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Smiling Man

Chapter Text

It was a fine morning as Alastor was finishing off his routine cup of black coffee before work when he looked out the window and saw an unfamiliar Bentley parked in the front of the house next door, which had been unoccupied for the last few months ever since old Mrs Jonesy suddenly up and gone. New neighbours? he realised curiously with a smile, watching as two identical young men in matching suits and boater hats hauled suitcases from the car.

Well, he did have some time before he had to head to the station, and what kind of good neighbour would he be if he did not at least give his greetings to the new folk? Putting on his suit jacket and fedora, Alastor first took a look into the ice box in the kitchen to make sure that tonight’s dinner was safe from spoiling before strolling out of his house towards the one next door.

At the front door, he gave several loud knocks and waited, adjusting his bowtie in an effort to make himself more presentable. The door opened, but instead of one of the two he had seen earlier, there stood a young woman with bright blonde hair in waves down to her chin and cheeks flushed almost to bright pink on her pale face. Her eyes were wide with excitement, but that turned to surprised curiosity when she looked at Alastor.

Alastor’s smile immediately stretched into a grin, and his hand raised to wave as he greeted, “Hello!"

“Oh! Hello there!” the young dame replied, a big grin parted her rosebud lips as she opened the door wider.

“Alastor,” he told her his name, giving out a hand for a shake. “Pleasure to be meeting you, sweetheart. Quite a pleasure! Excuse my sudden visit, but I was on my way to work when I realised I had new neighbours, and I couldn’t go without first giving my warmest welcomes.”

“Charlotte Magne, but please do call me Charlie!” she replied enthusiastically, putting her hand to his to give it a gentle shake. “And thank you for taking the time to say hello. If the house wasn’t so bare right now, I would invite you in for some drinks.”

“It’s the least I could do! And no need to trouble yourself, my dear. I’m sure you’ll probably be pretty busy with your first day here unpacking,” he noted, glancing at the unopened suitcases that lined the small hallway in front of her.

“Ah, yes, that is true. I am a bit frazzled with it right now, considering that it is my first time moving on my own. I’m not sure where to start!”

“Oh? But what about those two young fellas I just saw? Are those your brothers?”

Realising who he was referring to, she shook her head. “Oh, no! Those are my personal butlers, Razzle and Dazzle! They’re only here to help me with the move, but they’ll be going back to my parent’s estate once everything here is done.”

Oh? So, this young dame is here on her own? Alastor’s curiosity piqued with interest, eyeing her discretely to get a good look at her. He will admit that despite how youthful Miss Magne was, she was quite the looker. Bright-eyed and fresh-faced, so much so that one would have mistaken her for a young dolly if it weren’t for the gentle feminine assets on her willowy frame. But it was her smile that his eyes appreciated the most; so big that it made prominent dimples on her rosy cheeks, looking so sweet that it could almost give him a toothache.  

Alastor was suddenly brought back to attention when Charlie asked, “Pardon me if I’m being too forward, sir, but could you possibly be Alastor Carlon?”

Well, that was an unexpected turn of events, but nothing that Alastor didn’t appreciate for a moment of prideful peacocking. “So, you’ve heard of me, little miss?” he asked curiously, adjusting his glasses in faux modesty.

Clapping her hands excitedly, she squealed, “Of course! I don’t think I know anyone who listens to the radio who hasn’t heard of you! Your voice is easy to recognise, since you’re quite the star on that talk show of yours. Oh my, what luck that I actually get to be your new neighbour!”

Any continued expression of fangirling was interrupted when someone from inside the house called for Charlie, which irked Alastor a tad bit as he was admittedly enjoying how much the doll was fawning over him. He looked up from Charlie at the voice; a young girl – she looked to be almost the same age as Charlie – that was tan and short with long dark hair. But while Charlie was all smiles, her friend Vaggie was clearly void of it. She had a look that seemed to be etched in a permanent grimace, her brows knitted skeptically as she caught sight of the man standing at the front porch.

“Oh, Vaggie! Come here and meet our new neighbour!” Charlie urged, waving her friend over. “Can you believe that it’s the one and only Alastor Carlon? That big talk show host from the radio!”

Alastor tilted his head in the direction of the girl, smile widening once more. “Hello there, young miss! Just dropped by to say welcome to the neighbourhood. Was just being fairly acquainted with your mistress here.”

“Friend,” Vaggie replied, voice completely deadpan and showing obvious disdain that he had mistaken her for a servant. He quirked a brow and tilted his head at this response, his grin turning into a close-lipped smile, but never dropping.

Whatever little tension that had grown was obviously missed by Charlie, who came to Vaggie’s side and held her shoulders gently. “Oh, yes. Vaggie’s my best friend! She’ll be living along with me here, so we’re roommates as well! At least it won’t get too lonely for me in this new neighbourhood.”

Alastor side-eyed Vaggie, who still watched him dubiously but immediately looked away to the floor when his eyes met hers, looking so much like a cancelled stamp if it weren't for that air of contempt around her. A slight victory for him, he chuckled, chest almost puffed at his pride of smiling down at this unfriendly exchange, knowing how only fools would be weak enough to not smile at the face of such feeble hostility, especially one coming from a pachuca like her.

“Well, I do hope that you’d find this little part of New Orleans has quite the charm! Now, excuse me if you may, but I think I won’t distract you from unpacking any longer. I’ll have to head on off to that little talk show of mine.”

Charlie’s lips made an ‘o’, pressing her hand to her face. “Oh, of course! We shouldn’t hold you back! Perhaps next time we can get to know each other a little more!”

Flashing another big grin at Charlie, he nodded. “That sounds like berries to me! I’ll be off then! Don’t forget to tune in, darling!”

A final wave and he was off on his way, but not before hearing a quiet giggle before the shutting of the door. Alastor took one last glance at the house next door as he walked in the direction of downtown, but only seeing the image of that vivacious young dame as fresh as he could recall.

What a charming little belle…

But there was one thing for sure that tickled at the back of his mind from his thoughts of Charlie. Something that even tickled that sensation of excitement and anticipation deep in his core.

She looked absolutely delicious.

This is going to be very entertaining… he thought to himself with a pleased tight-lipped smile. Mrs Jonesy had been quite the drag, but at least she tasted good.

He suddenly felt himself craving for tonight’s dinner. Hopefully that ice box would do good in not spoiling the meat.

Chapter Text

“Sorry, my darling. But you wish to move away?”

Fighting the urge to fidget too much in discomfort, Charlie only looked down at her wine glass and swirled the contents left in it, very aware of the heavy stares that she was receiving from her parents across the dining table.

“Yes, Daddy. To New Orleans.”

“My, whatever for, dearest?” Lilith questioned with a curious quirk of her perfect brow, setting down her cutleries on her unfinished plate of dinner as she gave her daughter her full attention.

Next to her, taking a thoughtful sip of the rich red wine from his own glass, Lucifer piqued, “Something to do with that new project of yours, perhaps? That… ‘rehabilitation hotel’ for criminals?”

Charlie looked up then, genuinely surprised that her father had actually remembered it although the last she had spoken about it with him was weeks ago.

“Yes.”

“But why New Orleans?” her mother asked with a tilt of her head. “Why not somewhere near home?”

“New Orleans will be a good place for me to start. Crime rates there have been pretty staggering and it’ll be great if I can just get the hotel –“

Interruption came when Lucifer set his glass down with a loud clink on the polished oakwood, sighing almost in exasperation. “Charlotte, how many times must I tell you this? You can’t just go on a whim with every little idea that pops in your head. You know very well how your other attempts have ended up.”

Ah yes, of course, he would bring that up. As much as Charlie absolutely loathed to admit it, her father had good reason to be scoffing at her charity plans, considering the history of how all her previous attempts had ended up failing before it could bear fruit. It was as sad as that one time when she had initiated that open-concept ‘free market’ that provided fresh produce free-of-charge for the poorhouse, only for it to be ransacked by ringers that couldn’t pass up the opportunity of free food.

Shamefully, these series of failures had made her quite a laughingstock within the society her family mingled with, who considered her a Dumb Dora and incapable of even holding a candle to her parents’ successes. ‘This is Lucifer’s heir? This what’s to become of the Magne family? How damning!’ she had heard one of many who mocked her.

But optimistic as was Charlie that she never stopped even with all of that backlash she seemed to attract for herself. As much as she was raised as a socialite like her mother, she did not want to just stand idly around when she could be using her status to work towards a better good, and right now she had that one goal to positively impact the lives of those who need it should the project flourish.

“But I have put much thought into this!” she fought back, standing from her seat. “Just hold on!”

She suddenly removed herself from her spot at the dining table with haste, running to her bedroom upstairs to grab the important article that had been sitting at her desk for a while now. Upon her return, she immediately came to her father’s side, holding out in her hands a document folder that was filled with papers.

Both Lucifer and Lilith eyed it with wide curiosity. “What is this?” he asked, taking it from her hands and flipping it open to scan through the first piece of parchment.

“My written proposal for the hotel!” she said jubilantly, almost bouncing on her feet as she watched her father flipping over to the next page.

“Sweet apple, you penned down all this on your own?” Lilith asked in amazement, leaning forward so that she too could scan a few words on the paper Lucifer was holding up.

“Yes! Everything! Word to word. I even proof-read it myself!”

At hearing that, Lucifer and Lilith gave a surprised glance at her before turning to look at each other, their silence holding a conversation between themselves in their eyes that Charlie could not decipher. They both down looked at the proposal file again, Lucifer thumbing through every single parchment in it quickly. 

“I… suppose I can take a look at it.” Closing the folder and handing it to Dazzle nearby, he dismissed her from dinner without a second thought. A sense of defeat immediately washed over Charlie, and she wanted to urge him to read it, but ultimately said nothing as she left wordlessly.


Charlie had been sitting at her vanity and getting her hair brushed by Vaggie before bed when a knock on the door came with a summon to her father’s private study. She gripped her night robe against the chill of the night, wondering what was so important that her father had to call her down near the witching hour.

Razzle knocked a few times on the closed doors, and upon hearing the stern ‘Come in’, opened the door for Charlie to enter before closing it in her wake, leaving her with her father who was currently reclining against his leather armchair at his desk, cigarette in hand.

