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Radio Healed the Video Star

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Banner by espererwhisper

 

When Alastor bursts into the hotel’s lobby and demands to know Niffty’s location, the demons currently lounging there – Angel Dust, Charlie, and a hungover Husker – are hesitant to answer. The Radio Demon always seems in a state of mania, but at that moment, they can see the lines of frequency bouncing in his eyes and dark blood dripping down his chin. His shadows surge forth, throwing open cabinets and doors looking for the tiny maid. Even Alastor’s trademark smile seems more feral than usual.

       “Well,” he presses once more. When they don’t answer, he sighs and waves a hand. Niffty appears in a puff of smoke and flames holding a ball peen hammer in one hand and a struggling rat in the other. She drops the rat, and it runs for the front door which Alastor hadn’t closed.

       “Niffty!” Alastor crows, smile widening. “So very good to see you. I know you must be very busy, and I hate to pull you away from your work. I know how much you enjoy fulfilling your duties. Unfortunately, I have need of your meticulous little hands and keen eye! Come with me.” Niffty doesn’t get a chance to respond before Alastor lifts her up. He says nothing more as he turns to leave, a confused Niffty tucked under his arm like a stuffed animal.

       “The fuck was that about?” Husk grumbles. Out of all of them, he’s used to the Radio Demon’s idiosyncrasies having known him the longest, but even he didn’t know what to make of…whatever the hell that was just now.

       Charlie looks at the door (which Alastor still hadn’t closed) with concern. “I hope everything’s all right,” she murmurs.

       “Meh,” Husk rolls over onto his side. “I’m sure it’s nothing Alastor can’t handle. And even if he can’t, that ain’t our business.”

       Charlie looks at the winged cat, distraught at the notion of one of her friends (maybe?) needing help (possibly?) and not doing anything about it. “But!”

       “Princess, give it a rest.”

       Angel stretches his long limbs and yawns. “Have to agree with Husky,” he says. “If Smiles needs ya, he would have asked for ya. The only person he asked for was Small and Mighty.”

       Charlie still looks uncertain, but she lets the subject drop until Vaggie walks into the room, her head bent over a clipboard. “Vaggie, something’s wrong with Alastor!”

       Vaggie looks up, shocked by her girlfriend’s outburst. “Hun, slow down. What’s going on?”

       “Nothing’s going on,” Husker pipes up from the couch. “Al came in, grabbed Niffty, and left. That’s all.”

       Vaggie narrows her eye at the door. She walks to it, peering outside before closing it with a click. “Charlie, Alastor’s an Overlord. Even if he’s in trouble, he’s powerful enough to handle it.” She walks over to her upset lover and takes hold of her face. Vaggie presses her forehead against Charlie’s and hums a bit until the tension seeps from the princess’s body.

       “Hey,” Angel Dust shouts. “How come you two are allowed to do the PDA thing, but I’m not?”

       Vaggie whirls, eye flashing. “Because,” she growls, “Your idea of PDA is giving Husker a lap dance and shoving your tongue down his throat!”

       Angel Dust rolls his eyes. “One time! One time I did that,” he says and then adds, “And it was for a special occasion!”

       Vaggie looks visibly annoyed. “Please tell me your ‘special’ occasion wasn’t the incident where you leveled a street fighting Sir Pentious. You have any idea what a PR nightmare that was?! You decimated the only good curry place on that block!”

       Angel Dust looks forlorn as he remembers. When he’d discovered Daal Up That Spice’s sign among the rubble, the spider demon had shed a tear. “Of course, I don’t mean that! I’m talking about the anniversary of when Husky took me out on our first date!”

       “Aww,” Charlie coos. “That’s so romantic!”

       “Charlie, we walked in on Angel almost giving Husker head.”

       “Bitch, I told you I dropped something! I was just kneeling to retrieve it!” Angel readjusts his chest fluff. “Not my fault you jumped to conclusions!”

Vaggie bristles and takes a step forward, finger pointing accusingly. “Oh, I was just jumping to conclusions? So, I didn’t hear you say, ‘I can’t wait to suck you dry, Pretty Kitty’?”

Thankfully, Angel is spared needing to answer because the front door flies open. The sound of it smacking against the wall startles Husker awake and he scrambles over the couch, and braces for an attack.

Alastor strides in and greets them. “Good evening, everyone,” he says. “I apologize for my rudeness earlier, but time was of the essence.”

They don’t reply. Not right away. They’re all too busy staring slack-jawed at what Alastor’s carrying.

Vaggie is the one who snaps out of it first. “Alastor, what the hell is that?” she gestures with both hands to what he’s holding.

