When Alastor walked through the doors some time later, Charlie didn't even have time to speak up to him about checking up on Angel Dust before the Radio Demon was speed-walking past and removing his jacket. "Wait, Al -"
"I need the kitchen for the next few hours!" Alastor chirped, rolling his sleeves up and looking excited in a way that made Husk want to hunker down until the all-clear and Niffty's 'overhaul cleaning imminent' senses tingle. He doubled back around the corner, pointing upstairs. "Oh, and leave Angel Dust be for awhile, he's had a long day."
"...he was gone for two hours, what in the world is -" The sound of the kitchen door slamming shut cut Charlie off, making her step back as the wood seemed to be burning, turning red from the middle outward and sprouting his antlered monogram plaque. "....going on." She ran a hand down her face, sighing. "Seriously, some context would be nice."
Husk poured her out a Shirley Temple, sliding it over to her. "Trust me, Princess, context is the absolute last thing you want from Alastor. It's best you just let him do his thing and pretend it's nothing nightmare-inducing. For instance, I'm imagining he's actually cooking food in there."
"...what else would he need the kitchen for?"
"Oh you sweet summer child."
Angel Dust blinked awake from his nap to the sound of soft blues playing on his radio, feeling like a million bucks.
He wasn't in pain, he wasn't hungover, he wasn't crashing from a high. Maybe the Hotel really did send him to Heaven, he thought as he sat up with a stretch, filled with excitement at his dinner later with Alastor.
Cranking up the volume to be heard in the bathroom, Angel slipped out of his clothes and went to run a bath, choosing to use some bath milk instead of his fragrant bubble bath. He'd learned some time ago about Alastor's oversensitive sense of smell, which was probably why the man didn't like sweets all that much. Fair enough, since certain cheap-sweet sprays even gave Angel a headache from time to time.
He let himself soak for awhile in the hot water, listening to the music in the other room and reminiscing about Alastor's little broadcast gift, mulling over it more than he originally thought he should.
For all intents and purposes, Alastor had all but freed him from Valentino, and had done so on a whim. It made his whole body heat and quiver, thinking about such raw power Alastor had that he would have the man kill another overlord as a spontaneous date idea and still have enough expendable energy to have a secondary dinner date in the same day.
Angel was SURE the weight of all this monumental baggage would hit him at some point, but he would rather be wined and dined before that happened. Anxiety attacks on an empty stomach were draining.
He finished soaking and dried off, checking the time to see he still had about an hour. Plenty of time, but then he would still have to search around the Hotel for Alastor's door. He finished drying his fur and picked around his closet for something nice to wear, smiling when he found a good outfit for the night that he still wouldn't mind having to either ditch or scrub clean later.
Makeup over the eyes, file his claws neatly, tug on a button-up shirt, adjust his chest fluff evenly, and then pull on a knee-length pencil skirt and a matching blazer, looking in the mirror. He looked like a secretary, he thought, rolling his eyes and tugging a tie on. The things he did for Alastor...but at least he was in a skirt for a date this time. He tugged on some boots and adjusted the outfit neatly before heading out early to take his time looking for Alastor's door.
Almost twenty minutes later, he huffed as he made his way to the ground floor; up and down each room floor, and nothing. The least he could have done was tell him where the damn door was this time.
Angel rounded some corners, looking for the telltale red door and passing the others in the lobby. Charlie jumped up, looking worried as she rushed over.
"Angel, are you okay?" she asked. "You looked so upset when you came home earlier!"
He kept an eye around the doors as he talked. "I'm fine, Princess," he replied. "Had a bad day, but it got better. You seen th' red door anywhere down here?"
Charlie glanced in the direction of the kitchen. "...Al shanghaied the kitchen a few hours ago," she said. "Made the doorknob vanish and everything, saying he didn't want to be disturbed-"
"Perfect, thanks." He walked past her and toward the kitchen, disregarding her following with worry. As he approached the door, the brass doorknob reappeared, ready and waiting. "Dramatic cervine," he muttered, grabbing it and turning it left, frowning a little when it wouldn't make the turn. "...okaaaay..." He chanced a turn right with it, and the door clicked open. "Neato." He walked in, shutting the door behind him, and Charlie saw the doorknob vanish again.
"...Husk, I have a question -"
"FUCK THAT NOISE!"
Angel Dust looked around the new area quietly, feeling a thick heaviness of enclosed coziness around him. It was an old-fashioned home that was lined with shelves full of neatly-arranged books and knickknacks, vintage radios here and there, and a wall dedicated to taxidermy animal heads and a shotgun mounted on a display rack.
"Classy," he remarked, smiling a little.
