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Love and What We Do in its Name

Chapter Text

It was cold, so seemingly impossibly cold that the very Earth seemed to tremble with it. Cold and dark, dark despite the silvery beams of moonlight and twinkling stars peeking behind the thin clouds overhead. Cold and dark and white, that damnable color that had brought about the cold and darkness. The white covered nearly everything in sight, from the frosty ground to the evergreens that stood tall and proud as they reached high up into the sky.

A lone figure stepped carefully through the thick layers of snow, her shoes long since soaked by the icy particles that clung there. Had anyone been there to see her, though much to her dismay she was completely alone, they would have immediately noticed that she was exceedingly underdressed for this unforgiving climate. Her dress, though lovely to the eyes, was a thin and not at all protective, her shoulders bare safe for the shawl that was wrapped around her shoulders, but the hand knitted fabric did little to help her either. Her shoes were no better than slippers, the tea heals being better suited for the summer months and immensely difficult to walk in; she had considered on more than one occasion to simply take them off, but the fishnet stocking hidden beneath her skirts would offer no reprieve. She had been so happy to receive such fine clothing only hours before, but now she cursed them with all her might as she forced her way forward.

It was strange how three things that had once seemed so simple could turn fatal in the blink of an eye, ready to overtake any who dared brave their practically barren wasteland and deliver them into the waiting arms of Death.

Death waited for her on that night as she trekked through the snow. Waited as the cold seeped into her skin and chilled her right down to the bone until the very blood that flowed through her veins seemed to freeze. Waited as her footfalls became heavy and sluggish, like a chore she was putting off until the very last second. Waited as her breaths became uneven and sporadic, easily visible in the night air. Waited as her chilled skin began to turn blue and she could no longer feel the tips of her fingers or toes. Waited as she began to feel dizzy and lightheaded, sleep trying to be the first to claim her.

She didn’t know Death was waiting for her, but she would soon find out.

It was hard to focus. No matter how many times she tried to shake herself awake or remind herself where she need to go, her mind simply refused to lift the blanket of haze that had fallen over it and her destination was lost amidst the fog. She was practically delirious as she stumbled a bit, wondering what she was doing outside in weather such as this. Surely she should be inside, curled up near a warm fire or soaking in a hot bath, protected from the winds that tried to push her back and the cold that left her unable to stop shivering as her teeth rattled so much that her jaw ached with the action.

The thought of turning around and heading back the way she came nearly had her doing just that, but something in the back of her mind told her that she couldn’t, that there was nothing left to go back to. That left her confused. There was always something to go back to. Someone wise had told her that, but she could not remember their name or face, the image of them as blurred as her mind felt.

She could no longer dwell on that blurred image as she staggered once again, her vision starting to fail her as her body became so heavy that she was not sure how she was still standing upright. She was not even sure if she was standing anymore, the world starting to spin around her. Even through the spinning haze, she was able to find her footing, but it came a moment too late. She stood upright for but a second before she found herself tumbling off the path she had been walking, the ground sloping down into a hill she had not even known was there. Her world was a mess of unidentifiable shapes as she continued to roll down the hill, unable to stop herself or realize she was about to collide with the trunk of a tree until her head came into contact with it.

Darkness took her then, a small mercy she was allowed from the bitter cold and the pain she felt all over, but it was not to last. She was not sure how long she had been out, but she woke to her face pressed against something rough and wet. With what little strength she had left, she pushed herself away from the trunk, too tired and confused to wonder why there was a streak of red where her head had been resting or why she could not seem to open her right eye; the bump to her head was just that and nothing to be concerned about, but the small sliver of blood that trailed from it was enough to blind her. Rolling onto her back, she looked up at the underside of the branches of the evergreen she lay underneath, the dark green of its pines a stark contrast to the white and dark blue around it.

It was there that she saw it. That hooded figure that mankind had feared since the dawn of time, sitting on a thick branch, long legs dangling beneath it as it watched her. She could not see the face it wore at first, but a slight lift of its head revealed one that would have left her glaring at it if she could have moved her face. The malice in her eyes was enough to let the figure know that the face was unwelcomed, so it morphed into something new, one that would surely give her comfort in this time. A sadness came over her then, tears forming in her eyes that froze against her skin as soon as they were released. One last time, the face changed and her tears turned to those of joy, a weak smile pulling at her lips. She thought she was lifting her arm up, trying to extend her hand toward the thing on her branch, but she did not seem to realize that her arm was a dead weight beside her, the last of her energy gone and spent. Though she could not move her limbs, her lips still seemed to work, a song rising up to the thing that had come for her, but not for the reason she thought.

The figure tilted their head at the delirious woman beneath them as the melody reached their ears before they descended from the branch through the air, landing noiselessly and gracefully but a few feet away. Her eyes followed them all the way, her head lulling to the side and bouncing slightly, like she had no bones to support her. She continued to sing as they neared her, the song bittersweet due to the dryness of her throat. They stood over her now, looking down at her curiously, letting her go on until the song was done. She tried to whisper a name as they leaned down towards her, but it died on her lips as soon as they touched her, her numb skin unable to feel their fingers touch her bare shoulder, her shawl lying forgotten and buried in the snow on the hill above them.

The smile faded from her lips as the world around her did the same. Her teeth no longer chattered and no more did she shiver against the cold. She cried no more tears that froze as soon as they were shed. Her breath was no longer uneven or sporadic, the long wisps of expelled air that passed her lips ceasing to continue. Even her heartbeat, already slow as it was, beat one final time against her ribcage before the blood stopped pumping through her veins.

Death had come for her that night. Death had taken her.

Chapter Text

Memories are such an interesting yet perplexing thing. A single one can hold more meaning than an entire lifetime. Some are filled with happiness and joy, the emotions we crave like the air we breath. Others bring the feeling of sadness and heartache, things we try to forget as time passes; in some cases, this is easier said than done. Then there are the simple moments, the ones that cause no real outburst of feelings, but still they can mean more to a person than all the money or knowledge in the world. More so than that, memories shape us into who we are and who we will become, how we treat ourselves and others, and what one will do in any given situation.

At least, that is what Ottilie had always believed. Being a person without many memories to go back to, it was really all she could do. She remembered her death. Other than that and her first name, not much else. No matter what she tried to recall about herself, that was all it ever came back to. That cold and dark night that had taken her short lived life away from her.

She assumed it had been short lived, at least. The face that stared back at her in the mirror when she dared look appeared young, but she could never be sure. Everyone around her looked young, even the ones who had been there long before her. One of the few perks of living in Hell, they called it.

The first memory she had, aside from dying, had been arriving in Hell. She remembered opening her eyes to a dark red sky that had seemed oddly beautiful despite its strange color, her confusion giving way to awe as she admired its unique hue. And then she fell from it, the air around her deafening as it pushed at her all the while she was pulled down at an alarming speed. She turned and watched as the ground below her came closer and closer, dread filling her now as she was sure that she was going to die. In those last few seconds, she had found that she did not fear death. Something told her that she should, but the dread she felt was only from the suffering that would no doubt come with it; she was not sure why, but she was tired of suffering. When she reached the ground, she heard the sickening crunch of her own bones breaking and felt the sticky sensation of her blood coating her skin, the pain she had known would come following quickly after.

She had lied there, broken in a pool of the dark red liquid, nearly the same color as the sky she had just been dropped from, waiting for it to end. She was aware of people walking past and around her, some even brazen enough to step right over her, and she wondered many a time why no one offered to help her. The pain eventually did end, but she did not die as she had thought she would. Instead, her bones had mended back together as if they had never broken in the first place; her blood took a bit more time and a headache formed from the lack thereof, but eventually she was able to sit up and look around.

There was a sense of familiarity to the buildings and shops that surrounded her, the structure of them calling forth some emotion she could not place, but at the same time they were completely foreign to her. Nearly everything was made of either stone or wood and seemed mute in color, the sky being just about the only bright thing as far as the eye could see. What drew her attention next was the fire that clung to some of the buildings, making her wonder why no one was trying to put it out, but it did not seem to be damaging anything that it touched; something had sparked inside of her at the sight of it and made her turn away quickly, not wanting to look at it any longer.

That was when she noticed the people. Some were dressed in fine suits and elegant dresses, their hair combed and done up in curls with large hats covering their heads, while others wore tattered rags and walked the streets barefoot. It was not their attire, however, that made her stare in shock, but their bodies. A great many of them had horns and teeth that looked like they could tare through anything they sank into, but many more bore animal like appearances with more than just two arms or legs and fur covered ears that were just about as tall as their heads. She could not even begin to name the creatures that they appeared as, but that had more to do with the fact she could not remember what they were called. Some of them had noticed her staring and brushed her off, but others took on looks of anger and turned their noses up at her. She was called words such as: harlot, skank, bitch, dumb-ass, and many other colorful terms she did not know meant what at the time.

It was not until she caught her reflection in a pane of glass that she realized she was no different from them. Though she did not bare the appearance of an animal, per say, it was still a bit of a sight to see. Her skin was a light, sickly blue tinted purple in some areas and a permanent blush that ran across the bridge of her nose and along her cheeks appeared to have been painted there. Her hair, which was in a state of disarray no doubt a result of her fall, tumbled down her back in long strands of lavender. Jutting out from her temples were two sets of matching horns the same color as her skin, the tips tinged purple and blending with the blue near the middle, the top set twice as big as the lower. She could not quite tell if she was short or tall with everyone around her varying in height, but she could only guess she was at least at or slightly below average and her body was rather petite. Her left eye was a stunningly brilliant shade of blue, much more vibrant than her skin, and her sclera was only just slightly darker than with dark lashes framing it in a complementary manner.

She knew immediately, however, that something was wrong with the right side of her face. It looked wildly different from the rest of her and even she knew that it was not supposed to look like that. She brought a hand up to touch it, but she was shocked to find that she could not see it in front of her face. She waved the hand to and fro, able to see it when it came into view of her left eye, but not her right. It was then she realized that her hands did not look right either and when she looked down she found that from the elbows down were in the same state.

People stared at her as she passed, making her notice what she had failed to before. They knew she looked odd, too. Even compared to the ones with scales and tales that trailed behind them, she stood out the most; she would come to find out later that she had a tail as well, but it had been hidden from sight beneath her tattered dress that day.

Much time had passed since then. Hell had changed right along with it, but Ottilie had stayed the same. She still wore dresses that brushed along the ground, heels that were appropriate for a woman but didn't meet the height requirements of what was expected, and her long hair was still pinned back away from her face while still trailing behind her in long waves. She was stuck.  Stuck in a time period she wasn't even sure she belonged to.

She knew this to be true as she stepped out from her tiny cottage squished between two large apartment buildings on the Southwest side of the Pentagram. People staring at her like they were better than she was, but she simply ignored them.

“What is that girl wearing?”

“I wouldn't be caught dead in something like that.”

“You're already dead, you dumb bitch.”

“Is she wearing gloves? In this heat?”

“Some people really need to catch up with the times. She looks like she's going to a cosplay party.”

“What the fuck is cosplay?”

She felt the weight of their stares and the sting of their words and would have been blushing if her cheeks weren't already so red, but looking back and showing them they affected her would only spur them on, so she simply stared at the ground, careful to look far enough ahead so she would not run into anyone as she made her way to work. Despite her shy demeanor and odd choice of clothing, Ottilie had been lucky enough to find a well paying job for someone who lived alone and that was not far from her little home.

“Good morning, Boris,” Ottilie said quietly as she walked past the bouncer and up to the front doors of a large building lit up in spotlights.

“Hey,” Boris grunted back in reply, his thick arms crossed over his broad chest as he leaned against the wall behind him. The large bull demon never had bothered to learn her name. Not that it bothered her; companionship never was her forte.

Ottilie stepped inside and was greeted with the sight of people bustling about and fluttering their hands in mad gestures as they prepared for an upcoming scene. Stage lights were being repositioned and fixed into place so they lit up certain areas of the set. Cameras were pushed into various spots so that multiple angles could be captured all at once. Voices could be heard shouting back and forth, the conversations jumbled and confusing to the untrained ear. Outside, she would have found all of this to be overwhelming, but here it was just another normal day for her.

She made her way towards the back of the set, ducking under props and once again avoiding bumping into anyone, no one seeming to care if she was there or not. She reached a door painted a light pink, a gold star nailed to the wooden surface, and pulled out a set of keys. Unlocking the seemingly overly tall door, she turned the knob and stepped inside. Flipping on the lights, the fuchsia and baby pink room once again greeted her for the day. Though fairly large, the room was packed full of so much furniture and stage props that it was almost claustrophobic. Along one wall was a long mirror surrounded by small lights that lit up the glass in an almost ethereal yellow glow. Beneath it was a table laid out with various makeups and accessories, almost enough to make ones head spin. On the wall beside it was row after row of costumes that were all lovely in their own right hung on rolling racks and a large bright red wardrobe stood in the middle, its contents even more appealing than the outfits on either side of it. A full sized bathroom occupied the other wall, the only thing separating the two being the carpet and tiled flooring. The wall beside Ottilies head was covered in picture after picture, all of them of the same person, some featuring one or two previous fellow cast members. Tucked into a corner was a small white polka dotted and fuchsia colored pet bed which currently sat unoccupied; it had been placed beneath the makeup table more times than she could count on both hands and feet, but had been dragged right back into the corner no sooner than it was placed, so she simply left it alone now.

Finally back in the comfort of solitude, she shrugged off her overcoat and hung it on the coat rack beside the door, her shoulders surprisingly bare despite the old fashion design of her dress. She then walked over to the wall of costumes and carefully riffled through them to avoid wrinkling the fabrics until she came to the dress she was looking for. After removing it from its hanger, she threw the skirts over the top of a headless and limbless mannequin and worked it down until the plastic figure was dressed in it. Opening a bottom drawer in the wardrobe, she quickly found the matching boots to the ensemble and placed them where the feet should have been.

Completely unaware of the fact, she hummed to herself all the while she worked, content in the quiet as she took out pins and a needle and worked at the few loose threads she had missed. She was next to never aware of when or if she was humming. Only when she stopped and felt that familiar tingle in her chest did she know she’d been doing it. Very few people had ever heard her hum and she had always made sure no one was around if she decided to sing; that was something she did only when she had complete privacy. Perhaps it had something to do with her past, but she recoiled at the very idea of anyone hearing her so much as utter a single note worthy of being considered a song.

She continued to hum as she stepped over to the mirrored wall, her hands quick across the table as she moved the cosmetics into place for better reach. She was usually more careful around mirrors, but she happened to glance up and catch her reflection in the illuminated glass, her hands pausing in their task. Her blank expression deepened into a scowl and she quickly looked away from the mirror, unable to stand the sight of the person who looked back at her for the few seconds she had glanced into it. Though the right side of her face was covered by the sweep of her bangs, she did not much like looking at her reflection in general. Even in the mornings when she would be dressing or doing her hair for work, there would be no mirrors for her to look at even if she wanted to.

Her eyes now back on the table, she let her fingers slowly graze over the blushes, powders, and foundations that sat there. Not for the first time, she wondered if they could even begin to cover up the imperfections that damaged her body to the point where she felt she had to hide them.

That train of thought was quickly dashed away as the door opened behind her and brought her back to reality. Her hands quickly went back to work, placing the last containers of blush and foundation into their proper order, before she turned around to face the person that stood in the doorway.

Standing at eight feet tall, the figure that stepped into the room had to duck his head just to fit through the doorway even with the extended height of the door. Like most demons, he was as strange looking as they came. Complete with not only two arms, but four, the appendages seemed almost too long for his thin and lanky body; the second pair appeared to sprout from his rib cage just below his chest. Though he had a stick-like figure, his chest was rather voluptuous, which may have had something to do with the white fur gathered there, and the second thing one would notice about him after his height. His legs, which were curved like an animals, had to be the longest part of his body, serving to give him his tall stature. He sported a smoothly angled face with a smile as wide as his head baring sharp teeth and a single gold tooth that gleamed in the light. His light pink hair speckled with spots of fuchsia somehow always managed to stay up and away from his head while also still being soft to the touch, a feet he showcased whenever he was in a flirty mood by running his fingers through the medium length strands. His eyes, one completely black with a magenta colored iris that had no pupil and the other being relatively normal with a matching iris, were large and rather striking on his face; beneath each eye were sets of three magenta colored dots that almost resembled freckles and helped draw attention toward them.

Much like Ottilie, most of his clothing was a blast from the past. His top was a white and pink striped blazer with padded shoulders and a hem that reached just past his hips; the top buttons were always left undone, leaving his chest nearly on full display and causing the fur there to puff further. Around his neck he wore a black bowtie, the center matching his eyes, and just above it was a thin black choker that seemed just a bit too tight around his thin neck, perhaps just the way he liked it. His hands, already long and slender as they were, were made even more so by the gloves he wore on each hand, the fabric loose around his arms despite the way they clung to his hands. Rather than pants, his hips and butt were just barely covered by a pair of extremely short shorts and high heeled boots that ran up nearly the entire length of the long limbs.

“Hello, Angel Dust,” she said as the tall figure closed the door behind himself, her voice quiet and monotone yet somehow warm in greeting him. Like most demons, Angel Dust went by a pseudonym rather than his real name. Some did it to hide their identities while others just wanted to leave their old lives behind.

Angel smiled when he saw her standing by the makeup table, his second pair of arms crossing over his stomach while the other smoothed out his hair like it already wasn’t in its natural place to begin with. “Hey ya, toots. What’s shakin’?”

“Same as always,” she shrugged lightly as she pulled out one of the chairs that sat in front of the table. The first time he’d asked her that question, she’d been immensely confused and thought he was actually asking her if some part of her was shaking. He had burst out laughing when she explained that no part of her was shaking at the moment and explained what he meant after finally calming down. “What about you? How was your weekend?” she asked as he walked over and lowered himself into the chair.

“Fuck me in the ass and don’t even get me started!” Angel Dust scoffed dismissively, both sets of arms crossed now. “I couldn’t catch a break! First the hotel got attacked by these little egg shits then I was stuck cleanin’ ‘em up just ‘cause I was the one who ‘bashed ‘em in in the first place’! I asked why the maid couldn’t do it only to discover she’s been missin’ for the last two weeks! That probably explains why nobodys been makin’ my bed for awhile. Then come to find out someone put itching powder on all my sex toys! Took me two hours just to clean ‘em off and two showers before my crotch stopped itchin’! Felt like someone had set me on fire down there!”

“How would you know what that feels like?” she asked as she started applying his makeup while she listened, her hands able to find the right bottles, brushes, and sponges without even having to look where she was grabbing.

“Don’t ask,” Angel let out an exasperated puff of air, his eyes staring up at the ceiling as she used mascara to make his eyelashes look fuller and thicker. “So now I have to come up with a better prank or that fuddy-duddy antler boy is gonna win. Add all that to the fact I’ve been put on a detox until further notice and can’t have my fix, so I’ve just been a total bitch all weekend.”

“As opposed to how you usually are?” She ran a stick of eyeliner along his waterline and around his eyelids to make them pop against his magenta eyeshadow and white skin.

Despite her monotone voice, he knew she was only joking with him and couldn’t help but snicker. “Yeah, don’t you know I’m a saint?” His perturbed expression returned. “Now to top the cherry on the sunday: my gal pal Cherry ain’t allowed at the hotel no more! She ain’t allowed to spend the night or even visit! Who am I supposed to gossip with now?”

“Why was she banned?” Dark red lipstick was carefully rubbed along his lips, making them fuller as well.

Angel hummed as he rubbed his lips together to better apply the thick substance while she removed a tiny smear that had formed at the corner. “She threw a bomb down the toilet and pretty much destroyed the plumbing.” Ottilie paused and stared at him, wondering if he was serious. “She wanted to see if she could make the water in another toilet fly into the air,” he shrugged.

“That certainly would be interesting to see. What gave her that idea?” Dabbing a bit of blush on his cheeks, she was careful not to overdue it or risk clotting the fur there.

“The same reason why I’m on a detox right now.” He was all too serious as he stared up at her, the chair lower to the ground than normal furniture to give her easier access to his face. She didn’t seem shocked by this bit of news, knowing all too well the ‘bright ideas’ he could have once he got high enough. He leaned his head forward as she removed a wig from a styrofoam head in the wardrobe and place it over his natural hair, having to smooth it out first to keep it out of the way or risk having it poke out from underneath the synthetic do. He let out a long sigh. “If I’d have known it was going to be like dis, I don’t think I ever would’a gone to that place.”

“It cannot be all bad,” she pointed out as she cupped his face and turned it this way and that after lifting his head back up. “Did you or did you not say there was someone there you fancied?” She adjusted the wig, something that was not easily done with the big blonde hair, and fixed the bangs so they swept over his right eye.

“Husk?” he barked out in a laugh. “He don’t pay attention to nothin’ unless it’s in a bottle… and don’t tell me to get in a bottle ‘cause I already tried that.”

She nearly asked where he’d gotten a bottle that size, but then remembered who she was talking to. “Well, that aside, a detox may be good for you. You can go a little overboard sometimes.”

“But overboard is where the fun is!” he whined as she stepped back and he stood up, forcing her to look up and him down. The blank stare she gave him said it all. “Ugh. Fine. I’ll stick with it… for now.” Satisfied with that answer, she walked over to the mannequin and took the dress off of it, her hard work likely to be ruined if she pulled it the wrong way. He stepped over to her in a single stride, something he could easily do with legs as long as his, and ran his hands over the fabric as she held it up. “Damn, sweet-cheeks. You outdone yourself this time!”

“Thank you.” A ghost of smile pulled at her lips, but it was gone almost as soon as it had come.

Almost all of the clothing Angel wore on set had been made by Ottilie. Her talent for sewing and designing dresses, like most other things in her second life, had been discovered accidentally while working one day. Angel had been about to go on when one of the stage hands stepped on the long train of fabric he’d been wearing and ripped it at the seams. After punching said stage hand and knocking him out cold, he’d pointed to her and demanded she fix this trainwreck. It came to both of them as a surprise when she grabbed a needle and thread and stitched up the tare like it had never been there in the first place. Able to go on in time so they weren’t behind schedule, he’d approached her afterwards, lifted her up like she weighed nothing, and proclaimed her to be his new personal makeup artist. The two had been friends ever since.

“Where’d you even get the fabric for dis?” His fingers were quick as he unbuttoned his blazer and removed it, neither of them caring that his was now half naked. She didn’t even blink as she leaned down and unzipped the back of his boots, letting him step out of them before pulling down his shorts and draping them over the back of the chair along with the blazer. Now on full display, she looked him over for a few seconds before reaching up and fluffing out the fur on his chest. “Oh, yeah baby. Just like that.”

She playfully smacked his arm. “I got it a new craft store on the West side of the Pentagram. Apparently the owner used to own another store when they were alive, but was sentenced to death after they found out he was using body parts for some of the products.” Angels eyes widened as they darted to the dress. “Worry not. The fabric is satin. I made sure to check.” He breathed a sigh of relief as she helped him step into the other pair of boots, his hands on her shoulders for balance; she was having a bit of trouble getting his feet to fit in just right.

“Harder! Harder! You know how I like it!” he laughed before she forcefully shoved the boot on. “Ouch! Hey, watch it, will ya?”

“Sorry. This is my first time.” She placed the other boot on his foot and zipped them both up. She felt a twinge of satisfaction when he snickered again, her head down as another small smile pulled at her lips. She stood up and picked up the dress again before holding it out so it pooled on the floor before he carefully stepped into it, neither of them wanting his heels to catch on the delicate fabric. She shimmied the garment up his long body until the bust was over his chest, holding it there as his long arms reached around the back and zipped it up.

Angel ran his hands down the length of his torso while she smoothed out the dress and began replacing his gloves with opera style ones, admiring his reflection as he turned towards the mirror, kissing the air and fluttering his lashes as he did. The wine colored satin was complementary to his complexion and the way the bottom layer hugged his legs while the top flared out made even his skinny hips look bigger and the fan-like design of the single strap across his shoulder drew attention to the sweeping neckline that let the top of his breasts hang out. The back of the dress was cut deep, reaching nearly all the way to his hips, allowing him free range of his lower arms while also giving a pleasing view of his back. “Ya know, I think dis might just be my favorite one yet.”

“I thought the Kitten one was your favorite?” she recalled as she watched him.

“Dis just blew it out of the water,” he shook his head, his hair swaying with the action before falling back into place.

Ottilie felt a pang of envy as she watched Angel continue to admire his reflection. While she had never been attracted to him, she couldn’t deny that he was appealing; perhaps if he didn’t bat for the other team, the two might have even fooled around from time to time, but she had always both admired and hated the way he could look at himself without feeling disgusted. It was a feeling she had never known and likely never would. She enjoyed working with him and he was the only friend she had, but she couldn’t help but hate him just a little bit for being able to enjoy something she never could.

Unbeknownst to her, Angel noticed the slight scowl on her face and a sad expression came to his own. He quickly recovered and turned to her with a smile. “Would you look at us? Two smokin’ hot dames who work hard for their money and no man to show for it.” He took her hands in his and squeezed lightly, not even phased by the coldness that seeped through both her gloves and his.

“I think you mean one hot dame,” she corrected.

Angel gasped dramatically. “How dare you call me ugly?” He burst out laughing at her, knowing she was annoyed, though it didn’t show on her face.

The two were interrupted by a knock at the door. Not even bothering to wait for a reply, the door opened and the stage director walked in. “Five minutes to action, gorgeous.”

Angel turned to look down at Ottilie and smiled again. “Duty calls.”

“Your public awaits,” she replied as she fixed the fluff of his chest one last time, something they always said to each other in a tit-for-tat fashion.

Angel turned and sauntered out of the room, ducking deeper this time to avoid hitting his hair on the door frame. The director watched him go, his eyes glued to the sway of his hips, and whispered under his breath, “If only I liked dick.”

The director turned when he realized Ottilie was standing there and shook his head, her expression indifferent to his apparent attraction to Angel. “You did a nice job on that.” She was about to thank him, but he went on before she could. “That’s why I’m sad to say you’re fired.”

Ottilie felt like something heavy had been dropped into her gut, her voice small as a mouse as she asked, “What?”

“Listen, it’s nothing personal kid,” the director said, unaware of the fact that she had been in Hell long before he had, as he looked over the clipboard in hand and scratched at his fur covered ears. “We’ve just had too many complaints about the outfits being too…. What was the word… old fashion. Demons nowadays want to see ripped up jeans and halter tops so small they look like bras. No one wants to jack off to ball gowns and corsets anymore.” Ottilie felt her hands trembling as she gripped at the skirt of her dress, suddenly reminded of a time she’d felt wrongly dressed for the occasion. “Personally, I’d love to keep you on, but your style just doesn’t cut it anymore.”

Ottilie felt a rush of every kind of emotion imaginable, but her expression stayed schooled in a blank slate as her lips parted slightly. “What am I going to do about a job?”

The director seemed to have a sudden idea. “You could always go back to working the set. I hear you used to be quite the go getter when you were in front of the camera. Popular too. You and Angel Dust could even do a few threesomes. I’m sure he’d love that.” Ottilie was almost tempted to take the offer. “All you’d have to do is be willing to show more skin.”

“No,” Ottilie said immediately, making the director jump at how high her voice suddenly got, though it was what one would consider normal volume on any other person. “I cannot do that.”

Many years had passed since then, but before becoming part of the wardrobe department, Ottilie had been a rather famous adult film star. Not only were people enraptured by how kinky she could be, they were also attracted to her unique look and the mystery of what she hid behind her hair and the bits of clothing she was unwilling to take off. Soon enough, she was staring in picture after picture, women wishing they could be her and men wishing they could be in her. The mystery could only take her so far, however, and people began to wonder what she was hiding. Soon, they began to stop wondering and started demanding that she show them. When the studio had said it was either give them what they wanted or find something else to do, she’d started in the wardrobe department the next day.

“That’s a pity,” the director shook his head. “Here’s your pay for the week. That should get you through until you find another job. Probably best if you collect your things and go. Wouldn’t want to upset the star, now would we?” She took the envelope he held out towards her and watched as he walked away, not even seeming to care if she decided to steal anything, not that she would; she looked down at the nearly weightless item in her hand and knew that it would barely cover her rent for the month, if that, and with Hell being as overpopulated as it was there was no hope of her finding another job before what little money she had would dry up.

Knowing the scene Angel would cause if he came back and found out the news, she collected the few belongings she had and headed towards the door. She paused and turned, taking a look around the room one last time. It was strange how over the years it had become a home away from home for her and now she had to say goodbye to it. She promised herself she would hold on the memories she had of this place, fighting back tears with all her might as she closed the door.

Chapter Text

Ottilie was at a lose. A month had already come and gone since losing her job at the studio, yet she still had nothing to show for it. It wasn’t has if she’d sat around wallowing in her sorrow, heavy as it may be. She’d looked tirelessly day after day, walking to business after business, her feet sore to the point of throbbing each night she’d come home.

It was only a few days prior that she nearly ran right into the Exterminators, the angel-esc creatures always arriving with no warning to carry out their duty, but had hidden just in time to escape them. She’d watched the carnage from her temporary safe haven, horrified but unable to look away. Only when the screams died out and all was quiet did she finally emerge, many others doing the same as they either raced home or started riots as they ransacked everything in sight. Never having had any interest in such disrespectful actions, she’d ran straight home and slid her back down the door once inside, sitting there in silence until her breathing and heart rate returned to normal.

Perhaps it had been wrong of her to think it, but the next day she had been secretly grateful they’d come; the number of dead demons meant there would be plenty of new job openings and had given her a brief feeling of hope, but that was quickly tarnished when she learned all too quickly that jobs went just as swiftly as they came. Most jobs she’d inquired about told her that she was hours too late, but one had told her she was only minutes. Discouraged despite the fact that it would have been low paying and not something she would have loved like she did at the studio, she’d left and returned home once again. After that, she hadn’t bothered looking. There was no point beating a horse that was already dead.

So there she sat in the living room, staring at nothing in particular as she rocked idly in her antique rocking chair, the usually soothing action doing nothing to ease her worries. The end of the month was coming all to quickly and she had nothing left to give her landlord. She would be kicked out as soon as she found out and she’d be left on the streets, which only made living in Hell all the more dangerous. She didn’t want to guess what would happen to her then.

A sigh escaped her before she rose out of the chair, her body feeling heavy with the urge to sink back into it. It did her no good to sit around and mope while she waited to be inevitably homeless. With nothing else to do, she distracted herself by cleaning.

She had never necessarily been a messy person, but work had always kept her busy enough that she neglected the more menial chores. It seemed dusting was a must, as a fine layer of the pesky particles had settled over some of her lesser used household objects, but a bit of cleaning solution fixed that up and left them sparkling like new. Next, she brought out a stepladder from the hall closet and worked at clearing the cobwebs from that had been starting to from in the corners of her ceiling, the disturbed dust floating around in the air making her sneeze on more than one occasion. When that was done, she polished the few pieces of silver she had on display in a small glass case hanging on the wall in her living room; she knew she would have to sell them eventually, though doing so now would do her no good seeing how they were hardly worth the cost of her rent, and told herself they would be her last resort. Afterwards came the floors, which weren’t terrible but did need a good scrubbing after all her years walking on them, the finished wood floors almost gleaming like mirrors, though thankfully not enough to see her own reflection. The wallpaper was her last task and took up quite a bit of time, the edges having started to peel back and needing re-glued before being smoothed out.

All together, this kept her occupied for a few days and she hadn’t thought much about her current predicament. Now that it was over, however, there was not much left to distract her. She tried reading from the small collection of books she had, but that proved fruitless as she couldn’t concentrate on the words in front of her. She even tried designing a new dress or two, but gave up when she realized she had no one to give it to.

Not for the first time, she found herself missing Angel. His spunky attitude and sass had always found a way to lift her spirits even when she found herself in the darkest of places, but now she felt his absence when she really needed him most. A part of her had hoped he would come and see her, but had to remind herself that she had never once told him where she lived. She had considered going to see him at the studio, but didn’t want to get in his or anyone elses way. Aside from that, it might be too painful for her, and that was something she could not handle right now.

Normally, she’d find comfort in being in the small cottage she called home, but after having been cooped up in it for several days it felt like she was suffocating. Deciding to act on her idea before she talked herself out of it, she changed into a fresh dress and put on her thick overcoat before stepping out into the ‘fresh’ air, or at least as fresh as it could get in Hell. Heading to nowhere in particular, she walked the streets with her head down, avoiding eye contact with everyone and ignoring their crude remarks just as she always did. She didn’t even bother looking at shops in hopes of seeing any help wanted signs, knowing she would see none.

Ottilie was not long into her walk before she found herself regretting it as an apparent turf war broke out. The street had been comfortably quiet, only a few demons walking along the sidewalks in the lesser occupied area of the Pentagram, when suddenly the ground beneath her feet trembled. She paused and looked around, wondering if anyone else had felt it too, but everyone seemed oblivious. Thinking it was just her nerves after having been cooped up for so long, she pressed on, but only made it a few steps before she felt another tremor, this one accompanied by a loud boom. This time, everyone on the street stopped and looked around in confusion, some even coming from neighboring streets just to see what the noise was. Another boom followed a tremor, both of them much closer than before, nearly knocking people off their feet as they stumbled a bit.

A deafening silence hung in the air as the noises suddenly stopped. Confusion set in further and everyone held their breath, waiting to see if it would happen again. A long howl of pain suddenly broke the silence, the outcry sounding as if it were getting closer and closer by the second. All heads turned to the right as a long black mass came flying out of a nearby alleyway before colliding with a car parked in the street. A sizable dent was put into the automobile and a demon slid down onto the asphalt, his tail coiled beneath him in an unruly manner as he groaned and rubbed at the back of his neck.

The demon was much taller than they’d originally thought, but that may have had something to do with his long serpentine tail, which made up the entire lower half of his body. His waist, chest, and arms were thin, especially in comparison to his thick lower half, but were made even more so by the black and yellow pinstripe blazer he wore, the padding in the shoulders almost making them look broader. His yellow undershirt was centered with a fuchsia colored eye, but whether or not he could actually see out of it was anyones guess. His underbelly was lined with two strips of light yellow, two rows of the same colored eyes as the one on his chest running down the length of them, and the yellow underside of skin that extended from his head, giving him the illusion of hair, also had two matching sets of eyes on either side, the top being much bigger than the bottom in size. The eyes that were actually set on his face were a much lighter shade of pink, the area around his slitted pupils just slightly darker. His wide fang filled mouth was pulled into a grimace, a forked tongue flicking out every thirty seconds in irritation as he continued to rub at the back of his head with large slender hands that extended into fuchsia colored clawed fingers. Around his neck was a rather huge black and yellow bow tie and atop his head was a matching top hat, but the hat had a mouth and eye of its own, the face seeming to correspond with the emotions of its wearer.

He shook his head to try and rid himself of the dull ache at the back of his skull and stared angrily at the alleyway he’d come flying out of only seconds before. “Why that arrogant, worthless, little piece of sh-!” He stopped when he noticed all heads turned to him, some of their expressions not looking on him kindly, and it clearly rubbed him the wrong way as he shouted, “What are you insufferable half-wits looking at!?”

“Well, if I had to guess,” a new voice called out tauntingly before a new figure stepped out of the alleyway, “I’d say they were looking at a piss poor example of a waste of space!”

The white skinned she-demon was a slender slip of a woman, her breast and hips large enough to give her a shapely figure, and the wide sharp-toothed smile she sported only spelled danger for those around her. She wore tattered and ripped clothing that revealed generous portions of the skin underneath; the off-the-shoulder magenta crop top over her chest put her bra straps on full display along with the tops of her breasts and the matching extremely short skirt around her hips doing nothing to cover her crotch was only saved by the black pants she wore underneath. On her arms were finger-less gloves that extended past her elbows, one colored black and the other white and grey. One foot was covered by a fuchsia boot with two white stripes across the top while her other was bare safe for the fuchsia toed white sock. Her shoulder and temple were dotted with three magenta freckles and the single eye in the center of her head had no pupil; in its place sat a large white x, making it hard to pinpoint exactly where she was looking. Her hair, ranging from hues of orange to pink, was slightly frayed and parted to the side with a thin stick of hair wrapped in a brown ribbon keeping a portion sectioned off from the rest.

The male, who Ottilie recognized from her long time in Hell as a snake demon, glared at the woman as he picked himself up off the ground. “You’d best watch yourself, missy! You’re on thin ice as it is and I’ve had just about enough of that mouth of yours!”

“Only just enough, huh?” the woman questioned in surprise before her smile returned. “I guess I’ll have to kick it up a notch, then!” She pulled out a small brightly colored ball and tossed it into the air before catching it again, the skull drawn on the front not a good sign for anyone.

“Well, kicking it up a notch might be an improvement in your case! Maybe then this fight would be a bit more evenly matched!” the snake demon sneered mockingly.

“And this coming from the guy who only a minute ago was sent flying and landed flat on his ass?” the woman snickered.

The snake demon glared again, looking around angrily as a few members of their audience laughed too, making him hiss in frustration. “All of you low life sinners had best get out of my territory before I make you regret ever stepping into it!” A pause hung in the air before the street roared with laughter, none of them intimidated after what they’d just seen; all but Ottilie, at least, who knew a threat when she saw one, but leaving now would only draw attention to herself and she received more than enough of that to begin with. “Fine then,” he smiled, clearly knowing something they didn’t, and pulled out a small whistle from inside his blazer. “Have it your way.” He brought it to his lips and blew into the small silver contraption.

It was strange when no sound came out of the whistle. It was strange when the snake demon placed it back inside his blazer and crossed his arms with a smug smile on his reptilian face. It was strange when the one eyed demoness looked around nervously despite nothing happening in that instant. What was even stranger, though, was when a flurry of battle cries could be heard coming from the adjacent streets followed by a stampede of small feet.

Heads turned in different directions as egg shaped demons came running out of the alleyways and side streets, many of them needlessly climbing over cars and trash cans even though they could have simply walked around the few that were there. They seemed almost never ending as they came pouring out like water from a faucet, most of them still crying out and shouting as if being called to battle, and their numerous footfalls were practically deafening despite how small their feet were. Once they eventually trickled off and reached the snake demon who appeared to have called them, they circled around him from all sides, creating a wall of protection around him, but their height didn’t seem to do much in his favor.

“Here we are,” one of the eggs looked up at the snake, a slight pause hanging in the air, “boss.”

“We got here pretty quick, didn’t we, Mr. Boss-Man!” another said, tapping on his tail repeatedly to gain his attention, nearly poking one of the eyes in the process.

The snake hissed at them, the skin around his head and neck flaring out in a threatening manner, making them all shut up and return their attention to the task at hand.

The one eyed demoness shook off her initial worry and her expression returned to one of cocky indifference. “You think those half-assed chicken shitted wannabes can scare me off? Why don’t you take your fetus rejects and go home to watch The Price is Right, old man?”

The snake demon looked confused. “The what is what? Ugh! Never mind! I’ve already staked my claim in this territory and I’ll not have some punky ruffian run me off of it… again!”

“You are a man of science, aren’t you? What’s that saying about doing something over and over again and expecting different results?” the one eyed demoness tilted her head mockingly.

“That’s not science, you imbecile! That’s the definition of insanity!” the snake demon said in irritation.

The demoness let out a single loud laugh and shouted, “Nerd!”

The snake demon looked around in irritation as people around him laughed along with her. “Ugh! You’ll all rue the day you laughed at Sir-!” he began as he reached into his blazer again only to cut himself off mid-sentence as he dug around deeper. Pulling his arm out, he patted himself down and looked around frantically. “Where is my ray gun!?” He looked around at the eggs surrounding him, their looks turning from determination to fear. “Which one of you has it?”

“It isn’t us,” another pause, “boss.”

“We would never think to take it from you,” the egg shook his head, his entire body moving with the motion.

“I think I saw Number Twenty-Six with it,” one raised his hand excitedly.

The snake glanced around and raised a brow. “Twenty-Six! Where are you?”

“Over here, boss,” another egg called out fearfully as he and two others came waddling as fast as they could from around a corner, a strange weapon about as big as he was held above his head. They appeared to be running away from something rather than actually toward the man who seemed to employ them.

That something came barreling out after them and smashed what appeared to be a blunt object over one of their heads, causing it to crack and cave in. The tall figure pulled the object, which was a baseball bat with nails hammered into one end, out the remains and the broken egg fell to the ground. The pavement and the bat were now covered in yellow yolk, but the work was not yet. The other egg not carrying the weapon turned and waved his hands in a stop motion, but was ignored as the bat swung to the side and sent him flying to the side, his body immediately exploding on impact and causing more yolk to coat the asphalt. The bat was aimed at the third egg, but it jumped out of the way in time and stepped into the small sea of his lookalikes, the gun in his hands the only way to tell him apart from the others.

Ottilie was so surprised to find that Angel Dust was the one wreaking havoc on the over-sized eggs that she nearly called out his name, the shout catching in her throat once she realized she was about to call attention to herself, something she’d been trying to avoid only moments before. She was happy to see him, but now was not the time.

The egg demon made his way through the short crowd, the others around him parting to let him through only to step back into place once he passed. Once he was at the center, he held the gun-like weapon up as high as he could reach toward the snake. “Here it is, boss! I kept it safe for you, sir!” He seemed so proud of himself in that moment, but it was shattered when the object was snatched from his hands.

“Give me that before you hurt someone important… namely me!” the black scaled demon hissed. He flipped a few switches on the gun and it hummed to life, a red glass panel slowly glowing to a bright crimson red. He held it out in front of him and aimed it right at the one eyed demoness, her brow furrowing into a glare. “Now, where was I? Oh yes! You will all rue the day you laughed at the mighty Sir Pentious!”

“The only thing mighty about you is your age!” the demoness laughed before he pulled the trigger.

The center of the claw-like tips began to emmite a crimson glow of their own as a sphere shaped ball appeared inside of it, the humming much louder now until it grew into a crescendo. The gun let off a strange noise as a beam of light flew out from the sphere and headed straight toward its target, the backlash from the force of it causing the weapon to fly back and hit Sir Pentious in the face.

Angel Dust came running up just seconds before the beam could hit the demoness and knocked her out of the way, the two falling to the ground in a heap. The beam instead hit the wall behind her and caused the bricks to immediately crumble into dust in a wide circle, a few heads inside the building poking out in surprise to see what had created the hole only to disappear back inside a few seconds later. Anyone wondering what a silly beam of light might have done were no longer questioning it and there was a brief moment of silence before demons were scrambling left and right, some trying to leave the street altogether and others ducking behind nearby objects big enough to hide them.

Ottilie had hidden herself behind a stack of wooden crates left to rot in a dead end alleyway, knowing that she had no chance of running in the heels she was wearing, and peaked out from behind to continue watching. With that gun around, she feared what would happen to Angel, knowing how reckless he could be in the face of danger; she wondered if a demon could even come back from being turned into dust or if she would have to face the sight of what was once his body being a permanent pile on the ground.

“Get them, you fools!” Pentious called out over the commotion, making his egg minions jump in surprise before they spurred into action. He watched in satisfaction as they formed into small groups and chased after their targets, most of them successful in tackling the ones running to the ground and beating into them with their tiny fists while the ones searching for the hiding demons looked around in confusion, some of them lifting up tiny rocks and looking under them as if they could hide under there; a good many of them passed by Ottilie, but none of them seemed to notice her. He and his hat rolled their eyes in irritation before he returned his attention to Angel and the woman he was helping up. “As for you two,” they looked at him and raised their brows, “I think I’ll just turn you both into the worthless bits of dust you are! What a fitting end to two wastes of space!” He aimed the gun again and pulled the trigger, but it only hummed for a second or two before dying out. He looked at the gun from a few different angles before beating it against his hand. “Darn thing always stalling! That’s the last time I use second rate wiring!”

Angel and his companion smiled at each other, the words they spoke to each other lost in the chaos, and took advantage of the situation. The one eyed woman plucked an egg off the sidewalk as he came running by and cracked him in half over her leg, causing his yolky innards to spill out as she pulled the two halves apart. She placed the skull painted ball she’d been holding up until that point inside the empty shells after igniting a strip of wick on the ball and placed them back together. The pieces somehow managed to stay stuck together as she tossed them high into the air. Angel held the nail laden bat behind his head, his eyes on the egg now falling toward him, and swung it as soon as his target fell into place.

Pentious looked up from tinkering with his gun in time to see the white, black, and yellow object flying toward his face. A grimace pulled at his features just before the shell crashed into his face and the explosive that had apparently been placed inside went off. A scarlet colored smoke blossomed out in a wide radius around him and left him hacking and coughing along with his hat once some of it cleared.

Angel and the woman exchanged a few more words and high fived each other before Angel ran off to chase after the egg demons while she stayed behind to face the now very angry snake demon.

Ottilie lost sight of Angel from her hiding spot, now somewhat relieved that he was out of the way of the deadly weapon in the hands of an apparent mad-man. Her eyes followed him as long as they could before he disappeared and she had to turn her attention to the rest of the chaos happening around her.

The small groups of egg demons had broken off and most of them were more or less on their own. More than a few of the remaining groups were bashing some handheld weapons, which appeared to be household objects that one normally wouldn’t carry around in hopes of attacking someone with it, against cars and other things on the street; Ottilie was left to wonder why they were doing this as a quick glance revealed no one was hiding underneath or around them and they could certainly see this much better with their small stature. The ones who had apparently gone rogue were still chasing around the demons trying to flee the scene, first attacking their legs to trip them up and then pinning them to the ground so they could beat into them only for the pattern to repeat once they escaped their hold.

One of the eggs had managed to discover a hiding place as he lifted the lid off a trash can that had turned over and found a cat demon hiding inside. The two jumped away from each other in surprise before the cat clambered out of the bin and tried to get away. The egg dashed after him, surprising fast for a creature of his size, and latched onto his leg once he caught up. The added weight caused the cat to try to kick him off before he was left unbalanced and fell to the ground. The egg leapt up and gripped onto the cats face, pulling rather hard on his fur and taking a few clumps out in the process. The cat hissed in a mixture of pain and rage as he clawed at the thing assaulting his face and tried to pull it off, this proving difficult without pulling out more of his fur than had already been. He eventually was able to get the egg off of his head and threw him as far as he could manage, turning and running as soon as he was away from it only to be ambushed by a larger group of them seconds later.

Ottilie watched as the egg soared through the air, calling out in a mixture of fear and excitement, and started to gravitate right towards her. She could have easily backed away and him splatter on the ground in front of her, but instead she held out her arms and caught him. The weight of him caused her to fall forward slightly, but she righted herself and held the over-sized thing against her as he looked around dizzily. “Are you alright?” she asked as his eyes focused on her and looked up at her in surprise.

The sight that greeted the egg was Ottilie silhouetted by the sky above her, giving her the image of a crimson halo, a concerned look on her face. He looked up at her in awe and wonder, his hands around his face in a bit of fear, before he asked in an innocent manner, “Are you an angel?”

Ottilie blinked at him in astonishment. “No, I’m not.”

The egg gasped. “Mama? Are you my Mama?”

Ottilies face twitched, like she wasn’t quite sure how to respond to such a question. Any sane person would have said no, but those almost innocent bright yellow eyes looking up at her in hope made her instead say, “Sure.”

The egg gasped again, his voice rising in elation. He threw his arms around her neck and nuzzled into it, his hard shell surprisingly soft against her skin. “Mama!” She could feel her cheeks heating up to the point her face felt like it was burning. “My nice Mama! My nice, sweet Mama!” She patted his back in an awkward but soothing manner, an action that felt familiar but she couldn’t quite place. His little hands gripped her tighter until he was practically holding on for dear life, repeating the action of patting her back as well.

It felt strange to be touched so willingly. Angel was the only one who had ever felt inclined to come within five feet of her without it being to step around her or not even realizing she was there in the first place. Though strange, it wasn’t entirely unwanted. Perhaps she was touch starved after so long even though the most Angel ever did was hold her hands or place his hand on her shoulder from time to time.

Just when she was getting used to the feeling, the egg in her arms stiffened, shuddered, and jumped from her lap. “Boss man is calling us back now! Bye-bye, Mama!” He waddled back the way he’d come, the rest of his look-alikes doing the same. She waved back at him even though his back was to her and he couldn’t possibly have seen it.

“Fine, keep this revolting travesty of territory while you can! I’ll be back for it!” Pentious was shouting at the demoness, the silver whistle clenched tightly in the fist he shook in her direction, his blazer tattered with fairly large holes and half his face covered in the scarlet smoke. He didn’t give her a chance to reply before he slithered off after his retreating minions and disappeared around a corner.

“Yeah, you better run, you burnt ass shit!” the woman called after him despite the fact he was already gone.

The other demons on the street didn’t take the chance of them coming back, leaving with their tails between their legs and a surprising amount of injuries to tend to. The only ones left on the street now were Angel, his female companion, and Ottilie, who was still hidden out of sight. If it had just been Angel by himself, she might have immediately run over to him, but she didn’t know or trust this woman who seemed to be rather proficient with bombs.

Angel walked back over to the one eyed demon as she brushed the dirt off of her clothes and he shook the yolk off his bat, a few of the nails either missing now or bent at a different angle than they had been. “You okay?”

The woman scoffed and flicked a lock of hair out of her face. “That pansy ass bitch wishes he could lay a hand on me!” He laughed boisterously along with her as he ran his own hand through his hair, picking a few egg shells out in the process. “What were you doing around here, anyway? Shouldn’t you be in therapy or some shit at your fancy, smancy hotel?”

“We went through all that this morning,” Angel rolled his eyes as she snickered at him. “Besides… I was lookin’ for somebody.”

“Oooooo,” she taunted, poking him in the side repeatedly. “Did your boyfriend run off on you?”

It was Angels turn to scoff now. “No one runs out on this gorgeous mug!” His head turned down as his expression shifted to a mixture of anger and sadness. “I’m lookin’ for a gal pal.”

“Huh,” the woman said in surprise, not used to seeing him pull such an expression. “Well… I hope you find her.”

Angel offered her a half smile. “Thanks, Cherri.”

“Yeah, yeah,” she playfully punched him on the arm. “I’d best be heading off. Turf to watch over and all that bullshit.”

“Break a leg out there, kid,” Angel returned the action.

The two said their goodbyes and headed off in opposite directions, Cherri heading away and Angel coming towards Ottilie. Her eyes widened and she felt her breath hitch in her throat. She hadn’t seen him since a month prior and here he was walking in her direction, that familiar sway in his hips following each stride of his long legs, his steps just as quick as she remembered. Each second brought him closer and closer until he was right in front of her hiding place and then walking past it in the next. She wondered why she hadn’t stepped out yet or at least called out to him, but then she felt that pang of fear blossom in her chest. She wasn’t even sure what she was supposed to say to him. She hadn’t exactly said goodbye to him or even told him she had been fired and had run off like a coward. Tears pricked at her eyes and she blinked them away, knowing now wasn’t the time to wallow in her emotions like she had been. Now was the time for action.

Angel was a good ways away from her when she stepped out from behind the wooden crates that had acted as her shield, paused for a second, and started after him. Her steps were slow at first before turning into a light sprint and then escalating into a full on run. She was surprised to find that she didn’t stumble or trip on the concrete as she raced after him, his form getting closer and closer until he was only a mere ten feet away.

Realizing there was a noise behind him that sounded like the familiar sound of heels, he turned just in time to see a blur of blue and purple before it came crashing into him. He stumbled back a few steps as slender arms wrapped around his waist and a head buried itself just beneath his chest. “Whoa! What the Hell?” He looked down and saw a familiar head of curly lavender colored hair, his eyes widening at the sight. “Ottilie?”

*****

Angel placed a hot cup of tea in front of Ottilie before taking his seat at the table, the coffee shop they’d gone to quiet but a bit chatter going on around them. She quietly thanked him and started placing cubes of sugar into the streaming drink, stirring the contents once they were soft enough to get her spoon through. He took a sip of his smoothie while she did that same with hers and he looked at her like she’d grown a third head. “I still don’t see how you do that.”

“Do what?” she asked, looking up from her cup.

“Drink that boiling hot shit before it even has a chance to cool,” he shook his head as he dipped his finger in the whipped cream that topped his drink and licked it off. “My mouth would be burning right now.”

“I like the heat,” she shrugged as she wrapped her hands around the bottom of the mug, cupping it as the warmth spread through her gloves into her skin. “It feels nice.”

“Whatever floats your root beer.” He took another drink from his cup, this one longer than the last, like he was trying to avoid what he wanted to say next. When he finally pulled the straw away from his lips, he set the cup back down on the table and leaned back casually in his chair, top left arm draped over the back and his other hands placed in his lap with his legs crossed. “So… you workin’ anywhere else?”

She knew this would come up eventually and what it would lean up to, but was still widely unprepared for it. “No. I’ve been looking, but there doesn’t seem to be anything available. At this rate, I won’t be able to keep my home.”

He looked at her worriedly. “How long will you be able to stay there?”

“The end of the month,” she replied somberly.

“Ottilie… that’s three days away,” he pointed out. It was odd to hear him call her by her name. He’d only ever called her names like ‘toots’, ‘dollface’, and other things.

“I know.”

He growled in frustration and, had it been anyone else, she would have thought it was directed at her. “You should have just come to me instead of making me hear it from some low life stage hand and run back to the dressing room only to find you gone! I would have fought like Hell to keep you on!”

She looked at him in surprise. “Really?”

“Of course! No one knows how to do my makeup or measurements like you do!” he said a little too loudly, turning a few heads. She looked less surprised now. “This new dame they got can’t even get a seam straight and whenever she’s doin’ me up, she keeps pokin’ me in the eye and smearin’ on shit like she’s bakin’ a cake! If I have to go into a shot one more time with a bloodshot eye, I’m gonna scream!”

“Oh, I see,” she said slowly, her fingers playing with the rim of her cup.

He noticed her actions and let out a deep sigh, his shoulders sagging with it. “Look… just… next time somethin’ like that happens… come to me, okay? You know I got your back, right?”

A small smile pulled at the corners of her lips as she nodded, “Right.”

“Two of a kind?” he held out a pinky.

“Birds of a feather,” she locked her pinky with his.

“Now and forever! Whee!” they said together in delight, throwing their hands in the air like a gleeful celebration.

“Hey, shut the Hell up!” someone called over to them.

“Up yours, ya schmuck!” Angel called back, turning around his chair so he could face the voice.

“Ah, go fuck yourself, drag show!” the voice demanded.

“Fuck me yourself, coward!” Angel shook his fist at them. Ottilie nearly choked on her tea as she went to take a sip, some of it dripping down her chin before she could reach for a napkin to wipe it off.

“I ain’t coming within a country mile of whatever you’ve got festering down there!” the voice laughed. Angel looked perturbed at that. “Why don’t you get a real job?”

“I got a real job for you right here!” Angel flipped him off and gestured to his crotch. The other man lost interest then and walked off. He clicked his tongue in annoyance and turned back around in his seat. “Tryin’ to me to get a job when I already-.” He paused and stopped mid sentence. An idea seemed to strike him and he smiled like a kid in a candy store. He reached across the table and grabbed her shoulders with one set of hands while the other kept him balanced on the flat surface. “Ottilie! I have a job for you!”

She looked up at him in confusion, her head tilting slightly in question. “You want me to give you a blowjob?”

“Wait, what? No!” he answered quickly. “Just come with me! I’ll take care of everything!”

