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Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree

Chapter Text

The slamming of the entrance door disturbed the commonly quiet halls of the Happy Hotel, as the heir of hell turned away with her face ablaze in shame and scurried out of the reception, sparks trailing after her fiery steps. Not a minute passed and the anger gave way to trails of fat black tears, tinted with mascara. Charlie reprimanded herself for being overly emotional, which had severed her view of mundanity. Of course, it wasn’t a patient on their door, but that outrageous news reporter -Katie Killjoy. Bitch.

She glimpsed over the balcony of her room, observing in displeasure how Katie Killjoy remained standing in the front steps of the hotel, dressed in hot red dress and a cynical smile. The stupid bitch was making an unusual on-site reporting.

"As it can be observed, the place is vacated from guests.” To emphasize her point, she directed the camera man to direct a wide shot of the grounds. “Quite rundown actually, considering that it just opened some weeks ago,” all though she sounded quite pleased by this fact- “disastrous and tragic. That sums up our follow up on the candid news on this poor soul's attempt of a dream." With a mocking laughter, Katie raised her head in a neck-breaking angle and stared right at where Charlie's head had been seconds ago.

Frustrated, she dropped on to her bead and covered herself in pillows and run-down velvet blankets, soaking up her hot angry tears. Failure burnt her deeply, live-red charcoal burning her heart with shame. She couldn't keep hiding from the truth… not when every single of her ideas had burned in the pits of hell. Her father was right, her ideas of redemption where laughable in the least. And mediocre. Stupid. Charlie grunted in frustration, wishing she could talk with her mom, but Lilith was but a voicemail since her daughter moved out of their home. Busy- or ashamed?

Tires screeched loudly outside her window, making her sigh, hopefully the cruel news reporter had left. Straightening herself, Charlie picked up her pride and reapplied makeup, there were hotel business to attend, better not delay. Which weren't many, to her misfortune, but still she went to her office on the second floor, overlooking the main hall.

Her girl friend Vaggie was sulking near the bottom of the stairs, and the heir to hell blamed herself for the stress she impossed on the ghoul. A quick scan and she could tell neither Angel Dust nor Alastor where nearby. Yeah, she should have not expected them to be.

Restless in her office, she tidied up her desk once, twice, and some more. Princess of Hell, she thought, a void title that not a damned soul held dear. The gloom stuck to her pale skin, making her squirm in distaste. She buried her face in her arms, and sat morosely quiet, listening to the walls of her fiasco hotel, not sure of what she was expecting other than dusty silence, and in solitude she drowsed into heavy slumber. 

 

 

Her office was in complete darkness when she heard faint sweet high notes, arising her from her numb dream. What sounded like a lonesome piano lured her out of her stupor. She didn’t recall falling asleep, still, she rubbed her eyes and cracked her neck to a side. Curious by the charming echo, Charlie stood atop of the staircase, listening in on whomever had thought piano sonatas were appropriate well into the night. Candles lit the staircase rail, orderly fickle fires that illuminated the palatable darkness bellow.

The young princess took in a deep breath, and soon melodic lyrics lifted to the air, swirling with her as she descended to the main hall-

Our long bygone burdens, mere echoes of the spring. But where have we come? And where shall we end?”, after a heartfelt sigh she sung the next line. “If dreams can’t come true- then why not pretend?” her hand glided over the rail.

The marble steps kissed her bare feet and the trembling flames swayed to her voice in tune with the piano. From bellow, intense glowing red eyes observed her, frail as she was, each key strung in time, inviting her closer.

How the gentle wind beckons through the leaves”, her feminine face softly countered by the faint light could only be described as angelic, “as autumn colors fall."

Three-quarters down the marble stairs, her hair glistening a pale gold, she peered over to the piano and continued singing, "Dancing in a swirl of golden memories." Charlotte Magne made the last steps and finished with a knowing whisper, “the loveliest lies of all.”

The radio demon turned in his stool and offered a kiss upon her lithe hand. "Oh sweetheart, such enchanting voice should be reserved to god's hearing only."

Charlie lapped up the praise, she was in heavy need of some nice words, "Thank you, Alastor, but you know... it's not a big deal. Just that harmony comes naturally when accompanied by true music skills." 

"Such fateful words may only be true." Alastor's grin spread wide as he bowed his head upon her royalty. "May I ask, sweetling, what keeps you awake at this wee hour?"

Charlie didn't feel like commenting how she fell asleep crying, and had just awoken, so instead she replied, "Ahmm.. nothing in particular. How about you? Looking for a room to sleep in, mister? We got plenty." The bitterness in those last words was palpable.

It occurred to Alastor that the night-time had made Charlie bolder, for there were only a handful of times when she tried to jest with him.

"Oh, can't really say what took over me", he chuckled. The radio demon thought back to how he was keeping an eye on the grounds- “maybe the night was too delightfully inspiring. Made me remember those long-gone moonlight sonatas in the wild.”

Meanwhile, Charlie had scooted over the stool and sat next to him, fingers caressing the ivory keys in that old piano. Without looking at him, she asked, "did you always knew how to play the piano? I mean, like, before... in your life above."

"In fact, I did, for the times I lived bred the most chaotic jazz. I was one more soul trying to release stress, and the hammering of piano strings does just that, with a touch of style." He refrained from retelling how he used to enjoy a bloodlust dinner listening to Glenn Miller, every turn of moon or so. 

Charlie had grown on gospels and orchestras, the occasional opera and moved on to rock further down the line. But jazz? She hadn't made herself a haul of enough genres, for here in hell finding music recordings from above was a hecatomb task.