“Sit down, darling,” he called, gesturing with his free hand to the seat opposite his. She quietly obeyed and took her seat, back upright as how a prim and proper lady should. Lucifer took another long drag, and Charlie waited to ask why she was called when she noticed her proposal folder on the desk, papers strewn about and clearly having been looked through.

Oh my Lord, did he actually read through everything? She thought anxiously, although there was a bubbling in her that urged her to hope for good news. Lucifer blew out a straight puff of smoke then butted out the gasper on an ashtray and shifted his body directly towards her, fingers interlocking as he leaned forward.

“Tell me again, why do you seem so hell-bent on this?” Lucifer eyed her sternly, his tone seemingly unamused but had the glint of curiosity

Criminals are people too; she had reasoned as her intent. She reflected on how their time in the Big House mars them to being outcasts that are effectively shunned by good folk as if they have a permanent brand on their faces that makes them unworthy of any hope of attempt at leading an honest lifestyle anymore. Doesn’t matter if they’d been out for months or years, or even just about to walk into the can, life isn’t going to be fair to them at all from there on; she sympathised at the thought of such poor souls who may have well been eternally damned for the remainder of the breathing days in this world.

It would also be too belittling to the last shreds of pride and ego that they would hold onto to call the project a ‘rehabilitation centre’, which would only serve to soil their reputations as much as being in prison had. So, she opted to go for the concept of a hotel, thinking of the whole process as a ‘temporary rest’ for potential patrons to work on themselves with added specialisations, allowing them to reach a point of ‘redemption’ that they can be at ease with and thus minimise the risk of relapsing back to crime.

As she justified her project, Lucifer only kept quiet and listened intently, not once breaking her stride, only just hmm-ing and aah-ing at certain points. Upon finishing, silence ensued for a moment, with him gazing intensely at her, clearly mulling it all over.

“You do know that I am still quite unsure if this new project of yours can really be hitting on all eights. More so with it concerning hoods.”

Any sense of confidence Charlie had during her little speech immediately deflated, and she felt like she wanted nothing more than to sink into her seat, preparing herself for the usual disappointing dismissal once Lucifer let out a long sigh of contemplation.

“But I suppose this is a first you’ve put in a lot of thought to. Your mother and I impressed with how this proposal of yours turned out. Better than all the other palookas I’ve worked with, that's for sure. Now then, I’d assume you’d need a property somewhere in New Orleans?”

Wait?

Wait.

WAIT.

“You’re agreeing to this?” Charlie questioned out loud in absolute disbelief because honestly, she could not yet grasp around the concept that her father had agreed to help!

A raised brow and a smirk, Lucifer hushed her. “Don’t get me wrong, sweet apple. I’m not doing this particularly because I believe wholesomely in the cause. Hell, I’d still say it’s a bunch of phonus balonus. But your mother apparently does have some interest in seeing how this idea of yours progresses, and seeing how your plan might actually have a shot at going long-term, I guess I can try helping you out with it.”

Despite Lucifer still not fully accepting the idea completely, it was enough for Charlie to squeal in delight and get out of her chair to throw herself over the desk and wrap her arms around her father’s lithe frame. Lucifer was taken aback in surprise, but couldn’t help the small grin as he reached up to pat her back.

“Just one advice, dear. Don’t you take shit from other hombres.”

Chapter Text

“Remember to stay tuned, folks! This is Alastor Carlon, giving you all the goodnight smiles!”

With that finality, Alastor timed himself accordingly until he was sure he could finally go 'off air' before turning one of the many knobs on his radio transmitter until a resounding click was heard. He leaned back in his chair as he let out a breath and stretched his arms, feeling his stiff joints slowly loosening again. The station was quiet and empty at this time, save for a few who were probably staying the night running over their materials for tomorrow’s broadcast.

Not Alastor, no. He wanted nothing more than to get back home and have a nice quilt of Cognac (boot-legged and hidden underneath a loose floorboard) and a book in hand before retiring for the night.

But he couldn’t. Not yet. There was something that he needed to settle first.

Getting up, he took off his headphones and placed it down next to his microphone, making sure his work station was neat and tidy as he liked it to be. The habit to be spick and span was trained into him since he was a young lad, something taught to him by his dear mother (bless her spirit). The slightest bit of mess was enough to irk him like an irritating itch.

Retying his loosened bowtie back into proper shape, he grabbed his suit jacket and fedora off the coat stand and bade goodnight to anyone he passed. On his way out, he caught sight of Tom Trench reclining on one of the couches in the station for what could be the umpteenth time. Alastor scoffed knowing how much of a pushover that boob was to that broad Katie Killjoy, who was probably being a chippy and kicked him out of her apartment to shag up with another egg, which was why the sleazy radio news broadcaster decided to take up the night here.

Ah, the simple idiocy of men. It’s a wonder why many were duck soup for him on his hunts.


The bell above the door jingled, and Rosie looked up in irritation from the kale she was counting from sales today. But seeing that grin she was all so familiar with pulled her lips into her own.

“Alastor! You silly boy! I was starting to wonder when you’d come by to see dear ol’ me.”

Taking her offered hand, Alastor pressed a quick peck to her knuckles. It had been a while since he had seen his dear friend Rosie, who quite liked to treat him almost like a little brother.  “Apologies, my dear, but I’ve been very occupied with work and other matters.”

Rosie narrowed her eyes knowingly as her grin widened cheekily. “Ah, so here for business or pleasure?”

“Business, dear.”

Rosie’s Emporium – previously Franklin and Rosie’s, but poor Franklin had gone off to the Big Sleep few years prior – was a quaint little shop on the outskirts of downtown that carried a plethora of antique knick-knacks and doohickeys, and mostly busied in the day by an assortment of customers like an antique-collecting enthusiast or some fellow looking to sell some old heirloom they had sitting around to make a quick buck.  

But the secret to Rosie’s ever-going flow of cash came from an antique bookshelf, where a few simple knocks on a shelf empty of a few books swung it open to reveal a stairway leading down to the swankiest speakeasy you can find in New Orleans.

The underground establishment was as large as a ballroom in The Ritz, with a big stage for the nightly musical entertainment and a gleaming bar filled to the brim with the most exquisite hooches Alastor has ever drunk. It’s certainly quite the shocker that the quaint emporium above pulled off such a convincing front that it made the joint Rosie’s best-kept secret for years. She had been a wise head to call the shots and pull some strings to ensure that it would never be found out by the fuzz. “It takes a woman to quietly plan, darling,” she told him smugly with a wink and a smirk to his inquiry when he was first introduced to it.

Tipping his fedora to Rosie, Alastor ducked into the speakeasy which was currently brimming with nightlife. A smooth jazz number was playing at the moment, and he took in the music with a pleased smile as he weaved his way through.

Most of Rosie’s patrons were butter and egg men with respectable reputations to uphold looking for a quiet hidden place to go completely zozzled, most having similarly-intoxicated dishes draped around them. Almost everyone here was a big name in New Orleans society, Alastor included, and it would have been quite a jam if any word got out of their patronage here if it weren’t for Rosie’s strict hand in ensuring ‘confidentiality policies’ for her guests.

“Hiya, Mister Al!” he suddenly heard a chipper voice called out his name. A tiny flapper was bee-lining to him, short bright red hair adorned with a jewelled headband that had a lone feather that bobbed as she walked with a skip to her step.

“Niffty!” Alastor grinned down brightly at the dolly. “Little darling, how are you?”

“Just been the absolute bee’s knees!” she twirled around him, her skirt swishing around her thin legs. She was Rosie’s bargirl here in the joint, having been taken as her charge quite a few years back. When the Sun was up, she worked the emporium out front, having a knack of making sure each of those old treasures was free of even the single smallest speck of dust, so much so that it could even borderline on obsession for absolute cleanliness.

Something Alastor didn’t mind, of course. It was something that he especially valued her services for. 

“So what’d you have for us now, boss?” she asked casually, knowing he’d get the double meaning. Niffty may seem like a ditzy young thing on the outside, but she was as sharp as a nail when it came to his visits, which he liked that about her.

“Clean-up duty,” he replied simply, getting a cheeky wink from the doll. He then took a look around, eyes scanning the establishment. “Where is Husker?”

Niffty gestured a thumb towards the cards table, currently bustling with noise as a familiar gruff fellow threw his hands up in the air in frustration, throwing his cards down on the table in a slight fit before heading to the back of the bar to chug straight out of a bottle.

Alastor chuckled at the sight as he took a seat on one of the barstools, all of which were empty at the moment. The man didn’t notice as Alastor was setting his fedora down on the tabletop and was still drinking himself silly, seeming as though he wasn’t going to stop for a breath anytime soon.

“Ah, Husker my good friend!” Alastor greeted loudly in jubilant cheer, causing the bartender to choke on his drink ungracefully, letting out a hacking cough and glaring at the grinning man.

“Don’t you ‘Husker’ me, you son of a bitch!” Husk grumbled, coughing and still bitter over his loss at cards. “I could have won the whole damn pot!”

“Good to see you too!”

He slapped a hand to his forehead, unsurprised that Alastor would just ignore whatever he had just said. Rubbing his hand down his face with a gruff sigh, he then picked up a wet glass and a clean rag, proceeding to clean in annoyance.

“What the hell do you want with me this time? Damn sure you ain’t just here for some giggle juice.”

“Just some gin on the rocks, my friend. And as always, I once again require your services. It’s quite a load this time.”

Getting out a tumbler with ice and pouring a generous amount of gin in it, he passed it to Alastor and clinked it in cheers with the same bottle that he soon immediately chugged from. It’s amazing how Rosie still hadn’t skinned him alive for drinking and playing cards on the job, but guess he’s just as lucky as a cat with nine lives. Besides, he was admittedly a pretty decent bartender, set aside the fact that he could possibly clean off Rosie’s precious spoils.

“That why you’ve been quiet for a few weeks now?”