Chapter Text

Angel was practically dragging Ottilie behind him as they made their way toward some unknown destination, his hand wrapped around her wrist so they wouldn’t be separated. This was helpful since his legs made his strides twice as long as hers, but it also left her sprinting behind him. He kept evading her questions whenever she asked where they were going and simply telling her to keep following him.

“Will you at least slow down?” she asked, out of breath and trying not to trip in her heeled boots.

“We can’t slow down! If we don’t hurry, it might be gone!” he replied, only seeming to pick up the pace. “We’ve wasted enough time as it is!”

“Well, maybe if you told me where we were going,” she pointed out, “I might have a bit more motivation!”

“Just trust me!” he shouted.

“It’s not that I don’t trust you, it’s just that I can’t-.” She made a wrong step in her boot and it twisted to the side, almost sending her tumbling to the ground. He gripped her wrist tighter and kept her from falling. Rather than setting her on her feet, however, he picked her up and placed her under his arm. “Angel! This hardly seems appropriate!”

“What do you care? You’ve been naked in front of an entire room before! And on multiple occasions!” he stated.

She grimaced slightly. “That is an entirely separate matter and has nothing to do with this definition of appropriate! Now please stop manhandling me! I am not a sack of flour!” She kicked her legs slightly as she tried to wiggle from his arms, but the fact that he had four gave him the upper hand and made her look childish.

“Baby doll, I love you to pieces, but you’re slower than a turtle on the back of a snails ass,” he shook his head.

Her face turned redder than it already was. “Well maybe if you were not such a grand-daddy-long-leg, I could keep up with you.”

“Oh, hush up,” he said as he pulled out a ball gag and shoved it in her mouth; a few people stared at them as they passed, but said nothing as they’d seen weirder things in Hell. “We’re almost there anyway, so quit your squirmin’.” She muttered something, but he couldn’t make it out with the thick piece of rubber in her mouth. “Sorry, toots. You’ll have to speak up. I can’t quite hear you.” He laughed mockingly, staggering a bit as she somehow managed to twist her body around and kick him in the rear. “Ow! Hey, watch it!” She clasped her hands together and fluttered her eyes innocently up at him. “Yeah, right. Your horns hold up your halo.”

The rest of their walk was spent in relative silence. Neither of them wanted to admit it, but they were both happy to be back in each other presence. Ottilies off-handed comments that Angel could always recognize as teasing left him laughing like nothing else could; unlike most people, she was receptive of his dirty jokes and even gave them right back. Angel had this way about him of always seeing past her blank exterior, getting closer to her than anyone had ever dared or tried. She could almost imagine their relationship was like that of a brother and sister. They would tease each other more often than not, but at the end of the day it just showed how much they cared about each other.

Ottilie looked around at their surroundings, realizing she’d never been to this area of the Pentagram before, but that had more to do with the fact that she had never really traveled much farther than from work to home. There seemed to be a lot more casinos and bars in this area, but more on the high end side than the low class establishments she had gotten used to passing. The people seemed much better dressed as well; there were more people staring at Angel for the way he was dressed than at her, but a part of her wondered if that had to do with the fact he was carrying her around like he was while another wondered if they had other thoughts on their brain. She could only guess that they were somewhere near the North side as she had always heard that it was much nicer there than most other areas.

Angel didn’t even glance at any of the buildings around them, leaving her to wonder once again where they were going. His pace picked up slightly and they came to a rather sizeable clearing, something that wasn’t found often in Hell. She looked at the ground and noticed him step onto a rainbow shaped path filled with holes. She followed the path with her eyes and came upon a sight she was not expecting to see.

Ottilie had heard a lot about this since it’d opened, mostly on the news whenever they felt like dragging it further through the mud, but had never seen it in all of its glory. The backside looked like any other hotel she’d seen, a small tower sticking out of the top right corner of the roof being the only difference, but the front side gave her a jolt of familiarity. It brought her back to her first day in Hell, looking around at the structures that seems so familiar yet she did not know them, and how different they had looked compared to now. The structure was like that of a grand mansion with two towers connected to balconies and a single long hall connected to the one on the left hand side, but the front doors were protected by a tall awning held up by four thick pillars. The doors were also lit up in bright lights all along the front side that cast shadows in what she could only describe as disco-style, the bright ball of reflective glass having once been very popular a few decades back. Her gaze was drawn toward the fuschia colored billboard, the word ‘Happy’ colored pale pink and lit up in lights while the ‘Hotel’ below it was simply painted black, but the ‘t’ had been replaced by a key with an eyeball on it.

Now would have been a good time to pull the ball gag out of her mouth as Angel jogged up the short flight of steps leading to the set of double doors, which were fitted with stained glass that displayed intricate pictures of apples, but too many questions were running through her mind. The loudest being why had he brought her there. It was not as if she was looking to redeem herself. She could not even remember what she had done to end up here, but even then she wasn’t sure if she’d try for it.

Angel didn’t bother knocking, seeing how he was a guest there, and simply pushed the door open. After stepping into the entryway, he closed the door behind him and walked further into the hotel. He either hadn’t realized he was still carrying her or he simply didn’t care, but either way she was still tucked under his arm with a fairly sizable ball gag in her mouth.

Ottilie glanced around, only able to see things for a second before they passed them. Both the crown molding and wallpaper were decorated with depictions of apples, which seemed to be a common theme for the interior and exterior design. Hanging on the walls were countless pictures that mostly featured a pretty young woman, some of them featuring her as a child, with long blonde hair and bright red cheeks that contrasted her pale white skin. A few others showed her next to people she couldn’t quite identify, but more than a few she could recognize even at a glance.

Angel stopped in the foyer and looked around for a few seconds like he was trying to find someone. Ottilie looked up at him, about to remove the gag and ask what he was doing, when he suddenly shouted, “Hey Queenie! You here?”

Ottilie rubbed at her ear, her expression slightly miffed at the verbal assault so close to her person. “A little more warning would be nice,” she said, but the words were lost around the gag.

“Yeah, yeah. Hold that thought,” Angel said dismissively. “Queenie! Where the fuck are you?” Ottilie could only wonder if whoever he was looking for was actually named Queenie or if it was just another nickname. “Ugh. Why is she only ever around when I do shit I don’t want her to see but not when I actually need her? Queenie! You better answer me or I’ll-!” There was a sudden loud crash followed by what sounded like an angry cat hissing and then more crashes followed. He suddenly looked worried and his entire body tensed. “Oh no!” He quickly set her down on her feet and placed his hands on her shoulders as she finally pulled the gag out. “Wait here! I’ll be back!” He started running down the hall. “Don’t worry, Pussyfoot! I’m comin’ for you!”

“Angel Dust, wait!” Ottilie called after him, but he’d already disappeared from sight.

She stood there for a moment before nervousness set in and she looked around, trying to find something familiar, but that was impossible in a place where she’d never been. She felt awkward just standing there, but it would be rude of her to sit without an invitation, so she stayed in that spot like she’d been told.

She was playing with the fabric of her dress skirt when someone came barreling through a side door in the room. She didn’t get a good look at him because he ran off just as quickly as he’d come into the room, but from what she’d seen he appeared to be a winged cat demon. He also looked pissed beyond all reason and this only seemed to be confirmed when he yelled, “Where the fuck did you go? You’d better hope I don’t get my hands on you cause when I do, I’m going to mount your stupid head on the wall!” The only reply he received was a devious chuckle, which oddly seemed to crackle like it was coming through a microphone, before he dashed out of the room.

She could hear more running and shouting throughout the halls, some of it followed by more crashes, but it was hard to determine just where it was coming from. She thought she heard Angel on more than one occasion and had to fight the urge to go looking for him, not wanting to get lost in the enormous building, especially when it sounded like he wasn’t terribly close to her anymore.

“Husk, you know this is pointless, right? Even if you could find him, you’d never be able to take on Ala-!” a voice shouted before a woman stepped into the hall and noticed Ottilie standing in the foyer, their eyes meeting and sharing a look of confusion. She let out a large puff of air, like she was out of breath, and stepped closer to her. “I’m sorry, who are you?”

The woman was short, only coming to Ottilies chin, and almost everything about her was tiny. Her skin was gray and knee length hair a pale white, the tips a light pink and thick bangs parted to the right to cover her eye. Her left eye was a pale peach with white irises and was framed by thick black lashes, but all Ottilie could see of the right was a bright pink ‘x’. Her nose was beak shaped and a bit large on her face while her mouth was full of sharp fanged teeth. She had a curvy figure and slender waist, but neither her hips nor breasts were very wide. She wore a white sleeveless dress with a dark grey belt around her waist and matching fringe on the hem of the short skirt, one of the straps falling loosely off her shoulder, a dark grey ‘x’ stitched over either breast. Her arms were covered by dark gray gloves that ended halfway past her elbow, one being finger-less and the other not. Her boots were tipped with white lace and also colored dark gray, the right having light pink stripes lining it, the heels not very tall or adding to her height. A dark grey choker was wrapped around her neck and the falling strap of her dress revealed her matching bra strap underneath.

Ottilie stepped back as the woman stepped forward, her expression blank but her actions showing fear. “I-I-Well-Um-.”

The woman noticed her shaking slightly and raised her brow. “Are you okay?” Ottilie didn’t reply and the woman sighed in frustration, suddenly looking very miffed. “You’re not another junky, are you? Look, you can’t just crash here and we don’t have anything you can sta-.”

“Vaggie!” another feminine voice called out as they heard someone coming toward them and the woman from the paintings came up beside the white haired demoness. “Did you find Husk?”

“No. I was too busy getting rid of another junky,” the white haired demoness, Vaggie, gestured toward Ottilie angrily.

The blonde demoness looked at Ottilie and tilted her head curiously, one brow raised in question. “She doesn’t look like a junky.”

“They never do, Charlie,” Vaggie shook her head as she placed her hands on her hips.

“Does she look strung out to you?” Charlie asked, no hint of sarcasm in her voice as she tapped her chin.

Vaggie went to say something before she took another look, their eyes meeting again but gazing deeper this time. “Well… no, but why else would she be here?”

“Maybe she’s here to sign up for the program or-,” Charlie started before she smiled brightly and snapped her fingers like she’d just made an amazing discovery. “She must be here for the maid position!”

Ottilie looked confused by this, but they didn’t seem to notice.

“I guess that makes sense,” Vaggie said after a moment of thought. She looked back at Ottilie and offered a somewhat friendly smile. “Sorry for getting hostile with you. We’ve had a problem with strung out assholes coming in here to crash for a night and then skipping out the next day.”

“Yeah,” Charlie laughed nervously as she scratched the back of her head. “So, when will you be able to start working?”

“Charlie,” Vaggie rubbed her temple, “we talked about this. You can’t just hire someone on the spot. You have to actually interview them.”

“Oh yeah, right, right,” Charlie nodded. “I was getting to that.”

“Uh huh,” Vaggie rolled her eyes, clearly not believing her for one second. “So how did you hear about the position?”

“I came here with Angel Dust,” Ottilie said under her breath, unable to meet their gaze.

“I’m sorry, what?” Charlie asked, leaning in a bit closer to hear her better.

“I came here with Angel Dust,” Ottilie repeated, but all they heard was the name as she was unable to make her voice go above a mumble.

“Angel Dust?” Vaggie practically shrieked in exasperation.

“Oh, so you’re a friend of Angel Dust, then?” Charlie clasped her hands together.

“Okay, how is she not a junky!?” Vaggie threw her hands in the air. “Now we definitely shouldn’t hire her!”

“Vaggie!” Charlie reprimanded. “Sorry about that. Vaggie and Angel Dust have a bit of… bad blood.” There was another crash from somewhere within the hotel and they all cringed. “Why don’t you go do damage control and I’ll handle the interview?”

Vaggie let out a long sigh and started to walk away. “If they throw a shoe at me again, someone is paying for it!”

Charlie turned back to Ottilie, a kind smile on her face. “So, are you ready for the interview? We should probably go somewhere more quiet or we’ll never get anywhere with it.” She gestured behind her, pointing somewhere further into the hotel.

Ottilie stared at her for a moment, unsure of what to do. She didn’t know Charlie, but from what she’d seen both on the television and the last few minutes she seemed like a nice person. She also finally understood why Angel had suddenly carted her off like he had; he’d been trying to get her a job, but obviously hadn’t done a very good job at presenting that fact as represented by the fact that he’d abandoned her as soon as they arrived. She should have been jumping at the chance to have a new job after having tried so hard to find one for so long, but at the same time she was still scared being in a strange area around people she didn’t know.

Despite all that, she felt a small spark of hope blossom in her chest and clung on to it, letting it fuel her until it outweighed her fear. She took a deep breath and steadied herself, her hands clasping in front of her to keep from fidgeting and met Charlies gaze. Once she was sure of herself, she nodded her head.

******

Charlie had led Ottilie through the halls, strolling along them and somehow not get lost in the maze of corridors, and brought her to an office that looked to have once been a study of some sort. Much like the foyer and entry hall, the room was covered in pictures of Charlie; a great many were of her in her youth, some featuring a tall woman with extremely long blonde hair, and then there were the ones with the same man that anyone in Hell would recognize in an instant. Obviously Charlies father, the two bore too much of a resemblance to each other for anyone to deny their relation. In each portrait, he looked at Charlie with such love and devotion, both of them smiling without a care in the world.

Ottilie wondered briefly if the woman was Charlies mother. She and Charlie looked nothing like each other aside from the fact they were both beautiful young women. She also seemed to have more of a commanding presence than the man did; while he was commanding in his own right, she called attention to herself in a cold and domineering way. Ottilie also noticed that, while Charlie was smiling in their portraits together, she looked far less happy than with her father and even nervous around the woman, like she was afraid to make a wrong move around her.

“So, this is simply a formality. I’m sure your perfect for the job, but Vaggie said we should start doing interviews after the last few incidents with the maids that have worked here,” Charlie said as she rooted around in a file cabinet, pulling Ottilie away from her thoughts. She seemed to find what she was looking for and set in on a table. “Would you like some tea before we get started?”

“Yes, thank you,” Ottilie said quietly, nodding her head in case Charlie couldn’t hear her. “What happened to the other maids?” she asked as Charlie set about preparing the drinks.

Charlie paused as she was putting tea bags into the hot water she’d gotten out of the faucet, her eyes going wide and smile falling for a few seconds before she righted herself and smiled awkwardly. “Well,” she scratched the back of her head, “they sort of left without notice. Vaggie kept getting mad each time it happened so she insisted we start picking them out more carefully.”

“So Vaggie is your business partner, then?” Ottilie inquired, her hands folded neatly in her lap so she wouldn’t fidget with them.

“In a way, yeah! None of this would really be possible without her!” Charlie gestured around them, referring to the hotel itself. “She’s more than just my business partner, actually…” She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and Ottilie could almost swear she saw her blush brighter than her cheeks.

“Oh, so you’re dating,” Ottilie said. It was hardly a question. She could tell by the way the two interacted around each other that they must have been in a deeper relationship that went beyond just business.

“Um… yeah, actually,” Charlie nodded, surprised that she’d caught on so fast. She poured the now brewed tea into two cups and set one down in front of Ottilie, both tea cups sitting on saucers that matched the apple designs painted onto the china. She brought over cream and sugar as well and sat down on the couch opposite to Ottilie.

There was a desk and two chairs in front of it sitting on the opposite side of the spacious room, but Charlie had steered her over to the sitting area instead when they walked in, saying something about this being more comfortable for both of them. Ottilie had to admit that she was right. There was something she didn’t like about another person sitting behind a desk and asking her questions. Perhaps it was the way the desk made her seem less important than the person behind it.

Ottilie couldn’t help but notice the way Charlie sat. Not unlike herself, her back was straight and she wasn’t sitting all the way back against the couch like most people would. Her legs were crossed at the knees whereas Ottilie crossed hers at the ankle, but that may have had something to do with the fact that Charlie was wearing pants while Ottilie was in a dress. She was also careful not to let the spoon she was using to stir her cream and sugar into her tea hit the side of the cup, a sound that had always gratted on Ottilies nerves.

Once her tea was stirred and it tasted to her satisfaction, she set the cup and saucer down to pick up the paper from the table between the two. “So, do you have any previous work history?”

“I used to work in the porn industry,” Ottilie said bluntly before take a sip of her drink. Charlie looked at her in surprise; no one ever guessed just by looking at her that she would be in adult films. “But I was demoted when I said no after they asked me to do something I was uncomfortable with. While working in the costume department, I met Angel Dust and he made me his personal assistant. I loved both jobs, but they let me go a month back because they said my designs were too old fashioned. I’ve been looking ever since, but haven’t had any luck finding another job.”

“Oh no! That’s such a shame!” Charlie said, genuinely sympathetic for her. “It’s good that you kept on looking, though! That shows perseverance and we certainly need a lot of that here!” She pulled out a pen and placed a check mark next to the question. “So how long have you and Angel Dust known each other?”

Ottilie thought for a moment, her fingers tapping together against her thumb repeatedly as she counted silently to herself. “Seventy years.”

“Oh, wow. That’s a lasting friendship,” Charlie smiled. Ottilie offered a small smile in return, grateful for the memories she shared with him, be they good or bad. “How long have you been in Hell?”

Ottilies smile faded. “I don’t know.”

“Hm?” Charlie looked up at her in confusion before realizing there must have been a math problem with the question. “Don’t worry. I can help you figure that out. Just tell me what year you died and we can subtract it from our current year.”

“I don’t know,” Ottilie said again, shaking her head slightly.

Charlie looked even more confused now. “Um…” She noticed how sad Ottilie looked and felt a pang of guilt. “Well, let’s just come back to that later. I’m sure we can figure that out. Do you know what kind of demon you are?” Ottilie shook her head. “Hm… You almost look like a succubus, but I don’t see a tail… Do you have a tail?” Ottilie nodded, looking a little less sad now. “Aha! Well there you go!” She scribbled something down on the paper and placed a check mark next to the question again. “Now I know this question may seem a little personal, but Vaggie said it was a must for the interview questions. What sin did you commit to end up in Hell?”

“I don’t know,” Ottilie repeated, feeling like a broken record. Charlie looked at her for a long moment, wondering if she was playing some kind of weird joke on her. “I can’t remember anything about my past life. The only thing I do remember is how I died.”

Charlie felt her jaw drop as her chest clenched in sadness. She couldn’t even begin to imagine what that must be like. There were things about her own life that she wished she could forget, but the whole of it certainly wasn’t one of them. “I’m so sorry.”

“You don’t have to apologize,” Ottilie picked up her cup and took a drink, fighting back the tears that were threatening to well in her eyes. It was hard to swallow around the lump in her throat, but the heat from the tea loosened it just enough that it wasn’t such a bother. “I’d like to remember what I was like before… but I’ve accepted the fact that I probably never will.”

Charlies lips were quivering and her eyes were large and wet from the tears she wasn’t even bothering to hold back. She sniffled loudly, her voice tight as she asked, “Okay, one last question: What size uniform do you wear?”

“A two. Why do you ask?” Ottilie wondered.

“Because I need to know so I can see if we have anything that will fit you before you start working,” Charlie explained as she pulled a tissue out of the box on the table and blew her nose.

Ottilies head flew up and her visible eye brightened. “You mean I got the job?”

“Hmhm,” Charlie nodded happily.

Ottilie couldn’t remember if or when she’d ever felt so much joy in her life. She was so excited that she almost dropped the cup in her hand, which was thankfully now empty, and a wide smile spread across her face. “Thank you so much.”

Charlie was surprised. Ottilie had seemed pretty enough before, but her smile was a whole other thing entirely. She smiled back, her head tilting to the side happily. “My pleasure!”

******

Charlie had been digging around in the supply closet for a good ten minutes when she finally realized how futile it was. “I’m sorry. I just can’t seem to find any more uniformed dresses in here. We’ll have to order some, I suppose.”

“Oh, that’s alright,” Ottilie interjected from the doorway. “I don’t want you to go to any trouble for my sake. I can just make a dress of my own.”

“Isn’t that handy,” Charlie beamed. “Vaggie will be glad to hear that. She says our cleaning budget is high enough as it is.” She picked up a pair of black pants and a red colored smock. “Will this be alright in the meantime? I know pants are a bit of change compared to a dress, but it’s all we have right now.”

“I don’t mind at all,” Ottilie said as the items were handed to her.

“I imagine you’d like a day or two before you get started. When do you think you can come back in?” Charlie asked.

“I’d like to start immediately, if that’s alright,” Ottilie stated, catching Charlie off guard.

“Oh, wow. Now that’s dedication!” Charlie laughed. “That’s fine with me. I have a few things to see to around the hotel, but I’m sure Vaggie wouldn’t mind showing you what to do. You can change in here while I go and find her.”

Ottilie nodded and Charlie walked off down the hall, leaving her to put on her new uniform. After closing the door and slipping off her lavender colored dress, she threw the smock on over her body and stepped into the pants. Charlie had been right about them being a bit of a change. She hadn’t worn pants since leaving the film industry and that had been just before meeting Angel. They were comfortable enough, however, with an elastic band around the waist that both hugged her hips and gave her room to breath. Her boots looked a bit out of place in the modern clothing, but she’d have to settle for them until she could find something better. Once she was changed, she draped her dress and coat on a hanger before stepping out of the room to wait for Vaggie.

It wasn’t long before someone approached her, but it wasn’t who she was waiting for.

“There you are!” Angel said in an almost annoyed tone. “I leave for one minute and you go running off on me again! I thought you’d skipped out on me like last time.”

“You left me an hour ago,” Ottilie pointed out as he came to stand in front of her.

“Oh. Well I uh-,” he stammered before noticing her attire. He’d never actually seen her in anything other than a dress and was just now realizing how small she really was compared to him. “What the Hell are you wearing?”

“My new uniform,” she explained.

“Wait, what? So you got the job?” Angel asked hopefully. Ottilie nodded. “Nine to five alive! That’s amazing!” He picked her up excitedly and spun her in a circle, leaving her dizzy as he set her back down on the floor. “Geez, you work fast, though. I didn’t even get a chance to tell you about it and then you go off and get hired on your own.”

“You had multiple chances to tell me, but you refused to do so each time,” Ottilie stated as she smoothed out the wrinkles in her clothes.

“Why can’t you ever let me have my dramatic moment?” Angel gripped.

“Every moment with you is dramatic,” Ottilie said with a deadpan expression.

Angel laughed sarcastically. “Oh, yeah. You think you’re so funny. Well you won’t be laughin’ when I tie up all the bed sheets and turn them into a web and you’re the one stuck gettin’ ‘em down.”

“Good luck doing that when I talk Charlie and Vaggie into using an off brand laundry detergent,” she warned, raising a brow at him slightly.

He gasped at the threat. “You know I have sensitive skin! How could you say that?”

“Don’t test me, spider boy. I’ll beat you every time,” she smiled almost cheekily.

“Why you little-!” he started to say jokingly as he reached all of his hands out toward her like he was going to grab her.

“Hey! Quit messing with the new employee!” Vaggie shouted as she and Charlie came down the hall. “You and those other troublemakers caused enough damage earlier.”

Angel clicked his tongue in irritation as he crossed one set of arms and placed the others on his hips. “That wasn’t even my fault. What happened back there, anyway?”

Vaggie rolled her eyes at the memory. “Something about Radiohead putting a cucumber down on the counter while Husk had he back turned and scaring the crap out of him.” Angel looked almost on the verge of tears as he fought the urge to laugh. “Ugh. Just get out of here, you overgrown butt plug!”

“Eh. I’ve been called worse,” Angel shrugged, smiling when Vaggie glared up at him.

“We do have to go, though, Angel Dust,” Charlie came between them, trying to keep things from escalating to a fight. “You have a yoga session scheduled with me.”

“Oh! Do I have to?” Angel asked as he reluctantly followed behind her. “That shit if for granola crunching hippies.”

“I thought you liked doing yoga with me?” Charlie pointed out.

“I only like it when you can’t do the poses and I can,” Angel explained.

Vaggie sighed once they were gone and turned to Ottilie. “Sorry about that. He just really knows how to push my buttons.”

“Trust me. I know that just about as well as anyone,” Ottilie said, a small smile pulling at her lips.

“I’m glad someone finally does,” Vaggie smiled back. She began to lead her down the hall toward the North end of the building. “So Charlie told me the interview went well, which I’m happy about, but I’m not going to sugar coat this like I know she did. This job gets hard and it gets messy. A lot.”

“I can handle messy,” Ottilie assured her.

“Oh really?” Vaggie asked as they were passing a room and she looked inside. Ottilie did as well only to find it in complete disarray; the furniture was completely toppled over, stuffing from the cushions appeared to have been ripped out, and there were somehow claw marks on the ceiling as well as the walls. “Good to know.” She continued on while Ottilie got over her shock and hurried to catch up with her. “So most of the work is fairly easy. Once a week or so we’ll have you dust the furniture in the sitting rooms, which does take most of the day, so you won’t be worrying about anything else on those days. On the other days you’ll be vacuuming out the halls, cleaning rooms, and taking out the trash. Just about everyone here keeps their room clean for the most part, but I will warn you that Angel Dust is the worst about picking up after himself. He thinks that just because he’s staying in a hotel, everything has to be done for him despite the numerous times I’ve told him he has to be self reliant.”

“Trust me. Angel Dust doesn’t think that just because he’s in a hotel,” Ottilie shook her head. “I used to clean his dressing room at the end of the day.”

Vaggie looked up at her in awe. “You are a brave woman.” They came to a set of stairs and started climbing up them. “Most of the residents are staying on different floors, so you’ll have a cart you can bring around with you that’s loaded with supplies. Nifty and Mimzy are the only other two except for Charlie and I who sleep on the same floor. Those two are nearly inseparable, as you’ll come to find out. Charlie and I are in the penthouse, but we do clean up after ourselves for the most part, so all you’ll really be doing when you get up there is empty a trash can here or make the bed there. Once every other week you’ll change the sheets unless the guest tells you otherwise and be sure to give them fresh towels and such every day. There aren’t many guests in the hotel at present so your days shouldn’t be too long unless we get more in the future. I’ll give you a chart to keep with you of who is in what room until you can remember it for yourself. A few of the guests might ask you for certain specifications, but you do have the right to say no if it’s more than you can handle. Sometimes they’ll put a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the door if they want some privacy, so you won’t have to worry about it for the day.” They climbed all the way up to the sixth floor and came out into the hall, stopping only when they reached a door that had a bright red ‘x’ painted over the otherwise brown colored wood. “Room 666 is special case. It’ll be your choice whether or not you go in there.”

“Why is that?” Ottilie asked.

“Let’s just say the shitlord that stays in there isn’t someone you want to be around. Like ever,” Vaggie said vaguely. “You do have the choice to go in there or not, but we’re not responsible for anything that may or may not happen in there. I’ll also say this: Charlie went in there once to clean his room when one of the previous maids refused to after he asked for service. She took one look in there and ran away screaming. We found her later about to wash her eyes out with bleach.”

“Why not just put a ‘Do Not Disturb’ on his door, then?” Ottilie questioned.

“We did. Several times. He kept taking them off and switching his name on the charts so the maids would think he was somewhere else or they would simply forget which was his. Hence why we have the ‘x’ now,” Vaggie pointed at the door. “Look, you seem like a nice girl, so I recommend you don’t take the chance and go in there, okay?” Ottilie glanced at the door and then back to her before nodding. They resumed walking down the hall and went up to the seventh floor. “Good. You have a smart head on your shoulders-um…” She paused and they stopped again. “I’m sorry. Charlie never told me your name.”

“She never asked for it,” Ottilie explained.

Vaggie gave her a blank expression before her hand slammed into her forehead. “I love that girl but she can be such an airhead sometimes.” She brought her hand down as she shook her head. “So what is your name, then?”

“Ottilie,” she replied.

“Huh. Never heard a name like that. It’s pretty,” Vaggie thought allowed, unaware of the other womans blush. “The rooms have actually already been cleaned for the day, so all you’ll have to do is the laundry. The washing machines are fairly simple. They work like most others. The settings aren’t usually messed with so all you’ll have to do is press start. Unfortunately, though, we can’t use the chutes right now because something is clogging both of them up.” She noticed Ottilies questioning expression. “The maids before were never careful with the sheets, so we’re pretty sure that’s what’s in there. We’re trying to get around to unclogging it, but one thing after another happens and we haven’t been able to yet. Until then, we’ll have to ask that you carry the laundry down by hand.” She stopped in front of a pile of sheets near the staircase and turned towards Ottilie. “We’ve all more or less been pitching in until we could hire someone else, so the sheets should be somewhere near the staircase doors. Sometimes they get lazy, though, and just throw them outside of their rooms, so if they aren’t there you’ll have to walk down the hall and retrieve them.” She crossed her arms over her chest and leaned her side against the wall beside her. “So, are you still up for working here?” She had her answer when Ottilie simply picked up the sheets and began walking down the stairs.

******

Ottilie had never been against physical labor, but even she had to admit that carrying bundles of sheets down the stairs only to have to go back up to retrieve the next set was a waste of energy. The fact that there were a total of eight floors, including the penthouse but not the basement, which was where the laundry room was, didn’t help either. One of the floors didn’t have sheets on it at all, her having walked all the way down it to make sure they weren’t by a room, so she assumed it was otherwise unoccupied. Going back to the sixth floor made her nervous, but thankfully the sheets were already by the stairs and she didn’t have to go anywhere near the red ‘x’ door.

On the third floor, however, the sheets were not by the stairs. Her legs were already starting to hurt from all the walking and her shoes weren’t helping matters, but she let out a deep sigh and pressed on, knowing things would go a lot more smoothly if she got it over with. Unlike the other floors, this one had a bend in the hall, so there was an adjoining hall around the corner, meaning she couldn’t just look down it from the doorway to check for them by the rooms. She stepped around the bend and saw them sitting outside two rooms right across from each other. More than likely belonging to whoever Nifty and Mimzy were, she ignored the urge to curse at them and instead walked over to pick up the sheets.

As she was picking up the linen, she swore she heard the creak of the staircase door open and close, but nothing else after it. She looked up the hall, expecting to see either Vaggie or Charlie come around it, but neither they nor anyone else did.

“H-Hello?” she called softly, knowing no would be able to hear her but trying anyway.

When no one answered, she became bit freaked out by the seemingly disembodied noise and the dim lighting on the floor and tried to hurry along with her task.

While all the other floors only had one bundle, she found that two were a hassle. Not wanting to have to come back for the second, she tried to carry both at the same time. This proved to be a mistake as, not only were they heavy, but they impaired her vision and left her unable to see over top of them. She had to watch the wall beside her to see where she was going and had just made it back around the bend when she ran right into something solid.

Having not expected this, it caused her to fall back and land flat on the floor, the weight in her arms leaving her unable to catch herself. The sheets fell all around her and covered her face as her arms released them to try and break her fall, but all it did was pin them underneath the linen she was also trapped beneath as they fell out from under her.

She laid there on the ground in a daze for a few seconds before she heard a deep and masculine chuckle. It reminded her of the one she’d heard earlier with the way it sounded like it was coming through an old microphone, but it sounded a bit more malicious than the time before. Wondering if it was the same person, she tried removing the sheets from her face with the intent to apologize for running into them and find out who this chuckle belonged to, but she found herself tangled up in them with no hope of finding the edge, some of the corners having slipped under her in the fall. She heard another chuckle before whoever was in front apparently took a knee on the floor and started to help untangle her. She was eventually able to sit up before the last few sheets were removed from her head.

A bit blinded by the light after having been stuck in the darkness, she shook her head a bit and blinked a few times before she was able to focus and she found her gaze locked with a pair of completely crimson red eyes.

“Hello, sweetheart.”

Chapter Text

Ottilie stared deep into those crimson eyes, nearly lost in their depth. She should have removed herself from the floor by now, but she couldn’t seem to move. Glued to the spot, she was left with nothing to do but stare back as those eyes looked deep into hers as well, almost as if they were looking into her very being. A chill ran down her spine, colder than even her skin. There was no denying that there was a certain allure to them that was drawing her in, but at the same time she found herself afraid of them. They spoke of an ancient time when fear ran deep and creatures roamed the night, searching for prey to sink their teeth into.

***

The demon said nothing as he stared back at her. It was a waiting game she was unwittingly playing with him. He wanted to see who would make the first move. Would he get bored of waiting or would she get nervous enough and look away, he wondered. He wasn’t exactly known for getting bored so easily, however, so it was just a matter of when she would realize the situation she was in.

Her eyes were wide enough that she was clearly alarmed, something he always found amusing, but she wasn’t acting twitchy either. She was surprisingly still whereas anyone else would have either looked away or tried to make a break for it by now. He could almost admire that, but he much prefered outright fear. They were still playing, however, and he was not prepared to lose.

***

Ottilie was not sure how long they stared at each other. It could have been five minutes or it could have been an hour, but either way she realized how odd it must have been for her to just be staring at him like this and eventually blinked rapidly to break whatever spell his eyes had her under. Unknowingly losing their game and making his eyes narrow slightly in satisfaction, she shook her head a bit and regained her focus.

The demon sitting before her appeared to be of the deer variety, two small black antlers sprouting from his head. His two long ears stood straight up, twitching slightly every now and again as if he were searching for unknown noises, and were colored red but blended into black halfway to the tips. His hair, which was cut in an almost bob-style fashion, was colored the same as his ears and his bangs were parted to the side away from his face. Those perplexing eyes were crimson in the scleras but scarlet in the irises, his brows extending in an arch to meet each corner with the area in between being a dark red hue. His smile, which bared large pointed teeth that seemed to spell death in their terrifying glint, was easily the largest part of his face with the way it took up half of it. His nose was of average size, but ended in a point that made it look longer than it actually was. The skin of his face was ashen white, but his hands were black with long slender fingers that extended into scarlet claws in the middle. His attire, not unlike hers, was a thing of the past. His knee length overcoat had large pointed shoulders that appeared to be padded, scarlet pin stripes that ran down the length of it, black lapels, and scarlet cuffs. His undershirt was scarlet and the hem peaked out at the bottom from the opening at the bottom of his overcoat, an inverted black cross spread across his chest as the buttons near the top were left undone. His black pants bent backwards and then forwards again, following the curve of his legs, and were lined with scarlet at the hems. His black dress shoes were long and pointed on his feet, large but somehow slender at the same time. A black monocle with dark red glass sat on the corner of his his left eye and the beaded chain extended down to nowhere, leaving her to wonder how it stayed in place.

“Um… I’m sorry for bumping into you,” she apologized, moving to stand up off the floor.

He moved at the same time as her, surprising her as he reached his full height. Easily towering over her, she just barely came up to his shoulders. Now that he was standing, she could see that the bottom of his overcoat was slightly tattered and it hugged his slender waist, his chest broad in comparison. His legs appeared to be the longest part of him, but that may have had something to do with the fact that she couldn’t see his hips.

“Don’t fret about it, sweetheart! No harm, no fowl!” the demon said in an overzealous tone, pulling her from her thoughts. It was one thing to hear his chuckle, but his voice was another thing entirely. It had a certain charm to it, but the crackle of a microphone that came with each word made it a bit disconcerting.

Something began to nag at her now that she was actually seeing who owned the voice in person. She felt as if she should either be running from him or at the very least extremely cautious around him, but she couldn’t figure out why. She was not naive enough to believe there wasn’t anything he would or could do to harm her; they were in Hell, after all, but he had yet to lay a finger on her, either. Still, there was a voice at the back of her head practically screaming at her to flee from him.

An image suddenly popped into her head. A poster she’d seen many times on buildings while out in the city. A sense of dread filled her and it showed on her face, the first real bit of emotion he’d seen her make. His attire, voice, and demeanor all seemed to make sense as it finally dawned on her who he really was. There were things about the poster that didn’t match up with him, but there were plenty more that did.

“You’re... the Radio Demon… Aren’t you?” she asked quietly, her voice a bit shaky. She already knew the answer before he even said it, but still she dreaded the words that came next.

“Well, I prefer the name Alastor… but yes, I am,” he smiled sinisterly down at her.

***

Alastor was a bit caught off guard by this small slip of a demoness in front of him. Not many demons could recognize him so easily, especially when he was in this inconspicuous form. Charlie and Vaggie had known who he was instantly, but that probably had more to do with the fact that the first of the two was the princess. Angel hadn’t a clue at the time, though, in his case, Angel didn’t pay attention much to anything unless he wanted to have sex with it or found it entertaining; not to say that Angel hadn’t mentioned on more than one occasion that he found him attractive, but they simply weren’t each others types.

He was also a bit confused by her. He was more than used to seeing demons of all shapes, sizes, and colors, but he was certain he’d never seen a blue incubus demoness before. They were also standing at least a foot apart from each other and yet he could feel the cold rolling off of her. He could only imagine what her skin must feel like. It also came as a bit of a surprise that she had a British accent. He knew quite a few people from Britain, but he never would have guessed that she would be as well.

He was certainly not confused by her fear, however. He was more than used to seeing that from both his many years in Hell and even his time as a human. He thrived on it, letting it drive him on like no other emotion could.

“You know, between you and me, quite frankly I’m surprised you caught on so fast. None of the previous maids did… and it cost them dearly,” he pointed out, watching and waiting for her to realize just what he was saying.

“You mean.... Did you… You killed them,” she tripped over her words, catching on to his words rather quickly. It wasn’t even a question by the time she was done with it. She already knew what he’d meant.

“Yes, I did,” he replied bluntly.

“Why would you tell me that? I could easily just run and tell Charlie,” she said, taking a step back and away from him.

“Oh? And who is she going to believe? A long time resident of the hotel,” he placed a hand to his chest, “or some young woman they hired in off the street who could very well just be trying to start trouble?” he gestured with his other hand towards her. Charlie certainly knew him well enough to know it wasn’t a lie, but he would hardly tell her he was bluffing. That would ruin his fun. “Besides… who said I would make it easy on you?” He took a step towards her and leaned down so their faces were level, the sound of static filling the air around them as his eyes took on their unnatural glow.

She was visibly alarmed at the sight of his partial demonic form, but he was completely taken aback when her expression turned to a blank slate. There was nothing about her he could read. No fear, no animosity, no anger. Nothing. It was as if she’d been wiped clean of any sort of personality.

“You’re right. No one would believe me over you. And I have no real reason to tell them. I didn’t know any of the previous maids,” she said, her voice as blank as the face she was making.

He stared at her wide eyed, his ever present smile still on his face even as his jaw closed with a slight ‘clack’. He stood up straight again, not sure what to make of the woman before him. “Well… good to know we’re on the same page, then!” He continued to stare at her for a moment, something being to nag at him now. “Do I know you from somewhere?”

“No,” she said with certainty, shaking her head a bit.

“Are you sure?” he asked, raising a brow and tilting his head slightly. “I’m sure I’ve seen you somewhere…. I haven’t killed you before, have I?”

“I think I would remember something like that,” she remarked. “Perhaps you’ve seen me on the street or something like that.”

“That’s true, but I don’t think that’s the case… Hm,” he hummed in thought, knowing it would likely bug him all day until he remembered where he’d seen her. “Oh, well! I’m sure it’ll come to me! It appears you have lots of work to do, so I’ll not be taking up any more of your time! I’ll be seeing you around, Miss…?” He trailed off purposefully, knowing full well he hadn’t bothered to ask for her name yet.

“Ottilie,” she replied, not even hesitating to give him her name.

“Ottilie,” he repeated, finding that it had a nice ring to it. “Do have a nice rest of your day, Miss Ottilie!”

“Thank you. I hope you have one, too.” She leaned down and picked up the sheets she’d dropped after they bumped into each other, leaving him to wonder how she expected to carry them all the way down stairs when she could hardly see over it. “I will see you around the hotel, then.” She was careful to step around him this time as she made her way towards the stairs again.

“Oh yes,” he smiled as he watched her retreating figure, a devious sense of satisfaction filling him as his eyes glowed once again. “You certainly will.”

*****

Ottilie wouldn’t admit it, but she’d been happy to be as far away from Alastor as possible once she made it down to the laundry room. She could still feel chills running up and down her spine every time she so much as thought about their encounter even though it’d been nearly two hours. Thankfully, she’d had the laundry to keep her mind otherwise occupied.

When her mind did return to her interaction with the Radio Demon, though, she wondered if his room had been the one with the red ‘x’ on the door. It would only make sense. She hadn’t met everyone in the hotel yet, but she couldn’t imagine there’d be anyone else they’d have to take such drastic measures against. The previous maids who’d been there before her now seemed justified in their refusal to go anywhere near his room. They’d had every right to be wary of him, but that hadn’t seemed to do them any good in the end.

It was strange that they hadn’t reported him to Charlie once they recovered from whatever he did to them, though. Demons regenerated any wounds they might sustain and it usually didn’t take them long. Regeneration speed depended on the demons themselves, but they always bounced back one way or another, so his admission to having killed them perplexed her. She’d expected him to correct her and say he’d either harmed or scared them into silence, but he hadn’t done either. The only thing that could kill a demon were the spears that the Exterminators carried, so she could only hope that he hadn’t gotten his hands on one.

Unable to bare the thought any longer, she shook anything having to do with Alastor from her mind. She knew it would be hard considering he lived in the same place she worked, but it wouldn’t bother her at all if she never had to talk to him again. She’d be even happier if they had nothing to do with each other at all.

It was much easier to focus now without Alastor on her mind. She could more easily get her work done and find time to get the laundry room in a working order. Charlie and Vaggie probably had a lot on their plate, so she could hardly blame them for the state it was in. Getting it organized between loads reminded her of when she would set out Angels makeup and pick up after him once shooting was done for the day. Some things never seemed to change for her.

Despite the sound of the washer and dryer going constantly, it was remarkably quiet in the basement. The concrete walls surrounding her blocked out the sound of footsteps above her head and no one bothered her while she worked, leaving her with a rare sense of peace. At the studio, she’d next to never been alone with people rushing out and about and at her cottage she’d only ever felt lonely, but at least here she knew there were others not too far away.

Like it always did, the need to hum came unconsciously. It was a lovely little tune with no real words to it that rose and fell like the tide in the sea. Eventually, though, it turned into a steady rhythm and words began to flow quietly from between her lips.

Dancing bears,

Painted wings,

Things I almost remember,

And a song someone sings,

Once upon a December.

Someone holds me safe and warm,

Horses prance through a silver storm,

Figures dancing gracefully across my memory

She swayed slightly with the beat of the tune, the washer and dryer almost seeming to play along with her. Her hands paused in their task of folding the pillow case she’d been holding as her arms raised into the air and her feet began to move, her entire body gliding and spinning around the floor as if she were in a trance. Gone for the moment was the pain in her feet and any other worry she’d had on her mind.

Someone holds me safe and warm,

Horses prance through a silver storm,

Figures dancing gracefully across my mem-

She never got to finish the melody. There was a brief flash of cold pain across her head, like someone had taken a spike made of ice and stabbed it into her brain, before she was sent into a kneeling position on the floor. Though brief, the pain had left her reeling. She felt dizzy and weightless, like she might completely drop to the floor at any second. She held her head between her hands and closed her eyes, taking deep breaths to steady herself as she waited for whatever ailment had fallen over her to subside. Once it did, a strange image came to her mind. It was short, only lasting about as the pain had, but still carrying a significant amount of weight to it.

It was a memory.

There was a man standing in front of her, but he toward over her, the top of her head just barely coming up to his hip. He was wearing a finely tailored white suit and black loafers, for whatever odd reason making her wonder why he wasn’t wearing a brown suit, and his shoulder length blonde hair was tied back in a low bow. Her toes were placed on top of his and his large hands held her tiny ones as he kept her balanced. He was smiling down at her as he said, “Would my lovely little Lottie care to dance with me?”

It was so short. Perhaps only thirty seconds or even a minute at best, but even so she knew it was a memory. With really so few to speak of, she’d been grasping at them and holding tight so she wouldn’t lose a single one, so there was no trace of doubt that it wasn’t just her imagination. The problem was, however, that it certainly didn’t come from her time in Hell. She would have never allowed herself to forget those kind and lovely green eyes.

‘My childhood, perhaps?’ she thought, but that didn’t make any sense. She couldn’t remember anything prior to the day she’d died, so there was no reason she should have this memory. ‘Unless…’

A sense of excitement filled her as she stood from the floor and rushed out of the room like it was on fire. Not even caring if she got lost, she ran up and down the hallways, looking into each room she passed and forgetting her manners as she threw open doors without knocking first. In one of the rooms was a short fish-like demon messing around with multi colored liquid filled vials, beakers and burners all around the table he was standing at.

He turned to look at her in surprise, nearly dropping the purple beaker he was holding, his hands fumbling quickly for it before he firmly gripped it again. His surprise turned to a grimace as he regarded her. “Why don’t you knock next time?” His jaw dropped as she simply closed the door without so much as an apology. “Humph. How rude.” He moved to turn back to the table, but the beaker slipped out of his hand and fell to the floor, the glass shattering against the hardwood. “Uh oh,” he frowned as smoke began to rise from the bubbling spot.

Ottilie ignored the small explosion she heard behind her as she came to a cross in the hallway. She looked up and down the hall, unsure of where to go. Feeling as if she were trapped in a maze, she briefly entertained the idea of just giving up and finding the stairwell when a familiar voice echoed down the hall. Sprinting faster than she had that morning when she was being toad around, she followed the voice until she found herself standing outside a drawing room with a bar to one side and seating area to the other.

Angel was sitting at the bar, two hands on his hip, one elbow on the wooden surface, and the other hand propping up his chin. A seductive smile was spread across his face as he addressed the person bent over the bar with his head buried in his arms, apparently trying to ignore his flirting. “Why do you keep trying to fight this thing we have between us, Pussyfoot? Wouldn’t it be easier to just give in to your feelings?”

“The only feeling I have right now is the desire to break a bottle over your head,” came a muffled reply, the voice sounding tired and hoarse.

“Oh, so you do have a desire for me?” Angel laughed, leaning closer to the bent over man. “And you’re even comin’ up with fantasies already. How practical of you.” His affections were met with a groan of annoyance, but he never got the chance to address it.

“Angel Dust!” Ottilie called excitedly as she rushed into the room.

Angel looked up in shock at hearing her call for him so loudly while his companion merely peeked out from his arms before burying his head again. Ottilie nearly skidded past him, but he caught her shoulders and held her in place as she panted slightly from the exertion of running. “Whoa, where’s the fire, kiddo? Or do I just make you that hot?”

“I’m about as hot for you as the temperature of my skin,” Ottilie replied, making Angel pout slightly.

“I’m a little busy here, toots. Can’t this wait until-,” Angel started as he gestured his head toward the bent over man.

“I had a memory!” Ottilie beamed, catching him off guard.

“Wait, what? Really?” Angel asked, his eyes wide before they filled with delight. “What happened? Tell me everything!”

“I was doing the wash in the laundry room when suddenly I saw this image of a man. I was so small, so I think I must have been a child. He had me standing on his feet and was holding my hands when he asked me to dance,” Ottilie explained, a smile on her face as she recalled it, the image still playing over and over in her head.

“That’s what all the fuss was about?” the man asked, peeking out from his arms again and raising a brow at her. “Seems like a lot of fuss over nothing.”

Angel narrowed his eyes slightly. “She has memory loss. Up until now, she hasn’t been able to remember anything since the time she died.”

The man gave a crude and unconvincing laugh. “Lucky.”

“Eh, don’t mind him,” Angel rolled his eyes. “He’s been a grouch ever since Queenie and Princess took away his liquor.”

“Don’t say liquor,” the man groaned again.

Ottilie looked between the two for a moment before her gaze settled on the one bent over. “I take it this is Husk, then?”

He raised his head fully now and looked at her, his brows furrowed. “How do you know that?” He leaned forward slightly, looking rather angry now. “Did the casinos send you? Tell them I’m not paying a cent until they apologize for being a bunch of cu-.”

“I don’t work for any casino. Angel Dust talks about you a lot, is all,”  Ottilie explained.

Angel laughed nervously at that. “What she means is, I mentioned everyone from time to time when we worked together on the set. It’s not like I went out of my way to talk about you or nothin’.”

“I said what I meant,” Ottilie deadpanned, making Angels face fall in annoyance as Husks fell in disinterest.

In the short silence that followed, Ottilie took that time to look over the person that had apparently left Angel so enamored.

Husk appeared to be of the cat variety, something she didn’t see much of in Hell. The thing that set him apart from most cat demons, however, were the large scarlet, black, and white wings sprouting from his shoulders; the majority of the feathers were scarlet, but black stripes containing red hearts and whites spades inside them lined the inside, and plain black stripes on the outside with a row of dots between the top two stripes and a row of hearts between the bottom three. Had he been standing up straight, she would have seen that he was fairly tall, coming up to Angels shoulder when not including his ears. He was covered from head to toe in white and black fur, the fur resembling a suite but in reality he was practically naked; the only two pieces of clothing he was actually wearing was a scarlet and gold buckled top hat and a scarlet bow tie around his neck. A black tail hung from his backside, the tip fanning out into feathers that matched his wings, but were without the hearts and spades. The interior of his ears were white with pink stripes and white hearts and his small black nose was heart shaped as well. His scarlet eyebrows were thick and bushy, starting out thin but thickening as they extended away from his head. The black fur on his arms poofed out at his elbows and his fingers were white, making it look like he was wearing fingerless gloves. His eyes were a dark brown with his irises standing out in a lovely gold, but there were dark circles under and around his eyes, like he was constantly tired.

“Any how, you two haven’t been properly introduced yet. Pussyfoot, this is Angel Face. Angel Face, this is Pussyfoot,” Angel said, clearly not liking the silence that appeared to have been centered around him.

Husk let out a long sigh as he sat up, though he still leaned against the bar, and held out a hand towards her. “Husk.”

“Ottilie,” she said in reply as she hesitantly took his hand. She was rather surprised to find that his hands were cold as well. Not nearly as cold as hers, but cold enough that she could tell they weren’t as warm as they were supposed to be. Like most people, he noticed how cold to the touch she was even through gloves, but it didn’t seem to bother him as much as it did others. “Do you drink often?” she asked once they pulled apart.

“Whenever I can,” Husk shrugged, placing his chin in his hand. “Which isn’t very often around here.”

Angel looked at her in question. “Why do you look like you just ate a lemon?”

Ottilies face had contorted into one of displeasure. She’d been unaware of this until it returned to its blank state. “I don’t know. It just sort of happened.”

“I’m guessing you don’t drink often, then,” Husk assumed.

“I’ve never had any alcohol, that I know of. I’ve tried to, but something made me stop every time I tried,” she explained. “I’m sorry if I upset you.”

Husk shrugged again. “I’ve had worse done to me. Sour faces don’t bother me anymore. Nothing really bothers me anymore.” He glanced over at Angels smirking face. “Except you.”

“Oh, come off it, Pussyfoot. You know you want all this,” Angel said as he caressed his chest and slide his hands down the length of his body. Husk rolled his eyes and started walking around the bar, his back slumped a bit and his steps unenthusiastic. “Hey, where are you going?” Husk ignored him as he headed towards the entryway. “Come back here! I will not be ignored!” He chased after him, making Husk move faster than he had before.

Ottilie shook her head, feeling a pang of pity for Husk. Once Angel set his sights on someone, there was no stopping him until he got what he wanted. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen him go so hard someone, however. Then again, Angel didn’t handle rejection very well, and Husk appeared to be doing just that every step of the way. That would only make him want Husk all the more.

With nothing left for her upstairs, she returned to the basement, painfully aware of the throbbing in her feet again as she waited for the washer and dryer to finish their last load. Once she was out of sight, she slipped her shoes off and let the cool stone beneath her feet soothe her pain. While one foot sat against the concrete, she rubbed at the other, feeling slight relief without the cumbersome confines of her shoes.

Thinking back to the shoes in her closet at home, she realized she didn’t have any that would be appropriate for this sort of work. Everything she had only had heels on them. She didn’t have enough money to go out and buy a new pair of shoes, either. She wasn’t even sure if her landlord would wait for her to have enough money to pay off what she would owe; her landlord had always been a stern woman who didn’t allow any wiggle room when it came to her tenants. She was more than happy to have a job once again, but in the end she was halfway back to where she was at the beginning, which was facing living out on the streets, if only for a short while.

***

So deep in her thoughts as Ottilie was, she was unaware of the figure lurking near the doorway, watching her intently with a predatory gaze.

Like most things, it didn’t go unnoticed by him that her shoes were causing her pain. That simply wouldn’t do for him. If she fell behind in her work, she may lose her job and his new prey might disappear from sight; it wouldn’t be the first time Vaggie had let someone go for falling behind, something that had always miffed him in the past. Not to say that he wouldn’t be able to find her; he’d found all the others who’d been unexpectedly let go without a problem on his part. It would be an inconvenience for him, though, and he was not about to take that chance due to poor choice of footwear.

It had become a sort of habit for Alastor to watch the maids, be they new or old. In the beginning, when there maids a plenty, he would spend most of his day watching them. He would learn their habits, how they interacted with the guests and each other, and what seemed to frighten them the most. The others had been easy. They wore their emotions as easily as they wore their uniforms.

Right off the bat, Ottilie seemed to be a special case. Unlike the other maids and just about everyone else in Hell, she had looked him dead in the eye and showed no fear. Or any emotion at all, for that matter. There was something admirable to him about this, but the smell of her fear and the look on her face had been delectable to him. For someone to hardly show emotion like she did, one could almost consider them a delicacy.

He could smell her even though the laundry soap and water wafting through the air. Whatever emotion she’d been feeling when she’d been sprinting through the halls was what made him follow her, the fragrance like an irresistible perfume to him. Her scent was cool, like the first snowfall of winter over a field of mint leaves, but there were brief undertones of spring there as well. Orange blossoms, jasmine, rosewood, and just a hint of lavender. They were best noticeable whenever she had a spike in her emotions and left his mouth watering in anticipation.

He knew he was hooked. There was no denying it for him. He craved that scent like an addict craved their fix. He needed more of it. He would have more of it even if it was the last thing he ever did and, if he had any say in the matter, he would have a taste of her as well.

He was going to enjoy this.

***

“Good afternoon, Angel Dust. You’re looking rather radiant today,” Alastor casually approached the spider demon where he sat in the foyer, his and Ottilies interaction not too long ago telling him that the two were fairly close, and her scent pooling off of him only furthering that assumption. If he was going to get any useful information he could use, it would be from him, though he knew it would be tricky. While not necessarily smart, the long legged demon was quick witted and prone to anger, meaning he’d have to tread lightly if he was going to get what he needed.

Like Alastor knew he would, Angel ate the compliment up and turned to look at him with a smirk as he placed the magazine he’d been reading in his lap. “Well, you’re not lookin’ too bad yourself, deer boy.”

Alastor ignored the nickname and returned the smirk. “You seem to be in rather good spirits, too. Anything special happen today?”

“Well, I finally got that thing that was stuck in my teeth out, if that’s what you’re askin’,” Angel shrugged as he picked the magazine back up and resumed slowly flipping through the pages. It wasn’t what Alastor had meant at all and he felt a twinge of annoyance, wondering how anyone could be so daft. “Oh, and I got a gal pal of mine a job here. That’s something, I guess.”

Alastors eyes narrowed slightly and his smirk widened, this fact going unnoticed by the other demon. It was a step in the right direction. “Really, now? It wouldn’t happen to be that new maid I saw out and about, would it?”

