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How Much for a Smile?

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It had been two days since The Incident when Maddie walked into the gas station, and Devi instantly prayed for Death to take him now.

This was one conversation he didn't want to have.

"Uh, hey, Maddie," he tried, fighting for a nonchalant tone as she trudged up to the counter. The no-nonsense look in her dark eyes told him that he wan't going to get off so easily, but he kept up the casual act anyway. "So, how have things been since you, uh, what was it? Got a pet?"

"Summoned a demon," she corrected drily. "It's been fine, I guess." And then, immediately after, "we're not avoiding this topic."

Shit. Devi twiddled his thumbs atop the counter, trying for his best innocent expression. "What topic?"

"Don't play dumb."

"I'm not."

"You are."

"I have no clue what you're talking about."

"I'm talking about the dude with the butter."

"What dude with the butter?" he asked, and he thought that he sounded pretty casual. Except that his voice rose about four octaves and his face started burning ferociously. Double shit.

She pointed at him with one black-nailed finger, eyes narrowed. "Don't even start," she warned. "You can't just mention to me that you met some creepy guy feeding butter to Hell and then never speak of it again."

"Technically, we're not sure what he was feeding it to," Devi corrected lamely.

"Shut up."

Devi shut up.

"You also cannot mention that said creepy guy made out with you afterward and then never speak of that again," she went on.

"Whoa, okay, whoa." Devi's hands shot up in a you totally have that wrong gesture. "Listen, I did not 'make out' him. He tackled me. That was against my will."

Maddie rolled her eyes. "Right, so he kissed you against your will and you just happened to start kissing him back. Also against your will." Sarcasm oozed from her words. She arched an eyebrow at him from under a fringe of night-dark bangs.

"I did not kiss him ba—!" Abruptly, he broke off, as an elderly lady glanced over with wide eyes from beside a vending machine. He dropped his voice down to a hiss. "I did not kiss him back."

"Then what'd you do?" Maddie challenged, crossing her arms over her chest. From the swollen backpack hanging behind her, a pair of pale eyes blinked curiously out at the scene. Devi started a bit, but honestly, he didn't care if some weird...animal was staring at him right now. He was getting way too used to weird shit happening around here.

"I pushed him off."

"No, you didn't."

"How do you know?"

Maddie jerked a thumb silently toward her backpack. Little claws appeared between the flaps of the opening and something like the silhouette of a head just barely poked out. "He was watching you," she explained.

Devi squinted at the blue eyes blinking up at him. "What, your cat?" he asked.

"He's a freaking demon, how do you not know this?" she demanded, arms raised in a disbelieving gesture.

"Why would I know this?" he asked, voice high. A hand rose reflexively to rake through his violet-dyed hair.

"Because I told you that I gotta—Okay, you know what? You are impossible," she declared. Huffing irritably at him, she shoved her hands into the pocket of a charcoal hoodie. Her thin form swam in it, making her look even smaller than she actually was. "I don't even remember why I came in here now," she muttered, eyes roving over the stacks of candy bars by the counter.

Immensely glad for a change of subject, Devi sighed and waved a hand at the vending machines. "You always get something really unhealthy to drink," he told her, deadpan.

"Gee, thanks," she returned.

He shrugged, curling his fingers absently in the fabric of his apron. "Just telling the truth." He was used to this.

Maddie had been prickly with him the moment she'd first stepped into the gas station and shamelessly confessed that she'd summoned a demon. He hadn't believed her at the time, of course, but since then, they'd had other small conversations and it became their thing; she came in, bought something from the vending machine, and spoke to him about whatever recent prank she'd played on a snotty teenager. He still wasn't entirely convinced that a creature of Hell was responsible for a locker full of spiders, but whatever.

It was somewhere in that time that The Incident happened and like the stupid ass he was, he told her about it. Now, he had this to deal with.

Maddie surveyed the candy bars with new intent, fingers resting curled on her chin as she thought. "I wonder if demons like chocolate," she wondered aloud. Apparently, lost in her own musings, she didn't hear the bright jingle of the bell at the door. She also didn't see the way Devi nearly choked on his own spit.

"Get out," Devi said suddenly, as if this was a completely normal thing to say to a customer.