Alastor arches an eyebrow. He looks from Vaggie to the bundle in his arms then back to Vaggie. “Why this is Vox, my dear. Surely, you’ve heard of him. His products are literally everywhere!”

Angel Dust looks like he doesn’t know whether to stay or bolt from the room. How does one react when Alastor the freaking Radio Demon walks in carrying his unmoving rival (and Valentino’s fucking boyfriend) in his arms? “Is he dead,” Angel squawks. He begins inching toward the stairs. If he’s got to bolt to spare himself from Valentino’s wrath, he’ll need to grab Fat Nuggets and pack a bag for himself and Husker because what kind of piece of shit would he be if he left his boyfriend to deal with the nuclear fallout of this fuckery and—

Angel feels a clawed hand move to rest gently on the small of his back. As if he somehow senses his lover’s inner meltdown, Husk came to soothe him. Angel Dust takes a deep breath and gives the cat a nod and a shaky smile.

Alastor chuckles. “No, he’s not dead. Merely unconscious. Although, I suppose that his current condition needs remedying or it could prove fatal.”

Vox’s “current condition” as Alastor put it, was that the screen of his face was smashed to shit, and he was currently leaking electric blue blood down his front. They could see horrible wounds bleeding through the rips in his clothing.

“Alastor,” Charlie says in quiet horror. “Did you do this?”

Alastor blinks. He laughs. “No, but I suppose I could see why’d you think that. No, no. I’m afraid this isn’t my handiwork.” He pauses and looks down at Vox. For a moment, his smile grows tighter, and they can hear the sound of static filling the air as his eyes rove over the Overlord’s body. His gaze lingers unblinkingly on Vox’s shattered face and the screeching static’s wails grow so loud that the others cover their ears.

Niffty bounces into the room holding a box of glass shards. Alastor blinks and the godawful noise ceases. “Ah, Niffty! Did you get them all?” When she nods, Alastor beams. “Splendid,” he says. He begins to walk toward the stairs, ignoring the others and their attempts to get him to provide and explanation. “I’m afraid I must take my leave. Poor Vox needs to be put to bed. He won’t get any better if he doesn’t get plenty of rest. Niffty, if you’d be a dear and follow me.”

They watch as Alastor climbs the stairs with Niffty springing after him. When he’s out of sight (and hopefully out of earshot) Angel Dust let’s out a wail. “The fuck?” he drags his uppers hands down his face. “The fuck?” He says again and points in the direction of where they’d seen Alastor go. “I—He—The fuck?!” Angel collapses in a chair and covers his face with his hands.

“I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation for this,” Charlie begins.

“Like what,” Angel asks, voice shrill. “Val is going to burn this entire place to the goddamned ground with us inside!”

Charlie opens her mouth to respond but pauses. She looks over at Husker who has by then settled back into the couch. “Husk,” Charlie sings. She slides over to him and kneels so she’s by his ear. “You know what would be great?”

The cat demon rolls over on his side and tries to ignore her.

Charlie pokes him in the back. “If you could go upstairs—”

“No,” Husk says and swats at her.

“—and check on Alastor and his, um, guest!’

“It ain’t our business,” Husk growls. He sits up. Husk squints at Charlie. She’s giving him the sad puppy eyes. He hates the sad puppy eyes. He sighs, “You’re not going to leave me alone until I do it, are ya?” When Charlie gives him her brightest smile, he sighs again. “Fine. I’ll go see what the fuck he’s up to, but you owe me!”

 

Husker curses under his breath as he scales the stairs. Angel follows him part way, breaking away when they approach his door. He’s never seen the spider demon so shaken up and knows his lover is about to make a nest of blankets and spend the rest of the day hiding away. Anything dealing with that rat Valentino always puts Angel on edge. Husk would bet his left wing that Angel is already nestled in a bundle of blankets and cuddling Fat Nuggets to calm his nerves.

       I’ll bring him a pint of ice cream and a stiff drink later, Husk promises. He rounds the corner and heads to a door that leads to yet another set of stairs. Alastor’s room is in a tower that he magicked to attach itself to the rest of the hotel. Husk climbs the winding staircase, pausing for a minute when he’s halfway to catch his breath. As he gets closer to the top, Husker can hear soft swing music. Alastor’s door is slightly ajar and Husk peeks inside. From his current angle, he can’t see Alastor, Niffty, or their new friend. With a beleaguered sigh, Husk pushes the door open and enters the room.

       Not many can say they’ve been inside Alastor’s room. Well, room isn’t the right word. It’s more of a penthouse. A penthouse with a radio studio attached because even though he has his studio across town, the Radio Demon wanted one closer because in his words: “Inspiration strikes at all hours of the night!” And since it’s created by his magic, it didn’t cost Charlie anything so they couldn’t complain about it. For the most part it looks normal enough. Polished hardwood floors, red wallpaper, a hanging chandelier of gold and crystal. A full kitchen with a little breakfast nook. Real fancy.

