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the sin of pride

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DIAVOLO'S DINNERS HAD started to become more frequent ever since the exchange program had started. Lucifer noticed more and more that he, his brothers, [Name], and the residents of Purgatory Hall had been called to dine with the Prince more than once a week after the first, with an unusual emphasis on [Name]─Barbatos had been suspiciously adamant that she come, despite Lucifer knowing that she had more than enough work to finish for her R.A.D studies.

He had been surprised to see that she did not, in fact, have any work at all to do when he knocked on her door, contrary to what she had told him when she had returned home after lunch with Beelzebub. She had told him she finished it faster than she had thought, a smile on her lips─the same one she gave Belphegor when she wasn't quite comfortable with the topic at hand or his presence specifically. Lucifer didn't take it to heart; he knew that [Name] was prone to rushing her work when faced with the ultimatum of sleep or food, so he had dropped it and told her to get ready for dinner.

But now, he had to wonder if something else was amiss.

The seating arrangements had been changed once again. [Name] sat at Diavolo's right where Lucifer would have been sitting had there not been placards; he, himself, sat at his left, an unusual placement, but both changes spoke louder than words. He had assumed, as he sat down to converse with Simeon halfheartedly, that [Name] had done something to earn Diavolo's concern. The demon was, after all, unusually fascinated with her─not to as an abnormal degree as Belphegor, of course─and spent most of his time with her inquiring about human world customs and habits that Solomon, in a bizarre twist, was not privy to. If she had said something out of the blue, it was perhaps of a worry to the Prince of the Devildom.

When everyone had taken their seats, Asmodeus oddly at [Name]'s side and Satan at his, dinner began with an excited smile from Beel. Barbatos set out [Name] and Solomon's human food first as a courtesy, taking their compliments in stride with a brighter than normal acknowledgement.

But as the angels' food was beginning to be set out, Lucifer caught [Name] raising both her eyebrows as she took a sip of her drink. She looked to nearly have choked, but she smoothed it over gracefully by taking a neat swallow of her water. If he had been so undignified and looked under the table, or at Asmodeus's mildly surprised face, he would have seen Diavolo's hand sneak up [Name]'s thigh and rest there.

Food was set and dinner finally began. Lucifer spent most of his time speaking with Simeon or Solomon on the history of humanity, sometimes sending Beel a warning glare when he ate too fast and sent food all across the table.

When dinner was over, dessert was presented. Barbatos took pride in the creation he set before the humans─a sweet treat from the human world a banana split─and puffed up a bit when [Name] grew overly excited and clapped her hands at the presentation. Lucifer didn't understand why; it was just a banana choked in ice cream, cherries, and whipped cream, but she seemed to be enjoying it at any rate, as was Solomon, but at a more discreet level.

The second time─and Lucifer only noticed it because Asmodeus drew his attention by pointing to the delicious glazed nightshade pie he had on his plate, asking if he wanted his extra before Beel ate all of it─[Name] had smeared cream on her cheek in her greedy effort to eat all of her dessert, patting her belly when she was full. Diavolo's laugh was quiet and soft, only noticeable because he was so close, and he reached over and wiped it from her skin with his thumb.

Lucifer didn't comment on it. Diavolo's odd behavior extended well past that; he was very friendly and had no issues at all with skinship, so it didn't surprise him that he would take any chance he could at making sly quips when the opportunity arose. He supposed it had something to do with his father's absence, but took that thought with a hefty grain of salt.

As dessert was finished, the party was led to their rooms for the night. Barbatos led them to the same suite they had frequented before, allowing them the use of the royal baths if they had need of them.

Lucifer paused to speak with Levi, who was getting ready to go straight to bed on a full stomach, and he watched─in plain sight of the candelabras mounted on the walls─as Diavolo walked in step with [Name] and placed a hand well below the middle of her back, firm against the skin that was exposed from the fabric bunching up around her pants.