Maddie glared at him, brows furrowed at the ramrod-straight way he was standing now. "What?"

"You have to get out, like, right now," he hissed.

"Like hell I'm gonna get out!" she snapped indignantly. "You're acting crazy, do you know that?"

Dropping from his rigid stance, he planted his hands on the counter and leaned toward her. The next words came out in a low ramble, his face flushed pink. "Listen, okay, you have to get out because someone is here, and you're here, and I can't deal with you both being here, so leave."

"What the actual hell are you talking about?" she asked, voice equally low and a tad bit more dangerous.

"I'm talking about—Fuck!" Devi yelped as the person appeared right fucking next to her and he straightened up so fast, he almost gave himself an aneurysm.

Right in front of him was a pair of wine-colored eyes and a crooked smile. Maddie's gaze flitted from the stranger to Devi, and back, before understanding dawned in her face.

Please, just let me die right now. Devi swallowed thickly. "Hi." Wow. Smooth.

The stranger's smile widened, flashing teeth and showing endearing dimples that Devi hadn't noticed before. Dear god. "Hey."

Maddie watched the short exchange for a few seconds. Devi prayed for her not to speak up and then of course, she spoke up. "You aren't gonna buy forty sticks of butter again, are you?"

The stranger blinked and glanced down at her in surprise. "Who're you?"

"His friend, I guess," she answered, bobbing her head at Devi. "Maddie."

And—Jesus Christ—a delighted grin spread across the stranger's features. He looked to Devi and the stupid adorable look on his face made Devi want to punch him. "You told your friends about me?"

"Just her!" Devi hurried to correct, feeling like he must be blushing horribly right now.

Maddie shot a frown up at the guy. "Seriously, who wouldn't tell their friends about the creepy butter guy that made out with them?" she asked, flat.

"Reg," the guy said suddenly.

"Excuse me?"

"I'm not Creepy Butter Guy." The stranger slung his thumbs in the pockets of faded jeans and even though he was speaking to her, his gaze slid over to Devi. A trace of that heart-twisting smirk threatened the corner of his mouth. "My name's Reg."

Devi fell into full-on staring, opening his mouth but with no words coming out.

Maddie flicked her bangs out of her eyes and nodded at Devi. "The moron's name is Devi," she said.

"Maddie," he growled pointedly. A weirdo who fed butter to strange holes in the desert knew his name. He was most definitely not okay with this.

"Devi," Reg repeated, like he was trying out the sound of it. It slipped off of his tongue like, well, like butter. Then that familiar smirk finally surfaced, crooked as sin. "Cute name."

Stuttering, Devi could come up with no words. He realized that his hands were knotting self-consciously in his apron and he jerked them down to his sides again. No way in hell was he letting this guy (or Maddie, who was freaking snickering behind her hand) see how he got to him. "Don't you have somewhere to be?" he asked Maddie, dusky eyes burning.

"No," she answered. But she must've had a bit of a heart, because she turned away without another word. As she headed toward the vending machines, she threw him a teasing half-smile over her shoulder. She was enjoying this too much, dammit.

The minute they were alone, Reg fell into that easy flirtatiousness Devi was way too familiar with. He sank to lean against the counter, one hand propping up his chin. He looked temptingly dangerous, eyeing Devi up like that. The look was only added to by the black leather he always wore. Devi had to fight the urge to back away a few paces. "So," Reg began conversationally.

"We're out of butter," Devi announced at once.

Reg's eyebrows lifted, the piercing at the left one glinting. "Huh?"

"We're out of butter, so I can't sell you any more. Sorry."

"I wasn't going to buy any more."

"...oh." There had never been another time when Devi felt more stupid. Or flustered. Or a little dizzy because there was only a counter between them. Oh my god, shut up, shut up, he thought to himself. "What do you want then?" he asked, forcing that being-nice-to-customers tone into his question.

"One second." Holding up a finger, Reg fished around in his pocket for what Devi assumed was his wallet. He bent his head when he did, the midnight sweep of his hair brushing against his collar at the back. Since Reg wasn't paying attention, Devi took the moment to admire the streak of crimson darting back from Reg's forehead. He was caught between kicking himself for ogling a near-stranger and running his fingers through that streak.

