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The Trouble with Lesser Demons

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You tend to be a bit of a shut-in. Between major cases, so long as the pantry is stocked the the power is on, you can go weeks without setting foot outside the apartment. It doesn't bother you; you have just as much distaste for humans as you do the arcane, and it's better for you to stay inside with your books and television and manuscripts. The pantry isn't even half way empty, but you're still pushing your cart down the aisles, looking at the produce with a scrutinizing eye.

As scared as he was to go outside, Sollux was starting to get so restless he was driving you up the wall. He would flit from room to room, looking at the spines of texts and opening and closing cupboards whilst sighing quietly (just not quietly enough) before moving on and eventually repeating the ritual. It was making you break out in hives and you were only too eager to shepherd him out of the building under the guise of grocery shopping. Quick enough, but hopefully enough fresh air to calm his nerves a little.

Your suspicions about him are confirmed as he clings to the lapels of your jacket, letting your steps pull him along after you, taking in the sky scrapers, the homeless crowding the streets, the people unwittingly pulling their own demons along with them as the trek. He regards everything with a disgusted kind of detached fascination, like he's fascinated to be out in the midst of the clammer of the human realm, but glad he doesn't have to deal with it on a daily basis.

There's a particularly powerful spirit on a slumped woman in the supermarket who regards canned soup with glazed eyes. The black shadow turns hollow sockets in your direction, and although you can't see his face, you can feel the flare of psychic energy and hear the angry hiss over your head. Your lips quirk upwards, but you continue past without saying anything.

"Aren't you going to do something?" Sollux asks, not releasing your jacket but turning around to watch the black shadow and his captive fade from sight. "I mean, that's kind of your job, right?"

You pick up a head of lettuce, trying to look through the shrink wrapping and the fog on your glasses at the quality of the vegetable. "No, 's not my job. I'm not responsible for every little emotion persuader I run in to; I'm a big fish fryer, but I ain't gotta clean up after every mess. I gotta keep the balance, an' that one wasn't threatenin' the balance."

The demon curls over your head, his messy hair hanging loose as he meets your gaze, seemingly unconcerned by the fact that he's upside down and completely halting your perusal of the food in your hands. You can feel his knees nudging the back of your head, and his eyes are really quite stunning from so close.

"What about me?"

You consider. He's powerful, and despite his small stature, there's an almost feline quality to his muscles and the way he moves. A grace born from barely coiled deadly ability just under the surface. But despite this, he's never tried to harm you aside from empty threats and bickering over cereal or how much curry powder to use in the stir fry. Reality television fascinates him, and your old desktop in the office is his new found love. He complains when you make him finish his vegetables and is restless in his sleep. He's simultaneously dangerous and absolutely harmless.

"You're a necessary evil," you answer eventually.

He regards you, eyes unblinking and burning in to yours, and you sincerely hope your silence wasn't quite this long because it's really quite awkward and people can actually see you. His fingers slide up the collar of your coat to comb in to the hair on the back of your neck, pressing a surprisingly genuine smile to your own perpetual frown. His lips are smooth, hot, and barely-there before he drifts away towards the freezer section looking very damn pleased with himself.

You press your knuckles to your burning cheeks, the phantom sensation of his warmth and the grip on your coat keeping you paralyzed until you manage to toss the lettuce in to the shopping cart without any further inspection. You'd best track him down before he steals all the ice cream in the market.