even want to harm humans, but you're a thorn in my side."

Moving as fast as possible, I scrambled to my feet and dashed towards the window. Those phantom claws slashed at my back, leaving deep gashes behind. These weren't going to heal quickly. I fell to my knees at the window, but still pushed on. The shreds of my shirt clung to the wounds as I shoved the window open, and his claws were pulling me away by my hair before I could attempt to climb out. "C'mon, did you really think I was going to let you make a mess on the pavement?" Unable to do much else, I clawed and scratched at his face, hoping to harm him even remotely. What blood I drew burned my fingertips, but it was a minor pain compared to my back and I continued on anyway. The demon laughed. His teeth caught one of my hands and bit down harshly, his fangs piercing my skin. My blood trickled out from beneath his teeth. For the first time since he materialized, his expression changed from one of amusement to pain and annoyance. My blood hurt him as much as his hurt me.

Maybe he came to the same conclusion. As soon as the knowledge possessed me, his free hand grabbed my throat tightly, and his claws pierced the veins in my neck. Only then did he let me go, my body going limp despite my hands gripping for my own throat. My ears rang. My eyes watched blankly as repeatedly spit out what of my blood was in his mouth, and flicked off the blood on his hands with a look of disgust. His lips moved, but I couldn't understand what he was saying, or if he was saying anything at all. Vaguely, I felt my blood pooling, touching my shoulders. As my vision began to dim, time felt as if it slowed. I felt more than saw the image of Raphael again, the figure of me surrounded by light. I could have laughed if I wasn't bleeding out and croaking. I couldn't feel anything anymore.

"Accept me and I can help you." I stared at him with the same blank expression. "Be my vessel temporarily and I can ensure you'll survive."

I'd rather die. Childish, maybe, but it was the truth. I didn't want him running around in my body, doing as he pleased. Temporary could have been 20 years. No.

"Stupid child," Raphael sighed and pulled the short sword from its sheath at the small of his back, dropping it flat on my abdomen. That I did feel, somehow. "Then get up and save yourself. That much I can give to you." His image dissipated with a flash of golden light, and with his loss came the sense of something settling in my head. It felt wrong, but what could I do about it now? Slowly, my blood-covered hands moved from my neck to grasp the sword feebly. The wounds at my neck were still open, but the blood flow had slowed, the sensation almost ticklish. I was weak and sluggish, but still managed to stand with wobbly legs. At some point as I bled out, the demon turned around, his back to me now as he muttered to himself. Without much thought, I coated the blade with my blood and approached him, slowly. With each quiet step, I felt my strength return, my vision clear. The ringing in my ears remained, but I didn't need to hear.

His wings are a source of power and a blind spot. Remove them.

Raphael's voice echoed in my mind, clear and concise. It was nothing like the voice that felt like my own earlier that day. I hesitated to listen; wouldn't have been easier to just stab the demon and be done with it?

Can you ever just listen? I have the experience killing demons. Let me help you.

Somehow managing not to suck my teeth, I stood behind the demon, and without hesitation gripped the hilt of the sword in both hands and slashed at the humerus of one of his wings; it sliced through like a heated knife through softened butter. His wing fell to the floor with a loud thump, and a stream of blood left the wound. The screech that reached my ears was enough to clear one type of ringing and started another. Instinctively, I dropped the sword and covered my ears, watching the red form hunch over in pain.

Don't be weak, take the other before he recovers.

Fumbling, I moved to pick up the sword, and quickly swiped at his other wing. He managed to turn away, his hand caught by the blade instead. The tip stabbed through his palm, and it seemed almost his intention. His boot connected with his abdomen, shoving my body back towards my nightstand again. I took the blade with me, and managed to stay on my feet, though crouched down and braced against the floor. The look in his eyes was one of pure anger, and it temporarily pinned me to the spot. His voice was low and laced with gravel after that scream of his. "Did daddy come and save you before you died?" As soon as I was upright, he flew towards me, claws of his wounded hand swiping for my throat again. Without thought, I moved out of the way, but not in time. My neck was spared, but my chest took the blow, from both his claws and his blood. It hurt immensely, but didn't stun me. I slashed several times at his arms and chest, each wound glittering imperceptibly.

I had complete control of my body, and yet it didn't feel like it. Maybe it was subtle influence by Raphael, telling me to move this way and that to avoid being hit, bringing to my attention that he was left dominant, and that aiming for his right side would be ideal. From the violence between the two of us, my bedroom was becoming destroyed; pillows were clawed and stabbed, one of the bed posts was snapped in half from being punched, and others nicked and missing chunks from the short sword. Blood from both of us stained the walls and floor, and still we fought. Still, eventually it wasn't enough from me. I began to slow down quicker than him, dodging became difficult. Soon enough, I was caught on the demon's physical claws in my abdomen, and felt every twitch of his fingers as he pinned me against the wall. The wounds on my back bloomed with reawakened pain. They hadn't healed at all. Despite the pain the contact caused him, he still persisted. My limbs felt like lead, but I held on tight to the sword. I could no longer hear Raphael, despite that small presence in the back of mind. Again, the ringing in my ears began.

"Caught you," he murmured, his face far away enough to not damage me again. I opened my mouth to speak, and he turned his wrist to deepen each hole made by his claws, wincing once more of my blood came in contact with the open wound in his palm.

Over the ringing, I heard the faint crackle of electricity, of live wires connecting repeatedly. Quickly the source materialized across the room, and what looked more like a bolt of lightning illuminated the room. The light caught the demon's attention, and he turned his head without releasing me. The crackle became a purring rumble, and ended with a loud boom. And there Asmodaios stood, both distraught and angry. "Amaimon!" If his feelings weren't clear before, his shout was enough to convey it; I never heard him sound that way, even the few times I had heard him fight. And perhaps neither had the demon, as he flinched at the sound of Asmodaios' voice.

With the distraction, I forced my heavy arm to move as much as possible, and stabbed Raphael's sword awkwardly into the demon's abdomen. He turned to me in surprise. "Fuck you," I managed to mutter. His arm blocked my own, and while I angled to reach his heart, I knew it missed the mark. Still, a wound was a wound. I closed my eyes tightly as blood was coughed up by the redhead, and pressed my forearms against the wall in an attempt to keep myself upright. He backed away and retracted his claws, and I opened my eyes again in an effort for self-preservation.

The sword disappeared in a flash of light, like a small bomb a shrapnel that wounded Amaimon further. Without sparing a look over his shoulder, he tumbled out the window, and I didn't care to hear if he died on the pavement or ran away. "Should have stabbed him sooner," I mumbled, and I hoped Raphael heard me, too. I grimaced as I slid down the wall, my arms covering my stomach, and Asmodaios was at my side before I could blink.

"Azarias," he spoke softly, his hand coming to touch the wounds at my abdomen. His skin sizzled at the touch, and confusion was stark on his face. I briefly recalled when he bit me in the past, and that he had no reaction to it then. I manged to shove his hand away before he attempted anything more.

Again, my vision dimmed. "You— you are very late."

"I'm sorry." It was the last thing I heard.

Chapter Text

To say I was outraged would be too kind. The majority of my being wanted to chase Amaimon and tear him to shreds. But it would do nothing but satisfy my rage. Azarias slumping over into my side was enough to keep me there; he needed me more than Amaimon needed to die. With any luck, perhaps he would succumb to his wounds.

I knew that wouldn't be the case, and if it had happened, I would have regretted the thought. But at the moment, it helped settle my rage.

Carefully, I pulled Azarias into my arms and lifted him off the floor, grimacing at the blood still spilling from his body. Truthfully, I didn't know where to begin. Was his blood now that of an angel? It hadn't been before, or else biting him would have wounded me. That made healing him difficult in one way, and that he, to me, was clearly poisoned by Amaimon made it difficult in another. With the possibility of him infested by an angel, no magic of mine that I knew of would heal him, only bring more harm. Amaimon's poison, which wouldn't make his wounds fester so much as his soul, was something I didn't know how to heal. I was immune, and it had never been a cause for concern. Many of Azarias' wounds were shallow and partially healed, even those slash wounds; it was if his body has suddenly given up.

Attempting to focus, I moved on autopilot and took Azarias to the bathroom to gently clean his wounds. His breathing was shallow but not labored, which gave a bit of hope, and clearing the extra blood off of him at least made him look less like death. I wrapped his wounds in what gauze I could find in his apartment and returned him to his bed. Despite one post being split in half, the bed itself was fine. I stood beside the bed and loomed there, unwilling to sit. Small comforts were only distractions.

I was at a loss. Under normal circumstances, I would have contacted Amaimon, because under normal circumstances he wouldn't have been the cause of such distress. Barring Amaimon, there wasn't anyone I necessarily trusted. Paimon I respected, although he was... a handful, in the way of someone that was too intelligent for their own good. But it wasn't intelligence, it was the consequence of being a literal know-it-all. And then there was Lucifer, one step up from Paimon. No matter what help I requested, he was likely to give it, and I would have to return the favor tenfold or more. While Lucifer wasn't exactly cruel with demons, he could at times be unreasonable. And I wanted to keep his attention off of Azarias as much as possible. For now, it appeared that he cared very little about what I was up to, and I wanted to keep it that way.

That left me with nothing, again.

I growled at my own uselessness and kneeled beside the bed. This wasn't a position I was used to. I watched his face contort with pain and sighed, gripping his hand in my own. At the very least, I could take his pain, and as the tension released from his face, my own body ached all over.

It was more than an hour that I remained like this, hopeful that removing his pain would help him heal. There was no improvement. Growing impatient with my own incompetence, I lengthened one of my claws and drew a cut along my palm, drawing a small amount of blood. As a demon, it was an easy way to communicate with other demons; the pain was minimal, especially now, and telepathy made me uncomfortable with most. Within my free palm, the blood thinned and distorted, stretching to form the image of Paimon, standing tall in the image of a woman with his arms crossed beneath his bosom. "Asmodaios, it's been a while. Not too long, but a while."

I frowned, not much caring that I didn't remember, but making a small effort to remember. I last noticed him for a short moment at the party, and ran away before I had the chance to interact. I didn't dislike Paimon, but he was bent to Lucifer's will like no other, willingly and pleased to do so. Perhaps I was alarmed by that kind of loyalty. "I need a favor. Or help."

It was difficult to discern in this projection, but Paimon's expression changed slightly. It looked like pity. He raised his hands as if to take mine in his own. "Asmodaios... I'll see you soon." His words confused me immediately, but very quickly made sense. And in perfectly Paimon fashion, he provided no warning, and simply watched.

The quiet sound of a single footstep alerted me before the obvious sound of swinging sword. Quickly, I released Azarias' hand to guard my neck, and caught the blade with the flesh of my forearm. The pain I relinquished quickly returned with the blade set in my arm, and the image of Paimon disappeared from my free hand. Growling, I turned to face the intruder, and wasn't too surprised. Azarias' mentor stood before me, eyes hardened and still pressing the edge of her blade into my arm. From my short vision of her in Egypt, I would never have expected her to be so strong, however. I bared my fangs and stood as I turned completely, pressing my weight forward to push her back until her back was to the wall. Hazel eyes hidden partially beneath bangs of black hair stared at me with contempt that matched Belial's. Interesting. "What do you want?" I asked through gritted teeth.

"You gone." The crinkle of what sounded like paper caught my attention too late, but more importantly I reacted to her movement too slowly. I looked down to her hands just as she lifted one of them off the hilt of her blade, and slapped it onto my face without hesitation. I initially blinked in confusion and took a step back with pause, removing my arm from her blade with a solid yank. "Oh fuck, it didn't work. Did I damage it...?" I heard her mutter quietly while slowly shifting against the wall, attempting to get away from me as she hoped I wouldn't notice. As soon as I lifted my arm to remove the dismal scrap, it heated up and my heart rattled in my chest. My body felt like fire, from as deep as my lungs to every inch of my skin. Her sigh of relief barely reached my ears. I careened forward, my head pressed to the wall. Quickly, I lost control of my body. "That was close. Begone, demon." I grunted my displeasure, the only thing I could do. I heard more than felt my body collapse, the change of view and loud thud unmistakable. Heat overtook my body, and soon enough my vision faded.

I was banished. There was a first time for everything. There were many attempts before, and all of them always too slow to succeed. Another reminder that things changed while I was locked away.

I couldn't say how strong this banishment was; I saw the results of Amaimon being banished once, and he was up and on his feet immediately as far as I was aware. In my own case, I woke up a day or so later, unusual aches spread throughout my body. And I had no idea where I was.

Hell is like Earth, in a sense, or its own little universe, with each "layer" its own region or country. It's difficult to choose an accurate size comparison, considering I rarely left my own domain or Amaimon's. And describing each was also difficult, as different demons wished different arrangements for their underlings and sinners. In my own domain, I kept a group of my legion in my palace, and most lived in a city. Those to be tortured were kept in a separate district. And in Amaimon's case, his home was empty save for a handful of servants, but he held enough events there that his demons might as well have lived there.

Where I awoke was neither of these places, however. My tail flailed restlessly while I looked around; this was a dingy alleyway that reeked of death. And the smell was soon obvious, what with several corpses piled at the dead end of the alley. Unsure of where I was, I hissed quietly at the lingering pain in my body and stood. With a snap of my fingers, a pair of jeans covered my lower half, and I quietly padded out of the alleyway.

I truly had no idea where I was, and it soon became clear to me that I was going to have a difficult time. The banishment was strong enough to knock me out and fling me to some random, filthy corner of hell, but also enough to drain my power pretty thoroughly. Going home with magic, in any various manner of ways, was out of my reach. It seemed like being weak was a recurring theme for me. Grumbling my annoyance, I progressed through the dark, the streets barely lit. It felt like a slum, the apartment buildings large, closely built together, and there were enough demons hanging around in dark corners to convey that they wanted trouble and only trouble. I was weakened considerably, but I was recognized by most, or left alone because of my aura. Trash and puddles I now found questionable were easy to dodge, even barefoot. Questioning the purpose of a slum quietly, I progressed with some measure of disgust to the very obvious palace at the center of the city. As one would expect, the closer I traveled, the better things began to look. Cleaner, better lit, no delinquent demons looking for fights, at least not sober. It reminded me too much of human society.

Arriving at the palace doors uncontested, the guards stood aside without a word and allowed me through. It took only a moment for me to realize where I was then, and a disgruntled noise left my throat; this realm belonged to Belial, and it was a place I did not want to be, ever. His presence was firm in the gilded palace, and within seconds he was before me, surprise written on his face. "Oh my," he let out as he looked me over.

"Don't flatter yourself. I'm not here for you." I straightened my posture now that I was still and crossed my arms over my chest as an afterthought. I was not intimidating in the least in this state, but that was not to the point. It was a stabilizing position for me.

"I know. Why would I want you to visit me anyway? " His wings fluttered slightly before withdrawing completely. It was rare to see him without them, but perhaps he always felt threatened. I couldn't feel sorry for him, however.

"Your domain is a mess and filthy, why?" It wasn't my business, but it was embarrassing to look at it, a lavish palace established in the center of a district and surrounded by squalor on the outskirts. It was a regular image of greed, if there ever was one.

"My demons earn their keep or they live like shit. That's all there is to it. But enough, Paimon told me you would be coming and I don't feel like entertaining you." He raised one hand to his side and turned slightly, his fingertips lighting with magic.

"Paimon..." A part of me wanted to complain, but it was pointless. That demon would never interrupt fate while being privy to it. And complaining to Belial of all people was more useless than the complaint itself.

"You know she wouldn't have helped you even if you begged." A circle of a portal formed with a burst of flame, and Belial lowered his arm. "Alright, off with you then. You're trouble and I don't want to deal with it." My eyebrows drew together as I stared at him, but I didn't question it. His wants and desires weren't my business. As I turned, I bared my fangs and grinned with pleasure as he flinched at the movement. It was nice when some things didn't change.

I knew it was too much to hope for that I would be home, and I knew as much from looking at the image I walked into. I didn't have to find Paimon, as he sat before me on his throne, servants tending to his whims. One happily served as a foot stool as another tended to his fingernails. Everything about Paimon and everything surrounding him changed on a whim— either his or Lucifer's— from his appearance to his servants to his palace. And today, I was surrounded by marble and limestone in what looked like Roman palace. It had been much too long for me to remember what the place looked like last, but there was one familiar thing that I could remember; Paimon's palace was his entire realm, and thus he lived with all of his legions. The place was never quiet, and was always full of people doing something and living. Being in the throne room, I couldn't tell if that was still the case, but it was still lively here, both from the entertainment and excess of onlookers. I remained still on the steps and looked over my shoulder. Sword fights. "Asmodaios, please come up here instead of blocking part of my view." Paimon's voice was sweet once it reached my ear, and I didn't fight the urge to obey. I moved, and stood beside him at his throne, ignoring his human foot stool. Paimon rarely dealt in torture, and even now this human was happy with his position. I understood it, but would never experience it.

"I see your theme is Rome now?" My fingers gently tousled the ends of his hair, and he looked up to me with a smile.

"Hm, or Greece. I don't really care. Same shit, same toilet, different names." He took his hand back from his servant and pet her cheek before dismissing her. He then removed his legs from the back of the human and sat forward, petting the back of his head. The movement was odd in the dress, legs spread wide and overly masculine while solid but dainty fingers stroked the human's neck. "You may go and enjoy the rest of your day now."

"C-can I... Stay here, then?" He truly looked like he didn't want to move. I wanted to roll my eyes.

"No, you may not." He stood and walked around him, taking the steps elegantly. I knew enough to follow him, and watched him closely. I questioned why I was here, but knew Paimon would answer that soon enough, in one way or another.

"You reward those that would normally spend eternity being flayed alive." I didn't care, as it wasn't my place to, but it was interesting to see. Before my imprisonment, I never paid attention to much of anything that Paimon did.

"They were damned for seeking forbidden knowledge, or simply knowledge from me; that hardly seems punishable, don't you think?" His head tipped back to look at me, and he smiled briefly. "I'll find us a quiet place to talk." It felt like there was nowhere in the palace that was actually quiet, until we passed a pair of guards that kept others from Paimon's private quarters. There was a courtyard lit by magic-fueled torches, and once we stepped down into the garden, we were cloaked in silence.

"Even you need silence in this place." I looked around aimlessly. The flowers were fragrant and sweet in this invisibly blocked off place, and the silence after so much noise was almost deafening. I took a seat on one of the stone benches, and Paimon paced nimbly and without worry.

"Yes, but more importantly my visitors do. No matter what, I always have a quiet space. Lucifer enjoys the scent of the garden, so this is where it's kept mainly." Stopping, he faced me and clasped his hands behind this back. "It doesn't make a difference in the end, so I had Belial send you here. I hope you don't mind too much."

"I only mind when you're a snobby know-it-all." I crossed my legs, resting my ankle atop the knee of my planted leg. "And I wanted to ask for your help, before I was banished."

"I've gotten better about that. Sort of. Not completely, but no one is perfect. Anyway, I wanted to tell you so you don't waste your time or energy futilely; you're stuck here and there's nothing that you can actually do about it. It's out of your hands and you should leave it in the hands of others." Paimon's eyes flashed with gold several times and eventually remained that way, olive gone for now. I couldn't help the initial growl that escaped me, and quickly stopped it once he sat next to me. "Oh, control yourself. I was never your enemy and unless you're a thorn in our Lord's side, I never will be." Of course, his definitive answer annoyed me, because as of now, it was true. His fingers moved to pull whatever unwelcome thing was in my hair, likely from my stint in the alley. "I can't help your... Whatever Azarias is now, as it isn't my place. But I can offer you shelter here while you recover, and until you're helped. If you're helped."

I didn't mind his touch, and didn't shove away his hands as his fingers combed through my hair. "I'm not afraid of Belial, even in my weakened state."

His hands stilled briefly while he scoffed. "I would never bother talking about Belial."

I turned my head enough to see him better in my peripheral vision, eyebrows drawn together. "Then?"

"I can't tell if you're obtuse or naive. Has it not occurred to you that Lucifer would want to keep you as a pet now that you're back? He could never favor you like Amaimon does, but... Well, it's a thought. His whims are fickle. He was unsatisfied that you left your own event so early."

"Why are you telling me this and offering aid?"

"Because there's no fate at this point in time in which I don't; all that changes is if you accept and what Lucifer decides to do, and I will not intervene."

Unimpressed, I tugged my hair from his grasp and stood, my hands slipping into my pockets. I missed my shendyt but it was a nice change. Maybe I needed a new wardrobe. "You are a piece of work."

I could hear his hands clap together once, and I turned back to face him. His hands were clasped together besides his cheek, golden eyes glittering. "That's my charm."

I rolled my eyes and turned away again. "Where's Amaimon?"

"It's been two days, but he's still recovering on Earth. He was picked up like the stray he is."

I looked to Paimon with shock. "I was laying in a dingy alley for two days?" It wasn't much more of a stretch of time, but it was more time that Azarias was ill.

He shrugged his shoulders and nodded. "Truthfully, Amaimon is the worst out of the three of you. Azarias won't regain consciousness without help, but that help can come from various places. Just, not you. Julia is a thorn in the side of many demons, so I'm not surprised she managed to banish you so powerfully."

Taking a seat beside Paimon again, I ran my hand over my face. I was still tired despite having been asleep for two days, but it was more of a mental exhaustion. "I suppose I'll stay here until I can leave on my own."

"Fair. I won't be a nuisance. And things could be worse."

"Yes, worse." Short of being encased in stone for a million years, I doubted rock bottom was too far away.

"There's always... Oh." A short flutter of wings made Paimon pause, and I sighed quietly.

Our Lord walked along the garden silently, Paimon and I both watching him. He and Paimon looked like siblings now, save for the difference in clothing. A black mane of waves ended just past his shoulders, and golden eyes with a penetrative gaze which saw too much. From shoulder to toe, he was dressed in black, save for an open red dress shirt that peeked out from beneath his tailcoat buttoned at the waist, leaving his pale chest bare. His head was crowned with horns today, black and glassy protrusions that began just above his temples and curved forward after a length. "There's always being on collar and leash beside me with lack of freedom," he said easily, as if he was originally a part of the conversation. "Luckily, I don't want that. The only restrictions to your freedom will be that banishment, until it deteriorates."

I squinted, watching him while I thought. I didn't make it a habit to question anything he said, nor anything he asked for. "You mean this won't go away quickly?"

He shook his head slightly, hair swaying with the motion. "Not at all. I'd remove it, but I don't want to. Besides, it could be of use to me." I kept still as he closed the distance, his hand settling on top of my head, between my horns. I closed my eyes; his touch was exceptionally warm, and felt nice under the night breeze. I felt some of my strength return, but not much. "You'll recover soon enough." He removed his hand with a chuckle and offered it to the demon beside me. "Paimon."

He took Our Lord's hand and stood easily. "As you wish," he answered calmly, despite the glint of excitement in his eyes. They both left the garden on light feet, leaving me to the silence of the garden.

The next two days passed without trouble. I mostly kept to the wing of the palace which Paimon opened up solely for me. Other than his occasional presence, I kept to myself and rested. Sometimes, the heat of the spell ran through my body, but it wasn't anything that I couldn't tolerate. I learned that Paimon was a lot less arrogant and much more playful than I remembered, or perhaps ever knew. I still often found him with his nose buried in books and scribbling his own tomes and translations, but he spent majority of his time in lighthearted activity. Chasing children— some were actual children, others were demons that chose to be— while they played hide and seek, muting his own powers to join gladiator battles or wrestling matches, and something like a book and debate club. As much as I found Belial's realm to be bizarre due to its filth, Paimon's was odd to me for different reasons; it may as well have been some sort of utopia. In hell. I also doubted any other king was so involved with their legions.

On the third day, I was fully recovered, and as if on cue, Amaimon was there. Despite no longer needing to remain in Paimon's realm, I decided to leave at the end of the day instead of immediately, and spent the morning with Paimon in the garden. He played music and sang to his heart's content, while I laid in the grass and occasionally offered comment. When he paused in the middle of a tune, I sat up and looked towards him. Paimon was fine, and so I looked to the direction he faced; Amaimon was there, and his shoulders visibly relaxed once he caught sight of me. For my part, I didn't know how to feel. I knew he was alive and healing, as Paimon kept me updated without prompt. And yet I found no desire to be at his side at that moment. Sluggishly, I reclined back on the grass. Paimon cackled while Amaimon made a noise of discontent. I looked up to watch the expected scuffle between the two of them, but Amaimon stopped once his eyes caught mine before they could begin.

Paimon's laughter devolved into a short chuckle, and once he determined it wasn't necessary to swing his flute as a weapon, his fingers began to dance along his harp again, elegant hums accompanying the chords. I blinked up at Amaimon, surprised he hadn't spoken yet. Perhaps he found some shame deep inside that demonic heart.

Doubtful, but it was a thought.

He took a seat beside me on the grass, and kept his white eyes on mine. I was mostly used to seeing him unclothed, but his attire wasn't unfamiliar. Sleeved, fitted crop top, leather pants and boots that would crush the garden if he wasn't careful. "You were hiding here?" One hand moved to pet my head, and I didn't move away from it.