       But.

       Husk knows that’s just window dressing. He knows that if you far enough into the apartment, Alastor’s got doors that lead to other places. Places that shouldn’t exist, not in this space. One time, Husk made the mistake of opening one of those doors and found himself face to face with a bayou. The door led to a pier with a rowboat tied to it and the cat demon could see a rickety house on stilts. The windows of the house were lit with unnerving yellow lights that made the cat demon feel like the building was studying him back.  Husk had closed that door and never gone through it again.

       Alastor’s bedroom is strangely spartan. He has a bed, a desk, hanging shelves, two standing lamps by his desk and by a highbacked armchair. Alastor currently sits in the chair, watching intently as Niffty carefully inserts broken shards of glass into Vox’s screen like the world’s worst jigsaw. Husker can’t help but watch in fascination as the cracks seal themselves with each shard that’s replaced.

       “Ah, Husker!” Alastor says after finally noticing the cat demon’s presence. “To what do I owe this unexpected and unwanted visit?”

       Husk snorts. “I came here for an explanation, is all.” He gestures at Vox. Alastor has relinquished his bed to the other Overlord and Vox sits propped up against the headboard as Niffty works. Vox sags forward looking for all the world like a puppet with severed strings. His jacket lies on the floor next to his shoes and his what remains of his vest and shirt are soaked through. Niffty hums along with the melody of the music playing from the phonograph on Alastor’s desk.

       “Husker.”

       The cat demon tears his eyes away from the injured Overlord and gives his full attention to Alastor. “I’m just saying,” Husk continues, “It’s weird that you’re going through all this trouble to fix him. I just don’t get it. Why bother?”

       Alastor turns his gaze to Vox and doesn’t answer. His screen looks a thousand times better than before. Husk sees the Radio Demon’s hands gripping the armrests of his chair. He sees the claws digging into the upholstery.

Husk squints at him. His jaw drops. “Holy shit,” the cat demon lowers himself to the floor. “You didn’t do this.”

Alastor lets out a huff. “As I said,” he mutters.

“And you’re pissed that it happened.”

Alastor releases his death grip on the chair. “He’s my rival. If he’s going to die by anyone’s hand it should be mine.” There’s a rage burning in his eyes now. “If he’s to die, then it should be in a glorious battle.” With each word, static fills the air and the overhead lights flicker.

Husk nods. “You have any idea who did it,” he asks.

Alastor pauses. “I didn’t at first, but thanks to our darling Niffty and her incorrigible social medias habit—”

“I’ve told you a thousand times. You can just say ‘social media.’ No ‘s’.”

“I have a suspicion of who is to blame for this distasteful offense.” Alastor continues as if Husk hadn’t spoken. The Radio Demon leans back into his seat. “But that’s for later, I’m afraid. Niffty, how goes the repair?”

“Almost done,” Niffty says. She places the last piece into Vox’s screen. “Aaaaand finished! Ta-da!” She waves her hands in a grand flourish. “All better!”

But he isn’t.

Vox’s screen is indeed fixed, but it remains black, and the demon sits motionless. Alastor considers him. He claps his hands. “What Vox needs is rest! Yes, that’s it.” He snaps his fingers, and his shadow peels off from the wall. “Fetch me the first-aid kit,” he orders it. “Niffty, my dear. Would you mind taking care of his clothes?”

Niffty lets out a squeal of joy and begins unbuckling Vox’s pants.

“No! No! No!” Alastor snaps his fingers again and another shadow picks up Niffty by the collar and hauls her away. “His slacks are fine, Niffty. I meant his shirt, vest, and jacket. They’re in a desperate need of laundering.”

“Oh,” Niffty says with a sheepish smile. “Right. That makes more sense. Although,” she leans forward and narrows her eye. “If I’m being honest, I think the shirt’s a goner. No saving it. I can check to see what we got in Lost and Found.”

Alastor looks at her in horror. He’s seen what detritus remains in the Lost and Found. There’s no way in Hell, any rival of his would be caught alive or dead in some demon’s forgotten Cumfest 2019 t-shirt. “Absolutely not!”

“Well, maybe Angel Dust has something he can borrow?”

Alastor snorts. Husk gives the Radio Demon a warning hiss.

“We’ll cross that bridge later,” Alastor says with a wave of his hand. His shadow reappears holding a first aid kit and bottle of antiseptic.

Niffty strips Vox of his tattered shirt and vest. She carries both items along with the jacket high above her head as she skitters past. “I’ll get these cleaned,” she promises.