“Yeah. She used to be my makeup gal but they canned her cause they said her work was too ‘old fashioned.’ I thought it was great, but hey, what do I know? I’m only the star, right?” Angel chuckled.

“Right,” Alastor agreed for the sake of his cause. “That’s such a shame, though. Poor girl must have been devastated when she lost her job.”

“She was, but I found her in the nick of time,” Angel commented.

“Oh, really? How so?” Alastor pressed further, smoothly making it seem like he was just keeping the conversation going.

“She was about to lose her place in a few days if she didn’t find a job soon. Lucky for her, I swooped in and found her one. She’s lucky I’m such a saint who always looks after his pals,” Angel said, half sarcastic and half serious.

Now that was certainly something Alastor could use to his advantage. “Yes,” his smile broadened further. “Very lucky for her indeed.” He checked the time on the clock. “I’m very sorry to have to cut our conversation short, but I have a prior engagement I need to attend to. Please do excuse me.”

“Sure, sure,” Angel waved him off as he headed down the hall, unaware of the trouble he might have just caused.

***

“Come in,” Charlie called from the other side of the door, Alastor having knocked lightly on it. He walked into the room and shut the door behind him. “Oh, Alastor! Right on time, as always! Come in and make yourself comfortable. I’ll put the tea on.” She set the papers she’d been looking over aside on the desk and stood from her chair.

“Thank you,” he said as he walked over to the sitting area in the study-turned-office, the routine all too familiar after having done it every week for several months. He propped his staff up against the arm of the sofa and waited patiently as he took his usual seat at the end of it. “We have a new employee, I see.”

“Oh, yeah! Ottilie! Really nice once you get to know her, but a bit shy at first. I think she’ll do well around here,” Charlie said as she waited for the tea bags to seep into the hot water and pulled out a small stack of papers while she did. “Hopefully we can keep her on. I just don’t understand why the other girls just up and left like they did.”

“Well, I’m sure they had their reasons,” he cocked his head slightly. He always found her naivety to be childlike and quite frankly laughable, but it suited his needs. She had been wary of him in the beginning, but in the end never saw what was going on right under her nose.

“I’m sure they did, too, but I wish they’d at least have left a notice. Maybe Vaggie was right. Hiring people that came after the nineteen fifties was a bad idea,” Charlie shook her head and sighed as she handed him a cup and saucer before placing the papers on the table. She placed them in an orderly fashion so she could see the more important parts and sat down. “Now, last session we got into the emotions you feel whenever you get the urge to kill someone, so I thought we’d expand further on that. Tell me about your day, Alastor. Tell me how you’re feeling in this very moment.”

He just loved it when things fell right into place for him and he barely had to do a thing to make it happen. Resisting the smirk that pulled at his face, he let his smile waver as he stirred his tea and placed the spoon down. “Well… you see… I find myself troubled.”

“Oh no. Did something happen?” Charlie asked worriedly.

“Not to me, per say, but poor Miss Ottilie,” he explained, feigning worry himself but somehow still masterfully wearing his signature smile. “I’m afraid I’ve just learned that she’s been facing being put out on the streets. Angel tells me that this job was her way of keeping off of them, but I fear she won’t be able to afford her lodgings with only a few days left to come up with it.” He let out a sigh and took a sip of his tea. “If only there were some way to help her.”

Charlie looked incredibly empathetic in that moment, her eyes staring down at the table as she wracked her brain for some sort answer to this unforeseen problem. Her face brightened as an idea seemed to strike her and a smile pulled across her face. “Why don’t we just have her stay here? She works here already, so it only makes sense!”

Alastor smiled as well. “Now isn’t that just a wonderful idea! I’m sure she… wait…”

“What is it?” Charlie asked, her face falling slightly.

“I only had a small chance to speak with the young miss today but, from what I can tell, she seems much too prideful to accept such a generous offer,” he pointed out.

“That’s true.” Charlie thought to herself again, her finger tapping her chin. “Oh! We can just tell her it’s something we do for all the employees! I’m sure she’ll want to take it then!”

He was practically beaming at her now, feeling a slight sense of pride that she was able to work it out more or less on her own. “Fantastic! That ideas more sensational than the building of the Hoover Dam!”

“This is so amazing! Thinking about other people is a sure sign you’re on the road to redemption! I’m really proud of you, Alastor!” Charlie clapped her hands. “I’ll go and tell her right now! Do you mind waiting while I do?”

“No problem at all, sweetheart. I can wait all day if you need me to,” Alastor smiled.

“Great! I’ll be back as soon as I can! Don’t go anywhere!” Charlie said as she dashed out of the room.

“I wouldn’t dream of it.”

***

Eventually, the buzzer on the dryer went off and Ottilie let out a sigh as she was pulled from her thoughts. After switching out the sheets and beginning to fold the dry ones, she decided she would go and talk to her landlord. With a bit of hope, her landlord would be a bit understanding, or she would have a few days to pack her handful of belongings. At the very least, it would give her some piece of mind.

She was putting away the folded linens when the sound of hurried footsteps ran across the floor above her head. She looked up in confusion, wondering if running about was common in the hotel. Working below the first floor, she assumed she’d have to get used to the sound.

It wasn’t until the sound started to echo through the room that she realized whoever it was had come to the basement. She turned to the door, a slightly look of worry on her face. There was really no reason someone should be coming down here unless they needed her for something. Her worry spread into a bit of fear, wondering if it was Alastor coming. She may have been able to put on a blank face in front of him, but that didn’t mean she was stupid enough not to be afraid of him. As the footsteps came closer and closer, she backed away until her back hit the washer, wanting to put as much distance between herself and the door as she could.

“Ottilie!” a voice called, making her jump in surprise, before she saw a blur of white, black, and blonde go skidding past the door. A second later she heard a crash followed by the clatter of mops, brooms, and a bucket went rolling past the doorway. Charlie came into the view after removing herself from the floor, her clothes rumpled and hand against the door frame to steady herself. “There you are. I’m glad I found you before you left.” She was slightly out of breath, having run all the way there.

“Oh,” Ottilie said, relaxing a bit at the knowledge that it wasn’t Alastor. “Did you need me for-.” She happen to glance down and ended up doing a double-take. Trying to repress the smile that was trying to overtake her face, she covered her mouth as her shoulders shook slightly.

Charlie cocked her head in confusion. “What is it?” Ottilie pointed at her foot, unable to speak for fear of bursting out laughing. She looked down to see a bucket stuck to her foot. Her cheeks burned in embarrassment and her own smile reflected this as she looked back up. After kicking the bucket off her foot, she adjusted her clothing and righted herself before clearing her throat. “Yes. I did need you. There was something I wanted to talk to you about.”

Ottilie felt her worry return. Charlies tone was all business and, in her experience, that never ended well for her. “Have I done something wrong?”

Charlies eyes widened. “Huh? Oh, no! No, no, no! You haven’t done anything wrong at all!” She walked further into the room before stopping and looking around, noticing how tidy it was now. A smile came to her face. “Actually, you seem to be doing really well. No, I just wanted to talk to you about your room here.”

“My… my room?” Ottilie asked in confusion.

“Yeah! All the employees here get their own room during the duration of their employment here!” Charlie explained. “We figure since you’ll be working here anyway, it only seems fair that we give you your own room.”

Ottilie should have been jumping at the chance to take what was being offered her. Anyone else would have, but she found herself reluctant to do so. She had spent a long time living in relative seclusion, only leaving her home when it was necessary. There were times when she was lonely, but her seclusion had kept her safe. It had kept people from asking questions and looking at her like a pariah. No one had done that here, but it was only a matter of time, and her interview with Charlie had left her uncomfortable enough.  

It wasn’t as if she was attached to her home, though. Most of the furniture there belonged to her landlord and the articles that did were only trivial possessions. Even so, there was something about it that she was reluctant to leave behind. Perhaps it was because she had spent so much of her time there that many of the memories she had, bland and boring as they might seem, were permanently tied to it.

Was she really willing to take the chance of uprooting her entire life, she wondered.

“Um… I…” Ottilie trailed off, unsure of what to say.

“Yes?” Charlie asked, confused at Ottilies hesitance.

“Well… it’s not that I’m not grateful for the offer but-,” Ottilie started.

“Of course she’ll take the room!” Angel proclaimed as he came bursting into the room, walking over to stand beside her.

“But Angel Dust, I-,” Ottilie started again before he shushed her.

“I need to borrow her for a second. Hold that thought,” Angel said as he placed his hands on her shoulders and scooted her out of the room, Charlie watching them go with no idea what to do in this situation. “Why didn’t you say yes as soon as she offered it to you? This is a really good opportunity for you!”

“I know but…” Ottilie trailed off once again, not used to voicing her thoughts like this.

“But what?” Angel pressed, not letting the subject drop for a second.

“I’m scared,” she admitted in a quiet voice, quieter than usual.

“Why? I’m here with you, aren’t I? What do you have to be scared of?” he crossed all of his arms.

“I… I…” The words kept getting stuck in her throat, not wanting to come up no matter how hard she tried to force them. She let out a long sigh, her shoulders slumping in defeat. “Never mind. I was just being silly. Of course I’ll take the room.”

“Yay!” they heard Charlie cheer from inside the room.

******

A figure across the street from the hotel waited patiently outside of a casino, not intending to go in to either establishments. His arms were crossed over his chest and his back was leaning against the brick wall behind him, his fingers tapping his forearms in slight agitation. He was patient, but only to a certain extent. He’d been waiting there for a few hours now and he wasn’t sure how much longer he could endure it.

“Hey, buddy. You looking for a good time?” a demon approached him as he opened his jacket, revealing a hidden pocket with a packet of a white, powdery substance inside.

He sneered in annoyance. It hadn’t been the first time someone had come towards him to offer their cheap, knock off drugs. They may have been in the upper class area, but that didn’t necessarily mean the drugs met those standards. He wasn’t against the use of drugs. He quite enjoyed them, but he needed to be level headed and he couldn’t be in the right state of mind with them in the picture. He also wasn’t in the habit of lowering himself to partaking in buying from such a low life demon. He had standards, after all.

“Beat it, quack. I wouldn’t touch that stuff even it were coated in gold,” he replied.

The demon growled and spit at his feet. “Suit yourself, ya dick.” He stalked off, looking for another potential buyer as he stuffed his hands into his pockets.

His sneer turned into a grimace as he looked down at the snot on his previously polished loafers. After pulling a handkerchief out of the pocket on his chest, he wiped the blemish from his person and tossed it aside, wanting nothing more to do with the tainted cloth. He then brushed a miniscule speck of dirt from his suit, making sure he was perfectly presentable before the public.

He noticed a few women smirking at him as they passed, flirty smiles on their faces as they looked him over. Reasonably handsome as he was, their attraction was only furthered by the fine clothing he wore. He smirked back at them, having to resist the urge to chase after and work his charm on them. If he left to chase after them, he’d miss his chance, and he couldn’t promise it would end well for them once it was all said and done.

His patience seemed to have paid off, though, because he saw four figures stepping out of the hotel. One he recognized as the princess, the tallest he knew from some adult magazines he’d happened upon, and the other he’d never seen before. The fourth, however, he felt his eyes narrow on, that blue skin and lavender hair all too recognizable. The four of them walked down the stairs and waited as a limo started come around from the back.

He hurried across the street, pretending to look down at his phone as he slowed his pace once he was within hearing distance of them.

“Now, I know staying here at the hotel will be a bit of an adjustment for you, but we’ll try to make it as easy as possible!” the princess said enthusiastically.

“And be sure to let us know if anyone starts to give you trouble. I can name more than one who’ll do that,” the unknown grey skinned demon said as she glanced at the taller male demon.

“Hey, I know how to be behave!” he shot back. “I just choose not to.”

“Angel Dust, Vaggie, not now,” the princess hushed the two before turning back to Ottilie. “For now, why don’t we focus on getting your things and then we can get you settled into your new room? Hopefully we can get your things all in one go.”

“I’m sure that won’t be a problem,” Ottilie said. “I don’t have much.”

“That’s a relief,” Angel sighed before Vaggie punched him in the gut, not giving him any time to retaliate as the limo pulled up and she climbed inside. He grimaced in anger. “Get back out here, you little bi-!” The rest of his words were lost as he jumped in as well, the long car starting to rock once he was inside.

“Oh, come on! I just had the upholstery fixed after the last fight you two had!” the princess ducked inside, clearly not in the mood to break up another fight.

Ottilie stepped in once they were all inside and closed the door, the limo pulling off and driving down the street.

He felt his phone start to crack as he gripped it to the point of breaking. He couldn’t believe what he had just heard. Anger was bubbling and festering inside of him, making his already red skin turn an even darker shade, and steam began to rise up around him.

Ottilie had spent only one day at the hotel and yet here she was moving into it. He knew all about the hotel and what it was made for, but he couldn’t believe for even a second that she would be signing up for the redemption program. It just wasn’t her style. It also wouldn’t suite with his needs if she was. He needed her alone, not around other demons who could hinder his plans.

The phone began to melt in his hands and he dropped it before the molten pieces could stick to his hands. Though there was no dirt on them, he brushed his hands against each other and calmed himself as he turned away from the hotel. Getting angry right now wouldn’t help him. He simply needed to adjust his plans.

He was deep in thought as he walked the opposite way the limo had gone down the street. Everything he’d worked for the last few months had just been tarnished, so he had a lot to think about. He needed to find a way to get her alone again, but that would be difficult around so many people, especially with the princess involved. One wrong move and he’d have the whole of Hell raining down on him. He’d have to tread lightly, but that simply wasn’t his style. He much prefered to work out in the open where everyone could see him. Everything he came up with, however, only seemed to end badly in his favor.

It wasn’t until someone bumped into him that his thoughts were interrupted. The woman looked him up and down and glared up at him. “Why don’t you watch where you’re going? You males can be so careless.” He grumbled a few profanities and adjusted his suit as she stalked off, her nose turned up in the air like she was better than him. He was tempted to show her where she could stick her nose, but something caught his eye before he could make the decision.

A neon sign was blinking high over his head, the bright letters letting him know that he had somehow made his way all the way to the West side of the Pentagram. He stared up at the sign for a moment, the gears in head turning with gusto. A wicked smile spread across his face as he stepped toward the building the sign was attached to.

The woman sitting in the reception hall looked up from filling her nails as he stepped inside, immediately rolling her eyes at the sight of him. “We told you before. We don’t want your business here anymore.”

“Oh, come on, Harriet. You and I go way back. Just hear me out, won’t you?” he asked as he walked over to the desk, leaning his elbow on it in a flirtatious manner. She gave him a dull look in reply, clearly not willing to. He gave her a quick look over. “That’s a lovely blouse you’re wearing. Is it new?”

“This old thing?” Harriet looked down at her top. “Yeah, it is.” She smiled at him, confirming that he’d at least gotten her on the hook, now he just needed to reel her in.

“It suits you so well. I can’t remember the last time I saw a woman look so radiant,” he smirked. Her eyes fluttered as she turned her head to the side and giggled. He let out a sigh. “Well, I know when I’m not wanted. I won’t take up any more of your time.” He turned away but paused. “I’m glad I could see you one more time.”

Harriet bit her lip as she watched him go, calling out, “Wait!” when he reached the door.

His hand stopped on the handle, a smiling pulling briefly at his face before he wiped it off and turned back to her, looking a bit sad. He always knew how to work her down. “Yes?”

Harriet let out a long sigh, her shoulders sagging a bit. “I’m not supposed to do this, especially after the last time, but I’ll overlook it because it’s you.”

He let his smile return. “I always knew I could count on you, Harriet.”

“But no money up front. You either deliver the product or you don’t get paid at all,” Harriet said matter of factly.

“Of course. I’ve learned my lesson,” he swore, taking off his hat and pressing it to his chest as he raised his free hand in the air.

“I’m not kidding. This is your last chance here, understand?” Harriet asked, crossing her arms. He nodded. “So what’s the name, Elias?”

His smile turned cruel and sadistic as he placed his hat back on his head. “Ottilie.”

Chapter Text

Ottilie woke the next morning in a state of confusion. Before she even opened her eyes, she realized her bed was much too comfortable to be her own and the scent of the sheets wasn’t right. Once they did open, she was shocked to not be greeted by the wallpaper she’d grown accustomed to over the years, but instead a cranberry painted wall. A small gasp escaped her as she quickly sat up and looked around the room.

It was surprisingly large and spacious, possibly bigger than her cottage. There was a kitchenette, sitting area, and king sized bed which she’d woken up in. The kitchenette was simple with oak cabinets, a matching pantry and counter-top, covered lights that hung from the ceiling, and a glossy black dishwasher placed into a cubby beneath the countertop. It was separated from the carpeted sitting area by glossy black tiles that resembled obsidian stone, the dark color more easily hiding any dirt that might have gotten on them. The carpet itself was a simple white, but looked soft and plush to the touch. The sitting area was decorated with black and scarlet antique furniture, an armchair to one end of the black coffee table and a matching loveseat to the side, the end tables decorated with floral painted lamps that lit up the room in a gentle golden glow. There was an antique writing desk sitting against one of the walls, stationary and an ink well sitting on top, and across from it was a six person dining table with a crystal vase full of flowers centered on it. Along the wall with the desk were two large windows and an intricately carved glass door, white sheer curtains hung on either side of all three, that led out to a rot iron balcony with a tea table and matching chairs just outside the door. The bed was soft yet firm at the same time, which had aided her in having one of the best sleeps she’d had in a long time, with more pillows than seemed necessary and a floral bed set that was nearly the same design as the lamps.

It took her a moment to catch on to where she was as her eyes darted around the room, her heart racing slightly as she slowly calmed down once she had that peace of mind. Once she was sufficiently calm, she flipped the covers off of her and stepped off of the bed, surprised to see that over half of the bed was still made; she’d tried to tell Charlie the night before that it was much too big for her and she would be more than happy with a queen mattress, but her new manager had insisted that she take it, not taking no for an answer. After she fixed the sheets and comforter so the bed was fully made, she put her slippers on her feet and wrapped her robe around her, feeling chilly in her light blue negligee and matching underwear.

She took that time in the early morning hours to look over her room further, not really having had a chance to the night before. Between running all over town with Angel, starting her job, and moving her things, she’d been exhausted and fell asleep as soon as her head had hit the pillow. She was surprised she’d been able to stand long enough to change out of her clothes and put on her night clothes.

It hadn’t taken them long to remove her things from the small cottage. Once all of her clothes, dishes, and the few knicknacks she had were packed away, there had been ample in the trunk of the limo for her rocking chair, which she’d been afraid she’d have to leave behind. Charlie and Vaggie had both commented on her surprising lack of personal belongings, though Angel had been outspokenly happy he didn’t have to help with any heavy lifting, but Ottilie had simply explained that she’d never been one to become attached to anything she didn’t need. When everything was loaded inside, she quickly wrote a note to her landlord explaining that she’d found another place to live and pinned it to the door, leaving an envelope with a bit of money inside there as well as an apology for leaving so abruptly; Angel had tried to swipe it when he thought no one was looking and tried to explain that he was going to give it back to her when Vaggie reprimanded him for it, but none of them believed him. They’d returned back to the hotel within a few hours of leaving and the three tried to talk her into joining everyone for dinner in the dining hall, but she wasn’t sure if she could handle being around so many people at once just yet, so she’d excused herself and simply stayed in her room.

It was truly an extravagant room, much fancier than anything she thought she’d ever have. She would have to be sure to work and more than earn her keep if they were going to have her staying there. Needless to say, her work ethic was never put into question, but that wouldn’t stopped her from giving it her all.

She jumped slightly when there was a knock at her door, not having heard anyone coming down the hall. Assuming it was either Charlie or Vaggie, knowing that Angel wouldn’t be up at a time like this and no one else would have any reason to call on her, she walked over and opened it without hesitation; she should have been more cautious, especially after her encounter with Alastor the previous day, but it simply wasn’t on her mind at the time. She was surprised to find the hall empty, looking up and down it just to be sure. A bit confused, she was about to close the door when she noticed a wrapped parcel sitting on the floor just outside her door frame.

Staring at it for a moment, she picked it up and took it inside. It was light in her hands and seemed to have been carefully wrapped in lavender paper with a blue ribbon tied around it. She placed it on the dining table, debating whether or not to open it; never during the duration of her time in Hell had she ever received a gift before, much less seen one wrapped so meticulously.

Chewing on her lower lip slightly, she gripped the edge of the ribbon and pulled on it slowly. Once the bow was undone, she peeled away the wrapping paper, careful not to rip it. Beneath the paper was a lidded cardboard box colored the same shade of blue as the ribbon. Even more slowly than she’d undone the ribbon, she lifted the lid off the box and looked inside.

Her eyes widened and a gasp slipped past her lips. Inside the box was a pair of womens work boots that were similar in design to the ones she usually wore, but these were without the tall heels that hers had, making them better suited for labor jobs. They appeared to be brand new, as well. There wasn’t a single scuff mark or stitching out of place on them whereas hers had seen many a better day.

She stared at them for the longest time, unsure what to make of them. It wasn’t as if she’d ordered them and certainly hadn’t asked for them, which would have been terribly rude of her to do so, leaving her to wonder where they had come from. Her first suspicion had been Charlie, who seemed more likely to offer such a kind gesture, but at the same time didn’t seem like the type to leave a gift and turn tail away. Her next was Vaggie, the more practical of the two women, but she hadn’t even known she needed new shoes nor did it seem like she wanted to waste any more money on frivolous purchases. Her last thought was Angel, but generosity had never been his strong suit. It was a perplexing puzzle that she was keen on getting to the bottom of and solving.

She was about to put the lid back on the box and place it back outside, not intending in the slightest to accept a gift that was much too generous for someone like her, but she paused. The new and shiny material seemed to beckon her to them, to at the very least touch them just once before she returned them to wherever they had come from. She lifted her hand and hesitated, as if afraid something might happen to them if she so much as touched them. Swallowing her fear, her fingers grazed the boots. They were just as she imagined them; stiff and unused, but not at all worn and uncomfortable like her current shoes. She quickly learned it was a mistake to have touched them because now she found herself wanting to try them on and see if they fit. Against her better judgement, she did just that.

Sitting down on the edge of the loveseat, she took off one of her slippers and carefully placed a boot on her small, slender foot. It slid so easily on. She didn’t even have to force her foot in. The soles felt like a extension of herself, like they had been specifically made for her, and once she laced up the strings they fit her like a second skin. Standing, she found that they were also just her size, giving her enough room to wiggle her toes but not so much that they slid right off of her.

A near overwhelming sense of joy filled her. It was a lovely and well thought out gift, one that she was sure had cost a pretty penny, but she couldn’t possibly keep them. She hadn’t done anything to earn them and it quite frankly baffled her that someone had wasted their time on her in such a way. She was hardly worth the effort, in her mind, at least.

*****

Ottilie carried the box of shoes downstairs with her, the overwhelming urge to put them on already strong as her feet began to hurt. She knew it was going to be a long day, especially since she was going to be doing more than just laundry. Today being the start of her first official day, she would be cleaning the rooms, switching out the towels, and ensuring the guests had everything they needed. Adding that to the fact that she would have to carry everything around by hand did not make her happy. At the very least, she wouldn’t be carrying around sheets and would only be worrying about the towels, having already done them yesterday.

Before heading to the supply closest to collect her things for the day, she dropped the box off at Charlie’s office. She had no way of knowing whether or not Charlie had been the one to give them to her, but it was the best guess she had. Afterwards, she made her way down the hall and rounded the corner.

An overwhelming sense of deja vu hit her as she bumped right into something broad and solid. She was nearly sent falling back again when an arm shot out and caught her around the waist, holding her as if she being dipped in a dance. A large hand wrapped around her rib, sharp claws poking into her side, one swift movement surely able to rip through her clothing and shred into her skin. The sudden contact made her gasp, her body practically limp in their hold as she looked up into familiar crimson eyes.

“You know, you and I really must stop meeting like this,” Alastor chuckled, his eyes crinkling slightly as his smile spread wider across his face. Ottilie didn’t find comfort in anything about him; his smile sent shivers down her spine and his mere presence exuded danger. His ear twitched slightly as she simply stared up at him, still limp in his hold. “What’s the matter, sweetheart? Deer got your tongue?” He raised his brows slightly, insinuating something with the gesture.

The implication wasn’t lost on her and she found herself glancing at his teeth, knowing full well that he could easily do just that. Ignoring the urge to shiver, she met his gaze once again. “No. I just did not find what you said very funny.”

His eyes narrowed slightly. “My, my. This little kitten has claws. How charming. However,” he leaned in closer, his back bending until his face was looking over hers, making her neck bend back to keep meeting his gaze, “kittens must remember that dears have very sharp antlers. A kitten might be… impaled, if they aren’t too careful.”

“Perhaps the deer should learn to be more careful. Kittens shouldn’t be blamed for the mistakes of a boorish animal,” she retorted, unsure of where the bite in her tone had come from.

His eyes widened considerably at the word ‘boorish’. Clearly he hadn’t liked it, not one bit. He was obviously a demon who prided himself on his appearance and the way he carried himself. Though that ever present smile was still there, something stirred in his eyes that didn’t bode well for her. He leaned in closer, getting to the point where the tips of their noses were just barely touching. “I would watch what I say if I were you, little one. I am a patient man with a very long fuse, but even I have my limits. I wouldn’t want anything to happen to you… just… yet.” He spoke his last few words slowly as his free hand came up and the tip of his claw ran down the length of her cheek.

She felt her cheeks begin to burn as she watched that hand and felt that claw brush along her skin, any slight amount of pressure likely to slice her skin. She also felt his thumb brushing along the edge of her back, both of his touches sending what equated to a spasm to run throughout her entire body. She slipped out from under his arm, somehow managing not to cut herself on his claw, and stepped away from him. “I-I would appreciate it i-if you didn’t do that a-again. Please excuse m-me.” She briskly walked away, not giving him a chance to reply or do much of anything else.

***

Alastor stood up straight and watched the young maid scamper off, feeling a smug sense of self satisfaction. He’d clearly misread her reaction and realized this as he sniffed the air, not smelling the fear he’d expected. The emotion he smelled was strange, one that he couldn’t place. His smile fell slightly, feeling a bit confused.

If she hadn’t been afraid, then why had she reacted like that, he wondered.

Once she was out of sight, he began to question what she was doing in that part of the hotel. There was nothing really of note, unless of course she’d simply gotten lost. It wouldn’t have been the first time someone had taken a wrong turn in the many halls and found themselves unsure of where they were. Sniffing the air a bit more, he found her earlier scent and began to follow it, curious to see if she’d been going anywhere.

He found himself baffled when he ended up at Charlies office, knowing that she’d gone in there if only briefly. Not bothering to knock, knowing that no one was occupying the room, he opened the door and stepped inside. He glanced around the room, wondering if Ottilie had looked through or taken anything, but nothing seemed to be out of place. He was about to leave the room when he noticed something sitting on the desk.

*****

Even Ottilie was surprised at her own reaction, unsure of her own emotions at the time. True, she wasn’t used to being touched, but she’d never reacted that way before. It hadn’t been from fear, an emotion she knew all too well, or at least not the base of it; she’d have to be a complete moron not to be at least a bit afraid of Alastor. She recalled it being rather strange, how her body had gone into spasms that would suggest she hated the feelings, but she couldn’t recall hating it at all.

She was also surprised at Alastor himself. Angel had touched her numerous times before, though not on a regular basis. Strangers had bumped into her, immediately recoiling at the surprise of her cold skin. Alastor, however, hadn’t even flinched at her lack of heat. His hand had stayed pressed against her, seemingly unaffected like anyone else would have been. She could still feel that arm wrapped around her even know and her cheek was still tingling with the contact.

She touched her face, wondering if he’d managed to cut her during her escape. Pulling her hand back, she found her glove clear of any sign of blood. She checked her smock as well, hoping it wasn’t already ripped after less than a day of having it. A breath of relief left her when she couldn’t find any tares.

A thought came to her. When Angel touched her, she’d always reciprocated the action. When strangers bumped into her, she next to always saw them coming at least a second or two before the fact. Alastor, however, had touched her without her consent or knowledge beforehand. Perhaps her reaction had been because his contact had come as a surprise to her, having not expected or returned the action.

A deep sigh escaped her. She really wasn’t in the mood to be dealing with all of this. She needed to focus. It wouldn’t do her any good to dwell on silly matters. More than likely, Alastor had just been doing something to mess with her. A demon of his caliber probably knew seven ways to Sunday to mess with other people, especially someone who was inexperienced with dealing with such matters.

Her mind put at ease, at least for the time being, she continued on her way to find the supply closet. Vaggie had told her there was one on each floor, so at least she wouldn’t have to carry all of her supplies with her when she needed to go to the next. The only problem was that the closets didn’t appear to be in the same place on each floor. When she went to where the spot where the door should have been, she instead found herself in a pool room. Perplexed, she checked the nearby rooms as well, but they weren’t what she’d been looking for either.

Realizing she had no idea where she was supposed to go, she set off to look for Vaggie and Charlie. It was still early in the morning, so she assumed they’d be in the penthouse and wasn’t looking forward to climbing the stairs all the way to the top floor. Again, she wished she’d put on the shoes, but swatted that thought away; what was done was done and she wasn’t going back on her decision. She was just passing the kitchen when she heard pots and pans banging together. Curious, she opened the swinging door and had to quickly duck down.

An egg flew over her head and exploded into the wall behind her, shell shards and yolk dripping down and onto the floor. Cautiously, she looked back into room to see the kitchen in an even worse state. Flour, eggs, milk, and all other sorts of various ingredients were strewn all over the place, making it look like an explosion had gone off in the bakery section of a market. Pots and pans had been tossed haphazardly, some of them covered in the mess of food all around them. Cabinets hung open with boxes of food hanging out of them, some of the boxes spilling out their contents, and cans were rolling along in disary. Vaggie and Angel were on either side of the island, both ducking down and popping up repeatedly to throw whatever they could get their hands on at each other.

“Why don’t you get out of here with your taco eating, wannabe bullshit?” Angel hissed as he threw a can at Vaggie.

“Why don’t you shove it up your ass? You’ve put just about everything else up there!” Vaggie growled back, her face contorted in anger, and tossed a pan at him.

Angel ducked his head in time to miss it, letting out a triumphant ‘Ha!’ as he popped back up, only to be hit square in the face by another can. “Ow! You can’t just go hitting my bread and butter like that!”

“You’re bread and butter went stale six decades ago!” Vaggie retorted.

Angel flinched slightly and his chin pointed up towards the ceiling so he was looking down at her. “You take that back!”

“I’ll take it back when you-!” Vaggie started before she noticed Ottilie standing in the doorway and stopped, realizing how this must all look. Angel took that that time to snatch up a can in each of his hands and launch them all simultaneously at her. “Ouch! What the Hell!?”

Angel laughed like a mad man as he jumped up and ran out of the room, slipping past Ottilie as she stepped out of the way. “Hey ya, toots! Talk to you later!”

“Ugh! Just wait until I get my hands on you, you oversized-!” Vaggie shouted after him as she gave chase, the rest of her words lost on Ottilie as she broke off into what sounded like Spanish, but Angel only continued to laugh at her threats. He probably couldn’t understand the language any more than Ottilie could.

Ottilie blinked a few times, confused about what had just transpired. Looking back into the kitchen, she noticed a mixing bowl filled with batter, a good deal of it having ended up on the counter rather than its intended destination. There was also a cutting board with a knife and fruit around it, but only a few pieces had actually been cut while the rest sat abandoned. She began to wonder if they’d been in process of making breakfast when a fight somehow broke out between the two, leading her to also wonder if this was a common thing with them.

Letting out a slight sigh, she adjusted her smock, which had ridden up a bit when she’d ducked out of the way, back into place and stepped into the room.

***

Charlie, Vaggie, and Angel came walking toward the kitchen hardly ten minutes later. If anyone within three floors of the main had been sleeping, they certainly weren’t now, the commotion sure to have woken them up. Vaggie and Angel wore looks of guilt on their faces while Charlie looked less than pleased, but not quite angry, at their actions.

“Look, it wasn’t like we intended for it to happen,” Angel pointed out. “Things just kind of… got out of hand.”

“I’d say trashing the kitchen and throwing food at each other is more than getting out of hand,” Charlie retorted, not looking back at him as she continued to walk ahead of them. “This is the third time this week you two have gotten into a fight.”

“Hey, things would’ve been perfectly fine if Queenie over here hadn’t gotten all this schmutz on me!” Angel gestured to his clothing, which had batter splattered all over the front of it. “Do you have any idea how long it takes to get this stuff out?”

“I told you that was an accident! You bumped right into me while I was mixing the bowl!” Vaggie scoffed as she rolled her eyes. She was definitely not taking the fall for this. “I even told you I was sorry.”

“Yeah, and I might have believed you if you hadn’t started laughing immediately afterwards! You don’t just muck up someones clothes and then laugh about it! Appearance is everything to someone like me!” Angel said as he smoothed out his hair, a few pieces of egg shell falling out in the process and making him grimace.

“Than you don’t have much to go off of,” Vaggie gave a half cocked smile as she raised a brow at him.

“That’s it!” Angel shouted as he made a move to jump at her, Vaggie ready and willing to fight him back.

“Alright! That’s enough!” Charlie raised her voice a bit as she stepped in between them, not at all in the mood to have two messes to deal with, her arms spread out on either side of her to hold them back; Vaggie was easy because she wasn’t that much shorter than her, but Angel had a considerable amount of over her and that made it a bit awkward, though thankfully he didn’t try to step around her. Her voice took on a softer tone as she said, “I think we’ve all had enough excitement for today. Let’s just go clean up the kitchen and get breakfast ready before everyone starts coming down, okay?” Vaggie and Angel grumbled an agreement before following her the rest of the way. Once they reached the swinging door, she pushed it open and stopped dead in her tracks.

“Look, I know it looks bad, but-,” Vaggie started as she slipped past Charlie and stepped inside, her eyes finally seeing what the surprise was.

“What’s everyone looking at?” Angel asked as he ducked his head in, his jaw dropping in slight shock.

The kitchen was completely spotless. The fact that there had been a mess of food, pots, pans, and other utensils strewn about never would have been known. The appliances sparkled like never before, looking cleaner than when they’d come out of the box. The tiled floor was sleek and shiny, so much so that they reflected the objects around them, almost looking like a mirrored surface. Any boxes that might have been damaged and their contents put to waste had been removed while the ones that had survived were put back into their proper place, the cabinets now closed once again. The fresh smell of lemons hit them before the food did.

The abandoned fruit had been cut into perfect and evenly sliced pieces where it now sat in a bowl on the island, waiting to be served. The batter had been remade, eggshells and other contamination having left it unusable. It now sat on the counter between the stove and waffle iron. Some of the batter had been placed in the iron and the smell of waffles wafted through the air in a tantalizing aroma while more had been put in a skillet on the stove along with bacon and eggs in two others, the sizzling and popping pleasing to the ears.

Ottilie stood there at the stove, a spatula in hand, which she used to flip the pancakes once the surface had sufficiently bubbled before picking up another to stir the eggs and flip the bacon as well. Angel really shouldn’t have been surprised at the knowledge that she’d been the one to clean up the mess in such a timely, neat, and orderly fashion; he’d seen her clean before, but perhaps not on a scale such as this. Apparently having noticed them out of the corner of her eye, she turned to look at them. “Good morning.” They couldn’t seem to reply, still stuck in their states of shock. “What is it?” she cocked her head slightly, but they still didn’t answer her. A nervous look came across her face and she stepped away from the stove. “H-have… Have I done something wrong?”

That seemed to bring Charlie out of her state and she shook her head quickly to remove the haze from her brain. “No, no! You haven’t done anything wrong!” She got a sense of deja vu, having told her the same thing the day before, but ignored it. “We were just… surprised, is all. From what Vaggie and Angel Dust told me, this place was a wreck. I was expecting it to look like a hurricane went through here, but instead I find it looking better than ever! Plus, you already got breakfast started! This is so amazing!”

Ottilie looked unsure of how to respond to such praise, her visible eye looking down at the floor as her cheeks turned a slightly darker shade of pink and her hands gripping the spatula tighter. “Urm… Thank you.”

“No, thank you,” Charlie said proudly. “If you don’t mind, why don’t you and Angel Dust finish up in here while Vaggie and I go set the table and wake everyone up?”

“I don’t mind at all,” Ottilie shook her head, watching as Charlie guided the still confused and out of sorts Vaggie away. She quickly turned back to the stove, starting to plate the pancakes so the evenly cooked sides wouldn’t burn and did the same for the waiting waffles. “Would you mind getting down a plate and bowl from the cabinet? I need them for the bacon and eggs.” Angel only continued to stare, his mouth still hanging open limply. She looked over at him in question. “Angel Dust?” Still no response. “Did you sprain your jaw again giving someone a bj?”

That seemed to bring him out of it and his mouth snapped shut. “No! I just… wow.” He walked over to the cabinet and pulled out what he’d been asked for. “Did you take some speed or something this morning? I’ve never seen you work so fast.”

“You know I don't do that sort of thing,” she shook her head as she took them from him. “It's not unusual for me to clean fast. I've cleaned your dressing room much faster than this before.”

That really seemed to catch Angel off guard. “Dang girl, you need to slow down.” He took a few of the plates as well as the bowl of fruit up off the island. “Why do you clean so fast, anyway?”

“I…” she trailed off, not sure how to respond, as she followed behind him with the waffles and pancakes. “I'm not sure. It's just… something I feel like I have to do. If I don't work fast…. I feel like something bad is going to happen.”

He fell in beside her. “Hey, nothin’ bads gonna happen to you so long as I'm around, okay? Anyone gives you trouble, you come find me. I don't care who I'm doin’.”

“Don't you mean ‘what’?” she smirked slightly.

“I know what I said,” he replied proudly.

“Angel Dust, may I ask you something?” she said after a moment.

“Need some sex tips?” he wiggled his brows playfully at her.

“Trust me. I probably know just about everything you do,” she shook her head. “It's just… something happened earlier.”

He immediately stopped walking and his head snapped towards her. “What? What happened? Whose ass do I need to kick?”

“No… nothing like that,” she said quickly. It probably wouldn't end well for him even if she did want to send Angel after Alastor; she really didn't want anything bad to happen to him. He looked at her expectantly, waiting for her to explain. “Um… well… nothing bad happened, but…. Someone touched me earlier and… well… I didn't react the way I should have.”

“How did you react?” he asked.

“My body… it sort of… went into a spasm? I'm not quite sure how to describe it. I just remember jerking really hard,” she explained, her eyes downcast towards the food in her hands.

“Huh.” Angel pondered it for a moment, having calmed down since his burst of anger. “Did you hate the feeling when they touched you?”

It was her turn to ponder, thinking back to her emotions during that moment. She remembered feeling confused and nervous at Alastors close proximity, but there had been something more there just under the surface. “No. I don't think I did.”

“Then you probably just wanted to fuck 'em,” he shrugged nonchalantly, speaking as if he were talking about the weather, and the two continued toward the dining hall.

She felt her cheeks burn again and her eyes widened slightly. “No! No, definitely not that.” That couldn't be a possibility. No one in their right mind would want to try to bed Alastor unless they had a death wish.

“Well, okay. Then maybe you're just touch starved,” he laughed at her reaction, unable to hold it back.

“Touch starved?” she cocked her head curiously.

“Eh, it's somethin’ I keep hearin’ the newer demons say. At first I thought it meant they weren't getting laid enough, but then someone told me it means physically touched, not sexually. Somethin’ about being so physically starved for someone to touch you that, when someone finally does, you can't handle it,” he explained. “Personally, I don't see the difference between that and needin’ a good fuck, but that's just me.”

“That's because you never stop having sex,” she smirked again, looking up at him mischievously.

“Damn right, baby! Morning, noon, and night!” Angel said boisterously as he shimmied his hips forward and back, somehow managing to balance the plates and bowl without spilling anything. Ottilie couldn't help but chuckle, her hand covering her mouth to keep from full on laughing at him. “Com'on, toots! Shake them hips! I know you can do it! Work that magic!” If he realized they'd entered the dining room and everyone was staring at him, he didn't seem to care. His eyes met Husks, who wore the same annoyed expression as yesterday and held his head in his propped up hand with his elbow on the table, and he made a kissing motion as he smiled in that seductive manner everyone knew him for. “This can all be yours. All you have to do is say the word.”

Husk stared at him a moment before turning to Charlie and raising his pointer finger as he said, “Check, please.” There were a few chuckles and giggles from around the table while Angel stomped his foot and started to pout, the food nearly falling from his hands.

“Humph. Your loss,” Angel said as his turned his head up, his nose in the air as he placed the plates and bowel down before taking his seat, his arms crossed under his chest.

“Would you stop pouting? It’s not the end of the world,” Vaggie glared at him.

Angel narrowed his eyes at her and glanced towards her hair. “You have eggshells and flour in your bow.”

Vaggie grimaced as she reached up and frantically batted her hands at her bow, the powdery substance coming off in a thin white cloud and pieces of eggshell flying off only to fly right into peoples faces. A few of them gave her dirty looks as they rubbed at the afflicted area; one that looked like a small female child with short, bright fuschia colored hair stuck out her tongue in a playful manner and flicked the shell back at her. Once she was sure she was clear of any blemishes, she set her glare back on Angel. “Ugh! Why are you so infuriating?”

“Because you make me so infuriating,” Angel smirked as he glared back at her.

“Hey!” Charlie called as the two were about to get back into it again. They turned to look at her, both practically about to jump over the table to attack. “No.” They slowly lowered back into their seats, their cheeks puffed out in with their frowns. She turned once she realized Ottilie was still standing there, looking a bit awkward around things that were completely normal to them. “Oh, I’m so sorry! I almost forgot you were there!”

“That’s alright. I’m used to it,” Ottilie replied as Charlie reached for the plates.

Charlie looked taken aback. “Whoa, wait. That’s not what I meant.” Ottilies expression didn’t seem to change. “Um… Let’s not stand here and let all this delicious looking food get cold! Come, join us!” She took the plates from Ottilie and turned back to the table. “We’re a little short on chairs, but you can take the one next to Alastor! You don’t mind her sitting next to you, right?”

Ottilies eyes widened slightly, not enough for anyone to notice, and her eyes quickly scanned the table before they landed on the red suited demon. While everyone else was fixing their plates and digging in, Alastor was sipping from a cup with a saucer in his free hand, his eyes closed as if he enjoyed what he was drinking. As if feeling her eyes on him, he opened one of his own and gave her a mocking smile as he met her gaze.

Alastor placed his cup back on the saucer and set them on the table in front of him. “Why no, my dear! Not at all! By all means,” he placed his hand on the back of the empty chair next to his and patted it, the tips of his claws tapping it in the process, “have a seat.”

Ottilie tried to swallow around the lump in her throat, but it seemed as deeply rooted there as the fear cutting through her chest like a knife. She took a step back and looked at Charlie, who was watching her with concern. “Oh, no thank you. I’m not hungry.”

“Are you sure? You didn’t eat last night, either,” Charlie said, taking a step forward as if to follow her. “Is something the matter?”

“No, I’m perfectly fine. I don’t usually eat much. I appreciate the offer, though,” Ottilie said quickly, continuing to back away. “I think I’ll just be getting to work now. Please excuse me.”

“Well, alright. Let us know if you need any-,” Charlie started, but Ottilie was already gone, slipping out of the room as quietly as a shadow. “-thing. Gee, I wonder what that was about.”

“If I had to sit next to him, I think I’d run, too,” Husk stated, jabbing a thumb in Alastors direction. He looked over and just barely ducked out of the way in time to miss a fork that came flying towards his head. It soared over him and plunged into the wall, the metal prongs sticking deeply into it. Eyes wide, he sat up and looked at Alastor again.

“Opps. My hand slipped,” Alastor said innocently.

*****

Ottilie was rather happy to be returning to her work. It meant she would be left alone, at least for the time being while everyone was eating. She had no way of knowing if anyone would return to their rooms once they were finished, so she tried to clean them as fast as possible. It only took her five minutes each room to clean the tub, replace the towels, wipe out the sink, remake the bed, vacuum the carpets, remove the trash, and dust the furniture.

She worked barefoot from room to room, putting them back on only when she was out in the hallway, only her socks covering her feet. She couldn’t bring herself to tell anyone the shoes were hurting her feet, especially after finding the shoes outside her door that morning, so she resolved to tell anyone who asked that she simply didn’t want to track dirt into their personal space.

No one appeared to be returning to their room, however. She hadn’t seen anyone since leaving the dining room nearly half an hour ago and she was almost done with the occupied rooms. She thought perhaps when she was done that she’d move on to dusting the furniture and vacuuming the halls. Vaggie had told her both would take an entire work day each, but at the pace she set herself at it would more than likely only take her one. She hadn’t even bothered going to the sixth floor, which she knew to be occupied only by Alastor, already having decided she wouldn’t bother with it today; she now fully understood why it’d been left up to her whether or not she went in there. Who knows what a demon like him had in there.

By the time she finished up in the penthouse, which had indeed been cleaner than most of the other rooms, she’d fallen into a sort of routine. Once she was done with all of her supplies, she would put them back in their proper place in the supply closets and then put her shoes back on before moving on to her next task. Having already replaced her supplies, she walked over to the stairwell door and bent over to pick up her shoes where she’d been leaving them each time. So used to that routine and not even bothering to look down, she didn’t notice that the material clenched between her fingers didn’t feel right. Even when she slipped one onto her foot, she still didn’t notice. It wasn’t until she went to put her foot down that she finally realized something was amiss.

Having expected there to be a heel on her boot, she brought her foot down at an angle so the balls of her foot would be against the floor, but there were nothing there to support it once she went to put her weight down on it. She felt a jolt of surprise and looked down at her boots only to find that they were not her own. She lifted the one she was still clutching in her hand and realized it was the one from the pair that had been left outside her door earlier that morning. Examining the boot now on her foot, she found that it was the same.

Looking around almost frantically, she didn’t see her old boots anywhere. They had somehow disappeared and the new ones were left in their place, practically forcing her to wear them. Now she was considerably confused. She’d left them in Charlies office, clearly intending to return them, and yet here they were.

She began to wonder if this was in fact Angels doing; practical jokes weren’t out of the norm for him, but this simply wasn’t his style; he would have made himself known as the culprit by now if he had. She had a feeling Charlie would have simply confronted her about returning them rather than do such an offhanded thing and she still very much doubted Vaggie had gotten them for her in the first place. Once again, she was left to wonder who had gotten them for her. Now, however, she also left with the question of where her old pair was.

Looking down, she wondered what to do about her predicament. Would she wear the shoes that had been given to her as a gift, or would she return to her room and get her backup pair? In the moment that followed her internal question, she made her decision.

Chapter Text

Alastor was quiet as he stepped into the only occupied room on the fifth floor. The door didn’t even creak as he softly closed it behind him and his footfalls couldn’t be heard as he walked across the carpeted floor. His shadow fell over the sleeping form of the blue skinned demoness as he came to the bedside, her body nearly completely buried under the covers as it lay turned on its side in a slight fetal position, only from her shoulders up visible to him. Her expression was soft, not at all like the gloomy, black one she usually wore. She was muttering something in her sleep, but it was only incoherent babbling, even to his highly tuned ears.

He cocked his head as he watched her. It baffled him how something so small and insignificant could rile him up so much. She was a puzzle, one he was keen on solving before he brought her to her end. He found it somewhat of a pity. She was rather entertaining and worth a good laugh, but she knew too much. If she decided to call his bluff and tell Charlie or Vaggie about his goings on at the hotel, it would ruin everything he’d set out to achieve.

Even Vaggie herself was becoming a hindrance. She was always questioning his actions and whispering things to Charlie when she thought he couldn’t hear, but there wasn’t much going on at the hotel he didn’t know about. Perhaps he would dispose of her as well. Ottilie would be easy with all the previous maids having ‘disappeared’ before, but Vaggie would be a tricky one. He’d have to be careful with her or the others would start asking too many questions. Things might not end so well for him if he didn’t plan everything down to the last detail.

He stopped right beside Ottilie, towering over her sleeping form in a domineering way. He raised a hand and reached out towards her head, but paused when she moaned and adjusted herself so her face was buried further into the pillow. He continued, but changed course at the last second so his claws were beside her horns. Bringing his middle finger and thumb together, he snapped them once a bit loudly. When she didn’t stir, he knew she wouldn’t wake while he was in there.

His smile broadened. It would be oh so easy to attack her as she was now. She wouldn’t even see it coming. He had no doubt she would try to scream, but he’d have removed her vocal cords before she could even try; he imagined her screams would be quite lovely, but he couldn’t risk anyone hearing. He’d have to settle with slowly watching the light leave her eyes as he devoured her piece by piece, her eyes never leaving his the entire time. Her fear would be delicious, like a spice that only served to add more flavor to her already delectable flesh.

Her scent alone was driving him mad. Against his better judgement, he leaned over and breathed in deeply through his nose, something he couldn’t do when she was awake and they were in such close proximity. He could feel his mouth watering as he took in that aroma again. He was so tempted to have a taste of her that he found himself leaning down further, his lips peeled back to reveal his razor sharp teeth. He stopped himself, however, his jaw snapping shut as he regained control of himself. If he wasn’t careful, this girl would no doubt be his undoing.

He leaned back and stood up straight, distancing himself from her before he did anything too drastic. He would have her, but not yet. He wasn’t done playing. Despite having always been told not to play with his food, he simply couldn’t resist. It was entirely too much fun.

Now he simply had to figure out what to do first. There were so many ways to mess with her head that it was leaving him giddy with excitement. He considered leaving a snake or spider somewhere for her to find, which usually got the women riled up, but she didn't seem like the type to be affected by such things; he highly doubted she'd be immune to the sight of a genuine skull or two, though. Perhaps he'd hide a few sharp objects and see how long it took her to stick herself with them and how hard; he wondered how much she'd bleed, especially after having watched one of the other maids nearly slice her hand clean off when he stuck a blade to a doorknob. He could also cut a hole in the cord of her vacuum and one way or another she'd eventually get a bit of an electric shock. So much to do, so little time.

Perhaps it was because he hadn't messed with anyone on such a personal level in a good while, not since the last maid had been in service, but he was definitely looking forward to this hunt. He'd never encountered a woman so emotionless before. It would be such a thrill to be the one to make her squirm like a worm on a hook.

He stepped away from the bed and began to walk around the room, his mind working like a well oiled machine as he pieced everything together in his head.

*****

Ottilie had been grateful for her restful nights of sleep the last few days. She so rarely slept for more than six hours, if she even made it that long, so getting up to eight felt like a godsend. Somehow, she'd managed to sleep for nearly nine hours straight.

It was for that specific reason that she nearly throttled Angel when he woke her up. It had been dreamless and restful, which might have been because she'd worked so hard the day before; she hated to admit it, but the shoes had been so comfortable that she couldn't seem to stop working. Vaggie and Charlie had to physically stop her and it was only then that she realized how tired she was. Even so, Angel snuck into her room, tiptoeing across the floor as she lay sound asleep.

“Pst, hey, toots,” Angel whispered in a hushed tone when he reached the bed. She didn't even stir, still laying on her side as she had been hours before, buried beneath the covers like they were a cocoon. “Hey, toots! Wake up!” He spoke a little louder and tried poking her face for good measure, but she only grumbled under her breath and burrowed further into the comforter, her cheeks now covered, too. He growled now, done trying to wake her up gently. “Wake up, you sleeping hoe!”

That appeared to have done the trick as she jumped quicker than he'd ever seen her move, making him jump as well, her eyes wide as they darted around frantically. Blinking a few times to clear her mind, she realized what had happened. Looking around again but seeing no one, she called, “Angel Dust?”

“Up here,” Angel called back.

She looked toward the sound of his voice only to see him stuck to the ceiling, his hands and the balls of his feet pressed up against it. She'd seen him do things like this before, but never quite so high. “What on earth are you doing up there?”

“What the Hell are you doin’ snappin’ up like that? Nearly gave me a heart attack!” he retorted as he flipped around so he was facing her. “I almost died! Again!”

“What are you even doing in here?” she asked as she rubbed the sleep from her visible eye and looked at the clock. “I still have a few more hours before I have to get ready for work.”

“Really?” he smiled before detaching himself from the ceiling, landing on the floor with a rather loud ‘thud’. He rushed over to where she sat on the bed, making her flinch, and clasped his hands beneath his chin. “Then will you give me a bath?”

She blinked once in confusion. “You woke me up this early to give you a bath?” Her face was just as blank as it always was, but he could tell she wasn't happy at all.

“Uh huh,” he nodded. She just continued to stare at him. “Com'on, please? Oh, please? Oh, please? Oh, please?” Her eyes narrowed slightly. “Pwease~?”

A long sigh escaped her, her shoulders sagging with the action. “Go to the bathroom.”

“Yay!” he practically squealed in delight as he jumped up from his kneeling position and bounced his way toward the bathroom, acting like a child on Christmas morning.

Knowing he would get antsy if she took too long, she climbed out of bed and placed her slippers on her feet before shrugging on her robe. As she was tying the sash around her waist and made to follow after him, she happened to glance over at her sitting area and frowned. Something was definitely wrong.

Her furniture had been switched around. Where it had once sat previously, it was now on the opposite side of the room. Not just in her sitting area, but everything that wasn't stationary had been as well. She thought she was just imagining it at first, but she knew for a fact that everything had been just the opposite when she went to bed the night before. She wondered if Angel had done it just to mess with her, but moving around heavy furniture would be too much work for him. Neither Vaggie nor Charlie seemed like the types to play childish pranks and Husk definitely wouldn’t be behind this. From what Angel had told her, it very well could have been Alastor, but she very much doubted he’d come into her room just to move things around; she’d probably in a world of pain if he had in fact come into her room at all. That just left her with the rest of the inhabitants, all of whom she’d yet to meet, meaning it could have been any of them.

“Hey, toots! Get the lead out of your feet!” Angel called impatiently, his tone both mocking and serious at the same time.

Realizing she’d been thinking on this for too long as she stared at her misplaced furniture, she turned toward the bathroom again and called, “Coming!” as she walked as quickly as she could to the door. Hesitating a moment, she buried her hands deep into the pockets of her robe to make sure all of the skin of her arms was covered and stepped inside. Angel had already stripped out of his clothes and was sitting on the sink countertop, his body shamelessly on full display; he’d already set the water running as well, knowing that the way they liked their temperatures was vastly different. “Do you want me to add the bubbles?”

“You should already know the answer to that one, baby,” he replied, his legs kicking back and forth slightly as he waited for the tub to fill.

“You know the drill,” she said as she gestured to his hands with a nod of her head, to which he complied by using them to cover his eyes. Once his vision was impaired and she was sure he wasn’t peaking, she pulled her hands out and crouched down to look in the cabinet underneath the sink. Easily finding a bottle of bath soap stowed away in the back, she pulled it out and took it over to the tub, applying a generous amount to the already half filled water.

The scent mixed with the steam and Angel sniffed the air curiously. “Vanilla? Why did you use the vanilla one?”

“I thought you liked it?” she pondered as she placed the cap back on the bottle and put it back under the sink.

“I do, but you usually use the grape scented one,” he recalled with a slight pout, like the slight break in the routine had left him sullen.

“The grape one is back in your dressing room, so I can’t use that one, but trust me,” she smirked ever so slightly even though he couldn’t see. “You’ll like this one better.”

