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Life's For The Living

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James POV

Our little get together for Mammon’s birthday has been going well. I thought it would be hard having everyone over to celebrate and in a way it is, but there’s something healing about it too. It’s going to be a long way off before we’re one big family but I’m glad we came together for Mammon’s day. He deserves it. 

Leila and Lily have stepped out of the room and the brothers are still recounting tales with Mammon. There’s a lot of laughing and shouting going on as can be expected, except there’s no real anger, just bonding. Someone broke out the demonus, as they call it, a while ago and I know things will get rowdy soon enough. 

“Hm, let’s see…” Asmodeus muses. “How else are you similar to our brother?” He taps his lips. They’ve been lightly roasting him all evening. I can tell Mammon just loves the attention no matter how indignant he might sound at times. I can tell he wants and needs to be accepted by his new brothers. 

“I wonder if this Mammon is as much of a cry baby.” Satan teases. 

“Oy! I ain’t no cry baby!” Mammon declares, earning himself plenty of snickers. 

“Suuuure you aren’t” Asmodeus laughs. 

“I ain’t never cried ever!” Mammon lies easily, even I have to roll my eyes now. 

“Pfft!” Leviathan scoffs. “You mean you didn’t cry your eyes out when James died in your arms?” His words slur a bit at the end. “You’re a big liar!” He laughs with a snort. “Our Mammon bawled like a baby when Belphegor killed Lily.”

All laughter dies away. Belphegor is scowling at Leviathan for saying something so stupid and insensitive at Mammon’s birthday. They may be demons but none of the rest of them went that far. I’m about to say something when we hear something crash on the floor. I turn my head to see what happened and see Lily and Leila standing there, the tray of refreshments has slipped from Leila’s hands. 

“What did you say?!” She asks with a horrified and betrayed look on her face. “James died...? Belphie… killed him?” 

Her face becomes white as a sheet. I can see what she’s imagining now, looking from me to Belphegor and back: my death. Killed by a demon. Like her mates were also killed by a demon. One of the mates she loved with all her heart killed me… Maybe we should have told her, back when she first came to the Devildom. We all decided back then to not tell her this detail, since it worked out in the end. If we had told her, she might have not ended up with Belphegor and the two of them would end up unhappy. But if we had told her, she wouldn’t have found out this way…

“Leila…” I stand up, I need to explain it to her, comfort her. Before she does something impulsive. None of us would be able to stop her if she decides to do that in one of her tempers. Solomon is not here...

Lily places a gentle hand on Leila’s arm at the same time and says softly. “Let us explain…”

“NO!” Leila shouts to us, stunning us all with her sudden fury, but also with the tremendous hurt in her voice. “I’m not listening to any of you!” She quickly scoops up a surprised Pandora out of the arms of Lucien and then she vanishes through one of her lightning fast personal portals. She’s become really good with those.

“Way to ruin a party!”

“Look what you’ve done!”

“How did she NOT know?!”

Everyone begins to yell and panic when Leila disappears on us like that until Lucifer finally roars above everyone. “SILENCE!”

“I thought everyone knew…” Leviathan whispers guiltily. “I didn’t mean to…”

“We can worry about that later. Where did she go?” Lucifer asks me, with concern written in his eyes. There aren’t many places in this reality she knows, after all.

“Usually she goes to me if something is bothering her.” I say, feeling helpless. “But she’s mad at me now too…Maybe she went looking for Solomon…” 

Solomon decided not to join in on Mammon’s birthday celebrations today. To give Lily a bit more time and he still has a lot of business in the Devildom. Being on a tight schedule, he promised to bring a gift for Mammon later.

“You think Leila went to the Devildom with Pandora and only having three pacts?!” Lily asks, looking as if she may start bawling at any moment. “Should we go find her?”

“Yes, I’m going to look for her immediately.” Lucifer is ready to go. It does me good to see him so worried about my cousin. Ever since her pact with him was restored, he’s becoming more and more fond of her, while I know he didn’t trust her all that much before.