“Excellent,” Alastor smiles. “Husk, why don’t you go spend time with Angel? I sensed he was upset by my decision to bring Vox here.”

“No shit,” Husk grumbles. He turns on his heels and prepares to leave, but he stops. “Look, Al. I don’t get why you do half the stuff you do, but if you need any help then you know where to find me.”

Alastor grins. “While I appreciate the sentiment, Husk I’m afraid that it’s wasted. As my thrall, you’re required to provide me with assistance, whether you want to or not.”

Husk’s ears flatten against his head, and he bares his teeth. “Fuck you, Al.” he throws open the door and storms off.

Alastor shrugs and closes his door. He’s left alone with Vox. He walks over to the bed so he can get a better look at the other Overlord.

He comes to a dead stop when he sees the true extent of the damage.

There’s a gunshot wound on Vox’s shoulder. Multiple lacerations and gashes cover his torso and Alastor can see bruises too.

Alastor’s vision bleeds red. He can feel his teeth and claws extending as his rage overtakes him. His head feels heavy as his antlers begin to grow and branch.

Alastor wants to maim. He wants to kill.

No. There will be time for that later.

Right now, Vox needs him.

He takes a deep breath and delivers orders to his shadows. They flit about gathering the tools that he needs. While they do, Alastor removes his coat and folds it neatly over the back of his chair. He rolls up his sleeves and removes his gloves. One by one his shadows return with the items he requested: a basin of water and wash cloths. The antiseptic is all well and good, but he needs to clean away the excess blood.

Alastor takes a seat as best he can near Vox, suddenly very glad that he didn’t go with his initial idea to push the bed against the wall. Vox doesn’t stir even as the mattress sinks with Alastor’s added weight. The shadow holding the basin glides forward, careful not to spill any water. Alastor takes one of the cloths and dips it into the water.

Not too hot. Good. His shadows have a difficult time gauging temperature. It’s part of the reason he no longer used them to cook – that and their lack of taste buds.

At the first touch of the cloth against one of his wounds, Alastor feels Vox flinch. It’s the most responsive he’s been since this ordeal started and it gives the Radio Demon hope. Alastor utters a gentle apology and continues. The record eventually ends so Alastor works in silence. Too soon that silence becomes unbearable, and Alastor begins chattering to fill it. His choice of topics all over the place. He shares the gossip he’s heard from Niffty and Angel; he brings up the weather once or twice; he even talks about some of his favorite places to go out for midday strolls. The rose gardens before you get to the Cannibal Colony look especially lovely this time of year.

Through the entirety of it, Vox remains still and silent. When the blood is washed away, Alastor begins to apply antiseptic. He’s not sure if he’s doing this right. To be honest, he’s much more used to inflicting wounds than he is to heal them, but the deer demon feels an uncharacteristic need to do this. He doesn’t know why, but he does.

Well, he knows why.

He needs to see. Needs to see what was done to Vox. Needs to see and file it away so that it will be there in his mind’s eye when he exacts retribution against the culprit.

Before he can lose himself in his anger once more, Alastor’s sensitive ears pick up a sound. “Excuse me, Vox,” he says. “You appear to be, hmm, vibrating?”

The source of the noise seems to originate from one of Vox’s pants pockets. Alastor assumes it must be one of those cellular telephone devices that everyone seems to have nowadays. The vibrating continues and Alastor’s brows knit. He dries his hand and begins to reach for Vox’s pocket.

He stops. Tries again. Stops again.

“You do it,” he orders his shadow doppelganger. Is it his imagination or did the shadow’s grin grow wider? “I didn’t summon you for sass!” Alastor growls.

His shadow chitters with amusement and reaches into Vox’s pocket and pulls out the device. Alastor takes it and gives it the once over.

Here’s a little secret that Alastor is loathed to share:

Alastor is actually fully aware of how modern technology works.

He just prefers to give an air of ignorance, so people don’t bother him to do things he doesn’t want to do. Plus, in his opinion technology from before the 1930s was just superior. What was wrong with candlestick phones? They were just as efficient as these little squares. And don’t even get him started on computers! Vaggie’s constant harping that he could handle his administrative duties better if he digitized his paperwork made no sense. Alastor had a perfectly good file cabinet in his office, but when he told the moth demon that you’d think by the look of horror on her face he'd told her he was writing on cave walls.

That was one of the reasons he pretended to be unable to decipher technology. The second?

The employees of the Happy Hotel love leaving their phones around him because they think he can’t figure out how to work them. Some of them don’t even bother with password protection. Vaggie does, but one strategically placed shadowy spy later and Alastor knew her passcode was ‘mi princessa’ all lowercase and no spaces. Charlie’s is Vaggie’s death day. Angel doesn’t have one, but he has several burner phones for emergencies. Husker doesn’t password protect his phone because he’s often too drunk to remember one. Niffty always keeps her phone on her person because she’s the only one who knows Alastor’s dirty secret (but she won’t ruin his fun).