“Well, if you say so,” he shrugged.

Once the claw footed tub was two-thirds of the way full and the bubbles had sufficiently covered the surface of the water, she shut off the faucet and placed her hands back inside her pockets. “Alright, you can get in now.”

He smiled happily as he uncovered his eyes and stood up, even more excited now than he had been. After stepping into the lukewarm water, he placed his hands on either side of the shining white porcelain and lowered himself into it. A deep sigh escaped him as he leaned back and let his feet dangle out of the water, his legs a bit too long to fit all the way inside as the angle he was at. “You know, this is one of the things I missed about us working together. No one gives baths like you do.”

“Surely the new girl gives you baths,” she commented as she rolled up her sleeves out of his line of sight and pulled a stool up behind his head.

“Yeah, right. Like I’d ever let that good-for-nothing, talent-less hack anywhere near me like this. She’d probably bleach my hair white and then call it art,” he scoffed as she took a seat behind him. He dipped his head back into the water just enough so that his hair was wet but his face was still above the surface and sat back up again.

“The studio must like her if they’ve kept her on this long, though.” She picked up a bottle of shampoo and squeezed some out into the palm of her hand before putting it back down. The floral aroma surrounded them both as she started scrubbing it into his light pink hair, her fingers massaging his scalp at the same time.

“Of course the studio likes her! She’s given handouts to the producers!” he said in exasperation as his hands went flying up, sending water and bubbles all about. He put his hands back down and started playing with the bubbles, making odd shapes and towers out of them.

“Need I remind you that you do that sometimes, too,” she chuckled lightly, messing around with his hair a bit in the same matter he was the bubbles.

“Yeah, but at least I don’t use it as way to further my career! She’s just doin’ it cause she knows she can’t do nothin’ right!” he said accusingly. “I’m tellin’ ya, that’s the only reason they let you go. Why, I have half a mind to-.”

“Careful now. That’s reaching a bit too far, don’t you think?” she laughed.

“You little shit!” he half heartedly growled at her as he scooped up a handful of bubbles and shoved them in her face, making her cry out in laughter.

A sense of nostalgia overcame them as they continued to laugh and talk. It had been commonplace for her to give him a bath every now and again when they were working together. She wouldn’t do it every day, but that was mostly because he would usually have a date or two for after the shooting and he didn’t want to have to reapply his makeup or hair. Doing this once again made them feel as if they hadn’t been separated at all. While it was true that being apart had made them both miss each other terribly, being together again only served to remind them how strong of a bond they really had. He never seemed to mind how cold her touch was, either, despite the fact that she was touching him without so much as a glove between them. Instead of recoiling like most others did, he welcomed her touch and even seemed to find some comfort in it, looking more relaxed than she’d ever seen him whenever she bathed him.

Once he was clean and satisfied, she stood behind him and helped him out of the tub, his head facing the ceiling so he couldn’t see her hands. After he wrapped a towel around himself, he informed her he’d meet her down at breakfast and left the room with the pajamas he’d been wearing. Anyone else might have questioned the fact he was running around the hotel practically naked, but she knew better; he’d never been afraid to show off what he had.

Once she was alone again and the bathroom had been straightened up, she only had about an hour before she had to get to work, so she began to get ready for the day. She hadn’t had any time to make herself a new work dress yet, so she was still wearing a pair of the work pants and smock Charlie had given her, glad now that she’d insisted she take a few extra pairs. She also slipped on her work boots, which she still wasn’t quite used to wearing.

The previous day had left her somewhat angry, having returned to her room for her other pair of shoes only to find that they were gone as well, leaving her with only the ones she had in hand. She’d searched high and low for her other shoes, wondering if she’d somehow misplaced them or if they’d simply been hidden, but they were nowhere to be found. The new shoes were certainly easier to work in and for that she was grateful, but at the same time she was angry that the choice had been taken away from her about whether or not to wear them added to the fact that both pairs of her shoes were now gone, seemingly for good. Who did this person think they were to force her to wear them, she thought angrily. Without knowing who’d given them to her, however, she had no one to direct that anger towards, so she simply couldn’t hold on to it. It disappeared, just as her other shoes had.

After tying her hair back so it hung loosely down her back in a low ponytail, she left her room and headed towards the dining room, assuming that if she didn’t head that way that Charlie would come looking for her. She’d been able to talk her way out of eating dinner with them, but Charlie had practically demanded she join them for breakfast, especially after having also refused it the day before. She didn’t eat very often, not feeling the need or want to, but today she was feeling somewhat hungry. Perhaps all of the moving around was starting to give her a bit of an appetite.

Finally getting used to the layout of the hotel after a few days, she found the dining room easily and found that she was one of the first people there aside from two others. The first was the small one eyed demoness who looked like a child and the other was a woman of ample size who was dressed like she’d just stepped out of a casino. The two turned to look at her as she stepped in, one regarding her with cheerful delight and the other in indifference. “Um… hello.”

“Hi, there!” the smaller one said cheerfully as she jumped out of her chair, her poodle her red and yellow polka dotted skirt swaying as she rushed over to see her up close. “You must be the new maid! Gee! You're kind of tall! Then again, a lot of people are tall to me! I'm just so short, aren't I?” She took a quick pause to giggle, not giving Ottilie any time to respond as she prattled on. “You're really pretty, too! I bet you get a lot of attention from men! All the men most flock to you like a rooster to a chicken! My mom used to be the same way! Pretty and good with the men! You must adore all that attention, don't you? Gosh, I wish I were as pretty as you!”

Ottilie blinked down at her, unsure if she was finished or not. After a few seconds, it appeared she was done for now. “Um… thank you, but you're much prettier than I am.” She truly believed that the shorter girl was better looking than she was, though that was the case with most people she met.

“Wow! That's so sweet of you! You're really nice! I bet you've got lots of friends! Mimzy over there is my bestest friend!” she turned and pointed towards the other woman sitting at the table, who gave an unenthusiastic wave, her fingers wiggling slightly. “Oh! And I'm Nifty, by the way! What's your name? I bet you've got a name just as pretty as you are! I hope you do! It would stink if someone so pretty had an ugly name! Oh, please, won't you tell me? I've just got to know! What's your name?”

“Will you just tell her? She won't stop until you do,” Mimzy sighed.

“Ottilie,” she replied after another few seconds.

“Oh, wow! I love that name so much! It’s so unique and wonderful! It fits you so well!” Nifty gushed before bounding over to Mimzy. “Didn’t I say that her name would be pretty? And I was so right! Have you ever heard of a name like that? And her voice! I bet you she came from England! People from England were all the rage when I was alive! So formal and polite and-!” She was cut off when Mimzy picked up a napkin and shoved it in her mouth, silencing her for the moment.

“You know the rules, sweetcheeks. Don’t talk to me until I’ve had my coffee,” Mimzy reminded her as she leaned into her hand and continued to not-so-patiently wait for breakfast.

Nifty and Mimzy certainly wasn’t what Ottilie had been expecting at all. From the way people talked about them, they were as inseparable as the moon and stars, but from where she stood, they couldn’t be any more different than night and day. The way they talked, acted, and even the way they dressed were nothing alike each other.

Mimzy, who appeared to be from the time Ottilie recalled being called the Roaring Twenties, was a rather stout and stocky woman not much taller than Nifty was. She had platinum blonde hair styled in a side part with the ends twirling around in a single curl, thin lips painted the same color of red as her irises and cheeks, dark red lashes that contrasted with her entirely black scleras, a small nose that was just a little too pointy, and ashen white skin that stood out against the dark hues of her attire. She wore a dark purple strapless flapper dress that left little to the imagination and put the tops plus the sides of her ample bosom on display for the world to see; there were small strips of white around her hips, almost making it look like she was wearing a belt or a top and skirt, and the tassels at the bottom were colored white with streaks of the same dark purple. Around the top of her head and over her hair was a was a dark purple headband with a matching feather and faux gemstone that matched the color of her eyes. A beaded necklace with the same type of stone hung around her neck and her hands were covered by dark purple gloves that reached past her elbows. Her feet, which were, like her hands, very small compared to the rest of her body and protected by tiny heeled shoes that went with the rest of her clothing.

Nifty, on the other hand, was as skinny as a twig, the only curves on her being her rather tiny breasts. The skin of her head and neck was a milky white and a stark contrast to the bright colors of her clothing while her needle like arms and legs were a deep purple, her cheeks were dotted by small points of fuschia, the frizzy hair atop her head was cut short above her shoulders and colored the same shade as her cheeks with a large streak of light orange beneath her bangs, and the single eye in the middle of her head was a match to her hair with a ring of orange around her fuschia scleras. Aside from her polka dotted poodle skirt, she wore a short sleeved white blouse spotted with fuschia that had poofy sleeves and a fuschia and orange colored scarf tied loosely around her neck. If the small woman was wearing shoes, it was hard to tell. The wide smile that seemed to be constantly spread across her face sported two rows of razor sharp teeth, something that most demons in Hell seemed to have, which seemed a little odd given the fact she didn’t seem to have a malicious nature, but looks could be deceiving.

Aside from their physical differences, Mimzy also seemed to lack Nifty’s bubbly personality and talkative nature. Though not reserved, she didn’t seem to want to talk unless something caught her interest or it benefited her in some way. Ottilie couldn’t help but wonder why the two were even friends to begin with, being so different, but she supposed she didn’t have much room to talk; she and Angel were completely different as well, but they were practically inseparable, too. Perhaps their relationship was strange to her because she was finally seeing it from the other side and not just her own perspective.

After Nifty managed to get the napkin dislodged from her mouth, she bounced back over to Ottilie. “So are you going to join us for breakfast today? You’ve missed the last couple of meals! You really should join us more often! We have so much fun! We laugh, we talk, we eat!” She giggled a bit at herself. “Listen to me! Of course we eat! What else would you do during a meal!” She giggled again. “But really, though, I think you would enjoy it! Most everyone does!”

“Well, I, um-,” Ottilie started before Nifty reached up and took her hand, her small limbs high above her head to reach it.

“You can sit right next to me, then! The cleaning lady who worked here before used to sit there, but she doesn’t come around anymore! Alastor said she simply had to go!” Nifty said as she tugged Ottilie over to the side of the table where her chair sat waiting.

“Alastor? Why would Alastor say that?” Ottilie pressed, feeling a bit nervous on the subject, but feeling like there was something more to that statement.

Niftys eye widened and her smile turned strained as her tiny grip on Ottilies hand turned into a rather tight squeeze, almost cutting off what little blood flow the taller woman had. Ottilie glanced over at Mimzy only to find her looking at Nifty like she’d just blown the cover on a top secret operation. Of course Ottilie already knew what had happened to the maids who had come before her, but the two of them clearly didn’t know that. However much Alastor appeared to have told them about the situation, he apparently hadn’t felt the need to inform them of her knowledge on it; quite franckly, she was surprised they’d been told at all, Niftys ramblings making it clear that it was probably something they shouldn’t have been.

Mimzy suddenly burst out laughing, the sound obviously forced, but to her credit she was doing her best. “Nifty, you silly girl! I told you that, not Alastor! Remember? I said it was because she couldn’t make the beds right!” She turned her gaze to Ottilie, but the smile she offered was just as forced as her laugh had been. “Don’t mind her. She gets details wrong all the time. I keep telling her that slip ups like that will get her into trouble… don’t I, Nifty?”

Nifty looked down at the floor, the expression almost looking shameful if not for the fact that she was shaking slightly, the vibrations traveling up into Ottilies arm. “Yeah…” she was quiet for a moment before she returned to her bubbly self and her head shot up to look at Ottilie as she continued to lead her towards the chair. “Gee, your hand sure is cold! Were you holding something before you came in here? I can feel it even through your glove! Whatever you had must have been mighty cold!”

“No… this is just my normal body temperature,” Ottilie said somewhat bashfully, letting the subject of Alastor drop, if not for their sake but her own.

“Wow! That’s so neat! I’ll bet you stay really cool in all this heat! I wish I could be that cold, then I wouldn’t have to worry! It must be so nice! Do you have-?” Nifty continued on, talking as if nothing had happened barely even two minutes ago. Ottilie let her go on, however, as she was practically pushed into a chair and listened to the girl prattle on for a good ten minutes or so, actually somewhat glad that she didn’t have to participate much in the conversation. It wasn’t until Mimzy complained that the food was taking too long that she jumped up from the table again and hopped onto the floor. “I’ll go check on it!” She turned to looked up at Ottilie again. “Don’t go anywhere! I’ll be right back!” She scampered off, disappearing faster than rain down a storm drain.

It was silent for a moment, reminding Ottilie of just how talkative Nifty could be, before she glanced over at Mimzy again only to find her watching her from the corner of her eye. Her gaze was set into a slight glare, as if she were both sizing her up and giving her a warning. Ottilie had only just met Mimzy, but she somehow got the feeling that the other woman wasn’t much of a threat. Something about her simply screamed ‘all bark and no bite’. If Mimzy had something to do with Alastor, however, perhaps she was someone to at least watch out for.

Averting her gaze, Ottilie looked down at the table, trying so hard not to look the other womans way that she didn’t even notice when other people started to pile in one by one. The seats at the table were all so nearly full that by the time Angel Dust sat down in the seat across from her and had to nudge her with his foot to get her attention when she wouldn’t reply to him she was shocked when she looked up. Only the seats on either side of her, the one next to Angel Dust, and two others were empty at that point and some mild chatter had begun to take place. Another quick glance at Mimzy showed that she’d lost interest for the time being and Ottilie could relax a bit.

Ottilie and Angel talked about this and that while they all waited. She did her best to not let on how nervous she was around so many people, but it was evident in the way she fidgeted that she was uncomfortable. Angel tried to take her mind off of the fact that she was around strangers, though it only helped a little. Even so, no one else paid her any mind; in their eyes, she was just another maid who would likely up and quit, just like the others had. After a few minutes, though, she seemed a bit more at ease when she focused more on the conversation and less on the people around her; it pleased Angel to see her finally coming out of her shell, if only just a little. That was, at least, until three figures walked into the room.

One could almost feel sorry for Husk, who looked like he’d barely gotten any sleep if any at all, but he also had Nifty dangling off of one arm, her feet barely touching the floor as she held onto his forearm like he was a jungle gym, while Alastor had his arms wrapped around his shoulders, his feet dragging slightly and slowing the shorter man down. “Will you get off of me?” he asked in an annoyed tone, probably not the first time he’d said it.

“Not until you do it,” Alastor smirked, leaning his head on Husks shoulder and putting more of his body weight down. Husk grumbled something in reply, but the words were inaudible.

“You know we can’t let go until you do it!” Nifty laughed as she climbed further up his arm, wrapping around it like a snake on a branch.

“You’re hurting me,” Husk staggered slightly, the added weight of two bodies nearly throwing him off balance.

“You’re only hurting yourself!” Alastor remarked, his smile widening slightly. “Come now. It’ll make your day brighter!” Husk turned his head slightly and glared at him. “Well, it can’t hurt you any more than this does!”

Husk let out a long sigh, his shoulders sagging with the action. He looked around the room, finding most of the eyes on him, and rolled his own. With a great bit of reluctance, he flashed a very small and quick smile, the frown he always wore returning to his face just as quickly.

“Yay! He did it!” Nifty cheered as she let herself drop to the floor and raced over to her seat, looking happily up at Ottilie before striking up a conversation with Mimzy.

“See now, was that so hard?” Alastor playfully chided as he released Husks shoulders and stood up straight, pinching the cat demons cheek just a little too hard and shaking it as he passed. Husks face contorted in anger at the action, but he said nothing to him as he took the open seat next to Angel, knowing he would have a fit if he didn’t.

Husk sat there a moment, looking a bit perturbed, when his nose started to twitch slightly. His head rose up from the hand that had been propping it up as he sniffed the air a little harder, turning his nose this way and that. He leaned a little closer to Angel gave him a few good sniffs before squinting his eyes at him. Angel looked at him in confusion before Husk said, “You smell nice.”

Angel was caught off guard for a moment before a wide smile spread across his face. No one had ever seen him look so elated before. He turned to look at Ottilie, knowing it was thanks to her that he’d received the compliment, but her attention was elsewhere.

Ottilie had gotten noticeably tense when the three of them walked in; Angel had seen this and what about to ask what was wrong, but that small compliment had him too distracted and the small detail for the moment as he became a little too touchy for Husks liking. She went practically rigid, however, when she noticed Alastor coming to her side of the table, his eyes on her and a smirk on his face as they both realized the seat next to her was empty. She was about to get up and excuse herself, but he beat her to it with the strides his long legs provided as he placed his hand on the back of her chair and pushed it back in, the action just subtle enough that it looked like he was using it for support as he lowered himself into his seat. She nearly jumped when his claws intentionally brushed against her back, but refrained from doing so in favor of not causing a scene.

Ottilie had a feeling this was going to be a long breakfast.

***

Vaggie and Charlie had come in with the food and beverages not long after everyone was seated. Breakfast consisted of biscuits and gravy, eggs, bacon, and an assortment of all sorts of other foods while there was also orange juice, milk, and hot tea to drink. Everyone dug in at their own pace, enjoying the meal like most of them did every morning. Mimzy couldn’t seem to handle herself and ate like a man starved for days as she tried just about everything there was to eat, Angels plate was full of sausage links and eggs, Husk was just having sausage and a bowl of milk, Vaggie had mixed the eggs, sausage, and bacon together to make a breakfast bowl of sorts, Charlie partook upon the fruit, Nifty was making a bit of a mess with her toast and jam, and the others Ottilie had yet to formally meet ate their own mix of food while she had simply chosen for herself a biscuit with a light layer of butter and a small plate of fruit. Alastor, however, did not eat a single bite; much like the day before, he had a simple cup of tea and that was all. No one else seemed to find it strange except for Ottilie, so she kept to herself about it.

Ottilie had tried to distract herself by focussing on her food or listening as Nifty continued on about this and that, but it was hard when she could feel Alastors eyes on her when she wasn’t looking. His gaze seemed to sear into her like fire, almost hot enough to burn even her, but whenever she would look out of the corner of her eye he would either have his eyes closed like he was enjoying his time there or his eyes would be somewhere else entirely, but he never turned his head towards or away from her. She had also tried more than once to excuse herself again, but he always seemed to know when she was going to and found some way to stop her. He would turn to Nifty and ask her to pass him something and, seeing how she was between them, would have to hand it to him; it was always simple things like cream or sugar for his tea that he could easily reach himself, but it was bad manners to reach across someone at the table and they both knew this, so he used it to his advantage. Even Nifty and Mimzy seemed to somehow be in on it, asking him to pass things along back and forth, somehow successfully trapping her between the lot of them. It was infuriating, to say the least, but still she said nothing.

It wasn’t until Mimzy and Nifty along with everyone else were distracted by Angel trying to impress Husk by placing the thicker sausages in his mouth and swallowing them whole that she was able to slip away. Only Alastor seemed to have noticed, unamused by the display, at least until Angel started to choke as he tried to swallow five at once and got a bit of glee out of it as Charlie jumped up to help him. Having seen Angel get out of worse situations, she knew he would be fine and went about her business, glad to be out of the deer demons presence, at least for the time being.

Once again distracted by the comfort of work, she delved right into it and started with her normal routine. First, she would go and collect all of the sheets, something that was much easier now with the new pair of boots she begrudgingly wore, no longer worried about walking up and down the long flights of stairs. Next, she would run them through the washer and fetch new sets to put on the beds, having already found a sack she could use to carry them so she wouldn’t have to climb up and down each floor again and again. After the beds were remade, she would then set about cleaning the rooms. It was at this point that she began to notice cleaning supplies were missing; in their places were photos of the missing items and another photo beneath of where they had been moved to, but every time she went there she would find another photo leading to another location until she eventually found what she was looking for. It slowed her down considerably and she was none too happy about it, especially when it continued on for days after. The first time it had been all of the vacuum cleaners, the second the brooms, the third the cleaning sprays, and so on until everything all of the supply closets had been hidden at some point.

When that was finally over, then came the strange happenings that would go on while she was cleaning. Things would randomly fall over when no one was anywhere near them, sometimes breaking in the process, and she was forced to go and tell Charlie or Vaggie what happened; she was beginning to suspect that Vaggie was believing her less and less that it wasn’t her fault each time it happened, no doubt thinking she was clumsy and didn’t want to admit it. Electronic devices would switch on as well, many a times on full volume and nearly making her jump out of her own skin. She would hear laughter behind her or voices she didn’t recognize whispering things to her, but each time she would turn there would be no one there. Phones would ring in rooms when she was nearby and she would rush to answer them in case it was something important, but they would always stop before she could reach them. More than once she had found signs taped to her back that said, ‘I’m hungry and underpaid’, or something of that nature; Vaggie had seen it once and asked if she was trying to get more money out of them while Charlie saw it as a cry for help.

All of this only added to the fact that Alastor was still trapping her beside him each morning at breakfast. She would always find a way to avoid dinner, feeling grateful that everyone was left to their own devices for lunch, but Charlie always managed to talk her into breakfast. No matter where she sat or who was beside her, he always found a way to take their spot and make her exceedingly uncomfortable. Most of the time it was simply staring when she wasn’t looking, but other times he would resort to more drastic measures when she tried to make it clear she was ignoring him. Sometimes he would switch out her cup with another, watching as she went to take a drink and stopping herself before she could taste whatever it was after noticing it wasn’t hers; more often than not it would be bleach or some other type of cleaner, but once it had been a cup full of blood. Other times, he would try to rile her up by poking her in the side or nudging her with his foot when she wasn’t paying attention, making her jump in surprise and get a few looks from around the table; fingers would be one thing, but the tips of his claws were rather sharp and she was worried he might actually cut into her one day.

The thing that really took the cake, however, was the day she, Charlie, and Vaggie finally got around to cleaning out the laundry chute. She’d been there for nearly a month now and they still couldn’t figure out exactly what had gotten stuck in there. Still, though, she was happy they were attempting to unclog it because that meant she’d be able to use them instead of walking up and down the stairs.

“So what do you think is up there?” Charlie asked as Vaggie turned on a flashlight and stuck her head into the opening in the basement.

“I’m still pretty sure it’s a wad of sheets,” Vaggie explained, squinting her eyes a bit up into the darkness and letting out a groan of annoyance. “It’s too high up. I can’t see what it is.”

“What does it look like?” Charlie questioned, standing just behind her and trying to see in as well, but the opening was only big enough for one person.

Vaggie looked harder for a moment. “Like a wad of sheets.” She climbed out of the opening and handed the flashlight to Charlie. “I’ll go up and see if I can dislodge it.” Looking over at Ottilie, she asked, “You have Angel Dust up there, right?”

“Yes. I sent him up to the sixth floor since it seems to be between there and five in the other chute,” Ottilie confirmed.

As if on cue, Angels voice came blaring from the walkie-talkie sitting on the table. “These chutes stink like ass! What did them bitches do? Send ‘em down wet?”

“Yeah, same with this one,” Vaggie nodded to Ottilie, ignoring Angels comment as she grabbed two broomsticks and headed for the door. “I’ll go up and we’ll see about getting those sheets out. You two stay down here and wait to see what comes out.”

“Can do!” Charlie playfully saluted while Ottilie just nodded in agreement. Once they were alone, she turned back to Ottilie and smiled. “I’ll bet you’ll be happy once this is done. It’ll make your job so much easier.”

“Yes, it will,” Ottilie concurred. “Not that I find it hard to do to begin with, but it has been much easier since I got these new shoes.” She was doing her best to make the conversation seem casual, but in reality she was trying to see if she could get Charlie to admit the shoes had been from her. She’d had her suspicions since she’d left them in Charlies office only to have them returned to her, but at least if she confirmed it she might be able to get the other woman to tell her where her other shoes were and return her current pair again, still not wanting to accept such an extravagant gift.

Charlie glanced down at Ottilies feet then back up again. “Oh yeah! I noticed you got new shoes a while back! They’re really cute! Where did you get them?”

Not ready to give up just yet, Ottilie pushed a little further. “They were a gift. I tried to return them but… they were given back.”

“I see. Well, maybe it’s a good thing they did, if they make working easier,” Charlie pointed out. “Who gave them to you?”

Ottilie, not sure what else to say, went with, “I thought you did.”

Charlie looked taken back. “Me? Well, I’m flattered you would think I did something so nice, but I can’t take the credit for it. I wasn’t even aware you needed new shoes. I do hope you figure out who gave them to you, though. Whoever did deserves a big thank you!”

Having confirmed her original suspicion that Charlie wouldn’t have hidden the fact that they were from her, Ottilie was back to square one with them. Perhaps it was for the best she didn’t know, however. Going back to her original pairs would mean having her feet hurt all day and it was improper for her to be running around in only socks. She would simply have to make due with what she’d been given and leave it at that.

“Geez, it really stinks in here! And this thing is lodged in there good! Them girls should have been prostitutes, cause they sure know how to fill a hole!” Angels voice came over the walkie again, sounding a bit ticked off at having to waste his time on such a thing.

“Just get over it and get it out of there! It stinks over here too and I don’t want it getting into the rest of the hotel!” Vaggies voice followed, clearly not too happy about it, either.

“It’s really squishy, too! It feels like it’s falling apart whenever I poke it!” Angel went on. Charlie and Ottilie heard banging from the chute the latter of the two was standing in front of, like he was beating at whatever was in there.

Ottilie walked over to the table and picked up the walkie, confused on how to use it until Charlie told her to press the button on the side. “What do you mean it’s squishy? Sheets shouldn’t be squishy.”

“Hold on, I think I almost got it!” Angel stated, his voice sounding strained as he hit at the thing with more force.

“Me too,” Vaggies voice crackled from the walkie. Bangs followed from Charlies chute now as they waited below.

Almost simultaneously, they heard the sound of something sliding against the metal of the chutes, a few pieces of cloth falling from above in Charlies chute. She looked at them in confusion, having expected entire sheets to fall instead of just pieces. She also noticed the material was black rather than white and a bit too thick to be a bedsheet. Stepping closer, she picked it up and felt a dry, crusty material on it that left red flakes on her fingers. “Is this blood?”

Charlie and Ottilie had to scramble back from the openings as something large and heavy began to fall down them at high speed, crashing against the metal in an almost deafening sound. Something came falling out of Charlies chute and tumbled to the floor in front of her while Ottilies came just seconds later, but neither of them were bundles of tangled up sheets.

It was the smell of the bodies that hit them first. Ottilie had always heard that decaying flesh smelled awful, but she never knew it could be this bad. She and Charlie had to plug their noses against the stench as their faces wrinkled in disgust and it took them a few seconds to realize what they were looking at. Once it dawned on them, however, Ottilie could only stare in shock while Charlie was in hysterics.

“Persila, Annabelle, no!” Charlie cried out, sinking to the floor as her fingers tangled into her hair.

Ottilie was confused has to how Charlie knew who they were. Though clearly female, neither body had a head with which to identify them from. She then noticed, however, the black and red colored uniformed dress they were both wearing and the nametags pinned to them, one reading ‘Annabelle’ and the other ‘Persila’. She’d always wondered what exactly had happened to the maids that came before her, but had thought it better not to ask Alastor such a question if she wanted to keep both her sanity and her head on its shoulders. Annabelle and Persila seemed not to have faired so lucky.

Ottilie was pulled from her thoughts as Charlie began to dry heave, the sound mixing with her cries. She brought the walkie back up and spoke into it. “Vaggie? Where are you?”

“Headed downstairs to meet back up with you guys. Why?” Vaggie replied.

“I think you might want to hurry,” Ottilie commented, unsure what to do for Charlie.

“Why?” Vaggie asked again. “And what was in the chutes?”

“Is one of you two crying? Sounds like someone died in there,” Angel cut in jokingly, letting out a noise of surprise when the wails only got louder. “Geez, what did I say?”

“We’re on our way!” Vaggie said worriedly.

***

Needless to say, Vaggie was none too pleased when she came into the laundry room to find a sobbing Charlie and two dead headless bodies that belonged to two former employees. After getting Charlie away from the bodies and up to the penthouse, she went through the entire hotel and sent everyone to their rooms until she said otherwise or they got everything straightened out, whichever came first. She knew it couldn’t have been Ottilie who finished them off, but Ottilie had decided it would be best to head back there to escape the chaos. No one bothered to ask how the two had died; headlessness aside, there was only one true way to kill a demon.

Ottilie was in no real hurry to go back to her room, however. For once, the halls were quiet and she could think to herself for a bit. Aside from that, there wasn’t much for her to do in her room. She contemplated reading or sewing to pass the time, but she knew she was much too distracted for that.

Her thoughts kept going to Annabelle and Persila. She’d never met the two, but she did feel bad for them. She needn’t bother wondering who killed them, having already known the answer for a long time, but could only hope they didn’t suffer too much. It was hard to tell just from the bodies whether they had or not. There were many deep gashes and claw marks, but the deepest of them had been in their hearts, and that had likely been the blow that killed them, meaning their heads were likely cut off after they were completely dead. It was possible they had been cut off before the stab to the heart seeing how the heads would just grow back given enough time, but she hoped that wasn’t the case because she’d heard regrowing limbs was quite painful.

She fought with herself to keep them from her mind. It wouldn’t do her any good to dwell on them now and the bodies would be gone by tomorrow, Vaggie having already said she would have them taken to the disposal sight that was specifically for circumstances such as these, but she doubted she would be able to use the chutes now without thinking about those two women stuffed inside like discarded waste. She briefly wondered why Alastor had put them there in the first place rather than dispose of them himself or hide them somewhere better and even tried to figure out what he must have done with the heads, but thought it better not to find out.

A headache began to throb beneath her skull and she rubbed at her temples as she closed her eyes, able to navigate the halls now even without looking. She was typically a calm person, but even she could get stressed out. All of the goings on had really begun to affect her. Between Alastors antics and the strange goings on, it was starting to get to her. She wasn’t going to give up, however, and was more than willing to stick it out. Alastor and everything else aside, she enjoyed the work and most of the people there were nice to her. There was no way she was going to give it up.

As she was rubbing at her temple, she could swear she heard a light crackling noise. Assuming it was a side effect of her headache, she ignored it and kept walking. The noise persisted, however, and was only getting louder. The crackling was followed by the sound of constant static and that made her stop dead in her tracks as a sense of deja vu washed over her. She’d heard both sounds accompanying her before and knew she’d never forget where it came from. Ever so slowly, she turned and looked down the hallway.

All the color drained from her face and her eyes went wide as she saw the thing standing in the middle of the hallway.

It was at least nine to ten feet tall and the tips of its ears brushed against the ceiling, the long antlers that sprouted from its head branching out like the limbs on a tree. Its claws were longer and much sharper, no doubt able to rip apart anything they came into contact with, and the skin at the corners of its smiling mouth were frayed and torn apart to reveal a mouthful of teeth just as deadly as its claws, the jaw open slightly with a tongue slightering about like a serpent between it. The face was just an empty black hole with stark white eye sockets and that mutilated mouth, its gaze boring into her and body bent forward like a deranged animal ready to strike. Tendrils of dark power manifested around its body, infesting the floor and walls around them as they sought to snuff out the light, the shear force of it causing the frayed tail of its suit jacket to whip about. The thing wore the same clothes as Alastor, but it was clear that, though they both shared the same body, they were not of the same mind.

Her blood felt like it had completely turned to ice while she and the creature stared at each other. The sound of static and crackling continued to assault her ears, turning almost deafening now and nearly throwing her off balance, but her stance held fast and she remained still, not wanted to make any sudden movements. Over the sound of the static she could hear its ragged breathing and the occasional low growl, like it wanted her to move but getting angry when she didn’t budge. Her expression was finally showing fear, but it wanted more than that. It wanted to hunt.

Ever so slowly, it cocked its head at her and its jaw extended, unmoving as it began to speak. “Ottilie.” A shiver ran down her spine and she thought she was about to piss herself as the voice of monster spoke her name. It held its long arms out to the side, like it was welcoming her in an embrace, and there was almost a sing-song quality to the way it called out to her. “Won’t you come here? I just want to talk.” She slowly shook her head, still afraid to move too quickly. It moved so it was standing on all fours and straightened out its spine, its tongue slithering faster now. “That hurts my feelings, Ottilie. You never want to talk to me. You just scurry away and leave me all alone. Don’t you like me?” It started to take slow, deliberate steps towards her, each one matched by her taking one away from it. “I like you, you know. I like it when you’re near... I like the way you smell… and I think I’ll especially like the way you taste!”

She barely had any time to react when the thing lunged at her, using all for limbs to propel it across the space between them. She turned and ran just as it landed in the spot she’d been standing in, narrowly missing the claws that swiped at her, the air that whooshed past her causing her to stagger a bit as she thought they were going to hit her. Her heart pounded in her chest, beating painfully against her rib cage as she sprinted faster than she ever had in her life. Adrenaline pushed her forward as the thing followed after her, easily keeping pace behind her but not ready to catch her just yet; the beast was finally getting what it wanted and it wanted to chase.

She had no idea where she was going. There was no where she could go that would keep her safe from this thing. It seemed hopeless, but even so she kept running. Something inside of her simply wouldn’t let this thing have the satisfaction of taking her down. Until she was completely drained of energy and couldn’t run another step, she would survive.

It wasn’t until she saw the door to the stairwell that she had an idea. Her chance was slim, but it was something to go with. Sucking in a large breath, which was a bit difficult as her lungs burned, she used it to give herself a burst of momentum and shot towards the door. It didn’t think twice about speeding up as well and she could hear its heavy steps behind her, but she had been counting on that as it didn’t have time to stop. She burst through the door and onto the landing of the stairway while it crashed into the door frame, its shoulders just slightly too wide to fit through.

It was unharmed but nonetheless roared in anger, the sound echoing through the stairway. It reached an arm through the doorway, trying to grab her as it clawed in her direction. She scrambled back until she hit the railing, her spine hurting as she pressed into it. Its claws were just centimeters from reaching her, but those centimeters were enough to keep her out of its grasp. It tried to force its way through the doorway, but its anger was causing it to thrash about too wildly to squeeze through properly.

It stopped thrashing as it stared her down, its large hand slamming down on the floor in front of her, the tendrils returning now to slink their way slowly around the stairwell; now closer to them, she could swear she heard screams and cries of anguish emanating from their inky black depths. Its ears twitched as it cocked its head again, regarding her with interest. “Such a smart girl you are. I’ll tell you what. I’ll make you a deal since you were able to outsmart me like that. Come out of there now and I promise to make it quick. You’ll won’t even feel a thing.”

Not believing him for a second, she shook her head. “No.” Her voice was shaky as she tried to catch her breath, using that moment to steady herself for when she would have to run again.

“Come now. Think rationally, dear. Do you really think you can get away?” It asked, its head tilting further to the side.

“Maybe not,” she replied. “But I’m certainly not going to make it easy on you.”

It chuckled a dark and sinister laugh, the sound making her knees quake. “Easy? Darling, you’re only making this fun for me. I simply wanted to give you an easy out… I’ll even give you one more, since I’m such a good sport. Come here and I’ll be gentle with you.” It lifted its hand and turned its palm toward her, like it expected her to take it.

“Do you really expect me to believe you? People like you never keep your word,” she retorted, unsure where it had come from feeling like it was true nonetheless.

It let out a long sigh, like it really had wished she would take the bargain. “Have it your way.” It pulled the hand back and it disappeared from sight as it let the door close between them.

She didn’t hesitate to run down the stairs as soon as she heard the click of it closing. She didn’t care where she was going or how long she had to run, she just knew that she had to get as far away from the hotel as possible. She doubted anyone there would be able to help her. None of them could stand up to the might of the Radio Demon and she didn’t want to put them in harms way for her sake. It broke her heart, but she’d have to leave Angel and the friends she’d made there behind or risk seeing them hurt so Alastor could get to her nor did she want to test how far he was willing to go.

As she was descending the stairs, she saw a blur of red leap down from over the railing above her head. She turned to run back up, but this proved to be a mistake as the blur landed right in front of her. A gasp escaped her lips just before a hand grabbed her shoulder and pushed her back, sending her falling backwards. Pain shot through her as her multiple times as her spine hit the corners of the stairs and her head bashed against one as well, leaving a few trickles of blood behind as she tumbled down. Only when she slammed against the wall of the next landing did she stop, groaning as she lay face down.

She was given no time to recover as hands harshly grabbed hold of her and flipped her over so she was lying on her back. She tried to fight them off, but her assailant sat on top of her so he was straddling her and pinned her hands above her head, easily keeping her in place.

She needn’t guess that it was Alastor, but this time he was back to his regular form, smiling down at her in all of his wicked glory. His expression showed remorse, but it was only in mockery; he felt no sympathy as he stared down at her. “Poor little thing. I really wish you had taken my deal when I gave all those chances. You know, that’s more than I’ve ever given anyone else. It just goes to show how much I really did like you, but that’s all over now. I’m afraid I can’t make it quick for you in this form. The one you just saw, well… I have a bit of trouble controlling it, so you really wouldn’t have felt anything. This one, however, you’ll feel every… little… thing.”

She was shaking now, unable to stop her limbs from trembling like they did. “Why are you doing this?”

He chuckled again. “You know, I get that question a lot. I got it when I was alive and I even get it here in Hell. The blunt of it that I simply can’t let you run about freely anymore, knowing what you know. I simply can’t having you tell any of the others. Of course I have most of them under my thumb, but I’ve put too much effort into my plans to have you ruin them if word gets out I was the one who killed the other maids.”

“Mimzy and Nifty know. Are you going to kill them, too?”

“Mimzy does whatever I ask and Nifty does as she’s told. I don’t have to worry about them. You, on the other hand,” he grabbed both her wrists in one hand, still easily able to pin them down even though she pulled with all of her might, and used the now free one to run his claw down the length of her face, grabbing it roughly so she was still looking at him when she tried to turn away, “have been a thorn in my side ever since you came here. You’ll simply have to go.” The hand slipped down so it was around her throat and wasted no time as it began to squeeze tightly. “Don’t worry, though. You and I will have oodles of fun together. And as a reward, I’ll tell Angel Dust you said goodbye.”

Her vision was already starting to blur as she struggled for air, the hand around her throat not letting even the tiniest bit through. Her legs kicked back and forth, trying to land a blow, but it was all in vain as he only laughed at her meager attempts to harm him. His smile was cruel and sadistic, just as she imagined it would be if he ever got his hands on her.

As her vision began to blur and black spots dancing in front of her eye, the form looming over began to shift and change. Confusion washed over her as she was no longer staring at Alastor, but a man she did not know yet seemed all too familiar. His hand was still around her throat and he was smiling at her like he was enjoying the action all too much. His voice spoke to her, sending hate coursing through her veins as he said, ‘My lovely little doll.’

All at once, she went completely numb. The hand around her throat no longer mattered and whoever was above her was inconsequential. Her body went slack, no longer straining against him nor desperate for air. Her face, now blank of emotion, stared up with a glassy expression, like no one had ever inhabited the body in the first place.

***

Alastors brows furrowed and his eyes narrowed. The all consuming, delicious scent of her fear was now completely gone and he was left with nothing but the shell of a prey. This wasn’t what he wanted at all. He couldn’t possibly taste her as she was now. She would be too bland. He leaned down closer to her as he pulled her face toward him, his hand still around her throat. “If you think pulling that little stunt is going to help you live, you’ve got another thing coming.” There was no response. “You’re going to die. You know that, right?” She didn’t even bat an eye. “I won’t even tell Angel Dust you said goodbye! He’ll think you left without giving him a second thought! He’ll hate you by the time I’m through with him!” It was like talking to a brick wall.

Anger bubbled and festered inside of him, threatening to make him act irrationally, but he had to stay in control. She was his to control and he simply had to remind her of that, but something stirred deep down inside of him as he stared into those lifeless eyes and pushed its way to the surface, escaping him in the form of an ear piercing screech, the sound odd when coupled with his smile. Even then, there was nothing from her. He could see her consciousness slipping away as her eyes began to droop, but he felt no satisfaction in it. He lost satisfaction in everything about this.

***

All at once, Ottilie could breathe again as the weight was lifted off of her and the hand around her throat was gone, Alastor nowhere to be seen. She was no longer numb as she took a deep gasp of air, filling her lungs until they couldn’t hold any more, her chest arching toward the ceiling all the while. She coughed and sputtered as spit coated her chin, everything beginning to ache with pain once again. Turning on her side, her fingers clawed at the ground as she desperately tried to regain control of her breathing. Her entire body trembled, shaking violently and painfully as she curled into herself.

She wasn’t sure how long she stayed like that, but eventually she picked herself up from the floor and made her way to her room, her body protesting the entire way there. She fought back tears all the while, not wanting to cry over this but the urge so overwhelming that it was a wonder how she didn’t. Once in the safety of her bedroom, she shut the door and locked it behind her; she knew such a simple thing wouldn’t keep Alastor out if he came for her again, but it was a small comfort to know it was at least locked. She sank to the floor again, her back against the door as she wrapped her arms around herself, feeling so cold and wishing she could get warm as she rubbed her hands along her arms, but she was never warm. She had only ever known the cold.

As she sniffled and rubbed against her eye, still fighting tears, she heard a gust of wind before she felt the breeze that came with it. Confused, she looked up to see that her balcony door was wide open, the curtains on either side billowing in the open air. She knew she’d left it closed when she left, having never actually gone out on the balcony. Fear gripped at her once again as she thought Alastor had indeed come back to finish her off, but the more rational part of her brain told her that he wouldn’t have bothered coming through the balcony. He could tear the door off its hinges like it was made of paper while barely lifting a finger, so she was simply left confused again.

Standing up on shaky limbs, she slowly and carefully made her way to the door, unaware that she would come to wish it had been Alastor waiting out there for her.

Chapter Text

Nearly a full day had passed since discovering the bodies of the two maids. The bodies were disposed of in as proper a manner as one can in those types of situations and the hotel residents were ready to move on. For most, it would be easy; neither Persila nor Annabelle had been well liked, really only tolerated. For the rest, such as Charlie and Vaggie, it was difficult to know that two of their employees lives had ended in such a brutal way. All but one of them could agree on one thing, however; they were curious to know who had killed them for good.

After the bodies were carted away, Vaggie called a meeting of all the residents together, something they didn’t do very often unless Charlie wanted to give another go at group therapy, something that never ended well, or when something dire needed to be addressed. As far as Vaggie and Charlie were concerned, the deaths their employees were certainly cause for alarm. Even though they all knew about what happened the day before, Charlie still had to reassure them numerous times that they wouldn’t have to share any feelings they might be having about the situation, if Persila and Annabelle would be missed, or anything of the sort. With some reluctance, most of the residents came down for the meeting, happy not to have to be cooped up in their rooms anymore.

Nearly ten minutes had passed since Vaggie and Charlie had gone around to collect them, but still they were missing a few faces. In the parlor with the two were Mimzy, Husky, Nifty, and Crymini, but they were still missing Alastor, Baxter, and Angel Dust. Vaggie was getting noticeably agitated, fidgeting and looking up at the grandfather clock every few minutes.

“Stop that,” Charlie said as she gently took her partners hand and held it, stopping Vaggies fingers from drumming against her knee. “You look like you’re trying to play a piano.”

Vaggie let out a scoff, knowing she was only joking but not feeling any better for it. “Where in Hell are they? It can’t be taking this long to get down here.”

“I mean, it is a big hotel…” Charlie shrugged as she looked to the side.

Vaggie raised a brow at her. “It’s not that big. Even if it were, they know their way around here by now. There’s no excuse for being this late.”

“On the contrary, dear,” Alastor said as he came waltzing into the room, both hands behind his back and his eyes half lidded in their usual cocky manner. “One must always look presentable in the face of the public, even if it causes one to be late.” He looked Vaggie over for a second. “Though I see in your case you don’t hold much truth to that.” Vaggie looked down at herself in confusion before her eyes quickly returned to him in a heated glare, the insult clearly not lost on her, but his attention was elsewhere as he took a seat in an armchair. Ever the picture of sophistication, he sat with his back straight and legs crossed, one hand in his lap and the other on the armrest. “Are we ready to begin, then?”

“No, we’re not,” Vaggie stated in a huff. “In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re still short Angel Dust and Baxter.”

“Ah, yes. I passed Mr. Dust in the hallway going the opposite direction. When I asked him if he was coming, he said, and I quote, ‘I’ll come any way you want me to, baby,’ before scampering off. I’m not sure what he meant by that but I assume he’s on his way,” Alastor explained recalled. “What did he mean by that, by the way?” Nifty jumped up from her seat on the floor and hurried over to him, climbing up on the arm of the chair as he leaned his head over so she could whisper in his ear. After a few mumbled phrases that the others couldn’t quite make out, his eyes widened and his lips closed around his smile. “Yes, well,” he straightened up as Nifty settled on the floor again beside his feet, “that image will be stuck in my head all day.”

“Welcome to my world,” Husk grumbled, taking a drink of his coffee and wishing he had vodka to put in it.

Upon hearing that Angel had been going in the opposite direction, Vaggie slapped her palm into her face and shook her head, wondering if her seemingly never ending headache would ever go away. “Has anyone seen Baxter, then?”

“I’m right here,” Baxters voice called out. They all turned to a table and chair in the corner, shocked to indeed see him sitting there, a notebook and pencil in hand as he scribbled furiously in it.

“Why didn’t you speak up sooner?” Mimzy questioned somewhat angrily, not liking having so much of her time wasted on nothing.

Baxter looked up from his notes and said, “I try to limit my conversations with you people as much as I can. I have a lot of work on my hands and I don’t have time to waste talking about useless topics like you people do.”

“You sayin’ I don’t have work to do either? I’ll have you know I’m just as busy, probably busier, than you are!” Mimzy retorted, clearly not liking the implication that she was lazy.

“Oh, yes. I’m sure running that night club of yours is such tiring work,” Baxter rolled his eyes. “What’s the matter? Did you have to run out for more liquor and glitter or did they run out of it at the dump?”

Mimzy looked ready to tear his head off before Charlie stood up and called out, “Enough, you two! Do I need to send you to the time-out-corner?”

“I’m a grown ass woman! I’m not goin’ to any time-out-corner!” Mimzy proclaimed, her arms crossed over her chest, making more of her breasts bulge out from her dress.

“Fine, then I’ll just have to take away your snack privileges for the day,” Charlie crossed her arms as well, her expression stern.

Mimzy gasped at this and cupped her face in her hands. “Not on pretzel day!”

“Then say you’re sorry or no pretzels at all,” Charlie nodded to emphasize her point. Mimzy and Baxter glared at each other, the later not interested in pretzels to begin with but he knew Charlie wouldn’t let up about it unless he did as he was told. The two looked away from each other and grumbled an apology under their breaths. “Like you mean it!”

“I’m sorry!” Mimzy and Baxter said in unison, the first rolling her eyes as she looked at the ceiling and the other making a sour face in her direction.

“There. Don’t you both feel better now?” Charlie smiled with pride at them, receiving a glare in response from each. “Good. Now why don’t I go find Angel Dust and we can-.”

“Eh, don’t get your bowtie in a twist. I’m here,” Angel waved her off as he stepped into the room, a small pink creature nestled in his arms, sitting on the loveseat beside Husk in an almost sensual pose with his legs draped over the cat demons. Husk made a perturbed expression before shoving his legs off of himself. He glared at Husk and stuck his tongue out in a childish manner before turning his attention back to Charlie and Vaggie, who were looking at him in question. “What?”

“Why did you bring you bring Nuggets in here?” Charlie asked, looking worried.

Angel glanced down at the small, chubby light and dark pink colored pig he was holding in one set of arms, the pet turning its head this way and that as it sniffed the air and letting out soft snorts every now and again. “You said this was a meeting for all the residents, right? Fat Nuggets lives here, too, ya know.”

“Yes, well… maybe it’s not the best idea for him to be in the room with us…” Charlie trailed off nervously.

“What?” Angel cried out, continuing on as Vaggie opened her mouth and not giving her a chance to talk. “That’s discrimination! You can’t tell Fat Nuggets not to be here! Why would you say such a thing?” Vaggie and Charlie didn’t say a word, only holding their arms up and pointing towards Alastor. Looking over at the Radio Demon, one could only describe the expression in his eyes as hunger, his jaw hanging open slightly while his mouth salivated to the point it was almost dripping out; his hand was clenched around the arm of the chair so hard that the tips of his claws were nearly ripping into the fabric and his hair was bristled to the point that some of it appeared to be standing on end. Angel quickly held the pig closer to his chest and turned away slightly, trying to shield it from Alastors sight, but it didn’t seem to help much. “You stay away from Fat Nuggets or I’ll take that stick of yours and shove it up your-!”

“Enough!” Vaggie shouted, catching everyones attention again. She already had a short enough fuse and their actions certainly weren’t helping keeping it unlit. “We’re not here to berate each other or eat each others pets! We’re here to talk about what happened to Annabelle and Persila! So shut your mouths or I’ll shut them for you!” Her visible eye roamed around the room, daring any of them to test her. Angel, Crymini, and Mimzy looked ready to talk back to her, but thought better of it once she looked at them and kept their mouths closed. She stopped at Alastor, who was glancing between her and Nuggets with his jaw still hanging open; he stared back for a moment once he noticed her gaze, but eventually his jaw snapped shut and he relaxed back into his chair, his claws receding from the fabric, and his hair fell back into place. “Good.” She began to relax as well, still looking angry but much clammer than before.

Charlie placed a hand on Vaggies shoulder and gave it a light squeeze as well as a reassuring smile before she turned to address everyone else in the room again. “We might as well get this off the table since we’re all here. As stated before, we’re all here to talk about what happened to Annabelle and Persila. It’s rather… obvious… that the two were murdered, and we’d just like to know who did it and why. We clearly don’t have the details and maybe it was an accident but-.”

Cryminis face scrunched up into confusion as she cocked her head. “How the fuck to you accidentally decapitate someone?”

“I’ve done it before,” Angel said nonchalantly, earning looks of shock. “What? The dumbass shouldn’t have run at me point blank while I was holding a shotgun! It’s not my fault the bullet went through his neck and took his head off!”

“Anyway,” Charlie drawled out. “Everyone here is trying to rehabilitate themselves, so this incident was clearly a… relapse into their old ways, so we’d like whoever did it to come clean so we can talk this through so this doesn’t happen again. So, who killed Annabelle and Persila?” She looked around the room, waiting for someone to open up about this heinous act, but they were all just glancing around and waiting for the same thing to happen as her. She let out a deep sigh. “Well, one of you had to have done it. We can’t be expected to believe they cut off their own heads and threw themselves down the laundry chute.”

“Well, it certainly wasn’t me,” Mimzy stated as she pulled out a compact mirror and a tube of lipstick so she could apply another layer to her lips. “I wouldn’t waste my time with the help.”

“I wouldn’t have done it unless I needed their heads for an experiment,” Baxter started before quickly adding, “which I didn’t.”

“Annabelle and Persila wouldn’t let me anywhere near them,” Nifty informed them. “They said I didn’t know how to ‘shut the fuck up’.”

“I don’t give enough shits to have bothered with ‘em,” Husk grumbled.

“I didn’t even know we had a maid half the time,” Crymini rolled her eyes.

“Them girls were the ones cleanin’ my room everyday. Why would I have killed ‘em?” Angel questioned, lightly stroking Nuggets back.

Everyone turned to Alastor, who only gave them his half lidded smile in return.

“Well?” Charlie asked.

“Well what?” Alastor replied.

“What do you have to say for yourself? Did you kill Annabelle and Persila?” Charlie elaborated.

Alastor let out a dramatic gasp as he placed a hand to his chest, speaking slowly and sadly. “How could you even suggest such a thing of me, Charlie? I, who has been one of your most loyal residents since the hotel opened? I, who came to you in your hour of need when everyone else laughed at you? I, who risked my own reputation even when I knew it could be tarnished? I’m hurt, Charlie. I thought after all this time I could have learned to be trusted by now, but I see now that I’m clearly not. Perhaps I’m just wasting my time here. It might be best if I left.” He stood from his chair and brushed his hands along his clothing as if to straighten them out before his departure.

“Hallelujah!” Vaggie and Husk both said at the same time as they threw their hands in the air.

Meanwhile, Charlie looked like she was about to have a heart attack as she raced over to him. “No! You can’t leave! You’ve made so much progress! Do you really want to give that up?”

“How can I be expected to stay when I’ll only be blamed for every little bad thing that happens around here? Trust is a two way streak, you know,” Alastor said in a somewhat sad tone as he stepped around Charlie and gestured a hand through the air, causing his staff to appear, which he plucked out and held behind his back as he began to walk away. “I’ll just collect the rest of my things and be on my way. There’s no use staying in a place where I’m not wanted.”

“Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!” Vaggie waved at his back, both she and Husk looking all too pleased to see him go.

“No, no, no, no!” Charlie said hurriedly. Faster than lightning flashing across the sky, she placed herself between Alastor and the exit, holding her arms out on either side of herself to block him leaving. They all knew it was a futile effort; if he wanted to leave, all he’d have to do was push her aside and there’d be nothing else she could do to stop him, but he simply stood in front of her and waited to hear what she had to say. “You’re right. It wasn’t fair of me to ask such a thing after all the progress you’ve made. Would it help if I said I’m sorry?”

Alastor made a face like he was thinking it over. “I suppose it couldn’t hurt.”

“Alright. Alastor,” Charlies expression turned to one of sincerity and he waited patiently for her to go on, almost looking down his nose at her, “I am truly sorry for having offended you in such a manner. I’ll be more careful in the future to not accuse you of such things before knowing all the facts. Can you please forgive me?”

“Why of course I can, dear! I only hope we can put this whole messy ordeal behind us!” Alastor beamed as he clasped his hands together and held them at an angle away from his chest.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way!” Charlie returned his smile.

“Hazaar!” Alastor cheered, releasing his hands and throwing them in the air. “Now, I believe you and I have a session scheduled together in a few minutes, and we wouldn’t want to delay progress, now would we?”

“Not a chance!” Charlie smiled wider and stepped aside as she held an arm out. “Shall we?”

“By all means.”

Vaggie, Husk, Crymini, Baxter, and Angel were at a loss for words as they watched Alastor and Charlie walk away. Perhaps it was hard for Charlie to see, being on the receiving end, but from their perspective Alastor had not only effectively ended the meeting but also probably the whole discussion of Annabelle and Persila all together.

“He didn’t even answer the question, did he?” Vaggie glared.

“Nope,” Husk replied, sharing the same look as her.

“It was him who killed them, wasn’t it?” Vaggie asked.

“Without a doubt,” Husk agreed as everyone began filing out of the room, not much left to talk about now that Charlie was gone.

*****

Angel Dust and Nuggets were meandering through the halls, not really heading anywhere in particular. The meeting had been cut a lot shorter than any of them thought it would and he didn’t have any time scheduled on the set for a few days, leaving him with nothing to do. He considered going and looking for Husk, but he was still miffed about having his legs pushed aside earlier, so he thought better of it. He hadn’t pulled any good pranks in a while, but he couldn’t get himself in the right mood to think of one; he was by no means giving up the war, however, knowing he’d have to think of one soon or risk Alastor thinking he’d won. He’d tried to get Nuggets to play with him, but all the little pig wanted to do was snuggle up in his arms.