“I don’t think she would like us storming after her.” I stop him - and the others - before they make things worse. I look around the worried faces, reading on their expressions what they’re thinking. “Leila is really powerful without pacts, too. And trained by Solomon. She won’t easily be forced into a pact. Especially not when she’s furious.”

“If I don’t hear from her in ten minutes I am going after her.” Lucifer gives an ultimatum as he sits down stiffly again. I hardly think that’s enough time.

But then Mammon surprises us by giving a command. “Karasu, go look for her and Solomon.”

I think we were even more surprised when Karasu gave us no witty or sarcastic quip, only standing with a serious nod to Mammon before disappearing into an eerie black vapor and then vanishing all together. Well...that’s something new. 

 

Ten minutes later. 

Lucifer is about to teleport himself to the Devildom to organize a search party, or something, when suddenly someone lands in our midst. Solomon. He has a not so friendly glint in his eyes, but still his ever calm expression on his face as he looks around the group. “A bird told me that you’ve been upsetting my granddaughter.” He says with an accusatory voice. Then he just says with a certain authority. “Lucifer, James, Lily. We’re going to the Devildom to talk with Barbatos. It’s time to get everything out into the open.”

“I was already on my way.” Lucifer practically sneers. I’m sure he doesn’t appreciate being told what to do by Solomon. Looking around I can see that Leviathan has retreated within himself, refusing to meet anyone’s gaze. No one else says a word. You could almost hear a pin drop.

Under different circumstances, the reactions of the others around me are almost comical. They’re definitely not used yet to our Solomon. Still, I know he’s a lot the same as their own was. The difference is hard to describe and probably mostly has to do with Solomon having a living family he protects at all costs. They’ll get used to him. Eventually.

But in any case, Solomon ignores them and in barely any time at all he’s made a teleportation circle for us. The next moment we’re in a cozy little room in the Demon Lord’s Castle where a still distressed looking Leila is sipping from a cup of tea. Karasu sitting on the back of her chair, as if he’s assumed the role of guardian. It’s probably because Mammon would want him here, because he can’t be with her himself right now. Or maybe because Karasu likes to know everything. I have a suspicion it’s a bit of both.

Pandora is making cheerful noises on the floor, playing with an old RAD newspaper she found, enjoying the rustling noises she makes when squeezing the pages. Her little wings flutter weakly on her back and her tail twitches cutely as she plays. I can see Lucifer looking at her for a moment in surprise. He knows she’s a little nephilim, of course. But it’s easy to forget how special Pandora actually is when you have only seen her in the Human World. Lucifer only hesitates for a moment before bending to pick up Pandora as if he’s done it a hundred times before. I can almost imagine what he must be thinking and would probably voice out loud if it weren’t for the current situation.

 

Leila POV

I could not stand to be around them anymore. I couldn’t let Pandora stay with them. They’ve all been deceiving me!! Why did nobody ever tell me?! 

I knew that something had happened between Belphegor and James. Of course I knew that. There was this whole part of the story of James’ first year in the Devildom that they have kept vague about. I assumed Belphegor had attacked him, but I didn't think anything more terrible than that had happened. And he always expressed regret about it. I believed that Barbatos and Diavolo came interrupting something worse just in time. I knew I was the mate of a demon. Even if he was treating me as the most precious thing in the world, Belphegor of course was capable of unspeakable things… But I never imagined… Not to James…How could they pretend to me that didn’t happen?

What could have occured to bring him back to life? It’s not necromancy. James is really alive. With his own living soul in his own living body. I would definitely have noticed if he was not himself. I don’t think he’s that much different as before either. Living for a year in the Devildom changes a person, but James hardly changed. He’s only gotten a bit more serious and mature in some ways.

Before I talk to anyone else, I need to find out exactly what happened. And there is really only one person who knows exactly what happened and doesn’t have the power to refuse to be honest with me. Barbatos. I’ll command him, if I have to…

So I’ve teleported to his strange room. He’s not here and I’m unsure which door leads into the Demon Lord's Castle, so I would rather not touch any of them. I sit down on a chair to wait for him after sending him a message.

Barbatos <> Leila

> Leila: Barbatos, I need to talk with you right now.
> Leila: I’m in your room.
< Barbatos: Of course. I’ll be right over.