So, he isn’t a complete luddite.

Alastor’s eyebrow arches as he looks at Vox’s phone. He would have expected the Media Lord to have a password on his phone, but lo and behold.

He does have a lovely picture of a demon shark as his wallpaper.

He also has missed calls and messages from a “Tino” and a few from Velvet.

Alastor looks at Vox who hasn’t moved. The phone vibrates in Alastor’s hand.

Another message from Tino.

“Well, this simply won’t do,” Alastor says a bit louder than necessary. “How can we guarantee a speedy recovery if you’re constantly being bombarded by these textual messages—” he purposely uses the wrong word to sell the act. “—on this mobile telephone? No sir, I’m afraid the only feasible choice is to confiscate this to ensure that you’re able to get some proper rest. No distractions. Don’t worry. I’ll put it in a safe location, away from prying eyes.” Except for mine, he adds mentally.

Alastor slides the phone into his coat pocket and puts the dirtied washcloths in his hamper for Niffty to launder later. The wash basin had to be emptied and refilled twice when he cleaned Vox and he makes a note to wash it later. Usually, the scent and sight of blood whet his appetite. In this circumstance, all Alastor could taste was the sour sting of bile. “Back in a moment!” He walks from the room and closes the door behind him. In his sitting parlor, Alastor investigates the missed messages.

Tino *3:45p*: Wheree u at?

Tino *3:46*: Why aren’t you picking up the phone

Tino *3:51*: Are stillfucking sulking

Tino *3:51*: *you still fucking

Tino *4:00p *: Bby I’m sorry. You just make me so angry.

Tino *4:05*: Stop fuckin ignoring me

Tino *4:06*: Vine

Tino *4:06*: *Fine

Tino *4:07*: be that way

Tino *5:27p*: just so you fucking know you MAKE me hurt you. You knew I was pissed and you kept pushing my buttons. Now you’re playing the fucking vic—

Alastor’s microphone shrieks with feedback. With shaking hands, he walks over to a wall safe hidden behind a still life painting of a bloated carcass in bayou water and puts Vox’s phone inside.

Alastor goes back into his bedroom. He silently and carefully lowers Vox under the covers. He puts a pillow under his head and pulls the quilt over him. Alastor puts on a new record, a compilation of soothing strings that he listens to on those nights when sleep evades him. He assigns two shadows to act as sentinels.

When all the ducks are in a row, Alastor bids Vox a soft goodnight, grabs his coat from the chair, and dims the lights. He exits the room, leaving the other Overlord to get some much-needed rest.

As soon as he’s out of the room, Alastor lets himself succumb to the anger he’s feeling. His microphone pops with static and shrieks. Already he can feel the telltale ache of his antlers growing. Alastor heads for his front door, pausing for just a moment to grab one more item before heading out.

As he walks, Alastor’s head fills with the white noise of static. He’s on autopilot as he descends the stairs, making his way to the bar where Husker and Niffty both sit. Husk wipes down glasses and Niffty writes in her notebook. They look up when they see him approach, Niffty raises a hand to greet him, but stops when he gets closer.

       “I’m going for a walk,” Alastor announces before either of them can say anything. “Niffty, if you could be a dear and check on Vox in a bit. I think he’s sleeping, but it’s hard to tell in his current state.”

       Husk and Niffty exchange a look. Husk clears his throat. “Are you going for a walk or one of your walks?”

       Alastor pulls back his coat and reveals the knife hidden beneath.

       Husk sighs, then nods. “I’ll make sure the Princess and her better half are outta the building when you come back. In case you need to transport something.” It wouldn’t do for Charlie to learn of her first (and thus far only) sponsor’s ongoing hobby.

       “Good man,” Alastor gives the cat demon a nod before leaving the hotel.

       Usually when he hunted, Alastor chose a victim at random. Luckily for him, he knew just who should provide him an outlet for his current frustration.

       When he had come across Vox, the tv headed Overlord hadn’t been alone.

       He had been brutalized, busted, and bloodied but not alone.

       Some Sinner demon, a skinny mucus covered toad of a demon, had been standing over him. This pathetic little fool had been psyching himself up, trying to summon the courage to snuff out the defenseless Vox. It would do wonders for his status once he paraded around Hell with the decapitated head of the fallen Overlord. Didn’t matter that he wasn’t the one who had softened Vox up, as long as he took credit for the final blow.