I scoffed. "I have nothing to hide from. I was banished and Paimon led me here." Saying that he saved me from Belial's realm was a stretch. As I understood it, I would have wound up in Paimon's palace regardless, and so he made it a simple path from Point A to Point B. It was the closest thing to interfering that Paimon was capable of, by choice. "Where did you hide your carcass all this time?"

His face shifted with mild discontent, and I watched with a raised brow. I had no doubt he was forming an answer that was unlikely to provide much insight. "I found a rat's nest to recover in."

My brows drew together, first with disgust and then with some confusion. Was he being literal, or did he actually spend several days time in the company of humans? In truth, Amaimon was more likely to hide in a literal rat nest than to hide under the protection of a human. And yet, he wouldn't have healed without help. So he was desperate enough to gain help from humans. Interesting. "I... see."

As expected, he looked put out, and I couldn't help but laugh. "I came to tell you Azarias isn't poisoned any longer. He's hospitalized with his shaman friend glued to his side, so I imagine you won't want to visit." I didn't mention that I couldn't visit. "Whether or not he wakes up has... Alright, it obviously has something to do with me, but I've done what I could."

I was surprised that he made the effort. Why bother with the attempt at killing him just to turn around and remedy the situation? "Why?"

Again, he paused. "Let him die and watch you pout for a thousand years? I changed my mind, that would be more annoying than a rat hanging off of you for 100 years at most."

I nodded slightly from my reclined position. The answer was unsatisfying, but I also knew questioning it now would be useless. He wasn't offering me real answers, and it wasn't difficult to take a hint. "Understood. Don't take that as forgiveness, however."

Smiling, Amaimon stood and carefully walked off the grass and back onto the path, minding where he stepped at Paimon's watchful eye. "And I'm not apologizing." Slipping his hands into his pockets, he whistled to the tune Paimon made and meandered out of the garden. It surprised me in the sense that he didn't just disappear, but it wasn't too odd. Sometimes the desire to use magic was minuscule.

Taking a deep breath, I closed my eyes and laid still. "You're not going with him?" Paimon spoke softly over the harp, his eyes on me.

I returned his gaze and shrugged my shoulders, crossing my legs at the ankle. Would I have if I wasn't comfortable right now? The likely answer was yes. I closed my eyes again and relaxed. Amaimon would be around to deal with for a long time yet.

Chapter Text

I was swimming in gray.

There wasn’t any other way for me to describe it; with my eyes open, I floated in a sea of nothingness and saw nothing different. I heard nothing and felt nothing but my own touch. If this was death, boy, what a shit way to spend eternity.

Maybe this was my damnation, but hell never sounded like a pool of nothingness.

Slowly, I trailed my fingers against my own skin, from my forehead, down along my face and neck, across my collar and down one arm. Even the sensation of touch was dulled. Even if this wasn’t death, I’d certainly die from lack of stimulation. I couldn’t feel, and it was bound to drive me insane. How long had I been here? It was a thought that floated through my head every so often, dispersed randomly among the nothingness that was my mind. I couldn’t hold on to anything. I could hear nothing but my own breathing, and occasionally the one thought that managed to stick to my mind long enough to have a voice: how long have I been here?

That answer obviously changed the longer I asked this question. After some indistinguishable amount of time, another thought arose; how did I get here and why am I here? I held onto the thought as I floated, gripped it again and again each time that I lost my grasp, and soon I was flailing. I remembered the pain, I remembered white eyes and red hair like wildfire. I remembered Amaimon grinning as his claws wiggled inside my abdomen, and I remembered Raphael’s sword exploding in his, the faint apparition of him there in my mind’s eye. Without any grounding and with my insistent flailing, floating soon became falling, and a scream I couldn’t hear escaped my throat. Panic quickly settled in.

What sounded similar to my own voice attempted to soothe me, and failed miserably. “Calm down, child. You don’t have to be loud about everything.” Before I could form any thoughts, my surroundings changed rapidly. Gray changed to color, though it was all still washed out and dull. I was suddenly in my own bed and stationary, my eyes facing the ceiling as I panted. I allowed my eyes to wander; that the room was in no state of disarray was enough evidence that I wasn’t actually home. I was in a dream, but where was I physically?

Raphael sat at the foot of the bed facing me, his legs folded and crossed with his back supported by the bedpost. Slowly, I sat up and pressed my back to the headboard. “What’s going on?” I didn’t like being in this dulled out place. It was worse than the dreams I had with him before, what with even my sight feeling dulled. 

The angel sighed and crossed his arms over his chest. His annoyance was palpable as ever, which seemed to be his default around me. “You were just about dead. I did what I could for you.”

“And now? Past tense implies I’m either now actually dead or very much alive.”

“Now, you’re in a coma. Your physical body is very safe and healed in a hospital bed.”

It was my turn to sigh. “Is it really necessary to ask a shit ton of questions to get up to speed here, or can you just give me the info so you can get gone and I can wake up?”

Raphael shook his head, his hair shifting unnaturally with the movement. It seemed to float rather than shift with the motion of his head. “No. I was too late, but I warned you this was going to happen. Half of you is me, and now a part of me is stuck with you. Congratulations, you have an angel stuck in your head.”

“Like it’s my fault.”

“Azarias, you literally fucked a demon for an entire day, the demon I locked away in what should have been permanent, mind you.” 

A noise of frustration left my throat. He wasn’t wrong, and that was my fault, but how was I supposed to know any of this was going to happen? I slipped off the bed and onto my feet, feeling more settled with the feel of something grounding me physically. Again, the sensation wasn’t quite right, but it was something. “And I was supposed to know you would infest my brain like a parasite because of it?” A glare from him settled on me with a slightly raised brow, and I was starting to make the connections that he likely wanted me to. “Oh no, if you think anyone in their right mind would have believed a single grain of anything my mother has ever said, you’re delusional and out of touch with reality. She’s not the Virgin Mary.”

His mouth curled down in thought, as if remembering something. “Indeed, she is not.”

“Dude, gross.”

Another eye roll. I was beginning to wonder if I was as annoying to look at when I did these things. Yeah, probably. “Regardless, it doesn’t matter. Olga told you that you are a nephilim, and things happened that I was not aware would happen, and that is my own fault. I’m stuck here. The benefit for you is that you’re more powerful. And I get nothing out of this but annoyance, your disdain, and being split in two.”

“Wow, A+ parenting. Ten out of ten. You’re a piece of shit.” It was one thing to have an absent father that suddenly showed up, and it was another for an angel to infest my brain and criticize my actions while declaring he was my absent parent. My statement left him both shocked, and what briefly looked like hurt. Somehow, that only made me angrier, and that was something I didn’t want to unravel at the time. It was easier to just be angry. “Are we done here? I imagine I’m still in a coma only so we could have this informative conversation.”

Raphael’s expression flattened to something neutral, almost bored; he was hiding, and it was clear as day even with my dulled perception. “Yes.” His body evaporated in a haze, and suddenly I was on my back again, staring at a cork-paneled ceiling. A short gasp left my body, momentarily breathing consciously. 

Slowly, I sat up and looked to my side, briefly filled with relief to see Julia there. And then I remembered I was last with Asmodaios, at home, and the replacement made me worry. The bottle of water on the bedside table caught my eye. I snatched it up and swallowed it down slowly enough, glaring at all the contraptions I was hooked up to. The last time I was a patient in a hospital was before Seukchul had his nursing license and we were dating, and I hated all these things then, too. Back then, I ripped off everything as soon as I woke up and caused a scene. Today, I pressed the call bell, the buzzing sound of the initial press enough to wake Julia from her snoring position in the chair. “Azarias,” she sighed with relief, her hand moving for the water bottle that should have been on the table. She shook her head once she noticed the bottle captive in my hands. “You know how to make a girl worry.”

“Yeah. Sorry.” I wasn’t ungrateful, but I wanted to ask about Asmodaios. And she was literally the last person to ask; I’d have to call for him when I was home and alone, but I knew it was unlikely that something wasn’t wrong. 

“I had to throw a fit to stay here with you, by the way. Kyun is on your old record as your emergency contact from 3 years ago, with an old address and phone number. He wouldn’t have known you were here at all if I didn’t take your cellphone.”

I set the empty water bottle on the table and rubbed my forehead briefly. Her normal attitude only served to make me further anxious. I just wanted to leave, and leave quickly. “Julia...”

“Hm?” She looked to me with concern, and stood, picking up her bag as she moved. 

“I just need to get out of here. We can talk another time.”

Julia’s smile was tired, but she left the room without another word, and returned minutes later with a nurse. I sat quietly through being prodded and poked by both the nurse and, an hour later, a doctor, before being cleared for discharge. Luckily for me, Kyun broke into my apartment— again— and brought a change of clothes for me, so I was able to walk out with Julia without looking like I was mauled by a bear still. The first thing I did once we were outside was snatch Julia’s keys from her hands. “And what do you think you’re doing?”

“I’ve been asleep for a week, and you look like you’ve slept 5 hours in that whole time. I can drive you home.” I didn’t much like her huge Jeep but it’s not something I couldn’t drive.

Julia pursed her lips but suspiciously didn’t argue. Instead, she just led the way to her car without much of a sound and slid into the passenger seat once the doors were unlocked. “You looked really uncomfortable getting checked out.”

I started the car without issue, and pulled out of the parking lot before I answered. “I don’t like hospitals and I don’t like being examined like some sort of guinea pig.”

She chuckled, leaning back in her seat. It wasn’t a long drive, but she looked as if she could fall asleep at any moment before we got there. “I can assure you they’re only doing their jobs and were not looking at you like a prized experiment.”

“Doesn’t matter.” I heard her sigh but didn’t look over, considering the topic closed. And despite my better judgement, that left room to ask questions that I was better off not asking at that moment. I wanted quiet, and didn’t want to talk about what happened, but not knowing how I recovered bothered me, too. Was it all on my own, or with Raphael’s assistance? Did I need to be in the hospital, or was it Julia’s last resort? I gnawed my bottom lip between my teeth as I deliberated quietly.

“Go ahead and ask before your lip is chewed off, Azarias.” I took a glance, and Julia’s eyes were on me, unwavering as they always were when she was serious. As usual, it made me uncomfortable. She wasn’t that much older than me, but she always made me feel like she was. “What do you want to know? I’m not so tired that I can’t answer.”

“Fine, fine. I just want to know how I healed. Did I manage on my own, or did I actually need to be hospitalized? Basically, what happened while I was unconscious there?” I stole another glance in her direction, and she looked uncomfortable for once. 

“Well... I should preface with the fact that there is a lot we need to talk about, and I fully intend to. But the short answer is you needed nonhuman assistance.”

“Julia, give me a break.” I didn’t want a repeat of my conversation with Raphael.

An exasperated noise left her, and I could see she lifted her arms in defeat from the corner of my eye. “Kyun brought the demon you fought here to help you. It didn’t complete the job but you started recovering after that.”

It took a few moments, but I started to laugh. I already reached my maximum of ridiculousness, coincidences, and despair, and I was truly over it. It was overwhelming, and as much as I wanted all of this to end, I knew it wouldn’t. It wasn’t something as grandiose as it being out of my control; it was all my willpower, or lack of it. No matter how idiotic and deathly it was, I wanted Asmodaios more than I wanted an easy life. And I wanted to smack myself for it. 

I pulled into Julia’s driveway within that hysterical laughter, her worried gaze watching me the whole time. Once the car was parked, I pressed my forehead to the steering wheel. “God, I want to die.” Julia’s hand on my back felt more like a brand than a form of comfort. It was too much for me right now.

“No, you don’t; you’re overwhelmed. Come inside.” Her hand left me, and her keys were promptly removed from the ignition. I sat there even as I heard Julia leave the car and her front door open. I had no intention of staying here. I climbed out before the auto-lock came, and turned away from the house without looking back. I thought about getting some sort of car service or taxi, but I didn’t have my wallet and my phone was dead. And so I walked. It was more than an hour, but it wasn’t something I was incapable of. In a way, it helped me clear my thoughts a bit. Julia was doing what she thought was best; that was what she always did. I didn’t have to agree with it, however, and I didn’t want to subject myself to whatever nagging she would want to fill my ears with once she was no longer running on fumes. 

I wanted to go home and clean up what undoubtedly looked like a crime scene. The window was open behind Amaimon’s escape, and I wondered if animals had found their way into my bedroom to settle in. Or bugs. I could imagine a wasp nest being formed somewhere and I shuddered with disgust. ”Your home is fine. It isn’t cleaned but it will be sealed until you return.”

I stopped in my walk at the sound of that voice, and continued on with a grimace. “I get you’re going to be a part of me for a while yet, but I need you to not do that. Ever.” There was a short sound of discontent, but Raphael was silent after that. If there was something that was going to drive me crazy, it was that— an inept angel whispering in my head when he felt it necessary. My walk continued in silence, though not exactly desired. I reached out to Asmodaios as I once did before with conscious thought. Maybe it was my imagination, but I felt no connection there, as if he was unreachable. Before, I at least thought I felt something whenever this happened, a click of sorts, and that he was not at my side nor in my mind seemed to be proof enough that I had felt something then.  I worried. Was he dead? Was that possible? Maybe he had his own hell to deal with, but still I worried. 

In a way, I was relieved however. I wasn’t worried because I was afraid of being left alone; I was worried for his safety and that alone.

When I entered my apartment, it felt like a stagnant air was being released. I assumed that was the seal Raphael had made, and didn’t think about it too much. Clearly, if all this was overwhelming, it would be useless to dwell on it and make myself anxious. I left my shoes at the door and slowly approached my bedroom. The memory of Amaimon grinning while sitting on my chest materialized in my mind’s eye. My stomach flopped with unease. My heart began to pound in my chest. My hands shook. The image was quickly erased, replaced with a comforting warmth and completely unrelated imagery, of which there wasn’t much. It was all time I spent with Cadence, the only person in my life now that I was close to and luckily had nothing to do with any of this shit. And it calmed me. I knew it was Raphael, and a part of that irritated me, but I couldn’t deny that I appreciated it. “Thanks,” I muttered quietly and opened the door. There was a small flutter of happiness there, and I didn’t think too much into it.

I looked around the room dispassionately, as if looking at a dig site rather than my own bedroom. Granted, those had much, much less remnants of blood and flesh, but it helped thinking of it this way. What stood out was the blood by the door; we absolutely moved around the room enough to break part of my bed frame, but there was a clear line of blood drops from the side of my bed towards the door. It was different from the splatters of my own and Amaimon’s blood, and it made me wonder if it was Asmodaios’. 

Before I could think of it more, the blood began to disappear before my eyes. I blinked several times to make sure it was true, and sure enough, it was gone. The energy in the room felt the same as when Asmodaios first used his magic on me in his tomb, and it made me step back momentarily. Where the hell was he? I watched as splintered wood rose into the air and reattached itself to the damaged bed post. Deep gouges caused by claws were filled in and became invisible to the eye, and slowly all the blood disappeared as if time was being reversed. The window was last to be cleaned, and was shut closed with a loud thump. “Daios?” I looked around and to the ceiling, as if he would appear there before me as Belial had before. There was nothing there, and no response. A sense of dread filled me. The presence was gone, and that click was there briefly. 

Azarias... Asmodaios’ voice was a whisper in my ear, brief, barely there and gone as fast as it came. I took a seat at the side of the bed and rested my forehead in my hands. I sobbed without trying to stop it. It was too much, and there was no comfort that Raphael could provide which would help.

 

***

 

I spent the rest of the day sobbing and sleeping, and eventually Raphael ended his efforts to help. During that time I learned to detect his presence, an ever-present weight at the back of my mind. That is, until he wasn’t. From what I understood, there were times where he was there, and there were times where he wasn’t, but he was always aware of me, and he was always accessible to me. When his presence was gone, it was because it was private grieving, not because he was useless in helping. Without a word, he relayed that meaning to me and left me alone for the remainder of the day. 

I woke during the wee hours of the morning and stumbled my way into the bathroom to shower. My body protested doing much of anything. My eyes were somewhat swollen from tears, making opening them difficult. I slept awkwardly slumped on the bed, which made made my body ache more than I was used to. Hunger roiled through me, and while it was annoying, it was easily ignored. What should have been a soothing shower felt like sensory overload. I shoved down whatever discomfort rose and remained there, unwilling to crawl back into bed and be a zombie for days. I kept flinching any time my hands touched over my abdomen. There was nothing there, as was to be expected with me and what I knew was true already, and yet I couldn’t control the reaction. It made me rush out of the shower, and while I was tempted to lay in bed and air dry, I sucked it up and dressed presentably. 

I went through the motions of being alive again. I emailed my professors, since I was in a coma for a week, and forwarded a copy to Julia as well in the event she felt the need to cover for my absence. Despite my hunger, cooking was an obstacle I didn’t want to tackle, and instead I worked to catch up on what I could based on class syllabuses. By the time I ordered food on my phone— way too many quesadillas for a single human male— Raphael’s presence was back. I found I didn’t mind it so much, even as I went through the motions of doing housework as I waited, if only to keep my body busy. It felt a bit like having someone over my shoulder without the nervous sensation of their judgement. Under normal circumstances, I would have ate and gotten in some exercise and more schoolwork. And before Asmodaios, I would have called Julia to ask about any work coming my way. Today, I shoveled as much comfort food into my mouth as possible, much to Raphael’s disgust and my own amusement at his disgust, and sat at the kitchen island with my cheek planted against the smooth stone for much longer than I’d like to admit. I could feel Raphael bristling with the urge to speak, and I chuckled. “It’s okay, talk. It’s not like I don’t know that you’re here.” I moved my face off the counter and stood, my neck aching momentarily. 

A sigh preceded his words. ”I’m not going to nag you in any way, but by God, do you really intend to lay there all day after eating all that cheese ?”

If I was in a better mood, the room would have been full of my own boisterous laughter. Instead, it was more of the same muted chuckle. “No, I’m not that bad. I should go visit my mom, but I’m not sure I want to if you’re going to be hanging around.

”That’s irrelevant, really. I’d be there regardless, as I’ve always been there as soon as I could be.”

I blinked several times, and instinctively turned my head to look towards where my mind placed him. Obviously there was no one there to glare at. “I’m sorry, what?”

He was uneasy. Having him there in my mind made it easy to feel whatever it was that he felt, and the sensation was progressively getting stronger. I didn’t know how to feel about that. ”I was never physically able to be there, but I’m often with her as a spirit. She’s always been able to see me. You, however, never have.”

It felt like I was being called inferior, and instead of dwelling on it, I muffled a sigh of my own. “Alright, whatever. I’m going anyway. Do what you normally would, I guess.” At that, he was quiet, and I didn’t think much of it. I lazily moved about the apartment, attempting to remember where my wallet was. Raphael found it for me, nudging my mind repeatedly to look between the couch seats. I shoved my arms in a green hoodie despite the warmth outside, more for comfort than anything. My keys remained by the door, and after I shoved my shoes on, I left to find my car in the parking garage. 

Other than school and visiting my mother, I didn’t often use my car, so for the most part it was always underground and I usually forgot where it was. I managed to find it without any extra guidance, and began the long drive to the assisted living home. It wasn’t a bad place that my uncle chose for my mother, but it was farther out than I would have liked; unfortunately, there was nothing that I could do about that since he was her legal proxy. And for him, out of sight, out of mind, I was sure. I wanted to be mad with him for it, but I couldn’t. As a teen, I was so resentful towards what she had become that I felt the same way. I was glad I grew out of it, but I wished it never happened in the first place. Maybe I would have tried harder to listen to her.

During the ride, I attempted to call Kyun, but only connected to his voicemail. While unusual, it wasn’t odd. I didn’t know his schedule, and I didn’t want to know his schedule. Once I was parked, I sent him a quick text instead. The common theme these last few days was worry, but Kyun really had no business dealing with demons, and if he was harmed, I was at least tangentially responsible. 

As always, I took a deep breath before entering the facility. The grounds were beautiful and homey, and while most of the tenants were elderly, not all of them were. Some were wealthy, or the family of the wealthy rather, and were put here when the family no longer wanted to deal with them and their needs at home now that they were adults. Mom fit into that category, really, though from what I understood the nurses didn’t really need to stay on top of her. I wondered if that had anything to do with Raphael’s presence, but I shoved the thought aside; I wasn’t going to just pat the angel on the back for every good or decent thing he did when he was the cause in the first place.

Greeted by the staff, I checked in at the front desk as usual and walked directly to my mother’s apartment. I went to knock on the door, but moved to open it instead. As usual, it was unlocked because she knew I was coming, and I understood why now. I closed the door behind myself, and sighed softly. I knew she was safe here, but leaving her door unlocked still unnerved me. 

Mom’s apartment was, much like her disposition for the most part, unapologetically bright. Yellows and pinks and white accented the rooms with more decor and knickknacks than I’d ever want. It was as close to that country home she wanted to run away to as she could get out here. To some it would be a bit tacky, and to me it was just, well, her. 

Today she was in the garden, looking over the flowers quietly as she sat in the grass. This was a private place for her, but I knew from the caretakers that she was often fiddling with the plants outside of her own garden and on the grounds too. They didn’t mind the help, but they still kept an eye on her. She couldn’t trim anything here or there without the watchful eye of staff, what with shears being a sharp object and her technically still being a mental patient. I didn’t dwell on it, and opened the sliding door outside. I about tripped at the faded image of Raphael beside her, his hands hovering over some of the flowers. She was quiet because he was speaking, and I then noticed her subtle nodding. “They’re fine now, the hyacinths. They will bloom soon, don’t worry.” His voice held a similar reverberation from when I was originally forced to listen to him, but this was understandable and nowhere near as nauseating as then. 

“Wonderful. Oh, doubly wonderful.” She grinned as she turned to me, though that smile faltered at the likely startled look on my face. “Azarias, what’s wrong?” Her hands moved to push graying blonde hair away from her face, quickly twisting it into a temporary bun that already began to fall down.

I opened my mouth several times, but nothing came out. Raphael chuckled, and it reminded me of bells chiming. I felt completely out of place here. “He can hear and see me now.”

Mom turned to him again, surprise made apparent quickly. “Ooh... Perhaps we should sit inside?” She stood without assistance and dusted off her bottom, walking past me without a second look. She didn’t need to, as I was granted to follow. Raphael was at her side the entire time, and I was suddenly glad I never could see him before. I had very mixed feelings, but at the forefront was that I wanted to gag because he looked like a lovesick suitor. She glided into the living room and sat in the lounge chair, her pink button-up dress parting at the knee once she crossed her legs.

I flopped onto the couch after, my expression likely still a mix of several things. I shouldn’t be surprised; he told me he was always here, but I didn’t think I’d see him. Honestly, what was I expecting? Attempting to distract myself, I noticed the tea kettle on the coffee table and reached out for it, only to find it was moving already. I sat back and made a confused noise, watching as tea was poured into the floating mug. “Olya,” Raphael spoke again, and my mother picked the mug out of the air by its handle without hesitation. I rubbed my forehead without thought. Is this how things were here normally?

“Raphael hasn’t told me anything about this. He’s been very vague about you lately. What happened? Why can you see him now?” She spoke to me as she settled her elbows on the arms of her chair, the mug held close to her face.

I shook my head. “It’s more than I want to talk about. But long story short, he’s in my head. I don’t like it, but it is what it is. I’d rather not see him, but I’m happy that...” I trailed off, not sure what exactly I was happy for. 

“That I only lost my sanity when others told me he was a fantasy? That I have only ever told you the truth?” Small wisps of steam left her mug and ascended into her nose and mouth. A gentle blow on the liquid and she took a short sip. Raphael stood beside her chair, and I imagined that was where he always stood. It was certainly where she always sat when we were inside— never beside me on the couch, and never on the loveseat across. 

I closed my eyes briefly. Those rang true, but it still wasn’t quite right. “Yeah, but. That you’re not alone here.” Maybe I was growing increasingly sentimental after nearly dying, but it was true. I always felt guilty that I didn’t visit her more often, and she always assured me that she was fine. Again, it made sense.

Another sip of her tea, and a smile graced her face again. “You always cared, even when you were full of hate. I was always glad that you reconciled those feelings.”

I flushed with a bit of embarrassment, and shook my head. I had several reasons for being here, and Raphael being here as well threw me off. “Mom, I need some answers.” There were things that I remembered her saying, and there were things I shoved out of my mind to keep myself sane as I aged. The basis of my knowledge was that my father was an angel, and that was why I was the way I was. I began to fill in blanks as I forgot whatever details she gave me, if she gave them to me at all.

“Of course. I’ll always be honest with you.”

“Okay... How did this happen?”

Already, she looked uncomfortable. My brows furrowed before I could stop myself. “I... I can’t tell you that. I would if I could, but I don’t know the truth anymore.” Raphael’s hand was at her shoulder before she finished, and she looked up to him with a sad smile. It surprised me that she could feel it, considering he wasn’t physically there.

“I don’t understand.”

“Azarias, at least in my case, if you’re told lies long enough without anything to remind you of the truth, you will eventually forget. Memories rewrite themselves and you believe them, even if other memories contradict those new ones.” Her voice was pained, and it struck through me, from my own empathy and from Raphael feeling the same. God, I hated that. Her green eyes began to tear up, and I looked away; I didn’t need another episode of crying myself. She took a sip of her tea to calm herself, I assumed. 