If he is surprised, he doesn’t show it. I have accepted the pact with him, but I don’t fully trust him yet. Our bond is still going a little rough, mostly because of me. He’s been perfectly nice and respectful to me, to be fair. But he’s just different. My Barbatos was my friend in the end. This Barbatos… I don’t know… Maybe with time? I’m still glad to have him as my demon. He knows I respect him as he respects me.

While I’m overthinking everything, Barbatos is already here. Standing in one of his odd doorways, he invites me to join him into the Castle. “I will prepare some calming tea for you, Leila.” He tells me after one look at my face. I must look like a mess. “Ah Karasu.” He suddenly says and I look up in surprise. It’s true: Karasu is just flying through the window as Barbatos leads me into a small cozy living room. “Would you mind finding Solomon for us and tell him to bring James and Lily, as well as Lucifer? Thank you.”

Before he does as being asked, Karasu first lands on my shoulder, rubbing his beak against my cheek as he often does to tease me. This time not asking for kisses, though. It’s a gesture of comfort to me. I give him a gentle petting and then he flies off.

“So, Leila.” Barbatos says in a friendly tone, after he served me some tea. “What can I help you with?” 

 

I think he’s already made an educated guess. Still I start telling him what I just discovered, trying my best to keep myself from crying in front of this impressive demon. I don’t think he will consider me weak if I cry, I was crying when I arrived in this reality too, but still. It’s different now. Still the thing with me being emotional is… If I can’t cry, I’m angry. That's often how it goes. So I not only let out my frustration and confusion that they kept this huge secret from me. But also my anger and sadness as to why this all happened to us in the first place. It’s all so unfair! Is there really no way to fix it all back to the way it was?!

I’m still in the middle of my rant when Karasu returns and soon after Solomon arrives with James, Lily and Lucifer. Barbatos makes some more tea for them. Then he starts telling the most unbelievable tale. Unbelievable, if I wasn’t raised to believe that everything is possible. 

He tells about how there are multiple timelines, just as we know there are multiple realities. Lily, so most likely also James, was sent back in time by him and Lord Diavolo to find out who freed Belphegor from the attic. I know this part. This is what they have told me too. 

But then it gets complicated. In several realities they survived, in several they were killed, under several circumstances and by several people. I can’t help cast a suspicious glance at Lucifer, when I hear this. I could feel a sense of guilt coming from him when Barbatos mentioned ‘several people’. Mister Pride and Prejudice is probably not innocent either. Looking at Lily’s face, I know I guessed right. But James doesn’t seem to know this fact. Seems they kept this a secret for him too? Should I keep my suspicion a secret? He would feel as heartbroken as I do, if he knew this… Okay, maybe now I understand a little better the dilemma of telling or not…

In any case, only in one timeline in each of our realities they both met the lost soul of Lilith who merged the remnants of her soul with her descendant with the last spark of her powers. They still would remain Lily and James. But they would also carry the memories of Lilith. The love she felt for her siblings. Making Lily and James more than ‘just’ the descendants of an angel. A more forgiving and gentle person. Barbatos explains how this version of Lily and James is what they needed for the dream of Lord Diavolo.

I can’t help scoff at that. Lord Diavolo. Sounds like he made them go back to the past on purpose to have them killed for his dream of peace and harmony in the Three Worlds. In how many timelines and realities did it fail and our family is torn apart? Are all the first year exchange students, just like Lily and James, in all realities expendable like this? That is no way to achieve that dream! He ruined everything! Do they really believe that this reality’s Lord Diavolo is different? Can nobody see his true nature?!

Solomon places a hand on my shoulder, letting me know to keep my thoughts to myself for now. He’s right: Both Lucifer and Barbatos are very devoted to Lord Diavolo in this reality. Lucifer is frowning at my apparent disrespect and I can’t read much from Barbatos’ face, but I can tell he’s not amused with my scoff either. Though I can also sense from both of them that they understand my point of view. That I just can’t let go of what he did to us. Not yet. If ever.