They were still sitting together on the stool when they heard the front door's bell chime. Known to them, a sultry demon came inside and stop dead on his tracks upon catching a sight of them. Such an oddly pair to be encountered in the candle-lit darkness of the main hall.

Angel Dust snapped out of his stupor and waltzed over to them, laying atop the piano, and contorting into a sex evoking pose, making Alastor withdrew swiftly.

"And what are you two up to this late at night?" The porn actor bit half his lip in amusement, and squirmed inside knowing he was seeing something he wasn't supposed to.

Charlie had become flushed and darted looks at Alastor, whom chose to remain quiet, his grin unaltered. Fool of a girl, she didn't require to explain herself to such lowly demon, yet the fact that he could watch her fidget was enough for him to quiet his remark.

Not much of a liar, the hotel manager sputtered some nonsense about last minute appointments and paperwork… and oh, look at the time, better go back to bed. Good night!

The princess hurriedly scattered away and Alastor decided to take his leave before hearing more of that sluty spider trying to hoax him into depravity. The candles consumed themselves through the night, leaving faint smoke twirling as if dancing to what could have been.

 

 

The smell of scorching flesh spiced the streets near the hotel, awakening the radio demons’ desire to hunt- to seek- to devour

A feast! They could host a dinner party at the hotel, under the reason of attracting wealthy sponsor by the ancient techniques of offering a rare meal. He would provide the meat. How exiting!

Upon entering the hotel, he was greeted by a crestfallen daughter of hell, whose suffering didn’t rub him in the right way. Charlie's despair… it was way too raw and uncomfortable for him to be around. He liked her better fighting for her ideals, filled with bubbly passion!

“Hello, sweetheart, how is the weather treating you?” When se raised her head to offer him a faint smile, he noted the purple rings under her puffy eyes, so unlike her. Her rude friend and that feminine fellow weren’t in sight, causing him to feel pressured to deal with her. He was a bloodthirsty sadistic demon, not a shoulder to cry.

Fully aware of his discomfort, Charlie looked away as she replied, “Hi… there isn’t much to do here, so, maybe… some other time?” She was giving him a way out, but those teary eyes stung him- he had always been week to woman’s tears.

“Love… is there, something…?” Alastor cleared his throat, and rectified himself. “Would you give me the pleasure of your company while taking a stroll through the streets?”

Charlie sighed deeply, but accepted either way. She was grateful for an escape from those empty halls. “Sure,” she came around the reception desk and took the arm that Alastor offered her, “you lead, I will follow.”

Smoke clouded the top of the buildings in the distance, better if they strayed from the center of pentagram city. Therefor, with genial idle chatter, they strolled to the outskirts of the pentagram, away from the main turf wars. Some demons loitered the streets, but when caught sight of the odd pair they kept their distance. Charlie felt the eyes of her people following her through the streets, wishing some anonymity for herself she held closer to Alastor’s arm. Unsettled, the radio demon glanced at the tragic demon walking alongside with him, not sure of how to lighten the mood. An idea struck him!

“Look up, Charlie! Pigs are flying!”

She raised her eyes to the sky and saw a handful of demons been thrown into the distance by black tentacles. She stifled a laugh, relaxing. “Why, I never thought I live to see this.”

“Now make a wish!”

“What-?”

Alastor pulled her closer and whispered, “Let’s pretend.”

Charlotte Magne had never seen a star, much less a shooting star, but she indulged in her partner’s delusion, closing her eyes and mouthing her wish. Once she opened her eyes, she found herself alone in the streets. Quickly searching around her, she spotted her red clad companion on top a rundown atrium in the midst of a thorn garden. She stepped closer to him, the drift in the world closing behind her, and she marveled at her surroundings.

“Where are we…?” A gentle breeze rustled the leaves, billowing her pale golden hair, having her accommodate a loose string off her face.

 “Just a little somewhere I felt like sharing with the belle dame.” Alastor apparated a violin from thin air, the bow string a distinctive brownish tint. Setting a quickening pace, he made the strings come to life with a sorrowful melody- a song that spoke to her without words about harsh consequences and falling from grace.

The cold wind bit her exposed hands, but it felt good, refreshing. At first, she thought the tune was about her, how she was high royalty and had fallen to her unfruitful dreams, but Alastor’s pained face reflected more, she could tell from the way he strung the bow with fierceness and resent, only to melt into resignation.

There were no words she dared utter, for this was not her song.

 

They kept in the grounds of the thorn garden, the radio demon languidly resting under an apple tree near a pond, meanwhile Charlie picked up branches lined with thorns. Sewn together, she wringed a crown of thorns, some of her fingertips prickled lightly in the process. She looked over at where Alastor was sitting, his back against the trunk of a tree, peacefully humming with his eyes close as the wind flapped his undercoat open. The daughter of hell carefully neared him, staring at his immovable smile. She wondered… as she lowered the crown on his head.

Red ayes shot open at the strange weight, but Alastor was speechless at meeting Charlie so close to his face. She was kneeling in front of him, her arms slowly retreating to her side, a shy smile adorning her colorful face. Her eyes were looking right into him, as if searching his damned soul. He felt exposed, vulnerable- but he couldn’t look away.

Right then, Charlie’s eyes glinted and her smile enlarged. His own grin faltered for minute there, how was he to respond to this? It occurred to him then, to find out what was placed atop his hair. Unsure, he reached on top on his head and his eyes widened upon feeling razor sharp thorns adorning him. Stunted, he tried to speak, but his mouth opened and closed in a voiceless effort.

Charlotte Magne, raised and offer him a hand, her sweet apple cheeks pulled tight in a grateful smile. “Thank you, Alastor. Should we go back?” With a nod, he took her hand and quickly teared a rift back to the hotel.