"Why, thank you!" Alastor piped up next to him, almost making him jump. "Like I said, it's nice to have some hominess down here. Did you have trouble finding my door?" Angel gave him a dry look that Alastor returned with a cheeky smile. "Anyway, ready for dinner?"
"Sure," Angel said, looking around. "Don't know why you'd want me t' stain th' nice floors in here..."
"Oh no no no," Alastor said with a soft laugh, turning on heel and walking off. "You're not here to BE dinner, my dear, you're here to HAVE dinner. I cooked."
Angel felt his cheeks warm as he followed Alastor across the large room to a space set up with a table and two chairs that looked out of place, as though Alastor had cleared out living room furniture for a meal 'indoors'. Alastor smiled, pulling out one of the chairs and gesturing for Angel to sit down, pushing him in. "I actually feel like a gentleman, Al," he said, looking at the meal set out, his stomach growling a little.
"You look like one too," Alastor said, sitting himself down.
"Skirt an' all?"
"I said what I said." Alastor took the lids off of the serving pots, showing off rice and a rich thick stew with baguette slices and hot sauce bottles on the side. "Dig right in, darlin'."
Angel smiled, the warmth in his face getting warmer as he piled on some rice to his plate and topped it with the stew, mixing for a moment before taking a bite. "...oh my god, Al, this is incredible."
Alastor beamed, breaking a piece off of his bread and dipping it in the stew. "I take it y'like it then?" he asked, watching Angel take several more large bites, hardly chewing.
"I haven't had food like this in forever!" Angel replied, taking a mouthful of bread. "Where'd you learn t' cook like this?"
Alastor's smile went a little soft. "I had my mother to thank for that," he replied. "Best cook in N'Orleans, but chose to feed th' neighbors rather than customers." He took a few bites of food. "Sweetest woman y'ever met, too. Never a bad word t' say 'bout anyone." He chuckled. "Then again, y'd never THOUGHT she'd say anythin' bad. Smile sweetly enough, people think a curse is a blessin'."
Angel smiled. "A strawberry right off th' vine, huh?" he asked, spearing through a piece of celery. "Ma taught me an' Molly to cook too." His eyes lowered slightly. "Heh...talk about sweet women...I think she knew more about me before I did...I used t' think she was joking when she said I should learn t' cook t' make a man happy, but..." He sighed, tipping back a swig of wine. "...Kinda wish she'd have been there when I was older...I prolly wouldn't have gotten as low as I had."
"Oh fuck yeah, she'd have whipped th' shit outta me for messin' with drugs!" Angel laughed, running a hand down his face before settling down. "But because o' her, I at least knew how to take care o' myself when I left home. Tailored all my own clothes, cooked my own food...maybe I woulda made a man happy." He propped his head up on his hand, taking another few bites in silence.
Alastor swirled his wine quietly. "Regrets of th' past, no?" he said. "Sometimes they weigh ya down, sometimes they feel trivial compared t' who y'are and what ya do here now." He took a sip. "We died too young t'figure that part out, but that youthful optimism makes things more excitin' here, doesn't it?"
Angel snorted, giving him a little smile. "Speak for yourself old man, you were like, what, fifty?"
Alastor put an affronted hand to his chest. "Thirty-three, I'll have you know!" he retorted. "Coincidentally, my death year."
"...Nineteen forty-seven," Angel put in himself, taking a sip of his own wine. "...hey, Al? Can I ask you somethin'?"
"With limits, yes," Alastor replied, watching Angel weigh his words carefully before speaking.
"...why'd you do that? Go after Valentino?" Angel put his glass down, looking Alastor in the eye. Alastor buttered another piece of bread quietly, his smile widening a little.
"You're aware that those demons such as ourselves that have animal attributes sometimes have a tendency to display behaviors of said animal," he finally answered. "One of death's little mysteries, perhaps, but...it's a fact." He took a bite of the bread before chasing it with a forkful of stew. "Much like how you, as a male spider, are brighter and flashier, and have a tendency to pinpoint your interests in a partner that will more than likely demolish you if you fail to perform to a certain standard." He put his fork down, folding his hands under his chin.
"While I as a buck tend to be more than a little possessive and territorial with what I consider mine."
Angel was CERTAIN his face was bright red, mouth moving but unable to properly speak for a few long moments while Alastor's smile glinted in the dim light. Angel sat back, burying his face in his hands, making a high-pitched keen of embarrassment.