While I’m in my turmoil of angry and sad emotions of hurt and betrayal, both Lily and James start explaining to me now that because of this merge with Lilith’s soul, they’ve gotten through their fear for Belphegor easier than a normal human ever could, no matter if they were descended from an angel or not. 

“Believe me, I was scared and incredibly hurt by his betrayal at first.” Lily tells me, her voice quivers with emotion and I’m not sure if it's for me or herself. “Once we made a pact, I could feel all his regret and pain and I understood him better. I couldn’t let that moment define me, I still loved him despite it all.” They truly are too nice because of it. They wanted the family to be whole and happy again and stimulated the brothers to forgive him.

“We wanted to give you two a chance of happiness.” James explains to me, placing his hand on my knee. “Belphie was in love with you from the first moment you met. I knew that. And I know you, Leila. Had I told you what he did, while I had forgiven him for it, it would ruin all chances he had with you. It wouldn’t have been much of an act of forgiveness. It would have been sabotage.”

I honestly can’t argue with that. That’s not how James is.

“James told me once that he - no, all of your demons, even Satan - would want to give him a chance to be in a happy, untainted relationship with you.” Lily now tells me, squeezing my hand. “The family being one and happy was very important to all of them.”

Yes. I know this too. For a bunch of idiot demons they’re very close and very fond of each other. Even if you sometimes can’t really tell at first glance. I guess it makes sense. In a way. I still feel betrayed, though. I need some time processing this.

“I can’t even talk with Belphie about this anymore…” I don’t even know why I say this. If I see him again, would I feel just happy he’s alive, or will I hate him for killing James? “I can’t even…” I start crying now. I don’t care anymore who sees me. It’s so unfair. I don’t know what to do with myself. Solomon is telling me for the umpteenth time that everything will eventually be okay, but I just can’t believe it. “What are we even doing here?” I burst out. “Why can’t you reverse time and let us go back?!” I ask Barbatos and it sounds a bit like an accusation. I don’t mean to, but maybe I do. I’m not really myself the past couple weeks.

Barbatos doesn’t get mad or impatient with me. Not that he would show if he did. But I know him, he’s never been mad at me before, he’s not mad now. He stands up and nods at us. “I anticipated this question coming sooner or later.” He tells us, walking to the door. “If you would please follow me, I will explain how this is not possible.”

 

We all walk through the Demon Lord’s Castle now, following Barbatos and Solomon as they explain how time can’t be reversed this time. Why this timeline and reality has to remain the way it is, no matter how painful it might be for everyone.

“The reality where Solomon, Leila, James, Mammon, Lucien and Pandora came from no longer exists. That is to say… It doesn’t in the way you could go back to your old life.” He tells us. “The incantation Solomon was performing, as mentioned by Lucien, reset time in that reality to the very beginning.”

Even Lucifer can’t hold in a strangled noise of distress: We are back in Barbatos’ room and he’s unveiled a sort of portal, except it's sealed like a mirror with a hard surface. Barbatos shows everyone what transpired in the final half hour of our reality. I turn my face away and let James hold me, I can’t watch. I can hear Lily crying quietly as Barbatos must fast forward through the events of our reality. 

“But that's...that’s what the Cult of Barbatos has wanted all along..” I hear Lily gasp. 

“Indeed.” Barbatos agrees. “However, they never can comprehend the full extent of what it means to reset time to the beginning…” I turn to the mirror now to see the world, the universe unraveling until nothing but darkness exists. Barbatos continues. “Once Solomon and my other self realized that reality had gone beyond saving, it was the only option left.”

“That just...seems extreme.” James says, and I can tell he’s in as much shock as I am.

“Lord Diavolo in that reality has brought the apocalypse on the Three Worlds by acting the way he did.” Barbatos says emotionless. “By resetting the time completely, that reality now has a chance to restore itself. It will take as long as it needs. Millions of years. By the time that timeline is restored, perhaps a new version of you all will emerge, or perhaps not. But either way, the world you knew is gone forever, it will never become your reality anymore.” His words are like a bucket of ice thrown over me and I cling to my cousin tighter.

“What about this reality?” Lily whispers, hopefully. “Can’t we go back in time to save Mammon and Solomon?”