“Ya, know, maybe you had the right idea,” he commented as he held Nuggets in front of him, giving the animal a tender expression. “Maybe you and me just need a relaxin’ day. No pranks, no sets, just you and me doing nothin’ while we watch stupid movies and eat junk food all day. How does that sound?” The pig kicked its legs happily and snorted in agreement. “Hey, you know what? It’s Auntie Otties day off today. Should we go get her and watch stupid movies with her? Huh? What do you think of that?” Nuggets squealed in excitement, its little legs kicking at high speed like it was running a marathon. “Yeah, I like that idea, too. Let’s go find Auntie Ottie. Yeah, let’s go find her.” He spoke in the way one would to a baby as he held Nuggets like one and tickled the pigs belly, causing it to squeal and snort in fits of laughter.

Angel walked with a purpose now, climbing up the flights of stairs to the fifth floor where Ottilies room was. Happy at the thought of a do nothing day spent with a good friend and his pig, he was too distracted to see the droplets of blood on the stairs and stepped over them. He noticed a few long claw marks in the carpet on the landing of the fifth floor, but thought nothing of them as he stepped through the door, missing the marks on the walls on either side of the frame as well once his back was to them. As they neared Ottilies room, Nuggets stiffened for a few seconds before beginning to struggle, its little hooves beating softly against Angels arm.

“What is it?” he asked as he continued to walk, looking down at the animal who was clearly now in distress, thinking that perhaps the pig was a little to excited to see Ottilie. That thought was quickly abandoned once they were within five feet of the door as Nuggets began to thrash now, its little body twisting and turning to escape, forcing him to let the animal go or risk hurting it. Nuggets fell to the floor but managed to land on its feet before scrambling away, cowering in the corner beside the opposite stairwell door of the one they’d just come through. “What’s gotten into you? Come back here!” Nuggets shook its little head and pushed its hooves against the floor, pressing into the wall behind it and hiding its face behind its front leg as best it could. “Fine then, you little snob. I’ll get Auntie Ottie by myself and you can just stay there all day!” He knew he’d never make good on that threat, but even so he looked away from the pig and stepped up the door before knocking.

On a regular day, he would have just barged right in and not even batted an eye, but for all he knew she was still asleep and he didn’t want to startle her again. When he didn’t hear a reply after the first knock, he tried again a bit harder, but still he heard nothing. Feeling a little agitated, he proceeded to pound on the door with all four fists, the hardwood rattling against the hinges as he called out, “Hey, Sleeping Beauty, the prince is here and he ain’t wakin’ you up with a kiss! Open the fuckin’ door!” He began to wonder if she was even in the room when he didn’t get the usually snarky reply he was accustomed to. Grumbling a few profanities under his breath, he gave up on trying to show common courtesy and grabbed the doorknob before swinging the door open so hard that it hit the wall behind it with a resounding ‘bang’.

“Listen here, you little shit! If you think you can just ignore me because it’s your day off, you’ve got another thing-!” he started to rant before his eyes took in the state of Ottilies room. His eyes darted to and fro, confusion sinking in. “Coming.”

In the many years that he had known Ottilie, never once had he found her to be a messy person. She always kept things as neat and tidy as possible, which was what made her so good at her jobs in the first place. The fact that her room was now a complete wreck gave him great cause for concern. Her living area furniture was in disarray with the loveseat and couch pushed out of place and the armchair toppled on its back while the coffee table was broken in half, the antique tea set that had been sitting on top shattered to pieces. The dining table still stood in place, but a few of the chairs were out of place and the crystal vase had been broken as well, flowers, petals, and glass strewn about in a wide radius. The worst of it, though, was the wall beside the kitchenet; there was a sizable dent in it and what appeared to dried blood in the center with a few slivers nearly reaching the floor.

Once his eyes landed on the blood, they widened to a considerable degree and he slowly backed away from the door. He had never been one to think before acting and he certainly wasn’t about to start now. Instead, he bolted down the hallway and didn’t stop running even when he reached the first floor. He dashed about, calling out, “Charlie!” as he went. In only a few minutes, he had over half the inhabitants of the hotel peeking out at him as he passed; Husk instantly knew something was wrong when Angel looked right at him and didn’t bother to stop.

Vaggie eventually went storming up to Angel with a perturbed look on her face as he came towards her. “What in the Heavens is wrong with you, you physco?” Angel scrambled to a stop and grabbed her by the shoulders, lifting her up off the ground like she weighed nothing. “What the fuck!? Put me down!”

“Where’s Charlie?” Angel asked hurriedly.

“What? Why do you-?” Vaggie stopped short, her eye widening. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d heard him call someone by their name, if ever. Caught off guard as she was, she forgot he’d even asked a question.

“Answer me! Where. Is. Charlie?” Angel asked again, shaking her a bit to pull her out of her own head.

“She’s… She’s still in her office… but-.” Vaggie didn’t get to finish her sentence as she was abruptly dropped to the floor and stepped around like she was a hindrance. “Hey! What the fuck?” she screeched as she fell flat on her rear. Realizing he was rushing off again, she called after him. “You can’t go in there! She’s in the middle of a session!”

Angel didn’t even give Vaggie a second thought as he continued to run, happy that he had such long legs to give him longer strides. In under a minute, he was sliding to a stop in front of Charlies office and burst into the room. “Charlie, I need you to-!”

“Well, I really don’t see how that’s your-,” Charlie had been saying before the door flew open, making her jump out of her seat in shock. “Angel Dust!” she reprimanded him, cutting him off before he could go on. “What have I told you about knocking on the door before entering a room? Alastor and I were having a very private conversation.”

“You don’t understand! I just went to Ottilies room and-!” Angel started again before his eyes landed on Alastor, who was looking at him in a mixture of confusion and amusement, just now realizing he was there. Whatever emotion he was feeling was completely forgotten and replaced with anger, the evidence of it burning deep in his eyes before he moved forward so fast that none of them saw it coming when his fist connected with Alastors cheek.

“Angel Dust!” Charlie cried out in shock as Alastor fell out of his seat and onto the floor, catching himself on his hands and knees so he was facing away from them. She stepped in front of him and managed to hold him back as he moved to land another punch. “What is the matter with you?”

“What the Hell did you do to her, you sick fuck!” Angel shouted down at Alastor as he tried to move past Charlie.

Alastor brought a hand up and worked at his jaw, letting out a breathy laugh that almost sounded like a cough before sitting up and turning to look at his would-be-attacker. “I beg your pardon, but I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

That answer didn’t seem to quel Angels anger and the smile the deer demon was wearing only seemed to worsen his mood. “You know damn well who I’m talking about! Where’s Ottilie?”

“Ottilie?” Charlie asked in confusion while Alastor raised a brow at him.

“Why don’t you ask him?” Angel replied, nearly getting around Charlie before she caught him, his attention never leaving Alastor.

“I still have no idea what you’re talking about,” Alastor cocked his head slightly as he stood up from the floor and brushed off his clothes, worried more about wrinkles than finding dirt there. Of course he remembered what had transpired between himself and the maid, but he wasn’t about to admit to it. He briefly wondered if she was still in the stairwell where he’d left her, but she would have at least started to have healed by now and been able to pick herself up, leading him to wonder why she hadn’t tattled on him yet; perhaps he could intercept her before she got the chance and he could finish what he started. “Would you care to explain or would you rather try to hit me again?” He couldn’t help but feel amused at the fact that such a lesser demon had dared to lay their hands on him, so much so that he could almost let the fact go, but not quite.

“I’d rather punch you again, motherfucker!” Angel practically hissed.

“What you do with your mother is your business!” Alastor laughed. Angel went to lung for him again, howling in anger, and he was more than willing to step up to the challenge.

“Angel Dust! Alastor! Enough!” Charlie shouted, her hands on either side of her on their chests to keep them apart. Much to her surprise, they both listened to her, but the glares they both wore suggested that this wasn’t quite over yet. She let out a sigh of relief and looked between them. “Now, I think a few wires have gotten crossed here and we need to uncross them before proceeding.” She looked up at the spider demon. “Angel Dust, what happened.”

A huff escaped Angel and his fists fell to his side as he continued to glare at Alastor. “I went up to Ottilies room and found it in a complete wreck. The place looks like a twister went through it and I can’t find Ottilie anywhere!”

“And what makes you think I did it?” Alastor asked before Charlie could.

“Hey, don’t think I haven’t noticed the way you’ve been messin’ with her since she got here! She couldn’t stand to be around you!” Angel said accusingly, reaching around Charlie to poke Alastor in the chest.

Alastor glanced down at the finger on his person, but ignored it for the time being. “I’ll admit I played a few harmless pranks on the young lady, but is that really cause to accuse me of causing her physical harm?” Angel was about to reply before he went on. “And to add to that, if you thought I was causing her such distress, why didn’t you bother to step in? Aren’t you supposed to be her friend?”

Angel sputtered out a few incoherent words as a flood of emotions erupted across his face, his cheeks reddening deep red with a blush. “I… I didn’t…. You… She never…”

“Look, maybe you went a little far with your pranks even though they were meant to be harmless,” Charlie said as she looked up at Alastor before turning to Angel, “but maybe instead of focussing on hitting each other, we should go up and find out happened to Ottilie. Whatever might have happened to her, for all we know, she’s wandering around here dazed and confused. She probably really needs us right now.”

Realizing he’d only wasted time on pointless endeavors, Angel let go of his anger and nodded. “Yeah… Yeah, okay.”

“Okay,” Charlie repeated and nodded as well. “Let’s go, then.” She started to lead Angel off as fast as she could without getting him worked up again.

“If it’s any consolation,” Alastor called after them before they could reach the door, “I can assure you. I caused no harm to Miss Ottilie while she was in her room.”

Angel seemed to contemplate this for a moment, but apparently not hard enough as both he and Charlie missed the way Alastor had worded his sentence. “Okay… Good to know.”

*****

The first thing Alastor did when he left the office was check the stairwell. He wasn’t surprised to find that she wasn’t there, nor was he surprised to find that the small trail of blood drops led back to her room. Luckily for him, Charlie and Angel had already run off to check the rest of the hotel; his ears twitched as he heard the two calling out her name, other voices eventually joining them as they joined the search, but he was able to tune them out for the most part. Her scent was all over the room, so it was hard to tell if she had actually left the room after coming to it. Rather than call for her, knowing she wouldn’t answer if she knew it was him calling, he extended his power down into his shadow, causing it to become an extension of himself as his eyes glowed with the minimal effort it took to make it happen.

The shadow slithered about through the hotel, its eyes missing nothing around it as they took everything in. TVs and radios let out high pitched screeches as it passed them, giving Baxter and Vaggie a good scare, but there was no time to revel in the humor of it. Husk, Nifty, and Mimzy all noticed the antlered shadow go by, but the three of them said nothing and went about whatever it is they’d been doing; he might have been proud of them if he weren’t so focused on his current task. The inky black creature searched high and low, but found no trace of Ottilie within the building. Wherever she had disappeared to, she clearly wasn’t there anymore.

Once the shadow returned to him and his eyes were back to their natural state, he set about observing the room; unlike Angel, he was careful not to disturb anything, though he could tell by the scent of the room that the slightly taller demon had walked all over it. Unknown to him, Angel had been correct in assuming that a struggle had taken place, though he was confused as to why he couldn't smell them as well; there weren't many magics that could work against his own, but apparently whoever Ottilies assailant had been was lucky enough to have found the right one. With Ottilies scent being all over the room it was hard to tell exactly what had happened, but he could guess that the struggle had ended near the wall by the kitchenette, the dent about the same size and height as her head. He also noticed a few drops of blood on the shards of the vase, but still he found no scent on them as he examined them.

Following what little blood there was in the room, he was led to the balcony doors, which had been left wide open after the attack, no doubt being the point of entry as well as the exit. The blood trailed over the railing and, despite being five stories up, he vaulted over the side and easily landed gracefully on his feet. Once outside, he could finally smell where exactly the young maid had gone without her scent being all over the area. The only problem was that it completely stopped about ten feet from the hotel and he lost all traces of it completely, meaning whoever had taken her probably had some form of transportation and were using the same magic they’d used to hide themselves on it as well.

He hummed to himself in thought for a moment, tapping his staff against his shoulder as he did. He knew a few spells that would counteract the magic that had hidden the intruder, but getting the ingredients together would be tricky; not many places in Hell carried what he would need anymore, but there were a few that may just have what he was looking for.

Turning back, he intended to return to the room and collect a few samples of the blood which he would need to execute the spell but, as he stood below the balcony, he heard the door to Ottilies room open again followed by voices. Pausing, his ear twitched as he focused in on them. Immediately, he recognized the light footfalls of Charlie and Vaggie as well as the heavy stomps of Angels boots even on the carpeted floor.

“You weren’t kidding about it being a wreck in here,” Vaggie commented as the three of them split up to look around the room. “This place looks worse than that time you brought back that Gypsy Demon and fooled around in the pool room.”

“Hey, you leave Alejandro out of this!” Angel spat as a door opened and slammed shut. “He’s got more talent in his pinky finger than your crusty ass will ever have!”

“Could the two of you please not start right now? We have more important things to worry about than who Angel Dust brings home,” Charlie reminded them, a moment of silence following. “Need I remind you that it’s Ottilie we’re looking for? Who has not only been your friend for a number of years but has also worked tirelessly for us, cleaning up all of our messes and cooking us food even though that wasn’t part of her job description?” Vaggie and Angel didn’t press the issue further, but did grumble a few profanities under their breaths in the others general direction. “Well, it’s not much but I’ll take it. So when was the last time anyone saw Ottilie?”

“Not since last night when I sent everyone back to their rooms,” Vaggie recalled. “She appears to have made it back, but something happened between then and now.”

‘Well, not exactly straight back. She did make a few unexpected detours,’ Alastor thought to himself.

“Yeah, but who would have done this to her? I can’t think of anyone that would do something like this to someone as sweet as Ottilie,” Charlie questioned.

“Are you serious, Charlie? You can’t think of a single person?” Vaggie asked, a slightly pause hanging in the air. “Ugh! We have the Radio Demon living under our roof and you seriously don’t think it was him?”

Alastors ear twitched again. He had expected to be accused of this, but certainly not twice in one day. Vaggie was really proving to be a thorn in his side.

“He already gave his word that he didn’t, though. Angel Dust is even a witness,” Charlie explained quickly.

“That doesn’t prove anything! He could give his word that a peanut is the cure to cancer, but that doesn’t make it true!” Vaggie countered before Angel could confirm. “He's always sneaking off to do who knows what in who knows where! And don’t even try to tell me he had nothing to do with Annabelle and Persila! He probably had something to do with the others going missing, too!”

“You know that’s not fair, Vaggie. He’s been with us since the hotel started. We can’t judge him simply based on his past. He’s trying just as hard as everyone else,” Charlie retorted.

“Yeah, in front of you!” Vaggie scoffed.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Charlie asked.

“You should know exactly what it means by now! He’s just-!” Vaggie started.

“Will you two knock it off?” Angel shouted over her, making the women look at him in shock. “I hate to play devils advocate here, no pun intended,” he whispered under his breath, “but we don’t have time for this! I’ve got a missing friend out there somewhere and I’m really not interested in your lovers quarrel about deer boy! He said he didn't have anything to do with this and I believe him! Either way, drop it, save it for later, I don’t care! Right now, Ottilie is all that matters, so lets focus on that!” His feet stomped across the floor. “And they say I have an attention problem.”

A heavy silence hung in the air before Vaggie said, “You know we messed up Angel Dust had to chew us out.” There was another pause before the two burst out laughing.

“He was right, though,” Charlie said, trying to get stop her giggling. “We do need to find Ottilie and figure out what happened.”

“Right…. But we still need to talk about Alastor later,” Vaggie replied.

Charlie sucked in a breath, more than likely about to retort, but the words got stuck in her throat. “Fine. We will talk about him later.”

As the two left the room, Alastors hand began to grip his staff harder and harder to the point that he could hear it beginning groan and protest against the pressure. Like he'd once told the maid, he was a man of patience, but even he had his limits. It took all the willpower he could muster not to run after them and end Vaggie right then and there, no matter who saw what happened. Instead, he made his way to the rear of the hotel and used the back entrance, making his way to his room once inside.

The other residents were lucky for the fact that he didn't encounter any of them on the way there or he might have taken his anger out on them. Unfortunately for his minions, who he always kept handy nearby, they had crossed his path. A small group of them had been scuttling about nearby, sensing his impending fury and trying to stay out of the way, but he'd plucked one out of its hiding place behind a lamp before it could scurry away. The poor creature tried desperately to squirm out of his grasp, but it was to no avail as his grip was inescapable. He paid his minion no mind as he paced the length of his room in deep thought, squeezing the little thing tighter and tighter as the minutes passed; it was a wonder how it hadn't popped or been crushed under all the pressure, its eyes bulging out of its head, but he had made them surprisingly durable.

Alastor knew he'd have to tread very carefully from this point on. He'd gotten a bit careless since coming here and it was beginning to show if someone like Charlie was starting to see through his charade. Vaggie certainly wasn't helping anything; if she wasn't careful, she'd end up on the receiving end of his full temper. Then there was Angel Dust, who, even to his own surprise, had come to his aid when he least expected it, but there was no guarantee how long that would last.

As much as he detested the idea, he'd have to behave if he wanted to save face. It wasn't in his nature to do so and made him feel like a caged animal, which wasn't a good thing for someone like him, but a 'necessary evil’ if he wanted them off his back. Behaving also meant leaving Vaggie be. For the time being, at least; as much of a thorn as she was, she was still useful to his plans. He might even consider her a pawn if only she'd back off.

It also meant he'd have to avoid leaving the hotel, something he also detested. There was a lot of territory and demons under his domain and he hadn't earned the title of tyrant by laying dormant for extended periods of time. Others would certainly notice his absence and try to steal it out from under, which definitely wouldn't do. He wasn't much in the mood to participate in turf wars that he would ultimately win but make him look like a careless fool and have even more demons coming for his territory.

Then there was the problem with the maid. He couldn't simply let her slip through his fingers. She was his conquest and he wasn't about to let someone else take her away, but he also couldn't leave to find her. It was a conundrum and she was definitely going to pay for causing him so much trouble.

He stopped pacing as he considered his options. He could stay put and keep Vaggie off his case but lose Ottilie and his territory or leave to track Ottilie and keep his territory but have Vaggie breathing down his neck and potentially lose all of his progress. His foot tapped against the floor and the pad of his thumb pressed into the head of the minion, putting more pressure down on the already suffering thing. He glanced down at the thing in his hand, the creature now barely twitching, accepting what was happening rather than fighting it, and an idea popped into his head.

“Hmmmm,” he hummed to himself as his smile broadened. “Yes… that just might work.” He released his grasp and the minion fell to the floor, letting out a simultaneous sigh of relief and groan of pain. “Good work. Take the rest of the day off for your service.” He stepped over the minion and walked over to his balcony as the thing began to crawl off into the darkness and let its body heal.

Out on the balcony, Alastor raised his staff high in the air, a bright red glow emanating from the eye in the middle of the microphone. The glow quickly grew into a light, shining like a beacon across Pentagram City, attracting the attention of numerous demons, but he was really only interested in four sets of eyes seeing it. After a minute or so of the light shining, he lowered his staff and waved his free hand in front of it, causing the light to turn off. Folding his hands behind his back, he pivoted on his heels and walked back into his room, placing himself in an armchair with his legs crossed and hand in his lap, staff by his side. He didn't have to wait there long as the shadows around his room began to change shape, bobbing and weaving to the point that they were becoming distorted. An amused smile came to his face as he waited, knowing what was coming next.

Objects began moving from place to place, some just switching spots with things next to them, others moving clear across the room. Things next began to fall off of surfaces, slowly and softly at first, before they began to fly off, sailing across the floor and crashing heavily to it. Then came the light tapping which quickly turned to heavy knocks and thumps against the walls. Lastly came the spine chilling noises, sounding like something straight from a horror film.

From behind Alastors chair, the shadows collected and merged into a form. The being that came from the shadows had no real discernible facial features aside from dark violet irises that held no pupils, a wide smile full of uncommonly flat teeth for a demon,  and short side swept hair that was just barely noticeable from the rest of him. The rest of him, aside from the white bowtie around his neck, were all entirely black, like he was made from the shadows themselves. He curled slightly around the back of the chair, his back bending like a snake, and his hands reached forward at the same time his face moved towards the deer demons neck to take the seemingly unaware man by surprise.

“Five, four, three, two, one,” Alastor mouthed to himself before making a fist with one hand and throwing it back, feeling the back of his hand connect with something solid.

“Ouch!” a surprised voice called out, Alastor turning just in time to see the dark figure stumble back. “That really hurt, you know?” he asked as he rubbed at his throbbing nose. There was a bit of an echo to his voice, like the sound was bouncing back off of something in front of him.

“Yes, well, that would be the point, wouldn’t it?” Alastor asked in return, his eyes narrowing at the shadow demon, following the other mans movements as he came to stand before him.

“But you always at least let me try to spook you,” the shadow demon grumbled half-heartedly. “That was just no fun.”

“I’m in no mood for games today, Ozzy. We have very serious matters to discuss,” Alastor explained.

“Oooo, the infamous Radio Demon getting serious! This is a rare sight to see! It must really be important!” Ozzy said sarcastically. “Did you pass a taxidermist on the way in and get offended?” Alastor gave him a look that said, ‘I’m already done with your shit’. “No? Pity. I would have loved to see the irony in you turning him into a mounted head for your wall.”

“Tempting as that is,” Alastor nearly rolled his eyes, “I do have other plans that need my attention first. Speaking of which,” he glanced around the room, “where are the others?”

“Hm? What do you mean? Sammy came here with-,” Ozzy started before cutting himself short, realizing they were the only two in the room as he looked around. He scratched his head in thought and asked, “Where the devil did he run off to?” They both began to hear muffled sounds of protest coming from seemingly all around the room, getting louder as if to call their attention. He snapped his fingers in realization and laughed. “Oh, right! That’s where I put him!” He walked over to the wall and shoved his hand through, the spot rippling around his arm as he dug around the now dark spot. “Got him!” He pulled out the head and shoulders of a very terrified looking demon, but became disappointed all too quickly. “You’re not Sammy.”

The demon, who appeared not to have slept or eaten in a long while, looked around in panic, seemingly for any sign of escape, when his eyes landed on Alastor. “You gotta help me, man! This guys crazy! Get me out of here! Please!”

Alastor sighed and shook his head, clearly unmoved by the demons pleas, as he pinched the bridge of his nose. “You really must keep that mess you call a Shadow Realm better organized. If you did, this sort of thing wouldn’t happen.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Ozzy replied, though they both knew he wouldn’t. “Back in you go!”

“No, no! Wait, don’t-!” the demon started before he was shoved back in, his voice lost in the void beyond the darkness.

“Now where are you,” Ozzy hummed to himself as he took a few steps to the right and dug around again. He appeared to have caught something as his arm stiffened and he looked to Alastor. “Fingers crossed this is him.” Alastor raised both hands and did just that, but with a coy and mocking smile on his face as Ozzy yanked something out by its hand and sent it flying across the room.

“Samuel! There you are, my boy!” Alastor spread his arms in a welcoming gesture as the demon in question fell chin first onto the carpet and skidded across it with his rear end in the air. “We were just talking about you.”

Samuel, or Sammy as he prefered, was one of Alastors smaller followers. Standing at only five foot eleven, he was usually one of the smallest people in the room and one of the more petite. Sporting an almost elf-like appearance, he had large ears that came to a point at their tips and a thin, angular face with light grey skin. His irises were a light shade of mauve and his pupils were slitted like a cats while the scleras were pitch black. The area between his eyes and brows was a dark shade of purple, making his irises stand out in comparison. Most of his teeth were flat, but the incisors were long and sharp, almost deadly looking for a creature so small. On either side of his mouth were identical faded pink scars that reached all the way up to beneath his eyes, as if someone had taken a sharp object and sliced his face. His pure white hair stood out in comparison to the rest of him and was buzz cut around the sides while the top was left to grow out just past his ears, the thick strands styled back and off to the side, away from his face. His attire consisted of a plain white short sleeved shirt, a purple tie, a dark gray dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows to reveal the black skin of his arms, a medium toned purple vest, black dress pants, and a simple pair of black dress shoes. Covering his hands were dark purple gloves that hung slightly loose around his wrists and made his hands look slightly bigger than they were.

Sammy dizzily sat up on the floor and shook his head a few times, trying to stop the room from spinning. Still slightly disoriented, he looked over at Alastor and said, “You don’t say?” He continued to stare for a moment, looking slightly confused. “Am I seeing double or do you have an identical twin brother?” A few seconds passed and his vision returned to normal, making him realized that Alastor and Ozzy were raising their brows at him. “Hey, where’d your brother go?”

“Samuel, you and I both know there is only one of me,” Alastor replied.

“Thank God,” Sammy mumbled under his breath.

Alastors ear twitched and his head turned quickly to look at him. “What was that?”

“Nothing!” Sammy said quickly, standing straight and rigid just as fast.

“Hmhm,” Alastor hummed, clearly not believing him, as Ozzy tried to contain his laughter. “So where are the other two? I believe I called for all four of you or is this thing not working?” He slapped the back of his staff against his hand a few times as if to test it out, but nothing came of it.

“They should be on their way. They were patrolling the North tower last I talked to them, so it should be any minute now,” Sammy said enthusiastically.

“We would have been here sooner ourselves had it not been for Mr. Hair Product over here,” Ozzy gestured toward Sammy. “He just had to make sure he was absolutely presentable for you.”

“Oh, really now?” Alastor tilted his head curiously.

Sammy blushed as bright as a tomato and stumbled over his words. “T-thats not true! I was merely making myself look presentable for the public. Some of us don’t have the luxury of not caring how we look.” His words were laced with a bit of venom was he looked Ozzys way.

Ozzy gave him a deadpan expression and said, “I hardly have any features to begin with. Why would I give two hoots about how I look?”

“Maybe because your poor sense of physical appearance might reflect badly on the demon we serve,” Sammy retorted with a slight glare.

“You have a bit of brown on your nose, you know? Just there?” Ozzy asked, tapping his own for good measure. Sammy nearly scowled, but caught himself before he did.

“Gentlemen, gentlemen. As much as I appreciate the flattery, I’m afraid we’ll have to save it for later,” Alastor held up in his hands, gesturing for the two to back off. “We’ve got company.”

Ozzy and Sammy looked at each other in confusion before the later of the two felt something sharp and cold at his throat while a hand grabbed his chin, angling his head back to better expose it. Sammy let out a yelp of surprise and threw his head back, the top of it connecting with the face of the person behind him. His would-be assailant released him and he quickly dove out of the way, hiding behind Alastors chair and peeking out just slightly.

“Geez, kid. You sure have a hard head,” the demon said as he rubbed at his chin.

“I feel your pain,” Ozzy said in mock sympathy, rubbing at his own nose as he felt a phantom pain from his own injury.

“Chase, my favorite assassin,” Alastor greeted the newcomer. “You’re late.”

“I’m never late,” Chase replied as he returned his blade to its hiding place on his person. “Everyone else is simply early.”

Like most demons under Alastors rule, Chase fell just slightly below the deer demons hight, coming up to his brows in stature. He was a bit more muscular than most, however, with a lean build that showed he was fit and filled out his clothing rather nicely. Dark olive green skin stood out against his medium tinted pink hair that was cut into a straight bob and swept to the side, the full locks framing his rounded face complementarity. His smile was large on his face, full of the razor sharp teeth so many demons had. His eyes were framed by thick lashes that came to points at the tips while the scleras were pitch black, just like Sammys, and the irises were a bright scarlet red. Beneath his eyes were speckles of aqua green freckles, the tiny spots nearly going unnoticed. His attire was rather simple with a black dress shirt and white undershirt tucked into black with white pinstripe dress pants, a brown belt around his waist, black and grey dress shoes, and a crimson red bow tie around his neck.

“Ah, yes. How silly of me to forget,” Alastor said sarcastically.

“Chase, that was really messed up!” Sammy chided, still hiding behind Alastors chair. “Why would you do that?”

“Have you seen your face when you’re scared?” Chase laughed. “It’s hilarious.”

“I know, right?” Ozzy agreed. “He always looks like he’s about to piss himself.”

“I’ll have you know, I have seen myself scared. Alastor constantly scares me when I’m looking in the mirror,” Sammy replied matter of factly, earning another round of laughter from the other two. “Yeah, ha ha. Laugh all you want, but try that again and I’ll bop you a new one!” He shook his fist angrily at them to show he meant business.

“I’d like to see you try,” Chase replied as he and Ozzy sneered at the smaller demon.

“You won’t be seeing much when I claw your eyes out!” Sammy glowered. His little burst of confidence was short lived as he appeared to regret his words, knowing he’d never be able to make good on them. Alastor said nothing as the smaller demon stepped behind his chair again, this time half visible rather that just his head.

“In his case, that might be an improvement,” Ozzy half smiled as he jabbed a thumb in Chases direction.

Chase gasped dramatically and clasped his face in his hands. “How dare you say such a thing about one as beautiful as myself!? Do you wanna get gat?”

“Aw, did I offend the little gunsel?” Ozzy asked despite the fact that Chase was fairly close to his height and pinched his cheeks rather roughly. “Maybe you’re packing a little too much heat. I think it’s making you a little joed. You better be careful or your age might start to show.”

“Well, you’re not looking so hot, either. In fact, I think you look like a real crumb,” Chase chided.

“You take that back!” Ozzy demanded.

“Not until you apologize for insulting my elegant and illustrious beauty! This may come as a shock to someone like you, but some of us are actually born with stunning good looks,” Chase replied as he crossed his arms and turned away.

“You could have fooled me,” Ozzy chuckled.

Alastor let out a long sigh as the two went back and forth, pinching the bridge of his nose and rubbing it to relieve the tension there. “I’m beginning to wonder if these goons are worth the effort I have to put forth not to bash their heads in over and over again.” If he noticed Sammy look at him worriedly and then slink out from behind his chair only to busy himself with picking up the mess Ozzy had made, he said nothing. He did, however, notice the sound of heavy wings beating in the distance, approaching at a fast pace. Forgetting his impending foul mood, he stood from his chair and approached the balcony doors, waiting in the doorway as the sound came closer and closer. His eyes on the sky, they darted around for a few seconds before a shadow flew overhead, circling around the landing of the balcony, before a figure swooped down and landed with a hefty boom; this caused more belongings to shift out of place and fall to floor, making Sammy grumble about the extra work. “You certainly took your time, old friend. Been out for a leisurely flight around the Pentagram, have we?”

“My apologies. I ran into some interference from a few of the doctors crows on the way here,” the newcomer replied as he strolled forward, Alastor stepping aside to let him past, his huge, leathery wings folding behind him and disappearing. He burped into his hand and a few feathers flew past his fist, the black plumage floating slowly down to the floor. “They won’t be a problem anymore.”

“Good to know. Those crows are a constant pain,” Alastor nodded as he fell in beside him. “So I’ve called all of you here to-.”

“-and if you weren’t so busy being a useless dingy, maybe you could do something useful and not stand around bumping your gums!” Chase shouted at Ozzy, causing the two heads to turn.

“Oh? And this coming from the Master of Gumming Up the Works? The best you can do is sneak into a room and stab someone! At least I take my enemies down with style!” Ozzy spat back.

“Oh, because it’s so hard to catch someone in a Shadow Dimension!” Chase mocked. “Careful planning and strategy actually goes into what I do! You make harbingers of death look lazy and useless! You are a disgrace!” Ozzy looked more and more perturbed as he said the last sentence slowly.

“I’ll show you a disgrace!” Ozzy proclaimed before they started to throw punches, Alastor, Sammy, and the third demon watching with mixed expressions.

“Please tell me you called me here to finally dispose of those two,” the newcomer smirked as he looked towards Alastor, saliva dripping from his maw.  

“Save your insatiable hunger for later. Unfortunately, I still need them… for now,” Alastor forced the other mans mouth closed with a single finger, avoiding the mess all over his chin. “I will be putting a stop to that, however. Gentlemen.” The two didn’t even acknowledge him. He raised his brow slightly. “Gentlemen.” They glanced at him this time, but quickly looked back and continued to argue. “Gentlemen,” his voice came out strained this time, like he was trying to restrain himself, but still it went on. “Gentlemen!” his voice crackled and popped, his pupils turning to dials and the space around him filling with the sound of static. After a few seconds, he shook himself back to normal, finding that everyone but the newcomer had put ten feet between themselves and him, huddling together in a trembling clump. “Excellent. Now that we’ve gotten that all out of our systems, I assume we all remember Alton?” The demon beside him wiggled his fingers in a playful wave.

Alton, a dragon demon, bared a surprising likeness to Alastor himself, despite the two not being related at all. Just as tall as each other, the two had similar hairstyles and tall tufts of ears, but his white and purple whereas Alastors was red and black. He had antlers as well, but his were longer and bent forward rather than a scooping motion, and were colored a light gold. The same applied to his eyes, which were lavender and lilac rather than scarlet and crimson. Their mouths and noses were practically identical but his skin was pale white instead of ashen white. His hands were a dark blue and his clawed fingers were the same lavender as his eyes. Their attire, however, was completely different. Alastor wore his zoot suit well, but Alton looked sleek and sporting in his World War II military uniform, a reminder from his time as a general. His dark blue gold buttoned jacket had white lapels and golden shoulder pads that made his shoulders look flat. His pants were a slightly darker hue than his jacket and the hems matched the lapels, but his boots were the same shade. Around his neck was a lavender and lilac bolo tie that was designed to look like a dragons eye, a gift from Alastor himself shortly after arriving in Hell.

Though the four henchmen looked as different as night and day, there was one key trait they all shared: the smiles spread across their faces. They all wore them differently, but they were ever present on their faces, or at least in Alastors presence. He didn’t care much how they acted out his plans or in private, but when he was around it was a well known rule that they had to smile or there would be severe consequences. One of them had learned a long time ago what it meant to feel Alastors wrath when it came to frowning.

“Hi, Alton,” Chase, Ozzy, and Sammy waved back nervously, still coming down from their scare.

Chase stepped away from the other two and smoothed out his clothing, trying his best to play it off like he hadn’t just been frightened to the point that he felt the need to seek comfort from someone else. Ozzys face went from nervous to perplexed as he looked down only to realize Sammy must have jumped into his arms at some point because he was still holding him. Sammy noticed him staring and gave him a jovial smile before saying, “Um… my hero?”

Ozzy stared for a few more seconds before dropping Sammy to the floor as he replied, “Get off me, ya nut.”

“So, now that we’re all well acquainted once again, let’s get down to brass tacks, shall we?” Alastor asked, taking a seat in the armchair again.

“Great. So who are we here to kill this time?” Ozzy asked excitedly.

“No one,” Alastor replied. A pause hung in the air as they all gave him a dumbfounded look.

“Then… what are we here for?” Alton questioned.

“I’m looking for a young woman,” Alastor explained.

“Don’t they have services for that sort of thing?” Chase questioned.

“Yeah. I’m sure you’ll find some lucky lady who’d be happy to let you spirit her there,” Ozzy huffed, turning and walking towards the balcony to leave. “I can’t believe I wasted my time coming here.”

Alastor tapped his staff once against the floor and Alton immediately jumped into action. Alton came between Ozzy and the door, his hair nearly standing straight up on end and his teeth bared in warning, daring him to try anything as his wings spread out behind his back to better block the door. Ozzy immediately stopped and backed away, knowing that even he was no match for the dragon.

“Though I’m not required to explain myself to any of you, I will say that you all are not here to find me just any young woman. This one is irreplaceable and I want her back,” Alastor stated.

Chase let out a gasp and held his face in his hands again, his lips pursed in a kissing motion. “Ooooo. Could it be that our dear Alastor has finally gotten dizzy with a dame?”

“You dog! I didn’t think you had it in you!” Ozzy turned back around, seeming to completely forget that he’d been seconds away from potentially have his head ripped off.

“Oh my goodness! I never thought this day would come! This is wonderful! You simply have to tell us everything! Who is she? What’s she like? Have you two kissed yet?” Sammy prattled on at a fast pace as he, Ozzy, and Chase crowded around Alastor.

The deer demon stared at the three of them incredulously, like they’d all grown a second head each, before his hand flew up and slapped all three of them across the face, sending them flying to the floor. As they all groaned and rubbed at their fresh wounds, he stood over them and cocked his head, almost looking as if he were trying to hold his emotions back. “You think someone like me would fall so low as to fall in love with someone? Let alone a lowly little maid? Someone I gave a once in a lifetime chance to submit to me but was foolish enough to refuse? Well, there’s really only one thing I can say to that…” Alton couldn't resist the smirk that spread across his face, knowing what their boss was about to do; he hadn't seen a good show in a long while and was looking forward to it.

“Don't make me laugh!

Don't make me laugh!

My funny friends,

Don't make me bend in half!”

Despite his words of warning, he belted out a chuckle after each ‘laugh’, the sound dark and far less comforting than it should have been.

“No one could ever make you bend in half!” Sammy said, trying his best to appease him, but the flattery fell on deaf ears as Alastor got right in his face.

“Don't be a card, sir,

Don't mess with Alastor!”

“Who would even dare?” Chase chuckled nervously, grunting in pain as Alastor stepped on and over him like he wasn’t even there.

“Don't make me laugh so hard that you begin to ache!

Don't make me laugh.”

Alton and the minions, still hiding about in the room, began to laugh as well.

“Don't pull my leg,” he grabbed Ozzy by the aforementioned limb and lifted him up like he weighed nothing as Alton and the minions laughed again, bringing him to eye level. “May I suggest you would do best to beg!” Ozzy opened his mouth, but he dropped him before he even got the chance.

“But what if she doesn’t want to come back with you when we find her?” Sammy asked, not seeing that wasn’t really an option.

“If she says, "No", sir,

If she refused,

She’s had her notice that I refuse to lose!

Say, "Yes", my dear, and go out a winner

Believe me: that would be wiser

Say, "No", poor dove and you're a deers dinner

And Vaggie’s the appetizer!”

He ended the note with another dark laugh, Alton and the minions doing the same once he was done, and then laughing again like he simply couldn’t hold it back. Catching Sammy, Ozzy, and Chase off guard again, he leaned in close to their faces so they could see the deranged determination in his eyes.

“Get the picture?” he asked them.

“Don't make me laugh,

Or slap my knee

I'm no hyena,

So you three,

What'll it be?

Right this way to face your fate, or write your epitaph?

I chose her fate,

Don't make me wait,

And boys... don't make me laugh!”

He, Alton, and the minions all laughed together, sending shivers down the other threes spines as they pressed themselves against the wall, the deer and dragons shadows falling over them in a threatening manner.

Chapter Text

Ottilie woke slowly, groans and hisses escaping her as she felt a throbbing pain emanating all over her body, the worst of it at the back of her skull. She tried to open her eyes and look at her surroundings as she slowly came back to reality, but there was little to no light in the room. Placing a hand at the back of her head, she felt something dry yet sticky there; it didn’t take a genius to figure out that it was dried blood. Sitting up slowly, she found her limbs stiff and no doubt bruised in places, but she quickly found herself dizzy from even that subtle movement. She held her head in her hands and her forehead against the floor, the cool cement beneath her somewhat soothing to her senses; once she had her bearings, she sat up again, this time more carefully, and tried to get an idea of her surroundings in the dark.

Feeling her way around the floor, she eventually found what she assumed to be a wall, hard and sturdy under her touch. Using that as her guide, she followed it around until it came to a corner where another wall sat adjacent to it. This wall led to yet another corner, almost making her believe that she was entirely surrounded by walls, until her hand connected with something slender and metal in front of where she’d been laying. Her hand traveled the length of it as high as she could reach, but that wasn’t far considering she couldn’t stand just yet. Beside it, she found yet another slender piece of metal that was taller than she could reach and this continued until she came back to the first wall she’d touched.

Even through the haze over her mind, she knew where she was. She was locked in a cell. There didn’t appear to be any forms of escape either as the walls were made of the same cement as the floor and the bars wouldn’t even budge an inch no matter how hard she shook them. She considered calling out for help but, given her current circumstances, she doubted that if anyone could hear her they’d be inclined to help her considering they were very likely the ones that had put her there.

She tried to remember how she’d ended up here, but the last thing she remembered was walking back to room after her encounter with Alastor. It scared her that she couldn’t remember what had happened, fearing what else she might have forgotten along with it, but what scared her even more was the thought that Alastor might have done this to her. She could hardly put it past him to have decided to come back and finish the job. She didn’t see the point the in him locking her up like this when he could have easily finished the job right then and there, but perhaps something happened to where he had to save her for later, or perhaps he didn’t want to take the risk of her telling anyone what had happened. Then there was the thought that he wanted to draw her pain out for as long as he could, so he’d put her somewhere no would find her, and that was the most terrifying and likely of answers.

With little else to do, she dragged herself into the corner and curled into herself. She tried not to let the fear creeping at the back of her mind get to her, but that was hard thing to do when she was locked up in a dark and quiet place with injuries that made it hard for her to move; her bruises were already starting to fade, but the gash at the back of her head was still leaving her dizzy. She found herself trembling slightly despite her best attempts not to. It certainly wasn’t doing her any good to work herself up, but she couldn’t stop thinking about all the horrible things that could happen to her; if Alastor truly was her captor, the possibilities were endless.

She wasn’t sure how much time had passed, an hour or more at least, before she started to nod off. Every time her head would start lilting to the side or fall forward, the sensation would wake her back up, but only for a short amount of time before it would happen all over again. It would be so easy for her to simply let herself fall back into the inky black void of unconsciousness, but she would rather stay alert in case anything or anyone came for her. She wouldn’t be able to do much to defend herself, but at least she could go out trying.

She was suddenly surprised awake again when a loud ‘click’ emanated from somewhere in the room and a light suddenly flipped on, immediately blinding her. She hissed again, rubbing at her eyes to try and relieve the new burning sensation there. She tried to see if anyone was in the room with her, but every time she opened her eyes to look the burning only seemed to get worse. A moment passed and another bright flash of light burst from behind her eyelids, making her wonder if someone had turned on another light, but that couldn’t be so as the brightness didn’t change. As her eyes remained shut, she was vaguely aware of darkened shapes forming within the recesses of her mind. Not recognizing the strange vision before her, she grasped at it without thinking over the consequences.

*****

She was scared. That much she knew as she lay curled up under her covers, shivering despite the warmth they gave, but even they couldn’t protect her from the dark. She could hear something heavy beating against the roof above her head and she could only imagine it as tiny feet running across the surface, the creatures looking for some way into the house so they could steal her away in the night; she’d been warned about the vile little things that loved little children the best and she didn’t dare to go back to sleep, remaining vigilant so she could spot them before they came.

Each darkened shape in her room made her think it was them, trying to hide amongst her toys and blend in so she wouldn’t see them coming. Her eyes darted around the room, waiting for even the slightest bit of movement. She wished the candle sitting somewhere beside her was still lit so she could see better, but it had been blown out hours before when she was put down for the night. There was no light from outside, either, only more darkness to aid the tiny creatures that wanted to make off with her.

There did come a sudden burst of light from outside, but it cast shadows across her walls. The shadows resembled hands that swayed and she heard a tapping against her window, another sure sign that they were coming. Before the gasp could finish escaping her throat, the light faded and took the reaching hands with it. The loud and crashing ‘boom’ that followed quickly left her screaming; they were jumping down off the roof now, the ground trembling beneath them despite how small they were, letting everyone know that they were taking another child tonight.

She let out a long and shrill scream as the loud noise faded, but her fear didn’t. She threw the covers over her head and trembled now as she cried into her pillow. She could hear hurried footsteps coming up the hall outside her room, the open a crack so anyone outside could hear in. Burrowing deeper into the blankets, she sobbed now as she feared the small, razor sharp teeth that would cut into her as they devoured her. The door creaked as it was pushed open and she tried to quite herself so perhaps they wouldn’t hear her, but she knew it was too late as the footsteps neared her and came to a stop beside where she lay.

“Oh, my poor little darling,” a familiar voice said, the sound like music to her ears. She peaked out from under her covers to see the person the voice belonged to and felt a rush of relief as she saw the woman. Much to her joy, the woman had brought a lit candle with her and had set it on the bedside table, the warm glow illuminating the room and easing her fear. The woman leaned over and scooped her into her arms, smiling as tiny arms and legs wrapped around her body. “There, there now. You are alright. Did something frighten you, my darling?” She received a nod in reply and chuckled softly. “What was it?”

The woman received her answer when there was another bright flash of light and the outstretched hands returned. She clung desperately to the woman, having hoped that the vile creatures would have left her alone now that she had protection, but the loud ‘boom’ that followed once again told her otherwise. She let out a short shriek and buried her face out of sight in the womans shoulder.

“There, there now. You are alright,” the woman repeated, rubbing a soothing hand up and down her back. “The storm cannot hurt you. I am here for you, my darling. I will always be here for you.”

*****

She was disappointed when the memory faded, but she was given no time to think anything over another burst of pain spread across her skull, coming just as suddenly as the one that come before her first memory and hurting just as much. Almost immediately, she was left doubled over on the floor, head clutched in her hands. Feeling a bit irritated at the constant pain she was being forced to endure, she took deep, slow, steady breaths until the pain faded and she was once again left with the dull ache at the back of her skull. She made a vow to herself that whoever had done this to her would get an earful out her before they were done with her, but she knew herself too well to know she’d never be able to go through with it, no matter how much she wanted to.

Now fully back to her senses, she was aware of feet quietly shuffling around the room outside her cell. Raising herself back up to a seated position, she cautiously looked out beyond the bars, squinting slightly in case the light was still too much for her. She was hardly expecting the sight that waited her: it was a bathroom, of sorts. There was a claw foot tub in one corner, various vials and bottles filled with substances she couldn’t identify from where she sat, while in the other corner sat a wooden vanity, its surface laden with brushes, makeup, and cheap costume jewelry. It was nothing special, certainly not anything like Angel Dusts room at the studio, and looked like it could use a rather vigorous scrubbing.

As she surveyed the room, she also became aware of two fox demons walking about at a brisk pace, their pure white fur standing out against the dingy surroundings and tiny feet seeming to glide across the floor as if they were floating. The two were strangely identically, nothing really discernible about them. Their ears were fairly large, almost the same size as their heads, but their narrow faces only made them look all the more so. They were rather lanky and thin, the black robes they wore hanging off of them as if they were made of only skin and bones. Their tails dragged behind them on the floor, the dirt and grime that practically caked the cracked concrete floor getting stuck in their fur and tainting it black.

The foxes each held a single large bucket in their hands, walking from a large boiling pot off to the side of the room over to the tub and dumping the hot water inside, presumably cold water flowing from the spout above. This continued repeatedly as Ottilie watched them move in sync almost as if the two bodies shared one mind. If they noticed that she was awake and watching them, they paid her no mind.

“Um… excuse me?” Ottilie called quietly. They didn’t even acknowledge that she had spoke as one of them turned off the water and the other picked up one of the viles and poured it into the tub. The smell hit her after a moment, the steam filling the room carrying it quickly, but whatever it was nearly left her gagging; why someone would put such a thing in bath water was beyond her. “Excuse me?” she said a little louder, still trying to get their attention, but again she was ignored. Feeling a bit irritated now, she practically yelled, “Can either of you hear me or are you both just stupid?” She flinched at her own foolishness, fearing the retaliation that would come from her outburst, but it never came. Instead, they both just continued setting about preparing the bath. She was beginning to wonder if they really couldn’t hear her.

One of them walked over to a door beside the tub and opened it, revealing a small closet filled with thin towels that were only about as thick as rags and actual rags that were somehow thinner than the towels. The other pulled out a small set of keys held together by a large silver ring, each key a different color; three in total, they were painted black, gray, and white. The first pulled out two towels and a rag before setting them on the stool in front of the vanity while the second picked out the black key and the two started walking towards Ottilies cell. Ottilie tried backing further into the corner, but she was as far back as she could be, so she pressed herself into the wall so hard that it started to hurt her back. She watched as they unlocked the cell and opened the door, each of them stepping inside and crossing the small space to her. She tried to pull away as they reached for her, but she had nowhere left to go; they each grabbed an arm and yanked her to her feet, pulling her out of the small cell.

Ottilie did her best to fight them off despite something in her mind telling her not to, but she found the foxes to be quite strong despite their frail looking bodies. Their steps didn’t seem to falter as she dragged her feet along the floor to try slowing them down nor did they even react when she managed to maneuver her body enough to hit them in their sides. They simply dragged her towards the tub, their emotionless black eyes fixed on their task. Once they were at the dinghy porcelain, one grabbed her shoulders and held her in place while the other stepped behind her and pulled a small dagger out from within their robe. Her eyes widened a few seconds before she started kicking and punching at the one holding her, but they didn’t even budge.

“No, wait, don’t-!” Ottilie tried to plead as they one holding the dagger took hold of her dress and brought the dagger down. She froze, but she didn’t feel pain, only the sensation of air hitting her back as her clothing was sliced off of her, the fabric tearing as the blade cut it down the middle. She didn’t dare move with the tip of the dagger so close to her back, but her hands flew up to hold her tattered clothing to her chest before it could fall once it was pulled away from her after they had cut enough of it away. Normally, she wouldn’t care about being naked, even in front of strangers, but she was hardly comfortable in this situation when she had no idea what was going on. “No! Stop! Don’t touch me!” she demanded as they grabbed her arms again and held them to her sides, helpless as her dress fell away from her and her body was left exposed. A blush branded her cheeks, but it burned more in anger than embarrassment. The final straw was when they tried removing her gloves, her hand moving on its own accord and punching the one in front of her across the cheek, a bit of blood staining its white fur from the cut she left.

The fox reacted this time, paying back her action in kind. They didn’t hit her hard enough to leave a mark or bruise, but hard enough to get her to stop resisting. She knew she should have kept fighting if she wanted to have a chance at escaping whatever was happening to her, but something in her body simply wouldn’t let her. She was still and stiff as they pulled her gloves off, unable to do anything as the skin of her arms was exposed. The two foxes looked a bit shocked, if one could call it that, the first bit of real emotion they’d shown since first seeing them; this also brought their attention to her legs, which they were seemingly just now noticing. They looked at each other for a few seconds before resuming their task, her shoes the last thing they pulled off of her before she was left completely bare to them.

Still in a somewhat catatonic state, she wasn’t even aware they had put her into the water until her head was dunked under and she mistakenly sucked in a breath of water. She thrashed a bit as her lungs burned, but they didn’t pull her up until a few seconds later. She coughed and hacked once she hit the surface again, water dripping off of her as well as from her mouth as she tried to breath again. They paid her suffering no mind and set about washing her, but they were only about as gentle as they were before.

One began rubbing oils in her hair, practically pulling and tugging at the long strands, while the other retrieved the rag and washed her with a cheap smelling soap. Perhaps it was another form of retaliation for her having hit one of them, but it was actually quite painful as they cleaned her. The one washing her hair wasn’t careful around the gash still healing at the back of her skull, nearly causing it to reopen on more than one occasion. The second would seem to press down harder when they came across one of her bruises, though they hurt less since they had already begun to turn yellow, needing less time to heal than an open wound. They seemed to pay more attention to her arms and legs than anything else, scrubbing harder there than was necessary, but eventually gave up once they realized it was a fruitless endeavor.

Needless to say, they had scoured her raw. Her entire body was shaking by the time they finished and her legs wobbled despite her best efforts to stay steady as she climbed out of the tub, their hands once again on her arms to hold her up, but it was not out of mercy. They led her over to the vanity and forced her to stand as they took the towels and began drying her off. The thin towels were rough against her skin and she hissed as they dried her, doing her best to try and escape their hold again, but it was even less effective than last time with her body feeling as weak as it was.

Once she was sufficiently dry, they sat her down on the stool and began brushing out her hair. Whatever they had put it it had made it more manageable, but that didn’t mean they didn’t come across a knot every now and again. They pulled, tugged, and yanked until it was removed, almost making her cry out as some of them were right around where her gash was. They then pulled her hair away from her face so they could pin it back, but this only revealed the fact that half of her face was in the same state as her arms and legs before she was able to bring a hand up to cover it. They shared a look again, but still said nothing as they kept working.

It took every ounce of willpower Ottilie had not to cry. They had already stripped her naked, forced her into a bath, and scrubbed her raw. What more could they possibly do to her, she wondered. She already felt so tired as one set about styling her hair and the other came around to begin putting makeup on her face that she barely put up a fight as the second pried her hand away from her face.

They didn’t do anything extravagant with her. Her hair was tied into a simple braid with a bit of string at the end to hold it in place. With her face, they added a bit of gloss to her lips to give them some shine and made her lashes look longer with some mascara. They found themselves in a bit of a snag, however, when they tried to conceal her face with powder. Much like she’d tried on herself before, the makeup did nothing to hide the plague that was her face. They tried doing the same to her arms and legs, but the outcome was no better. With no other option, they gave up on the makeup and moved on to dressing her.

Just like her makeup and hair, the dress was nothing special. It was a simple long sleeved black dress that came down to her knees and fit about as comfortably as the towels felt; she felt a bit better with her arms covered, but only just so. They put matching black slippers on her feet, but they hardly did anything to protect her from the hard concrete floor. Now fully clothed again, they stood her up on her feet and brushed off her clothings, straightening out the wrinkles as best they could but not seeming to care if they left any behind.

They began leading her away from the vanity towards a door on the right side of the room, presumably the one they’d come in through, and she wondered briefly what the purpose of the costume jewelry was if they weren’t going to dress her in it. She thought better of asking, knowing she’d likely not get a response and not wanting to agitate them further. She’d never been much up on jewelry either way, so perhaps it was a blessing in disguise.

After the three of them were out of the room, she found herself in a dimly lit hallway with low overhanging lights dangling from the ceiling and not much else. The hall was sparse, giving it an eerie feeling as every little sound echoed rather loudly off its walls. She could feel her heart beginning to race as they walked forward, half of her screaming at herself to run while she still had the chance while the other told her to comply with what they wanted her to do or risk facing their wrath again.

She glanced at the foxes on either side of her, their hands still on her upper arms. “Where are you taking me?” she asked despite her better judgement, but she only answer she received was the same as every answer from before: silence. Her bottom lip began to tremble as she sensed that wherever it was wasn’t going to be pleasant in the slightest.

Looking around again, she began to notice that there were other doors along the long, narrow hall aside from the one they’d come out of, but for the most part she couldn’t hear anything on the other side as they passed. Occasionally she’d hear a groan, gasp, or something of the like, but that was the most she’d get from the other side. At least until they passed a gray door with the number four hundred and forty-four painted above it. Just as they were about to step past it, an ear piercing scream echoed out from behind it, the sound shaking her to the core and causing a tremor to run up her spine.

She was full on trembling now, every part of her telling her to run, the half that wanted her to comply left silent by the voice screaming in her head. Twisting and turning, she forgot how tired she’d been only moments before as she tried to pull herself away from them. The foxes held fast, but she was giving them quite the fight now as her feet dug into the floor and caused them to slow down some, the slippers on her feet nearly tearing from the counteracting forces pushing and pulling on them. Despite her best efforts, though, they eventually came to a black door with the number two hundred and twenty-two painted above. One fox somehow managed to keep ahold of her while they knocked on the door, nearly losing their grip in the process.