“My, my! Is that concern I hear in that attractive voice of yours, Husker ol’ pal?” Alastor cocked gleefully, grinning so wide that Husk had to refrain himself from one of his many urges to give him some well-deserved chin music. Alastor only laughed, raising his hands in peace before taking another sip and aah-ing in satisfaction. “Yes, indeedy! Had to be admit that this catch had been quite exciting. Couple of goons tried to jump me on the way home. Quite enjoyable, it was! Meat was tender and fell right off the bone. Complimented the gumbo nicely!"

Husk shuddered at hearing this man’s grotesque reminiscence of his recent meal, and was pretty sure should anyone else be able to hear them that it would have swung heads faster than a racehorse. But even if that risk hung over them, Alastor did not seem to be the slightest bit worried. And if he was, it would have been difficult to tell behind that creepy fixed smile of his.

How in the fuckin’ hell did I end up working for this mad bastard? Husk sighed to himself as he took another long swig of the gin bottle. Moving on from the conversation, he asked in a hushed tone, “So, what it’d be this time? Fire or Earth?”

Alastor chuckled at the code used between them for their intended job, which had been Niffty’s creative idea of terming it. But he had to admit it did make the real question underneath seem a lot less ghastly and easy to pass off casually in conversation – depending on how it’s phrased, that is.

“Fire’s good. All that’s left just needs to be turned to dust now.”

With that, Alastor gulped down the last of his gin and proceeded to pull out a heavy envelope from the inner pocket of his jacket, holding it out to Husk with a wink. The bartender only rolled his eyes but took it straight to the back pocket of his trousers. Feeling the hefty contents assured that even after splitting the fee between himself and Niffty, it would be enough to tide him over (hoping he doesn’t lose them in his next game of cards, fingers crossed) until the next time the screwy bastard showed up again.

“So long as it’s a clean sneak, yes? I’m quite sure you and Niffty can manage that, as always.”

Straightening his jacket and placing his fedora back on, Alastor tipped it once to Husk and left without another word, ready to head home to that promised Cognac and book before bed.

Chapter Text

Head in her hands, Charlie sat at the steps of her porch, breathing out raggedly in frustration, fighting back the urge to grab the proposal file from her purse and rip it to shreds. The only thing stopping her was how her palms pressed hard against her eyes, feeling the sting from the combination of force and the tears that threatened to leak out.

“Well! What’s the lovely Miss Magne doing without a smile on her face?”

That familiar jovial voice was what tore her out of her little moment of self-wallowing, head snapping to the direction where her new neighbour was standing, arms crossed on the top of the fence he was leaning against, his bright eyes right at her as he smiled.

Charlie straightened up immediately, flushed with embarrassment at seeing Alastor Carlon. It did no good to her currently fragile pride and ego that the popular radio host that she’d been eyeing ever since she found out she had moved in beside his – surprisingly humble, considering the fact that he could probably be rolling in the greens from the fanfare he amassed for himself – home had to catch her in such a state.

As if I didn’t feel enough of a fool already… she thought to herself in agony, making haste to wipe at her eyes in case any tears were hanging off her lashes. “Mr Carlon!” she called back, forcing a smile to hide – albeit not effectively – the heaviness she was feeling inside. “Shouldn’t you be at your fancy radio show instead of hanging off the fence talking to dear ol’ me?”

“Alastor, please! I’m pretty sure we’ve gone past the need for formalities! And it’s the day off for this gent right here. Wouldn’t want people thinking I practically live at the station,” he replied with a chipper laugh, skirting around the fence as he made his way with confident steps towards her. “So! What’s eating you? It isn’t every day I see a doll sitting off the steps of her house looking like she wants to tear her face off.”

Any last shred of dignity she felt in her completely broke then, and her face went up in sudden heat. “Urgh, how embarrassing,” she muttered, looking away from him as he came to take a seat next to her. No point hiding anything now. “Just been feeling like such a crumb… ‘Fraid the day has me behind the eight ball.”

Wide brown eyes stared down at her – he was, in fact, a good head taller than her – through wired glasses, head tilted to one side and his lips still pulled into that seemingly ever-present grin he always wore. “And why so, darling? Must have been a real doozy if it got you here.”

Charlie would have blushed so girlishly at the endearments he called her by if it weren’t for the fact that her mind was in a pit that could have been as deep as Hell itself. “Oh, I won’t bore you with it,” she sighed, waving her hand indignantly. “Wouldn’t want it making that big smile of yours hit the road.”

Alastor let out a wholehearted laugh, and she would admit that it felt a bit comforting to know that at least she could have incited such a response from him.

“My dear, it’ll take a lot for this set of pearly whites to be knocked off this mug! I am never fully dressed without a smile, just so you know!” he exclaimed confidently, adjusting his bowtie and flashing her a grin so bright and charming that she could feel the corner of her lips tilt up just the slightest. “Anyway, my mother most certainly did not raise me to ignore a dame in need. I’m all ears, sweetheart! It is my day-off, so why not I do the listening instead of the talking?”

Charlie bit her lip in hesitation, unsure of whether she wanted to relive the ordeal she had faced at the board meeting earlier this morning. Good Heavens, the shame that it would make her look to Alastor!

But the expecting look he gave her eased her up a bit, and so, she talked, starting from the beginning about her current passion project, which surprised Alastor greatly at hearing that this upper-class Southern Belle has plans on working with criminals, with the end goal of rehabilitating them back into being good members of society. But of course, such a project cannot even take root without some proper assistance from the officials.

Charlie came from big money, what with Daddy Lucifer playing with the stocks wisely and having close-knit transactional partnerships with the top elite of business society that allowed her and her parents several roofs over their heads. He had been the one to help her secure ownership of an old flophouse near the countryside close to the bayous that she intended for the hotel, and even set up a business account filled with a little more than twenty large to use as initial funding. But even with her father’s advice to ‘not take shit from other hombres’, she only found it appropriate to attempt to get some help on board with running the project, intending to make it non-profit so that it’s as honest as the mission she had centred around it.

Of course, what she had expected but still did not appreciate was how much these officials would actually view her idea as a joke! Rehabilitating a criminal? What kind of respectable egg would want to waste their hard-earned mazuma on that? It didn’t help that it added insult to injury when she was told that she was only just pretty young thing with ‘her head in the clouds thinking all goodness comes in the form of rainbows and puppies.’

“Can you believe those assholes!” she exclaimed out loud, arms outstretched in exasperation. “Laughed at my proposal for the fourth time even though I tweaked it numerous times for them!”

Alastor only continued to watch her with wide-eyed curiosity, and Charlie huffed and put her hands on her hips with a narrowed glare. “Let me guess. You’re going to laugh too and tell me it’s impossible to rehabilitate criminals?”

He put his hands up in open honesty and replied, “Well, I do find your blissful ignorance quite amusing, sweetheart!”

Wow, now did that hurt. Charlie immediately felt regret for venting out that whole story to him only for him to make such a cutting remark. As if it wasn’t pathetic enough that he had to find her in such a state, now she had to know that he too probably thought of her as some Dumb Dora like everyone else around her, and that was one more too many.

Her pride wouldn’t allow her to cry, especially not in front of him, and she was about to grab her purse and bid him ‘good day’ before dusting out into her house when suddenly she felt an arm wrapped around her shoulders. A quick glance down and she realised that Alastor was holding her there, and if she hadn’t been so upset at his little remark, she surely would have her whole face burnt up at the thought of him touching her. He seemed to have realised she was upset and had intended to up and leave, for he brought her closer to him until their sides were almost touching.

“Allow me to shed some light on these sinners you’re so desperate to help,” he declared with a knowing raised finger.

“Yes, some are petty thieves. Why they did what they did? Who knows? To feed their families with enough bread? To pay off the heavy juice they made a mistake borrowing from the trouble boys? Or maybe even for some illicit swell times? Like I said, who knows! But see here, my dear, some are murderers, with no other motive than morbid curiosity. Driven by a deep carnal instinct perhaps? Or maybe just to find out how much potential they hold in their hands to have the ability to so easily take a life as simply as blowing out the flame of a candle?”

Alastor’s other hand suddenly came up to hold her other shoulder, his eyes gazing deeply into hers as his grin stretched even further. “They certainly wouldn’t hesitate to split open that darling face of yours! These sick thoughts cannot be purified!”

Charlie could only look at him back with knitted brows pulling her face into an expression of unsettled concern. His words sent literal chills running down her spine, and not the type she would usually get at hearing his usual charming persona on the radio and the few times he had greeted a ‘hello’ or ‘good day’ when they were near each other’s vicinity. No, this one had her almost breaking out into goosebumps at how… graphic he was in his language.

“You’re… uncomfortably insightful on this,” she muttered uncertainly.

Alastor only laughed as if it was a casual joke and waved his hand dismissively. “A mere speculation, dear! You’d get a lot of these grizzly crime stories when you’re a radio host, is simply all! The ones about The Axeman are especially a legend!”

At hearing that, Charlie let out a shaky breath she did not even realise she was holding in, and too laughed although still nervous. “Ah, yes. Maybe that’s why.”

An awkward silence then befell upon them, but Charlie couldn’t shake off the feeling of being unnerved by Alastor’s little speech. Sure, it was simply just something he came up with on his own, but his imagination sure was vivid.

She looked up at the sky and noticed it turning a burnt orange.

 “Ah, it’s evening now. I shouldn’t keep you here any longer,” she told him as she got up with her purse and brushed down her skirts. He too stood up, adjusting his glasses before taking her hand in his and giving it a soft kiss.

“Enjoyed our little conversation, doll. Hopefully, things work out for that little project of yours.”

Thinking back to their ‘conversation’ had Charlie immediately feeling her blood run a little colder, but she ignored it and forced herself to give a small smile. "Here's to hoping, then. And thank you for listening, Alastor. I really appreciated it.”

A final wave and a smile exchange and Charlie disappeared into her house, leaving Alastor to walk back to his own, sighing as he remembered the lifeless young woman in his basement that he had yet to prepare for dinner. He felt slightly disappointed, knowing that it wouldn’t be enough to quell the growing craving he currently had for his sweet neighbour.

Oh, how that terrified look on her face did wonders.

Chapter Text

Charlie knew very well that the process of rehabilitation will not be an easy one, especially those whose entire lives probably revolved around crime. But she had never had the opportunity to go head-to-head with one until she met Angel Dust.