"Here," Reg said abruptly, sliding a dollar bill across the counter with a fingertip. He slanted a glance up at Devi that was entirely too maddening and asked, "how much for a smile?"

Devi's mouth opened, then closed, then decided on a frown. Crossing his arms, he moved his scowl off to the side. "You couldn't afford it."

"Oh, I couldn't?" That bastard was enjoying this.

"No," Devi replied firmly. But his gaze flitted to Reg, losing the glare for a second. He hadn't expected Reg to catch him and when he did, Devi glanced hurriedly away again.

A bark of laughter escaped Reg. "You like this," he accused.

"No, I don't," Devi growled, aware that he sounded like an arguing toddler.

"You totally do, dude." Reg's eyes twinkled. "You're playing hard-to-get."

"Are you gonna buy something sometime this year or are you just gonna stand there all day?"

"Depends on when I can buy my smile."

"You're gonna be here a long time then."

"Aw, c'mon." Planting his hands on the counter, Reg leaned toward him, devious. "What if I gave you a dollar?"

Was he really doing this?! "No," Devi flashed back.

"Five dollars?"




"How about a kiss?"

The side of Devi's mouth hooked up before he could stop it and he turned his face away fast. Apparently not fast enough because Reg laughed from behind him. "That's what you want then, huh?"

"I never said that," Devi returned, but his glare was losing fire. No one could stay mad when they were faced with Reg's teasing gaze and troublemaker's smile.

"You might as well have." Reg smirked, eyelids drooping to give a look of bad intentions.

Devi wanted to wipe the smug smirk right off his face. "You're impossible," he stated matter-of-factly.

"But you like me," Reg purred. And he winked, he fucking winked, and Devi had had enough. He had him by the jacket collar in two seconds, and he meant to maybe punch him, but next thing he knew, he was tasting that smirk under his lips. Part of him thought that it was probably bad to be bent across a counter at work, kissing someone he'd only met for the second time. But Reg tilted his head and started to kiss back, and that shut up Devi's thoughts.

He tasted like trouble, dark and sweet, and his hand curled around the back of Devi's neck. The edge of the counter dug into Devi's stomach and it kinda hurt, but Reg was catching his bottom lip between his teeth. That seemed a lot more important at the moment and Devi wanted to be impossibly closer. Fingers were tangling in the hair at the back of his head and Reg made the sweetest, soft noises when he kissed, and dammit, Devi hadn't felt electrified like this since two weeks ago.

It was Devi who pulled back first, becoming instantly aware of their surroundings. The old lady who had been scanning through the aisles gawked at them with not enough discreetness. Devi felt a blush creeping up from under his collar. "Um," he tried, clearing his throat when his voice came out shaky. Reg was still leaning across the counter, fingers till in Devi's hair, a slow grin curving his lips.

"Do I get my smile now?" Reg asked. He ran his thumb over his lower lip, as if to remember the kiss there. "Or do you need more convincing?"

Devi fumbled for words, silently gaping at him. He was such a fucking tease; he'd gotten Devi to kiss the breath out of him in a gas station. Again. "Well, I—" he stammered, then broke off. The irony of the situation hit him then and he had to bring a hand up to his mouth to hide his smile.

Of course, Reg noticed anyway. "Aw, thanks, Dee," he cooed. "You should smile more."

"What did you just call me?" Devi asked, but it came out on a laugh.

"Thought I needed to give you a nickname." Reg shrugged with one shoulder. "That's what boyfriends do, right?"

Devi's eyes widened. "B—boyfr—?" Then he stammered into nothing as Reg flitted forward to lightly kiss his mouth again.

"Gotta go," Reg murmured, an inch from Devi's face. He slipped his dollar bill across the counter with a rustle paper. "Don't be shy next time." Grinning, he stepped back and sauntered his way to the door again. Devi stared after him dumbly. He smiled like a fool when Reg tossed him another wink over his shoulder, before disappearing out the door. Then he glanced down at the counter. "What the...?"

It wasn't a dollar bill. It was a piece of paper with a phone number scribbled across it. Devi picked it up, somewhat in shock over what had just happened.

Then he jumped as Maddie yelled from across the station, "and get a room next time, weirdos!"