       The little fool had been so distracted by his fantasies that he hadn’t heard Alastor approach, not until the deer demon let out a vicious snarl. The Sinner demon had whipped around, realized who stood there, and promptly bolted. As he wasn’t covered in any of Vox’s blood, Alastor had let him go.

       That was then and this was now.

       It just wouldn’t do to let this filth go about unharmed. No, no, no. Something must be done. This fool thought he could kill an Overlord.

       Alastor’s joints elongate as he walks. He scents the air.

       He thought—

       He thought he could kill Vox. The little fool.

       Alastor can smell him. He’s near. He’s so very near.

       He would have killed Vox, if Alastor hadn’t been there and the very idea enrages the demon further. That someone as strong as Vox would have been killed by some lesser Sinner demon who lucked into being in the right place at the right time. Who just so happened to come across an Overlord incapable of defending himself.

       Why, the very thought of it makes Alastor want to disembowel something.

       The sounds of static and bouncing frequencies fill the air as Alastor closes in on his prey. The world around him disappears. He only has eyes for the unfortunate soul who didn’t have the good sense to be elsewhere.

       The demon in question is looking at something on his phone when Alastor’s hand envelopes his face. He tries to scream, but he can’t as Alastor drags him into an unoccupied alley.

       It only seems appropriate…

       When he returns to the hotel, Alastor taps his knuckles against the front door. He carries a particularly heavy burden in a burlap sack and even though it hasn’t awoken yet, it’s only a matter of time. Alastor wants to be upstairs in his nice, sound-proof work area before that happens.

       Husk opens the door. “You should really look into getting a phone,” the cat demon tells him. “Be easier to coordinate these things.”

       Alastor gives him a guileless smile. “Oh, Husker! You know I don’t have the slightest idea how to work one of those accursed doohickeys,” he says like a lying liar, “I’d be coming to you at all hours, needing assistance. Could you imagine?” Alastor suppresses a chuckle as Husk’s eyes glaze over in horror as he imagines such a scenario. “And where are dear Charlotte and Vagatha at this moment?”

       Husk shakes himself. “Gone,” he says. “Angel wanted to take Nuggets for a walk in the park. He got them to tag along.”

      “Splendid!” Alastor pushes Husk out of the way and makes his way for the stairs. He can feel the slight stirring from his victim. Oh, that wouldn’t do. Alastor was sure he’d dashed the demon’s head against the bricks hard enough to ensure he’d be out for at least another hour. Oh well. “How is Vox,” he asks Niffty. “Any changes?”

       She shakes her head. “Honestly, it’s hard to tell. Not with his face all dark like that.”

       Alastor hums in agreement before bidding them both a good evening and heading upstairs. His quarry grows restless, and he needs to get it strapped to a table.

       Alastor throws open the door to his bedroom, then mentally curses. Luckily, his doppelganger swoops forward and keeps the offending object from banging against the wall. The Radio Demon gives his shadow a quick nod of thanks before heading to the door that Husk makes a point to avoid. He throws his prey into his skiff and climbs inside. He rows with practiced ease until he reaches the stilt house. The light from the windows reflect off his monocle and gives him a warm feeling on the inside.

Like coming home, he muses.

He ties the boat, then hefts the body of his victim onto the dock. After that it’s a matter of getting him up the stairs and inside. Simple enough. The front door opens for Alastor. The inside of the house changes based on Alastor’s need. At that moment, Alastor needs his workroom. A metal table stands in the middle of the room under a swinging bulb. There are shelves and smaller work benches covered in sharp instruments. There’s a plastic tarp under the table like an area rug. Alastor straps the unlucky demon to the table.

       By now, the demon is much more awake. He looks around, blearily until he’s able to focus his eyes on Alastor’s grinning visage. “Holy shit! I know you.”

       “Yes,” Alastor purrs. “Most do. Allow me to welcome you to a very special area within the Hazbin Hotel. Not many people know about it, and I’d like to keep it that way. Mums the word. So, no screaming.”

       His prey immediately begins to wail which Alastor knew he would. They always scream when he tells them not to. It’s very rude.

       A laugh track plays from Alastor’s microphone as he leans over the trapped demon. “Sorry, my friend. I was just having a bit of fun. I took great care to have this particular room soundproofed.” His eyes glow under the dim light. “I’m afraid no help is coming. So sad.” His microphone plays violin music.

       Tears well up in the other demon’s eyes. “What did I ever do to you,” he blubbers. “I ain’t ever wronged the Radio Demon.”

       The violin music cuts abruptly, and Alastor’s eyes shift to dials. “I found you standing over Vox,” he hisses. Alastor uses a claw to lift the demon’s chin so he can look him in the eyes. “Were you going to kill him?”

       The other’s eyes shift left to right. It’s obvious he’s trying to figure out what answer would please Alastor and save his life.