It had been a twist of chance, their first meeting. Charlie and Vaggie were strolling down Bourbon Street when they encountered a tall feminine-looking blond being accosted by a couple of rubes with slurs like ‘nancy boy’ and ‘ethel’.

Charlie, intolerant of such audacity, marched on up to tell them to scram out, successful only when Vaggie socked one of them square in the nose and got them scampering away. But in lieu of any form of thanks, the blond only smart-mouthed about how he could have had it settled himself and didn’t need two kittens to come to his rescue, infuriating Vaggie to the point that ‘colourful’ Spanish flew like spitfire.

Charlie, on the other hand, insisted for him to lunch with them at a tea house nearby, much to Vaggie’s protest, as she noticed how rough around the edges he’d looked and it didn’t sit right with her to just leave him on his own. The blond raised a brow at this doll’s genuine invitation, as though suspicious of her motives. But a simple shrug and he accepted the offer, introducing himself as Angel Dust.

He’d been more than open to tell his tale. A New Yorker, but had come to New Orleans under a sordid contract with a big shot named Valentino to work in a bordello here, which he actually enjoyed with good greens he’s been earning. All he had with trouble was lodging, for ‘obvious’ reasons. Valentino was a bitch to sleep with every now and then, so he’d been shacking up with anyone willing to give him a quick cash grab, and there ain’t no way in hell he’d be taking room in some flophouse.

When asked about family, he had no intentions to go back to them in New York, having no good blood with Daddy Henroin and older brother Arackniss, and his loving twin sister Molly had gone and gotten herself hitched to some wop – “It ain’t racist if you’re one too, doll!” – so he simply didn’t want to bother her. That, and he knew going back would mean he’d have to be pulled into his little family-run ‘business’, much preferring sex work.

Vaggie could clearly see how bright Charlie’s eyes had gotten all of a sudden at the opportunity that sat with a dincher in front of her. An intense discussion ensued on the street side just outside the restaurant (Vaggie wanted to be out of earshot but still have Angel in her sights should he try to lam off), with Vaggie pulling all the shots to try to convince Charlie but ultimately giving in when her friend had reasoned earnestly on how this could be a chance. “If we could help to rehabilitate someone like him, it’ll give us a better shot to convince everyone that the same can be done for criminals.”

Angel had been hinky, wondering why the hell would some random broad just up and offer him a place to live rent-free when they returned to their seats. Crushing up the finished butt, he had questioned, “What’s the catch?”

The condition Charlie laid out had been simple; reformation. Don’t do anything illegal and just take the time to ‘heal’ himself from his ‘wrongdoings’ and work on a better path to reintegrate into society. He stared at her in silence when she told him that, before bursting out loud in a big laugh.

“Have you gone off your rocker, toots? That’s pretty rich coming from a Belle like you!”

Vaggie would have taken that response as a refusal for the invitation and be on her way, but Charlie remained resolute, and a long talk later led to both a surprise and a relief when Angel eventually agreed, although quite obviously for the promised free room.

He moved in that night, becoming the Happy Hotel’s first official resident.

Things had been rough in the beginning, per se. Sure, he refrained from doing anything ‘wrong’ in the hotel - Vaggie made that rule very clear when she drained out all the flasks of foot juice he had on him on the second night of his residence, resulting in a near physical altercation had Charlie not been there to put a foot down to it - but he had been quite the owl and disappeared late into the night, only reappearing the next morning with a limp and a few necking bruises that gave the girls a good idea on what he was up to.

It took a lot for Charlie to convince her friend that it was going to be a slow process, and this was all up to Angel’s pace, so they had to give him the time and be patient.

But it seems that patience can only be stretched so far.

The thing that broke the straw on both their backs was when they had found him curled on the floor in what was to be the lounge, spazzing out and drooling and half-naked covered in nothing but layers of cold sweat, completely gowed-up and looking like he was staring Death right in the eyes. In his hands was a near-empty linen pouch of pure white powder, traces that was still stuck on his nose.

It had been an absolute miracle that they found him in time to get him to the nearest hospital where the doctors had been able to quell the effects of the heavy dose of Phencyclidine in his system, and Charlie cried for a day and a night by his bedside until they were all in the backseat of the automobile on their way back to the hotel.

Angel didn’t seem too shaken up by what happened, casually smoking by the window of the car, taking no notice of Charlie at the other end in complete unsound discomfort or Vaggie glaring him down with fires in her eyes that could rival the sulphuric flames of Hell itself, until he threw his unfinished stick out the opened window and turned.

“What?”

“‘What’? ‘WHAT’?!” Vaggie shouted at the top of her voice, causing Charlie to flinch. “’WHAT’ WERE YOU THINKING?!

“Hey! I’ve been clean for at least two weeks! Isn’t that a somewhat ‘redeeming’ quality? So, I had a little relapse and balled up a bit. Wasn’t that bad.”

“It wasn’t that ‘bad’?! How do you think folks out there would react if they found out we’ve let in some four-flushing, dewdropping dope fiend in what was supposed to be a place for recovery? We’d be seen as nothing more than a fucking joke!”

Angel seemed unfazed by the string of slurs being thrown at him by the hot-headed Latina, but he didn’t hold back. “Well, if you guys wanted to slay some people, you lookin’ to be more sad than funny.”

“Okay. Enough.”

The bickering between the other two ceased and all attention was on Charlie, who was frowning although that anger didn’t seem to quite reach her eyes.

“That shouldn’t happen again, understand?” she said directly to Angel, who just shrugged and looked back out the window. To Vaggie, she put a hand on her friend’s shoulder and gave a weak smile. “We don’t know if things are really over yet, babe. Try to relax. It’ll be okay!”

She knew very well that Charlie herself wasn’t sure if it truly was okay, but Vaggie’s heart softened enough to give her friend a small smile in return.

Upon their return to the hotel, Razzle and Dazzle immediately set about preparing lunch for the trio while they hung around the lounge, any traces of yesterday completely clean thanks to the ever-helpful twin butlers. When glasses of water were served during their wait, Angel picked one up and took a sip in boredom.

“Ya’ know, you really should consider putting up a gin mill in here, so that this joint really wouldn’t be such a drag. ‘Spose to be a hotel after all, ain’t it?”

He chuckled, but it died down immediately when he noticed Charlie looking more grummy than ever. Awkwardness immediately set in, and Angel wasn’t sure how to deal with how much he was suddenly feeling quite bad for the doll. Even guilt maybe, for the jam he had put her in when she found him? In a brief moment, he reached a hand out to Charlie, like he wanted to put it on her shoulder as a way to comfort her. But it was easier said than done for him, apparently. Realising no useful words coming to his tongue, he withdrew immediately, walking away pretending that never happened.

Charlie, who looked so ever to be on the brink of tears, got up to go outside for some fresh air a little while later, leaving Vaggie and Angel to themselves.

“Soooo… what’s eating her?”

“Are you being serious right now?”

“As serious as I can be zozzled right now, bearcat,” he remarked, reclining lazily on the couch. “But really though, what’s her beef?”

Had her own energy not been so exhausted, she would unhesitatingly pick up the nearest object and hurl it straight at the insolent sap that looked to her now more than ever like an eyesore in this already unlively establishment.

“I think you need to understand how important this is to Charlie,” she started seriously. “You have no idea how much she’d gone through just to even try to get this hotel up and running and it hadn’t exactly been easy for her.”

A ‘tsk’ by the blond. “You seriously think it ain’t bull for her to play crepe hanger?”

“Can you at least try to be serious about this?” Again, resisting the urge to cause some sort of bodily harm to him, Vaggie pinched the bridge of her nose and let out a sharp breath. “You’re lucky enough that she still sees some sort of hope in you to let you keep staying here.”

Angel scoffed, but those words hit him enough to actually think about Charlie and her willingness to take him in and off the streets. Sure, in a way she is quite the goof to not think that the idea of reforming someone from the error of their ways was just a waste of time, as any other swanky bird like her would. But then again, he had to admit that there really wasn’t a lot of people like her left in this godforsaken world who still held to the promise of goodness and chances in people, especially to someone like him who’s so used to all forms of abuse coming in all directions his way.

She’s quite the rare gem, that doll, and he at least owed it someway to her for giving him a roof over his head.

“Fine. I’ll try.”

Chapter Text

It was a bright sunny morning in New Orleans. The birds were chirping lively as the rest of the neighbourhood were starting their day. But Alastor paid no heed to that when he stepped out of the house and immediately noticed Charlie walking past his house, clearly dressed for a day in town, and distracted with papers of a folder in her hands.

Well, if this isn’t my lucky day… thought Alastor as he called out cheerily, “Morning, Miss Charlie!”

The dame paused in her steps and looked up from her papers to the bright-eyed radio host walking in big strides towards her. “Oh! Good morning, Mr Carlon!” Charlie smiled bright with a wave of her hand.

“Alastor, please. I did say we’ve gone past the need for formalities!”

“Oh, yes. How rude of me, that had slipped my mind,” she smiled sheepishly. “Off to work, I presume?”

Alastor nodded. “Yessiree! To the same old, same old. And where are you off to this fine morning?”

Gesturing the folder of paperwork that she had in her hands, Charlie gave a half-hearted smile. “To another meeting with a potential investor downtown. Tweaked my proposal yet again, you see.”

His grin grew brighter and he raised his eyebrows gleefully. “Well, downtown’s where I’m heading! Come on, darling, let me walk you.”

Charlie hesitated just a bit, suddenly overwhelmed with a strong bout of shyness. Walking with Alastor Carlon? Charlie was unsure of how to react. Golly gee, was her hair tidy? Did she take a good look in the mirror to make sure that her makeup was alright? Did she spray too much perfume on herself before she left the house?

Alastor must have taken her pause for hesitation, and he shrugged nonchalantly. “If it bothers you, I could just hang back a bit here and let you get an ankle on first.”

He wouldn’t like that, but he won’t force it on her – he didn’t groom himself to be a gentleman for nothing, after all. Besides, he had no intention to push her away with unease when the goal was to get closer to her.