I looked to Raphael instead. “Then you tell me.”

Said angel scoffed, his usual glare settling on me. “Don’t be ridiculous. Talking about it confuses her, and it’s unnecessary.” 

Somehow that pissed me off more than anything else. Even if I never saw her as sane, I never thought of my mother as fragile. She wasn’t some delicate thing to be cradled and coddled like a baby. “That sounds like guilt to me. I can tell you my understanding of things, and I can guarantee it won’t sound pretty.”

“You can’t help being an unrepentant brat, can you?”

“Hey, you got laid and disappeared for over 20 years. You’re not suddenly father of the year yourself.”

“Enough, please. The both of you.” Mom pressed the mug to her forehead briefly and sighed. 

“Sorry,” I said softly. It was one thing to be reductive to him, but I shouldn’t have with her there for certain. I wasn’t trying to be hurtful, after all.

“I’m sorry, Olya.” The pet name bugged me, but I left it alone. It wasn’t my business. Suddenly I felt like an intruder here again. “I want to fix things, but there is only so much I can.”

She shook her head, and her palm floated precisely where it would have rested against his hand had he been corporeal. “And I’ve told you there is nothing to possibly fix. I’m at peace here, without the judgement or scorn of my brother. You’re here, our son visits. What else could I want?” 

“A normal, human life?” I bit my cheek as soon as the words left my mouth. 

A short chuckle left her chest. “I was never going to have that, Azarias. I knew that for a long time. As a result, neither were you.” Setting her mug down, she sighed. “But, he’s right, Raphael. Talk to him. He is our son, and he will always want the truth. My soul will always know the truth, even if my mind cannot. Speak with him at home, or here if you want. I’m going to speak with the sunflowers.” 

“Mom...” 

“Oh, I don’t think they talk back. The carbon dioxide helps and so does the optimism.” With that she stood and approached me. Leaning forward, she cupped my cheeks in her hands and pressed a kiss to my forehead, her smile sweet and peaceful. “I’m happy you can see the truth now.” She released me and walked back to the garden, slipping her sandals back on at the door.

The living room was silent between the two of us, and it was easy to see that Raphael wanted to run right back outside with my mom. I rolled my eyes. “You and I can talk in the car. You’re accustomed to being in two places at once anyway, right?” 

He smiled, and quickly his form dissolved out of my sight. “You’ve caught on quickly.”

Sighing, I stood and made my way out of the apartment. Faintly, I heard the door lock behind me. Maybe I really didn’t have a reason to worry if she had a literal guardian angel.

I checked out at the front desk and took my time heading back to my car. It was still early afternoon, and it was definitely too warm for the hoodie. Still, I kept it on while I took in a bit of sun, and once I was back in my car, I idled there. A part of me just didn’t want to go home, and that didn’t bother me in the slightest. I’d be more concerned if I was stuck at home and in bed. Deciding that it was time to go, I started the car and pulled out of the parking lot. The sound of the passenger seat moving back took my attention off the road briefly, and my heart pounded in my chest for a moment before I saw Raphael. I didn’t expect to see him, since he was in my head, but I didn’t mind it. “I’m not as stable here as I am with Olga, so I won’t stay too long.”

“Sure, just explain things to me.” I could have asked the why and the how, but I didn’t care. I much rather hear why he bothered being around at all.

“I may meander in explaining, since it’s a long history.” He paused, and I continued to drive in silence. We had a while, and in the end he could always continue in my head. “Your mother was always able to see us, angels and demons both. It’s not as rare as people think, but it’s rare for people to age and for that ability to get stronger. Children tend to have the ability, and it wanes as their ego develops. Her power stabilized, and grew its strongest as a teenager, which was around the time I actually met her.”

“So you didn’t watch over her while she was a teeny, tiny baby and groom her to be your human lover?” I sighed before he could respond. “Sorry, I’m bitter, I know, and I still don’t trust you. It takes time.”

“Understood, but at least refrain from commenting. To answer you, however, no, I didn’t. I knew of her existence, and that was about it. As it was, Olga was already a bit of an outcast and didn’t have too many friends. I imagine with her friends being immortal beings for most of her life, she seemed unapproachable. To be fair, she seemed ethereal even to me when I met her. Back then, I could form a physical body on my own, though it was limited in use and power, something afforded to me as an archangel. It was also easier to interact with things without being physical. 

“At some point, for a reason I can hardly remember now, I was worn down in more ways than one. I think I dispatched a large group of demons at the time, and I spent my time in a church to lick my wounds and return home. I didn’t realize she was in the church with me until she approached me, concerned that I wasn’t healed yet. I didn’t suddenly fall in love at the mere sight of her or anything so trite, but there was something that drew me to her. I had no practical knowledge of human love and desire, and so I had nothing to base my feelings on at first. I didn’t understand for years. I was fiercely protective of her and despised her brother Anthony, but I had no reason to think it was anything else.

“Over time, she explained the things to me that I didn’t understand— romance, attachment, and love that was more than familial and friendly. Originally I was uncomfortable, as desire was something I was not supposed to have, and I told her as much. I stayed away more often once she expressed her love and desire for me. And she understood. She didn’t think differently of me, and I ached.”

“Okay, I get it. You love her more than life itself. Please, continue.” I considered the possibility that he wasn’t completely truthful, but I wondered why lie about it now? There wasn’t much to gain. And so I chose to believe that at least her feelings were true. His emotions ran rampant as he spoke through his own memories, and that should have been enough for me to know that he was madly in love with her, especially after seeing them together. But it was difficult not wanting to doubt.

Raphael laughed, but he did move on. “Enough, it wasn’t a one night stand that suddenly impregnated her. Consider me oblivious and naive, but at least trust that Olga knows what a condom is.”

“I very much dislike you.” His jokes missed very badly.

Back to be being serious. “Your conception took power from me. At first, it wasn’t too bad. My corporeal form was gone, but my spirit was not. But the more you grew, the weaker I became, and eventually you were born. And I wasn’t able to do much of anything on Earth. I couldn’t communicate with Olga for years. I saw what was happening to her, and to you, but that was all I could do. And I took it as punishment for a sin I committed. There were times that I could speak with her briefly when she was institutionalized, but I realized it was doing more harm than good. She truly began to believe she was delusional, and she had already been separated from anyone that could help keep her grounded. And so I left her alone until I could show myself for long periods of time. While it was difficult, both expending my power and helping her understand again, I stayed by her side and helped as much as possible. Having my spirit there helped because she was less afraid.”

“I guess that was around the time I graduated high school?” The timeline seemed right. Around then, she was no longer hospitalized and was home for a while before my uncle found this facility for her. She still spoke of angels, and that was enough for him to think her marbles were gone for good. Unfortunately, so did I.

“You would be correct. She can’t differentiate her actual memories from the reframing nonsense they taught her, but she’s perfectly sane. I feel as if she very strategically spoke with Anthony in order to be sent away.”

I squinted at the road, wanting to look in his direction but preoccupied with traffic. “And why would she do that?”

“If she was too sane, it’s not impossible that Anthony would have her killed. The family business is legally hers, and he feels entitled to it. He always has. It’s funny, because she never wanted it; she had every intention of becoming a nun before meeting me. Her interest in business is minimal, and weapon sales even less. But yes, he is only acting chair because she’s not ‘fit’ to be in the position.”

“That’s a bit...” I never thought of my mother as conniving, and that is exactly what that sounded like.

“Your mother is very cunning and intelligent. Her parents adored her for it. And as much as she tells me she had no intention of being sent away, that sly look in her eye whenever I mentioned it to her has always told me otherwise. Despite the limitations, she’s happy where she is. You don’t need to feel guilty. She loves you more than anything in this world.”

“Yeah, that I know. She never fails to tell me.”

“And... I’m not sorry that I made her my priority, but I am sorry that I didn’t split at least part of my time between you two.” His guilt made my stomach flip uncomfortably. Hell, it just made me uncomfortable.

“I turned out fine, what good would that have done?” 

“Other than the fact that you’d hopefully be less angry at your nonexistent father? Your uncle influenced you early on. There are things that happened around you when you were a child that you have very little chance of remembering because of it. You should have been able to see and do a lot more than you have been without me being here. Even though you never needed it, there were always angels with you, watching over you, because I could not be there with you.”

I was silent for a while and continued to drive. I wasn’t very far from home, and I knew it would take me a bit to digest the information and accept it for what it was. Raphael knew that, and he kept silent. Once I was in the parking garage of my building, I parked and turned off the car. I sat there quietly, and a bit of anxiety ran through me. Again, I felt overwhelmed, and in this case I didn’t understand why. Things happened very far in the past and didn’t much affect me now; what was there to be overwhelmed about? I felt Raphael attempt to soothe me again, my heartbeat slowing down and a mask of relaxation attempting to take over. I didn’t need it. “It’s fine, I’m fine. I guess you’re not as terrible as I thought you were, but things are still fucked. But I guess this was always meant to happen.” I thought of Paimon then, listing fates to me while her eyes freaked me out. “And you being present now isn’t going to suddenly keep me away from Asmodaios.”

There was a brief sensation of anger, and it was gone as fast as it came, replaced with something more like slight frustration. Perhaps resignation. “As much as I hate to say it, I know. I knew it from the beginning but it was undeniable after last night.” He paused, looking flustered as he fidgeted in the passenger seat. “That leaves some issues, but I’ll figure out if there’s anything I can do.”

Right, he was stuck with me because of demonic influence. “Hey, now that I think about it, you’ve been watching me this whole time, right? Do you stick around when I’m having sex, because that is really fucking weird if you do.”

A roll of his eyes and his spirit dissolved. I laughed and climbed out of my car. He was a disgruntled feeling at the back of my mind, and I left him alone. I couldn’t tease him too much if I was going to be stuck with him for a long time. 

I took the stairs from the garage and up 4 flights to get to my apartment. Once inside, I lowered the thermostat so I wouldn’t suffocate in a hoodie and checked my phone. Kyun responded at some point that he was fine and that we could talk soon, and I remained satisfied with that. 

In the meanwhile, I had some planning to do.

Chapter Text

"Asmodaios.”

I ignored Paimon’s voice beside me. I knew he wouldn’t touch me nor stop my work, and thus he didn’t require a moment of my attention. No matter how sweetly he called to me, I ignored him in favor of watching Azarias and restoring his room. It hurt, but physical pain wasn’t something that I couldn’t handle. However, the nosebleed should have been hint enough to stop, and the change from honey to desperation in Paimon’s voice.

“Asmodaios, you’re going to kill yourself.”

It was unlikely. I ignored my fading vision.

“Asmodaios,” Paimon came into view from the opposite side of the altar, attempting to catch my attention. “You are insufferable,” he sighed, and in my peripheral vision I saw Paimon lift his hand, his palm turned up. One claw sliced into his palm, and the blood formed into a small figure of Amaimon. “Asmodaios is going to kill himself.” The line was spoken simply and emotionless, completely opposite from the multiple pleas I ignored previously.

“What?” Amaimon’s outburst was barely audible to me, and any further remarks from him were cut off by Paimon closing his palm, and subsequently the wound.

I’m unsure of what transpired afterward; I vaguely remember hitting my head on the altar before I passed out. My actions were admittedly childish in hindsight, but the sense of fulfillment was satisfying at the time. I had been powerless for long enough, and that I could do that much temporarily made me feel better. Perhaps my feelings matched my actions, then. When I awoke, Amaimon was suspiciously unperturbed. Perhaps unusual was a better description than suspicious.

He was calm, exceedingly so. What were my expectations, however? Did I expect him to be irate? That seemed more aligned with his usual demeanor. The occasional stroke of his hand over my head and hair brought to attention that my horns ached from my fall, a reminder of my weakened state. Still, I continued to watch him, unsure of what his gaze was fixed on. I remained on my side with my head in his lap, my tail moving to curl around my leg. I was silent, not to hide, but unsure of what I should say. Now that I was awake again, my actions were embarrassing. Fortunately for me, he spoke before I did. “When you wake up, without fail, you always flail your tail like your entire body is going to convulse. You always smack me awake. So I do know you’re up, Asmodaios.” Amaimon’s white eyes turned down to meet my own, and I blinked several times. There was fondness there, something that was always in his eyes when his gaze was fixed upon me, whether or not rage was involved. It put me at ease.

“I have no reason to hide,” I replied promptly. It was true, as hiding was not what I was doing. Delaying, however, was not out of the question. “Where are we?” I took my time in rolling over to face away from Amaimon’s body, and still had to wonder. The environment was familiar enough to know I was still in Hell—— of course, considering I was stuck here—— but not enough to know where specifically. It wasn’t my realm, nor was it Paimon’s, of that I was certain. It felt devoid of life and of anything, really. It was barren, despite being decorated to hold life. Still, the objects had a sense of wrongness. Even the bench we rested on felt as if it didn’t belong, as if one wrong move and it would cease to be. Perhaps even as if it existed in the wrong time, or outside of time.

“We’re not far from Lucifer’s palace,” Amaimon answered eventually. I hummed in response, unsure of what else to say. How we ended up here was clearly from his efforts, and I wasn’t sure it mattered why. Either he would share or he wouldn’t, but I wasn’t tempted to fish for half-answers from him again. “I tried to get him to let you go, to fix the banishment, and he refused. I dislike him greatly, so I have no idea what he wants. Bartering with him is useless.”

Pain wavering, I moved to sit upright beside him, and rested my head upon his shoulder. I both wanted and did not want the physical comfort. It was difficult for me to exist in this limbo of being unable to move freely, and yet being able to move at all. It was my imprisonment again, and yet, not. I was much more comfortable with the black and white versus this gray area of movement. Being trapped in stone with no freedom was preferable to being confined to Hell. “At least I am where you want me, unable to be with Azarias. Does that not please you?”

He didn’t attempt to hide his disdain. “I will never want you to be a caged animal, don’t make me laugh. Without me here, you’re bound to attempt to kill yourself over and over again in an attempt for freedom. Since when has that been my desire?” I remained silent, and kept still as he wrapped an arm around me and set his chin atop my head. I welcomed the embrace, and allowed myself to relax against him again. “Don’t confuse my desire for you wholly as a desire to see you leashed permanently. You are a fool, and probably always will be, but it’s part of what I adore about you. Even when it keeps you trapped for more than a thousand years and means more work for me. Just be careful; if there were to be a higher demon that found a way to kill himself, it would be you.”

I turned my head just enough to press a kiss to his throat and sighed softly. “It won’t keep me from trying, despite what Paimon has told me. But I’ll be a bit more careful. It seems like whatever energy I recovered is now expended, anyway.”

The faint growl Amaimon expressed vibrated against my cheek. I lifted my head to look at him, and he was on his feet before I could so much as catch a glimpse of his face again. He turned to me and offered his hand, which I took and stood easily. “I wish I knew what she did to you. If I wasn’t so belligerent, this wouldn’t have happened.” His hand grasped mine as he held out his other, a portal slowly forming into existence before us.

“If you weren’t so belligerent, you wouldn’t be you.” A small smile formed on his lips. If I was a fool, he was equally as much; Amaimon’s temper was a blade he often held to his own back. But I knew him in no other way and the idea of him changing was both uncomfortable and unwelcome. “Where are we going?”

“Home. There’s no reason to stay here where it feels like everything is ready to dissolve into nothingness. I can’t fix this, nor you, but I can at least help you heal what you lost again. And it would be more comfortable in a bed rather than in an unwelcoming place.”

I turned my head to look back at the bench; indeed, it was shimmering in and out of existence. It had been a long time since I was in Lucifer’s realm, but I didn’t remember it being like this. It was often ephemeral, but not like this. This felt like a failure, or an unwillingness, to exist. “Yes, unwelcome indeed.”

And home was indeed much more welcoming. While I had gotten used to spending time in Paimon’s palace, comfortable even, it wasn’t the same as being in Amaimon’s realm. There was a deeper comfort in the familiar environments and scents, of the quietness his palace lent. Where Paimon’s was bright and open in its warmth, Amaimon’s was dark and sultry much like my own piece of Hell. Its warmth was in its privacy, and in its darkness hidden away from the light of day on any normal occasion. And with no event currently, it was nearly empty. Walking through the palace was silent save for the sound of Amaimon’s boots when we walked on wood; I had a tendency to remain barefoot, and now was no different despite the chiton I still wore from my stay in Paimon’s realm.

Upon arriving to his bedroom, I tossed the fabric aside and flopped face-first into his bed without hesitation. His personal space always felt as much as mine as it was his, and spending a significant time apart from it didn’t diminish the feeling. A warm laugh reached my ears, but I didn’t move until the bed dipped beside me. I leaned up on my arms as Amaimon’s hand caressed my back. Nude now, he was settled against the headboard, and I shuffled into his lap. I rested my forehead against his and sighed, accepting his kisses easily. They were soft and endearing, missing the usual heat and urgency I always had with him. It was pleasant and unhurried, and allowed me to relax into him. “Relax. Let me take care of you.” And so I did, welcoming the change of pace as I remained settled in his embrace for as long as time allowed. It may have been hours before he spoke again, time feeling inconsequential now. “Daios,” he murmured softly, likely avoiding waking me if I had fallen asleep. If I had, I didn’t know it. I was in this contented, half-awake state but wasn’t bothered by his speech. I offered a small hum of acknowledgment. When he didn’t speak, I raised my head just enough to look up from his shoulder where I gradually shifted over time. “I feel I shouldn’t ask, but how did you escape your palace?”

I grunted softly. If there was something he should regret, it was attempting to lock me away in my quarters like a shackled slave. And yet he was upset that I interpreted all his actions as wanting me to remain in Hell. “Yes, that. Balaam made fine tribute.” More silence, but not a comfortable one. “What is it?”

“I ask because I haven’t seen him is all, nor heard anything about him.”

“What of it? Maybe he is dead, and I would not care in the least.”

I felt more than heard Amaimon’s sigh. It was quiet. “Again, take care. If you’re not careful you will burn yourself with whatever inferno you decide to burn everything in your path.”

“I’m not worried; he decided to be a fool when I was in a state, and I attacked him at the same time. It just so happened that wounding him helped destroy the shackle.” Tiring of the growing frown on his face, I buried my own against his neck again. “If you decide now is a good time to figure that out…”

Amaimon laughed, the sound relaxing me once more. He wrapped his arms around me tight. “I wouldn’t dream of it. It’s something I’ll have on my mind at another time. Rest.”

And so we remained.

Chapter Text

I spent a few days mostly idling and figuring out what I wanted to do. After several attempts of calling him, I knew Asmodaios was inaccessible to me and assuming Julia had something to do with that kept me from contacting her again. It was tempting because I wanted to hear what exactly it was that she did but I also didn’t expect a genuine answer from her. I trusted her with my life on a normal day but my normal days were becoming less and less. If she accidentally gave me enough information about what she did, I was more than capable enough to figure out how to help him and she knew that. So, bypass. I ignored her texts and phone calls, and instead spent time interacting with my mother.

It was odd to call her to begin with, but texting her also was awkward for me. It was interesting that she was pretty adept at it too, but if she had the phone it wasn’t a leap to assume she knew how to use it well.

I waited two days to call her first thing in the morning. She was very much awake, and was happy to hear that I was, for the most part, reconciled with Raphael. “He isn’t too annoying once you’re used to him,” she said with a giggle. “I have a faint memory of explaining privacy to him when I first learned I was attracted to him. He didn’t really understand.”

“Yeah, I don’t think he understands still,” I answered with a snicker, the brief vibration of annoyance at the back of my mind. He was very, very easy to pick on, and it was refreshing. It was refreshing being able to bond with parents, even if it was in an odd way. It was odd circumstances, how could this ever be normal? “Speaking of privacy, I should probably tell you some things.”

She was silent for a moment, and it made me want to take back the words I just spoke. “I’m always listening, Azarias.” I briefly questioned if that meant listening to me, or listening to angel and demon chatter.

“Uh, so. I’m. Dammit.” I roughly scratched at my scalp. It wasn’t easy to tell her that the love of my life was a black sex demon, or THE demon of lust. Her soft chuckling at my expense somehow made it a bit easier. That, and perhaps that I didn’t have to see clear disappointment on her face. “Okay. Okay. So the reason I can see Raphael at all is because I’m involved with a demon. Demons, sort of. And I’m in love with one of them. I know you’re happy for the truth being apparent but I didn’t want you to think it happened in a vacuum. It’s why he’s also stuck with me. He’s not exactly here willingly like he is with you.”

The silence that followed was deafening, and the bit of ache I felt on Raphael’s part was annoying. What did he have to complain about now? The sound of a mug being set down was faint over the phone. “Firstly, I knew it was a possibility, because you’re like me. If I wasn’t so devout, I could have fallen for a demon as well, especially if it was charming. Many of them very much are.”

“This one is... He’s something.” A part of me laughed at calling Asmodaios charming. He was demanding and bossy and it pushed every button of mine to make me want him even more. He had his moments of being charming, but charming wasn’t what I was looking for in him. It was heat and intensity without being coddled at the end of the day. I was allergic to being protected, and thinking of it then, it was probably because I had been protected and coddled my entire life, by both humans and angels apparently.

“If he is for you, then he is for you. I can’t be the judge of that and I won’t. As long as he doesn’t lead you to an untimely death. I won’t bury my son.” I frowned a bit, thinking of Paimon. Truthfully, if I did suddenly die from this ordeal, it was unlikely there would be something left of me to even bury. If Amaimon came back, would he attempt to fight me conventionally, or explode my body into fleshy splatter across every surface in a room? My mother’s voice brought me back to reality. “Secondly, just because he is being forced there doesn’t mean Raphael doesn’t want to be around with you. He is as stubborn as you are and doesn’t admit to things easily. It’s just that he can talk to you now, and that is foreign territory for him. Before he became tight-lipped about what you were up to, he often expressed that he was sad he couldn’t hover around you in the way that he hovers around me, and wanted to talk to you. Don’t let his hiding fool you. He’s just shy.”

“Alright, I’ve heard more than enough of the talk about me.” I heard Raphael’s voice both in my mind and from the phone, and my mother’s laughter overtook the strange sensation his voice left behind.

“And that is the sound of him blushing furiously,” she said once her laughter calmed down. “Now that that is settled, I do hope you intend on allowing me to meet him. Who is he?”

Giving a name hardly felt like a task. “Asmodaios.”

“Oh, honey.” She sighed softly. “That doesn’t seem possible. Are you sure?”

I was a bit taken aback. Was I sure? Why would a demon lie to me about who they were? “What do you mean am I sure?

“Your father locked him away ages ago. For eternity. It’s not impossible that he learned to project but he’s been with you physically?” She sounded confused, and I heard her mug settle onto the counter again. I could imagine her sitting at the kitchen island, the only thing keeping her from wringing her hands was the phone she held to her ear.

“Well, yeah. I mean, I can’t confirm it’s him, but he’s called himself that, been called that by other demons. Raphael acknowledged it.” I went silent as the angel bristled in my mind. “If you’re going to get all antsy up there, just talk and interrupt,” I grumbled from the continued sensation.

“I don’t know how it happened but it was indeed released,” Raphael spoke to us both. “Even holding my blood, it doesn’t hold the right weight. He lacks most of my power, which would be necessary to release the demon. It feels like he is mixed up in someone else’s machinations, and I don’t understand it, because I cannot see it.” His discomfort was palpable, and my own was growing. “It didn’t seem important any longer, and so I didn’t bother asking about it.”

“You aren’t troubled by the implications?” Concern was very obvious in her voice.

“Implications of what?” I asked before Raphael could speak, and again with the bristling.

“Implications of nothing. Your mother and I need to talk. And you have a guest.” The call disconnected from my mother’s end, and I frowned as I stared at the phone briefly. What was I being left out of here? Why was it impossible that Asmodaios was freed by me? I was beginning to think that perhaps I didn’t remember everything that happened. That made me a bit determined to talk to Raphael about it, because talking about it would help, wouldn’t it?

Hearing the slight click of my doorknob turning reminded me that the angel said I had a guest. I was expecting no one, and if Kyun had decided to barge into my home again, I thought I might really pummel him. “Kyun, I swear to God,” I began as I shuffled out of my room, and didn’t continue when I saw Julia standing there. I sighed and swore under my breath. It would have been great if Raphael gave me a proper warning so I could have hid in a closet or something, but then he couldn’t talk with my mother without me, could he? Julia looked perfectly well and as if she managed to rest between unrelenting attempts to get my attention from a distance. “What do you want?” There was no avoiding her now, it seemed.

“To talk. Please.”

“I don’t owe you a conversation and you’re not going to pull any wool over my eyes.” The instinct to flee was powerful, and it took every ounce of willpower not to do so. But why? It had nothing to do with Raphael, just warning bells that I couldn’t place.

“I have never attempted to do that, but you’ve certainly tried with me.” Julia left the entryway and sat on the couch with a plop. “But I will stay here until we talk, and I will follow you until we talk. There’s nowhere you can go that I can’t.”

I questioned it mentally, but didn’t want to test it. It was a long ride to my mother’s, and who was to say she wouldn’t become violent? I had no guarantee. More than that, I didn’t want to bring trouble there. Mom was happy where she was, why ruin that? Weighing my options, I sat in the living chair and angled it towards the couch, happy to keep the distance between us. “Talk.”