       He chooses wrong…

       “Y-yeah,” the demon stammers. He gives Alastor a shaky grin. “I was going to off old TV Head. You got any idea what that would’ve done for my cred? What’s it to you? I thought you two hated each other’s guts. I was doing you a favor.”

       Alastor’s shadows surge into the room, blocking what little light came from the single bulb overhead. The radio screeching must be unbearable, if the other demon’s pained screams are anything to go by. Alastor can’t find it in himself to care.

       “Vox is too good to be killed by the likes of you,” Alastor sneers. “A worthless little bottom feeder who relies on sheer luck. A craven opportunist who didn’t even put in the work, just stumbled on the injured party and sought to steal the kill.”

       The demon starts to blubber. “Why are you angry? You fucking hate him.”

       Alastor stops.

       Why is he so angry?

       This piece of stool is right. He and Vox are enemies. Hated adversaries of the worst kind. By all rights, it should delight him at Vox suffering such a humiliating death at the hands of a lesser demon.

       But.

       Alastor can still remember the cold dread that washed over him when he came upon Vox’s fallen form. He’d been drawn by the familiar scent of blood and his curiosity had gotten the better of him. He’d never seen Vox look so broken and the Radio Demon had moved almost on instinct. He didn’t know why, but he couldn’t let the other Overlord die. Not in some back alley.

       Alastor narrows his eyes. He goes over to another table covered with supplies and picks up a thick cloth and a rolled leather bundle. He returns to the side of his quarry and unceremoniously shoves the cloth into the demon’s mouth. “That’s enough from you,” he says. “Usually, I wouldn’t bother as no one can literally hear you, but I’m growing annoyed from your constant jawing. Now,” Alastor removes his coat and hands it to a nearby shadow. The shadow moves to place the coat on a wall hook. He unrolls the bundle revealing the tools he’d be using that even. Alastor selects a blade and caresses it as he smiles down at the demon. “Let’s begin, shall we?”

       Two and a half hours later, Alastor exits the room with his arms full of wrapped, freshly butchered meat and a contented smile gracing his face. He takes the meat over to the ice box in kitchen and shoves his new supplies inside. He enjoys having his meals with the others downstairs, but sometimes Alastor liked to have his private meals to satiate his particular cravings. Once the meat is safely housed in the ice box, Alastor returns to his workroom. He summons the void and has his shadows toss the refuse into the hole. He doesn’t know where the gore and intestines will end up and frankly, he doesn’t care.

       Humming to himself, Alastor washes up in the bathroom and strips off his bloodied clothes. He leaves them in the hamper for Niffty and slips on a dapper silk robe and a pair of lounging slippers. Alastor opens the door to his bedroom and peers inside.

       The music player has stopped once again, but it appears that Vox is no worse for wear. In fact, the Overlord has turned to face the wall, his body curled, and the blankets pulled tightly around him. It’s not much, but the change of position feels like a victory to Alastor.

       Unfortunately, the Radio Demon becomes aware of a new issue.

       Where is he to sleep?

       With a self-deprecating chuckle, he opens a drawer and pulls out a blanket. Looks like it’s the couch, he thinks with a grimace. He certainly wasn’t going to kick the healing Vox out of the bed. If Angel were here, the lanky spider demon would grin and suggest that the bed was big enough for the both of them, then Alastor would have his shadows throw him out a window, and then Husker would get all huffy and accuse Alastor of trying to murder his lover.

       Honestly, the couch is the better option.

       Still, there’s a part of him that wonders if this is all some sort of elaborate scheme on Vox’s part. Alastor knows that makes no sense (what could he gain from being left in such a sorry state), but he can’t help being paranoid. He assigns his doppelganger to stand watch over Vox and to act as his eyes.

       Alastor curls up on the couch and finds it surprisingly easy to drift off.

       The next morning, he immediately seeks out his shadow. Vox still sleeps with his face toward the wall, body still curled into a tight ball. Alastor’s shadow comes when summoned and follows him back to the living room, where Alastor dips his hand into the shadow’s inky chest. His eyes glow with faint blue energy as he replays what his shadow experienced and saw.

       Sometime during the night, Vox lurches up in the bed. He flails blindly for a moment as if fighting someone off, chest heaving from exertion until his wounds remind him of his condition. He wraps his arms around himself and sits there for a moment, head bowed and trembling. His screen still hasn’t powered on. Vox sits for a moment longer before he starts squirming, then he slides off the bed. He feels around blindly. When his foot connects with the forgotten washbasin, Vox comes to a stop. He bends and feels the washbasin before standing upright. He stands there for a moment in the low light as if considering something.

       His shoulders sag in a dejected sort of way as he seems to reach a conclusion.