Hearing that made Charlie jump in a panic, realising how rude she must have looked. “Goodness! No, no, no!” she exclaimed, waving her hands as though to wave off any tension in the air, which amused him. “It doesn’t bother me at all! Please, walk with me.”

Charlie breathed a discrete sigh of relief when he seemed satisfied at that, and she wasn’t one to want to disappoint people, especially if they’re being kind. He gestured for her to take the first step before coming to walk at a steady pace beside her.

“So, tweaked it again, you say?” he asked, pointing to the folder in her hands. “Any new little bits that might interest the folks with the poke?”

Then appeared an excitable twinkle in her eyes and her lips immediately pulled into a wide grin, much to his delight. “Well, I hope so!” she chirped gleefully. “We’ve made quite some progress for the hotel. We even finally got our first patron!”

Alastor’s face once again turned animated at hearing that, and she couldn’t discern if it was shock or surprise or pride that he was showing.

“Well, put that on the radio and broadcast it to the world! Congratulations, darling! However did you manage to convince one of those fools to take part in that project of yours?”

She brushed off that little remark of his to continue with as much as vigour. “Well, it’s more like we found him. He looked to be stuck in a rut and had nowhere else to go, so we took him in.”

“So, a tramp from the street?”

Hearing that, Charlie gave Alastor a pointed look, tutting in disapproval. “He isn’t a tramp, Alastor. He’s just someone unlucky enough to be involved in a bad crowd and just needs a step in the right direction.”

Looking like he really didn’t seem ashamed, Alastor placed a hand over his heart. “Many apologies for my ignorance, Miss Charlie.”

“You are forgiven but just this once,” she told him with a warning finger.

“Of course, of course. Now, how’s the first ‘patient’ of yours been like? Everything going peachy as you’d hoped? Is he all set and ready to break it up with his past of crime and wrongdoing to get on the path of do-gooding?”

If only that were the case, but Charlie thought of how things at the hotel had been potty with Angel Dust, who’s still recovering from his recent relapse and have been somewhat on his best behaviour. He would still leave in the dead of night for ‘work’, but so long as he’s back and alright in the hotel by the time Charlie or Vaggie were there in the morning, she supposed it’s still better than nothing.

“Well, things haven’t actually been a breeze, but rehabilitation is a slow process, so all we need to do is just give him time.”

Alastor only hmm-ed incredulously. “Well, if you say so, dear.”

The conversation came to a lull and they walked in companionable silence for a bit, with Alastor whistling a soft tune while Charlie looked through her papers again to make sure there were no mistakes in her new proposal. They only beat one’s gums between themselves just as the streets were starting to get a lot busier as they were about to enter the heart of downtown, and she immersed herself in the buzzing of everyone around her going about their day.

But as they were standing by the road waiting for a clear to pass, Charlie’s attentions were caught by young newsie standing on the corner, holding up a newspaper and yelling out the headline to catch the attention of potential buyers.

“Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Missing people adding up! Is something sinister happening down in New Orleans?”

“How absolutely dreadful,” Alastor suddenly commented casually, shaking his head as they started walking again. “Someone really oughta tell the fuzz to step up their game.”

Hearing that news made a lump of fear form in Charlie’s throat, promptly swallowed down as her head began filling with the possibility of some sort of villainous criminal on the loose and harming poor and innocent people. A shiver ran down her spine at the morbid thought of it.

But that thought in her head had, for some reason, made her think back to a couple weeks back to her conversation with Alastor on her front porch – more specifically, his little light-shedding on the types of criminals there were. It suddenly brought her thoughts of fear to a standstill.

“Alastor?”

“Hmm?”

“Uhm… if you don’t mind, could I ask you something?”

“Don’t see why you can’t. Ask away, dear.”

Now it was tough getting her question out on her tongue, definitely from some lingering awkwardness about their last conversation on the porch. Real silly of her to hold on to something so trivial, but ever since their little chat, all she could remember was how intent he’d been in describing the vilest criminal she could ever come across, how they ‘wouldn’t hesitate to split open’ her face, given the chance.

But she did have to admit that he did give her some insight on what was to come for her, bringing the question if, in the case that such a character does come to the hotel, would she be able to take them on?

“You see… what you said the last time about the sort of criminals there are…”

“Haha!” Alastor cut her mid-sentence with a teasing laugh. “Perhaps, I may have accidentally given you the heebie-jeebies from the thought of it?”

If there was one thing that Charlie had learnt from the few times she’s interacted with Alastor, it was that he was completely blunt and brutally honest. Even if it may strike her the wrong way, she appreciated that he was giving his straight-up truth instead of sugar-coating it for her sake.

“Well, if you put it that way, then yes. Maybe just a little bit. You’ve said something along the lines of ‘those sick thoughts cannot be purified’…”

“Indeed, I did.”

She paused to think over her next question carefully, before releasing it one breath. “But in all honesty… Do you think it’s still possible for someone of a nature like that to want to ‘redeem’ themselves?”

Alastor chuckled then, and she didn’t seem to know what about the question he found so funny.

“Well, if you want me to be completely honest, I think that’s simply wacky nonsense!

Charlie wasn’t really expecting a hopeful answer, but his response did disappoint.

“I don’t think there’s anything left that could save such loathsome sinners,” he explained, shaking his head. “The chance given was the life they’ve lived before their capers, and the punishment is being cut dead from us regular folk.” Looking at her with arms outstretched, he told her, “There is no undoing what they’ve done!”

Now that struck a chord in her that only frustrated her more. Yes, he made it obvious from their first conversation that he thought the project was a silly idea, and yes, she appreciated the fact that he would give her his honest truth.

But that didn’t mean she would be agreeable to it.

“Now, hold it right there, Al.”

Her words made him stop in his tracks, eyes widening with pure curiosity at her sudden change in behaviour. She stood in front of him and looked him straight in the eye with a frown, hands on her hips.

“So, you definitely see my mission here as some kind of a joke. But I don’t. I think everyone deserves a chance to prove that they can be better, and it’s not going to help if I’m going to be like everybody else who forgets that they’re humans too. Yes, their vices may be questionable and unforgivable, and I can understand why you probably think the way you do. But put yourselves in their shoes and think; if you had to suffer for a mistake and wanted a way to change your fate, wouldn’t you? So, you and anyone else can razz and high-hat me all you want. It isn’t going to stop me from trying.”

Alastor said nothing, only looking at her with that still-present smile. She watched quietly, waiting for a response, but she felt so proud of finally speaking her mind out, so used to always having to hold back her tongue in respect to anybody she’s pitching to. It felt good to stand firm with her beliefs.

But then there was a twinkle of excitement and surprise in Alastor’s eyes, and she was taken aback by how he tilted his head to look at her in… adoration?

“My, my, Miss Charlie. That fiery determination of yours sure is something. Don’t think I’d ever come across someone with as much bite as you...”

Alastor had said it so low and deep that it had been enough for her insides to tremor at how intense his ‘compliment’ was. This was not something she’d been expecting, and she could feel any boldness she had a few seconds before quickly turn to shyness. And that shyness immediately turned into outright bewilderment when he suddenly brought a hand to her face to gently tuck a loose lock of hair behind her ear, and his hand stayed where it was when he leaned down, so that his eyes were levelled with hers, and continued gazing deep when he said, “If helping them means so much to you, I really can’t wait to see the smile on your face when you finally got it.”

Charlie said nothing, completely frozen, only gazing back at him. She could tell very well that her whole face was flaring red at this point – curse the fact that any blushing was so obvious on her pale complexion. What the absolute hell am I supposed to do now??? Her thoughts screamed in her head while her body remained completely still, all while she could feel her insides bursting with a warmth that made her almost want to melt.

But suddenly he straightened up, looking at the area around them. “Anyway! I believe this is where we part. The station’s that way for me,” he said, pointing to a direction, so casually as though the last minute had not happened.

“O-Of course!” Charlie exclaimed, finally finding her voice again and promptly straightened herself out. “Thank you for walking with me. I hope you have a good day at work, Alastor.”

He smiled and took her hand in his and to plant a soft kiss on her knuckles. She wondered if he was able to tell how hot she was when his lips made contact with her skin. Maybe he did, when he looked up at her with a cheeky wide grin, which only made her flare up in warmth more.

“Good luck with your meeting, doll. Hope you knock ‘em dead.”

With a wave goodbye, Alastor turned in the direction he was heading and walked away, leaving Charlie standing by herself on the pavement, only watching him with a stunned expression, the heat not going away immediately.

Chapter Text

“Did ya hear?”

Alastor looked up from the reports he had in hand to Tom, who was leaning back in his chair with a cigarette dangling lazily from his lips and reading a newspaper. It was currently break between broadcasts, and Alastor would preferably read over his material over a smoke rather than interact with the sleazy fellow host that he’s quite distasteful of. Still, he guessed it wouldn’t hurt to just entertain the bored man for a bit.

“About?”

Tom gestured to the headline that was on the front page.

MISSING CASES GOING UP. NEW ORLEANS POLICE DEPARTMENT UNDETERMINES STRANGE CAUSES.

Taking a drag from his own half-finished cigarette, Alastor nodded once in affirmation. “Newsies around town calling it out from every corner this morning. Hard not to catch.”

Tom only hummed, flicking his dincher ash onto an ashtray. “Suspect it’s some killer on the loose.”

“Is it now?” he inquired, his attentions suddenly interested as set aside his papers and paid full heed to the fella. “And why’s that?”

“Obvious, ain’t it? People just vanishing and not turning up anywhere at all? Sounds like they got cut down to me,” Tom replied boredly, butting out his cigarette. “Question is; wonder what happened when they met the last man they’ll see alive.”

Oh, Tom, you wet bastard… Alastor thought to himself darkly as he could feel his lips tilting up in pride. …What happened would truly be beyond your feeble-minded imagination…

“You really gotta stop doing that whole smiling thing,”

Alastor promptly snapped out of his thought and quirked an eyebrow at the sudden comment. “Pardon?”

“It’s creepy as fuck,” the radio newscaster carped as he pulled out another cigarette to light. “What’s got you smiling all the time anyway? Got some sheba that’s wildin’ your bed every night?”