“I won’t apologize for banishing Asmodaios, even if he would have been able to heal you easily. I did a good thing.” I rolled my eyes, but kept put. She had a way to make people love her, certainly. “But I am sorry for failing to protect you. I swore to Olga I would, and I failed tremendously so far. And I won’t stop trying.” What was originally a comfortable perch on the couch quickly became her hunched over with her elbows on her knees, folding and unfolding her hands anxiously.

A part of me was surprised that she was somehow involved with my mother, and at the same time, not in the slightest. What was the likelihood that a demon-hating powerhouse was my boss and my friend that was like an older sister to me from the beginning? I was worried about things in my life being orchestrated now, but it seemed like a lot of it already was. “How do you know my mother?” I posed the question calmly, mostly because it was the logical thing to ask.

“She was friends with my parents. It wasn’t originally amiable but they saw she was pretty much anti-demon and became friends.” I snorted at that. She wasn’t exactly that now, thanks to me perhaps. “Olga came to me not very long after you were born and asked me to protect you as you grew older. She spoke with a demon who said he knew all things, and wanted to ensure that you remained safe from harm these demons would have on you.” The idea that Paimon bothered my mother while Raphael was incapable of doing anything about it seemed fitting. She seemed more than capable of arranging the meeting otherwise, considering she supposedly kept Amaimon away to have her meeting with me. “‘Your son is destined to become something great, Olga, regardless of if he remains human or not.’ That’s what it told her, and what she told me. I’ll never forget the fear in her eyes and in her voice, because she knew if you became a demon it would likely be hell on Earth.”

I remained quiet and watched Julia fidget, unsettled by her own confessions. I was unusually calm. Dots were being connected in my mind, even if I was uncertain. I wondered if Paimon was orchestrating something. Would she bother? She said she was uninterested in anything but pleasing Lucifer. Was he planning something, then? It was beginning to become confusing rather than clear, and I missed when Julia started speaking again. Accidentally, I interrupted her. “Julia, why are you actually here?”

She looked up at me then, startled. “You really don’t understand, do you?”

I sighed and stood, turning my back to Julia to lean against the back of the chair. The look on her face was haunted and I truly didn’t want to see it anymore. I sympathized with her plight in general, whatever it actually was. Whether it was vanquishing all demons from Earth or just keeping people safe from the more malevolent critters that roamed the planet, it was admirable. But I didn’t need her protection, nor her attempts at it, and Asmodaios was mine. I would have none of her interference. “Look, Julia. I don’t need your help. In fact, I don’t want it. Keep doing your own thing and leave me out of it, please. And I’d appreciate it if you’d stay away from my mom, if you’ve been around her.”

“I’m not sure if you’re spoiled or stubborn, but I was afraid that your reaction would be this. I wish I could have saved you.” I heard her stand, and turned to face her again. I didn’t expect her to leave amiably or anything like that, but I also didn’t expect to be punched in the throat. Julia was always stronger than me, and not only did the hit make it hard to breathe, she knocked me onto my back with the force of that single punch. A boot to the head was the last thing I was conscious for.

I woke on the couch to the sound of bells in my ears. Seeing Raphael, transparent but definitely in my vision, reminded me of what happened instantly, and so did the slight remainder of pain in my head. The angel sighed and sat back as I moved to sit up, seemingly sat on the coffee table. If I wasn’t so baffled, I might have pondered the idea of him sitting without a physical form, but I didn’t care right now. “Fucking Julia,” I murmured quietly, rubbing the back of my neck. The bandage on my hand became apparent then, and I looked at my hand, confused. And why was I on the couch?

“I’m sorry she hurt you. I would never have imagined she would have. Are you alright?” A short swipe of his hand beside my head and I felt all better. It was bizarre, being under the sensation which I used to provide to others often.

I unwrapped the gauze from my hand and frowned. My hand was completely healed, but there was quite a bit of blood soaked up. “She cut my hand?” I didn’t understand.

The gauze was swiped away from my lap and floated away into the trash. “She stole your blood to use as a weapon. With us bound, your blood is poisonous to demons. I’m not sure if that will change if our connection changes. But she could harm a demon with it at the very least, and trap them.” He sighed softly, the sound of bells still faint in his voice. Would that ever go away? “And you two wonder why I don’t care about privacy for either of you.”

Flexing my fingers, I shook my head. I imagined that I wouldn’t be seeing her again any time soon, and I also hoped I wouldn’t. But it was nothing to fret over at this point. “It doesn’t matter. I’m not going to chase her down for a jar of blood. What did you and Mom discuss?” It felt good to actually be able to look at him and talk outside of a dream state. I knew it wasn’t something that would happen often, but it was nice to experience.

Raphael closed his eyes, fingers of one hand tapping his knee. It was easy to tell he was having a small debate with himself, or possibly with my mother from the other side of himself. “She is paranoid for your safety, but I’m convinced that even if you were used to orchestrate something, your involvement began and ended with freeing Asmodaios. And so I believe you’re safe, and shouldn’t try to figure out anything further.”

“Bullshit. That’s great for you, but not for me. My field is based on inherent curiosity; do you really think I’m going to sit here and say, ‘Okay, I don’t want to know anyway,’ especially when it’s about me? Pfft!”

“Don’t you have enough to deal with? You want to find Asmodaios, which I don’t advise by the way. Do you really need to complicate your life more by focusing on something that won’t help you right now? It’s more of a problem for me than you.”

“I’ll live, and I can multitask like a motherfucker, so that doesn’t matter either.” I stood with a bit of wooziness, but not enough to fall back down on the couch. I’d live. I didn’t wait for a response, just shuffled my way to my bedroom.

“Where are you going?”

“Like you said, I have to find Asmodaios.” I paused to turn around. “I know it’s a long shot, but do you mind just helping me find him or releasing whatever Julia did to him?”

Raphael scoffed. “Firstly, I would never. If it was up to me, he’d be suspended in a pocket dimension for eternity. I don’t know how you released him, and now that you’re... involved with him, Olya would be angry with me for eternity if I sealed him away again.” Growing uninterested the more he spoke, I turned and continued into my room to change. Of course, he didn’t need to move like I did, and his form was sat on my bed as soon as I entered. “Secondly, I could never. I’m a holy entity, and he is damned. Anything from me would harm him.”

I paused in pulling clothes from my closet. I wouldn’t accidentally hurt him, would I? I asked the same question, sticking my head out of the closet. “I mean, I get the blood, and I can just make sure he doesn’t bite me too hard, but...”

Raphael shook his head. “It’s not like he can’t touch you. You’re magically inept, I’m sure it will be fine.” He sighed, and I could hear him mumble, “I can’t believe this is even happening.”

“You can’t always get what you want,” I sing-songed as I changed clothes. Gray sweats were exchanged for faded, comfortable jeans and a green V-neck T-shirt. My phone was floating in front of me at chest level when I walked out the closet, and I plucked it out of the air hesitantly. I was never going to get used to that, no matter how much my mother was accustomed to it. “So, considering you don’t want to be involved with my rescue mission, if that’s what it is, I’m not sure if you want to hang around. Unless you want to meet Seukchul.” As I spoke, I formed a text to Kyun, asking if he was busy.

“I doubt he would be able to see me.” Despite his answer, I could feel that he was happy about the gesture.

“Yeah, maybe.” If all it took was demon exposure, he kind of had that in the bag. It was unlikely that he had anywhere near as much time with demons as I did, but he had been exposed to three. And there was a mystery amount of time that he spent with Amaimon while I was unconscious. “But he could see you do things, like chase him with kitchen knives or something.” The look of confusion on the angel’s face made me laugh, and I only looked away to answer Kyun’s text. Lucky for me, not only was he not busy, but just finished cooking. Food, score! I wasn’t a terrible cook myself, but his cooking was always realms better than mine. If there was a thing to miss about him, it was easy access to his food. “Well, he’ll be on his way here in a bit, so feel free to stay.” I meandered back to the living room, curling up on the couch and idly looking through schoolwork that I’d have to attend to. It was difficult to pay attention to, because Raphael was hovering, and I could tell it was hovering with intent. He wanted to talk but didn’t want to interrupt. “What’s up?” I set my phone down on my thigh and looked up.

Raphael was cross-legged on the living chair, floating to me more than actually sitting in the chair. He looked away from me as I looked to him, and his eyebrows furrowed with frustration, maybe with thought. “Can you tell me what happened in Asmodaios’ tomb?”

My head tipped slightly, hair falling into my face. I shoved it aside. “You don’t know?”

Raphael shook his head. “Not at all. I couldn’t see you at the time. I was only aware when he was released and left the tomb.”

I hummed. Of course, that made me more suspicious of the situation, but it made sense. I don’t think he would have allowed it to happen if he was aware of it, or at least he would have tried to stop it. “Well, the long and short of it is I was trapped down there, got mind-controlled. Then I... got fluid on his stone and bam, he was free. More sex things happened, I slept. I woke up in a tent above ground.”

I found my own hum returned to me. “And how did you get there? It should not have been accessible to you.”

I opened my mouth to respond, but found I didn’t have an answer. I assumed I fell through unstable ground because I was a klutz, but I couldn’t remember anything before falling. Why was I even out there? I had a tendency to go exploring alone because I hated the noise of others doing their own search, but I also hated the heat. I wouldn’t have found it ideal to go out during the day, but I also wouldn’t have risked freezing temperatures by going out alone and getting lost. “I’m not sure. I assumed I fell in.”

“What do you remember before then?”

“I had dinner the night before with Julia.”

“You two weren’t alone, though.”

“Yeah, we were.” We blinked at each other several times. “I mean, if you were there I guess that counts.”

“I wouldn’t count myself, Azarias. You had a guide or someone of the like with you.”

I remained quiet for a while. “No...?” Attempting to think about it made my head hurt, and I could feel Raphael’s presence beside me. I turned my eyes to him, his hand hovering around the side of my head.

“Another time. Your guest is here.” I frowned, but didn’t argue because of the short knock that came right after he spoke. Instead I nodded, and stood to answer the door.

Save for the headband keeping his hair out of his face, Kyun looked like he rolled right out of bed. Except, of course, if he had, he’d have been naked, so there’s that. So the black tank and sweats were just well-worn, and the flip-flops he left at the door still made him look like he was ready to go to bed instead of just having left it. “You definitely walked here,” I said with a chuckle, and closed the door once he was inside. He didn’t muffle a yawn as he meandered to the kitchen, depositing containers of food onto the island countertop.

“I’m too tired to drive, and it’s like a fifteen minute walk, dude.” I watched as Raphael settled himself back in the living chair, and walked to the kitchen, because food was more important than talk. I stood on tip-toe to look over his shoulder rather than walk around him and sit. I spied rice, stew, spinach, and mushrooms so far. He swatted the top of my head with one of the container lids and I moved away, grabbing utensils and sitting opposite of where he stood. I set them down on the counter and crossed one leg over the other, my ankle resting on my knee. “Who’s your friend? You eat more than a horse, so there isn’t enough food for 3.”

Smiling, I rested my head in my palm. “It’s fine, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t eat. Or can’t right now.” Kyun looked at me as if I was an idiot while he set down a bowl each of stew and rice in front of me, and set down his own before arranging the vegetables between us. The faint sound of bells told me that Raphael was moving, and he was nervous. To me, I saw no reason for him to be nervous, because it was just Kyun, but of course it was more of a deal for him. This was someone he knew took up a pretty decent chunk of my life, after all. I watched as Kyun took a better look at Raphael, now perched on the counter next to the sink, and he blinked several times, as if to clear his vision. “Raphael, Seukchul. Kyun, my father.”

Kyun stopped midway through sitting, and stood upright again. Amused, I watched him leave the kitchen and heard the apartment door open and close. “What does that mean?” Raphael asked with a bit of unease in his voice.

“It means a couple of things, but he’s just making sure he isn’t seeing things. I guess he didn’t realize you’re not really corporeal.”

A few seconds later, and the door opened again, Kyun stomping back into the kitchen. “Dude, what the fuck?” He flopped into the stool and glared at me, but relaxed and instead rubbed his temples with both hands. “Is there anything normal with you?”

“Nope.”

He moved his gaze to Raphael, and began to eat before speaking again. I did the same, more interested in eating while the stew was hot than conversation, personally. “So I’m gonna assume you’re the reason he’s still alive right now,” he said after a bit of staring and chewing.

Raphael nodded, his hair doing that thing where it didn’t really move in the way hair should move. “A part of it. I can only heal so much and so fast without a vessel, which he refused to be. I understand you took care of the rest.” It took every bit of my willpower to not laugh at the judging look he wore. He just couldn’t help himself. To be fair, if he wasn’t doing it I would probably have given Seukchul hell myself, but more for shits and giggles.

Unamused, Kyun continued to chew and just stared at Raphael. I slid out of my stool to grab drinks and snickered, hoping I muffled the noise enough. “Do you have any beer?”

“No, and if I did, still no I don’t. It’s 8 in the morning.” I grabbed a cola for him instead and water for myself. Sometimes I wondered if his blood wasn’t thoroughly infused with alcohol at this point.

“And beer never sleeps.” He shrugged but accepted the can regardless, clearing his throat after a sip. “Yeah, I harbored a demon for several days. I’d have done the same for you or an injured possum. I don’t give a shit if you want to stand there and judge me for it. You’re no angel yourself.” He paused after that, making a face. “I mean, you are, but like. Hello?” He gestured towards me vaguely to make his point.

“Alright, as much as I’d love to hear you two argue, today is not a good day for it.” I cut in before Raphael could retort, because I knew Kyun would have a comeback for everything in one way or another, even if it was just Korean swears.

“You keep such wonderful company, Azarias,” the angel said as he shook his head. But I was happy to note that he wasn’t actually annoyed. Either his annoyance was saved for me, or he just didn’t care enough. Or I had annoyed him enough that Kyun wasn’t worth the trouble.

“I prefer him over Julia.”

“Really?” Kyun looked touched, and I almost didn’t want to tell him the truth.

“She attacked me and stole my blood maybe an hour or two ago.”

“What the fuck?”

Raphael slid down from his perch on the counter. I noticed his body shimmering a bit. It was time to go. “As much as I’d like to stay, this is becoming difficult to sustain. I will be around.” His image was gone before either of us could make a peep.

“Is he gone gone or just invisible or something?”

“He’s here in my mind, so he won’t communicate with you directly. He’s not tethered to me in the way he is to my mom so he can’t stick around for long. Or something like that.”

He nodded his understanding, and for a bit we ate in silence. I could tell he was mulling over a way to apologize without apologizing, or something of the sort. I couldn’t begrudge him for doing what he did best, which was caring for others. And doing so worked out for me anyway. I only let that continue until I was finished eating. “Kyun.” He started a bit, spoon paused in his mouth as he looked to me. He hummed to show he understood me. “I’m not mad. Not remotely. If Julia said anything, fuck it, because she’s on a mission of some sort. And Raphael is an angel, he knows no other way. Not that I think you cared about his opinion, but I figured I’d say it.”

He snorted and set the spoon down. “If you were mad, I wouldn’t be sitting here with you. You wouldn’t have reached out, yadda yadda. Still, it’s really awkward for me. I think most people would have run for the hills or called Julia to finish the job. Instead I called her to trick her into helping him. It helped you in the end too, but I had no way of knowing that, and that wasn’t why I did it.”

I shrugged a shoulder. “You’ve seen creepy crawlies worse than him, if what you’ve seen with Julia is true, and you’ve seen him before, being caring nonetheless. You being you, it fits. But, because of you being you, I need your help.”

There was a squint of suspicion directed towards me. “Me?”

“Yes, you. I need you to get Amaimon’s attention for me.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me. I’m really not in the business of getting people killed, Rias.”

“I’m not going to try to kill him, and he’s not going to try to kill me again. I meet, I don’t see why he would. I have Raphael with me.”

“Then what the hell do you want with him?” He sighed and rubbed his face again. “It doesn’t matter, I don’t know how to get his attention anyway.”

“I know how.” While he grumbled loudly, I picked up the dishes from the island and moved them to the sink to wash. “I can’t find Asmodaios. Since you helped him out, I imagine he’d listen if you called for him. And if not, I’m sure I’ll figure something else out.” That something was one of several different summoning rituals I found and hoped would work without him killing me. “If it sounds too risky, I won’t stop you, but I’d really appreciate it if you tried.” I didn’t turn around until the dishes were clean, but I could tell Kyun was glaring darts into my back already. His elbows were planted against the counter, his hands folded with his chin pressed on top of them

“I very much dislike you. You are a terrible human being and you should feel bad.”

In other words he was compelled to try despite his better judgment. Cool, we were somewhat in the same boat. “Sorry?” I dried my hands thoroughly and shuffled over to him, using my grip on his shoulders to move him off the stool and into the living room.

“What, we’re doing this like right now?”

“Obviously. You bringing breakfast was just a plus.” He sputtered as I moved him into open space, but didn’t complain or resist the movement. “What do I do, I guess?”

Being asked what to do, I felt a bit idiotic. Asmodaios was connected to me in various ways and was likely always keeping a bead on me when he could. Would the same thing really work here? I didn’t know anything about the demon except that he really wanted me dead. And maybe that he liked to bully things that he felt were lesser than him. That wasn’t much to go on. Maybe some sort of summoning circle was a better idea. Kyun snapping his fingers in front of my face brought me back to attention. “Sorry. Just, uh. Think about him. Think about him as if you’re calling out to him. You can sit if you want, I just figured it might be more comfortable to have an easy way to make distance.”

His face was deadpan as he looked away and closed his eyes. I watched from a relatively safe distance; his fingers kept fidgeting as he stood there. If anything, he seemed agitated in a way that was a bit unwarranted. Nervousness, sure. Agitation, not so much. Maybe I was using his willingness to help me too much, to the point that he would say yes even if he truly didn’t want to do it. There was nothing to do for it now but wait, and so I ignored it. It was barely thirty seconds before he turned his head to me, his voice laced with unease. “Well, that clearly isn’t doing shit.”

Before I could speak, Amaimon appeared, or really he materialized subtly in front of Seukchul, and without prerequisite, gripped his chin to maneuver his head back and kissed him. And this was no normal kiss; he looked ready to devour Kyun, and kissed him as if he was both starved and frustrated. It reminded me of Asmodaios in heat, and was admittedly intense to watch. Kyun stood stiff as a board, but his responsiveness was on his face, in the movement of his lips and his relaxed expression. Again, the finger twitching, but it looked much more like he wanted to grab Amaimon. I blinked a few times but kept quiet. The goal was to get information, not to interrupt whatever the demon wanted the moment he appeared. If anything, I was just glad that he was clothed, though being dressed in the same way that I remembered seeing him before made my stomach flop briefly. When Amaimon pulled back with a short lick to Kyun’s lips, he looked over to me with an uninterested gaze. Kyun looked dazed, and that was enough amusement to make up for sitting through a kiss that felt like foreplay. “So tell me why you forced him to summon me when you could do so yourself.” Kyun cleared his throat, likely brought back to reality by Amaimon’s voice, and took a few steps away from him. Interesting. Something to ask him about later.

“I couldn’t guarantee that you’d come. And you two seem to be way more acquainted than I originally thought.”

“Speak. The longer I’m in a room with you, the more tempting it is to attempt to kill you.”

I shoved my hands into my pockets to keep from mouthing off. Now isn’t the time, now isn’t the time… “Why can’t I contact Asmodaios?”

There was a small puff of air from his nose. “It’s about time you cared,” he muttered softly. I was half tempted to respond, but bit my tongue. What business was it of his that it was on my mind from the moment I woke up? “Your shaman friend banished him. And before you ask, no, I cannot release him. I tried. There are two people I know who could possibly release him; one refuses to interfere, the other outright said no. I’m in no position to make demands of Lucifer, and so I’ve done what I can already.”

I frowned and remained quiet, ignoring Amaimon’s incredibly unsubtle glances to Kyun, the brunet moving away promptly to sit on the couch. Whether or not there was telepathy going on there, I couldn’t be bothered with it too much then. What the hell was I going to do? “So what, he’s just stuck there permanently?”

Turning his attention back to me, Amaimon sighed softly. “I am a much more powerful and informed demon than I ever was an angel so I have little to no idea what earthly or holy garbage she used on him. Lucifer knows much more, and likes to keep us in the dark because it gives him power over us as a leash. In such a way he is still very much an aspect of Heaven.”

“While that’s great and all, can you actually help or are you just going to complain about disliking your hellish leader and stand there?” Kyun asked the question as he sat back, clearly disgruntled. I would have fainted if I hadn’t just witnessed him make out with the scary red guy a moment ago.

Amaimon’s lips curled in a discomforting smile that left me chilled, and it wasn’t even directed towards me. “No, I can’t help you. I’d recommend you make an offer to Lucifer and hedge your bets there. If you’re supremely lucky, he will accept; if you’re lucky at all, he’ll offer something he actually wants or will play a betting game with you. If you’re unlucky he’ll take you hostage in Hell from the moment you summon him. I don’t know what he wants, but he clearly wants something, even if it’s only his own amusement. He is both bored and boring, if you ask me.”

Of course I didn’t ask, but I wanted to get out of this interaction before I found claws in my stomach again and didn’t retort. I had little reason to feel like I was in danger— other than the fact he tried to kill me a week or so ago— but that instinct to flee was ever prevalent. “Alright. I’ll work on that. Thank you.”

Again, the demon scoffed. “I don’t need your thanks. Just do something for Asmodaios for once. He’s willing to die for you, the fool. Even just to talk to you. I can only protect him from himself for so long.” He briefly rubbed his forehead as he began to vanish from the room.

“Wait, is he okay?” I could only assume so, but it was something I should have asked from the beginning.

The last I saw of Amaimon was him rolling his eyes and sneering. “Of course he is; I’m with him.”

I stood there for a while in silence, cogs rolling around in my head individually rather than together to form cohesive thoughts. It’s not that it was difficult; I was frazzled, if anything. I knew what I had to do, or at least I thought I knew what I had to do, and at the same time I was worried. If Lucifer had his sights on me then the both of us could be trapped in Hell and that would be it. Raphael could intervene but at most that would free me. Unless he was lying about his ability to free Asmodaios, of course. “You’re not actually going to do that, are you?” Kyun sat up only to slouch over the arm of the couch, his head propped up by the palm of his hand. Despite the fact that he looked bored, I knew that was far from the truth.

“What other choice do I have?”

“You’ve got to be kidding me. You’d practically be offering yourself up on a plate. What if you summon the wrong thing? You can’t guarantee what’s going to come after you just because you think you mumbled the correct words from a tattered book.” He took the time to notice my desk, it seemed. It was piled high with more than a few things I scrounged up from hole-in-the-wall, suspicious bookstores and libraries I frequented for school and work. “Don’t you have a million and one demons on your ass or something?”

“Sort of. It’s been a few days since I’ve woken up but I haven’t been bothered. It could be because Raphael is with me all the time.” The angel offered no input and so I assumed he either had no clue or didn’t feel like sharing today.

“You could be walking right into a trap.”

“You don’t trust him?”

“Of course not! Why the fuck would I trust a demon, Rias? Just because I gave the guy a place to rest doesn’t mean I’m his friend or that I trust him.” I pursed my lips and averted my eyes from him. If he thought I was going to ignore those kisses like it didn’t happen, he definitely was forgetting who I was. “Don’t start, for the love of God.”

I was smiling, but more out of a feeling of ridiculousness than amusement. Really, I was cringing. I didn’t want to have this conversation right now; that I couldn’t control my facial expressions didn’t help with that. “I didn’t start or say a thing.” I put my hands up in surrender, and took a seat on the living chair. If he had gotten handsy with Amaimon, it was none of my business, even if it felt weird to me. I didn’t know what happened and more importantly, I didn’t want to know what happened if he wasn’t harmed. “What you did, or what you want to do with Amaimon isn’t my business. I’m just sorry that I allowed him to make it to your door.” That was the truth of it. Of course I was concerned that he could have gotten into harm’s way or been hurt when Julia told me he brought Amaimon to heal me, but he was perfectly capable of making his own decisions. He was in one piece so there was really nothing left for me to do, at least for now. There was a part of me that wanted to tease and poke because he was my friend, but now just wasn’t the time for it. It seemed like he didn’t know what to make of it himself either. What good was putting my nose in it going to do?

“It’s… fine. Like I said, it worked out in the end anyway.” He tapped his fingers on his cheek a few times, and sighed. “Alright, do what you’re gonna do. If I don’t hear from you in a few days…” He trailed off, eyebrows drawn together in thought. “I don’t know, but I’ll do something. I don’t care if it winds up being idiotic. We both know I don’t really think before I act.” He stood and sauntered toward the door.

I sighed; there was no doubting that. Cadence thought I was a walking death wish, but most of the time Seukchul was the worst when it came down to it. But I was grateful that he wasn’t going to attempt to pester me into finding another way. Again, I felt as if he actually trying to be less of a nuisance and less of a babysitter. “If you’re going, don’t forget your things.”

“Consider it insurance that I’ll be back in a few days. We can talk about Julia losing her marbles then.” He didn’t bother turning around, just waved as he slipped back on his shoes and left, the door clicking shut quietly behind him.