[Name] either didn't notice, absorbed completely in the paintings around her, or didn't mind it at all, because she kept pace with him evenly, even stopping to remark upon one of the larger paintings depicting a chimera. She pulled her hair to one side mindlessly, but Lucifer watched as Diavolo's gaze darted to the side of her neck, eyes narrowing dangerously with an easy smile on his lips as he explained the painting's origins. His hand slipped higher up her shirt, splaying across skin, and she leaned into it with a sigh so quiet it would have been nothing but air.

This was the third time he had witnessed it.

Lucifer put the pieces together more quietly after that, especially after learning that [Name] was to be rooming with Solomon and not himself, as had been agreed upon since he was never in his room anyways.

The fourth instance was as he was entering his room to get himself situated, rattled by what he had seen that evening and his pride unable to cope with the ideas running rampant through his mind. Through the barest crack in the door as it was swinging shut, exposed by the light yet again, Diavolo leaned down and pressed a light kiss to her exposed throat. Then the crack was sealed and Lucifer was left alone to ruminate.

He had thought, on some level, that [Name] favored him above all despite their rocky start. Despite the several times where he had almost killed her, apologizing as poorly as his pride would allow him. He had assumed that her happiness was because of him. He had assumed wrongly.

And his pride, his damnable pride, was wounded.

All because of a foolish human.

Lucifer left his room and paced down the hall a quarter after twelve, assured that everyone was asleep and unable to witness the conversation he was soon to have with the Prince. He hadn't heard a peep from Solomon and [Name]'s shared quarters, not even the faintest creak of a door opening, and found himself rudely surprised once more when he found her in Diavolo's personal study.

Curled up in an expensive kashmere throw upon one of the more comfortable couches in the room, [Name] gazed into the fire sparking in the fireplace. It was the only source of light in the room besides the dimmed candelabras in the hall and Lucifer took care not to stand in the light and reveal his presence too early.

Diavolo─appearing more relaxed and at ease than Lucifer had ever had the grace of seeing him, his hair ruffled to slight disarray─stood at his desk, pouring golden whiskey into a crystal glass. His royal uniform had been discarded in favor of the loose slacks and black button up he wore beneath, the sleeves rolled up to his elbows and top three buttons undone.

There was no tension in his shoulders as he corked the bottle back up and walked over to [Name], crossing the study in a leisurely stride. He handed it to her with his fingers gripping the rim, and lowered it into hers when she reached for it. The firelight illuminated the alcohol with a gentle glow as she brought it to her lips, taking a small sip and sinking further into the couch.

Instead of sitting across from her, as Lucifer had expected him to, Diavolo crouched in front of her and rested his elbows on the section of couch in front of her that she wasn't resting upon. She lowered the glass from her mouth, setting it on the table beside the arm of the couch with a tink that was suffocated by the crackling of the fire.

There was silence for some time between them. The fire was the only source of noise in the room and Lucifer felt that if he breathed even too loud, they would hear him and he would ruin this moment; this gloriously intimate moment that was secret from everyone except, and he thought this guiltily, from him.

[Name] smiled, then, a sweet gesture. One more full and happier than the ones she gave the students at R.A.D. The ones she gave Lucifer. "What is it, Dia? You've been quiet tonight."

For some awful reason, Lucifer wished that the man would get angry at her for the nickname.

Instead, he smiled lazily at her, fueled no doubt by the atmosphere in the room. "Nothing. I'm just taking you in. It's rare that we're left alone like this, after all."

"That's true." Her laugh was breathy as she moved her hand to touch Diavolo's cheek, moving to thread through his hair and to the back of his scalp in soothing motions. "I think the last time was after that pillow fight and Mammon's punishment, wasn't it?"

Lucifer swore he heard a purr kick up─a foreign and bizarre sound that told him all he needed to know, and that he wasn't welcome here in this moment─but wasn't sure over the fire. He didn't want to be sure. His stomach, his pride, twisted into unforgiving knots.