Narrowing his eyes at the insolence he so loathed about the man, he maintained his smile if so to irk Tom even more. To add on, he smoothly changed the subject and asked casually, “How’s that thing with Katie going on?”

A scoff, followed by an erratic puff of cigarette smoke. “Don’t bring up that quiff,” Tom sneered, looking detested at the mention of his rambunctious on-off partner. “As good as gone now is what it is. Now, answer the question, mac. Got anyone?”

Not interested in this uncalled-for bull session, Alastor took another drag of his nearly finished cigarette and replied coolly, “Now I do believe that’s none of your beeswax, Tom.”

Going back to his papers, Alastor continued reading in silence, wondering idly how hard could it be to not raise any alarm at work should he decide to croak the revolting scum near him out of boredom.


Charlie watched quietly as the potential investor with the bald head and the alderman she was sitting across read through her proposal again. She felt confident that her long detailed pitch would raise some interest. What with the inclusion of a first patron, the proposal finally had good leverage that it didn’t have before.

“Miss Magne, I can’t seem to understand the feasibility of this proposal in the slightest.”

She guessed she spoke too soon then.

“Sorry, Mr Alphonse, but I’m not sure which part of it you don’t find feasible.”

Gesturing to the parchment, he remarked incredulously, “What’s the end plan of this little project? You rehabilitate a criminal to reintegrate them into society, and then what? You let them go?”

Charlie became confused at the question. “Well… yes? The hotel isn’t intended to keep them forever.”

“Then how can you be sure you can let them go without the risk of them potentially turning back to their old ways?”

It was a good thing that Charlie already thought ahead for that possibility, and was more than prepared to answer. “We’d have a sort of ‘retention’ plan in mind. After they’ve ‘checked out’, we would check in on them from time to time in order to keep track of any continued progress outside, or to step in should there be the risk of them relapsing back into crime.”

“And how’d you suppose to work on these criminals in the first place?” Mr Alphonse probed more, and once again Charlie was prepared to answer without hesitation.

“With funding, we’ll be able to employ the hotel with counsellors that would be trained to assist each guest suitable for each of their needs, and also implement activities that would be beneficial in empowering their personal growth as individuals.”

Mr Alphonse only hummed in acknowledgement as he looked through the papers once more. “And what would I receive in return should I choose to assist you?” he inquired.

This guy’s questions were really making Charlie steam up with annoyance and frustration, fuming to herself if he’d even been paying attention to her pitch or even bothered to properly read through her proposal. But she kept her cool, instead looking at it from a more positive side that he’s probably asking a lot of questions because he’s genuinely interested. At least he didn’t laugh at her outright.

“I’ve already included all the itinerary that you’d receive should you decide to become a donor. Monthly financial reports of the hotel’s expenditure to assure you that the funds have been put to good use, and also impact reports on the progress of each ‘guest’ so that you’ll know we’re not just having people there for no good reason.”

“Ah, yes, I see that right here,” Mr Alphonse replied, scanning through the page that the information was on. “Well, Miss Magne, although I would say the choice of target audience is a slight bit questionable, this does seem like a very interesting prospect. And for the good of the community, as well.”

Any irritation at the man disappeared upon hearing his words, suddenly feeling a burst of excitement at seeing how well this meeting was going. She internally jumped for joy at the thought that she may have finally found her first investor for the hotel.

“But, of course,” Mr Alfonse spoke up as he got up to go to her side, handing her folder back. “If I do so choose to be a donor to your establishment, I’d like to be compensated for something in return.”

“And what would that entail?” she asked as she got up as well, her eagerness showing in her smile. “I’m sure we can come to an agreement that could be to your pleasing.”

Mr Alfonse said nothing, and Charlie watched as his suddenly-hooded eyes went down to her feet only to trail up her form, and she was confused at this little look until she watched a smirk suddenly appear on his lips, where a tongue poked out to lick at them, and it all became too clear to her when he placed a hand on her shoulder and started to caress her arm. 

All the eagerness that Charlie felt quickly dissipated and she immediately recoiled from him in disgust, swatting his hand away forcefully. “Excuse me?!” she shouted, her other hand holding the place he had touched as though it’d been burned. “Just what the hell do you think you’re doing?!”

He only looked at the hand she’d swatted with a chuckle and a leering sneer. “Simple request, really. Just thought a good nookie would be more than enough in exchange for the help.”

Charlie felt anger burning like hellfire in her as she watched the vile man try to take a step towards her, and upon reflex she grabbed the nearest thing – a metal paperweight – and threw it right at his feet, making him curse out loud in pain.

How about you go fuck yourself, you disgusting piece of horseshit!” she screamed, unable to stop herself from giving him a good kick to his manhood for good measure, really glad she wore pointed heels for that extra bit of pain.

While the pervert was doubled over, Charlie immediately walked out of the room, glad that he couldn’t attempt to block her way – or else things would have ended up far worse and she didn’t want to imagine the possibility – and she made it out of the building safely, not stopping in her fast pace as she went in the direction of home.

The whole time, her mind kept replaying whatever had just happened over and over again and the mental images of it made her eyes burn so much that heavy streams of tears fell, completely washing her in painful humiliation. This was by far the most mortifying thing she’d ever encountered on her journey. Even all the laughs and sneers she got didn’t hold a candle to this. This was just absolute rock bottom.

She hated it. She hated that it had to happen to her. She hated that she thought she was close to achieving something for the hotel and it just led to this.

That was it. She didn’t want to do this anymore. She didn’t want to try anymore. If trying only led to more degradation coming for her, she’s throwing in the towel right here and then.

All she wanted now was to just go home and be safe from this absolutely cruel world.


“It simply amazes me how free the scum of the Earth walk. Doesn’t it, Husker?”

Husk only gave the man cynical eyes, confused by the sudden remark from Alastor, who’d been people-watching the speakeasy’s guests. “You seriously telling me that?” he replied, putting away a glass he’d been cleaning dry. “If anyone’s scum, it’s you, it’s me, and it’s everyone else sitting in this here joint.”

“And yet, here we all are,” Alastor drawled whimsically, watching the scotch in his tumbler as he swirled it around. “Enjoying our lives, drinking to our heart’s content. Not a care in the world for if our vices finally catch up to us.”

Husk only kept quiet, unsure of how to answer. He wasn’t much of a talker usually, even more so with Alastor, so it’ll sometimes take him off-guard when the creep gets all like this, because of some inner sentimentality he had hidden or because that was his third helping of scotch. Whatever it was, it was way too unusual of the already-unusual man to Husk, and it didn’t help that his ever-present grin only added on to the oddity of the situation.

But then he was suddenly interrupted with the appearance of a bald fat guy taking a seat on the barstool, who hissed in pain as he settled himself there. Husk turned to him instead, leaving Alastor to his drink.

“What’ll you have, mac?” Husk asked in his best bartender serving voice, sounding bored at best.

“Pint of your best draft,” he grumbled, looking almost in pain while he did.

Husk filled out a pint to the brim and set it in front of the guest, and he realised that he was massaging his crotch area, quickly weirding Husk out. “Hey pal, this ain’t exactly a voyeur club,” he snapped, disturbed by the disgusting sight. “You mind doing that elsewhere?”

“You ever got fucking kicked in the balls with a heel?” the man spat, spittle flying but not landing anywhere on Husk. “You try and sit if you did.”

“Hell did you do to get that?”

A grumble as he picked up his glass and chugged. “Just propositioned some twist to make whoopee in exchange for help in some stupid idea she had. The bitch got lathered and threw my prized paperweight onto my dogs before her foot flew to the moneybags.”

“Well, ain’t that some shit,” Husker chuckled, unable to help finding the nudnik’s pain amusing now that he’s heard it. “The bim’s must’ve been a real good kicker.”

The man wasn’t amused at how Husk was finding the situation funny, but he’s not about to pick a fight here, not with the strict rules of the joint that the Whisper Sister upstairs enforced about that. He just continued casually with the conversation, saying, “Think her name’s Carol or something. Something Magne.”

Husk had been uninterested in the jive until his attentions were suddenly caught by the loud sound of glass hitting the polished wooden bar-top. While the fella was chugging down the remains of his pint, Husk turned to look at the only other person at the bar, and his brows furrowed at seeing Alastor.

To anyone else, he was just sitting still and quietly, but Husk knew Alastor long and well enough to know that something was off. He was side-eyeing the new guest with a look as cold and hard as steel, and his fingers almost clenched the glass so hard that he could possibly break it in his grasp. But what gave things away were his lips. Alastor’s grin was absent, only a close-lipped smile now, but it was pressed into a hard-thin line that – only added with the look in his eyes and the tenseness of his body – was unmistakably showing dark intent.

Husk knew this look all too well.

This was a look to kill.

Chapter Text

Alfonse hissed as he carefully pulled his soupbone out of his unzipped trousers, still feeling the ache of the kick that little bitch gave. He was somewhat relieved when piss started streaming, glad that she may have not broken it as he feared. He internally cursed her, vowing to do her rotten should he ever see her again, prepared to teach her a lesson she’ll never forget.

His attentions were suddenly turned to the sound of the door to the gents opening, and he looked up briefly to see a brown-haired man with cheaters making his way to the sinks, not paying him any mind as he straightened himself out. Alfonse looked away quickly, not wanting to look like some creep, and looked back down at his business.

Piss was slowing down, and once he was done, he gently shook it before preparing himself to put it back in his drawers, anticipating the pain of the ache once again.

But the pain he wasn’t expecting was a sudden crack against his skull, followed by a shower of sharp glass running down the side of his face.

“Fucking hell!” he shouted in shock, and he was suddenly pulled away from the urinal and facing the man that had just come in, but then he saw stars when he was suddenly socked right in the eye. With no proper time to react, he fell hard on his back, cock still half out.

“Disgusting.” He heard the man mutter in a growl, and he was suddenly grabbed by the throat and pulled up against the wall, surprised at the sheer brute strength of the lean and slender man to be able to drag a heavyset. Through his one good eye, which hadn’t been good for long because he was punched there a mere few seconds later, he could only see the wild look in his eyes and the lips that were split wide open to show teeth in an almost maniacal grin.