The door opened thirty seconds later, revealing a rather large and intimidating bull demon. He looked simultaneously shocked and excited to see Ottilie giving the foxes such a hard time. He half smirked and let out a gruff sounding chuckle before turning his head to look at the room behind him and said, “Looks like we got ourselves a live one, folks.” Ottilie was taken a bit aback as she heard the resounding cheers and calls of excitement she heard in response, but nonetheless kept fighting. “Wait here a minute. They’re just about done cleaning up after the last one.” The foxes nodded and he shut the door.

If Ottilies blood wasn’t already so cold, it surely would have frozen in her veins upon hearing that. She didn’t even want to begin to know what that statement had meant, but she had a gut wrenching feeling that she was going to find out one way or another. This only made her fight harder than before, not even caring that all of her struggles were aggravating her soar skin. She’d actually managed to bring the foxes back a few steps, a sense of hope and pride filling her as she did, when the door opened again and she was grabbed by a new set of hands.

The bull demon had no trouble taking her by the arm and lifting her off the ground, her body dangling as she was brought across the threshold. With one arm and her legs finally free, she punched, scratched, kicked, and did whatever else she could to try and get the bull to release her, but he didn’t even flinch. Laughing at her febrile attempts, he shut the door and turned to address the room. “This ones got some fire in her! I think we’re gonna have fun with it!”

Ottilie paused briefly to look around the room, finding it in not much of a better state than the one before. The checkered tile floor was cracked and dirty, looking like it hadn’t been properly cleaned in a good while. The walls were covered floor to ceiling in mirrors, the odd sight disorienting as countless reflections were thrown back at her. Overtop their heads, another bulb dangled from the ceiling, this one brighter and harsher than the ones in the hall. There were about forty seats positioned in a half circle on one side of the room, each one filled with a demon that looked all too excited to see her, some even more so after having watched her fight so hard, their eyes roaming over her like a starved dog about to be fed.

If the demons weren’t bad enough, what really got her attention was the thick, yard long chain in the center of the room, one end bolted into the floor while the other held a heavy looking lock. There was a drain not to far from it, but it need cleaning just as bad as the rest of the room did. Ten feet away from the chain on the right-hand side was a table laid out with all sorts of different ball gags, leather gloves, and whips, things she was all too familiar with. To the left, however, was another table covered in saws, knives, and just about every other tool one could imagine. Both tables and the instruments that sat on them, as well as the area around the chain bolted into the floor, were practically immersed in blood, some of it dry and some of it fresh.

Ottilie felt her heart begin to race even faster than before, her breath coming out in short bursts and eyes widening to a large degree. Her fight or flight instinct kicked in and, since she couldn’t make flight, she had to fight. She resumed her kicking, clawing, and punching, but this only seemed to excite the crowd more; if she wasn’t so busy trying to escape, she might have wondered what their problem was.

The bull demon laughed at her attempts again and spun her around to face him, his hot breath developing her face as he snorted in it. She stared at him in a mixture of fear and anger as he said, “Welcome to The Red Room.”

*****

Ottilie had always thought that her death would be the worst thing she would ever experience. She remembered the pain of the cold so vividly, the proof of it forever burned into her very skin, never truly feeling warm no matter how many layers she wore or how close someone dared hold her. She hated the cold now, but she could never escape from it, and had learned to accept it. Having apparent nearly permanent amnesia and constantly feeling lonely even when she was surrounded by an entire crowd of people was painful enough as it was, but neither had never caused her any physical harm.

None of that compared to the pain she’d endured over the last three days, however.

She’d heard of Red Rooms before. People would talk about the awful things that would go on in them, some of them disgusted and others all too excited, and she’d be left feeling sick to her stomach just hearing about them. They were places where patrons would pay to see brutal tortures take place and some would pay extra to see their darkest fantasies brought to life. In the mortal world, they would ultimately lead to death, but that hardly ever happened in a place where everyone was already dead. She’d always heard the warnings to stay as far away from them as possible and certainly didn’t need to hear them twice, but now she’d experienced their brutality first hand and understood why they were so feared.

The first time had been pure torture. At first, she’d only been chained to the center of the floor and the bull demon slapped her around a bit, their audience getting a kick out of watching her lilac skin bruise and bleed a bit. After some time, however, the bull had begun asking what they wanted done to her. Some of it wasn’t so bad, a bit of hair pulling here and tossing her around there, but the more people paid the worse it got. They began to want her to be choked until she nearly passed out, bones to be broken so they stuck out at odd angles, and cut until she wasn’t sure she had any blood left to bleed. She wasn’t sure how she made it through without passing out, but she had held on as best she could for fear of what they might do to her if she did. Somehow, she made it through that one hour of torment until the bull announced that time was up and the fox demons returned for her.

The fox demons had dragged her back to the room she’d woken up in, her body truly too weak to try and fight them this time. She expected them to throw her inside her cell and be done with her, which is what she wanted as she wanted nothing more than to be alone in that moment, but much to her dismay they didn’t. Instead, they set about mending her wounds and resetting her bones. They were more gentle now that she wasn’t fighting them, as if she had a choice in the matter, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t still painful. It would have no doubt hurt worse if she had tried to fight them and she was almost glad she didn’t. Once she was cleaned and dressed again, she was placed in her cell and finally left alone.

After the fifth time, she lay in her cell again: bruised, beaten, cleaned, and dressed all over again, confused as to why they bothered tending to her wounds when it was all just going to repeat the next time. She shivered as she lay on the floor, the nightgown they gave her no thicker than the rags they used to clean her with, but not from the cold; she never felt the cold. She was trying her hardest not to cry. It would be so easy to let the tears flow, to give in to them, but she felt like that would somehow be letting them win. She fought with all her might, the only fighting she seemed to be able to do anymore without any repercussions, until she was so exhausted that she couldn’t keep her eyes open anymore.

It was after the sixth time that things began to change. The routine started out as normal: they came into the room and prepped it to ready her for the horror to come, retrieved her from her cell, and cleaned her. She noticed as they washed her that they were dressed differently, dawning grey robes instead of black, but said nothing and pushed it from her mind as she tried to mentally prepare herself for what was to come. Next should have came the black dress and slippers, but after they removed her from the tub one of them quickly removed a syringe from within their cloak. She barely had any time to register what was happening before the needle was thrust into her arm, the inky black liquid injected into her body as they pressed down on the plunger. A hiss escaped her as the flesh around the afflicted area began to sting, the sensation traveling quickly throughout her body as it flowed through her bloodstream.

“What have you given me?” she asked, worried what the mysterious liquid was going to do to her, as they led her over to the vanity. Their continued silence only made her worry more and she regretted even having asked.

Before they sat her down at the vanity, they picked up the dress and placed it over her head, shimmying it down her body rather than zipping it on as they’d done before. She immediately noticed another large difference in the dress, seeing that it was gray rather than black. It was also of a finer quality than the others, less rough on her skin and more pleasing to the eye, but still nothing extravagant. The slippers were also replaced with flats that offered her feet slightly better protection, but only so much. Alarm bells began going off in her head as they’d never put her in anything different before, but she fought back the urge to resist them, knowing she’d need all the strength she had for what was to come.

After she took her place in the stool, they set about doing her makeup and hair. Rather than the usual style, they twisted and tied the long strands into a fishtail braid and a few of the braids were adorned with hair clips studded with strings of faux pearls. They placed a matching string of pearls around her neck, the short set almost looking like a choker. For her makeup, they put a light amount of foundation and powder on her, just enough to almost make it seem to glow, while ignoring the afflicted right side of her face. They traced the outside of her eye with black liner, making it look fuller and sharper, and applied mascara to her lashes for the same effect. They added just a touch of blush to her cheeks, accenting the light blush she already had there. Lastly, they brushed eyeshadow across her eyelid and painted her lips, both colors just a shade darker than her skin.

Looking in the mirror, she might have thought she looked just a bit pretty if she were seeing it under different circumstances.  

Once again, they stood her up from the chair and led her out of the room, each on either side of her with a hand on her arm to keep her in place. They always kept their grip just a little tighter than need be, seemingly prepared for the chance that she might try to fight them off again. There was no need for it, though. She’d already learned her lesson about wearing herself out after the first time and followed them willingly, her head held high despite the fear coursing through her veins. She always tried to mentally prepare herself as they traveled down the hall, but there didn’t seem to be anything she could do to be ready for whatever sick, depraved torment they had in store for her.

She lost any train of thought she had, however, when they stopped not in front of the door marked two hundred and twenty-two in black paint, but the one with four hundred and forty-four painted across the top. She remembered all too well hearing that first scream from beyond the wood and stiffened, her fear doubling as she tried to brace herself for the unknown. The foxes felt her reaction and stiffened as well, ready for her to try and fight them off again, but relaxed just a bit after a moment when she did nothing further before one of them knocked on the door.

Expecting to see the bull demon on the other side, Ottilie was caught off guard again when it opened to reveal a bat demon. She wasn’t quite as tall nor as broad as the bull, but she had a decent amount of muscle on her underneath the short black fur that covered her thin body. Her face almost look like that of the fox demons, but hers was thinner and the ears on top of her head were much smaller. Her short black hair was cut in a front angle bob at her jaw bone, framing her thin face in a complementary way. Her eyes were about the same size, large and round on her face, but were a light blue in color. She was also better dressed than the other people Ottilie had seen so far; her top was a rather nice grey silk blouse with silver buttons, a dark gray skit with two darker lines running vertically an inch above the hem of the skirt, gray hosiery that somehow managed to hide the fur on her legs, and matching garden party heels with little flowers on the toes. An apron was tied around her waist, the pockets filled with stir sticks, straws, sugar, and other such things while in her hand was a serving tray, a few empty shot and whiskey glasses sitting on top.

Ottilie was also surprised to find that she wasn’t hit with the stale stench of blood and mold when the door opened. The room beyond the bat demon smelt of violets, blueberries, and a faint hint of potted soil, a pleasant aroma that oddly made her think of garden parties spent sharing stories of favorite memories and sipping beaujolais wine as the summer breezes kept the occupants cool in the warm sun. She could practically see the children running about between the legs of the adults who didn’t pay them much mind, free in their play clothes and enjoying their time before they were forced back into their stuffy day clothes, and could hear the laughter of said adults as someone finished a rather jolly tale of times long passed. It was so surreal of a feeling that she found herself feeling disappointed when the bat demon looked her over, said that she would do, and told them to wait a moment and shut the door; she nearly forgot herself and almost followed after her, but the two fox demons reminded her of where she was and the desire faded all too quickly, taking the joy she felt with it.

The moment that followed was passed in relative silence in the hallway, as it always did, while to her left she could hear violent sobbing and whimpers of pain and to her right the sound of whips and chains rattling through the air but not much else. She flinched a bit with each new outburst of agony and discomfort that filled her ears, feeling empathy for the pain they were going through and knowing that her own suffering was about to commence.

While the three of them waited and she tried not to think about what was happening in the rooms around her, a strange feeling began to wash over her. It started as a tingle at first in the spot where they had injected the syringe into her arm before growing into an odd sensation she couldn’t seem to describe quite right. It felt like someone was blowing on her from the inside while also hardening them, her body going almost completely rigid yet still somehow able to move. She began to truly fear whatever they had given her now as it continued to work its way through her body, slithering through her veins like a venomous snake out for the kill.

When the door opened again and the bat demon stepped aside to let them through, the smell hit her again and she had to remind herself that she wasn’t meant to find it pleasant. After they stepped inside, she quickly took in as much as she could, getting a layout of her new surroundings. The room was a bit more spacious than the previous and certainly cleaner, the grey honeycomb tile pattern on the floor free of any chips, cracks, or bloodstains. Despite being spacious, however, there were only about half as many chairs in the room, these being cushioned wood rather than metal folding ones. A chain was still bolted into the center of the room, but it hung from the ceiling rather being placed on the floor. The lighting was dimmer as well, just slightly brighter than outside but much less harsh than the one in the other room. There was a small bar in one corner of the room, the shelves lined with a small selection of liquor that passed for middle class, another bat demon dressed in the same color scheme as the first mixing drinks behind it. Wax warmers were placed in a few spots around the room, no doubt where the earthy smell was coming from. The patrons were dressed differently as well. Whereas the others would wear hoodies, t-shirts, ripped jeans, and skirts that were almost too tiny to cover anything, the demons before her donned blouses, dress shirts, slacks, black pants, and pencil shirts that actually went past their knees. The only thing that was the same about the room were the floor to ceiling mirrors that lined each wall, endless reflections staring back at her, enough of them to make her dizzy if she stared long enough.

“Place her on the chain. Raoul will be back shortly,” the bat demon instructed before walking over to the bar to retrieve the drinks the bartender had just finished.

As the fox demons did as they were told, Ottilie looked around the room again, finding all sets of twenty eyes on her. They watched her in a mix of curiosity and spite; to them, she was only a lower class being whose purpose was to serve and entertain them. More than a few of them seemed quite interested in her odd appearance, their eyes roaming over her arms, legs, and face like she was a painting they couldn’t seem to understand the meaning of. Normally, she would have avoided their gaze, but showing them that kind of weakness only spurred them on.

“Such a pretty little thing, don’t you think?”

“Oh, yes. Such a beauty.”

“And the rarity of that skin. Perhaps I’ll buy a sample before we leave.”

“I simply adore that hair. I think I’ll add it to my collection.”

“This one can actually look you in the eye.”

“I guess they haven’t broken her in yet.”

“Maybe she’s new?”

“No, not new. You can see the fading scars on her.”

“This may just be a good show after all.”

It was a wonder how she could tell what they were saying with so many whispered conversations going on, but she somehow managed. It was making her sick, the way they were talking about her, like she was some new product being sold off at auction. Perhaps that's all she was at the moment, but that didn’t make any of it right. Their discussions were abruptly cut short, however, when a secret door hidden in the panel of a mirror at the back of the room was pushed open. They all turned to look as a spider demon, who she could only assume was Raoul, entered the room.

He was at least the same height was Angel Dust, but had one more visible set of arms than he did and looked slightly shorter since he wasn’t wearing boots. Instead, he wore a three piece gray suit with a silver pocket watch clipped across the pockets of his vest, dark gray loafers and matching gloves on each hand. His face was more rounded with two large black eyes in the middle while six identical ones sat in the center of his forehead, his mouth small with a set of fanged chelicerae framing it, and his fur was a dark brown instead of light pink.

Raoul regarded the room with a respectful bow of his head before his eyes landed on her, his head tilting curiously as he began to walk towards her, the door swinging closed behind him as he let it go. “Well, what have we here?” he asked, one set of hands on his hips, another crossed, and the other placed under his arm as he placed a finger to his chin as if deep in thought. She backed away a bit, but didn’t have much room to move with the chain holding her arms above her head. He circled around her a few times once he reached her, regarding her with a look of pride. “Yes, yes. What a lovely work of art we have. The canvas is a bit damaged, but nothing that can’t be fixed.” That earned a few chuckles from around the room. He turned to the two foxes, who stood patiently off to the side out of the way. “You did very well, my friends. You may leave now.” He clapped his hands and the foxes bowed low at the waist before departing. “Now then, do step into the light, my dear. Let the ladies and gentlemen see you properly.”

Ottilie flinched and let out a small gasp as she felt a few of his hands on her back, fearing it was beginning already, but all he did was nudge her forward a few steps. “Don’t touch me!” she blurted out before she could stop herself. Their audience seemed to get a kick out of her reaction, some of them laughing at her distress.

“Come, come. We mustn’t be rude,” Raoul tutted, speaking in a condescending manner as if he were reprimanding a child or pet. “These fine folks paid good money for us to provide them with their entertainment for the evening. We certainly can’t let them down, can we?” He clapped his hands again and the bat demon who was behind the bar came around it wheeling a long cart laid out with the same tools as the room before, but these were much cleaner and looked fairly new compared to the others. He leaned down so he was level with her face, his head turned so he could look at her. “So, what shall we start off with, hm? The bullwhip or the cat o'nine tails?” She kept silent as she stared him straight in his two largest eyes, her gaze never wavering. “Letting the house decide, are we? How very considerate of you.” He walked over to the cart and picked one up, inspecting it quickly before turning back to her. “My personal favorite is the cat o’nine tails, but I think we’ll start off easy seeing how you were such a good sport just now.” He walked back around so her back was to him and stepped back a few paces, giving ample room between him and her. “I think you and I are going to work well together, don’t you agree?” She was given no time to answer, even if she had been about to, before his arm shot out and he flicked his wrist.

Ottilie was no stranger being whipped. She’d been whipped many a times during her days filming for the studio and had actually sort of liked it despite it not being her usual forte, but of course she’d also done more than her fair share of whipping others as well. All of that had been staged, though, and was never really meant to hurt anyone. The bull demon had whipped countless times, the pain so bad that she lost track of just how many lashings she’d gotten; he wasn’t gentle or careful about it, either, but of course he had no reason to be when pain was the only reaction he wanted out of her.

None of those times combined had ever hurt like this, though. The thong sailed through the air and Raoul flicked his wrist, causing the popper to collide with her back directly in the center. He hadn’t even struck her that hard, but even with the dress coming between it and her skin, it still stung, like her flesh had been cut open with a small blade. She sucked in a strangled breath, her mouth agape as she fought the urge to cry out. Her resolve was lost, however, when Raoul brought his hand back and hit her again, the popper connecting in almost exactly the same spot. A whimper escaped her and tears began to prick her eyes; she held them back as best she could and it was all she could do to resist them. Again and again he struck her with the whip, his attacks getting stronger and stronger each time. By the end of it, the back of the dress was in tatters and her back felt like liquid fire was being poured on her back; she’d never been burned before, but she could only imagine that would be what it felt like. She could barely see through the tears that clouded her vision and felt ashamed at herself when a few escaped her hold, rolling off her cheeks and onto the floor.

Raoul was panting bit as he pulled out his pocket watch and checked the time, slightly out of breath from nearly over exerting himself. “My, my. You held out for quite a while. Fifteen minutes to be exact.” He walked over to the car and placed the whip off to the side of it, rolling it up carefully so as not to get blood on anything else just yet. “Fortunately, we still have forty-five minutes left, and I think our guests would like to see more of what you have in store for them. Isn’t that right, folks?” He earned a few cheers and whistles in agreement, their audience indeed eager to see more after watching the first display.

Ottilie felt sick again as she hung her head, her bottom lip trembling along with the rest of her body. She’d only endured fifteen minutes of this torture, but it already felt like a lifetime. How she was expected to survive another forty-five minutes was beyond her. Then again, she’d never seen anyone else entering or leaving the other rooms that was dressed like her even when they took her out the back exits after they were done with her, so maybe she wasn’t supposed to survive it. Maybe she’d just been lucky enough to pull through when others couldn’t tough it out, but that hardly seemed like a thing to be proud of when all it brought her was more pain.

She could have just given up right then and there. It would have been so easy to let her mind go numb to the pain as they did whatever they pleased to her. Perhaps they might even have let her go once they realized she was useless to them like that; that was probably what happened to the others that had ended up where she was, their eyes glazed over as they remained permanently oblivious to the world, uncaring of what happened to them or anyone else around them. She couldn’t do that, though. That would be letting them win whatever twisted and demented game they were playing and she was tired of being the one to lose to everyone else; she felt a bit of deja vu thinking that, her last encounter with Alastor popping into her head. If she could survive a round with the Radio Demon, surely she could survive this.

“Now then, who would like to make the first payment?” Raoul asked. Ottlite raised her head just a bit to see multiple hands fly up, their hands still but their expressions eager. “I saw your hand first, madam. What would you like to see?”

The woman in question smiled as she pulled a small wade of cash from the purse in her lap and handed it to the bat demon as she came over to collect it. “I hear you have a killer left hook. For five hundred, lets see just how hard you can hit.”

Raoul glanced at the bat demon, who quickly finished counting the money and gave him an equally quick nod. “You flatter me too much, madam. I do hope I can live up to your expectations.”

“Oh, I’m sure you will,” the woman smiled wider, revealing her particularly sharp teeth.

Raoul turned back to Ottilie as he began rolling up his sleeves. If he noticed that she was no longer hanging her head in shame, he didn’t seem to care. “I’ll avoid that pretty face of yours while I can. Works of art like you aren’t exactly a dime a dime a dozen, you know.”

“I’ll try not to feel too flattered,” Ottilie replied quietly so only he could hear her. Raoul flashed something akin to a smile, finding her pleasantly humorous compared to most of the other demons he’d ‘worked’ with in the past, before his body twisted back and then forward, his fist connecting with her ribcage. She grunted at the pain, but somehow managed to keep her foot despite stumbling back. She barely had a second to regain her barings before his fist came at her again, hitting her once again in nearly the same spot. There was a delayed reaction from her this time as the force of the blow broke at least two of her ribs, her mind going into shock before a broken cry escaped her, her lung pressing painfully against the broken bones and making it hard to breath. A few gasps escaped across the crowd before they started to clap, the woman who’d made the request begging for an encore. She staggered back a few steps, hopping to miss his fist this time, but her movements only caused him to hit her in the stomach.

Raoul looked down in semi shock as her body lurched forward and the meger bit of food they’d given her only a few hours before came spilling out of her mouth, his shoes now covered in the sticky mess. “Oh, dear me. That certainly wasn’t supposed to happen.” He turned to look at the crowd, but they were hardly upset about the sight of vomit all over the floor and on his shoes. “Oh well. As long as it keeps them happy.” He turned around fully. “So, who do we have next, then?” More hands shot up. “You, sir. What will it be?”

“Show me her teeth,” the man cocked his head slightly. Raoul nodded and reached for her head, having to fight her a bit as she tried to jerk away; eventually, he grabbed hold of her jaw and peeled her lip back, showing that she had perfectly straight and flat teeth. Everyone seemed a little shocked by this. His eyes went wide before he pulled his wallet out and produced a stack of bills. “I’ll have one of those for eight hundred.” One bat demon collected the money while the other walked over to the cart and retrieved a pair of pliers from it.

Ottilies eyes widened as the bat demon came towards her with the pliers in hand and she tried to wrench her head out of Raoul’s grasp, but the spider demon held fast and she was helpless as she felt the pliers pass her lips. “Just one from the back. Leave the front in tact,” he said in a low voice, the bat nodding in reply. She closed her eyes tight as the pliers took hold of a tooth, but this did nothing to lessen the affliction as it was yanked out of her mouth. Her eyes flew open and a silent scream was etched on her face as blood began to flow from the place where her tooth had once been, the spot beginning to throb like a second heartbeat. They released her face and she tried to close her mouth, but that only seemed to hurt as bad as having her tooth pulled in the first place, so she was forced to leave her mouth open just a bit, a bit of blood trickling from the corner. She watched as they placed her tooth in a small velvet lined bag and handed it over to the buyer, his greedy hand clutching it like it held all the secrets in the universe.

“Next?” Raoul asked and Ottilie had to stifle the groan that rose in her throat.

“Six hundred. Let’s see the crucifixion method,” the male said when he was called upon.

Ottilie was visibly confused about what this meant, not seeing how something like that was possible when there was no cross to be found in the room, but she was about to find out. Her eyes followed Raoul as he retrieved four nails from the cart as well as a hammer. He knelt down at her feet, taking one of the nails in hand and placing it near the base. Her eyes were wide as he held the nail in one hand and lifted the hammer with the other, bringing it down swiftly. Her leg flew back, the point of the nail cutting her foot in the process, and the hammer came down only to have the nail embed into the tile below.

Raoul looked up in frustration just in time to have her knee come flying back and connect with his face. He fell flat on his back, grunting as he hit the floor. The two bat demons moved into action, one of them trying to help him up while the other went for Ottilie. Unfortunately for them, she had a surprising amount of upper body strength and used the momentary confusion to climb up the chain, her hands holding on to the very top of it with all their might. The bat let out a low screech and took to the air, intending to bring her back down as she was out of his reach on the ground, but she used the remaining chain that dangled slightly to smack him across the face with it. The bat fell back to the floor in a flurry of screeching and flailing limbs, nearly landing on his head in the process. The other bat demon tried to fly up and do the same thing, avoiding the chain this time, but too focused on not getting by it that they didn’t notice her foot until it had already hit their wing joint, dislocating it and causing them to also fall to the floor.

By now, Raoul had already righted himself and was done with the shenanigans. He walked over to the wall and easily scaled it despite the mirrored surface, his numerous limbs moving at a fast pace. Once on the ceiling, he was able to move at a faster pace and headed straight for Ottilie. She saw him coming, but wasn’t able to get a good angle on him to fend him off, so she was left with no choice but to drop back down to the floor. The bat demons, having anticipated this, came for her right away, seeking retaliation for the damage done to their bodies and pride. They never got the chance to touch her, however, when Raoul descended from the chain and landed between them and her, a hand still on the chain to keep her in place as she tried to step away from him.

“Enough,” Raoul said in a low but commanding voice, the his two assistants instantly backing down. “The young miss has been through a lot. I think she deserves that bit of reprieve. Agreed?” Ottilie was surprised by this and, though she knew it probably wasn’t for her own benefit that he’d come between her and them, was silently grateful for it. The bat demons reluctantly nodded their heads and returned to their posts. “Now then, I believe this gentlemen wanted to see the-.”

“No need for that anymore,” the man interrupted as he shook his head. “That was much better than anything I could have come up with.” The other patrons nodded their heads, a few of them having to stifle their laughter as they watched the scene unfold and others actually wanting to see it happen again, but knowing that something like that wouldn’t fly in a place like this.

“I see,” Raoul said as he released the chain and adjusted his clothing, smoothing out the wrinkles the altercation had left in them. He then pulled out his watch and checked the time. “We still have another fifteen minutes left. Who will be next?”

Someone let out a puff of breath in disbelief and said, “Good luck topping that,” as hands were raised again.

“Yes, ma’am. What do you have for us today?” Raoul asked, ignoring the comment.

“One thousand. Cut off her tail. Slowly.”

Ottilie had never realized just how many nerve endings she had in her tail before that day. She was in agony as Raoul held her under three on her arms and worked on her tail with the others, a dull blade in one hand. No matter how much she struggled or protested, she couldn’t shake him off. She even tried pleading with him despite her better judgement, but nothing she said made his stop. True to the command, he cut through her flesh agonizingly slowly. Blood began to spill from from the open wound, just a few drops at first, until it was coming out of her like water from a stream. He did it so slowly that the hour was nearly up and he was only two-thirds of the way through, so he had to quickly slice off the remaining skin and muscle there, a very small mercy granted to her to end the ongoing misery.

“I’m afraid that’s all the time we have for this session. I do hope you’ve enjoyed your time here today,” Raoul said, releasing Ottilie to let her dangle from the chain, her body too weak from the blood loss to support her weight. She didn’t have to dangle there long because the foxes returned for her only a moment later. There were protests from the audience as she was released from the chain, begging him for just a little more time. “I’m very sorry, but my assistant here needs her rest. You’ll just have to wait until she’s ready to perform again next time. In the meantime, would anyone like to purchase this last souvenir?” He held up her severed tail to them and one would have thought he was offering them the throne of Hell with the amounts of money they were willing to give for it.

*****

The foxes were surprisingly gentle as they cleaned and mended her this time, but that didn’t seem to matter. It still hurt like Heaven when they touched her injuries. It burned just as badly as being hit with the whip when the tended to her back, making her flinch and whimper each time they dabbed at her with the rubbing alcohol. They put an oral salve in her mouth to help her tooth grow back in fast, but it tasted awful and it took all of her self control not to spit it out before it had time to set in. There wasn’t much they could do for her tail aside from clean the area and apply a salve there as well, but it would take longer to grow back than her tooth. They put her in a better nightgown this time, the fabric less rough against her skin, but it still hurt when it rubbed against her back. She was even given a pillow and blanket for her cell, making it just a bit more comfortable to sleep in, but they could hardly replace the comfort of a bed.

Once she was left alone, she finally lost control of herself and cried. She didn’t let go completely, just enough to help relieve some of the pain she was in. It didn’t do much as most of her pain was physical rather than mental, but it was better than just keeping it bottled up inside until she eventually broke down in front of those monsters. She had told herself that she could survive this, but she wasn’t so sure of herself anymore. She could make promises to herself all she wanted, but it was only a matter of time before everything took its toll and she simply couldn’t bare the weight of it anymore. Heaven only knew she couldn’t keep it up forever.

As she cried, she found herself quietly saying Angel Dusts name, the sound coming out between broken sobs like she was speaking a prayer. She hoped she could see him one last time before she slipped away, but that would have been impossible. He’d always said he wouldn’t come within a country mile of a place like that even if they offered free drugs. She found herself saying the others names, too. She hadn’t known them for very long, but they’d become a part of her every day life that she found herself missing them. Charlie had always been so nice to her and Vaggie had come to respect her after they warmed up to each other. Husk wasn’t much of a people person, but he’d made her silently laugh more than a few times with his comebacks. Nifty would always talk to her during meals, not forcing her to talk if she didn’t want to, and that was nice considering she could never seem to find anything to say. Mimzy had been a bit standoffish towards her, but she still found her witty and charming when she wasn’t throwing her death glares. She’d never really talked much with Baxter or Crymini, but they seemed like decent enough individuals. Heaven, she even found herself missing Alastor. That thought made her question if she’d already lost her sanity as she drifted off to sleep.

*************

“I really don’t think this is going to work the way you want it to,” Vaggie pointed out, she and Charlie peeking around the doorway to see into the parlor.

“It has to work. He’s been like this since we put the flyers up,” Charlie replied, both of them looking looking at the end table where the phone sat, Angel Dust kneeling in front of it with his arms crossed over it and his chin sitting on top, his eyes glued to the phone.

“If offering him a kilo of cocaine didn’t work, what makes you think this will?” Vaggie wondered, looking up at her.

“Because it’s the only idea we’ve got left,” Charlie retorted before looking behind them into the hall. “Husk, go do your thing.”

“Do I have to?” Husk grumbled. “Why can’t you make Alastor do this shit?”

“You want that glass of whiskey I promised you, don’t you?” Vaggie asked.

“Vaggie!” Charlie reprimanded.

“It was the only way he’d say yes!” Vaggie quickly explained. “I didn’t have anything else to bribe him with!”

“Fine, but you only get a shots worth,” Charlie conceded.

“Full glass,” Husk deadpanned.

“Two thirds,” Charlie tried again.

“Full glass,” Husk said in the same tone as before.

“Two and a half thirds…?” Charlie said hopefully.

“Full. Fucking. Glass,” Husk looked her dead in the eyes.

“Ugh, fine. You win,” Charlies shoulders slumped, “but I’m filling the glass.”

“Whatever,” Husk shrugged before stepping around them and into the parlor. He walked a few feet towards Angel Dust, who hadn’t seemed to notice him yet, and looked back at the two women. Charlie gave him two thumbs up while Vaggie encouragingly waved her hands forward, telling him there was no backing out of this now. With a reluctant sigh, he walked the last remaining feet and stood to the side of the end table where Angel Dust would surely see him. “Oh, no. It is Angel Dust. You have found me out here in the open with no one around to stop you from doing anything. Please do let me go peacefully,” he said in a monotone voice, his hands stretched out on either side of him as if inviting the advance.

Husk waited a moment, but Angel Dust didn’t budge or acknowledge his presence. He looked at Charlie and Vaggie again, a eyebrow raised as even he was surprised that nothing happened, shrugging again at the two of them. They shrugged as well, not sure of what to do now. It seemed drastic times called for drastic measures. He turned and pounce down on all fours, his butt hanging in the air as he lifted his tail, giving Angel Dust a full view of it. He shook his rear end back and forth in a taunting manner.

My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard,

And they're like,

It's better than yours,

Damn right it's better than yours,

I can teach you,

But I have to charge.”

Charlie and Vaggie could only watch in stunned silence as Husk continued to shake his butt in the air, unaware that someone else had walked into the room from the other doorway and was now watching from behind as well.

“I know you want it,

The thing that makes me,

What the guys go crazy for.

They lose their minds,

The way I wind,

I think it's time.”

Husk looked from between his legs to see if Angel Dust was watching only to be greeted by the sight of a familiar pair of shoes facing his way. He quickly scrambled up and turned to face Alastor with an mixed expression of shock and utter humiliation. He and Alastor just stared at each other for a moment, the deer demon wearing a stunned smile, before the later of the two said, “I wasn’t aware that males could go into heat but I guess you learn something new every day!”

Husks usual grouchy face returned and he said, “I hate you so much,” as he turned and left the room. “And you owe me two glasses now,” he informed Charlie as he passed them.

Alastor watched him go with a questioning look on his face before his attention turned to Angel Dust, who still hadn’t moved from his spot on the floor. He leaned over so their heads were level and they could talk face-to-face. “That telephone must be saying some interesting things for you to be staring at if for so long!” Angel Dust said nothing. “Baby want to go for a ride in the car?” Again, nothing. “Great talk! Great talk! We have have these more often!” He patted Angel on the head and walked away.

“We just don’t know what to do anymore, Alastor,” Charlie said worriedly as she continued to stare at Angel. “We’ve tried everything, but he still won’t come away from the phone!”

“Did you try telling him his father would be calling? I got him off the phone once with that,” Alastor said teasingly.

“That was one of the first things we tried. He didn’t even blink,” Vaggie explained. “He’s still holding out hope that someone whos seen Ottilie will see the fliers and call about her. It’s already been a week since we put them up and nothing has come from it.”

“Maybe it’s time we tried something else?” Charlie suggested. “We could walk the streets again and ask if anyone there has seen her.”

Alastor let out a long sigh, as if he felt sympathy for their plight. “I truly hate to have to be the one to say this, but I think it’s time we all just face facts. If we haven’t found her by now, there’s a good chance she’s already-.”

“Don’t you fucking say it, you pill!” Angel Dust suddenly shouted, his face contorting in anger. “Someone's gonna call and she’s gonna come home! So shut your fucking mouth before I shove one foot in your mouth and the other up your ass!” He slumped back over the end table and resumed his former position, going back to silent again. His head shot up, “And tell Husk to stop trying to distract me with his sexy ass!” His head flopped down.

“Well, I guess that’s that, then,” Alastor said after a brief moment of silence. “I’ll be returning to my room.”

“Hold it! What’s in the box?” Vaggie demanded, noticing the cardboard cube in his arms.

“Oh, this?” Alastor asked, holding it up slightly. “Nothing of importance. You wouldn’t be interested in it.”

“If it’s nothing important, than you wouldn’t mind opening it,” Vaggie placed her hands on her hips.

“Well, alright. If you insist,” Alastor shrugged, placing his hand on the lid. Charlie stepped forward curiously while Vaggie backed away.

“What is it? Is it a severed head? Body parts? Organs? Dead babies?” Vaggie asked worriedly.

“Why on Earth would it dead babies?” Charlie asked, she and Alastor looking at her in question.

“You never know with him,” Vaggie replied, her face scrunching in disgust as she thought of all the awful things that might be in the box.

Charlie turned back with a shake of her head as Alastor resumed opening the box, having to stand slightly on her toes to see inside. “It’s sewing supplies.”

“What?” Vaggie asked in disbelief stepping forward now.

“See. Look. It’s all just sewing supplies,” Charlie explained further, gesturing to the box as she stepped aside.

Vaggie looked in as well, indeed only seeing needles, thread, and bundles of cloth inside. “Hm,” she hummed in thought before starting to dig around, picking things up and pushing them aside. She eventually came to the bottom of the box, finding nothing inside that would give cause for concern. She looked up at Alastor as he tilted his head with a smug smile.

“Are you satisfied now, dear?” he asked.

Vaggie narrowed her eyes at him, but put everything back in its place and stepped away. “I’m still keeping my eye on you.”

“Careful. You’ve only got the one eye to begin with. You might get hurt if you don’t look where you’re going,” Alastor said cryptically as he put the lid back on the box and turned away.

“Are you threatening me?” Vaggie asked angrily.

“I wouldn’t dream of it, dear,” Alastor replied before rounding the corner out of sight.

“You know, you could try trusting him a bit more. He has been very well behaved these last few weeks,” Charlie pointed out.

Vaggie stared at her long and hard. “I still wouldn’t trust him even if he was crowned a saint.”

“We really need to work on your trust issues.”

“We really need to work on your lack thereof.”

*****

Alastor was doing his best to curve his agitation as he made the walk to his room. He didn’t much like his privacy being invaded, but knew it would be inevitable if he wanted to get them off his back. He was tempted to find another of his minions again and take it out on them, but he didn’t have the time. He had to stay focussed on the task at hand.

His long legs made short work of taking the stairs in long strides and he was in front of his door in no time. He turned the knob and pushed the door open, finding Alton, Ozzy, Sammy, and Chase there where he’d left them. Sammy and Ozzy had been sitting when he entered the room, but stood respectfully when they saw him.

“Did you get what I asked for?” he questioned as he shut the door behind him, the minimal lighting in the room making its occupants look eerie.

“Mandrake root,” Ozzy said with pride as he held up said plant, his hand covered in dirt and soil. “Had to go through a few fire swamps to find it.”

“A sacrifice of the innocence,” Alton smirked, gesturing to a dead crow placed on a plate on the coffee table. “I took all of my willpower not to eat it.”

“Slippery elm,” Chase produced a sandwich baggie filled with leaves and tossed it on the table beside the bird, scratching the back of his hand after letting it go. “Turns out I’m allergic.”

“Hair of the intended,” Sammy held a braided lock of hair held together by a bit of string. “I almost did find enough to make this but it turned out that Dust fellow had a lock of it in his room. Is it just me or is that creepy?”

“Just you,” the other four replied with no emotion.

Alastor set the cardboard box he’d been hold on the coffee table beside the other items as Ozzy added his to the bunch as well. After taking the lid off again, he removed the top layer of sewing supplies, revealing the hidden compartment underneath. Inside were book and other ritualistic materials that dealt with voodoo. “Now, let’s find us a maid, shall we?”

*************

Ottilie could feel herself slipping further and further away as time passed. She was holding on to her sanity as best she could, but it was a losing battle the more time she spent locked in her cell and forced to endure their torments time and time again. Each time they came for her brought some new form of torture as they came up with more creative ways to hurt her. She actually found herself looking forward to the days when she was in the black room where they didn’t put so much effort in, but they hardly sent her there anymore; she’d been well received in the gray room and was now quite popular there, word spreading about her quickly and demons requesting her almost every night.

She found she hated the silence that filled her cell as she waited for them to come for her. The quiet left time for her to think and all she could seem to think about was how much she didn’t want to go through all that pain again. It was the only time she ever did it consciously and a vicious voice at the back of her head whispered how awful it was every time she did it, but it was the only thing she could do to fill the silence and helped her hold on to whatever sanity she had left.

“I guess I'll have to face

That in this awful place

I shouldn't show a trace of doubt

But pulled against the grain

I feel a little pain

That I would rather do without

 

“I'd rather be

Free-ee-ee, free-ee-ee, free

I'd rather be

Free-ee-ee, free-ee-ee, free

Free-ee-ee, free-ee-ee, free

From here.”

Despite that vicious voice, she almost felt happy when she sang. It was the one thing she had complete control over anymore and gave her a sense of hope. Something told her she only had to hold on just a bit longer and perhaps she would be free, but how long did she have to wait, she wondered, and for what was she waiting.

“I don’t know what to do without you

I don’t know where to put my hands

I’ve been trying to lay my hair down

but I’m writing this at 3 am

 

“And i don’t need the world to see

that i’ve been the best i can be

but i don’t think i could stand to be

where you don’t see me.

On sunny days i go out walk-.”

She was cut off as she heard the flick of a lightswitch and quickly shut her eyes, not wanting to be blinded by the bright lights, already attuned to the warning signs. She slowly opened her eyes and felt her heart sink. She’d been dreading this day above all else, but knew it had to happen eventually. It was only a matter of time and it seemed hers was up. She knew then that she wouldn’t make it through this time. How could she possibly when she knew tonight would be the worst she’d ever been through. She wondered if it would hurt to lose herself completely or if she would simply fall into the blissful nothingness; she hoped for the later, but she hardly ever got what she wanted, so why should this time be any different.

The foxes were wearing white robes.

She waited patiently as they prepped the room, just they always did. The filled the tub with water and added a bit of bubble bath to it, the air filling with the scent of jasmine and lilies; it was a rather pleasant last smell for her to remember, so she thought she’d hold on to it. They opened the linen closet and pulled out two towels, both looking fluffy and soft to the touch. From a drawer in the vanity, they pulled out a few velvet lined boxes that were different in sizes, but she couldn’t see what was inside; it didn’t matter as she would find out soon enough. One of them retrieved the keys from inside their robes and unlocked the cell, holding it open for her as they waited for her to come; they didn’t have to force her out anymore.

Closing her eyes and taking a deep breath, she thought of Angel Dust, the longest friendship she’d ever been able to have. She hoped he didn’t think she’d left him behind again. She hoped he knew that she cared about him more than anyone else. She hoped he didn’t find her, wandering the streets as a lifeless shell of what she once was, as if she had much life to give anyway. She wished him all the happiness in the world because, despite the brave face he wore, he was hurting inside and he didn’t deserve that, not after all the happiness he gave her.

Her shoulders fell a bit as she released the breath she’d been holding and opened her eyes, standing to face what was to come. The three of them went through the motions mechanically. They’d done it all so many times now that they knew the routine by heart. Time seemed to pass quickly. One moment she was stepping into the tub and the next they were sitting her down in front of the vanity, her body clad in a white dress made of fine silk and lace. Her hair had been cut off the night before, the once long strands now only coming to her shoulders, so there wasn’t much they could do with it aside from giving her small ringlets of curls, spraying something on it that gave it a glossy finish. She barely paid any attention to what they did with her makeup, letting them apply whatever they wanted without a care. They opened the velvet lined boxes to reveal stunning jewelry, nothing like the cheap knockoffs they’d put on her before, but the genuine articles; they placed a white gold and diamond pendant around her neck and a matching headdress on her head that sat atop her hair, reflecting tiny rainbows across it even in the dim lighting. They then placed a cloak around her shoulders and delicately put the hood over her head, hiding the top half of her face and shrouding her in mystery. If she didn’t know any better, should have thought she looked like a bride.

A sacrificial bride, she thought to herself.

She stood and followed them down the hall, her hands clasped in front of her. They didn’t even bother holding her arms any more; they knew she wouldn’t run. The long hall seemed so much bleaker than ever before; she almost wished they would hang some paintings on the walls so people might have something to look at before they went away, but it wasn’t like they would remember it, so what was the point. She noticed Raoul and the bull demon, whose name she’d never learned nor did she care to, standing in the hall and apparently having a conversation, but she did her best to pay them no mind. The noticed her, however, and watched her approach.

The bull demon let out a snort of laughter and said, “Looks like the fan favorite won’t be coming back here anymore,” as the three of them passed.

“Pity. The regulars really liked that one,” Raoul replied, shaking his head as if watching her go was a waste.

There was a slight hitch in her step despite her resolve, but she didn’t give either of them the time of day. They weren’t worth wasting her last few minutes.

The three of them approached the door with the numbers six hundred and sixty-six painted above and one of the foxes knocked, the minute that followed not passing long enough. The door opened, but she didn’t bother looking to see who answered. She doubted she would know them nor did she care to, so she kept her gaze locked forward, not really seeing anything in front of her.

“Ah, here we are. Ladies and gentlemen, our guest of honor has arrived,” she distantly heard a voice say, as if they were talking through a haze. She also heard murmurs from within the room, but she couldn’t concentrate enough to figure out what they were saying. The person at the door stepped aside to let her through, the fox demons leaving her to it. She felt a hand placed at her back, guiding her forward, becoming the shepherd of her second death. They continued to address the crowd, but the haze drew her deeper and deeper into it, making it impossible for her to hear them.

She continued to stare forward, but there wasn’t much to see. The room was almost entirely dark safe for a single spotlight hanging overtop her head, shining down on her like a fiery beacon. As far as she could tell, there were ten people in the room, but there might have been more. The tile beneath her feet was solidly white, no other colors contaminating its surface, and she was sure whatever else was in the room would have been white as well. The walls were no doubt covered from surface to surface with mirrors, but it was probably a good thing she couldn’t see them; she didn’t want to see herself as she was now, giving in without a fight, but she felt so tired and couldn’t seem to muster up the energy anymore.

Hands moved up to pull the hood down from over her head and she heard what she could only assume were gasped and murmurs of approval, but her focus wasn’t on that. Instead of nothing, her focus changed as she felt a shift in the air. There was something so familiar about it that it nagged her so much that it brought her out of her haze, her hearing returning to her as if someone had popped a bubble. As she glanced around in confusion, she thought she saw one of the audience members disappear into the shadows as if evaporating into them, but it might have just been her eyes playing tricks on her. If anyone noticed the shift in the air or the patron apparently disappearing, they said nothing, their focus entirely on her and the person beside her talking.

She glanced over at him, but she was shocked to find that he didn’t have a face, or a head at all for that matter. He wore an entirely white suit that looked rather outdated but still stylish, a white top hat, and a white cap with the tall collar turned down to frame where his head should have been. His hands were covered by white gloves and a monocle sat where his right eye should have been, hanging in the open air as if supported by nothing. She had heard that fear demons took on this blank appearance so that they could catch their victims off guard, but she had never seen one in person, so she couldn’t even confirm if he was one or not.

He continued to prattle on, but she ignored him as she continued to look for that source of the shift. Every time she thought she’d pinpointed where it was, it moved again, seemingly indecisive in its destination. She wondered where it was heading when she suddenly felt it from behind her, the strange presence no longer moving. The crackle of static began to fill the air around them and her eyes widened as she all but felt a body manifest from that spot behind her, rising from the darkness up from it, that body so much taller than she was. Everything seemed to happen in slow motion as she turned to look up at the smiling face of Alastor standing just at the edge of the light, half cast in shadows as he stared straight into her eyes.

“Hello, dearest. Did you miss me?”

Chapter Text

Time seemed to stand still as Ottilie stared deep into Alastors eyes, but that may have had something to do with the fact that everyone in the room was standing completely still, unsure of what to do with this strange situation. She was unsure as well. There were just so many emotions running through her head that she didn’t know what to feel. She was happy, terrified, anxious, shocked, stunned, cathartic, and catatonic all at the same time.

Alastor didn’t break eye contact with her even once. There was danger in the way he watched her, unblinking and unmoving, like a predator watching its prey. She couldn’t even tell if he was breathing, but she didn’t dare take the risk of looking away first to check. A mad hunger gleamed in his eyes, like he was starved and she was the only source of food for miles. She knew he’d been anticipating this. The wicked gleam etched into every detail of his expression told her so. She wondered why he didn’t just attack her and get it over with, seeing how it was clearly something he’d been wanting for a long time, but then the answer became obvious. He’d told her before that her actions had caused him to be without mercy as he dealt with her and he wanted to finish what he started. He wanted her to suffer and the waiting was only part of that.

“I beg your pardon, sir,” the fear demon suddenly blurted out, breaking the heavy silence, sounding very miffed about having had this grand display of theatrics they’d so painstakingly put together ruined. The rest of the room followed suit, remembering how to breath and move their limbs, looking around as if having been in a trance. Alastor and Ottilie continued to stare at each other, however, neither willing to make that first move just yet. “It is clearly stated in the rules that patrons are not allowed out of the viewing gallery. I’ll have to ask you to take your seat this instant.” It was clear from his body language that he didn’t much appreciate being ignored by Alastor and stomped his foot like a spoiled child used to getting their way. “Do you hear me, sir? Return to your seat or I will remove you myself!” Ottilie almost warned him about what a huge mistake he was making, but remembered where she was and what was happening, so she held her tongue. He growled in frustration and shoved Ottilie out of the spotlight, sending her sprawling to the floor and into the dark, her weak arms just barely able to catch herself.

That got Alastors attention. He slowly turned his head toward the fear demon, anger leaking into his expression as his smile turned deranged and unhinged; Ottilie could almost swear she saw the fear demon flinch just a bit at the sight of it, but couldn’t be sure from where she sat. He blinked and suddenly looked just as charming as ever, like he hadn’t just been contemplating ripping the other man to shreds like he was made of paper. “I do apologize for my intrusion, old chap, but I’m afraid this fine institution has taken something that belongs to me and I very much intend to take it back.”

Ottilie grimaced at Alastors words. She was tired of being talked about like she was a piece of property and under better circumstances might have given him a piece of her mind about it. Instead, she tried to slink further into the shadows in hopes hiding herself further from sight. She thought perhaps that she could use the situation to her advantage and escape, but a quick glance from Alastor stopped her; that single look told her that even if she did find a way out of here, he would still find her. It was hopeless.

“Do you dare to accuse us of stealing? I’ll have you know that this girl was sold and bought fair and square! Perhaps you paid for a part of her previously, but that doesn’t entitle you to the whole piece! You’ll have to wait your turn like everyone else! Now I’ll say it only once more! Return to your seat or leave!” the fear demon warned. If he’d had a face, she was sure it would have been red with anger.

Alastor let out a low chuckle, his shoulders bobbing with the sound. “Do you honestly think I’d bother purchasing a ticket to see something that was rightfully mine in the first place? Besides that, I could do what you do better even with both hands tied behind my back.”

The fear demon went rigid with rage, his hands clenched tightly into fists. “Leave! Now!” He reached forward to grab Alastor by the arm, presumably to force him out the door, when a hand shot out of the darkness and grabbed his own wrist, halting his advance.

A man who looked shockingly similar to Alastor leaned the top half of his body out of the shadows, his grip on the other demons wrist getting tighter and tighter. “Sorry, but the boss is strictly ‘look but don’t touch’. I’m afraid you’ll have to pay the penalty.” His eyes went wide as his smile turned sadistic, anything but an apology in his expression as he bent the demons arm back with enough force that his forearm snapped in half. Both he and Alastor watched with glee as the demon fell to his knees, screaming in agony and clutching at his broken appendage, trying to pry it free but having no luck; Ottilie found the display both sickening and pathetic, having had the same thing done to her at least twice and never once reacting that way.

The other demons in the room were visibly confused about what was happening, looking around like lost children searching for their mothers in a crowded area. “Is this part of the show?” one of them asked, turning to the person beside her. She jumped when an arm wrapped around her shoulder and a face appeared beside her own, smiling at her discomfort at being touched so brazenly.

The man, who stood out with his olive skin and medium tinted pink hair, said, “Oh, this is part of the show, all right, and you’ve all just become a part of the cast!” Before she could even question what he meant or demand that he take his hand off of her, he pulled a blade out of thin air and sliced her clear across the throat, very nearly decapitating her in the process. He held the head for a few seconds, watching the body convulse and twitch, before letting it drop. Turning to address the other seated demons, he ran his finger along the edge of the blade and laughed. “Unfortunately, though, this is a greek tragedy…. And we all know how those end!”

The carnage that followed in those next few seconds truly was like something out of a greek tragedy. A bloody war broke out as all the lights suddenly came on, revealing two other demons waiting in the wings, not even missing a beat as they joined in on the attack. A few of the nine remaining demons sitting in the chairs had no time to react before they were turned into mere fragments of what they used to be; not even their own mothers would have been able to recognize them. The ones that did had two choices: run or stand and fight. Neither option ended well for them but, to their credit, most of them chose to fight. Even outnumbering the opposing two, though, they were not evenly matched and fell to their own overconfidence. The ones that ran were immediately cut down by Alastor and his nearly identical doppelganger, none of them standing a chance at escape, especially when they joined in with the rest of the fight.

Ottilie couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen such brutality. There was blood, guts, and body parts flying in nearly every direction. The carnage was all over the surface of the mirrors, pilling up on the floor, and they had even somehow managed to get some of it stuck to the ceiling. She didn’t even know where to look to watch out for them. More than one she had to duck out of the way or swat something out of the air as an arm here or an eyeball there came her way. It would be a long while before any of the afflicted demons were fully healed.

At one point, a severed head came rolling towards her and she had to scramble out of the way to avoid it. As she backed away, she failed to see the chains hanging from the ceiling behind her and collided with them, causing a lot of noise to follow. All five heads turned towards her, savage smiles on their faces as blood and chunks of flesh dripped from their bodies. She stared back at them, knowing that she was next but not who was going to deal the first blow. Her answer was given when the shadow demon of the group advanced towards her, presumably mistaking her for one of the patrons in his bloodlust, and reached out to take her in his hands. She braced herself for the impact, but it never came.

“Stop,” Alastor called out, his tone calm but authoritative. The shadow demon did just that, his hand inches from Ottilie, and they both looked at him. “You’ve all had your fun, but there’s still this one to deal with.” He gestured toward the fear demon, who was clutching his injured arm and crying out like it was the worst pain anyone had ever had to experience, and flicked a few pieces of demon off his clothes. Ottlite felt hopeful for just a brief second that she just might make it out of this, but found it to be short lived. “Besides, I told you before. The girl is mine.” His gaze fell upon her again and she felt her chest clench in fear as he walked at an even but brisk pace towards her, taking full advantage of the fact that nothing stood between them now.

She started to back away, her pace matching his with each step, if only to keep the space between them for as long and wide as possible. She felt safer at a distance from him, but as long as they were in each others sights she knew she was in trouble. Eventually, though, her back hit the wall and she was left with nowhere to go. She pressed herself into it, hoping to disappear into the mirrored surface, as the shadow demon stepped aside to let him pass. Her breath hitched in her throat when he was a few paces before her and caught there when he reached her.

In the last few weeks, she was sure she’d experienced what true fear was, but nothing she’d gone through compared to the feeling of staring up at Alastor as he stood over her, his natural earthy scent mixing with the smell of blood in the air. All was quiet and still once again safe for the moans of the fear demon, making her wonder if it would go on longer than last time, when his hand came up and caressed her cheek. The action caught her off guard until she realized which side of her face he was touching and jerked her head away, trying to hide it despite the damage already being done. This spurred him into action and, in one swift motion, he turned her around and wrapped an arm around her waist, lifting her off the ground like she weighed nothing, her hands on his arm to steady herself. He turned and started heading towards the door.

Glancing at the fear demon, Alastor gestured toward him with a flick of his chin, everyone else seeming to have forgotten about him after watching their little display. “Don’t forget about him, boys. We wouldn’t want him to feel left out, would we?”

While the three other demons turned their sadistic natures back towards the fear demon, taking delight in his pleas for mercy as they advanced towards him, Alastors look alike gave him a questioning look. “Aren’t you joining us? It’s not like you to miss out on all the fun.”

“Oh, trust me,” Alastor paused for a moment, lifting Ottilie up slightly as if gesturing to her. “I have all the fun I need right here.” She felt all the blood drain from her face as she stared at the floor, refusing to meet anyones gaze.

“Suit yourself,” his doppelganger shrugged before joining the others as they circled in around the fear demon.

Ottilie felt a pang of sympathy for the demon as the door closed behind them. A lot of horrible things had happened to her in such a short span of time, but she wouldn’t have wished even a single moment of it on her worst enemy. She flinched when she heard the latch click shut and the screaming started, but was powerless to do anything to stop it. Even if she did manage to get away from Alastor, which she highly doubted she’d be lucky enough to have happen a second time, there was no way she’d be able to take on those four other demons. Not that he deserved her pity, but her heart went out to him nonetheless.

Her latest captor was surprisingly quiet as he carried her off to some unknown destination. She thought perhaps that he’d take her back to her hotel, which was his home turf for the time being, but he wouldn’t be stupid enough to risk taking her there; someone might hear or see them and she wasn’t sure even he could explain away his actions. Maybe they were going to wherever he’d been staying before taking up residence in the hotel or some other place he knew where he could have the privacy to do whatever he pleased with her. There were any number of places he could be taking her and it only scared her all the more to think about it so she tried to keep it out of her mind. Even so, her hands gripped tighter onto the sleeves of his jacket, fingers digging into the fabric so hard that she could feel her short nails nearly cutting her palms, as she tried to keep herself calm, but nothing she did seemed to help.