"It was quite a while ago." Diavolo captured her hand and brought it to his mouth, kissing her knuckles one at a time. "But it's as humans say, isn't it? Waiting makes it that much more sweeter, in the end."

"I'm surprised you remembered that." [Name]'s laugh was startled and fond. "I told you a lot of things over the last few months and that's what you remembered?"

Lucifer watched him shrug loosely, a completely unusual movement on the Prince.

"I remember everything you tell me." Diavolo watched her take another sip of her whiskey, their gazes never parting, and then return to playing with his fingers. "Demons in particular remember much of what happens in their lives."

"Really?" She leaned forward, shifting from her lazing position to look at him more fully. He didn't lean back even when she was invading his personal space completely. "Then…"

"'Then…' what?"

"Do you remember what you asked me last week?"

Lucifer had to swallow the urge to walk away. He had no business being here, watching them, when it was clearly something that was being kept secret. And yet he couldn't resist, wishing that he was in Diavolo's place, whispering all of those things to her like the sweetest of lovers.

"That depends," Diavolo's tone was teasing as he laced his fingers with hers. The shadows produced that cast them in darkness didn't allow for much sight. "I asked you a lot of things. You'll have to be specific."

"Hmm." [Name] hummed and leaned forward. Their shadows blurred and became intangible from one another, but he heard the kiss being touched against Diavolo's cheek and the shaky inhale he took because of it. She whispered something in his ear, quiet and hushed, and Lucifer couldn't make it out. "Do you remember that?"

It was minsicule, but his eyelashes fluttered when he shut his eyes. The fire popped and sparked near them. "I do. What of it?"

"I have an answer for you. If you want it."

Lucifer's stomach rolled to a complete stop. Dread overtook him suddenly. He shouldn't be listening to this. He shouldn't. He felt like he couldn't breathe.

"And what is that answer?" Diavolo lifted her other hand to kiss the pulse in her wrist. But the muscles in his shoulders belayed his nervousness, tensing and bunching up like a live wire.

[Name] pulled one of her hands free and smoothed the tension out of his shoulders with a smile. She leaned forward again and whispered in his ear, but Lucifer could make it out this time, even over his heart breaking because he knew what the question had been.

"Yes."

Diavolo took a deep inhale and buried his nose in the curve of her collarbone and neck, dragging his lips up the column of her throat. All of the apprehension melted away from him like a glacier under a hot sun until all that was left was a man in love with the woman before him.

"Thank you," the Prince whispered, reaching up and touching the side of her face. She caught his hand in hers, squeezing. "I don't deserve it. Any of it."

"Of course you do." [Name] hummed and ran her hand up and down his back, nuzzling his temple reassuringly. "I know you do, no matter what the nobles say. You're a good man, Diavolo. In more ways than one."

The very words that Lucifer had wanted to hear, yearned to hear from her lips, being pointed at Diavolo, the man who held his life in his hands like a leash─it was the last that his pride could take.

He left them there, in the study and the shadow of the fire, and headed to his room.

Instead he found Barbatos standing in front of his door. The butler looked neither kind or obliging, and there was an edge to the demon that Lucifer had never seen before.

"Barbatos," he greeted him as friendly as he ever did. But he was wary when the greeting fell flat. "Is there something you needed?"

"I will only warn you once." The butler's dark frown grew even more insidious. Whatever he had glimpsed of the potential future, it had not been good, or even remotely something he would sit idly by for. "Do not try and stop fate, Lucifer. This is the one thing that Lord Diavolo will not stand down for you on."

"I don't know what you speak of."

"Play the fool, as you will." Barbatos turned to look down the hall towards the study. "But if you try and take her from him… Be warned that it will end in your demise."

The butler left, vanished into the darkness of the palace as if he had never been there to begin with.

Lucifer unlocked his room and stepped inside.

His pride wouldn't let him take [Name] from Diavolo. And if it did…

His pride would be the death of him.