The snake that’d looked so damn hopeful with sparkling eyes and a gasp of cheer when he said the word “Son.”
If Angel’d known he’d react like that, he would have never gone for a “Daddy” joke.
Somewhere between the confusion and awe that the man hadn’t gotten the double meaning, he’d felt a twinge of guilt for giving the man hope he’d found his kid just to take it away.
What sort of son did a guy like that have? What was it like to be a kid who had a dad who cared like that?
(Did the creep even really have a son or was he just that dense?)
Was he really happy about the idea his kid would be in hell with him? Or was it something else?
Angel sure as fuck didn’t know.
But he knew he was going to stop answering Cherri’s texts if she was going to continue to gripe about the villain and make Angel think about him. The snake was supposed to be toast after Alastor’s little stunt, but nah! The guy was fine.
Still kicking it and fighting with Cherri over turf, and Angel Dust couldn’t get his stupid, excited face out of his mind.
(Or stop wondering what having a loving, proud dad would be like.)
“Stop sulking at my bar,” Husk said. He propped his feet up on the “Welcome Desk” and leaned back in his seat. Husk nursed his beer and flicked his tail toward Angel Dust. “You’re an eyesore.”
“Take that back!” Angel smacked two of his hands on the counter. “I am always gorgeous, even when pouting.”
“Sure,” Husk said, deadpanned as always. He sipped his drink and scratched at the tuft of fur on his chest with his claw. Husk rolled in his seat until he crossed his arms on the bar top. “Pout somewhere else.”
“Now, now, Husker!” Alastor said. Angel and Husk both jerked as the man appeared behind Angel and tapped his cane on the counter. “Our new friend here appears to be struggling with an issue? What ails you my friend?”
“Nothing.” Angel forced his muscles to relax and leaned into the counter. “What? Me? I’m great. Just bored. I mean, there’s nothing fun to do around here, am I right?”
“It isn’t good to lie!” Alastor stepped around Angel and took a seat at the bar a few stools down, settling directly in front of Husk. He laid his microphone staff across his lap and rested his elbows on the counter. “It’s not a very redeeming feature, now is it?”
“Like you’d know about redeeming anything,” Husk said into the bottle top with a lazy stretch of his wings. Alastor smacked him with a spin of his staff (“Oh, so sorry! An accident of course!”) and tapped the base on the ground. Husk rubbed the back of his head and said louder and with as much obnoxiousness that he could fit into the tone: “Yeah, what he said. It ain’t very nice of you to lie.”
“Come on, fellas,” Angel said. He held out two of his arms and crossed the other two behind his back. “I ain’t lying about nothing.”
He was bored.
If he’d been kept entertained he wouldn’t be thinking about Sir Pentious.
“If you say so,” Alastor said, speaking into the microphone head of his staff. “But, I can say that as a bartender, Husk here is an excellent listener if you need to tell someone your woes.”
Husk slammed his empty bottle on the counter. “Would you stop volunteering me for stuff?”
“I give up,” Husk said, throwing his hands in the air. He pointed at Angel and sneered. “Bartender’s advice: Alastor’s not going to let this go now that he’s curious. Come clean and save yourself the embarrassment of him broadcasting it live if he has to work any harder to weasel the story out of you.”
Angel looked at Alastor, who spun his staff to the side with a light “I totally will, it’d be entertaining!” grin on his face.
“How well do you know Sir Pentious?” Angel asked. He wouldn’t go into full detail, but if he threw them a bone they might go play chase elsewhere. “He’s been around here forever, right?”
“Longer than most of us, yes,” Alastor said. He stopped his staff and rested it against the counter. “I don’t know him well, though. The snake is more of a nuisance than entertainment.”
“Ain’t that the truth,” Angel said. He clapped his hands together and tried for a smile. “My gal Cherri has decided he’s her arch rival so she keeps bringing him up. A guy gets tired hearing about the same tinker toys and egg minions over and over, you feel me?”
A slight buzz of static filled the air.
Angel swallowed the lump in his throat as Alastor leaned closer.
“Are you sure that’s all?” The Radio Demon asked, the microphone head of his staff tilted toward Angel’s mouth. “There isn’t anything else you want to share with your waiting audience?”
“I’m good,” Angel said. He drummed his fingers on the counter as the static grew more. “Totally fine.”
And time to get out of there.
“Oh, look at that!” Angel yanked his phone out of his pocket and looked at the blank screen. “Speaking of Cherri, it sounds like she wants to party. I think I’m going to go and don’t tell Charlie!”
Angel sprinted out of the hotel lobby and ran until the static stopped buzzing in his ears.
He fell into a brisk walk and huffed, dropping all four arms in relief when he felt truly alone.
“Who knew that guy would be such a busybody?” Angel asked the air. He recalled the Radio Demon’s motif and slapped himself in the face. “Everybody. Everybody knew.”
His phone rang, saving Angel from further self-embarrassment.
“Hey, Angie! You want to hang?” Cherri asked from the other end. “I’m bored.”