I sat in silence for a while. Raphael prodded me a few times, of which I mostly ignored. As much as I was glad that Seukchul hadn’t bugged me, it didn’t mean that I wasn’t going to bug myself until I buckled down and chose an action. And that was the tough part. Risk life and liberty, find another way, or forget about Asmodaios. Perhaps I should have thought about it some more but for once in my life full of overthinking, I didn’t feel the need to. I shoved the coffee table over and rolled the rug out of the way. There was plenty of chalk on my desk beside my notes, and I grabbed both in order to start.

I knew that I had no idea what I was doing and yet my hand was steady and calm. I was unnaturally calm. Maybe I thought it wasn’t going to work at all; maybe I just didn’t care anymore. Resignation generally did come with a sense of calm. Once I was done scribbling on the wood floor with the chalk, I slapped my hands together to dust them off and stood with my notes. I briefly questioned what the hell I was doing again before fumbling through the rite or spell that I had written down. It certainly wasn’t Latin and I had no idea if I was pronouncing any of it correctly, but I continued on anyway. If it was that bad, I’d just have to try again and maybe try researching it some more. Would a translation work?

“You’re very cute when you’re concentrating, but please stop before I rip out your tongue.” I nearly screamed mid-phrase as I heard a familiar voice. I looked up to find Paimon seated in the air as if in a chair, her right leg crossed over her left at the knee. Her dress was in the same style as before, now a deep purple instead of white, her feet bare. I noticed her eyes were golden from the beginning this time.

I opened and closed my mouth a few times before I actually spoke. At least she was in the circle, which hopefully meant I was safe. “I… You weren’t playing games before and you’re actually Lucifer, right?”

She laughed outright, her head tipping back slightly. “Oh, you’d be in luck then. No, I am not; I’m not one for trickster-style games.”

“Then—”

“Firstly, you’re a moron; you can’t summon an angel like a demon. For all intents and purposes, Lucifer is still an angel, even if he’s damned to Hell. It would be like me attempting to summon you just because you were in Hell. I’m happy to leave misinformation like that here on Earth for the incompetent. Secondly, you’re a hot commodity; you could so much as whisper the wrong, or right, demon’s name and they’d very likely come here to you. Excluding Asmodaios, of course. And perhaps Amaimon.” Paimon was about as nice as I remembered, and as hauntingly beautiful.

“So I got lucky.”

“Somewhat. I have a soft spot for morons and fools, apparently.” With a soft sigh, she uncrossed her legs and set her feet on the ground to stand. A small gust of wind settled about her feet and I covered my face instinctively. She was directly in front of me once I could see again, the chalk drawing a dusty, unconnected mess. I took a step back while she giggled. “Come now, I have no desire to harm you. You’re easily rattled and that’s fun to watch however. “Your pentagram wasn’t so bad, but you speak like a dumb chicken. Anyway, if you still desire it, I will deliver you to Lucifer. Then you can beg him and hope that he is feeling merciful. Otherwise, he’s likely to just keep you as a toy and play with you until you die, or until you turn into a demon. Like I said before, there’s many fates.”

“You’re a joy to be around, Paimon.” I nearly bit my tongue off after I spoke. I did not want to be pinned to an object and choked again. To my surprise, she did nothing to me and only rolled her eyes.

“It’s your life you choose to play with; I don’t care if you stand here alone unable to get what you want. If I leave, you will have a hell of a time getting to Lucifer. You can stand here and make attempts at humor or you can come with me now.” I pursed my lips and watched as she turned away from me, her arm lifted in front of her and her palm facing forward. If the air was shitty wallpaper, I would have called what appeared before her a tear in the paper; a huge gash began to form that slowly spread into a circular shape. In its shape was the image of an empty throne room that looked straight out of a fantasy vampire novel. Dark, inviting in its depths, but obviously not a place a human like me should find himself. It felt wrong to see through this hole in reality to begin with, but it gave me chills seeing this place. The demon offered her hand to me and waited patiently. “Shall we?”

I felt as if she knew my answer was yes before I knew it. Despite the near migraine Raphael was giving me in every attempt to persuade me not to go, I took Paimon’s hand. And with a tight grip, she led me through the tear.

Chapter Text

Passing through the portal was an experience in and of itself. The sense of wrongness I felt from looking at it increased, and my skin crawled with it. Once my feet were settled on the other side I shivered despite myself, my fingers clenching tightly to Paimon’s hand. I had no reason to believe she would comfort me in any way, but the instinct was there because the touch already was. But I appreciated that she didn’t laugh, and barely acknowledged it other than a glance in my direction.

“As much as I’d like to show you around various places, ‘various places’ are not safe for you currently.” I stepped beside her as she spoke, and my hand was released. “However, you are safe here. Primarily because no one is here, but you are safe.”

“No one is here?” I turned in my spot as I looked around. At the very least, there was no one in this hall. Throne room? Save for it being a bit better lit to my eyes now that I was here, it was the same. The fires that lit the place were clearly of the magical sort; the chandelier hung low from the high ceiling, and not only were the candles lit brightly, but they also gave off little to no heat. I imagined the sconces that decorated the stone walls would provide just as little heat. Everything about the place was empty and hollow.

“Lucifer is here, don’t worry. I’m not one for those sorts of games. I’ll take you to his quarters.” She moved away from me, the expectation that I would follow apparent. And I did, because where else was I going to go? I knew she wouldn’t tolerate any shenanigans, and while she wouldn’t kill me, she wasn’t averse to maiming me if I annoyed her enough. Call it a fast turn around, but I already wanted to leave and go home.

The way forward was well-lit much like the throne room and decorated lavishly with tapestries and some knick-knacks on accent furniture. Everything seemed lush in an extravagant way, and yet didn’t feel real or lived-in. Did he spend any time here, or was that just not a thing that happened around demons? Did the idea of “lived-in” just not happen? “This place is dismal,” I said, absent-minded. I didn’t intend to actually speak, but there was enough going on in my head that I didn’t realize. I was startled when Paimon responded.

“It is; I am never usually here unless I’m directly at His side because I can’t stand it. It’s grating and lifeless, no matter how pretty it is to the eye. Its soul is unpleasant.” She led on in silence, no interest in engaging me in any other conversation. I wondered if she was always like this with other demons; I wondered if other demons were like this. I knew my experience with them was very limited, and half of the demons I knew were pretty much volatile. Paimon I considered neutral, in that she didn’t actively want anything from me and didn’t want to kill me. Asmodaios was nothing like her. I didn’t know much of anything when it came to Amaimon and Belial, and so I couldn’t really include them in a comparison. Maybe they were all just violent. I had definitely seen enough evidence of that.

Oddly, I felt a familiar presence from somewhere. I wasn’t good with these things, and so I couldn’t tell where it was, nor what it was. It wasn’t Asmodaios nor Raphael. But I knew that feeling, of that I was sure. Uneasy, I looked over my shoulder, half expecting to see someone there. But there was nothing. “Are you sure we’re alone?”

Paimon looked at me with something akin to annoyance. “Yes, why?”

Frowning, I shook my head. What good was it to question the senses of a powerful demon? Maybe it was in my head. Her gaze turned to skepticism, but she looked away after a brief moment and continued to move forward. Soon enough, the sensation was gone, but continued to bother me. Where had I felt it before?

The further Paimon led me along, the colder I felt. She opened the way to a balcony that looked like it could have led outside, but there was definitely a ceiling ridden with stalactites of ice and rock. No wonder it was cold; I was practically in an ice cavern now. Attempting not to be too distracted, I watched the figure in front of us. That it was a demon was obvious by the horns that I could see even with his back turned. There was a slight, cold breeze that made his white coat tails shiver every so often. Not that I was a color symbolism snob, but it was a bit weird seeing a demon dressed in all white. Watching, waiting for something, I idled there. Paimon remained in the doorway, and lifted her palm forward to usher me further onto the balcony. “Throwing me to the wolves?” It was a joke unsuited to the company and didn’t provide the relaxation I sought.

“You led yourself down this path, Azarias.” They were the last words she’d offer to me for a while.

Stepping forward, my heart beat rapidly in my chest.

What the hell was I doing? My feet felt like lead as I moved, but I didn’t stop. It just took me a lot longer to get to the balcony railing than it should have. Not wanting to look into the cavern, `I instead looked to the figure beside me. I suppose if it was indeed Lucifer it would have been wrong to call him a demon according to Paimon. But this person could have easily been Paimon’s twin. Dark, thick hair, lightly tanned skin, and those same golden, hypnotic eyes that glittered in the light. Hauntingly beautiful and terrifying all at once. “Lucifer,” I spoke in a whisper. It felt hard to breathe only from my own bubbling panic.

What the hell was I doing?

I couldn’t tell if he only realized that I was there when I spoke, or only cared to acknowledge me because of it. “You’ve done well, Paimon. Thank you.” From the corner of my eye, I saw her nod and bow slightly, and she remained where she was. His voice was smooth and musical, and reminded me of Raphael’s without sounding like my own. There were none of the bells that I often heard when my father spoke, but somehow his voice still held that quality.

And despite the sound being relaxing, there was no way that I would. Feeling tense, I turned my eyes to the cavern instead, ignoring the figure leaning on the railing. It didn’t help my sanity by any means. There were people down there, some encased in ice, others trembling in pain from it, and fewer yet attempting to get around with frostbitten limbs. There was nowhere to go. Far set from the balcony was a hideous beast encased in ice. At least, hideous in what I could determine; it was monstrous in size with horns suiting it, and a gaping maw filled with likely razor-sharp teeth. Stuck as if frozen in time. I would not want to see that alive. Bewildered, I spoke without thought once again. “What the fuck is that?”

“That is where part of my soul lies. The part that symbolizes my damnation.” Lucifer remained leaned on the railing, fingers tapping the stone idly. “Maybe one day I’ll feel the desire to bind with it and be my true self, but now is not that time. I couldn’t care less about it. It is safe where it belongs.” After a moment, he moved from his perch and turned to me, coat tails swishing with his movement. “Now then, to what do I owe the pleasure of a visit from a walking abomination?”

I wasn’t sure if I was expecting insults or not, but I wasn’t expecting to be called an abomination. Talk about a low blow. “Uh, and why am I the abomination?” I took half a step back without realizing it. I was really regretting being the stubborn goat that I was suddenly.

He spoke with an air of pretentiousness, his delivery metered, heavy with pauses that held no meaning to them save for maybe his own vanity. “You’re a nephilim. Humans alone are worthless enough as it is and they are only useful to toy with. But you… Tut, tut, tut… You, my dear, just shouldn’t exist. Angels aren’t meant to have offspring. It’s very far from what God intended, or else he wouldn’t have made humans to begin with. You’re more of an abomination than my demons are.” I shrank back again. I wasn’t exactly hurt, but the words didn’t feel good to hear. Why did I bother asking? “It’s of little relevance, but you asked. Now, what do you want from me?”

“I know you’re maybe the only one who can release Asmodaios. That’s what I want.”

The smile that crossed his lips was unnerving. Regret, regret, regret. “And why should I? You have nothing to offer me. What I did offer to you, which could have prevented this from happening, you refused. But it is bold of you to come to my home and ask for something after that.” He paused, eyes glittering in a way that reminded me of Paimon. “And what do you presume to offer me in exchange?”

Unable to speak, I swallowed and clenched my hands into fists at my sides. He was right; I had nothing to offer. Whatever knowledge of things that I could obtain, he likely already knew. Any knowledge that I already owned, he had. He didn’t need my blood like Julia did; he could bleed himself if he really needed. Amaimon mentioned something about games, but I should have had him elaborate. What was I thinking, that he had some goodwill to give?

“Watching you think and realize your error is amusing, but it’s only amusing for so long. Offer yourself to me for me to do with as I see fit, and I will reverse his banishment. Otherwise, I may toss you down there for the hell of it since you’ve wasted my time.” He tilted his head slightly to point to the base of the cavern. Fuck that.

“Will you kill me?” I didn’t have to think about it. It seemed as likely a thing to do as to toss me over the ledge.

“Now he’s thinking.” He applauded me with several slow claps, and then crossed his arms over his chest. It was bare, the tailcoat closed over his abdomen by several gold buttons. “I don’t know. I haven’t decided yet. The risk is yours to take. But I can guarantee you won’t be leaving at this very moment without saying yes.”

Briefly, my eyes turned to Paimon. I wasn’t looking for anything, I just didn’t want to look at Lucifer any longer regardless of if the pair of them looked so similar. At first glance, the demon looked completely disinterested and bored, but after a moment I noticed what looked like pity. Perhaps she knew that this was going to happen the minute she led me here, but why bother feeling pity when she chose not to do a thing about it? Angrily, I bit the inside of my lip. I didn’t need the pity of an arrogant demon. “Fine, yes. Just set him free.” If I could escape somehow, I would. That I had to struggle to do so was my own fault for not thinking, but at least Asmodaios would be free; he didn’t deserve to be trapped. Lucifer wouldn’t lie, would he? I didn’t think of that either, because I was a moron.

“Good. You have my word that he will be free shortly.” With a snap of his fingers, obsidian bangles appeared on my wrists. Were these some sort of shackles? I raised my arms and looked at them idly. “You’re my property. Those will keep you safe for the most part. More importantly, it will keep you from leaving Hell. I may decide to let you roam freely. For now, stay with Paimon.” His eyes left me, mischief inherent there. “Paimon, please take him somewhere for now.” His footsteps were silent as he left the balcony.

“My Lord,” Paimon acknowledged him as he walked passed, and her eyes settled on me again with a sigh. My stomach flip-flopped. “You are a fool if I have ever seen one.”

“Give it a rest,” I grumbled, moving away from the balcony railing as quickly as possible. I didn’t want that beastly thing in sight anymore. “Where are you taking me, I guess?”

She made a disgusted noise as she shook her head, her palm to her forehead. “To my home, I suppose. I won’t be staying here and I won’t be responsible for you kowtowing to some demon and causing problems.” She paused, her voice dropping with resignation. “More problems.” Again, her hand rose to form another tear in the atmosphere of the room, and what looked like a Roman palace appeared. It matched her get up, I supposed. “After you. You will be as safe there as you are here.”

“Safe” didn’t mean that the place was seemingly empty, but rather that I wouldn’t be touched. As soon as I crossed, I immediately was surrounded by all manner of horned and winged creature. They all stared with curious expressions, and one definitely sniffed my ass before I could smack it away. This did not feel safe, I don’t care what the demon thought. It likely wasn’t that long before she herself crossed, but it felt like an eternity with so many people— things?— around. And as soon as she appeared, they dispersed for the most part, still watching, still sniffing the air about me. Still clearly distracted by my presence. There were some that were uninterested, and I realized then that they might be human. Why were there humans here? Not wanting to be left behind, I remained as close as possible to Paimon without accidentally touching her. She moved fast when she wanted to. “They know I don’t belong here,” I said softly. I didn’t expect a response.

“No, they know you’re not human. Right now, you do belong here because you’re Lucifer’s property. The rest are the damned.” We left the grand hall relatively quickly, but there were still demons that littered the place. Most of these were relatively humanoid in ways I was familiar with, and still watched me like I was prey. Again, “safe” didn’t feel very safe. I relaxed once we entered an empty library. At least, it was empty from what I could tell because the room was huge and multi-floored. Realizing this is where we would be staying for now, I took a seat at one of the tables. Immediately, one of the bangles transformed, links attaching to it in order to chain my arm to the table. Really? Where was I going to run off to? I stared up at Paimon and blinked several times. “Don’t make that face; I didn’t design it.” She took a seat across from me, fingers tapping rapidly on the wood that separated us.

After a while, I couldn’t hold my tongue anymore. It wasn’t worth trying, but that tapping was grating on my nerves. “What’s on your mind?”

The tapping stopped, and her eyebrows furrowed as she watched me. At some point, her eyes had turned green again. “You are trouble, and I can only hope you don’t start a war.”

I guffawed. “Me? I won’t say I’m powerless since I don’t know what could happen, but I have no intention of starting any wars.”

“You are unceasingly foolish. It doesn’t matter what your intentions are.”

“Hey, I’m not the one who had the means to prevent most of this. I can’t see the future.”

“I don’t interfere.”

“Bull shit. Or was it an inevitability in every fate that you warned my mother about me?” The look Paimon gave me made my blood run cold; it wasn’t anger there, but confusion. Why was an omnipotent being confused? “Wh—what? Why are you looking at me like that?”

She folded her hands together on the table. The gesture was calm, but something told me she was anything but. “I did not do that in this timeline.” I could see her throat work as she swallowed.

“What does that mean?”

“It means there will be war. It could be a hundred years from now but it will happen. And it means that I don’t know the true direction of where things are headed, because someone other than myself is fiddling with fate secretly. And that is all you need to hear, considering you didn’t need to hear any of it.” She looked away from me and was silent, a vacant expression occupying her eyes as she stared towards the bookcases. It didn’t take a genius to realize she wasn’t seeing anything, her eyes unblinking. I sat in silence, unable to reach any of the bookcases with my short tether. I removed my phone from my pocket, only to find it as useful as a brick. No demonic super Wi-Fi in Hell apparently, and there wasn’t anything of entertainment contained on my phone without it.

Experimenting, I stood in hopes that the chains would release. Of course they didn’t. I could only hope Paimon had some say in what these things did, because when the urge to use the bathroom came, this was going to be a mess. The thought that they didn’t eat occurred to me. Would I be fed? Were there even toilets down here, or would I have to find a bush and hope for privacy? Would I just not need these things while I was shackled down here? I wasn’t completely relaxed to begin with, but I was becoming agitated the more I thought, and as quietly as possible I began to tug on the chain and table, neither of which did much. I heard a short sigh from Paimon and looked up; there was that look again. Pity. It only angered me further. “I’m sorry, I’m failing to be good company. I don’t dislike you, despite the fact that you annoy me, and I should be paying some attention to you. But this has distracted me, among other things. I need to speak with Lucifer.” Her fingers tapped the chain briefly, and soon I was released from the table, shackles in place. “You may roam freely. That is anywhere you choose, but I doubt you’ll figure out a way to leave my realm.”

I didn’t care to do any roaming. I just wanted to hide and run away. Paimon took her time in standing, and I panicked, believing she would disappear immediately. “Wait!” It came out much louder than I intended, but she luckily didn’t seem bothered by it.

“What is it?”

“Is there somewhere I can stay that’s… Quiet? Less full of demons that want to eat me or whatever it is they do with prisoners?” I wanted to sit again, but didn’t want to be strapped to the table again. I heard footsteps above us now, and knew the library was no longer empty, if it ever was.

Her smile was amused. “I think you’ll find where Asmodaios stayed while he was here more than adequate.” Of course, that got my attention. He was here? The past tense quelled any excitement, but there was the possibility that he could return, right? “It’s a full wing that I forbade anyone from entering without my or his permission. You’ll be alone there, except if someone not under my legion decides they want to bother you.”

“Like Lucifer.”

“Like Lucifer. Come with me.” She was quick to turn, and I was quick to follow. On the way, I noticed a large, empty garden. It looked strange to me, like it was covered in gossamer that placed it in its own little world. “That is my private area.” Paimon noticed my ogling, but didn’t stop to allow me to look. Shuffling to catch back up, I didn’t allow myself to get distracted again until we were clearly in the private wing she described.

I wouldn’t say I was at peace, but I definitely felt a bit better. I was never really terrible with large groups of people, but I was never surrounded by demons and openly stared at. That would be enough to make anyone panic if they weren’t used to it. “Do you think Asmodaios will come here once he’s free?” She led the way to a sitting room, one that faced its own garden. I wasn’t a flowery type, but if I was going to be stuck here a while, I might as well look at something pretty.

Once I took a seat on the couch that felt completely oversized but extremely comfortable, she stood beside one of the pillars that led the way out, facing me. “If he knows you’re here, absolutely. But unlike me, Lucifer likes games. That Asmodaios isn’t here already shows that he is playing one.”

I didn’t like the sound of that. “In what way?”

“Lucifer doesn’t need to do much to do whatever He pleases. There are some rules He must follow, of course, but He is a powerful being. By which I mean He doesn’t need to do anything more than snap His fingers to release Asmodaios. And yet He has gone to him and is likely inventing a way to keep him occupied while He finds something to do with you.”

Dejected, I sighed. That was just great. I didn't realize games met things like pettiness. I thought I understood what Amaimon meant, but it was becoming clear that I hadn't a clue. The guy was a twat. “The games begin.”

“You understand now.” There was a slight shift in her demeanor, and she offered me a smile. It wasn’t relieving— it couldn’t be, considering our first meeting— but it didn’t make my skin crawl. I’d call that a win. “I’ll be going; feel free to roam. Your bangles will keep you safe, but I can’t guarantee you won’t be teased or goaded by demons so do mind yourself.” She was gone in the blink of an eye, a gust of wind following her disappearance.

I sat in silence for quite a while. I still wondered if food was a thing I would need, but for the while that I remained there and dozed off, I wasn’t bothered by it.

Dozing off soon turned into a full-on nap, and I was woken by the sound of thunder. The smell of rain permeating soil soon filled my nostrils. Despite the thunder and occasional lightning that lit up the black sky, the rainfall was gentle to my ears. Personally, I’d enjoy more of it, but I wasn’t in charge of the weather in Hell, or here, or however things worked in this place. Slowly, I stood and stretched, grateful for the fact that I wore loose clothes earlier. I was also grateful that I even had clothes at this point. Who knew what Lucifer would want when he was back for me?

With nothing else to do in the current setting, I began to wander the halls of this private wing. It made me wish I had senses like Asmodaios. Would I be able to sense that he was here, tell if he left his pheromones lying about all over the place? Was that something I should have been able to do? Irritation hitting me from multiple directions, I continued to wander physically and left the mental wandering alone. My own idiocy would be easier to ignore if I was occupied, even if it was being chased by demons. But I wasn’t so dumb as to seek it out. I was happy to find another library on the second floor of the palace. I imagined it was a third library in reality. I was sure Paimon would have one for herself, and then there was the grand one we visited earlier that day. Now that it was dark, the room was lit with cold torches much like Lucifer’s home, but they lacked the same wrongness. These just said “magic” to me more than anything else. Free to actually look at books now, I slid my fingers along the book spines as I walked down the library aisles, not quite catching all the titles of each book. The shelves were marble and ran from ceiling to floor. Each was full from edge to edge, and most were not in English. I managed to glimpse each and every book that I had used in my own research over the last few days, in much better condition than when I read them. I also found the one with the misinformation regarding summoning Lucifer. I tipped it from its spot on the shelf with one finger and flipped through its pages; there were notes in the margins with marked ridicule, and I couldn’t help but smile. It was indeed a bogus item that Paimon laughed at and left available on Earth, as she put it. According to her notes, it wasn’t her work but another demon’s in feeding the man misinformation before “devouring” him. I was happy to remain ignorant about that.

It was an interesting journey going through the works in the library. Paimon’s notes were sometimes enlightening, sometimes hilarious, and usually held some sort of correction to them. Sometimes she treated them a bit like journals, writing about what really happened in some events that were detailed, and relaying tales of time spent with different demons, mostly Baal, Mahazael, and Amaimon. Those details were more interesting than the literature usually. It made them seem a bit more like people, I guess. Not that I was confused about what they were— I knew they were exceedingly violent and took pleasure in others’ damnation, among other things. But I didn’t know them, and for the most part I had no intention of knowing them personally. They weren’t Asmodaios. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t care if they were all smote. Maybe it was a good thing that they weren’t, and maybe it was a good thing I wasn’t some hateful, vengeful warrior to be swung around by God’s Will. The thought made me miss the lie I was able to believe all my life, that I was just a very peculiar human being.

The sound of the rain picking up caught my attention, and I approached the window to look out to the garden again. The sky was barely lit by the moon behind the storm clouds, and the barest bit of light shone in the garden. The plants drooped under the weight of the rain, and not-so well hidden was Amaimon. I couldn’t be sure if he was looking for me, but that he was there made my heart shake briefly. His hair was down and matted to his skin from the rain, his back mostly turned towards me. His neck rolled unnaturally, and soon he turned his head to face me, white eyes glittering even in that darkness. Faintly, I could see that his lips were moving, but there was no way to hear over the distance and with the torrential downpour. I shut the book in my hand immediately and left it on the nearest table before skittering out of the library. I didn’t care how “safe” I was with these damned rocks around my wrists, I did not trust Amaimon to listen to anything Lucifer demanded. And I didn’t feel any connection to Raphael, which meant if he tried to kill me, well, I’d very likely be dead in a flash. I wasn’t sure where I should run to; there were several bedrooms, but hiding under a bed felt foolish. Once I made my way to the main floor again, I could hear the sound of wet boots across the polished stone. Internal screaming commenced, and the sound of blood rushing in my ears became too loud to notice anymore. Quietly, I shoved myself into the pantry room and shoved my back against the wall. He was going to find me, and I knew he was. I should have looked for a knife while I was out in the kitchen proper. Some way of defending myself was better than no way, even if I was a weakling compared to him.

As quietly as I could manage, I took deep breaths and attempted to calm myself. What good was worrying at this point anyway? If I was going to die, I was going to die. That would just be the way the cards fell today.