The man gave him more blows to his face, and Alfonse was too incapacitated to fight back because each time he tried he just got knocked down more. He could only feel his face swelling up and bruising all over, and he wasn’t too sure if his jaws and nose were still intact.

Suddenly, the punching stopped and he was pulled forward by the hand on his neck towards the face of the smiling man. From what little he could see through the swells around his eyes, he could make out the man looking at him with a narrowed glare, and through the buzz of white noise that was the only thing he could hear now, he could make out a question.

“Did you touch her?”

Confused, he stuttered fearfully, “…W-W-W-What?...”

“You aren’t deaf, my good fellow,” the man seethed through his grin, voice dripping with venom. “I ask again; did you touch her?”

“…W-Who?... I-I-I don’t k-know who you’re t-t-talking ‘b-bout…”

Another hard punch to the face and Alfonse could feel his mouth pooling with blood, which he promptly choked out. His face was pulled closer to his attacker once more, and he could feel the hot air that he was seething out.

“The girl,” he snarled with pure malice, sounding more animalistic than ever. “The little ‘twist’ you wanted to ‘make whoopee’. Did. You. Touch. Her?”

Now he understood what he was talking about, but underneath the fear was utter confusion, wondering why’d that make any sense to now. But he was pulled out of thought when the man shook his head roughly, demanding an answer. Unable to think clearly in this terrifying moment, Alfonse half-choked his answer out.

“…H-h-her a-arm…”

Now that answer hit the nail for Alastor. Without a second’s hesitation, he got up and dragged the man by his chokehold towards one of the stalls in the bathroom, a sizeable shard of glass from the pint he used earlier in his attack – the same pint that the scumbag had drunk draft from, which Alastor nicked when Husk wasn’t looking before he followed him to the restroom – already brandished in his hand.

Alastor positioned the man so that he was kneeling over the John, stepping around to tower over him from behind while still keeping a firm grip on his neck.

PLEASE! I DIDN’T TOUCH HER ANYWHERE ELSE! I SWEAR! PLEASE LET ME GO! PLEASE DON’T DO THIS!

He started struggling violently, enough to almost throw Alastor off-balance if he hadn’t forced his weight on the balls of his feet to keep himself grounded. Alastor’s other hand gripped the back of the man’s head to forcefully bludgeon his face on the seat of the toilet bowl.

The ragtime music from the stage was loud enough to overpower the man’s screams and shouts of pain, and Alastor had locked the door discretely when he came in. The crying was vibrating all throughout the enclosed restroom, and it sent pleasurable tremors running through his body.

Oh, how Alastor revelled in the screams of the weak. How he loved hearing them waste their final breaths begging for his mercy. He basked in the sight of himself holding their pathetic feeble bodies in his hands. He felt euphoric. He felt a high he could never get from anything else. He felt so powerful. How he marvelled at this staggering ability to have someone completely plead for his clemency. To lose himself completely to carnal desires that lingered within him. How thrilling it was! How it burned him deep within his core!

But the man can scream all he wanted.

He can beg for all he cared.

But nothing could save him now.

Not since he’s touched Miss Charlie Magne.

Not since he’s laid his filthy paws on the precious skin that’s meant to be his.

With that disgusting thought in mind, Alastor lifted the man’s chin just so his fat neck could be widely exposed, and placed the tip of the shard to the jugular. The scumbag thrashed and squealed like a wild pig and struggled with all his might, but Alastor’s hold was stronger, keeping his head in place.

And with a skill so honed by time and expertise, he slowly slid the glass through fat skin across the neck, watching the fresh crimson blood spray out messily all over the toilet, and watching as the man who fought and struggled so hard slowly die out before his very eyes.

Alastor stayed that way for a while, only watching the blood flow, and only released the man when the flow stopped, letting the lifeless body slump to the restroom floor and dropping the shard of glass as well.  He stepped backward out of the stall, his eyes never leaving the sight of the mess he had made – amazed how he didn’t get any of the blood of himself, much to his relief. He breathed heavily, feeling the pounding of his heart resonating through him, and his consciousness slowly returned to full composure. He smiled to himself curiously, reminiscing all that had happened in just the past few minutes. The excitement in him, though, did not diminish. It only grew more at the thought of the catalyst.

…Oh, Charlie… his thoughts were almost like a prayer. ...How you do wonders for me…

Sudden sharp knocks that sounded at the door were what finally pulled his attention back to reality, and he could hear Niffty call out from the other side, “Mister Al? Can we come in now?”

Alastor took one look in the mirror to see the mess he’d made of himself, which frankly wasn’t much since he’d been careful to make the blood spill away from him, so he was practically spotless. He only needed to readjust his bowtie and smooth back his messy hair before he went to the door.

Upon unlocking, he was immediately shoved back inside by Husk gripping him by the collar – the bartender was very aware of the man’s dislike of being touched by others, so he at least respected that –  and snarled in his face, “I swear to God, if it isn’t because you’re Rosie’s favourite, I would have bum-rushed you out of this joint myself the minute I knew.”

Niffty locked the door again behind them, telling some fella outside who attempted to come in that it was closed for cleaning, and stood to the side watching the exchange between the two men. Alastor only chuckled not-so-apologetically.

“Apologies for the extra duties I have for you two, my friend.”

Husk swore out loud and rubbed his face in irritation, wondering to himself why he would ever bother about this man who just gave him splitting headaches as worse as hangovers. And speaking of hangovers, how he wished he had a drink right now, much preferring to get shitfaced than deal with the shit that he had to face. But he knew couldn’t go back to the bar yet – even if he was to just were to fuck off right there and then, he knew Rosie wouldn’t be happy if he didn’t help out, and he’s indebted to her for giving him a job, a place to stay and free booze, so she’s had him wrapped around her little finger too.

Resigning to this situation, he merely sighed, and asked, “So, where is he?”

Alastor nonchalantly pointed to one of the stalls, to which Husk followed, and immediately jumped at the sight.

JESUS FUCKIN’ CHRIST!!!” Husk yelled out loud when he laid eyes on the scene inside the stall. “YOU ABSOLUTELY CHIVVED HIM, YOU PSYCHOTIC CRACKJOB!

“Ah, well, it simply had to be done!” Alastor replied, almost a bit too enthusiastically for taste.

“And why exactly did it had to be done?” Husk asked, stepping away from the scene as Niffty went inside instead. Despite how livid he was that he had to do ‘clean-up duty’ at work, he wondered what had prompted Alastor to do this. Recalling the look he’d given the poor bastard at the bar, Husk knew that this was no random kill for the kick of it. This had a purpose, but what? All the palooka had talked about was getting his chestnuts kicked by some girl-

Wait.

Husk eyed Alastor, who did not respond to his question and was just looking at himself in the mirror with thoughtful eyes. Husk knew that it’d be far-fetched to think that Alastor would do this over a girl. The man wasn’t the type to care about some skirt, judging by how all of them ended up in his presence. Husk couldn’t even recall if there was even anyone that made Alastor feel something.

Yes, exactly. That’s just over the edge. Alastor must have done it for some other reason or even no reason. The man was so unexpected, after all.

“AAAHHH!”

Both men immediately turned in the direction of the scream to see Niffty emerging from the stall with an unhinged look of disgust.

“You could have at least made him decent first, Mister Al!” she yelled, pointing exasperatedly at the body. “I don’t wanna be cleaning up the mess with a hot dog right in my face!”

Alastor laughed wholeheartedly and said an apology to Niffty, who only puffed her cheeks and crossed her arms, clearly making it clear that she wasn’t going to go near the body until something was done.

Without a skip, Alastor turned to Husk. “Handle it, Husker.”

ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!?!?


The bayous were almost pitch-black, with the only light shining coming from the full moon high up above. Filling the air were the sounds of the creatures of the night. Crickets, toads, owls…

And alligators whose powerful jaws were snapping hard and loud to catch some good meat being thrown at them.

It had been quite a mess back at the speakeasy, something Rosie didn’t quite appreciate, scolding Alastor like he was a little boy about being a bit too reckless considering that there had been guests around. After Niffty did a good hard scrubbing of the restroom until it was practically spotless, they’d been able to sneak the body out with careful coordination to a spare room Rosie had in the back of her emporium, where most of the dirty work usually was done by the two.

Now all that’s left of the pig were chopped up bits and pieces, perfect for feeding time to the gators. Niffty seemed to almost be having fun tossing a part in the air and watching them jump out to snatch it in their deadly maws, and throwing it in the waters and watch them battle it out for one hunk of meat. She’d called this their ‘Water’ code, in fact.

Alastor sat away from the waters on a mossy rock, quietly smoking a cigarette as he watched his companions finish off the job. He remained quiet as Husk came to stand beside him, leaving the doll to finish up the rest, and pulled out his own deck of Luckies from his inner jacket pocket.

“Got a light?” he asked, to which Alastor politely produced a lighter for his friend.

Husk took a long drag before blowing it out in a long stream of smoke, all while eyeing the quiet man beside him. He didn’t know why, but the thought he had in the restroom was still itching at him. Usually, he wouldn’t be so interested in why Alastor would make his kills – it was all the same, simply for the joy of it and to satisfy his ‘exotic’ palate. But this kill had a rationale, and Husk could only entertain the thought that it probably had something to do with the girl. If that were the case, then it would have been a first that the bartender had heard of the radio host.

“So… why’d you do what you did?” he couldn’t help himself to ask.

Alastor only chuckled and turned to look at Husk with a glint in his eyes. “Why does anyone do anything?” he replied in an overly enthusiastic tone. “Sheer, absolute, boredom!”

As much as the man wasn’t easy to read, he wasn’t easy to get a straightforward answer out of either, and so Husk only sighed and continued to smoke, giving up right away.

Chapter Text

Charlie slowly blinked her eyes open, immediately seeing the stream of sunlight that was pouring through her window. She sat up slowly and stretched, feeling decent until almost immediately the memories of yesterday came flooding.

A sick heavy feeling hit her gut, and she mustered the strength to calm her heart to not race and let it get to her again. It had been haunting her the entire night, eating her away that she could do nothing else but curl up in her bed and just stay there, wanting to hide. Her hand lingered to her arm, and she felt sicker at the remembrance of the grubby hand touching her there.