       Vox reaches for his belt.

       Luckily, Alastor’s shadow intervenes. It places a hand on Vox’s arm causing the Overlord to reel backwards in shock. Undeterred, the shadow takes Vox by the hand and tries to coax him to follow. With little options, Vox does so.

       Alastor sees his sleeping form on the couch, slumbering unaware that his shadow is leading his arch-nemesis to the bathroom. He doesn’t know how he slept through it. The shadow leads Vox to the bathroom and gives the demon some privacy. Alastor can hear Vox relieving himself, the toilet flushes, and then he hears the sink being ran. The door reopens and Vox stands there. He offers his hand to the waiting shadow who takes it and leads him back to bed.

       Vox doesn’t move again for the rest of the night.

       Alastor pulls his hand away and blinks. So, it wasn’t some elaborate scheme to get him to drop his guard…

       Alastor goes to the safe and checks Vox’s phone.

       More messages from Valentino. They range from foul-mouthed curses to outright threats.

       There’s a picture sent around three in the morning. It’s of Valentino splayed on a bed. His trademark coat unbuttoned and opened; he wears nothing underneath. One of his hands wraps around his erection and he grins at the camera.

       Wish you were here. Too bad you’re being a fucking baby. Guess I’ll have to find someone else to help me with this.

       The next picture he sends is of two young women looking at the camera as they run their tongues up the length of Valentino’s cock. Valentino sneers and flips off the camera.

       I found some volunteers. Never needed you, fucker. Always remember that.

       Alastor reminds himself that this isn’t his property so it would be rude to smash it against the wall. Instead, he places the phone back into the safe and takes a few cleansing breaths.

       Food. Vox needs food.

Yes. He should go down to the kitchens and see if anyone’s prepared breakfast yet. With a new goal to distract him from his burning hatred of the moth demon pimp, Alastor heads downstairs.

       The kitchen is empty. It’s apparently still too early for any of the other hotel residents to be up and about. Alastor snorts. Well, there was no way he was making breakfast down here. The second those layabouts smelled a sizzling egg; they’d come downstairs and expect him to do the same for them. While he enjoyed making the occasional group meal, he wasn’t about to be suckered into becoming the go-to chef.

       Alastor gathers up a few eggs, a wedge of cheese, a carton of milk, and a loaf of bread.

       He always finds himself humming when he cooks. It’s a nonsense song his mother would sing while she washed collards for Sunday meals. He didn’t remember the words, only the tune.

He thinks that maybe it was about a drunk rabbit being chased by a fox and being too fat to fit down his burrow.

Or maybe it was about a fox too drunk to chase a fat rabbit?

In any case, the tune remains, and Alastor hums it.

He takes two completed breakfasts into his bedroom. Vox still lies in bed. Maybe he’s asleep or maybe he’s not. Niffty was right when she said it was hard to tell.

“Good morning, Vox,” Alastor says as boisterously as possible. “I’ve made breakfast. Most important meal of the day! Although I’d argue that any meal is important if you go long enough without one!” Cue laugh track.

Is it his imagination, or did he see Vox shrink at the sound of his voice?

“Apologies,” Alastor says, “I suppose that’s a bit loud for so early, hm?” He takes a seat at the foot of the bed. He places a plate and near Vox’s knees. “It’s nothing fancy, but no one’s ever complained about my scrambled eggs and toast,” Alastor pauses then grins wider. “Or at least no one who’s ever lived to talk about it!”

There’s no response from Vox even after the laugh track dies away. Alastor eats his breakfast in silence. Maybe the television demon is shy about eating around others? Maybe he’s not hungry? He did have a traumatic day yesterday , Alastor realizes. It wouldn’t surprise me if his appetites suffered. “I’m sure Niffty has finished laundering your clothes. Well, your coat. I’m afraid that the shirt was a lost cause.” Alastor’s smile almost falls as he remembers. “We’ll find you something. Don’t worry. Until then, get some rest and eat. Not to sound like a mother hen, but you need your strength.”

Still Vox doesn’t move. Alastor can see his chest rise and fall with shallow breaths. The Radio Demon finishes the last bits of his meal and leaves the room. He rinses off his dish in the bathroom before turning on the shower. He returns to his bedroom for a fresh suit and shiny shoes. Alastor makes sure that his front door is locked before he hops into the shower.

One shower and newly donned outfit later, Alastor leaves again, but not before he pops in on Vox one last time. “I’m going out. I’ll leave my shadows here in case you need assistance find the bathroom.” Alastor’s smile softens. “Feel better, Vox,” he says quietly and closes the door.

The Radio Demon casts a glare at the safe as he breezes past. He’s a demon on a mission and now it was time to gather his pawns.