I wasn’t ignorant of the fact that death would make this entire endeavor nearly pointless, but at least Asmodaios would be free regardless. I cared about that more than my life at this point.

The pantry itself was quiet; I couldn’t hear a sound from outside other than the thunderstorm. Calm once again, I slid down the wall and sat with my knees curled close to my chest. My bottom was barely on the ground for five seconds before I felt a yank on my hair and I was dragged to my feet, Amaimon’s form materializing preceded by smoke. “Could you stop hiding like the rat you are?” He sighed and released me, shoving me towards the door with the grip in my hair he quickly released thereafter. “If I was going to kill you, do you think I would have stood there so long?” I was silent and stood still, only watching him as I backed away slowly. “You are the most idiotic person I’ve laid eyes on.” He sighed, but stayed exactly where he was. Somehow, that gave me a small bit of comfort.

“What do you want, then?” I slid my hands into my back pockets. I truly wanted to turn tail and run again. It was much worse than when I had Kyun summon him.

“I wanted to see if you did what I thought you did, and it seems you did.”

“Where’s Asmodaios?”

“Best I can tell, locked away in a room somewhere in which Lucifer is supposedly freeing him. I don’t believe that of course, but I don’t know otherwise.”

I frowned, pursing my lips. “What would you have done if you knew ‘otherwise?’”

“Nothing. It’s Asmodaios’ choice. We’re all fools in Lucifer’s game, whatever his game is.”

“Except Paimon.”

“No, no, no. Paimon is the biggest fool of them all! He will still be loyal to Lucifer with the angel’s foot crushing his throat as he looks up and watches it happen. He will see it coming and welcome it, in fact, because it was supposed to happen that way, or some such nonsense.” He sighed, shaking his head. Maybe they did seem a little familial. A little. “Anyway, it’s clear he wants to keep Asmodaios away from you, and it’s clear that Paimon has something bothering him. And so here I am, bothering you.” He did approach then, and I backed out of the pantry into the kitchen proper. Idly, he circled around me, because he could manage to look unhurried and still pace around me at a fast speed.

I missed humans.

“What were your terms?” He asked firmly. “Asmodaios doesn’t know you’re here and I imagine Lucifer will buy time by making it impossible for him to tell. Unless Raphael is responsible for that already.”

“Terms?”

I watched him when he was in front of me, his movement normal now that I stood still. He didn’t have to corral me like cattle. He was no longer leaving water behind with each step he took, and his boots no longer squeaked with moisture. He stopped to face me, a slight arch to his brow. “You offered yourself up on a plate in exchange for Daios’ freedom.” I remained silent, because it sounded worse coming out of his mouth. “God, now I really want to kill you.”

“Can you not, with the the threats that are not really threats but I’m going to take as threats?” I squirmed under his glare but kept put. “What do you care?”

“I don’t, not really. But Asmodaios will and I feel inclined to help him despite his foolishness. And so I am inconvenienced by having to free you.”

I lifted my arms forward. “Then just do it now. Can you? Just get these off of me and I’ll be free.”

Amaimon scoffed and took a step back. “I may hate Lucifer but I rather not combust and be in agony for 1000 years.” He pursed his lips. “That, and I can’t. I have no reason to lie about it; I don’t know how.” My shoulders slumped slightly. This demon was useless. “Paimon will always be your best bet. He sees everything and therefore knows everything.”

“Not everything.” I remembered Paimon’s reaction to what Julia told me. Her view of the future was no longer clear. Maybe it never was.

“What do you mean?” Somehow, he even managed to make idly staring at his nails look threatening. It was probably because they looked like talons at the moment.

“Supposedly something that I was told she did was something that didn’t happen. Not in this line of fate. And she’s a bit bent out of shape about it, said someone was fiddling with fate in secret.”

Eyebrows furrowed, Amaimon turned away from me. I didn’t have to know him to know he was thinking of something that bothered him, too. “Oh. That… That doesn’t sound possible. They must have lied to you.”

I chuckled. “Yeah, fat chance. I don’t think she’d be worried about it otherwise.” When he turned back to me, this time there was definitely murderous intent on his face. It could have been that was just how he was bound to act, or it could have been because he knew something and I knew it. Either way, I did not want to be on the other end of those talons again. I skittered backward and, looking around, I grabbed a knife from one of the knife blocks. This kitchen was unnaturally huge, and it was something I appreciated only for navigating around things, leaving objects, and more importantly space between the two of us. “What the hell is wrong with you, with the violence and the maiming!”

Amaimon stopped abruptly and shrugged his shoulders. “I’m a demon and you’re a rat, half-bred or not.”

And he was gone with a wisp of smoke. Of course, the reason he gave up so easily was the hand on my shoulder right after. Instinctively I turned to stab, and the knife was gone before it reached its target. There was Lucifer now in front of me, my fingers brushed against his abdomen like the beginning of some intimate touch I never intended. “Well, aren’t you lively?”

Ugh.

Chapter Text

“I’m sorry to interrupt your… Cuddle pile, or whatever it is, but I’m willing to release your bonds if you’re willing to move.” Half-awake, the sound of Lucifer’s voice jolted me alert. Without a sound, he appeared in the room before I realized it, and before Amaimon was awake again. I was unsure as to how long we lay there, hours or days, but the intrusion felt unwelcome. Of course, until I registered what was said. Learning to spend time with Amaimon, even in this state of lethargy, was peaceful and pleasant. However, I wasn’t going to turn down my freedom.

I assumed Amaimon might object, and the disgruntled noise he made as I moved off of him was what I expected, too. “What’s the catch?” Perhaps that was something I should have thought about, but I didn’t much care to; I wanted to see Azarias no matter the cost. As it stood then, I didn’t know where he was. I didn’t know if he was alive. Still, I was grateful that Amaimon would at least attempt to look after my well-being no matter what disagreements we may have. That is, as long as he was not the cause himself.

“No catch,” Lucifer answered promptly. “The only catch is we go now before I no longer care. Which, knowing me, can happen in two seconds. So, if you wouldn’t mind.” With his arm raised slightly, he swiveled his hand at the wrist several times in a gesture to hurry up. With his other hand, he was already opening a portal to some part of Hell I didn’t recognize.

Eager already, I didn’t need further encouragement to get dressed in the chiton I had tossed aside previously. What stopped me from walking right through was Amaimon’s grip suddenly at my wrist. My own patience was dwindling, but I understood he had little interest in keeping me away from Azarias any longer. I attempted to control my own temper, speaking with more concern than I felt. “What is it?”

The look in his eyes was full of concern however, and that made it difficult to ignore him and simply dash away. His standing distrust of Lucifer was always something of a rift between him and most demons, myself sometimes included. He was difficult to look away from. “Be careful,” he said as he tightened his grip ever so slightly around my wrist. He then let go and lay down again, a mask of apathy taking over his expression. I nodded, and in a few steps proceeded through the portal before Lucifer.

Amaimon’s concern left room for thought, but it all felt irrelevant. Where did I need to be taken to be released from banishment? Shouldn’t it have been as simple as a spell? From what I could tell, the shaman only had to slap a seal on me. Granted, it seemed to be a powerful one, one that she was unsure would work, but it was only a seal nonetheless. The questions fell to the wayside. I didn’t care if there was some ridiculous ritual which needed to be done, I would do it. If it it was merely for his enjoyment, I would do it. If I had to walk every inch of Earth before I could see Azarias again, I would do it.

“Where are we?” I posed the question as soon as I heard Lucifer’s heels land behind me. The floor beneath our feet was polished stone, cracked and unlevel in many places as if roots had formed beneath the stone and fought to break free. Other than that, we seemed to be in a cavern deep beneath the ground, the ceiling towering far higher than I could see easily. The walls were of rock and dirt, seemingly dug out and picked into shape. Even in darkness, I could see the room’s centerpiece, a giant, diseased lotus flower. Perhaps demented would be a better term to use; its petals were as expected, but the stamen were mutated. They stood upright and tall, much taller than the leaves of the flower. They were black and spotted, thickened like tentacles and swayed gently like seaweed being moved by the current. Disgusting to look at, and the smell the flower gave off was putrid at best.

“A revival chamber, or at least that is what I’m calling it for now. I don’t use it often enough to care about names.” With a passing stroke of the nape of my neck, he moved passed me to approach the flower. The stamen tentacles lowered while joined together at their tips, as if pushed down to form a bowl at the base. They then split apart, opening over the pink petals like a myriad of tongues, their tips planting against the stone to keep from falling over and damaging the petals. A sticky substance aided their stance, some of it splattering once their tips touched the ground. The smell was worthy of gagging and vomiting, but I remained still and kept my eyes on Lucifer. If anything, he would adore the attention, even as he flung some of the flower’s goop from one of his glassy horns. “Come now, in you go.”

I approached the flower, the urge to cover my nose intense. It was as if I could not dim my senses, and I had to wonder if this was also for his enjoyment, too. Close up, I could see that the flower was settled on top of water, though it was seemingly a puddle beneath its size. The receptacle at the flower’s center was large and looked like an oversized pillow. It wouldn’t have been too terrible of a spot to rest if it wasn’t for the rank scent. “What am I supposed to do here?”

“Sit down, lay down, whatever you prefer. It will open again when you’re all better.” Did it all reek of suspicious behavior? Of course it did. But I had no reason to believe that Lucifer would go about subduing me in some roundabout way. I was already weakened, and I was no challenge for him when I wasn’t. He could snap his fingers and I would no longer exist. What did I have to lose by playing his game other than time? And so I walked along one of the sticky tentacles and sat in the receptacle, holding my breath as I waited calmly.

“How long will this take?”

“A few days at best. I will check on you from time to time, but you would be best off sleeping. It will come naturally, worry not.” I frowned, but did not complain. It would be of no use; he was more likely to climb in there and grab me by the horns to shut me up than anything else. Slowly, the tentacles closed around me, and I found myself lying back after a few minutes. Soon after, the petals of the lotus closed as well, and I was completely encompassed in solitude and the stench of death. “Sweet dreams,” I heard murmured before I indeed did pass out.

Inside, I did something that was unnatural: I dreamed. Sleep was a thing that we didn’t quite need outside of healing. That process was more like being put into a state of torpor or into stasis than it was actual sleep. Any “sleep” besides this was more like a dimmed consciousness that one could be easily shaken from. And so this felt truly like sleep that I assumed humans experienced, but with vivid dreams. And some of these dreams could be called nightmares.

I dreamed of my time encased in stone. I dreamed of being imprisoned again, and stuck for eternity. I dreamed of Azarias attempting to release me again, deliberately, and failing.

I dreamed of being stuck in Hell, a useless relic that could not do his life’s work. I dreamed of being a caged animal, laughed at and prodded from outside the bars like a carnival sideshow. I dreamed of turning into a nameless succubus, sowing seeds of lust and chaos on Earth as I deemed fit.

But worst of all, I dreamed of Azarias. I dreamed of his beauty, touched by the divine and tarnished by myself. And I dreamed of him dead, his bleeding remains dangling from the giant maw of Lucifer as a beast stricken with damnation. Amaimon sat upon the beast’s head, bored and whispering slowly to me. “Do you see now? Do you see?”

I woke in a mix of my own sweat and whatever substance the stamen released. Whatever it was, it mostly disintegrated the linen I wore previously, a papery, sodden material remaining against my skin. Both the petals and stamen were open again, and I fought the urge to simply run out. Lucifer was not here, but the flower was open once more. Was I free to go? Unsure of what to do, I paused and sat up in thought. What was the likelihood that I would have to do this all over again? Unwilling to sit in this rot any longer, I stepped out of the flower and onto firm ground again. The chiton fell off like sloughed skin and I stared at it with disgust. Immediately, I opened a portal and was pleased. I had no difficulty with the task, and felt it safe to assume that things were fine now. My first task was a shower, and I walked directly into mine as soon as I walked through the portal. I wanted to run straight to Azarias, but assumed he wouldn’t appreciate that I smelled like a bloated corpse.

If I could have sat in a vat of soap instead, I would have. This slime was vile. It stuck to my skin as if it was my skin, and the process of getting it off was slow going. It reminded me of angel’s blood with how difficult it was to remove, minus the pain of its presence. Instead, the pain came from scrubbing almost hard enough to tear off my own skin. I attempted long, fast swings of my tail in an effort to get it off from there at least. Only the water flew off. Disgruntled, I shuffled to the opposite end of the shower and sat down on the elevated stone there. To call it a stall would imply it was a small corner of the bathroom. As with most my possessions, it was designed to hold more than one person in its confines, and thus was wide enough for me to lay down across the floor with ample room above my head, and long enough to lay down several times even before this sitting spot. Multiple shower heads filled the room with steam, and the one above this seating was currently off. I hoped less water would help with the slime.

Despite the light footsteps I heard enter the bathroom, I didn’t break my focus. I knew without looking it was Amaimon, and addressing his presence wasn’t necessary. He rarely hid from me. “I was tempted to join you but then I caught the smell of you. What did you step in?”

“A lavish and endearing flower. It had tentacles coated in slime, slime in which I am now coated in. All over. Please, just help me already.”

There was a snicker and shuffling, and the curtain was pulled back just enough for Amaimon to step through and closed promptly. Without a word, he grabbed a hanging washcloth, tugged the soap from one of my hands and sat beside me. He scrubbed small areas of my back until it felt raw before moving onto another, and I continued to do the same. “You’re pouting. I can tell with how quiet you are.”

“You wouldn’t enjoy smelling of corpses.” I attempted to turn my head, but he kept my neck still with a firm grip at the nape. Scrubbing soon followed.

“I used to revel in it, actually. There is something empowering about being drenched in the blood of your enemies, even as it poisons you.”

“I was there for some of those battles, Amaimon. I wouldn’t call it revelry, and the smell of blood and death is much different than… This. This— this is putridity. Bloated corpses much passed their expiration date. I’m happy to have my magic back but I will still complain that this is disgusting.”

He had the gall to laugh. “You have always been like this, so it doesn’t bother me. You’re allowed to prefer the finer things in life. It’s what makes it so funny that you are sitting here smelling like a pile of rot.” I sighed as he continued to snicker to himself. I couldn’t argue the truth. I may have said Belial was too human, but perhaps I was as well. Minus the killing and maiming, of course. Eventually, he quieted down and he moved from my back and tail to my hair. “I feel as if I need to tread carefully when speaking with you about your release.”

I hummed in acknowledgment. It was his choice, and I wasn’t going to waste my time in coddling his feelings. Doing so always turned out badly for me.

“I don’t want you to think I’m attempting to keep you here by any means, which is normally how you take things. But since I have you for at least another moment… You do realize it’s been a few days?”

I chuckled briefly, and snapped my fingers to turn the remaining shower heads on. “I’m not aware of how long, but I’m not oblivious. Not completely, anyway. Whatever reason Lucifer wanted to have me there for so long, it matters little. I can do as I please now.”

Several exhalations, and a moment of silence. The suds and slime were falling away, and I fought the urge to walk out. My crystals were a room away, and I could find Azarias quickly. I should have questioned things, but I was a fool. Things were moving along smoothly, and I felt no reason for suspicion as I had before. “Have you thought about why Lucifer decided to help?”

“No. I slept and slept and dreamed.” I turned and pressed a kiss to his cheek. “I know he is a player of many games, and the best way to deal with his games is simply not to participate, when that is an option. Thank you, Amaimon. I’m going now.”

“And I won’t stop you, even if I should.” He stroked my cheek briefly and I stood, leaving him to sit there if he chose.

A part of me was surprised that he did. Or at the very least he didn’t follow me out. Still wet, I padded over to my altar and set my right hand over the ball at its center. As I waited, I increased my body heat to dry off quickly, the fingers of my left hand working to keep my hair from drying into a tangled mess. I waited, and waited, and nothing appeared. I was confused; it wasn’t my abilities that were affected now, but his presence. Was the shaman hiding him now that I had been stuck here for so long? Was Azarias well? Pride was a fickle thing, but I refused to ask for Amaimon’s help. Somewhat because I just had, but also because it involved Azarias. I didn’t quite trust him in that direction yet.

Moments later, I materialized in Azarias’ home. There was no living presence to be found, and there wasn’t one for days so it seemed. There were remnants of Paimon’s presence there, of that I could tell. I didn’t have time to dwell on it. I didn’t like the idea of still being detached from Azarias. Even when I was banished, there was still a small something there, but not much. Up until I decided fixing his room was the most important thing and I lost what little power I had gained, that is. Despite there being no one in the apartment I shifted into my human disguise, complete with clothing, and began to pace barefoot along the living room. After several revolutions, I physically checked the rooms just in case. Nothing. Not a soul was in the apartment and it confused me. Returning to the living room, I noticed the rug was displaced but didn’t find it suspicious. It had been several days since I last set eyes on Azarias, and as such anything could have happened here. And that was what bothered me the most.

My mind returned to his friend Julia. It wasn’t a stretch to assume that she had some way of hiding him from me. Taking a seat, I conjured my crystal ball and immediately her image within it. She appeared instantly, performing a mundane task. Shopping. I questioned if tailing her would be ideal; I had no idea what she was capable of, no idea if she knew now that I was watching her. In person, perhaps she could sense that I was around. Sighing, I decided to sit put and watch, something I was never good at doing. I tossed the crystal in front of me and it floated, increasing in size and forming an oval cabochon.

Her life wasn’t dull— I watched her perform an exorcism that didn’t go very well— but it wasn’t what I was interested in. I watched her life for a full 24 hours, and Azarias didn’t make an appearance. It was safe to conclude that she was not responsible for my inability to find him, and short of torturing her, I doubt she would divulge any information if she had any.

It wasn’t an invalid plan, but it was one I doubted Azarias would like if he found out.

Instead, I looked to his ex-boyfriend, as strange as it felt to do. The last time I saw him, I was not in my right mind. I sat and watched his day in the same way I had Julia; not boring— nursing felt like an odd occupation for the adrenaline junkie that he seemed to be— but none of the information I needed. At least with him, idle threats were enough to get information. Or arousal. Perhaps Azarias wouldn’t be happy with that either, but someone knew something. My fear that he was dead was increasing, and the means by which I found him were mattering less and less as time passed.

With a snap of my fingers, the crystal disappeared. I stood to stretch and exhaled softly. The last time I kept still for so long I was encased in stone, and it wasn’t a pleasant sensation to remember. Conjuring a pair of boots on my feet, I left the apartment behind and locked the door as I exited. It felt a bit strange to be able to set foot on Earth again and do something as simple as walk around; being sequestered had quick effects. It was a quick walk to Kyun’s apartment from Azarias’s, and once I was in the building, I took the stairs to avoid any other humans. I was glad to have my freedom, but it didn’t mean I wanted to find myself in an elevator with people I didn’t care for as it traveled several floors.

I took the steps two at a time, and opened the door to the fifth floor. My path was blocked by Amaimon, his own human disguise dressed plainly in a T-shirt and jeans. For all his talk, he was suddenly in my way and I was agitated. “What is it?” I allowed all the ire I felt to be relayed in the few words.

His hand on my chest moved me back into the stairwell, and the door closed behind him. “You don’t need to bother him for information. I know where Azarias is. If you weren’t so obtuse, you’d realize it already.”

At first, I interpreted his statement as meaning he put him somewhere, and I believe that was intentional. My anger would negate any questions other than ones about Azarias’ location. But the nagging feeling of Amaimon of all people keeping me away from a human was not quelled, a human I held no love for in fact. “Why are you keeping me from speaking with a human?”

Caught red-handed, Amaimon’s hand left my chest. He was thinking of an explanation. “He doesn’t need demons, and he won’t know as much as I do.”

Curious, I tipped my head. What? “Is this the ‘rat’s nest’ you recovered in. Seukchul’s home?” I shouldn’t have, but I was reeling with wonderment over this information. Originally I pondered the idea that he meant he stayed in a human’s home, but this was much more than I thought. I assumed somewhere abandoned, or that he killed the occupants of the home. Not only was there no maiming, he wanted to protect? At a different time, I would have doubled over with laughter. Instead, I grinned. Amaimon’s discomfort was apparent from his blank expression. His mask of apathy. “You stayed with the boy that can’t help but be erect from every threat that shows its face?” I was baffled. Amaimon mostly despised humans, and didn’t much care even for their worship. And yet, here he was. I couldn’t fathom it.

“Enough! Do you want to know where Azarias is or not?” I sobered up quickly. Now wasn’t the time to tease him. I nodded. “He wanted to know how to free you, and I told him his best bet was Lucifer. And whatever he offered Lucifer, it worked, which is why you’re free. Of course, you wanted to leave before we could have a productive conversation, and so you were oblivious to what happened while you were locked away. Quite a bit happened.” My brow furrowed as I listened. Azarias was in Hell? While I was weakened, I could understand my inability to sense his presence, but now that I was free, I could not. “That you didn’t know and still don’t probably has more to do with Raphael than Lucifer. I don’t think the jerk would have gave a shit if you knew or not, he was his property. And I didn’t know until I saw him myself.”

“I’m going,” I said and turned to take the stairs. I wasn’t one for opening portals where humans were likely to tread in the middle of the act.

Amaimon grabbed my arm to stop me. What more was there to discuss? “Would you listen and think a moment before you run off? The pair of you are just going to dig yourselves deeper holes in an attempt to help each other.” I growled in anger, and he returned it with a snarl of his own. “Quit. I want to help you even if it kills me, but you are making it very difficult.” I refrained from snatching my arm from his grasp, and a moment later we were in Azarias’ apartment. “The first thing I did when Lucifer whisked you away gleefully was look for him. And he was, at the time, wandering Paimon’s home. What I know last is that Lucifer toted him around Hell while you were in recovery with the goal of seeing if he could become a demon from exposure. Save for you, every demon currently in Hell knows Azarias is down there.”

“Amaimon, my patience is thinning.”

“Shut up and listen. The only reason I’m not finding a way to leash you here is because he’s unshackled. He’s running around and hiding like perfect prey and Lucifer doesn’t care. So what do you think you’ll do?”

Instinct was to act now, think later. I was no strategist, clearly, and that didn’t change simply because I slept in stone for millennia. “Find Azarias first, kill whoever gets in my way. If you continue to stop me, you’re beginning to look like the first.”

Amaimon sighed, shaking his head with a roll of his eyes. “Your posturing doesn’t work on me. Say you find him, then what? How are you getting him out of there?” The small frown that formed from my lips was enough for him to continue. “I know you don’t have a clue if it’s safe for you to use magic on him now because I don’t have a clue. Before we do anything, we’ll go to Paimon first. He apparently has a soft spot for you both now, so hopefully he’ll listen.” Amaimon raised his hand, and a portal quickly formed as his appearance changed to its normal form. “He’s been sequestered since Lucifer locked up Azarias and he’s catatonic.”

Frowning, I took a step through the portal, human disguise shed once my feet were set firmly in Hell. I must say I did indeed miss the shendyt. Amaimon followed after me, and whistled as soon as he did. We appeared in Paimon’s throne room, and the silence was unnerving. There always was some hubbub here, even when Paimon decided he no longer wanted to be awake and slept. There wasn’t a soul, damned or otherwise, here. “Well this place is fucking dead. Shall we?” With a nod and more than a bit of unease settling in my abdomen, I led the way to Paimon’s quarters.

Chapter Text

I wasn’t happy with Lucifer touching me, but it could be worse, I supposed. A part of me was glad that he was amused by the fact that I nearly stabbed him— it would have been an accident regardless but it also would have been great if it could kill him— rather than angry or any other emotion he could have felt. He could have punched me in the face, sliced off my ear, anything he so wished. So a hand on me was fine enough to suffer through. His hand left my shoulder to tip my head back slightly, and he turned my head this way and that to look at me. “I’m surprised he didn’t try to attack you, what with his jealousy nonsense.”

I pursed my lips, unsure if I should comment or not. For once in my damned life, I was able to think about my actions and attempt to be cautious. “I can’t tell if he really tried or not, just that he didn’t succeed.”

“Amaimon is a being ruled by wrath, often blind; he didn’t try.”

“Somehow, that doesn’t bring me much comfort.”

He grinned. “It shouldn’t. He’s still alive enough to harm you, after all. I don’t think my little bracelets will stop him if he so chooses he wants to, considering he hates me.”

I didn’t care. All this familial discord didn’t interest me in the slightest. The only thing that interested me was what Lucifer intended to do with me, and when the next time I saw Asmodaios was going to be. I wanted to question his actions, but I knew better. His moods were fickle it seemed, considering the way every demon spoke of him. At least, the ones I happened to hear from so far. “So, where to? I imagine you’re not really interested in standing in Paimon’s empty kitchen.” I questioned if I even should have said that, but it was already said. It felt neutral enough.