*****

Alastor could feel the racing of her heart against the hand pressed against her ribcage and the slight tremble in her arms as they held onto each other. His arm wrapped tighter around her waist, pressing her closer to him. For anyone else, this might have been an act of comfort, but for him it was just a reminder that she was caught in his clutches once again. His grip was careful, however. He didn’t want to inflict any pain just yet; he’d learned his lesson about giving her the chance to run, but letting her stew in her fear couldn’t hurt.

He felt her shift slightly and saw her head turn out of the corner of his eye. Giving her a sideways glance, he found her doing the same. There was a pleading look in her eyes as they stared back at each other for moment. He’d seen that look so many times that he’d lost track of it over the years, but even now it got him excited. The cruel smile he gave her as his head remained facing forward made her flinch and look away quickly. He had to admit he was disappointed at not being able to see the face she was making, but there would soon be time enough for that.

As if on cue, he came upon a room with the door left wide open, lights off, and no one around. Pausing to peer inside, his nocturnal vision allowed him to see that it was an office of some kind. There was an oak desk and matching chair near the back wall with filing cabinets on either side. The walls were painted a light beige and the carpet covering the floor was a dull green.

“Well,” he finally spoke as he leaned in past the doorway and looked around, “it’s not much but it will do. What do you think?” He turned his head to look at her, but she didn’t meet his gaze. “Yes, I think so, too.” He stepped fully into the room and shut the door behind him; he might have locked it for good measure, but it needed a key which he did not have to do so and it didn’t matter anyway since he had her right where he wanted her. They were plunged into darkness for a brief moment before he turned the light on. In any other circumstance, he might have left them off, but he wanted her to see everything that was coming. After walking further in, he set her down on her feet in front of him; she stumbled a bit as her legs were trembling slightly now, but gained her footing. It was quiet again as she stood with her back facing him and he let that go on for another minute. “Now then,” he broke the silence again as he slowly began to walk circles around her, “let’s have a look at you, shall we?”

While she had been well dressed for the festivities that evening, it was evident that she hadn’t been well taken care of. Obvious injuries aside, she was also thinner than last he’d seen her, appearing almost gaunt in her white silk and lace dress; her cheeks were visibly hollow and he was surprised she was able to even stand on her own. They’d been keeping her strength up, but only just so. Her once long hair had been cut to a length he wasn’t very fond of, but styled in a way that complemented her face; he supposed he’d just have to ignore it. She also looked tired, both physically and mentally, like all but a tiny fraction of the life had been drained out of her. Perhaps what he was about to do was a mercy rather than punishment, but neither of them saw it that way; someone like him wasn’t meant for mercy.

“My, my,” he clicked his tongue in a reprimanding tone before coming to a stop in front of her, her eyes downcast toward his shoes and refusing to meet his gaze. “They really did a number on you, didn’t they, my dear? Well, don’t worry. You won’t have to suffer for much longer.” He reached out and she jumped hard when he touched her, her body wound up tighter than a banjo string, but he held her still as he removed the cloak from around her shoulders. “There now. Isn’t that better?” He neatly folded the cloak and placed it on top of the desk behind her.

“Alastor, please,” she begged in a soft voice, a sob nearly escaping her as she spoke.

His hands paused, still on the cloak as he let her words sink in, and asked, “Please what?”

“Please don’t do this,” she elaborated.

He’d been waiting so long to hear those exact words from her that his body was nearly shaking with excitement. He couldn’t remember the last time he had felt so giddy. He had to play it cool, however. It simply wouldn’t do for someone, even they were about to meet their end again, to see him acting like an overeager child. He turned to her with a look of curiosity. “And what would you have me do instead? I can’t have everyone in Hell finding out that I let someone go. I have a reputation to uphold, after all.”

She looked up at him then, her eyes pleading with him once again, and it was all he could do not to attack her right then and there, that look doing things to him that he couldn’t possibly explain with words. She was fighting back tears as she said, “I wouldn’t tell anyone! I swear! Please believe me! No one even has to know that I saw you here! I’ll make something up! I’ll tell them I escaped or they let me go or….”

“Shhhhhh,” he hushed, holding a finger to his lips, causing her to trail off. “I believe you, really I do. The trouble is,” he walked back over to her, slow and predatory, an expression of sympathy on his face, though they both knew he was only mocking her, “I have trouble letting go once I set my sights on something. One of the few flaws I’m forced to be burdened with. I’d like to let you go, really I would, but it’s just not possible.” He reached up and wiped a tear away as it slipped through her hold, the drop of liquid ice cold to the touch, but he didn’t care. All that mattered was that she was at his mercy.

“Please,” she tried one last time, tears streaming down her face now, feebally trying to push his hands away as they caressed her face. A strange occurrence happened as she cried. Her hair grew a few inches in length, but they were both too distracted to notice or care.

He hushed her again, stepping closer until they were only centimeters apart, her hands pressed up against his chest. His thumbs rubbed along her cheeks, the action surprisingly comforting despite the situation they were in. “You were such a good girl this time, not putting up a fight. As a reward, I promise not to draw out your pain like they did. You’ll barely even feel it.” He moved the sleeve off of her shoulder, his fingers brushing against her skin, making her shiver. “Now, try to be still, otherwise this will only hurt more than it has to.” He leaned in toward her throat as he held her waist with one hand and turned her head away with the other, better exposing it as his tongue ran across her skin. She let out a whimper as she began to tremble, her eyes shut tight as she tried to hold back her sobs. He chuckled at her obvious fear, taking delight in all the awful things that must be running through her mind, before he lips pulled back from his teeth and he moved in for the kill.

*************

Charlie had stared at the phone in her office for what felt like ages, her hands clasped in front of her chin as if in quiet contemplation. She now understood how Angel felt, her eyes glued to the receiver but unable to do anything with it, except she wasn’t waiting for it to ring. She was just dreading the call she’d have to make. It wasn’t meant to be a particularly unpleasant call, but the outcome would end in one of two ways: she’d either have a way to hopefully ease everyones worries about Ottilie or she’d be letting Angels hopes down again. Not exactly something she shouldn’t stress herself over but, if Husk was right about one thing, it was that drastic times called for drastic measures. She took a deep breath through her nose, releasing it out of her mouth, and reached across her desk. She didn’t grab the receiver, however.  

‘Hey, can you meet me at my office? I have an idea,’ she texted into her cell phone. It was no more than thirty seconds before she received a reply.

‘Be there in a sec,’ she read the words across the screen, feeling a little more at ease afterwards.

A moment or two passed with her fiddling with items on her desk before there was a quiet knock at the door, which opened after she bade them entry. Vaggie stepped in and was immediately at her side. “Judging from the look on your face, I’m guessing this idea isn’t a pleasant one.”

Taking another deep breath, she said, “I’m going nuclear.”

“Whoa,” Vaggies eye widened. “Do you really think that will work? The last time you tried that was when we were having all those problems with the protestors, and that didn’t end so well…” They both shuddered at the memory.

“I know,” Charlies shoulders slumped forward as if someone had deflated her, “but it’s all we’ve got left. If we don’t do something soon… I don’t even want to think of what might happen to Ottilie… or Angel Dust, for that matter.”

Vaggie considered her words for a second before brushing a lock of hair behind Charlies ear and tenderly holding her cheek, giving her a reassuring smile. “If you think this is what’s best, I’m right here behind you.”

Charlie leaned into her touch and held the hand on her face, her thumb running across Vaggies skin, a small smile gracing her features. A determined expression came to her face then and she clapped her hands once as she said, “Alright! Here we go!” She turned and reached for the phone, her hand hanging in the air.

“Charlie… you didn’t pick up the phone,” Vaggie pointed out.

“I know,” Charlie said, her determined expression falling slightly, still not moving.

“Do… do you want some help?” Vaggie asked.

“Hm-hm,” Charlie hummed, nodding. Vaggied placed a hand over hers and pushed it down over the receiver, pulling it back for a moment only to put it back so she could force her fingers to curl around it; she then picked it up and placed it besides Charlies ear and dialed the numbers, waiting patiently as they heard the dial tone. She visibly became more and more nervous as it continued to ring. “Here! It’s for you!”

“Charlie!” Vaggie reprimanded before shoving the phone back towards her.

Charlie had just placed it back to her ear when the line stopped ringing and it was evident someone had picked it up. “Hello?” a male voice came from the other end. Charlie froze, unable to move or say anything as she stared off into space. “Hello? Hello? Is anyone there? Is this one of those prank calls I’ve heard tell about? How fun, but unfortunately I don’t have time for-.”

“Hi, Daddy,” Charlie interrupted. There was a long pause before there was an audible squeal of excitement from the other end, causing her to hold the receiver away from her ear. She put it back after a moment, better prepared to deal with the loud noises. “Dad. Dad. Calm down.” She paused. “Yes, I know I don’t call enough but-.” She paused again. “Vaggie and I are doing just fine, thank you for asking. Listen, I-.” Pause. “Dad I need to- Wait, Mother did what? Oh wow! She hasn’t done that since the eighteen hundreds! Were you able to get any pic- No, wait. No. Dad, please listen. I need to ask… a favor.” Her brows pulled together in worry. “The maid… Well, a friend, really, went missing a few weeks ago and we can’t find her anywhere. I wouldn’t ask if this weren’t important, but do you think you could use any of your connections to help us find her? We’re all just worried sick about her and-.” There was a much longer pause this time as she stopped to listen, nodding her head and humming in agreement every now and again. “I see. Well, thanks anyway. Tell Mother I said ‘hello’, please. Love you, too. Bye.” She placed the receiver back down and stared down at her desk with a haunted look.

“Well… what did he say?” Vaggie asked, already knowing it wasn’t good news.

“He said… He said he can’t help. There’s too much going on right now to have the time to look for a missing demon,” she said in a defeated tone. “He, um…. He wished us the best of luck, though.” She placed her face in her hands and shook her head. “I really screwed things up, didn’t I?”

“Hey, none of this is your fault,” Vaggie stated, crossing her arms.

“Well, if it’s not my fault, then whose is it?” Charlie asked, looking up at her.

Vaggie opened her mouth, but snapped it shut again. She was so tempted to bring up Alastor and all the stunts he’d pulled during his time there, not to mention his shady behavior. In all the chaos of trying to find Ottilie, they’d never even had the chance to have that conversation about him. She was so sure that he’d had something to with Annabelle, Priscilla, and no doubt all the other maids they’d lost. She couldn’t say for certain about Ottilie, but she had her suspicions. Despite all of this, she looked deep into Charlies eyes and knew it wasn’t the time for it; the princess didn’t need anything else to stress about. She took a deep breath through her nose and let it out through her mouth. “You’re right.”

Charlie blinked once and asked, “What?”

“You’re right,” Vaggie repeated. “This is all your fault.”

“Vaggie!” Charlie whined in an incredulous tone.

“Well, what do you want me to say here? When you’re right, you’re right. I mean, all you did was hire some demons down on their luck and give them the second chance no one else ever would. Heaven, you even took in a young woman who had nowhere else to go, gave her a roof over her head, and a stable job that she proved to excel at. So, really, there’s no one else to blame for everything that’s happened. I guess we all just need to face facts and see what a terrible person you are,” Vaggie shrugged, a snarky expression on her face.

Charlie squinted her eyes at Vaggie for a moment, her mouth set in a straight line as she let her words sink in. “You’re using reverse psychology on me, aren’t you?”

“Who? Me? Never,” Vaggie held up her hands in surrender, her tone a bit sarcastic. “I’m just saying that maybe you should blame yourself for all the horrible things you did for them. I mean, sure, you had nothing to do with whatever happened to them in the end, but everything in between was obviously your fault. So go ahead. Wallow in your self pity. It’s what you deserve, isn’t it?”

Charlie didn’t respond to the question. She held the same expression for few moments before her face began to soften and the corners of her mouth twitched in an upward motion. Vaggie thought that she might smile and desperately hoped for it, seeing how she hadn’t properly smiled in a good while, but it was not to be. Her lips pulled back down into a frown and she slumped back over her desk like all the life had been sucked out of her. Unable to stand seeing her like this anymore, Vaggie did the only thing she could for her in that moment.

“Cheer up, Charlie

Give me a smile

What happened to the smile I used to know

Don't you know your grin has always been my sunshine

Let that sunshine show,” Vaggie pulled a grin of her own and pointed to her smile expectantly, hoping it would catch on, but to no avail.

“Come on, Charlie, no need to frown

Deep down you know the world still is your toy

When the world get heavy never pitter pat ‘em

Up and at'em girl.”

Charlie tried to turn her chair away, but Vaggie wasn’t having any of that. She took the chair by the arms and spun it back around, pulling her out of her seat and taking her by the hands. Charlie was caught off guard when she started spinning her around the room like two lovers dancing on a music box.

“Some day, sweet as a song

Charlie's lucky day will come along

Till that day you've got to stay strong Charlie

Up on top is right where you belong.”

Charlie blushed and looked at the floor, a barely restrained smile trying to spread across her features. Vaggie gently took her chin and pulled it back up so their eyes met; the smile she wore as they spun about the room was too much for her partner to handle anymore and too quickly they were both smiling without a care in the world. In that moment, all that mattered was each other.

“Look up, Charlie

You'll see a star

Just follow it and keep your dreams in view

Pretty soon the sky is going to clear up, Charlie

Cheer up Charlie, do

Cheer up Charlie

Just be glad you're you.”

Charlie spun Vaggie around in place and eased her into a dip when she came back to her, the two staring longingly at each other. Charlie couldn’t resist the happy giggle that bubbled inside of her, feeling like herself again for the first time in as a long while. Vaggie laughed along with her, all too happy to see that lovely smile on her face once again, and neither of the two hesitated as they leaned forward to kiss each other, still held in that dip position. Eventually, their lips pulled apart and they stared into each others eyes again.

“Thanks for cheering me up, Butterfly,” Charlie said happily.

Vaggie playfully rolled her eyes at the pet name, not even bothering to correct her on her obvious play on flying insects. “You need it, Sunshine.”

“You’re right… I really did,” Charlie agreed before quickly pulling Vaggie back to a standing position, almost leaving the other woman dizzy. “You know, if Dad can’t help us, we’ll just have to double down and try harder! Put up more posters, walk the streets again, maybe even offer a bigger reward this time!”

Vaggie was the one caught off guard this time by the sudden change in topic back to finding Ottilie, but was more than willing to run with it. “The reward system didn’t exactly go so well last time. We just got a bunch of bogus claims to have seen her in places she’d never even set foot on.”

“You’d be surprised what can happen if you put a little trust in people! I’m sure someone will come through this time!” Charlie said enthusiastically as she walked back over to her desk and started rummaging around in one of the drawers, pulling out stacks of paper, pens, and markers.

“Well, lets at least make sure we check out these places before we go handing out any type of reward this time, okay?” Vaggie pleaded, not wanting to have to watch her give away anymore precious family items worth both a lot of sentiment and a great deal of currency only for it to be a waste of time and effort.

“Oh, sure, sure,” Charlie nodded, probably barely even listening as she gathered the supplies in her arms, just barely able to carry it all on her own. “Let’s go gather the others and we can get started on the new posters! The sooner we get them done, the sooner we can get to handing them out!”

Vaggie willingly followed behind Charlie as she rushed out of the room, a slight bounce in her step now that she’d gotten her spirit back. Despite her own happiness, a slight frown pulled at her features. She truly hoped that they found Ottilie this time around because she was sure Charlie, or Angel Dust for that matter, couldn’t handle any more heartbreak.

***************

Alastor had promised Ottilie she would barely feel anything and yet she had felt everything. The tingle of his hair as it brushed against the skin of her shoulder. His arm wrapped around her waist, holding her close so she was pinned against him, while the other hand kept her head turned away. The rise and fall of his chest as his clothes grazed her cheek with each breath. Most of all, she felt his teeth plunge deep into her neck, the two rows of razor sharp fangs cutting into her like knives.

She gasped at the pain and it was all she could do not to scream or cry as her eyes snapped open, staring at the wall in front of her as his hand continued to hold her head in place. She was still now, not even trembling anymore as this new but all too familiar pain washed over her. Having had many a knife stuck into her during her time at The Red Room, she knew too well what it felt like and had thought herself used to the experience, but had never withstood it all at once. She supposed it could have been worse if she were struggling, but clearly she would have been better off without his teeth in her in the first place.

The pain didn’t last long, though. A small mercy on his part. It faded to a dull ache but she was still able to feel where his teeth were in her flesh, so perhaps he hadn’t lied to her after all. Her body involuntarily relaxed against his as it did and he took that as his que. His arm shifted so it was beneath her bottom, fully supporting her weight now as she was lifted into the air so he wouldn’t have to lean over her anymore, her legs at either side of his hips. The hand at her jaw also shifted so it was cradling the back of her skull, her face against his shoulder in a somewhat comforting manner. She couldn’t help but silently question this odd behavior as he held her almost limp body in his arms, her hands still pressed to his chest, but began to understood it once she felt his lips close in around her wounded flesh.

It shouldn’t have shocked her that he was drinking her blood, suckling on her like a newborn babe starved for its mothers milk. He was by no means a vampire or anything of the like, but that didn’t mean he lusted for blood any less. It was a strange sensation to have her blood taken from her in such a way. There was a slight sting, but the pain was bearable compared to what she’d already been through. He seemed to enjoy the taste of her, small moans coming from the back of his throat every now and again; she wasn’t sure whether to be disgusted by this or take it as a compliment, so she accepted it as both. His jaw was tense against her and she could tell it was taking a lot of willpower for him not to ravage her like a wild animal.

The more blood he took from her, the weaker she began to feel. Her hands soon began to slip from his chest until they dangled beside her and her head rolled to the side, her horns nearly taking out one of his eyes before he shifted himself accordingly. She was now limp in his arms as he gently held her, both of them waiting for her to slip into unconsciousness. She knew there were worse ways to go out. He could have easily decided to finish what he’d started back in the stairwell, but a part of her was sad that this had to be it as her vision started to fade.

She could see the darkness starting to form around the edge of her eyes. That oh so familiar darkness that had taken her so very long ago and became one of her first memories. Death would not come for her this time, though; it had done its duty on that freezing cold night that had stolen the life from her. She wondered if there was anything after this. Many had asked that question so many times after the Exterminations, but no one seemed to know the answer. It seemed it was her turn to find out. She said a silent goodbye to everyone she’d met at the hotel, a single tear rolling from eye as she began to fall into the inky, black abyss.

Ottilie could never be sure what happened after that. One second she and Alastor were on one side of the room and the next they were being thrown across it. His body inadvertently shielded her from most of the impact of hitting the wall as they connected with it before falling to the floor. She was woken from her daze his arms fell from around her and her head hit the floor. Still a bit dizzy, she looked around the room and tried to find her barings as the room spun around her.

Alastor sat behind her with his back against the wall and legs spread out in front of him, a hand to his head as he tried to regain his own barings. She was sitting up between his legs, half in his lap and half on the floor. Around the two of them stood a half circle of demons made up of Raoul and the two bat demons who had assisted with the grey room.

A small gasp escaped her and she just barely had enough time to scramble out of Alastors lap into the corner of the room as Raoul raised his foot and kicked the deer demon right in the head. Her eyes widened as Alastors head snapped to the side, the impact making his head hit the wall again, and he let out a surprised chuckle afterwards. Her breath hitched in her throat as Raoul used that same foot to pin Alastors head to the wall and her hand covered her mouth as she heard the sounds of his skull protesting and crackling under the pressure the spider demon was exerting. She shouldn’t have felt sympathy for him, especially after everything he’d done to her, but it was hard not to as she looked into his eyes as they stared back at her; there was no reaction to the pain he was clearly feeling, his eyes dull as if he was used to what he was feeling. Something in her understood what that felt like, but her sympathy was short lived when that wicked gleam he was known for returned and he seemed to be taking pleasure in the pain the more pressure Raoul put on his head.

“So, come to join the party, have we?” Alastor asked, looking up at the demons surrounding him. “A bit late, I must say, but better than never, right?”

“Silence,” Raoul practically hissed, applying more pressure, the sole of his shoe digging into Alastors face now and squishing it slightly. There was something almost terrifying about the restraint he showed in his anger and Ottilie wasn’t sure who to be more afraid of in that moment. “Do you have any idea what you and your little band of miscreants have done here today? Once this gets out, our reputation will be ruined. We will be the laughing stock in all the Nine Circles! It could well be ages before we get this place back up to its former glory.”

“To be fair,” Alastor said, his voice sounding odd and almost comical due to the foot pressing it against the wall, “this place was not really that great to begin with.”

Raoul looked perturbed by this remark, but said nothing as he pulled his foot away and punched Alastor across the face. Ottilie flinched as the sound of the impact resonated throughout the room, her own cheek throbbing with phantom pains. “Perhaps that may be the case,” he said as he took a fistful of Alastors hair and turned his head so he was looking at him, “but all of that will change once everyone finds out we have the infamous Radio Demon in our clutches. Everyone will come from as far as the Ninth Circle to see you get what’s coming to you.” The two bat demons hissed with laughter at this, the first sound they’d made since arriving. The three of them were caught off guard, however, when Alastor started chuckling, the sound low and eerie in the small confines of the office.

“In your clutches? Is that what you think?” Alastor asked, spitting a bit of blood out of his mouth while a few slivers trailed down his chin.

“Look around you, my friend,” Raoul replied, extending two arms to either side of him while two others rested on his hips. “It’s three to one with the odds in our favor and your little misfits are too busy dealing that useless fear demon to do anything to help you. If you think the young miss is going to help you,” he flicked his head in Ottilies direction, “then you’ve got another thing coming. She’s good for a show, but her fight is sorely lacking. You have nowhere left to go.”

Alastor looked up at him with a half lidded smile, chuckling once more. “I may be outnumbered, but you are severely outmatched.”

Raoul was only allowed a split second of confusion before Alastors hands came up and his claws imbedded themselves deep into the spider demons arms. Raoul let out a disgruntled noise of pain, falling flat on his back as Alastor tackled him to the ground, not wasting any time in unleashing his wrath upon him. The bat demons jumped in to help and there was a whirlwind of chaos as limbs flailed wildly about, most of them striking at Alastor, and they all growled and hissed at each other. There was a moment of deja vu back to the white room as blood began to splatter everywhere and the contents of the room were being destroyed in the wake of their brutality, but this time was different as Alastor had much more of a fight on his hands.

Ottilie continued to huddle in the corner, afraid to move lest she be caught up in the rampage, when she realized that none of the focus was on her at the moment. Glancing at the door, she noticed it wide open, shining like a beacon of hope for her. Looking back at the four demons, she found them over at the opposite end of the room, Raoul grabbing Alastor to flip him over and sending him crashing on top of the desk, completely breaking it in two, before the other two descended upon him. Despite her fear, she knew this was the only chance she would get and, whatever the outcome of the fight, she would either be locked back up in her cell to wait to tortured all over again or killed on the spot if she stayed. In split second of bravery, she jumped up and made for the door before she could talk herself out of it.

Before she could reach it, however, Alastor and a bat demon came stumbling in front of her, the former of the two pinning the other against the wall and slamming his hand right through the females chest. The bat let out a choked gurgle and blood poured out of her mouth before Alastor pulled his hand out of her chest, causing her to slump lifelessly to the floor like a ragdoll. He looked over at Ottilie then and the two stared at each other for a moment. Quickly realizing her intention, he darted forward to grab her, but she moved just as fast out of his reach and ran around him. He tried to grab her again, surely about to catch her this time as she was almost out the door, when Raoul came from behind and continued the assault. With little other choice, Alastor let her go to finish what he’d started.

Ottilie had no idea where she was going. What had once seemed like a single long hallway with very few doors had turned into a maze of corridors with just as many entryways to walk through. She didn’t care, though. One way or another, she was going to find the exit and finally be free from the literal Hell she’d been forced to endure. After that, she would make her way back to the hotel and tell the others everything that had happened. Perhaps it was petty of her, but she couldn’t wait to see the look on Alastors face once he found out the others knew just how awful he really was. If he even made it back, that is. Though a very powerful demon, he seemed to have his hands full just dealing with Raoul at the moment, but she had a feeling he would make it through. It would be a small victory to most, but to her it would be the sweetest taste of justice she’d ever had.

Still a bit lost, she turned corner after corner, wishing there was some way to tell if she was going the right way. It seemed at least someone had decided to answer her prayers when she turned one last corner and saw an exit sign hanging above a short stairwell that led up to a slightly darkened doorway. Joy filled her then and she couldn’t help but smile as she ran faster towards it, feeling a sense of triumph the closer and closer she got, her emotions nearly overwhelming to the point of crying. That first stair was only ten feet from her and she could swear she could almost feel the outside air on her skin, though she knew she wouldn’t feel the heat of it. That didn’t matter, though. All that mattered was that she was almost free.

Her entire world seemed to shatter as a hand clamped down over her mouth and an arm wrapped tightly around her waist, lifting her off the ground and halting her escape. She cried out in frustration, not even realizing that she should have been afraid. In that instant, all she could feel was anger. She kicked, screamed, and punched against her captor, but they held fast as they turned and carried her away from the door. Anger turned to rage the further away from it they got. They eventually came to a door and as her captor kicked it open, she used that time to her advantage and wrestled her mouth away from their hand just enough to bite down on their fingers. The shear force of it caused their skin to split in various places and she quickly tasted blood in her mouth.

“Argh! You little shit!” her captor grunted in pain before wrenching their fingers out from between her teeth, tearing them more in the process, and throwing her into the room so harshly that she rolled and slid across the floor. Looking up once she stopped, she expected to see Alastor standing in the doorway, but was visibly shocked to see it was the bull demon. He was looking over his fingers, probably trying to judge the depth of the bite marks that marred his flesh. He tried to suck some of the blood away, but it only welled back up into the openings. He looked at her in a mix of anger and amusement. “You’ve got a lot of nerve doing that. I should teach you a lesson, but I’ve got something better in mind planned for you.” He stepped into the room, not even bothering to close the door behind him.

She tried to back away as he approached her, but he was upon her all to quickly and kneeling on all fours overtop of her, pinning her in place with her hands above her head. She tried kicking at him again, but it didn’t seem to do much as he barely even budged against the blows. He was just too big for her to handle.

“You know, I haven’t been able to get you off my mind since you first came here. Always so fiesty. And so pretty, even with that shit on the side of your face. You really just turns me on,” he smirked at her, a familiar gleam in his eyes, causing her to freeze and stare at him in wide eyed shock. “And what do you know? Just my luck that I find you all by yourself. I’ve wanted to come into that cell of yours since you came along, but Raoul never let me. He’s always spewing that bullshit that we have to be ‘gentlemanly’ and ‘classy’ and all that fruity shit. Thankfully, though, he’s not here, is he? It’s just you and me, dollface, and I’ve got big plans for you.” He released one of her wrists and reached toward the belt around his waist, unbuckling it and slipping it out of the loops on his pants.

Panic set in as his intentions became clear and she started struggling tenfold, kicking, screaming, and trying to scratch at him with her free hand with all her might. “No! No, let me go! You can’t do this! I won’t let you! I said no!”

It didn’t seem to matter what she said or did. He continued to undo his pants and when he was done he went after her dress, letting her other wrist go to take hold of it. A strangled cry escaped her as he ripped it right down the middle, exposing her breasts and then some as he continued to remove it from her. She tried to cover her body with her hands, but he kept slapping her hands away, causing them to sting and leave red marks.

She looked around for something, anything to help her. They appeared to be in some sort of supply closet as various types of their torture methods lined the shelves that stood along the walls. Any one of them could be useful if she could just get her hands on them, but they were in protective glass cases that were all sealed with heavy padlocks that would be impossible for her to break with her bare hands. She scanned the floor beneath the shelves, hoping perhaps that something had fallen under them, but the floors lay bare of anything except for the occasional dust bunny.

Dread filled her as the last of her dress was torn and he pulled it off of her, sleeves and all, before tossing it aside. Her chest started to heave and tears welled in her eyes. She was helpless as he looked over her naked form, leering down at her as he appeared to like what he saw. She knew there was nothing she could do as he prepared to take her. Despite that, she threw a hand up and managed to scratch him across the face, but her victory was short lived as he snorted in anger and slapped her across her own.

A familiar haze began to fall over her mind and she did everything she could to fight it off, for once not wanting to remember anything from her former life, but much like the current situation she was in there was nothing she could do to stop it.

******

Tears were streaming down her face as he slapped her across the face again, her cheek stinging and throbbing from the other times he’d already hit her that night. She fell to the floor from the force of it and she managed to catch her fall with her hands, but he kicked her in the ribs once he realized she was still up, causing her to roll across it. She sobbed and trembled as her body ached with the pain, but managed to sit up and look at him pleadingly. “Please. You need to stop this. You are not yourself right now.”

He scoffed at the notion and gave her a condescending smile. “I have no idea what you are talking about, love. I’m just being my usual, jolly good self!” There was a heavy slur to his words and a haze over his eyes, his ailment all to obvious even to the simplest of fools.

“No. This is not you. Please, you have to stop drinking. You know what it does to you,” she pleaded again, moving to stand on shaky feet.

This seemed to anger him a little. “I can handle my alcohol just fine.” He held up a finger and pointed it accusingly at her. “You just do not know how to keep your mouth shut. If you would stop pissing me off, this shit wouldn’t happen.”

She sniffled, wiping a bit of blood snot from her face with the back of her hand, not wanting to get her dress any dirtier than it already was. “You are right. This is all my fault. I am sorry for speaking out of turn.” He seemed pleased by her words, all too happy to hear that he was right and she was wrong. She took a few tentative steps toward him, her hands out in front of her to show she wasn’t a threat, and gave him a sweet but feeble smile. “How about we go to bed, my love? We can just put this whole day behind us and forget it ever happened.” She reached out and offered her hand to him, hoping he would see reason and take it.

He did take her hand, but not in the way she’d hoped. Instead, he wrapped his hand tightly around hers, hard enough to cut off the circulation, and twisted it around as hard as he could. She cried out in pain and tried to pull her hand away, but that only made it hurt worse. “You dare try to order me around? You forget yourself, love,” he spat with enough venom that he could have been a snake. “You do as I say.” He threw her back down to the floor and she curled into herself, cradling her hand against her chest as she tried to quiet the sobs that caused her body to shake with the shear force of them. He scoffed again and brought the bottle in his hand to his lips, swallowing the last swig of the dark amber whiskey. He looked at the empty bottle in disdain and threw it into the roaring fireplace, causing the flames to rise higher for a moment. “Your voice is so annoying… but I know how to make it sound better.”

She gasped and looked up as she heard him undo his belt. “No… No, you cannot do this! You promised!”

His pants dropped lazily to the floor and he stepped out of them, nearly falling to the floor in the process but staggering to catch himself before he could. “Just shut up and take what is coming to you.”

“No! No, please! You promised! No! No!” she cried out just before he lunged for her.

******

“NO!” Ottilie screamed at the top of her lungs, catching both herself and the bull demon by surprise. A strange feeling began to well deep inside of her, bubbling its way to the surface like boiling water, but she didn’t have time to focus on what could only assume was adrenaline mixing with her fear.

“What the Heaven?” he said as he covered his ears, looking both shocked and perturbed.

Her body acted to its own accord, using his lapse in focus to her advantage. Her hand darted out and grabbed one end of his belt, removing it from the loops in his pants with one swift yank. Before he could even process what had just happened, she twisted her body to the side with all her might and used the momentum to swing the other end of the leather strap right into his face. His cheek split open upon contact, leaving a trail of blood as he fell to the side, yowling in pain as he fell to the floor. As soon as he was off of her she leapt to her feet and bolted for the door. He was quick to recover, however, and dove forward to grab her ankle, sending her sprawling to the floor again before she could get far.

“Come back here, you stupid bitch!” he growled, holding on tightly to her ankle, as he tried to pull her back under him.

“No! Let me go!” she demanded, trying as hard as she could to kick him off.

“You’re gonna pay for that! The shit I’ve done to you before is going to seem like a walk in the park once I’m through with you!” the bull demon laughed at her further attempts to escape.

That strange feeling was impossible to ignore now, gurgling down deep in her belly and rising up to her chest at an alarmingly fast pace. It quickly spread out into her arms and she could feel it searing into her palms, like it was trying to escape from her body but couldn’t quite release itself. She could swear she could feel it sizzling and crackling as it settled into her fingertips and she could only imagine this must be what it felt like to hold fire in her hands. It wasn’t necessarily painful, though, but it wasn’t a pleasant experience either. What followed she never could have imagined would happen in the rest of her eternity in Hell.

“I said… LET ME GO!” she shrieked, her body moving to its own accord again. She managed to flip herself over so she was on her back again and extended her hands toward him, her palms pressing into his chest. The fire burst from her hands in a plume of lavender smoke, weaving its way into thin tendrils that slowly darkened and solidified as they wrapped around his body.

“What the fuck? What the Hell did you just do?” he said in shock, releasing her ankle and shoving her away, but the damage had already been done. The plume of smoke stayed connected to his chest and continued to wrap around like constricting snakes.

Ottilie could only watch in wide eyed horror as whatever she had done to him continued to take full effect. She could hardly believe what she was seeing and knew there was no way she could have done something so horrible, but yet there it was happening right in front of her. No matter what she did she couldn’t seem to look away, no matter how much she wanted to.

He tried to slap the affliction off of himself, but only burned himself in the process. He then ripped his shirt off, hoping the affliction would go with it, but it was already embedded into his skin. He scratched and pulled and slapped at his own flesh as panic began to set in, helpless to do anything but watch as his body was quickly being engulfed. “What have you done? Make it stop! Get it off! Get it off of me! Stop! No, no, no! NO!”

********

Alastor breathed a sigh of relief as he let Raouls limp body fall to the ground in a puddle of his own blood, the sticky red liquid mingling with the rest that stained the office floor, various body parts surrounding him like a halo of death. Even he had to admit that the spider demon had been somewhat of a hinderance, but that was mostly due to the aid of the bat demons. He could certainly hold his own against multiple demons, but that didn’t mean they were any less of a challenge. It was certainly worth rising up the occasion, however, seeing how he hadn’t had a good brawl in what felt like ages. Even mindless carnage could get boring and he found it entertaining to have someone fight back every once in a while.

As he adjusted his clothing, which had gotten a bit torn and bloody in the fight but wasn’t nearly as bad as it should have been, he refocused his attention on what he’d come there for. Ottilie had managed to escape his clutches yet again and that simply wouldn’t do. He had at first hoped that she’d stay put during the attack so he could deal with her later, but that proved to be a silly thought. It was only natural that she take that chance to escape and had been smart to run while she could, but his running had only served to fuel his predatory instinct and he was excited for another hunt.

He had no doubt she would try to make her way back to the hotel. The she-demon had nowhere else to run to, after all. Thankfully, he knew every in and out of the Pentagram, so there was no need to worry about her reaching her destination. She would tell the others everything and he couldn’t let that happen. He’d worked too long and too hard for some insignificant woman to foil everything he’d accomplished.

Perhaps he’d be true to his word and end her suffering quickly. True, she had run against all better judgement, but she had provided him some entertainment and that was worth some form of reward. If she continued to be uncooperative, however, he’d be forced to show his hand and she’d find out just how monsterous he could really be. He briefly considered letting Alton and the others have a go at her as well, but brushed aside the notion just as quickly. He was far too territorial to share.

Stepping out of the office, he looked around and wasn’t surprised to find her nowhere in sight. As tricky as these halls were, she was no doubt trying to find her way out. She might have even already made it to the exit, for all he knew. He tried scenting the air for her, but the blood and other smells were mixed too heavily into the air and not even he could sniff her out. This was a bit disconcerting but, if she had made it outdoors, he’d be able to find her there.

He began to make his way towards the exit, knowing he’d likely either run into her along the way or hopefully catch her scent once he was far enough away from the blood, when his ears began to twitch. The sounds were low at first and he couldn’t quite make out what they were, but a few adjustments to his ears righted that problem. It was a voice.

‘-do you know? Just my luck that I find you all by yourself. I’ve wanted to come into that cell of yours since you-,’ it said before he started to ignore it. It certainly wasn’t Alton, Chase, Ozzy, Sammy, and definitely not Ottilies. Seeing how it was of no consequence to him, he did his best to tune it out. That quickly changed, however, when he heard a familiar feminine voice.

“No! No, let me go! You can’t do this! I won’t let you! I said no!”

He froze. There was a brief moment of delight at finding his intended target before rage began to fill him. Someone had apparently gotten to Ottilie first and was laying their hands on her. Red was starting to cloud his vision and it was all he could see for a moment before he regained control of himself. He had to retract some of his more monstrous features in the process, but he’d always been good at reeling in his anger. He didn’t let it fade completely, however, because whoever had dared to touch what was his was going to feel the full extent of his wrath.

He headed towards where he’d heard her voice, very nearly freezing again at the high pitched scream she let loose a moment later. Instead, he picked up the pace, intending to reach them before the fool could do too much damage. His steps did falter a bit when he heard her assailant began to say strange things, feeling a bit confused, but didn’t let that stop him either. Coming to what appeared to be a supply closet, he definitely wasn’t prepared for the sight that greeted him once he turned into the room.

There, in the center of the room, stood a statue made entirely out of thorn covered ivy. At least it appeared to be a statue at first glance. Upon closer inspection, it appeared to have all the finer details of a face, limbs, and body that just weren’t possible when it came to shrubbery. It was cut into the shape of a bull-like man, large muscles adorning its body and huge horns jutting out from its head. If he had been alive at any point, he certainly wasn’t now. He had clearly been in agony during his last few minutes, his snout contorted in a permanent scream and limbs contorted in obvious agony as it clawed at its chest and reached toward something.

Alastor could swear he could feel the remnants of magic in the air. It was raw and untamed, but strong even as it was fading away. It had obviously been the cause of whatever happened to the bull demon, but its origin remained unclear. He followed the outstretched arm of the thorned ivy statue and found what it had been reaching for.

Ottilie sat curled up against the wall, completely naked but turned in a way that didn’t reveal her more delicate areas to him. Her hands were covering her face as they rested on her knees and her entire body trembled like an autumn leaf in the night. Her breaths were broken and shaky as if she were suffocating, though she clearly wasn’t lacking any oxygen. Fear rolled off of her like waves of the sea crashing against the shore and something more bubbled just beneath the surface, but it was overpowered and hard to read in her current state.

Alastor stared for a moment before beginning to approach cautiously. Even he was unsure about this situation, but that didn’t stop him. She must have heard him coming because she lifted her head from her hands and looked up at him slowly, tears welling in her eyes but not yet shed. Something familiar flashed before him and he stopped dead in his tracks, seemingly glued to the spot as he stared into those broken eyes.

******

Ottilie could barely see through the tears, but she knew it was Alastor standing there. He seemed to have a knack for finding her at her most vulnerable, when she didn’t want people to see her so weak. She should have been embarrassed, completely nude and trembling uncontrollably in front of him, but she wasn’t. She didn’t care in that moment. She didn’t have the energy to care anymore.

She blinked a few times, causing the tears she’d been holding back to fall down her cheeks, but she wasn’t crying just yet. Able to see more clearly now, she noticed the odd look he was giving her. His eyes were wide, almost as if he were in shock, but they portrayed a different emotion, like he was looking right through her at something far away. The smile he was best known for twitched downward at the edges as if the infamous Radio Demon were about to pull a frown.

At first glance, one would think his strange stare was due to the fact that she was naked, but he hardly seemed like the type to care about such things. After putting a bit more thought into it, she could only assume he was reacting to what she’d done to the demon now completely made of ivy. She wondered if he was afraid to approach her and she wouldn’t have blamed him for it. She’d witnessed firsthand as the thorny vines consumed the bull from head to toe and could hardly believe it herself, unsure if anyone could even come back from what she’d done. If she were in his shoes she’d be afraid, too, because she was already afraid of herself. She didn’t know if it would happen again and didn’t want to be responsible for another potential death.

“Will you kill me quickly?” she finally spoke in a low voice, catching them both by surprise. She wasn’t sure where the words had come from, but she’d spoken them nonetheless.

Alastor shook his head and blinked a few times, really looking at her now. “What?” he asked rather bluntly, unable to process what she’d just said to him.

“Will you kill me quickly?” she repeated. He stared at her as if she’d just grown a second head. “I shouldn’t be asking you that question. I know that. You can do whatever you want to me and I will not be able to stop you, but I would prefer you did it quickly, please.”

His expression turned blank and unreadable, so she couldn’t be sure how he was processing what was happening. “Why not try that on me?” he gestured with a flick of his chin towards the statue.

She glanced at it, but couldn’t stomach the sight of it and quickly looked away. “I do not think I could… even if I wanted to. Neither of us can deny you have done a lot of bad things…” she paused as he raised a brow at this, but let her continue without interruption. “I have seen firsthand how awful you can be. I have heard about the vile things you have done. You kill without mercy. You destroy anything that gets in your way. How many lives have you taken? How many people have suffered at your hand? How many more after today?” Of course neither of them could answer those questions, but they still held a heavy weight to them nonetheless. “I could try to do that to you and I doubt anyone would miss you. Heaven, I bet there would be people who would thank me for it.” She didn’t miss the way his hand clenched tightly to a fist at his side, but she didn’t care.

“But I am not like you, Alastor,” she said quietly. “I cannot take joy in any of this. There is blood on my hands now and I… I hate myself for it.” She looked at her palms, still able to see those plumes of smoke rising from them even though they’d faded minutes before. Her hands balled into fists and she hid them from sight, unable to stomach the sight of them either. “I cannot stand what I have done and I am tired. So very tired. I am tired of fighting that I am a horrible person who clearly did one thing or another to end up in Hell. I am tired of the stares people give me because I am so ashamed of my body that I can’t walk outside without covering most of it up. I am tired of everyone using me as they please without caring about how I feel. I am tired of being alone because no one really cares about me. I am tired of the hurt and the pain and the sadness…. And I am especially tired of fighting you.” She looked up at him slowly again, but his expression was still blank and she had no idea what he was going to do next, so she did the only thing she could and went on.

“You are clearly not going to stop until you get your way and I am either gone for good or locked away somewhere until you have use of me or forget about me completely, so I am done fighting you. You can do whatever you want with me. Whether that means impaling me on something, tearing me limb from limb, eating me until there is nothing left of me, or disemboweling me and knitting my entrails into a sweater, I do not care anymore.” He looked like he might laugh at that last one, but decided against it. “You can do whatever you like, but please. I am begging you. Just end me quickly because I cannot handle any more pain. I died in pain and have spent nearly all my time in Hell in pain and this place has been nothing but torment. I just want it to end. I know I have no right to ask this of you, but I am given to understand I am allowed to make one last request or what have you. So please, just do what you have to and be done with it. Please.”

She wasn’t sure when she’d started crying, but quickly realized that at some point the tears had started falling. She wasn’t sobbing and her voice sounded normal for the most part, so she wasn’t even sure she could call it crying. Maybe it was weak of her to shed tears during her final moments, but she was truely done caring. She’d given all she had and didn’t have any more energy to spend. She’d gladly welcome that all consuming numbness now if it meant she could go in peace for once.

He just stared at her for the longest time. Neither of them moved as her eyes silently pleaded with him to give her this last mercy and his bore into hers, staring deep into the recesses of her soul, seeing things about her she probably didn’t even know existed. She couldn’t tell if even a word of what she’d said had gotten through to him and knew there there was a good chance none of it had, but still she hoped.

Eventually, he took that first step towards her, still not saying a word. His movements were slow and calculated, every bit as predatory as she’d ever seen him. She knew then that she’d failed to get through to him. He was going to make sure her death was slow and painful, everything she’d just begged him not to do, making sure to fulfill every sick and twisted torment he’d ever wished to inflict upon her. She couldn’t meet his gaze anymore and instead focused on the floor, absentmindedly counting the seconds that ticked away until her inevitable demise. His shoes soon came into view and he stopped only a few inches in front of her. She could feel his eyes on her but didn’t dare meet his gaze for fear of seeing that sadistic smile he was likely wearing.

There was a brief shuffle of clothing before something thick and heavy fell overtop of her head. It took her a moment to register what had just happened as the jacket of his suit settled around her, covering her backside and pooling on the floor behind her. She was unable to move as he slowly sat down beside her, one leg propped up at an angle and the other flat against the floor, keeping his distance at first before hesitantly reaching his hands out towards her. He adjust the his jacket so it covered her better, careful not to touch her where he ought not, and pulled her toward him.

“You silly little fool,” he huffed, almost passing it off as a laugh, as he held her close. “You’re so much more like me than you realize.”

Her eyes were wide with shock and she was sure in that moment that she’d completely lost her mind. There was no possible way that Alastor was actually hugging her, but there they were. His body was stiff and his arms a bit limp, like he was uncomfortable and didn’t know how to execute the action properly. Despite this, there was a strange comfort in his hold and he was surprisingly gentle with her. She knew she shouldn’t let her guard down. He was still very much dangerous and unpredictable, but she wanted nothing more in that moment than for him to keep holding her.

“If you’re still hellbent on dying, I’ll give you what you want, but I think you should know that you’re not alone. You’ve have half the hotel looking for you while you were gone and Angel Dust has been worried out of his mind since you disappeared. You say you’re tired of being alone, but you’re the furthest thing from it. You have a home, a life, and friends, thought perhaps you’re too blind to see them. You could die once and for all here and now, but there would be so much that you’re leaving behind,” he said softly, speaking as if talking to a scared child, but she supposed that must be what she looked like to him. “So, I’ll ask you only once. Do you still want to die?”

Ottilie wasn’t sure how to react. There were so many emotions swimming around inside of her that she was nearly drowning in them. Still questioning her sanity, she pondered his words, which she hated to admit had some truth to them. The hotel had become a home to her even though she’d only been there a short time and, though she hardly ever left, she had a life to go back to. She’d always known she had Angel Dust on her side, but she’d somehow managed to overlook everyone else. Charlie had always been so sweet to her and Vaggie never missed an opportunity to commend her for her work. Nifty was a chatterbox, but always kept the conversation entertaining and was able to fill the silence when she had nothing to say. Husk had never been a people person, but he seemed to like her well enough.

“I want… to live,” she said in a breathless whisper. “I want to live.” Her voice came out a bit louder this time, but sounded strangled, like the words were constricting her throat. She started to tremble again as her arms slowly wrapped around him and she buried her face in his chest. She wasn’t sure what made her start to truly cry this time. Perhaps it was the fact that she had ever thought she wanted to die in the first place or the fact that she truly wanted to live, but either way her body was shook by broken sobs and she couldn’t hold back the wails that erupted from her mouth. “I want to live! I want to live! I want to live!”

Alastor didn’t tell her to stop crying or try to hush her. He simply held her closer, still stiff and unsure of himself, and let her cry it out. She was grateful to him for that, knowing she wouldn’t be able to stop even if he did. If he noticed the fact that her hair started to grow back right before his eyes as she sobbed into his chest, he didn’t bring it up, and she was too busy to notice either.

Time passed and she eventually began to calm down, but didn’t let him go. Her arms stayed firmly locked around him and showed no signs of releasing any time soon. He didn’t protest, however. He simply made sure his coat was fastened around her so it would stay in place and lifted her into his arms, apparently as unwilling to let her go as she was to him. She hid her face in his shoulder, still unwilling to show the shame of her face to the world, as he carried her out of the room. She heard footsteps approaching them and burrowed deeper into his hold, as if that would prevent them from seeing her, and he gave her a light squeeze as if to reassure her that she was safe in his hold.

“Hey, there he is!” she heard a somewhat familiar voice call out. She might have heard it back in the White Room, but couldn’t be sure and didn’t bother to check.

“So did you finally take care of the dame or wh- Holy shit. What the fuck?” she heard someone else say, their tone quickly turning to one of surprise.

“Jeez, boss. You really know how to knock ‘em off their feet, don’t you?” someone laughed.

“I thought you were going to finish her off here? What? Did you suddenly decide to take dinner home?” the fourth voice asked before they all joined in a bout of laughter.

Ottilie didn’t react upon hearing this, but Alastor was apparently having none of it. A low growl vibrated through his chest, perhaps a warning to them, before he lunged forward slightly and snapped his jaws at one of them. She heard all four of them let out a noise of surprise and back away before they fell silent. He said nor did anything more, leaving them staring after him in various states of shock as he carried her away.

Chapter Text

The walk back to the hotel was spent in silence, but Alastor found himself welcoming it. He was still a bit worked up from the previous few hours events and he found it the perfect time to wind down. He could sense Alton and the other three following behind, but they were likely keeping their distance since he’d snapped at them. That was fine by him, however, as the rowdy group would likely have woken up the sleeping demoness in his arms. 

He wasn’t quite sure when Ottilie had fallen asleep, but somewhere along the way she’d gone limp in his arms and didn’t react to the sounds of the city around them. Perhaps it was to be expected, though. There was no doubt she’d been through a great deal of trauma and not just by his own hands, so exhaustion had likely taken over and she just didn’t have the energy to fend it off. He highly doubted she’d be willing to leave herself so vulnerable to him if that weren’t the case, even under the given circumstances. 

He received quite a few stares and sideways glances as he passed various demons. Even in Hell, it wasn’t every day you saw someone carrying an unconscious body down the sidewalk. The smarter ones quickly stepped out of his way and made room for him as he approached. Most of them probably didn’t even know who he was, but they knew a threat when they saw one. The less than intelligent, which was surprisingly very few, didn’t bother to move and glared at him, trying to seem more intimidating than they ever would be. He paid them no mind, but he simply couldn’t tolerate it when one of them actually tried to shove him aside. He was almost impressed that a demon much smaller than him would even try, but nonetheless he showed them who the better demon was when he promptly kicked them in the side and sent them flying into the street where a car just happened to be passing. His smile turned sadistic as he heard the crunching of bones and cries of anguish, his head held high in an almost arrogant manner as he moved along.

They were at least half way back to their destination when he heard a pair of footsteps approaching quickly from behind. His eyes glanced briefly to the side as Sammy fell in line beside him, still keeping a bit of distance between them in case he snapped again, that nervous smile still plastered on his face. “So, um… Looks like we had a successful day, am I right?” 

Alastor didn’t spare him another glance, keeping his eyes forward. “I suppose.” 

Sammy knew the lack of acknowledgement meant that Alastor didn’t consider the conversation worth his time, but still he persisted. “I’m sure the others had a lot of fun, too. It’s not very often you take us out on such a… fun filled day.” Alastor knew that was a lie. Sammy had always hated carnage as much as the others loved it, but participated for the sake of staying on Alastors good side, or at least as good as it got. “However… we were wondering- well, I was wondering…” he corrected himself, knowing he was treading on thin ice even thinking about this line of questioning but facing the danger of it anyway. “Why didn’t you finish the girl off? You’ve been planning this for a while now and it’s just not like you to-.” He cut himself short as Alastor turned to him with a curt and strained looking smile, which he knew all too well meant that the deer demon was barely containing himself behind the facade.

“Are you questioning my actions, Samuel?” Alastor asked, his eyes darkening as static crept into his voice. 

“N-no. No, o-of course not, sir. It’s just that I-,” Sammy stammered out quickly, trying to explain himself before anything bad happened to him. 

“Good,” Alastor cut him off, “because I’d really hate to have to teach you a lesson for it, especially after you did so well today.”

“Really?” Sammy asked hopefully. 

“Yes. So don’t push your luck, pally, because I’m not in the mood for it,” Alastor warned, leaning down so he was in the other demons face, watching as Sammy made tracks back to where the others were standing, no doubt getting mocked for his cowardly actions. 

Turning back around, he continued walking again. He couldn’t help but began to ponder his own actions as he did so, something he rarely ever did. Much to his irritation, Sammy did have a point. It was hardly like him to let someone live, let alone off the hook once he’d decided to go after them. Looking down at the sleeping woman in his arms, he wondered if that was indeed what he was doing. He’d asked her if she wanted to live, but never actually said he’d ensure she wouldn’t die. Her life was still very much in his hands and he could just as easily end it. Even so, he found himself questioning if he even wanted to. He’d killed many people when he was alive and countless more after. He’d killed the other maids without so much as an after thought, yet at that very instant he was second guessing himself and he didn’t like it. She was just a woman to him, nothing more than a pawn in a sick and twisted game that no one else seemed to know they were playing. 

‘So why am I still helping her?’ he thought to himself. ‘Maybe it would be better if I left her to fend for herself. She’s not my responsibility. I have bigger and better things to worry about than whether or not I snuff out the life of one woman.’ He felt his grip on her start to loosen a bit, his arms holding her away just enough that her head fell from his shoulder to his chest. ‘Just drop her on the sidewalk and be done with her. If she never returns, then that will be the end of it. If she does… Well, I gave her the opportunity to leave and she shunned it. Her death will be her own fault.’ 

He was fully prepared to execute this plan, ready to let her fall to the concrete even as she slept, but the image of those sad and broken eyes popped into his head. They brought back that all too familiar memory and he found himself staring at her sleeping form again. So small and fragile in his arms, wearing his coat and looking even more so in a garment that hugged his figure but hung loosely off her petite frame. She looked far less dejected in her state of slumber, that sad expression she always wore gone for the time being.

Perhaps her sleep riddled mind finally noticed that her body had shifted because she let a small grunt and blinked her eyes open, her head lifting just a bit to look up. Her eyes met his and he wondered if she even remembered what happened or what she’d do once she realized that she was still in his arms. The eye contact was brief, however, as she softly grunted once more before readjusting herself so she was closer to him again and her head was back against his shoulder, practically nuzzling against it in the process before falling back to sleep. 

He stared at her in a mixture of awe and befuddlement. Most demons who dared to touch him only ever did so with the intent to fight him or as a casual gesture. Never had someone so brazenly pressed themselves up against him, let alone to snuggle into him as she had. Even during his life as a human, a time when women and even men would constantly tell him how handsome and charming he was, would keep him at an arms length. To her credit, she had been dazed out of her mind with sleep, but even then he couldn’t help but wonder how a person could be so idiotic. 

As usual, he was overcome with the urge to push off whoever had touched him. He didn’t like being touched, which was a bit hypocritical of him considering he could touch other people without any qualms on his part, and felt the need to punish them either physically or mentally for their actions. This time, however, he found himself tightening his hold on her again so that his arms were no longer slack and he was carrying her properly. For what felt like the thousandth time he was questioning his own actions, wondering what was leading him to act this way. He owed the young woman nothing and yet there he was pampering her like a child. 

A deep sigh escaped him and it was all he could do not to rip apart the next demon he saw out of pure frustration. Deciding to distract his mind in the meantime, he tried to come with a few excuses he could tell the others back at the hotel. They were sure to happy about her return, but would no doubt have questions that demanded answering before too long. How had he found her, what was he doing in a place like that, where did all that blood on your clothes come from, and the list only seemed to get longer the more he thought about it. He could come up with lie after lie to answer each one of them. That was the easy part. The hard part was garentying that Ottilie would go along with them. She was the same in the fact that she owed him nothing either and had every reason to tell them everything that had transpired between them, including both his attempts on her afterlife. He’d have to come up with a way to get her into the loop without setting her off in the meantime, which seemed quite the impossible feet considering she always seemed to be able to see through his true intentions and they were over halfway back to the hotel now.