“Yeah, sure,” Angel said. How about that? He’d escaped an awkward situation and didn’t have to lie—Cherri wanted to party, after all. “I’m free. Name the place, baby.”
Cherri texted him the location and Angel headed that direction with a whistle.
A little partying would clear his head.
“This is not hanging, Cherri!” Angel shouted, dropping the cute nicknames to reinforce how angry he felt. “This is a turf fight!”
With Sir Pentious.
The guy Angel had been trying very hard to stop thinking about!
“Oh, come on, Angie! This is the best way to hang out and you know it.” She tossed a bomb twice in the air before throwing it over the makeshift wall they were using as a shield. It landed between two Egg Bois and splattered them across the cracked pavement. “When did you become such a bore?”
“When the hottest demon I’ve ever seen moved into the hotel! They will actually kick me out if I get caught on the news again!” he shouted back with the first half-truth he could think of. Cherri always knew when he was fibbing, so Husk would have to work as a scapegoat. “Have you seen our new Welcome Desk concierge? I haven’t hit that yet and I do not need you to ruin this for me.”
Cherri didn’t need to know that making Charlie upset made his chest squirm in the worst way with guilt.
Of all the things Angel had been happy to leave behind when he became a demon, guilt was one of them, and Charlie brought it right back out with that sad, disappointed face.
The Happy Hotel felt like home more and more each day and Angel was not losing it over a turf fight.
“I can get away with the drugs and the drinking, but this? They’ll have my head!” Angel kicked an Egg out of the way and shook the yolk and broken shell off his shoe. “I’m sorry, babe, but I’m getting out of here first opening I see.”
“Oh, whatever,” Cherri said with a disappointed pout of her own. “You really are going clean, aren’t you?”
Angel hated disappointing Cherri, too, but—he had to.
“Kinda? I don’t know.” Angel listened for the sound of Egg Bois and decided he should split while they were regrouping. “I’m sorry, Cherri, but I need to leave.”
“I think not, my dears,” a voice hissed—quite literally with an extended “s” sound at the end of “dears.” Sir Pentious appeared in the path behind them, his long tail flicking back and forth as it slithered on the pavement. He and his Egg Bois blocked their exit. His hair flared out like a hood as he pointed and laughed louder. “You cocky brats aren’t going anywhere! I’m finally going to stick it to you and you’re going to go down hard!”
Angel lowered his tommy gun and bit back the lewd response. “You did that one on purpose.”
Sir Pentious lowered his hood and scrunched is face in confusion. “Did what on purpose?”
“Leave yourself open!” Cherri shouted, throwing a handful of bombs in his face. “Ha! Nice one distracting him, Angie! I knew you still had it in you!”
She slapped him on the back and tackled the demon, starting a new brawl in the street.
Angel Dust kicked an Egg out of the way and made an escape as he dodged the two fighting rivals.
“Are you really ditching, Angie?” Cherri called out after catching Sir Pentious in a chokehold. “For real?”
“Yes!” Angel shouted back. He put his gun away and backed up. “Next time you want to hang, it better be for drinks!”
“Fine! Get out of here, I got this,” Cherri said. Sir Pentious growled and whipped his body around, knocking Cherri off her feet. Angel hesitated. Should he stay and help her out? He was mad but he didn’t want her to—Cherri jumped up with a laugh and tackled the snake, straddling him and putting her hands around his throat. “You look good under me, old man!”
Angel turned around and walked away.
“She’s got this.” He escaped the area and kept his eyes on the televisions in shop windows as he walked home for any sign of the turf fight on the news. “She totally had that.”
Angel stopped at a vending machine and slammed his lowest hand onto the button to retrieve a bag of his favorite pick-me-up. He hid it under his coat and returned to the hotel, tense and full of too many feelings.
The quiet lobby greeted him as he opened the door and slipped inside. Husk and Alastor were still at the bar. Angel avoided eye contact and walked past, ready to collapse in his room and stop thinking.
“You’re lucky I caught the sound bite of you objecting quite fiercely to the activities at hand,” Alastor said as Angel passed. He sipped something strong in a glass, cooled with a stone. “Or I might not have taken the liberty of interrupting the broadcast before our dear Hostess could have seen it.
“Though,” Alastor said, still smiling over the glass. Husk snorted on the other side, slumped in his seat with his hat over his face as he faked a nap. “I did keep a copy of the broadcast for my records, of course.”
Angel stopped his trek to his room and wandered back to the bar. He took a seat and glared at the Radio Demon. “What of it? You want something for covering?”
“A little entertainment,” Alastor said. He tapped his staff twice on the ground and scooted closer to Angel Dust. “Why don’t you tell Husk and I what had you running out of here so fast earlier? I’m sure it’s a delight!”
“Are you for real?” Angel asked. “You’re blackmailing me because you still want to know why I was pouting?”
“Yes,” Alastor said, openly and brightly. “Yes, exactly.”
Angel reached over and stole his glass, tossing back the rest of his drink. He slammed the glass on the counter and snorted. “What the hell?”
The Radio Demon’s staff glowed (recording?), but Angel talked.
Surprisingly, Alastor and Husk both listened.