Lucifer’s fingertips tapped the skin of my cheek a few times, his brows furrowed in thought. Once those fingers were still, we were someplace far removed from Paimon’s palace. Or at least, I assumed. The place felt different; dank, cold, displaced and lifeless. It felt like Lucifer’s realm again. In this case, it looked like an unfinished basement. Cement walls and flooring and it smelled of dirt and humidity. “I have some experiments I’d like to conduct and unfortunately for you, you have to obey.” His fingers left my skin to point to a cage nearby. There were several of them, most of them bolted to the floor. But this one wasn’t, and the door was wide open. For what I assumed was my benefit, there was a large pillow inside, more like a beanbag large enough to sleep on curled up like a pet. Wondrous.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” Back to my old ways, I spoke without thinking, and bit my tongue immediately after. The biting wasn’t because of the mistake, but rather because Lucifer’s hand was in my hair, nails or talons scraping across my scalp to cause more pain as he dragged me across the room. The next thing I knew, my entire body was flung into the cage, my face clashing with the bars of the back of the cage. Pain erupted over the entirety of my body, but was most prominent in my nose. It didn’t take any stroke of genius to figure it was broken. My head was on fire and the rest of my body throbbed. Where I landed on my arm ached, but luckily wasn’t broken.

“If you listen and keep your mouth from moving too much, I think you’ll find your life with me will be a bit easier.” Once I sat up, I watched Lucifer flick pieces of my hair and scalp from his nails. He didn’t bother closing the door of the cage, and he didn’t have to. I wasn’t going anywhere. “Now, this little cell is going to be your carriage as you get a tour through Hell. And yes, there will be plenty of others around you to ogle and touch and spit at you as they so please. Feel free to retaliate, but it’s your fault if you lose a limb in the process. Your best bet for your safety is to stay on that pillow, however.”

I was tempted to ask him what the experiment was for, but I didn’t want to talk. Instead I sat on the pillow, spit out a tooth that came loose, and blinked at him.

“You’re learning. Good. Fast learners make good demons.” A flick of his wrist, the cage door closed and a small ball of light surrounded the handle. Magic lock, I presumed. I cupped my nose and attempted to shift things back in place. It was unfamiliar to me that the pain wasn’t subsiding. Either I was injured badly or, for lack of a better term, subdued. “And away we go. Or, well, you go.” In the blink of an eye, I was out of the basement and away from lifelessness. In the distance, I could see Paimon’s palace. He seemed fond of leaving me in her care, I guessed, though in this case it wasn’t really that.

I had assumed by “tour” he meant I was going to be carried around all over, or in some sense moved. At first, it wasn’t like that at all. From this place in Paimon’s realm, I was suspended above the ground in what looked like a town. My appearance disrupted a few people that were around, and those few attracted more. And those that were attracted hooted and hollered and attracted others to me. Indeed I was ogled at, touched by those that could reach, and occasionally spit on. The longer I sat there, the clearer it became who was the damned and who were the demons.

The humans did most of the ogling; they stood around, either curious as to how I was here in the condition that I was. Some of them were jealous that I was still alive, from their own conversations, but were not jealous of the position I was in. Apparently Paimon treated them very well rather than torturing them for eternity. The humans sometimes touched, but seemed frightened by whatever they felt. I don’t know what it was, whether it was life or the angelic part of my existence, but they would quickly back away afterward.

The demons did most of the touching and the spitting. They ogled, of course, but it was like watching a sideshow for them. For my part, I very much kept my limbs inside the cage and did not retaliate. Too many of them had this look in their eye that craved violence. I did too, but not in an unfair fight. A fight for me here I was convinced would be nothing close to fair. And so I remained quiet, suspended in this cage that very slowly spun on its own axis, wiping spittle from the places that were reached and dodging rocks while hoping they didn’t attempt to start hurling less pleasant items and fluids at me. Overtime, the appearance of the demons changed to these twisted, demented things superimposed on their chosen forms, more like unsightly beasts and caricatures of unsightly beasts. Things that would be incapable of existing on Earth, things that wouldn’t be able to breath or were too top heavy to be upright. I came to believe that these were their true forms rather than the images they presented. I wasn’t surprised that they were all hideous, but was curious as to why I saw them now. I wondered if this was how Raphael saw all demons. I wondered if this was how my mother saw demons.

Eventually the cage lowered a bit, putting me closer to the hands of the beasts, and I was paraded around the town like a public ridicule. Much like Paimon’s palace and her choice of dress, the area reminded me one would assume ancient Rome looked, likely put together from memory and enhanced with magic. The Roman had plumbings, so I couldn’t imagine too much more in modern convenience was added. While it was no longer raining here, it was still dark and there weren’t conventional street lamps. In their place were those flames that lit brightly but didn’t give off much heat for the amount of light they produced.

It became easy to ignore the demons, my brain shutting off to keep me out of reality for the most part. I still noticed the cage was moving, still noticed that it was jostled and that I was poked and prodded between the bars. But I wasn’t full-on maimed or injured, and so I didn’t have to pay attention. I wasn’t addressed or asked questions. One of the small demons jumped on the bars and hissed, attempting to scratch me through the bars. Luckily for me, he couldn’t reach and I didn’t flinch, though it did get my attention. That he was kicked off the cage also caught my attention. As the cage was jostled further, I looked up to a familiar face.

Belial. He looked quite happy to see me where I was. Oddly enough, he didn’t have a superimposed image like the others. I didn’t know what to make of that, but filed it away for later pondering, though I never got the chance to. “It looks like the pet has been caged,” he cooed through the bars, and soon lay down on top of it on his stomach to peer at me. I stared right back at him, but didn’t speak. Not because I didn’t want to, because I did, but because I was sure it was what he wanted and that was the last thing I was going to give him. Asmodaios made him sound petulant the few times he had spoken of him to me, and it would be nice to watch someone squirm a little while I was the underdog here. “What, did Lucifer cut out your tongue for wagging it too much?” Mindful that the might attempt to maim me, I only opened my mouth to show my tongue was indeed intact, and promptly closed my mouth again. He was displeased. “You were more interesting when you were afraid.”

“Nothing to be afraid of when you’re harmless, Belial.” He attempted to reach for my head suddenly, just out of reach, in an attempt to threaten me. “Paimon probably told you to leave me alone.” It was a guess I made up on the fly. I never had the chance to talk about her with Asmodaios, and so I hadn’t a clue. It was a guess based on the fact that he was here at all, and it seemed to shock him enough. Score. He withdrew his arm smoothly, and his form shimmered slightly before imploding in a contained blast of feathers and flame. I felt a small bit of relief, because now I could settle back into my mind and ignore what was going on around me for the most part. The sound of the crowd was dimmed to a background hush, like the din of a noisy restaurant. Even though I was occasionally scratched at, at worst my clothes were torn and I was still unharmed. The only time I was no longer distracted was when hunger spiked in my gut. Unfortunately for me, I did indeed have to eat and drink in Hell. Fantastic.

This event went on for hours before I was suddenly in the basement again, the lock on the cage removed. The door creaked open slightly on its own, the sound harsh now that I was in silence rather than surrounded by a jeering crowd. For a while I sat put, swiping off whatever yuck was on me. Now all I wanted was a shower. And to leave Hell, of course, but I knew that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon.

Not that I was expecting Lucifer to greet me or anything like that, but I did expect some sort of teasing or, well, something. I imagined if he was experimenting with me— on me— that he would want to see if there were any results. But there was only silence. With no one and nothing about, I slowly climbed out of the cage and roamed. This room itself was really nothing impressive, holding several cages and nothing more. I questioned if I should actually leave, but it was Lucifer’s realm, and therefore was likely empty. In a short while, I felt that odd, familiar presence I had felt before, and did my best to ignore it for now; I still didn’t know what it was, or if I was imagining things. I wasn’t an expert with this crap.

Exiting the room led to a short hall, a staircase, and one door before it. Shrugging my shoulders, I took the few steps it took to arrive to the door and opened it. I closed it much faster than I opened it; if I took a single step forward, I would have fallen into Lucifer’s ice pit. I had no interest in experiencing that, and quickly turned tail up the stairs. I was in the castle proper again. I wondered if a shower in this place would work. I had to wonder if he even had one. Did he need or want it? Useless questions, but I was good at that when I had nothing else to really distract my mind. I roamed the dark themed halls on the main floor, sighing at the size of the place. I could never understand the fascination with grandiose homes and vaulted ceilings; it just made for a tiring walk to get from one place to another, and made the place difficult to clean. Not that Lucifer had to care about those kinds of things when he could snap his fingers to do everything.

Mindlessly wandering, most of the doors I tried were locked or led to more halls. Eventually I found a bathroom and was relieved to find that the faucets worked. Not only that, but they weren’t running with acid or anything of the sort, and the hot water was actually hot. I felt like I was winning.

Up until I was in the shower, of course. I realized I was not getting back into the clothes I was wearing before, what with them smelling of all kinds of demon saliva. There was also the fact that they seemed to be steadily… Disintegrating. Groaning, I pressed my head to the tile wall. Games. Or maybe not completely, but I could hope for some mercy. I was under no illusion that I wasn’t being watched by Lucifer, and whatever else was watching me. Or was. Once I found the bathroom, that presence dissipated again.

Disappointed that I was going to be wandering the halls slightly damp and naked, I rushed through getting cleaned and dried off as best I could with the towel there. Despite it being sodden, I wrapped its weight around my waist before opening the bathroom door. I allowed the steam to clear from my way before exiting.

Just because there was no one there before didn’t mean there was no one there now, after all.

I debated wandering the house longer to find food. I was tired and worn out, and rest seemed like a better option than getting lost in this god-forsaken place. And so I spent much too long attempting to retrace my steps, making several missteps on the way. Still, the castle was silent and seemingly empty. I had no idea where Lucifer was, and I didn’t want to find him accidentally. I didn’t know everything he was capable of, and while I had already experienced some amount of abuse, I didn’t know how far it could go. Things could easily devolve into torture if I annoyed him. Shuddering as I descended the stairs into the basement, I entered what I could now consider my chamber. I was thankful that it was empty, but was a bit startled by a tray on top of the cage I was previously in. The cage was also cleaned up, the pillow changed out— now a violet versus the green it was before— and several blankets placed inside. The back of the cage was now padded and covered, lending a bit more comfort and warmth. Thankfully, there was also a scrap of fabric that looked like a tunic, so at least I could cover up a bit. Still, I sighed loudly. This was a strange sort of imprisonment. Beside the cage, I looked down at the tray. It was filled with fruits, breads, and a large bowl of some sort of beefy stew. Beside the tray was a handwritten note, held down by a pitcher of water.

Eat. It would be disappointing if you died so soon.

The slanted, hastily written but neat letters were from Paimon. I had read enough of her notes to be familiar enough with it now. Maybe I shouldn’t have, but the note was enough reason for me to simply trust the food. I grabbed the tray and crouched back into the cage, setting it down to arrange the pillow further to the back of the cage and then sitting down to eat. I left the damp towel outside the cage. A bite of stew and I realized how ravenous I was now that I wasn’t actively fighting feeling any particular way. I practically inhaled the savory bits of stew with crusty breads, only bothering to eat some of the grapes there after the stew was finished. Once I felt like a bloated whale, I drank some of the water, set everything aside, and tugged several of the blankets over myself completely. Physically, I was fine; my nose was healed a long time ago and the rest of my body no longer ached and burned. Mentally, I was worn out. This situation weighed on me, the imagery of the demons was stuff that could haunt my nightmares for ages. That I didn’t know what was going to happen later— tomorrow or in several hours, or in several minutes even— was peak exhaustion for me.

I was scared. No matter how I put it, I couldn’t deny it to myself anymore. I was terrified of what could happen and I didn’t really have anyone to watch over me now as I supposedly did all my life, whether it was familial, monetary, or divine. It made me think of Raphael, and the fact that he was practically yelling at me to reconsider. And I didn’t listen to a peep of it.

As I tried to quiet my mind, eventually I fell asleep. I knew immediately when I fell asleep, because I was in dreamland, but dreamland was my apartment living room. I opened my eyes and Raphael was there, sitting on my coffee table as he stared at me. I sat up from the couch to stare right back at him. It didn’t take much to realize he was pissed. “If you’re going to lecture me, can we just end this right here?”

“You really have some nerve.” He didn’t sound upset or angry like I expected him to. He sounded resigned.

“Yeah, I get it. I’m a fucking moron and I should have listened to you. Does it make you happy to hear that?”

He looked hurt. I guess he would be, being my father and all. “No, it pains me to hear it. Even when we don’t agree, I’m still in your corner, Azarias. You’re a human adult, not an angel being directed and dragged around by his halo.” That he said so frankly reminded me of my mother more than it did of him. It was odd, but it did help a little bit in making me feel slightly more stable.

I rubbed my face several times, persuading any tears that wanted to form to go back where they belonged. “Right. Right, okay. So what do we— I— do now?” Really, it was my problem, so putting any weight of solving things onto Raphael wouldn’t sit right with me. He seemed to understand that.

“For now, survive. I don’t know what he is up to with keeping you there, and until I do, I’m not setting foot in Hell. Which means you’re on your own. I know he must be plotting something, but I have to investigate, which takes time.”

I blinked a few times and nodded. It… Wasn’t what I was expecting but I honestly, I should have. “So far surviving is easy, I guess.”

He reached out to cup and slightly stroke my cheek. “Azarias, be safe. And rest. I’ll watch over you so you can at least be awake when he comes to bother you again.”

I nodded and moved to lay down on the couch again. It was weird to sleep within a dream, but it worked out fine. Any time I awoke within the dream, Raphael was there like a statue, and smiled each time he noticed I was awake. When he woke me, it was with a stroke to my hair. His voice rang with quiet bells as I remembered it. “Time to go.”

I was able to open my eyes immediately in reality. The room was empty, but I did hear nearly-silent footsteps in the hall. I sat up immediately, tossing the blankets off and throwing the tunic on my body. Afraid that I would lose my food, I picked up an apple to eat as he entered the room. He looked a bit suspicious of it, but didn’t acknowledge it other than the glance. “Well, aren’t you bright eyed? How did you make out yesterday?”

I finished chewing before speaking. It gave me a chance to think about how I should answer, too. Not that it helped. “I made out fine. I didn’t die or collapse or anything.” The apple crunched between my teeth again.

“Interesting. Well, boring really. But there’s more time in the day now.” He snapped his fingers and the extra comforts were removed from the cage. The remaining fruits and water were as well, but they were clearly set aside atop one of the other cages. “Don’t worry, I’m aware you’re still alive and have basic needs. I just won’t always care. But keep behaving, and you’ll be fine. At least Paimon thought to feed you, and I found no reason to take it away.”

I nodded and remained quiet, finishing the apple as quickly as possible. It became clear to me that he was waiting for that, and before I could toss the core, I was again suspended in some realm of Hell I didn’t recognize. There were demons there waiting from the beginning, and they seemed thrilled that I was there. It was as if they were prepared this time, and it was indeed a public spectacle. I groaned inwardly, but kept calm. It would be the same as yesterday, I told myself.

For the most part, it was. Ogled, poked, prodded, occasionally scratched and spit on. Now that I didn’t have clothes that covered my body properly, the scratches and scrapes actually hurt now. These demons were more malicious, but were just as ugly as the others. I remained suspended for a shorter amount of time, and soon the cage was paraded around. Again, I hid in my mind.

Each day was the same, but steadily got worse. I was left to be entertainment for demons, and the cage I was in became smaller and smaller. Eventually it was too small to sleep in, and sleep occurred in one of the floor-bolted cages. It then became customary for the cage to lock once I was settled inside. After 3 more days it felt like being a betta fish in a tiny plastic bowl, and the scratches became wounds and gashes that took time to heal. The crowds became larger, rowdier and more violent. There was never a human in sight any longer. By the 4th day, I could no longer shower nor roam the castle, as the demons began to roam the halls looking for me. Knowingly, I was supplied a bucket in the corner of the basement and extra water. I suffered a long gash along my back from a demon I had to escape on the main floor on that day, but found out that at least these lesser demons weren’t allowed into the basement.

For now.

On the the 5th day that I was paraded around, I caught a glimpse of Amaimon in the crowd; he was easy to spot, what with his flaming red hair. That, and his presence was familiar to me. It broke me from my daydreaming, and his white gaze unsettled me. The demon was pissed, and I didn’t feel like he was pissed at me. Somehow, that made it worse. I closed me eyes. I didn’t want to see him, and I didn’t need the distraction.

The cage being crashed into broke whatever concentration I managed. I gasped and instinctively pressed to the back of the small cage. It didn’t move me much. Amaimon was hung from the cage door, gripping the bars as he stared at me. The demons hooted and hollered in excitement, as if they expected him to rip the cage open and eat me alive. I swallowed, unsure of what I expected him to do. I definitely didn’t expect him to get near me now. When he spoke, I could barely hear him over the cacophony of the other demons. “Why are you still here?”

“Because I have to be.”

He stared at me silently for a brief moment before he snarled. “Raphael won’t help you.” I didn’t feel the need to confirm it. “If this goes on long enough, he won’t be able to.”

“That would be my luck.” Without another word, he dropped down, trampling two or three demons on his descent. It looked intentional. Instead of watching him leave, I focused on putting back up my mental walls and sat on my knees to protect my dangly bits. The demons were already attempting to rip off my tunic, and I wasn’t so sure I’d recover an entire nut sac if they managed to slice it off.

When night came, I was battered and bruised and barely conscious. I managed to eat while I recovered, but the concussion was pretty difficult to handle. At least, that was what I assumed it was. Being injured so much was unfamiliar territory for me. Who knew I just needed to get beat up by demons instead of humans?

Once I recovered enough, I crawled back into my sleeping cage, ignoring the remaining aches for now. The cage locked behind me, the sound of the lock sealing into place regular background noise to me now. I could finish recovering in my sleep where hopefully I would not dream. But, of course, sleep wasn’t on the table for me now.

The presence was there again. I could feel it deeply, and it unnerved me as much as it did before. Why was it here again? What did it belong to? Where did I remember it from? The more I thought on it, the more my head hurt. It made me wonder if this was what it was like to have amnesia. I’m unsure of how long I waited before I threw caution to the wind and spoke up. There was no way I was going to sleep with it here. “God dammit, I know you’re there and I’m tired of feeling like I’m fucking crazy for it!” I shouted into the room, the sound of my voice loud in my ears.

There was a deep, hoarse chuckle from outside of my cage. The bars rattled, and before me appeared a man. I wasn’t dumb enough to assume he was actually just a human male but that was what he looked like— tall and handsome as all these demons I met were, and of human proportions in his fitness. His features were a bit feline. Other than what looked like naturally white locs that contrasted with deeply brown skin, the only thing that hinted at demonhood was his eyes. They were a stark white like Amaimon’s and if I hadn’t heard a small piece of his voice, I would have thought it was his human disguise. But his voice was different. The hoarseness of his voice wasn’t unpleasant, and reminded of smokers that still had amazing singing voices, or the first few words from someone with a naturally deep voice that just woke up. Still, I couldn’t believe there were more of these fucks that wanted to bother me. I wanted to question how he got in, but it didn’t matter. He got in.

Staring at him increased the pain in my head, and I gently pressed on my temples with my fingertips. He was different, but… I knew him, I was certain of it.

“It took coming to Hell for you to realize it, so it is a bit disappointing. But yes, here I am, in the flesh.”

I blinked several times, trying to place his face, his aura, anything. I still couldn’t figure it out. “Alright hell beastie number 447. Who the fuck are you and what do you want?”

Somehow his smile made it clear as day to me; maybe it was his intention. This was my guide in Egypt. This was the man I couldn’t remember dining with alongside Julia. And this was who tossed me in a pit that was also Asmodaios’ prison. His hair was black then, and his head was often covered in linen because the sun was unbearable. “Even for him,” he had said. I remembered leaving him alone with Julia often, because the flirting between the two was enough to make me gag. The imagery flashed in my mind’s eye rapidly, dizziness following each item as it came to me. His presence became cloying and unbearable, and soon I was vomiting in the corner of the cage. Lovely. “Who the fuck are you?” I repeated the question before dry heaving for a while.

He waited until I was done to speak to me again. I stared up at him with watery eyes, weakly shuffling away from the puddle of gross beside me. “I’ve had what I needed from you quite a while ago; the rest was a bonus. You did your duty like a good pawn and dare I say were already rewarded for it. You have a very solid relationship that you would have never developed with a human. Regardless, I can muster one more reward.” I watched as the lock on the cage disintegrated, and the gate creaked open beside him.

“I don’t want anything from you.” He squatted down to enter the cage, and the urge to move was strong. I was close enough to my own vomit though, and so I kept still. His hand was gentle as he lifted my own, and both shackles were gone, turned to ash and fallen to the ground.

“Then stay here for all I care. It makes no difference to me. Like I said, I’ve already gotten what I need from you. But I can tell you that you won’t escape without this help I provided.” He released my hand, and I moved to rub both my wrists. I didn’t realize how heavy those bangles were until they were gone.

“Why the kindness?” I still didn’t know his name, and that seemed very intentional on his part. It all felt suspicious, and I had no reason to trust him.

“Who said it was kindness? Do keep in mind that you…” His face was less than a breath away. I did lean back this time, if only a bit. “…are now prey.” He was gone within a single blink of my eyes, both the sight of him and his presence.

Oh no.

I forgot that being marked as property kept me from being hunted and harmed when I was outside of the cage.

How did he free me so easily?

But I didn’t have time to think of that. Could I defend myself? Raphael was removed from me here, but did I still have his power? Was I an actual walking target as soon as I was freed? Was there a lit beacon stating I was free to all of them? In my mind, beyond the doors of this room was hordes of drooling demons waiting to use me for whatever they had in mind and panic set in. I knew they were in the castle already, after all. “God dammit Azarias, get it together!” I whispered harshly to myself, crawling out of the cage as quietly as I could muster. I was, without a doubt, about to have an interesting trip that hopefully didn’t end in my death.

Chapter Text

The silence of Paimon’s palace made the clomp of Amaimon’s boots on the marble raucous. It made the sight of Paimon more unsettling to me. Finding him in his private garden, sitting like a statue on a stone bench was disheartening. In the past, even when I felt he was more of a mindless drone, he was always still a bit lively. He was more so now with the time I spent with him. To see him stock-still, his arms extended forward and hands turned up as if waiting for an offering… He looked dead. The only movement was in his eyes, the golden swirls of them darting back and forth as if dreaming with his eyes open. Amaimon and I stood beside him, quiet for a moment. “He’s been like this for days?” I asked as a reminder. It was hard to believe.

“Yeah, and didn’t budge when Azarias was carted around his town, nor when it was announced he was free to be hunted. It’s been just… This.” Amaimon slapped the side of Paimon’s hand, which didn’t move. He really was like stone. “I tried tipping him over, cutting him, et cetera. Nothing. Something Azarias told him spooked him, and now he’s, I guess, looking for anomalies.”

“And what would that be?”

He seemed frustrated by my question. “Ask him yourself, time is ticking here.” It was clear to me that he was hiding something, but he was also correct.

I knelt down in front of Paimon, careful of the hem of his dress. What could I do? It would have been easier to rectify this if I had known beforehand; I could have distracted him before he was several days deep into a rabbit hole of his own making. I didn’t understand what was at stake, in his mind. I didn’t know what was bothering him, and that made it difficult to act. What could I do for the sibling that did me a service when I was struggling? Not only that, but he also seemingly protected what was dearest to me when he was conscious enough to. I leaned over in thought, resting my elbows against his knees. “Paimon,” I began after a while. “I intend to stay here until we speak. You don’t like Azarias nearly as much as I do, but I imagine you have little desire to see him dead. Or me miserable again, for that matter.”

There was a slight twitch from one of his fingers, and nothing more.

I had no right to feel anger, but that was all I was beginning to feel. There was a small bit of sympathy left, but it was masked by anger of inaction. Whatever was wrong, what good was combing over something he had memorized already going to do him? And as selfish as it was, it certainly didn’t serve what I needed from him, whatever it was that he could provide. “I do not have the patience for this.” What good was he to me if this was the condition he was in?

“Hey.” Amaimon’s voice was soft in my ear. It was the beginning of a voice of reason, and it was aggravating. This was his idea after all, in order to keep me from acting rashly. I felt his touch on my shoulder, but ignored it. Mindlessly, talons extended from my fingertips and I stabbed through Paimon’s chest. The instant I touched his heart, it felt like a poor choice.

The force of his aura hit like a train. I was flung up and away, crashing through the balustrade of the balcony, through the wall of one of the rooms, and a support column. What didn’t stop my further flight crumbled and fell on top of me. It felt as if every bit of power that I had returned to me was gone, and I ached beyond belief. I was surprised to find I couldn’t move. Attacking Paimon’s soul wasn’t the most intelligent of ideas, but I was full of poor decisions lately.

The sound of voices was faint, but within seconds the rubble was cleared from my body. Paimon’s form stood beside me, and his foot was immediately planted against my throat, missing just enough force to crush it. Considering what may or may not have happened with Balaam, I was wary. I stared up at him and remained still. “You’re a damned fool but you’re not stupid. What is wrong with you?” His voice was firm and stressed and held none of the joy I had grown accustomed to hearing.

“It was tragic seeing you like that.” A small shift in his foot and I shut my mouth. It wasn’t a lie, but it wasn’t the cause of my action.

“Paimon, get a grip. Lucifer likes toying with him and wouldn’t enjoy it if he was dead.” Amaimon’s voice wasn’t far away, but he wasn’t in my view.

“I don’t care.” My lips turned slightly in a frown. That was troublesome to hear.