Glancing down at her again, he realized he’d somehow managed to fail to notice that she was still bleeding. It was an awful amount, enough to make him question why she hadn’t healed yet. He thought back to when he’d first taken the time to observe her after capturing her and noticed all of the cuts and bruises on her flesh that hadn’t healed properly, either. He’d been too distracted to concern himself with it then, especially considering what he was about to do to her, and had brushed it off. Now, though, it just left him with more dilemmas. 

The others were sure to wonder where her fresher marks had come from and anyone with a fraction of a brain could see that it was his teeth marks that marred her flesh. He could hardly treat them himself, seeing how he didn’t have the necessary supplies and he was a radio host, not a doctor. He could have easily taken her to one, but Hell was exactly overrunning with trustworthy medical professionals. They were more likely to steal her kidney than fix whatever was wrong with her. There was one doctor worth seeing, but he wasn’t even sure he could get them to help him. He hadn’t really ever been on the best of terms with them and he wouldn’t be surprised if they slammed the door in his face even if he apologized, which he imagined he’d be doing a lot of and wasn’t much looking forward to it. They were his best hope, though, and perhaps taking her there to have her wounds treated was a step in the right direction to getting Ottilie on his side. 

He stopped walking and turned to the four demons still keeping a bit of distance behind him. They cautiously came to stand before him, wondering if he was going to snap at them again, but instead he said, “I’m going to make a detour. You four are to head back without me and wait by the hotel. Under no circumstances are you to enter without me. Understood?” 

The four of them nodded, not daring to disobey him in the current mood he was in. Sammy looked ready to say something, but quickly closed his mouth, remembering their earlier conversation. Inadvertently, Ozzy spoke up for him and asked, “Where are you going that were suddenly not allowed to?”

Alastor gave Ozzy a look that told him he’d later regret giving him lip before turning and continuing down the street. “To eat crow.”

*****

Surprisingly, there were many forms of climate in Hell. Everything from sunshine to rain happened in the Nine Circles, but something had gotten lost in translation and the mortals seemed to think that it was an eternal pit of never ending fire. Of course there was fire, but not nearly that much. Suffice it to say, though, none of the circles were inhabitable and the climate was always miserable. It was Hell, after all. The souls that inhabited it weren’t meant to live in paradise. 

In the Circle of Wrath, it was a constant state of never ending heat. The sun was always blaring down on the unlucky inhabitants who lived there and the sidewalk was so hot that eggs would burn to a crisp upon contact. Clouds would occasionally cover the sky, but it never did anything to lessen the intensity of the heat. If anything, it only seemed to add to it. The overhanging blanket of dark energy would make everyones moods even fowler than before and the citizens that were unlucky enough to dwell there didn’t bother to hide this fact. They were very vocal about their displeasure of the rising temperatures and wouldn’t hesitate to shank anyone who so much as looked at them sideways. Needless to say, the other denizens of Hell would avoid that area as much as they could. 

One such exception to this rule was a lone mansion that rose high above the other buildings that surrounded the outer perimeter of the stone wall that lined the estate. Not only did it stand out in height, but in grandeur and regality. The exterior of the mansion was painted a light black while the stained glass windows, ledges, and shingles were a dark colored maroon. The left and right side of the building only consisted of two floors whilst the middle was made up of five on top of them, forming an almost sort of boxy tower feature in the old fashioned design of the architecture. Atop the tower was what appeared to be a windowed belfry with a stone statue standing on the peak, giving it the appearance of a sentry keeping watch over the building. Two maroon columns stood on either side of the front entrance, holding up an overhang that offered a rare bit of shade in the intense heat. 

This mansion seemed to be the pinnacle of envy in the Circle of Wrath, for those that dwelled within its walls never seemed to be affected by the intense heat. Much like everyone else they couldn’t escape it entirely, but they had a fair bit of help when it came to dealing with it because not only did demons dwell within its walls, but crows as well. While these looked fairly similar to the animals that roamed the mortal world, these creatures were fairly larger and therefore had a greater wingspan. In order to help keep their home and its occupants cooler, they would regularly flap their wings inside the mansion and out, creating a much welcomed breeze most days.

That day they were not so lucky.

The crows that gathered there were surprisingly still and silent, a usually rare occurrence, but one that seemed to be happening more often. The large birds appeared to be sad and somber, their heads hung low as they perched on branches, rocks, or wherever else they could find. It was almost like a funeral procession, the way they gazed sadly as a lone figure stood on the grounds, a shovel in hand as they dug into the desolate ground. Though no other demons were present, this was as close to a funeral as any of them could get, the oversized creatures set in a state of mourning as their fellow brothers and sisters were put to rest. Unfortunately for the crows, they did not share the same ability as demons to simply regenerate after a serious injury, so they were forced to watch as a stunningly number of their large family was placed into shallow graves one at a time before being covered in the dirt, a marker placed at each mound in remembrance of them.

There were a many number of markers littering the area that made up a makeshift graveyard on the grounds. There had once been a designated area just for this purpose, the gated section set aside so that everyone could mourn in their own time, but lately they had been forced to bury the fallen crows outside of it because there was simply no room left to place anymore of them. It was becoming out of hand and there didn’t seem to be an end to the needless deaths any time soon. 

While the lone figure worked on the graves outside, another stood watch within the walls of the mansion, her hand idly stroking the back of a crow that from the open window. They both looked just as sad as they others outside, feeling the lose like a heavy weight had been placed on their chests. The woman let out a heavy sigh, but it did nothing to loosen the tightness she felt in her chest. Grief was a heavy burden to bare and she never seemed to handle it well. 

The master of the estate wasn’t dealing well with it, either. Though his own appearance never let it show, he was grieving just as much as the rest of them, no doubt even more so. It wasn’t uncommon for him to shut everyone else out during his time of mourning and they’d all learned by now to simply leave him be, knowing that none of them could bring him out of it no matter how hard they tried. Despite the fact that he wasn’t related to the animals by blood, he cared for them just as deeply as if they were his own family and it was hard for him to lose even a single one of them. This many deaths would probably lead to him forcing himself into self imposed solitary confinement where he wouldn’t speak or eat for days.  

Even so, life had to go on and the woman was pulled back into it all too soon when a crow came flying over to her, alerting her to the presence of someone at the door, which she hadn’t even heard the knocking of, as it landed on her shoulder and cawed quietly out of respect for those mourning. She thanked the bird and straightened her appearance as much as she could, drying her face and smoothing the wrinkles out of her uniform. It wouldn’t do her current mood any good to allow herself to be seen in a state of mess and ruin the reputation of her master, so she walked briskly but gracefully to the door so as not to keep their guest waiting. With one last deep breath to steady herself, she pulled one of the doors open and all the blood drained from her face in mere seconds.

Of all the visitors that had come to their door, never once did she think she’d come face to face with the Radio Demon. Just as tall and imposing as others had said, she would know him anywhere just by his appearance and that ever present smile that could unnerve even the best of demons. Swallowing past the lump of fear stuck in her throat, she tried to keep a straight face as she asked, “May I help you, sir?”

“Yes, my dear, I think you can. Would the master of the house happen to be home? There’s a pressing matter I need to speak with him about,” he asked, his smile widening as he took apparent pleasure in her obvious apprehension of him.

“I am terribly sorry, but the master will not be seeing anyone today. You will have to come back some other time. Have a good day, sir,” she said quickly, pushing the door closed so she didn’t have to look at him anymore, but was quite surprised when he placed his foot halfway between it and the doorway, preventing her from moving it even in an inch further.

“Forgive my rudeness,” his smile turned strained, as if he were barely containing his emotions, as his head and shoulder slipped between the half open doorway, “but I am afraid you are misunderstanding the situation.” For a moment, she feared for her safety as he looked down at her like she was a snack waiting to be eaten. “I said I have a very pressing matter to discuss and I will not be leaving until it is settled. Now, the sooner you bring me to him, the sooner I can be on my way. Am I making myself clear?” He tilted his head at her, now looking at her like a parent trying to explain something to a child; she didn’t much appreciate his condescending attitude, but there wasn’t much she could do about it. 

Swallowing again, she pushed past her pride and let go of the door, stepping back to allow him entrance. “Of course, sir. Would you kindly follow me, please?” She quickly turned on her heal, waited for him to step fully inside, and began walking briskly through the mansion once she heard the door close, his footsteps following closely behind. Perhaps it was foolish of her to turn her back to him, but she could hardly do anything about it. It would be highly improper for her to walk beside him and to do so would bring shame upon the household. Even if she could she still wouldn’t be safe. She’d simply have to get to their destination as quickly as possible and get as far away from him as she could. 

It seemed to take ages before they finally reached the door that led out into the backyard. She could practically feel him breathing down her neck as she opened the door and stepped outside, the heat immediately washing over her and causing sweat to start collecting on her skin. She briefly wondered why she hadn’t seen him sweating after having been out in the open air, but didn’t focus on it too much; she’d rather not think about him at all if she could help it. They continued out into the yard, the eyes of many feathered creatures watching them and a few even cawing nervously at them as they passed, until they came to the figure still digging holes in the yard. They stopped a respectable ways away as the figure stuck the shovel into the ground so it was standing straight up before reaching into a wheelbarrow and pulling out a carefully wrapped bundle, which was then tenderly placed into the fresh hole in the ground and given a moment of mourning before the dirt was packed back onto it.

The young woman waited patiently until the crow was completely covered, watching once again with a heavy heart, before speaking up. “Please pardon my intrusion, Master Eugalp, but you have a visitor.”

The figure, Eugalp, paused as he was about to start the next hole. He kept his back turned to them but turned his head ever so slightly in acknowledgment. “Ask that they come back another day. I will not be seeing anyone,” he spoke in a muffled, Italian voice.

The air suddenly became thick with tension and the crows all around them began to flap their wings and caw rather loudly in warning before their master held up his hand and they all silenced themselves immediately. The woman dare not look behind her for fear of what she might see. “Forgive me, Master Eugalp, but he has refused to do so. There is apparently something he must discuss with you. Also, he is here right now.” 

Eugalp stiffened at this, but said nothing about it as he nodded his head. “Very well. You may go now.”

She didn’t need to be told twice, curtsying to her master even though he couldn’t see her and turning to leave. Taking one last look at the Radio Demon, she found herself stopping short when she finally noticed what he was holding. His sudden visit made sense now as she looked upon the apparently sleeping woman nestled in his arms, his jacket wrapped around her like a blanket, and no doubt injured if the blood seeping through the fabric had anything to say about it. She knew it was terribly rude to stare, especially for someone of her status, but she couldn’t seem to help it. It wasn’t every day one saw something like one of the most powerful beings Hell had ever seen holding someone so tenderly. 

“You may go now,” Eugalp said a bit louder and with less patience. Jumping a bit, she quickly heeded his command and scurried away.

***

Alastor gave the woman who he could only assume was one of the maids no further mind. She’d served her purpose and he didn’t need her anymore. He couldn't say he'd particularly liked the fact that she'd stared at Ottilie and himself in such a way, but he was willing to let it go, just this once. Instead, he kept his focus on the demon in front of him.

While known to his servants as Master, he was better known to the denizens of Hell as Doctor Eugalp. Even more of a relic of time than Alastor, he'd died more than a hundred years before him and it certainly showed. Normally, he'd wear a long, double breasted black overcoat and matching top hat, but such items had been removed so he could work more freely. His current attire consisted of a white button down undershirt, dark gray vest, red tie and belt, white gloves, and black shoes. The entirety of his face was covered by a white beak-nosed mask which obscured his eyes, making them look black and hollow, and caused his voice to sound muffled. His hair, which was black at the top and gray around the sides, was styled in a way that the black was slicked back while the gray was brushed back into two angular points, only adding to his bird-like appearance. He was around average height for a demon at six foot five, but this left him at a disadvantage as Alastor easily towered over him at seven foot eight; the doctor, however, wasn't so easily intimidated.

Eugalp continued to keep his back turned to Alastor even as he walked over to a nearby tree and took his hat off of the branch it had been hanging on, doing the same for his coat. Only when his coat was buttoned and hat securely in place did he finally face him. "So, to what do I owe the pleasure of your company, sir?"

Alastor knew Eugalp knew who he was; he'd been around Hell too long not to know, but he'd never be so informal as to call him by name. The disdain was evident in the doctors voice, though, and he had to remind himself that he needed the mans help if only to keep himself from returning the favor. "Do forgive my sudden visit, but I had a bit of an... emergency." He lifted Ottilie ever so slightly, trying his best not to wake her just yet, and appeared to have succeeded as she readjusted herself against him as she slept soundly. He wasn’t usually one to be so straightforward, but he would have rather gotten the whole encounter over with as soon as possible.

"I see," Eugalp said, looking Ottilie over. The blood that had since dried on her skin was all too evident and it didn’t take a genius to see that she was likely still bleeding under the coat that was wrapped around her. It was likely taking all he had not to rush to her aid. "And may I ask what happened to the young lady?"

"How about we say she came into contact with a Red Room and leave it at that?" Alastor tilted his head inquisitively. 

"And I am also to assume that you had nothing to do with it and leave it at that?" Eugalp asked, walking back over to the shovel and placing it in the wheelbarrow before covering it with a large white cloth. 

Alastors eyes nearly narrowed, but he restrained himself. "That would be a… fair assumption. I can’t deny that I left a few marks here and there.”

“I would say I appreciate your honesty, but I do not believe the young miss would return the favor,” Eugalp replied curtly.

“Oh, come now, Doctor. Why all the hostility? Where is that charm I hear you are so vastly known for?” Alastor asked, years of keeping face having taught him not to react to every little thing. 

“Perhaps,” Eugalp practically hissed, “I would be more welcoming if the demons you chose to keep company were not so regularly hunting down my crows and consuming them for sport?” His eyes began to burn with nearly unchecked rage, glowing effervescent so that the hollow pits of the eyes in his mask showed two red dots. Alastors instincts reacted before could and his own eyes began to glow as he let out a low growl of warning. The living crows around them began to fidget and caw as the two demons stared each other down, their powerful auras clashing in a deadly mix, but their master was not to be deterred. “This is the fifth time alone that I have had to bury a great number of them. Do you have any idea how hard it is to mourn something that comes back to you in pieces? Sometimes there is hardly anything left of them at all. Their numbers used to be great and now there are so few. You have no care for what those demons do and come here expecting my help? For all I know, that demoness is apart of the problem. Give me one good reason why I should even consider it.”

Alastor glanced around, finding the birds to be reflecting their masters rage in their tiny eyes, and let out a chuckle. From where he stood, Eugalp had more than a few birds to spare, but he doubted the doctor would agree with the thought. He was fully aware that more than a few of his followers loved the taste of crow. The Devil himself knew that he had eaten quite a number of them himself just for the joy of tearing something apart but, as much as it made his skin crawl at the thought, he’d have to save face if he wanted help. Letting out a long sigh, he did something he so very rarely did: Apologize. “I’m very much aware of what they have done in the past. Despite what others may think, I do keep tabs on the people I keep company with. I just don’t see the point in keeping them in check so long as it doesn’t interfere with my own comings and goings.” This didn’t seem to make Eugalp any happier. “However, if means earning your help, I can promise that I will no longer let them continue eating your precious pets without some form of punishment.” It wasn’t exactly an apology, more an admission of guilt, but it was as close as he was going to get. 

“I am sorry to say that you offering to punish your own demons does not do much to make me feel better,” Eugalp replied. 

“Oh, trust me. They know better than to step out of line if one of my punishments are on the table,” Alastor explained, a cruel smile spreading across his face for a moment. Eugalp had a feeling there was at least a bit of truth to this and pondered it for a moment; he seemed almost tempted to accept the offer, but wasn’t entirely convinced. “Of course, there is always the alternative.”

“Which is what, exactly?” Eugalp asked. 

“That the rest of Hell finds out that you turned away a demon in need, a woman no less, and your reputation is in ruins,” Alastor explained, knowing that Eugalp would never let that happen.

“You would not dare to do such a thing,” Eugalp stated, sounding unsure of himself, his eyes glowing brighter at the thought. 

“Well of course I would never partack in such unsavory things such as gossip, but,” Alastor made a mock face of disgust before his expression turned threatening, “I do have companions that simply love to spread rumors and the like around.” He half shrugged, still careful not to make any sudden jerks with the woman in his arms. “It would be such a shame for me to return to my place of residence with this poor, innocent, injured demon only for the others to find out that I came to you for help…. And you turned us away. I’m sure the news would spread like wildfire and all of Hell would be abuzz.” That really seemed to catch Eugalps attention and he knew he had him on the hook. “I can see you have more important things to worry about than your reputation and the health of one demon, though, so I will just get out of your hair and be on my way. Ta-ta!” He twiddled his fingers in the air a few times in the form of a wave before turning on his heels and heading towards the door, but he didn’t get far. 

“Stop!” Eugalp called out before Alastor could even take five steps.

Alastor let a devious smile creep up his face, his expression turning innocent as he turned to look behind himself. “Yes?” 

*****

Alastor was a great manipulator, but even he knew he was lucky any of what he said had worked. Eugalp was a smart and honorable man, something the Radio Demon had used to his advantage, but Alastor had come very close to returning to the hotel with an injured Ottilie and a great deal of explaining to do. He wasn’t sure even he could handle Vaggies constant badgering or Charlies inquisitive nature in his current mood. Not to mention Angel Dust would be all over him in a heartbeat, asking non stop questions and getting in his face for one reason or another. There would likely have been a blood bath that wouldn’t have ended well for any of them.

Despite Eugalps reluctance, however, he had led them inside and through the mansion, taking them to the office he kept outside of the hospital he ran. Though home visits, so to speak, were very much a thing of the past in the modern era, he’d found the setup to be necessary after the angels started their Exterminations and demons began showing up at his residence more and more; seeing how he couldn’t turn them away, this was the obvious solution. It was set up almost exactly like a typical hospital room, but with more basic equipment and fewer supplies, the finer things saved for the hospital itself. On the white painted walls were posters of both human and demon anatomy as well as various machines that made odd noises and tools that looked all too deadly but were quite helpful if used properly. There was a desk covered in neatly stacked papers with writing that only a doctor or someone who spoke Latin could understand in one corner, a locked cabinet which contained various medicines in another, and an examination table in the middle of the floor. 

Alastor couldn’t help but admire the modern technology that filled the space, especially in an otherwise outdated home that looked like it came from the Renaissance. He hadn’t been in a hospital room since his days as a human and even then he’d been a child at the time. He couldn’t even begin to name any of the machines or various tools around the room. It was amazing to him how far modern medicine had come since his time and even more so that Eugalp was staying up to date with them. “Ah, the wonders of technology,” he muttered to himself as he looked at a screen with different numbers and lines running across it, certainly not understanding what it was meant for when the lines sat motionless and the numbers didn’t even move.

“What was that?” Eugalp asked as he and one of the maids prepped the room for examination.

“Oh, nothing. Just thinking aloud,” Alastor brushed him off as he turned back towards them. 

“I see. Well, we are ready when you are. Place the patient on the exam table, please,” Eugalp instructed before asking the maid to leave and stepping away from the table.

For once, Alastor did as he was told and began laying Ottilie down on the sheet that covered the cold metal. He stopped halfway through, however, when he noticed Eugalp unlocking the cabinet and pulling something out of it. “What is that?”

“Smelling salts,” Eugalp explained as he took the cap off and moved towards Ottilie. Alastor immediately put himself between between the two of them; he may have come to him for help, but that didn’t mean he trusted him enough to let him do as he pleased, and he knew enough about the medical world to know that smelling salts were dangerous. They both seemed surprised at his actions, but Eugalp went on to explain himself further. “I can examine her much better if she is awake and able to tell me what they gave her so I can combat it. Now, please, step out of the way.”

Alastor understood the reasoning behind it, but he still wasn’t he liked the idea. Even so, he swallowed his pride and did as instructed again. He did his best not to fidget despite his reluctance as he watched Eugalp place the vial under Ottilies nose, waving it back and forth a bit a few times. She let out a snort of surprise as the smell assaulted her sinuses, but it appeared to have done the trick as her eyes snapped open before she blinked her eyes in rapid succession, looking around frantically in a state of panic. Her gaze landed on Eugalp, who was still standing over her and hadn’t seemed to realize that his close proximity might startle her, before she saw the surgical tools hanging on the walls and panic flooded her expression. She immediately tried to sit up and push past him, letting out a cry of both pain and terror as she did.

“Miss, please calm down. I am only trying to-,” Eugalp said in a soothing voice, trying to ease her fears has he gently tried to push her back down onto the table before she hurt herself further, but she was having none of that as she cried out. “Miss, there is no need to be afraid. You are in my-.” She suddenly brought her fisted hand back and punched him in the cheek of his mask, causing his head to fly to the side, no doubt leaving him in a bit of a daze. Despite her injuries, she was showing an impressive amount of strength and was almost succeeding in driving him back, likely driven by adrenaline. 

Alastor was stepping forward before he even realized his body was moving and the room fell still. “There, there now. There’s no need for that.”

*****

Ottilie wasn’t sure what happened. One minute she was drifting in the peaceful and welcoming darkness where she felt no pain and was blissfully unaware of the world only to be ripped away from it the next. All she knew for sure was that something had jolted her awake and she didn’t like it one bit. Senses on high alert, she’d opened her eyes only to be blinded by the light, her vision quickly adjusting only for her to realize she was in an unfamiliar place. She searched the room frantically for any sign of familiarity. In doing so, her gaze fell upon the figure standing over her. 

Dressed almost entirely in black with bird-like mask covering his face, she knew he had to be an employee of the Red Room. Looking around further and seeing all of the tools hanging on the wall not too far away only confirmed this for her and her heart filled with both fear and sadness. She should have known it was too good to be true. Just a wishful dream her mind had cruelly come up with in a last ditch effort to preserve her sanity. Why else would Alastor, of all people, have come to save her, she thought. She let out a cry of fear that quickly turned into pain was she sat up faster than she should have. Her entire body protested, but she didn’t care. In pain and afraid or not, she wasn’t going to go down without a fight. Not this time. Something had made her wired and fully alert and she was going to take full advantage of it. 

The masked figure stepped closer and placed his hands on her body, trying to push her back down before she could get off the table. “Miss, please calm down. I am only trying to-.” 

She didn’t let him finish, not wanting to give him the satisfaction. She was trying her best to fend him off but, despite her sudden burst of energy, he proved too strong to do so in her weakened state. She couldn’t continue to sit up and push him away, so she settled for the former. Even in her panicked state she had enough sense to wonder why she wasn’t tied down or restrained. Perhaps it was merely an oversight on their part, but she was going to use that to her full advantage, too. 

“Miss, there is no need to be afraid. You are in my-.” 

Her body reacted before she could stop herself, but the end result was satisfying. She managed to punch him square in the cheek of his mask and daze him, if only a bit. Before either of them could do anything about it, she felt a second set of hands just below her shoulders, squeezing them gently enough to gain her attention but not hurt her. 

“There, there now. There’s no need for that,” a familiar voice said, an air of authority around it that she would recognize anywhere. 

She stopped fighting, turning her head so quickly that she was nearly left dizzy from it, so that she could confirm she wasn’t hallucinating, but that those crimson eyes proved that it was all very much a reality. Perhaps she was still a bit delirious from the blood lose or maybe she wasn’t even fully awake yet, but she could almost swear she felt happy to see him. 

“No one is here to hurt you. Relax now. Everything is going to be fine,” Alastor continued, feeling the tension in her muscles slowly start to ease as she looked at him like a startled animal caught off guard. “Good, good. I’m sure that feels so much better. Now I think we can put this away. We’ve done enough damage for today.” She was fairly certain he was trying his best to keep from bursting out laughing as he placed a hand over her balled up fist and gently lowered it to the table, making her wonder what his real laughter sounded like. “So, how about you apologize to the doctor here, and we’ll put this whole ordeal behind us, hm?”

Ottilie grimaced a bit as she looked from beneath her lashes at the man she’d punched, clearly still in a bit of shock as he leaned slightly over the examination table for support. She did feel somewhat guilty for having punched someone she now knew was a doctor, but that didn’t mean she was entirely regretful about it either. She’d felt threatened and, for all she knew, he’d been about to do her serious harm just like all the others had. Even so, she did want to get this over with as quickly as possible, so she gave in. 

“Ottilie, dear, that doesn’t exactly count as an apology,” Alastor reprimanded halfheartedly after she grumbled a few words under her breath.

“No. Leave her be,” the doctor said sternly as he regained his bearings and straightened his mask so it sat correctly on his face. “It is best we move along before we traumatize her any further.” Ottilie liked him a bit more for not making her say it again, but only just a little. “I believe some introductions are in order. I am Dr. Eugalp, a trained doctor here in Hell and the master of the mansion in which you are currently a guest in. Ottilie, was it?” He held out his hand for her to take and she did so slowly and cautiously only because he was wearing gloves as she nodded, feeling Alastors hand grip the arm he was still holding just slightly tighter, but thinking nothing of it. He gave her hand a few courteous shakes and, much to her relief, let go. “Now then, I am obliged to tell you that your…. Well, for lack of a better word, ‘friend’ brought you here so that your wounds could be tended to. I would never presume to work on a patient without their permission, however, so I would like to have it before we continue. May I?”

Ottilie was a bit baffled, to say the least. Most people, if not all, would have just continued without a thought on how she felt on the matter, but he’d had enough respect for her personal space to ask first. She could very much appreciate that, but she still wasn’t sure she could trust him. It didn’t matter to her that Alastor had brought her here in the first place because she wasn’t sure she trusted him all that much, either. It was, however, in her best interest to let him proceed. She knew she was still in a bad state physically as well as mentally with her wounds healing as slowly as they were and she was in no shape to make it anywhere on her own. Swallowing her pride, she nodded her head, hiding the fear on her face behind the bangs of her hair.

“Thank you very much, Miss Ottilie. Now then, Mr. Alastor, if you would be so kind as to step out of the room, we can proceed,” Dr. Eugalp said, a hint of venom leaking into his words as he addressed the demon beside her. Her head shot up at that, not even caring if they saw her fear anymore. Alastor looked ready to protest, but the masked man went on before he could. “She may be unwilling to answer certain questions I need the answers to if she is in the company of someone she knows. This is simply for the benefit of everyone.”

Ottilie looked desperately between the two of them, unsure of what to do or say. 

Alastor, however, looked more miffed than anything, but reluctantly put on a charming smile. “Of course. Anything to help. I’ll just be outsi-.”

“No!” Ottilie suddenly blurted out, grabbing hold of his hand as he moved to step away. Alastor went stiff and turned to look at her in shock, once again caught off guard by her actions, as if he wanted to yank his arm away from her and punish her for even daring to touch him, but he didn’t. Realizing what she’d just done, she bit her lip and glanced away sheepishly, but didn’t let go of his hand. She thought over her next words carefully, but there was no other way to say it than to come straight out with it. “I don’t want you to go,” she said softly. “Stay… please.”

Alastor stared at her for the longest time, no doubt debating what his next move should be. A cold and calculating demon by nature, he was clearly unprepared for a situation like this. What was probably only seconds felt like hours before he finally blinked a few times to bring himself out of his daze and slowly nodded his head. “Of course… If that will make you feel… better.” She returned the gesture and nodded back at him, feeling another rush of relief. It was probably just the lighting playing tricks on her eyes, but she could have sworn she saw the faintest of blushes color his cheeks before it quickly faded away. He glanced down at his hand and she followed his gaze, making her realize she was still clutching it between her own, causing her face to turn bright red as she quickly dropped it and placed her hands back in her lap, looking down so she could avoid his gaze. He noticed Eugalp watching them curiously and his smile turned smug again. “Well, it would seem the patient would like for me to stay. I do hope that’s alright with you?”

Eugalp could hardly protest. He could tell Alastor made her uneasy, but not enough to want to be left alone with a complete stranger, and he needed her compliant if he was going to tend to her. “Of course not,” he replied, hiding his displeasure.

“Excellent. Now that the matter is settled,” Alastor beamed before glancing at Ottilie from the corner of his eye, “you may want to cover up, dear. I’m afraid you are still very much underdressed.”

Ottilie only just now noticed that she was still naked. The pinstriped jacket that had been wrapped around her beforehand had slipped off during her skirmish with the doctor, leaving it tangled beneath where she sat. She didn’t feel the least bit embarrassed, though. It wasn’t the first time she’d been naked in front of anyone and it certainly wouldn’t be the last. Eugalp didn’t seem to mind, either. Being a doctor, he’d seen many naked patients during his time and wasn’t affected by the sight of female anatomy. Alastor, however, was a man of class. It was highly improper of him to look at a woman without the right amount of clothing on and here she was wearing none of it. Keeping his head turned away while politely looking her in the eye was really all he could do in a situation such as this. 

Despite her lack of discomfort, Ottilie still reached for the jacket beneath her and moved to wrap it around her shoulders. Eugalp, however, was having none of that. “No, no, Miss Ottilie. I am afraid I cannot allow you to put that back on. It is much too filthy.” Alastor looked less than pleased at that comment. “Here. Put this on instead.” He reached down and opened a drawer beneath the table, pulling a fresh and clean hospital gown. She took the garment from him and reluctantly let him help her adjust herself so Alastors jacket was no longer beneath her, watching as he simultaneously folded and wadded the bloodied and torn clothing up. Alastor looked even more irritated as his clothing was tossed into a waste bin, but continued to hold his tongue. “Now then, if you will permit, I would like to access the damage done to your body. May I?” Ottilie grimaced, but nodded nonetheless. “Thank you.” He picked up her arm and began inspecting the cuts and bruises that marred her flesh. He was surprisingly careful with her, his hands trained after years of experience to touch her in a way that wouldn’t harm her. 

Despite how careful he was, she still wasn’t comfortable with him touching her bare skin, even with gloves. She wished she still had her own so she could cover her arms; the gown at least kept her legs hidden so long as she tucked them to the side, but the sleeves weren’t nearly long enough. Her clothing, however, had likely been disposed of once the attendants at the Red Room took it from her. It didn’t matter, though. Eugalp would have only removed her gloves even if she was still wearing them. 

“These cuts are fairly shallow and the bruising does not appear to have affected any muscle tissue. Can you make a fist for me, please?” Eugalp asked. Ottilie did as instructed, wincing as her muscles tensed but pushing through the pain. “Very good.” She could tell something was troubling him even though she couldn’t see his face. Before she could question it, he moved on to inspecting her face, turning it this way and that. Her eyes widened as he brushed aside her bangs, making her go stiff as a board.

*****

Alastor tilted his head curiously. He’d noticed that same reaction when he’d seen the usually covered side of her face, only this time she wasn’t trying to push anyone away. It was evident that she didn’t like anyone exposing the skin she was so careful to hide and he could see why. The entire area around her eye was black, even the eye itself, the only bit of color there being her iris, which was colored an icy blue. Around the edges of the blacked skin he could see her veins, almost as if her skin was translucent, but they were just as dark as the rest of it. Her arms and legs were just the same from the middle of her thighs and forearms down, extending from there to the tips of her fingers and toes. A part of him had always wondered why those particular areas of her body were always covered and now he knew the answer, though she seemed adamant about keeping it a secret, her eyes darting between him and Eugalp in a panic. Perhaps it was something he could use to his advantage. 

“Interesting,” Eugalp said, more to himself than them. “This almost looks like frostbite.” Ottilie gripped two fistfulls of the gown she was wearing and clung to them tightly as he continued to look at her face; if she wasn’t holding the gown, she likely would have broken the skin. “It is set in too deep to have been done by the perpetrators. Tell me, did you die in snow?”

Ottilie looked away from both of them again, her unaffected eye darkened by something only she could see. “I… I would rather not talk about that.”

“That is perfectly fine,” Eugalp replied, sounding mildly disappointed. Alastor had to admit he was just a bit disappointed as well; it would have been interesting, to say the least, to have learned how she died and if these strange markings were the aftermath of it. “I understand if you do not want-.” He suddenly stopped, his head tilting ever so slightly as he leaned in just a bit closer to inspect something apparently only he could see. “Miss Ottilie, did they- and I know this is going to be a very difficult question- remove your eye?” 

Ottilie flinched slightly and swallowed, no doubt remembering the incident as if it’d just happened. “Yes,” she confirmed. Alastor found himself resisting the urge to growl upon hearing this, wondering where the sudden need to had come from.

“More than once?” Eugalp asked. 

“Three times,” Ottilie said, barely able to keep herself from trembling.

Eugalp shook his head in disbelief and clicked his tongue in disgust. “What is the world coming to these days?” He let out a deep sigh and put it from his mind for the time being. “Can you see out of it all right?”

“I’ve never been able to see out of it at all,” Ottilie replied, her tone as casual as if she were talking about the weather. “Or, at least, not since I came to Hell.”

“I see. That is most unfortunate. I wish there was something I could do for it, but even I am incapable of changing the bodies we are sent to Hell with,” Eugalp offered his condolences, moving on to inspect her tail. 

“It’s alright. I accepted the fact that I’m stuck like this a long time ago,” Ottilie admitted sadly, pushing her bangs back in front of her face.

“And yet you felt the need to hide it,” Alastor muttered under his breath.

“What was that?” Eugalp asked, looking up at him.

“Oh, nothing, nothing. Carry on,” Alastor waved them off. 

“Hm,” Eugalp before returning to his assessment. “I see they took your tail more than a few times, as well. Can you move it for me?” Ottilies tail twitched back and forth a few times before settling back into place. “Is there any pain?” 

“A bit, but only when I move it too much,” she explained. 

“The nerves are probably still reattaching. Try to move it as little as possible for the time being,” Eugalp instructed. “Did they remove it shortly before you were rescued?” 

“No. A few days prior,” Ottilie shook her head.

“Hm,” Eugalp hummed again before coming around to her front again. “Miss Ottilie, please tell me, did they give you any type of drug while you were there?”

Ottilie pondered this for a moment. “They did, but I have no idea what it was. I had never seen anything like it prior to it happening.”

“What color was it? How did you feel after they made you take it? Were you able to heal properly afterward?” Eugalp inquired further. Alastor was feeling annoyed at all of his questioning when he was doing nothing to help her, wondering why he’d even bothered in the first place if all the doctor was going to do was speak to her, but was also curious about where it was headed. 

“It was black and it made me feel all tingly, at first, and then it felt like I was turning to stone,” Ottilie answered to the best of her ability, rubbing at a spot on her arm, before something seemed to dawn on her. “I… no…. After they injected me with it… I couldn’t heal right at all.”

“I feared as much,” Eugalp sighed, turning to walk over to the medicine cabinet again. 

“Feared what? What did they give her?” Alastor asked, feeling like it was his turn to play twenty questions.

“Diazepoxide,” Eugalp said as he began pulling vials and a beaker out. 

“Dia-who-say-what?” Ottilie and Alastor said at the same time. 

“Diazepoxide,” Eugalp repeated, thinking to himself as he read the labels and calculated a few things in his head. “It is a very dangerous toxin that causes demons to lose their natural ability to heal quickly. It cannot kill a demon, of course, but Red Rooms love to use it so their victims do not heal in front of their patrons. They say they lose more money that way, but personally I think that is a good thing.”

“Is it permanent?” Alastor wondered, considering the idea of obtaining this so called toxin for use in the future. 

“The effects are quite temporary but, given her current state, I would rather we get it out of her system as quickly as possible,” Eugalp assured them as he began mixing the vials into the beaker, creating a cloudy-white liquid. “This detox will help, but I will not lie to you, it will not be a pleasant experience.” He pulled out three small containers and divided the liquid evenly between them. “You will need to take one a day over the next three days to make sure the toxin works its way out of your system. In the meantime, I will be tending to your more serious wounds and you will need to make sure you keep them clean, otherwise your body will be as helpless as a humans.”

Alastor had to admit that he got a bit of a thrill watching Eugalp tend to Ottilie. She hissed and winced as Eugalp applied rubbing alcohol to her cuts. She was no doubt ready to cry when an infection on her thigh had to be cut open and drained before he cleaned and bandaged that as well. The best came, however, when she cried out as the lashes on her back were covered in a salve that was meant to numb the pain but had an unfortunate stinging affect when applied. Seeing someone who hardly ever showed emotion have this sort of reaction was a treat for him, to say the least. He did his best not to let it show, but his sadistic nature nearly had him jumping for joy.

All of that was forgotten, however, when Eugalp came to the marks on her shoulder. He was hoping the doctor would simply work on them and be done with it, but as luck would have it fate was not on his side. Eugalp stared at the wound and looked it over so many times that he had to stop himself from hurrying him along. He wasn’t quite sure what had him so worried. All he knew was that he wanted that part to be over with. 

“This particular wound seems fairly fresh. It must have happened quite recently. Do you remember how you got it?” Eugalp asked. 

Dread suddenly filled Alastor at that question. Perhaps what worried him was the fact that Ottilie could use this information to her favor and turn Eugalp against him. He was hardly afraid of the doctor, but the trouble that would ensue if she did was not worth the risk. He tried to think of something he could say to cover his tracks, but the words that followed the question left him without the need to.

“I… I don’t know.”

*****

Alastor wasn’t the only one feeling dread at that time. Ottilie could remember every moment, every tiny detail from the smell of the bathwater to the shine of the floor beneath her feet as she stepped into the room, all the things she wished she could forget but were etched into her brain. What she couldn’t remember, however, was what happened after she turned to find Alastor standing behind her. It was all just a blank slate, as if she’d fallen asleep as soon as it happened. She tried and tried, but couldn’t remember anything. 

“You do not know?” Eugalp repeated, hoping the slight pause had help to jog her memory, both he and Alastor staring at her as they waited for her reply.

“No…” she said in a low voice. 

“Well, that’s quite alright, dear. It’s probably for the best that you do not remember. You went through quite an orde-,” Alastor started, probably trying to make light of the situation. 

Her chest suddenly became tight and it was hard to breath, tears pricking her eyes as she fought to keep them at bay and regain control of her breathing. “I-I I can’t… I don’t know what… Why can’t I… I need- I need- I need-.”

“Miss Ottilie, please calm down,” Eugalp said. 

“No, no, no, no!” she said, half in hysterics and half in denial, as she clutched at her head so hard that she nearly pulled her hair out. “I should be able to remember! I can’t just forget! This shouldn’t be happening! It’s not right! This isn’t fair!” She started to hyperventilate as it became harder to breath, her eyes going wide as a burning heat started to blossom in her chest, already starting to make its way up to her fingertips. She curled into herself, trying to contain both her emotions and the fire that was raging hot as it demanded release from her body. 

Alastor took a step towards her, his hands extended out in front of him to show he meant no harm, but his approach only made her more anxious. “I think you’ve had enough excitement for one day, dear. You should just calm down and-.”

“Don’t touch me!” she practically screamed, swatting his hands away, causing him to take a step back in surprise and watch her with wide eyes. She knew he was only trying to help, but she was afraid that if his fingers so much as brushed her that he would share the same fate as the bull demon and she couldn’t have another incident like that on her conscience. Her arms started to shake as the fire began to lick at her flesh when it couldn’t find anywhere else to go. She thought that if she could just remember what happened that the pain would go away, but it wasn’t meant to be. She beat her fist against her head, ready to knock the memory out of her if she had to. “Why can’t I remember?” she demanded to know, each word enunciated by the pounding of her fist.

“Ottilie, stop that this instant!” Alastor demanded, grabbing her wrist in a harsh grip.

“I said don’t touch me!” she screeched, throwing her other hand palm out towards him. 

Both of their eyes widened as they shared looks of shock. The room was still and quiet, the first it’d been since Ottilie woke up not even an hour prior. Alastor slowly looked down, his expression unchanging, but Ottilie was too scared to move. She was sure that if she did, she’d see those vines engulfing him just as they had her first victim or maybe she’d see something even worse. As the seconds ticked away, however, she noticed that Alastor remained unchanged and there was no sign of any sort of green covering his body. Curious, her eyes followed his only to be met with the sight of a large syringe stuck deep into her chest, the last of whatever had been in the barrel flowing into her like water through a canal. She wanted to be angry, to lash out after having been violated and injected once again with something against her will, but she couldn’t feel much of anything. She felt no heat, no fear, no pain, nor anger, just blissful peace as a welcoming numbness washed over her once again. 

*****

Alastor reacted quickly as Ottilie fell forward and caught her under her arms as she slumped forward, letting her lean against him. She sat slack on the examination table, acting as if she’d just fallen asleep but her eyes were still open. He tried to set her up again, but her body was so limp that her limbs couldn’t support her and her head fell forward, making her look very much like a rag-doll. A sense of deja vu came to him then and he had to remind himself not to get angry as he turned his attention elsewhere.   

“What in the Heavens was that?” he asked, trying to get her head to stay up but watching with annoyance as it continually rolled to the side, her tongue flopping out of her mouth on the second attempt. 

“Getting the young miss to calm down before someone did anything they will likely not regret later,” Eugalp replied as he pulled the needle out of Ottilies chest and disposed of it in a bin labeled ‘hazardous waste’.

Alastor chose to ignore the obvious implication directed at him as he watched Ottilies head roll side to side, finding much more humor in it than one should, resisting the urge to burst out laughing at the noises she was making. “Yes, well, a bit of warning might have been nice. I could have been struck with that thing instead of her.”

“If I had warned either of you, she never would have let me do it, and striking you was a risk I was willing to take,” Eugalp replied, walking over to a closet and pulling out a dress and a pair of shoes, unfazed by the glare Alastor was shooting him as he turned back. “Now if you’ll please step aside, I would like to properly dress the young lady.”

*****

Alastor breathed a sigh of relief as they stepped out of the gates to the estate and onto the sidewalk. He’d thought Eugalp would never stop talking as he instructed him on how to tend to her wounds and redress them, something she’d no doubt need help with in the days to come. For someone who spent as much time as he did in solitude, Eugalp knew how to talk someone's ear off. Eventually, he’d just tuned the doctor out and only listened to every other word until he’d finished. To his credit, Eugalp had been kind enough to offer his services further should anyone feel the need to call on him, but Alastor didn’t see himself taking him up on that any time soon. 

With one problem out of the way, the only thing Alastor had to worry about then was getting Ottilie back to the hotel in one piece. Eugalp had said that the numbness would wear off within a few hours, something that would have only taken her minutes had her regenerative abilities been fully functioning, and she was able to at least walk without too much support. The trouble was, however, that she kept putting herself in harms way every chance she got. A car would be coming their direction on the street and she’d try to walk right in front of it. She’d see a demon who would sooner tear her head off than help her and step right in their path. If there’d been any heavy machinery or steep drops nearby, he was sure she’d find a way to use those too. He was beginning to wonder if the medicine she’d been given had somehow affected her sense of self preservation, but came to the conclusion that she was simply delirious. 

He’d tried on more than one occasion to carry her so they could avoid the problem and reach their destination faster, but each time she’d only taken hold of his ears and proclaimed that ‘the magical deformed horsey was giving her a ride along the rainbow bridge’, only further confirming his theory that she was out of her mind at the moment. Either that or she’d finally lost all her sanity; hearing her complain that she wanted to touch his ears again as she reached up towards his head and made grabby hands for a solid half hour, he could only hope it was the former and thank whomever was listening that he’d never had any children. The best he could do after was to keep a hand on her shoulder and guide her along at his side as he kept a watchful eye on her. 

She stayed calm, for the most part, during their walk. It was odd to see her so calm and act so compliant. Any other time, he probably would have welcomed it, but something wouldn’t let him enjoy the moment. Perhaps it was the fact that she was drugged up and didn’t have much of a choice, but he decided not to dwell on it too much. What really caught her attention, however, was when he began filling her in on everything that had happened while she was gone. He knew she likely wouldn’t remember anything he was saying but as long as it kept her from trying to step in front of a moving bus, he was happy to do it. She seemed to gain the most focus when he talked about Angel Dust, but there was only so much he could tell her when all the spider ever did anymore was sit and stare at the phone, so he turned to tales about the others as much as he could. 

“-and Nifty just can’t seem to stop talking about you. No matter what we’re doing, you always manage to come up in conversation. No one can seem to stop her,” Alastor recalled, “and trust me, I tried.” Her face was blank as she stared up at him, like he was talking to a brick wall with legs. “You even have Husk looking for you and that cat won’t move for anything unless there’s liquor involved. I imagine Vaggie was bribing him, at first, to get him to help, but here lately he seems more… focused. One could call it admirable, but nothing Husk does could come close to the word. And then there’s that eight limbed drug addict you’ve so foolishly chosen to call a best friend. He’s been the most driven of them all, surprisingly. I honestly thought he’d give up after he got bored and go back to pitching woo with anything that would pay him, but no. He managed to surprise me. It was interesting, to say the least.” He glanced down at her, finding just a spark of life there in an otherwise empty house. A deep sigh escaped him and he looked around to make sure no one was listening to them. 

“I envied you, you know.” She tilted her head at him, almost like she understood. “You’ve had most of the hotel in a panic trying to find you when they barely even questioned the disappearance of the other maids. Sometimes I wondered what would happen if I just up and disappeared like you did but… Well, let’s just say there’d be no love lost there.” His ears pulled back against his head slightly and an almost somber expression pulled against his features. “Hell, they’d probably have an entire celebration once they realized I wasn’t coming back, meanwhile you had an entire search party. Maybe that’s why I looked for you so hard… so I could get you out of the way and stop feeling like second best… but that wouldn’t have worked, would it? You would have been gone and they never would have known. I mean, what was I supposed to do? Tell them, ‘Hey, I found who you’ve all been looking for but, whoops, she’s dead! So sad, too bad, everybody smile!’ I’m sure that would have blown over well.” He let out another deep sigh. “I talk a big game, but I’m really just a fool, aren’t I?”

Her hand came up and gripped the sleeve of his shirt. He looked down at her in surprise as she tugged them to a stop in the middle of the sidewalk. Much to his surprise, she brought his hand to her face and gently kissed the inside of his palm. It was no doubt an effect of the drug, but there was no fear in her eyes as she touched the hand that had only hours prior laid waste to many number of demons and had been meant to help bring about her own downfall, yet here she was trying to offer him comfort. Her gaze was innocent as she lowered his hand from her face and looked back up at him, almost as if hoping that simple action had solved all of his problems.  

It was low, at first, but then it became loud and booming, so much so that his laughter earned them many a stare from demons who were a great distance away. He buried his face in his hand and shook his head, the irony of the situation certainly not lost on him. “Even drugged out of your mind, you’re still a better person than I am.” He let out a few more laughs, continuing to shake his head all the while. “Oh.” He laughed once more, the word long and drawn out by the action. “You know, I think the best part about all of this is that I can speak my mind… and you won’t even remember a thing.” There was something almost sad about the statement, but he didn’t understand why. True, it was a good thing that she wouldn’t remember, but some part of him almost wished she would.

She tilted her head again, like a confused pet staring up at their owner as they’re told something but their brains don’t have the capacity to understand, as his expression reflected his mood. She had enough sense to know that he wasn’t supposed to pull that kind of face, especially when he still wore his signature smile, but she didn’t have the energy to offer him comfort again. Her eyes were beginning to droop and she was swaying on her feet more and more as time passed. 

He sighed again and placed his hand back on her shoulder. “Come along now. Let’s get you back to the hotel before you pass out on me.” 

They resumed their previous journey and before long the hotel was well within sight. He never thought he’d be so happy to see the building. The trouble was, however, that the four demons he’d told to wait outside the hotel were nowhere in sight. He knew they were close by, but couldn’t tell exactly where just yet. For once, he hoped they’d kept themselves out of trouble so he wouldn’t have to deal with the aftermath again. Ottilie seemed eager to get back to the hotel, trying to move along without him, so he had to pull her back to his side as he looked around, having to repeat the action every few seconds as she seemed to forget he still had a hold on her. Thankfully, she didn’t try to fight him off and eventually stayed in place after one too many attempts. 

His ear twitched and he took a step back just as a figure jumped on top of the streetlight above their heads and swung down. Ottilie, however, was not so fortunate as she came face to face with an upside down Alton, his reptilian-like feet wrapped around the metal with ease. “Boo,” the dragon demon said calmly, watching with amusement as she staggered back and hid behind Alastor, clinging to him like a shy child clings to their mothers skirts. Alton chuckled a bit as he climbed down from the pole and stood in front of them. “Well, good to see you got the girl all patched up. One less thing to worry about, huh?”

“Yes, it is,” Alastor agreed before looking around again. “Speaking of worries, where are the others and what trouble have they managed to get themselves into?”

“They’re a few blocks south from here. Told them so stay put when I heard you coming. I figured they’d be too… overwhelming for this one,” Alton gestured toward Ottilie, offering her a smile full of teeth and chuckling as she ducked further behind Alastor.

“Oh my, what a gentleman! And yet you still felt the need to spook the girl?” Alastor inquired playfully as he raised a brow at his counterpart, getting admittedly annoyed at being touched so freely for so long and pulling said girl out from behind him. 

“I have to get my kicks somewhere,” Alton shrugged. 

“Speaking of kicks,” Alastor said, stepping around Alton so he could walk around him, “spread the word. The doctors crows are not to be killed anymore. Anyone who acts otherwise, will answer to me.”

Alton seemed disappointed by this, but got over it quickly. “The others won’t like it when I tell them they just lost their favorite pastime, but I guess they can find other things to do besides mess with Eugalps birds.”

Alastor paused, making Ottilie stop beside him again. “I said no more killing the birds.” He turned to Alton with a dastardly and cunning smile, one the dragon returned quickly as he knew where this was headed. “I never said anything about messing with them.”

*****

Alastor found it all too easy to get into the hotel, even with a now staggering Ottilie holding him slightly back. Eugalp had warned him that once the numbness wore off, she’d be extremely tired, but he was only half listening at the time so was only a bit unprepared when she started acting even more out of her mind. He had to hush her repeatedly as she tried to form sentences but was only able to manage slurred words that amounted to garbled gibberish. She was quickly becoming a pain in his side and he found himself longing for the quiet and compliant Ottilie again.

The truly hard part, however, was trying to figure out how he was going to sneak her past the others. They were all at it once again, drawing up diagrams of the Nine Circles, plans, and dictating who was to go where in said Circles. He had to admit, their plans were well thought out, but he doubted the lot of them could execute them so flawlessly. They were distracted, but not enough not to miss him passing by and certainly not to miss him dragging a blathering Ottilie behind him. 

While he was deep in thought, Ottilie managed to slip slightly around him and look into the room. Very much dazed out of her mind now, her eyes lit up when she saw the spider demon sitting there on the love seat, his gaze intense as he listened closely. “Angel Du-!” she started to call out before Alastors hand covered her mouth and he pulled her out of sight. 

Everyone in the room froze for a split second as their concentration was broken before they all looked around in confusion. Charlie frowned, the pointer she’d been holding falling from the board slightly as she asked, “What in my father's name was that?”

“Did anyone see where that came from?” Vaggie asked. 

Alastor knew he had to act fast or he’d be found out as people began to rise from their seats. Looking for a quick escape, he peeked into the room and managed to catch Niftys eye. She looked at him inquisitively for a moment before she saw a squirming Ottilie held tightly in his arms. Excitement bubbled in her features and she took a deep breath, gasping in the process and opening her mouth wide. Knowing what was coming, he put a finger to his lips, silently shushing her before she could make another sound. She quickly shut her mouth, but the damage had already been done.

“You okay, kid?” Husk asked from beside her, disinterest in his features but guine worry playing at the edges of his tone. 

“I-um-uh,” Nifty said quickly, for once at a loss for words, as she looked to Alastor for help. All he could offer her was a quick gesture for her to do something, anything, to distract them. Ever the quick thinker, she jumped into action. Literally. Leaping onto a nearby table, she proceeded to throw her hands into the air and shouted, “Everyone, I’ve just had an epiphany!”

“And that is…?” Mimzy asked after a few too many seconds of silence.

“Sloths are adorable!” Nifty stated. 

“Yes… Well… thank you for… that,” Charlie said in a mixture of confusion and agreement, “but we really should get back to the briefing, okay?”

“Okay!” Nifty said happily before plopping back down beside Husk, swinging her legs excitedly and reminding herself not to spill the beans despite every fiber of her being begging her to come out with it.

Unbeknownst to the others, Alastor had used Niftys little outburst to slip by, Ottilie tucked under one of his arms to prevent her from walking off again. Once they were a safe distance away, he uncovered her mouth and set her back on her feet. 

“But I wanna go back!” Ottilie complained, sounding like a drunk toddler as she tried to turn around and reached in that same direction. 

“You can’t go back right now, dear. It’s time to go upstairs,” he informed her as he led her towards the stairwell. 

“But Angel Dust!” She was practically crying now as she rubbed at her eyes, no doubt tired and frustrated after everything that had happened.

He sighed before putting on a happy smile. “Angel Dust is going to meet us upstairs, okay? Now all you have to do is make it up there without any fuss and he’ll be right there!”

She smiled back, an action he certainly wasn’t used to seeing from her, and nearly ran right into the door in her excitement. “Okay! Let’s go!”

“After you.” He pushed the door open, keeping at least one hand on her shoulders at all times as he followed behind her on the stairs. 

*****

Even Ottilie knew she was out of her mind as she let Alastor guide her along. She should have been trying to get away from him, but she was just so tired and didn’t feel like putting up a fight. Halfway up, she forgot why they were in the stairwell to begin with, but the whisper of Angel Dusts name at the back of her mind kept her going. She mildly aware of the fact that she was stumbling along and had little control over most of her body, but there was little she could do about it. Her mind was covered in a haze that she wasn’t willing to break out of just yet so she could get a grip on herself. 

Eventually, though, she lost control of herself entirely and her legs became unable to support her weight anymore. Her entire body felt like jelly and she was aware of the fact that she was falling back before two arms circled around her, catching her before she could fall. “Whoa there,” she distantly heard a voice say. “A bit light on our feet right now, aren’t we?” She knew it was meant to be a joke and her brain reminded her that she was supposed to laugh at those, so she let out a few chortles as she was lifted off the steps and into someones hold. 

The world was swimming around her and the air that passed them by made her feel like she was moving through water. Her arms weakly swatted at the air, like she was trying to swim through it, as she was carried up the remaining flights of stairs. Her vision began to dance and she was aware of the lights as they passed overhead, the darkness between them beckoning her to fall into it, but she wasn’t ready just yet. 

The arms that held her stayed in place while a long leg lifted and came down before she heard the familiar sound of a door opening. She wondered to herself how a leg could open a door, but didn’t have much time to think over the mechanics before they were stepping inside the sparsely lit room; though, in truth, the room was fairly well lit, but her brain couldn’t seem to process this fact as her eyes became heavier. 

She could almost swear she was floating now as the arms seemed to fall away from her, but was reminded of the fact that she was still being carried as she was set down upon something soft and warm. Tiredly, she looked up and tried to say a few words to the blurry figure that stood over her, but they were lost somewhere between her brain and tongue, only coming out as more garbled nonsense. 

“Shhhhhh,” a voice quietly hushed her. “You’re weary. It’s time to rest now, little one.” She almost wanted to fight it, but every part of her felt so heavy and all she really wanted to do was what the voice had just told her. “That’s it. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep.”

The voice was so soothing, so gentle. There was nothing she could do but obey as she closed her eyes and finally let the darkness overtake her.