"Jeezus fuck, Al, you can't just say shit like that!" he whined, scrubbing his face. "I mean, ya can't really mean -"
"Mean what? That within the time we've had this unconventional relationship, I feel more than a little compelled to make sure that you're being taken care of? That some parasite of a pissant overlord would demand your time and attention, getting his disgusting scent over you, throwing around his weight and affluence without an ounce of backbone to show for it?" Alastor's smile was as angry as it was sharp, his radio voice returning with sharp static permeating his voice. On the other side of the room, the radio collection glitched and crackled between stations.
Alastor's folded hands clenched as he lowered them to the table's surface. "Normally, I would not bother dirtying my hands with something like that, but after making a threat to take away what is mine...he simply had to go." His smile upturned, the oppressive miasma of the room lifting. "A superior overlord brandished his antlers and won. It's a matter as simple as that. Oh, speaking of!"
He reached into his jacket and took out a red sealed envelope, setting it down on the table. Angel stared at it, feeling his whole body shake as he recognized it as his contract.
"By all intents and purposes, as the usurper of his territory, his contracts become mine as well," Alastor continued. "I burned the others, had no need for them, but I wanted to return yours personally."
Angel reached out and took his contract with shaking fingers, holding the envelope in his hands. It felt so heavy, he thought, running his thumb over the surface, like a burden he didn't know he wanted back.
He remembered how light he felt after signing himself over to Valentino; back then he simply thought he was getting an easier break, giving the hard parts of his life over to someone else to take care of. It took years for him to realize how much power he'd handed over, the very burden of his soul in a golden safe in Valentino's office, where it would remain for as long as the overlord saw fit to keep it. Getting the full expanse of his soul back was a power so few would be willing to give up, considering contracted souls could never grow further in power. It was one of the ways Hell governed itself, keeping the flow of power gathered in as tight a circle as they could.
And Alastor had handed it right over.
Simple as that.
Angel stared at the envelope for the longest time before taking a shaking breath and letting it out, bracing himself before snapping his hand out toward Alastor.
Alastor's smile twitched, looking more deer-in-the-headlights than ever. "Pardon?"
"I..." Angel swallowed, his hand trembling. "...I'm not ready, Al. I'm not ready to just...HAVE this kind of freedom." He looked up, eyes serious. "For nearly my entire time here...I've had my soul put into someone else's hands. I...I'm honestly scared t' death of what havin' freedom would do to me." His mouth twitched into a wary smile. "...this is who I am, Al...I'm just someone who needs someone else t' keep me, or I'll just destroy myself. Learned that well enough in life after Ma died..." He let out a humorless laugh, his hand shaking a little before he collected himself, steeling his eyes.
"...Call me a goddamn bleedin' soft heart, but right now, there's no overlord in Hell I'd trust with this than you. Shit, no one PERIOD I'd trust with this than you. So take it. It's yours."
Static and shifting stations flickered around Alastor's aura as the Radio Demon looked between the envelope and Angel's face. "...do you even know what you are asking of me?"
Angel nodded, his hand going steady. "Yeah," he said. "I'm givin' my soul contract to my new overlord." He paused, then went for broke. "An', y'know...my boyfriend...or whatever."
Alastor blinked before bursting out into laughter; his REAL laughter, without any of the radio toning or pomp behind it. "Oh goodness, Angel dear!" he breathed, a hand on his chest. "How absolutely FORWARD o' you! Offering ya soul t' me AND giving an official title t' our relationship?" He leaned his head on his hand, grinning widely. "What an eventful day."
Angel's jaw twitched. "...you makin' fun o' me, Al?" he asked, trepidation in his voice. Alastor laughed again, softer this time.
"Not at all, mon ange araignée," he replied, reaching over and taking the envelope from Angel's hand. "I'm simply surprised that you would be so trusting in someone like me. This is no less dangerous than giving someone a holy spear kill switch to your heart."
"...yeah," Angel replied, wringing his hands. "I know."
Alastor tapped his fingers against the envelope. "Well, you leave me little choice, my dear. I accept." He smiled, opening the envelope and taking out the slip of thick paper inside before manifesting an ornate red fountain pen and signing something with a flourish.
Angel hissed softly, feeling a hard shift somewhere in his soul that just felt DIFFERENT somehow. He was still him, that much was true, but it was like he had been instantly teleported from one extreme atmosphere to another. He rubbed his chest, watching Alastor tuck the paper back into the envelope and resealing it with a black seal with a little red hoofprint pattern before tucking it into his jacket once more.
"Welcome aboard, Angel Dust," Alastor chirped. "I'm sure Husk and Niffty would be happy to give you the ropes later, after I give you your initiation."
"Is it mandatory?"
"Unfortunately. Much like hazing."
"I'm afraid to ask."
"Well, you've already passed, if it makes you feel better." Alastor piled on more rice and stew to both of their plates before eating a bite, his smile almost going sharper. "Tell me, did you REALLY like my cooking?"