“No. Not this time.” Barbatos explains to her. “It’s complicated and there are rules even I cannot break. Once I pulled Leila, James and the others from the void it caused an irreversible event. In short, I can no longer spin time back further than that point. Even if I could, bringing our Mammon and Solomon back would mean that Leila and her friends would languish for eternity in the void.” His explanations are quick to extinguish any spark of hope any of us might have harbored. “In the event anyone would try, regardless of these facts, it would only cause a cataclysmic event for this reality as well. Only one version of each person is allowed to exist in each reality. Lucien is the exception - in a way like you and James are, Lily - because he is no longer the same Luke as he was before.” His warnings leave me chilled. I look up to James and we both realize we have no choice but to accept this new reality as our own.

 

Lily POV

I feel tired, down to my bones when we make it back to everyone waiting for us at Wizard’s Palace. Leila is quick to make a beeline for her room with Pandora, wanting to be alone and not face everyone. Honestly, I can’t blame her. Even Lucifer is shaken by what Barbatos has shown us in the mirror, I know him well enough to know that much, even if he’s acting like business as usual. Leviathan is trying to apologize to anyone who will listen. Lucifer’s barking orders. 

I walk up to Belphegor, he’s sitting off by himself, looking his usual apathetic self but I can feel his anger and sorrow. I brush his bangs back and kiss his forehead. He hides his face against me as he pulls me into a hug. “She hates me.” His voice only reaches my ears as he whispers. My heart aches for him and for Leila. My heart just hurts too much these days. 

“Just give her time Bel.” I know I probably don’t sound as encouraging as I could but honestly, I don’t know what else to do right now. Meanwhile Lucifer is herding everyone towards the door, he wants to leave on his own terms and give Leila the space she desires before they start bothering her with their good intentions. “I’m staying.” I announce as Belphegor lets me go to leave with his brothers. 

“Lily..” Lucifer looks at me with exasperation. I know he doesn’t like me gone from his side for too long since this all happened but I want to stay for Leila and James. And selfishly, I don’t want to be home for the fight that’s probably going to break out as soon as they step foot in Serenity Manor.  “Fine.” Lucifer gives me a curt nod before leaving with everyone else who doesn’t live here at Wizard’s Palace.

“Lucien, why don’t you stay the night with us?” Simeon offers, as they are heading out the door. Lucien looks like maybe he wants to go but isn’t sure. He glances back towards the staircase, probably worried about Leila. 

“Go on ahead. I’ll keep watch on everything here.” Mammon tells him, ruffling his hair. I notice Lucien starts to scowl but then smiles. 

“Well if you’re sure…”

“Come on! It’ll be fun.” Luke says, looking a little flustered but trying to be bright and positive. “I heard you know how to make Fairy Flower sweets? How did you figure out the recipe?” He smiles encouragingly and Lucien grins back proudly. I’m sure this is all very strange for them to have another version of yourself suddenly thrust into your life. I think they’ll be okay though as I see Lucien’s blush and leave with the angels. 

I give James and Mammon a sheepish look when everyone else is gone. “Umm..I hope it’s not a problem, I just invited myself to stay the night.” I laugh nervously. 

“Not at all.” James instantly gives me a warm smile despite everything. “You’re always welcome.”

“That’s right.” Mammon agrees, wrapping the both of us in his arms. “Ain’t a bad end to my birthday if I get to spend it with my humans.”

I grin at them both, thankful. I didn’t want to leave after what happened. “So...should we go see Leila?” 

James shakes his head. “Let’s give her a little more time. She’ll probably come down after she puts Pandora to bed.” I nod, trusting James to know his cousin best. 

As tired as I am, I can’t sit still waiting. So I make myself busy cleaning up and once I’m done with that I look for something for Leila. There’s no leftover cake thanks to Beelzebub but I found a tub of chocolate ice cream. Grabbing several long spoons I make my way to the living room, sure enough I find Leila snuggled between Mammon and James. “Ice cream?” I ask. And somehow all four of us manage to sit together, sharing a gallon of ice cream straight from the tub.