“Grand.” Amaimon had the nerve to sound bored, but it did cause Paimon to remove some pressure from my throat. For that I was grateful.

“What happened?” As if the question was enough to calm him, Paimon stepped away from me, allowing me to stand. He took my hand in his own once I was upright, and my power was thankfully returned to me within the touch. “Obviously I want something, but if I can help I would genuinely like to.”

Now that he didn’t appear to be made of stone, Paimon was vexed and distraught. It was a bit pathetic to see. “I can’t trust my vision and it is maddening. More so that Lucifer doesn’t care.”

That made Paimon useless, at least in his own eyes. I refrained from rolling my eyes. Amaimon, propped up against the wall outside of Paimon’s vision, did not. “And so you fear he has no use for you.”

“It goes beyond that but… Yes.”

I pursed my lips in thought. It was frustrating to muster up the care at that moment to conjure up some sort of pep talk. In my eyes, Lucifer’s desire wasn’t paramount, and thus I had difficulty understanding Paimon’s distress. Even if Amaimon decided I was no longer worth the trouble of having around, I still had use. His will wasn’t law. Most of the time, I didn’t find Lucifer’s will law if something wasn’t threatened either. But seeing Paimon as lovesick instead of lost without his leader made him easier to relate to. After all, I was similar with Azarias. Somehow, I never had to be that way with Amaimon, because I had an eternity to deal with him and his moods, and my own moods for that matter. “You’re not useless when Lucifer isn’t constantly calling on you to tell him the future. Ergo, that he doesn’t care that you can’t trust your vision doesn’t make you useless. He’ll care when it affects him, because that is how he operates. Stop relying on what you already know isn’t reliable for a solution and focus on the present.”

“Focus on what you want, you mean.”

“No, I don’t. I don’t make it a habit to lie.”

With a sigh of frustration, Paimon turned to exit the room through the hole my body made. Whether or not my words were helpful for him was irrelevant. At the very least, he was moving. He took a seat on the balustrade, and I followed him out. “What is it that you want, Asmodaios?”

“I need help finding Azarias and getting him out of Hell.”

“He’s being kept in Lucifer’s castle, so good luck with that.”

“You really couldn’t hear a damned thing like that, could you?” Amaimon remained in the room, but peaked out the hole. “He was released or escaped. Regardless, he’s running around somewhere and we’re hoping he isn’t half-dead yet.” I growled, discontent with the statement. I didn’t care what reasoning Amaimon was attempting, if he was setting me up for possible disappointment. There was no possibility in my mind that Azarias was dead. “It’s a possible reality you have to face considering you can’t figure out where he is or if he even is anymore. Growl all you want.”

Paimon rubbed his temples, seemingly ignoring us both. “That shouldn’t be possible… Oh, what does it matter, I don’t know anything.”

Uninterested in him spiraling into a depressive state, I took hold of his wrist to catch his attention. “Divining isn’t all you’re good for, so what can you do to help me find him?”

Amaimon chimed in again, stepping onto the balcony. “And if luck has it, your problem is related to the fact that Azarias is running amok because fate is fucked. So please, get on with it. Don’t let one thing ruin everything for you.”

Snatching his wrist from my grip, Paimon glared at us both. As inelegant as it was, speaking with him worked well enough. He closed his eyes and crossed his legs, palms pointed to the sky once more. Briefly, I was afraid he was going to drown himself in finding anomalies in fate again. “Shut up for a while,” he said firmly, eyes opening again. The blank stare returned. “Let me see what I can find out and we can figure something out from there.”

Relieved, I stepped back inside and dragged Amaimon back with me by the hand, some way enough to give Paimon quiet to work. I didn’t have to tell him that I was bothered. “What is it?”

“You hide things by distracting and you’re terrible at hiding things. I don’t care how long I’ve been gone, you cannot pull wool over my eyes with tricks and anger. What do you know?” I wouldn’t insult him by insinuating he was involved in anything that was happening now, but I knew without a doubt that Amaimon had some snippet of information that could be useful. And he was withholding it for whatever reason.

His hand slipped from mine. “I don’t know anything.” Apathy. Hiding. I wasn’t so sentimental as to be insulted, but it wasn’t a good feeling.

“Then you think you know something. What is it?

His eyebrows furrowed in thought. I doubted he would outright lie, but he gave enough cause for suspicion. His answer was slow and moderately strained, enough evidence that he didn’t want to give the answer that came from his mouth. “Trust me in that if it was worth mentioning now, I would speak. If you want Paimon to be able to operate at all, leave my thoughts and assumptions alone.” His hand came up to caress my cheek briefly. “I promise you, it’s for the better.”

Whether or not I believed him was irrelevant; either way, I was left in the dark and I was not capable of blind trust. But I would try. “We shall see.”

If he had a retort, he refrained from speaking at the sound of Paimon stepping back into the room. “Whatever let out Azarias, it wasn’t Lucifer, as is to be expected. So you may be right, Amaimon.”

He didn’t look pleased. Perhaps it verified his assumptions.

“That being said, he is safe,” Paimon continued. “I can see that much. Or was safe. He’s alive, probably.”

It was going to take time to get used to Paimon speaking so uncertainly. By which I mean I was aggravated by it, of course. “What did you find out, Paimon?”

He pursed his lips. “He escaped Lucifer’s castle unscathed and entered His woods which is as good as walking into the void itself. He might find his way out, he might be lost there forever. Lucifer’s plane is impermanent, and he could get sucked into that. Could have been sucked into that.”

I felt some amount of dread, but I wouldn’t be distracted by it. Paimon was capable of stating everything in uncertainties but I wouldn’t believe it was possible that he was dead without holding his corpse. “And what’s the best way to find him?”

Paimon shrugged his shoulders. “There isn’t—” He cut himself off and frowned. “Well.” A large bookcase suddenly blocked him off from view, and the sound of notebooks being tossed every few seconds filled the room. Amaimon shrugged his shoulders and kept put, while I walked around the shelves. “No, you can’t help me find it so you might as well just stand out of the way.” I wasn’t happy, but I did smile slightly. This was more like him. He quickly flipped through pages and continued to toss the notebooks this way and that, muttering complaints about organization to himself all the while. Once Paimon stopped tossing notebooks and held one open, I approached and he pushed my head away with a finger against my forehead. The secrecy of demons was maddening. “I might have something.”

“Might.” Amaimon voiced my dissatisfaction well.

“Won’t know until I try it. Understand I have had very little use for these kinds of things.” He tossed the notebook aside and walked out the room, this time taking to the hall. “Come with me.”

Paimon was a whirlwind when he wanted to be, and now was such a time. I ran part of the way to catch up to him, Amaimon lagging behind. Much in the way he was wary of Lucifer, I could sense his wariness now. And much like then, I could not care less if it put my life in trouble. Unfortunately, we were right back in the stairwell, launching into the unknown and he was displeased. Too bad.

Paimon led the way to a room full of shelves, each filled with vials, jars, boxes, bowls, and all other manner of vessels, none of which were labeled. It was unlikely that any of the substances could harm me, and yet I was uneasy around them. Each shelf had a protective spell around them. It was unlikely that anything short of utter destruction across the palace would damage these items. “You have little use for any of this, and yet you keep it all here?” It was baffling to see so much held here uselessly. I never took Paimon to be a hoarder.

On tip-toe, he released the spell on one of the shelves and reached for a box. The curtain returned to the shelf immediately, and he turned to me, box in hand. “It may not be of use to me, but it may be of use to the humans that seek me out. Or other demons. Or Lucifer.” Carefully, he removed the lid of the box. “What do you see?”

Without questioning it, I looked over the box. “Hey, don’t just—” Amaimon attempted to pull me back a moment too late. What was in the box appeared to be solid black, but a faint mist immediately curled out from the box and into my nostrils. Paimon closed the box immediately, and I felt more than heard Amaimon get shoved away from me by him.

I couldn’t hear much over the sound of my choking and retching. Momentarily, I was enveloped in silence. Complete sensory deprivation took hold for what felt like seconds but may have been much longer. Touch came back first, of which it became clear to me that I had collapsed. Sight came but not complete. Objects were just outlines on black, and held little to no depth. I could only see the outline of Paimon, as if he was a moving chalk drawing. Amaimon was filled in shades of red, as if on a heat map. The sound of the pair bickering came next, followed rapidly by taste and smell. Scents were strong and distinct, but it was difficult to smell anything but Amaimon. Anger, fear, distress. It was as if my tongue was planted against his skin. It was difficult to breathe, and it felt necessary to breathe in order to function.

“Calm down already, you’re like a coddling hen. Don’t make me lock you away until this is over.” The sounds of words were there, but it took much effort to understand.

“Fuck you, as if you could.”

“Don’t challenge me. It won’t turn out well for you, Amaimon.”

The shape of Amaimon moved in a way that could have been him turning towards me. “He’s moving. Asmodaios?” The chalk outline of Paimon gripped his arm, kept him from moving closer. “Paimon—”

“Shut up.”

His anger flared then, as did the scent of him, but he was silent. It was all pheromones I was attuned to, I realized then, before I realized I was crawling across the ground to him. It was similar to when I was in heat, at its core. More mindless and less distinct, but that was what I was experiencing. There was no lust and I wasn’t permeating pheromones, but I sought out what I knew, which was Amaimon. “He’s completely bestial. Look at him!”

Suddenly he was gone. Sight, sound, scent. I began to pant with distress. My brain was brought up short, caught between his disappearance and if I was suddenly deformed. I simply paused, unable to act. Several blinks, and Paimon’s shape began to take on a different form, humanoid but filled with smoke. Easier to see. He knelt before me, attempting to shush my panting. It worked well enough; somehow, I thought I had been alone, despite the fact that I had the vague sense of him there before. When he spoke, his voice was soft and nowhere near its usual sonorous tone. It was difficult to remember how he sounded previously. “Asmodaios.”

Right. That was my name. I didn’t respond. I didn’t speak. I didn’t think to even try.

His hands were on my cheeks and they burned. I attempted to move, but his grip was solid. I vaguely heard my own snarl. “You remember Azarias, yes?”

Of course I did. That was the only reason I was here.

Paimon sighed, the sound of it aggravating me. I snarled again, my tail smacking into the tile. I felt the surface crumble, pieces flying into the air and settling back down. It wasn’t as satisfying as it should have been. “Man, did I fuck up.” The air shifted around us, and the next breath I took was filled with the scent of Azarias. Paimon couldn’t hold me then, and released my head unwillingly. “Better,” he mumbled as I crawled away. I followed Azarias’ scent, and bumped into the cage before I could decipher what it was I saw. I clawed the front of it off. The sound of it clattering across the opposite end of the room was faint and muffled to my ears. There was no presence here, but where the smell of him was strongest. I questioned my sight for it, as it was already failing, but no, he wasn’t there. I clawed open the bedding to be certain. Turning out, I rose to two feet and I shoved Paimon out of the way, following after the lesser trail of Azarias’ scent. There was audible encouragement before I was out of earshot, but I couldn’t quite make out what the words meant.

His scent was all over the place, all of it old and difficult to follow. And there were bodies in the way every corner I turned. Each time I shoved or clawed through them, uninterested in the result. They were obstacles that made noise when moved, that was all. I knew I was being followed, but it wasn’t threatening and I allowed it. I knew vaguely that it was Paimon, but he registered simply as nonthreatening thing as I moved on. I bashed through doors when they were closed, mostly unaware that they were there to begin with. Once outside, I knew there were more threats, and Azarias’ trail was still faint. Still, I moved faster, aware that I was awkwardly hunched over now that I ran on two feet, but unaware that this wasn’t normal for me. Eventually, I returned to all fours, finding more stability and agility running this way.

As it was, my sense of me was fading quickly, as was any manner of intelligent thought. I had a singular goal to achieve before it was too late, and too late was a vague sense of foreboding in my mind.

It was difficult for me to see anything in the woods. Again, most everything that I registered at all was in vague outlines, and for the most part my brain focused on making forms for the demons more than the environment. My stride was slowed by tree limbs and roots, and further slowed by demon attacks. At first, I didn’t register that so many of the demons were there, and was jumped on viciously. It was then that I understood part of what Amaimon meant, from the punches landed against my face. My jaw had been widened and formed stronger, misshapen to hold larger teeth. My mouth was forced open, all my teeth now shaped like fangs. And being punched made them tear through the flesh of my cheeks and lips, though the pain was faint. But they also made tearing through the limbs of these demons easier once I got my bearings. After the first fall, traversing the woods became easier; I sank my teeth and talons into whatever demon was in my way and anxiously moved on. Again, they were obstacles that made noise, and were solely registered as a threat the stronger Azarias’ scent became. Several times, I was stopped by Paimon, his hands taking hold of my hair like a leash, and each time I was angered by it, snarling and turning to swipe my talons at him. In hindsight, he was likely keeping me from stepping into the pits of the void, but I didn’t understand that. Luckily, I never registered him as a full threat, and moved on quickly each time.

The smell of Azarias’ fear and panic became stronger, and beside it was a more pervasive scent. Belial was near, and it should come as no surprise that I immediately registered the scent as a threat. I knew they were both near, and that Azarias was wounded. Growling, I clawed my way up the nearest tree, Paimon making some sound of discontent as I jumped away. I couldn’t care less if he continued to follow, and sprang from tree to tree. It was Belial’s scent I was following then, eager to rip out his throat between my teeth.

He knew I was coming— I wasn’t quiet, snarling and breaking tree limbs as I followed after him. Unfortunately, the sound of it scared Azarias too, and I was incapable of having two trains of thought at once. Belial was the immediate source of trouble now, and his fear was a distraction from removing Belial.

The sight of Belial was similar to Amaimon’s, an orange-filled humanoid blob that jumped from tree to tree silently. Azarias shimmered in my vision, red, but blue, but filled with light. Once I saw him, he was easy to spot, zig-zagging through the trees and making Belial’s chase more difficult. If it wasn’t for me, the demon could have caught up and easily captured Azarias.

As fast as I was, I was not fast enough. It seemed each time I was close enough to hear Belial swearing under his breath, he was able to dart away out of reach. The roar I released in frustration was unnatural even to my own ears. Both forms paused in my view, from shock or pain I couldn’t know. Determined to catch Belial, I didn’t dart directly for him. I swung down from my perch and instead tackled the tree. Torn asunder, the tree toppled over quickly, some of it into an open pit to the void. The yelp of prey as he fell and scrambled to grab purchase to something filled me with satisfaction.

Hunched ferally on two feet, I watched as Belial dangled from the side of another tree, his sword stuck in its side the only thing keeping him from falling into the void. For his part, Azarias didn’t remain to find out what was going on, and darted away and out of sight. The instinct to run after him was strong, but first there was Belial. There were noises coming from his throat which I couldn’t comprehend, and he became louder once I grabbed hold of his ankle and yanked him off the tree. That he was screeching and afraid, that I could understand without the meaning of his words. Uncaring, I allowed him to drop, Paimon’s voice reaching me too late. I turned at the sound of him, but quickly turned my attention to finding Azarias again before something else caught wind of him.

Chasing after him wasn’t difficult in and of itself; it was that I didn’t want to harm him in the process of catching up that made things difficult. I could see Raphael’s small sword in his grip, and knew inherently that it would kill me if he stabbed me, accidentally or otherwise. I had no voice to call out to him, and instead growled low as I approached him. Still, he felt threatened, seemingly looking over his shoulder every once in a while. I could no longer understand that I was essentially unrecognizable, and could only feel frustration that he would not stop. I was beginning to feel weakened, and knew I wouldn’t be able to keep this up forever. Unable to think of a safe solution, I darted past him and blocked his path, standing still as he skittered and slid to a stop. I kept still, chest heaving as I watched him and hoped he didn’t run in the opposite direction. The idea that he would have run into Paimon then was lost on me, the other demon forgotten again.

Panic set in as he watched me and attempted to get his bearings, yanking the sword out of the dirt as quickly as possible. Confusion became most apparent the longer I kept still, his shape shimmering and flowing like water in my sight. It was difficult to tell when he stood, but soon his shape was more humanoid again, and he approached me tentatively. I fought the urge to move, my breathing paused once his hand touched my chest. “Asmodaios?” I breathed again, releasing a warbling growl I thought was nonthreatening. His touch left me briefly, returning instead as a hug. The sword was gone from his grasp. I then further realized the extent of my change; his arms couldn’t reach around me fully, and he felt much shorter. His face was buried in my chest not because he put it there by choice, but because there was no chance of him reaching my face without climbing me. Straining to remain upright, I thoughtlessly placed some of my weight onto him. Unprepared to hold me up, he fell back with a squeak of surprise. Now that he was in front of me and seemingly safe, the adrenaline that kept me moving was gone. “Hey, we’re both tired as hell but we’re not out of the woods yet. Literally. Asmodaios?” Again, there were words but I didn’t understand them, only acknowledging my name again by moving off of him slightly. Still, I didn’t make it far, my upper body falling into his lap. I grumbled from both exhaustion and frustration. I licked at one of his wounds instead, his hand shoving at my forehead eventually stopping me. “God, what happened to you?” I felt myself moved slightly by magic, but was immediately set back down. Azarias grunted in pain. “Nope, not enough strength for that. Fuck.”

Despite exhaustion, the sound of footsteps approaching sprung me back onto my haunches, a roar forming in my chest. I spun my head this way and that, unsure of the direction. I caught sight of nothing, but had the vague sense of someone there again. I growled low in warning instead, even as Azarias set his hand on my shoulder. “What the hell happened to him?” Azarias was full of anger that to me was directed at nothing.

When Paimon spoke, his outline appeared to me again. I couldn’t be sure he wasn’t a threat, and so I remained posed. “If I have to hear you go on about it too, I will eat my tongue. We need to go before the void expands. Asmodaios fed it and now it wants more.” I couldn’t see it, but I could hear magic being performed. Azarias stood and I followed close behind him, unaware that I walked through a portal until Amaimon’s blob was in front of me as well. I felt Azarias change, startled by Amaimon’s presence, and moved in front of him to roar despite my own confusion. The sound that left me wasn’t quite right because of it, but I remained between them because Azarias felt threatened. It was enough to make Amaimon take several steps back.

“Can you change him back now? This is painful to watch.” I felt disoriented; again, I felt as if I should go to him but the desire to protect Azarias versus soothe Amaimon was stronger. I swayed slightly but remained where I was.

“No, he has to do that himself. It’s more important that we get Azarias out of here, anyway, before the other demons figure out we’re here.”

“Yeah, about that. Not gonna lie, I tried that first once I realized I could actually do some maiming and send demons flying. Didn’t work.” Azarias voice was soft, and the excessive fear was gone. I settled on my haunches beside him again. No longer in immediate danger, I realized this was my home, if only by my smell being all over the place. The idea of me having a home didn’t quite click, but I understood this was a place I frequently visited.

“The rat plays the part of an angel inadequately.” The three of them continued to bicker and chatter, and I continued to hear but not understand any of it. As time passed, I steadily grew weaker but hid it well, choosing to sit on the floor rather than sway from exhaustion. The three of them worked with magic, achieving nothing but disappointment time and time again. Soon, I left the room, shoving the door that I knew was there out of the way with a loud bang. I wandered the halls on all fours, scents faded. I managed to still keep a bead on Azarias, his form still visible to me despite the walls between us now.

I was patrolling by instinct; that sense of foreboding had returned, and it became clear it had more to do with my body now than Azarias’ safety. I was stronger than I was before, but I was steadily declining and running on fumes. It was tempting to find a corner to lay own and rest, but I couldn’t be certain that I would get up again. I felt like I was dying.

The sound of many footfalls kept my pea-sized brain from getting anywhere close to dwelling on the thought. My run was slower than before, but still I ran to the foyer of the palace. More than a small horde of demons was there, and they stopped in their disorganized march at the sight of me. The why didn’t matter— I wasn’t attuned to them, and didn’t know anyway. I growled lowly and several of them took a step back. Others charged instead, running towards me. The bestial roar I released in Lucifer’s woods returned, stunning the lot of them and sending only a handful or so running away.

More importantly, it caught the attention of the others. Azarias was by my side almost immediately, landing quietly on his feet. He had wings, I noticed now. “Fuck me, not again.” The small sword was in his grasp again, but I could tell he was also weakening. He needed more time to recover.

Paimon was nowhere in sight.

And Amaimon was… himself. There was no preamble for him, instead choosing to materialize within the mass of demons. Several of them went flying, heads and limbs of others following. Taken by surprise, the area around him was quickly cleared, either by his doing or the demons backing away. “Aw, c’mon, I’ve wanted to kill a lot of you for a while anyway. Don’t be shy!” He was always happy to pick a fight, and despite the fact that I was nearing my limit, I was happy to join him. I immediately charged in and pounced on the first demon I approached. The vibration of crushed bones against my fangs was almost cathartic, the sound of it lost to me. My ears were attuned to my allies only, and I was concerned for their safety more than my own. This body could take a beating, and even if it couldn’t, it didn’t occur to me. I continually kept an eye on Azarias and kept close, mauling demons that attempted to catch him by surprise. Surprisingly, Amaimon did the same, going so far as to shove Azarias out of the way to take a lethal hit for him. It also worked to Amaimon’s benefit— the angrier he was, the better he fought and the more fun he had. But Azarias and I, we were diminishing and there was only so many demons Amaimon could tear apart in a minute.

Despite my belief I was invincible as long as I was defending Azarias, I suddenly collapsed. There were a few demons left in the foyer, and Azarias ignored them to come to me. It forced me to attempt to move again, for which I weakly growled and fell flat again onto the wood. Luckily Amaimon saw the same demon I did, and grabbed it midair to crush its skull between his palms. It was the last of them. “How many times do I have to say watch your damned back and wings?” Azarias didn’t respond, kneeling beside me as he attempted to heal me. It was useless, of course. I moaned like a wounded bear, attempting to move again. His fear was as palpable now as it was in the woods. I needed to fix it. “Look, we need to get you out of here. Paimon is holding a barrier but there’s only so much even he can do against legions.” Amaimon’s words were lost on me.

“We’re kind of stuck at that part, remember?” His tone was one of defeat. Sadness. I tried to move again, my limbs no longer responding to input. I remained still, heaving. My vision was gone again.

I felt the barrier break, and felt the floor shake with the repeated pounded of footfalls. That was it. Azarias left my side then, my consciousness coming and going all the while. The pair of them took up the fight again, and I could do nothing but listen to their frustration, catching the scent of fresh wounds and pain. I was useless.

At some point, Azarias was at my side again. It was as if everything had stopped. In fact, it was just that; besides Azarias’ hands checking if I was still alive, everything felt paused around us. The air was completely changed, as if removed from time. I released a low groan again, confused. There were words spoken, but they were faint and far away to me. There was another presence beside us suddenly, and the urge to protect rose again. I could only manage to shift slightly and nothing more. “Isn’t this a pathetic sight? Paimon did a number on you, didn’t she?” The point of a wingtip shoe lifted my head off the ground just enough for Lucifer to look at my face. “What an ugly mug you have now. You’ll have to show me what you did, Paimon.” My face was dropped, crashing into the wood painfully. Azarias made part of a shout, but was quickly quieted. He leaned over me slightly, as if to protect me from further harm. Fear. “You’ve made Hell collectively lose its mind, Azarias. And not just the lesser demons.”

“That’s your fault.”

He laughed; despite the sound of joy, I felt none of that from him. If anything, he was sad. “It is, indeed. I wanted my fun and I got only trouble for it. They’re practically frothing at the mouth from the sight of you alone. Here I thought if I kept you here long enough or exposed you long enough, Raphael would come to help you. I underestimated his disinterest in keeping you safe.”

There was silence, or my consciousness faded again. Azarias trembled beside me. Anger. “You kept me here because you wanted a visit from Raphael. You have got to be kidding me.”

“There were other goals, but yes. If you turned into a demon, that would have been wonderful, too.” He sighed wistfully, and the air shifted again, no longer stagnant. There were groans and the sound of bodies collapsing, of demons surrounding us but making no move to attack. Amaimon stayed away, wrath radiating off of him like a beast in its own right. I vaguely felt the presence of Paimon beside Lucifer briefly. Confusion. Anxiety. Distress. Later, I would speculate if he pleaded with Lucifer, or if the man had just gotten so annoyed he came of his own volition.

There was a disquieted energy in the foyer. The anticipation of what would happen now was heavy. One couldn’t always tell with Lucifer.

I didn’t wonder anything; I was still fighting for consciousness.

“— death for you.” The uproar from the horde brought me back again, though barely. They were angry, and I didn’t understand why. “You rabble had no chance of capturing him anyway.” A pause. “Well, maybe.” I felt his magic form strongly, and knew it was aimed at Azarias. I began to panic. I had to move. I had to move. I had to stop this. Everything ached and burned and my limbs refused to do more than twitch. Slowly, I moved my head up. Even blind, I could practically see that ball of energy before me. If I could just… Move.

It felt as if parts of my mind and body were shutting down. I had no idea of where I was or why I had to move just this slight bit and grab that thing. I didn’t know what it was any longer, but I had to stop it. My talons dug solidly into the wood beneath me, and my palms hoisted me up just enough. My jaw dropped open, and my fangs clamped open around that light. My body collapsed again, taking the light with me.

It was the last thing I could do.