Angel took a bite of his own. "Of course, Al, why would I lie about that?"
"Oh, I know you're not lying." Alastor took a sip of wine, watching Angel eat another bite. "Most people get touchy about my cooking, but these past few months have let me know that you accept my tastes wholeheartedly. I just wanted to share that with you."
Another forkful of stew paused halfway between the plate and Angel's mouth. Angel glanced down at it, noting for the first time that he hadn't thought to ask what sort of stew it actually was. "...Al..." he said slowly, looking up and seeing Alastor's grin widen. "...this isn't beef or pork, is it?"
"Noooo," Alastor drew out, taking a long sip of his wine.
"What is it?"
"Better question!" A wider grin. "Who is it?"
Angel looked at his fork again, staring for the longest time before putting it into his mouth, chewing and swallowing. "...okay..." he ventured, "...who is it?"
"Absolutely no one of importance!" Alastor chirped, taking another forkful for himself. "But I'm glad you still enjoy my cooking regardless."
Angel smiled a little, finishing off his plate. "If the rest o' your cooking is as good as this, I'll eat my own damn father," he said earnestly, draining his wine and sitting back. "...excitin' day indeed. I get a radio show of my pimp bein' skinned alive, my contract given to someone a million times better, an' if I wasn't hearin' a rejection, an official beau."
"No rejections here," Alastor said. "We can hash out the details later." He sat back, wiping his mouth with his napkin. "I'll have a busy schedule reorganizing my new territory, but I'll be sure to make time for you, give you a proper rundown of my setup, the works." He smiled. "Sound good?"
Angel smiled back. "Sounds great, Al," he replied. "Really." He wrung his hands for a moment before going bold, leaning over the table. "Care for some dessert?"
"Why yes, I would love some strawberry sorbet!" Alastor said, snapping his fingers and making two cups of sorbet appear. He chuckled at the look on Angel's face, then leaned over and grabbed Angel's tie, pulling him closer and kissing him. Angel groaned, leaning into it and offering his tongue for Alastor to bite.
And so he did, taking a small chunk off and swallowing it before leaning back and grinning at Angel with bloody teeth. "The sorbet should ease that burn a little, dear," he said, taking a spoonful of sorbet and eating it.
Angel did the same, the taste of blood and strawberry filling his mouth and indeed putting a little numbing on the missing piece of his tongue. "....t'ought 'ou 'in' 'ike swee's," he mumbled out.
"Blood evens out the sugar," Alastor replied with a smile, eating his sorbet with Angel until the desserts were gone, standing and pulling Angel's chair out for him.
Angel stood up, swallowing residual blood in his saliva as he walked with Alastor through the large room, spotting more bookshelves, a desk with stacks of files and -were those fucking voodoo dolls?- other things with another gun displayed on the wall, and a small bed tucked in the corner that didn't seem to have a lot of use.
"Y'got guns?" he asked, his tongue still tender. Alastor smiled, nodding.
"Did a fair bit o' huntin' in life," he said, using his natural voice. "Got good at it, liked th' amount o' blood it made. Used it when I needed a lot o' blood."
Angel arched a brow. "Dare I as' why?"
Alastor's eyes glowed softly. "Ya can. Can't promise you'll like it."
"...maybe nex' date."
"You'll find out soon 'nough, darlin'," Alastor said ominously, walking to his door. "...Angel." He looked up, smile still in place but eyes serious. "I'm not th' type o' person you'd usually go for. I can't promise ya a damn thing when it comes t' intimacy -"
"Al." Angel lifted a hand, smiling back. "I'm bein' serious when I say righ' now, sex is 'e las'ing on my mind wi' you. Sexy as ya are." His hand flexed for a moment before he lightly touched Alastor's arm. "Wha' you've given me is so much bedda. Cross 'em bridges when we ge' dere, eh?"
Alastor beamed. "Fair 'nough, sha," he said, opening the door for Angel. Angel gave a little wave, heading out before he felt a hand grab his own, turning and seeing Alastor raise his hand up to kiss the knuckles, his smile almost predatory. "G'night, darlin'," he said, letting go of Angel's hand and closing the door.
Angel let out a soft whimper; just like that, sex was back in the top three Most Important slots of his priorities. He turned to leave back to his room to scream into a pillow like a prepubescent girl when he saw Charlie and Vaggie peering around the corner with wide eyes and slack jaws.
Well. They'd know about all of this soon enough.
He straightened his blazer and strolled right past them like he was performing the walk of shame after a date with all the pride in the world. He had every reason to be proud, anyway, he thought, grinning widely at Vaggie's exclamation,
"You've gotta be shitting me."