She turned to her side to see Vaggie still sound asleep. Her best friend had stayed with her in her room the whole night, holding her as she cried and cried and cried, refusing to leave her alone. She’d been furious, half-tempted to storm out to find the scumbag and give him more than a kick to the family jewels, and was insistent that Charlie informed someone about it, which she promised to do come morning. Despite how low she’d felt, she was so grateful for Vaggie. At least she knew that her best friend was there to care so much to want to protect her.

Not wanting to wake her, Charlie quietly slipped out of bed, putting on a robe and her slippers before heading down to get started on breakfast. She didn’t really feel hungry, but she hadn’t eaten since she’d gotten back and was feeling quite sick on her empty stomach. She supposed some tea could help her.

But just as she got down to the bottom of the stairs, there was a knock on the door. She wondered who exactly could it be so early in the morning, and went to open the door just a crack to peep through.

She almost slammed the door shut when she saw Alastor standing there.

“Morning, dear!” he greeted brightly

“Oh, Alastor!” she squeaked, hiding behind the door in embarrassment that she was only dressed in her robe and nightclothes. “Good morning.”

Charlie didn’t know what to say next, still shy that she was not really looking her best right now. And Alastor seemed to have realised that, judging from the way he was looking at her with a concerned smile.

”Rough night?”

She still said nothing, only nodding.

“I take it the meeting didn’t go as well as you’d hoped?”

The memory of that disgusting man hit her fresh in her mind once more and she could feel hot bile rising up her throat at the sick thought of it. But she forcefully swallowed the burning feeling down, not wanting to make a scene in front of Alastor.

“Horrible, actually… I don’t really want to talk about it…”

Alastor had looked like he wanted to ask about it, but he didn’t, much to Charlie’s relief. She didn’t think she had it in her to tell him about it, thinking of how shameful it would have made her look to him.

“Hmm, that’s a shame,” he mused. “I brought you this as a token of congrats.”

Charlie looked up and to her surprise, there was a single daisy in his hand, looking small and dainty but otherwise pretty in full bloom.

“Oh, Alastor, you didn’t have to… Thank you so much,” she spoke softly with a blush as she received the flower from him.

“Think nothing much of it, dear,” he waved his hand nonchalantly. “I only hope this makes you feel better, at least. Gotta stay sharp for that hotel of yours, anyway!”

Thinking about the hotel only brought the feeling of dread, and she immediately felt like a crumb all over again. Alastor quirked his head in concern.

“To be square, I think I should just want to take a little break from the hotel business for just a bit…”

“Well, you can take it as a token of ‘never giving up’ then!” he said enthusiastically. “Whatever happened, happened. But I’m sure it isn’t going to stop someone with a spirit like Chicago lightning such as yourself!”

Charlie looked at him then and blushed at seeing how soft he was being to her right now. That took her back to yesterday when they’d been standing at the pavement and he had tucked her hair and looked at her with so much adoration at how much she was so intent on her mission. It made her feel warm and more at ease, knowing that there was at least one more person who was good to her.

With a soft smile, he reached a hand out to grip her chin gently, tilting her head up so that she would look at him. She kept quiet, but she did not recoil from his touch. If anything, she only found comfort in this little ministration. So much so that a small smile finally came to her lips.

“Chin up, darling. And keep smiling. It suits you more.”


Charlie was alone in what’s meant to be her office in the hotel, although now it’s quite barren with just a desk and a single chair. She was just sitting at the desk, staring at the half-written letter she had been occupied with writing.

It had been a few days since the incident, and it had made her feel too discouraged to go back to the hotel, seeing the building as a representation of how all her efforts had been in vain. But she knew she couldn’t run away from it. Not when Daddy had already put in so much greens to procure the place in the first place.

And speaking of Daddy, she was unsure of how to write out the issue in the letter that she’d been trying to pen to her parents. As promised to Vaggie, she did plan to tell them about it. She had gone to the police first, but they couldn’t do much since there hadn’t been an instance of anywhere close to rape having occurred. Vaggie had been very mouthy at the copper who had told them that, which only led to Charlie being forced to pull her out of the station before things could get messier for themselves. So, the only choice now was to tell her parents, and she wasn’t sure what much could be done if she did, but it would at least allow them to be aware of her well-being.

There was a knock on the door, which pulled Charlie out of deep thought. “Come in,” she called out, and Angel Dust entered.

“Hey there, toots. Just checking to see how you doin’.”

Charlie had told him about what happened when he commented about how she’d been gone longer than usual, and while he laughed at hearing what she did to the pig, he did seem genuinely worried at the more nitty-gritty parts, which she appreciated the thought.

“I’m doing alright,” she replied, a barely-there smile. As Angel approached, he looked at her incredulously, clearly not buying it.

“Hmm, no you ain’t,” he said casually. He took a seat on the edge of her table, and Charlie immediately felt bad that she had not put up an extra chair in her office to offer him. But Angel didn’t seem to mind, instead seeming natural at where he was sitting.

“It’s still bothering you, huh?”

He didn’t need to say it for her to understand, and she sighed and nodded. “Yes, it still does.”

An awkward silence ensued. Angel and Charlie did not look at each other, him to the floor and her to her half-written letter. It was quite stifling, but Angel didn’t know how to broach the subject without potentially hurting her feelings more.

Unable to take the tension, he got off the desk and pulled out a cigarette and lighter from his pockets. “Mind if I take a light?” he asked politely, though he wasn’t expecting a ‘yes’.

Charlie was about to say ‘no’ since they were in the hotel and should be abiding by the rules and regulations that had been put into place. But she didn’t find it in her heart to care about that for the moment, and she didn’t want to upset her unexpected company.

“Alright, but just this once and no more,” she warned in a whisper. “And don’t you go telling Vaggie about it.”

“Gotcha,” he winked cheekily, going to the window behind her to crack one open and sit on the sill. Charlie went to join him there, and he offered a drag from his cigarette, and she held up her hands and shook her head in refusal.

“Ya know, I get how you’re feeling,” he suddenly remarked, blowing out smoke as he did. “When that happens to me, a good smoke’s enough to calm the nerves.”

Charlie was aware of the sort of treatment that Angel Dust would subject himself to for ‘work’, evidential in all the mornings he would come home with fresh bruises and bite marks. She’d been respectful enough to never bring it up to him, not wanting any scathing replies to her nosiness. But she couldn’t help but ask now, “How do you handle it? All that sort of treatment? Doesn’t it hurt you?”

Angel scratched the back of his head, trying to come up with an answer. “Ah, well, can’t say it didn’t hurt the first time. Felt like a low sack of shit from whatever they have done and did to me. Even cried myself to sleep.”

“That’s terrible...”

An indifferent shrug as he stared thoughtfully at his cigarette. “Well, I have to. If it means making the dough. All that bushwa comes with the job sometimes, or most of the time. And the industry’s full of ‘em, whether it’s the Big Cheeses running it or the cats paying for it. So I just got used to it.” Another pull of his cigarette and another exhale of smoke, and he pointed to her sternly. “Word of advice, doll? This world’s full of ‘em assholes and scumbags who’s just gonna step on you just ‘cause they think they can. And it isn’t gonna stop, especially if you go about with that goody-goody look of purity and innocence you have going on.”

Charlie began thinking of everything she had to go through since first taking off from home for this project, and all that she could remember was failure after failure, all the laughing and sneering and jeering. And not to forget, that little incident with Angel. She wondered how she’d been able to power through all of that the first few times, how she could just remain so positive, and how quickly that determination broke.

“So what should I do, Angel?” she pleaded desperately. “I don’t know what to do.”

Flicking the finished cigarette out the window, Angel turned to look at her and promptly put his hands on his hips. “That’s where your pride goes on the line, and you ain’t supposed to be giving them the satisfaction to see you being a weak sister about it. Keep your head up high and your ego higher. Keep doing that, and you’ll make it natural enough that ain’t nobody’s gonna be able to hurt you anymore.”

Angel’s words sunk deep into Charlie, and she was suddenly engulfed with so much conflict in her heart but even more so by the sort of strength he was projecting onto her. How he could be so brash yet so wise.  Unable to bear how overwhelming the moment was, she felt tears well up in her eyes, and she covered her face and let herself cry.

Angel immediately stilled, unsure of what to do at the sight of the doll crying. He hesitated for a moment, almost thinking to up and leave, but he didn’t want to be an ass, not when she was like this. With a sigh, he rubbed his face exasperatedly.

“Uhh… Look, this is only gonna happen once, and don’t you go bump gum’s about it. I got a reputation to uphold.”

Charlie looked up from her hands in confusion to see through her tears Angel looking away in embarrassment and having his long arms outstretched. She was immediately taken by surprise at seeing the usually aloof guy actually inviting her in for a hug.

“Are you being serious right now?” she asked in a shocked sniffle, to which he only nodded once tersely. At that, she couldn’t help but smile and giggle at the oddity of the scene, but finding it so very endearing that it immediately lightened her heavy heart. “Oh Angel, I didn’t know you were such a softie,” she teased, wiping away her tears.

“Keep chinning and I’m going to pretend this never happened,” he grumbled, but she saw the hint of a blush forming on his pale cheeks. Charlie chuckled, and got off the sill to walk right into his waiting arms, wrapping her own around his slim frame as he did the same. He seemed to have tensed for a moment, unsure of how to react or feel, but gradually she felt him relax and even started patting her back lightly.  She was surprised at how comfortable hugging Angel was, how he was so soft and warm despite his prickly exterior, and she was flattered that he was willing to let her in to this hidden side of himself.

After what felt like a while, he pulled her away, and she respectfully stepped back to let him straighten himself up vainly.

“Hey, enough of this sad talk,” he chirped, looking out the window. “It’s a beautiful day outside, let’s head out! Staying cooped up in here probably doing a downer on you.”

“It is a lovely day, isn’t it?” she agreed, looking out the window at the bright blue sky and the warm Sun. “You know what, you’re right. Let’s go out.”

Angel practically jumped at the thought of heading out, amusing Charlie at seeing him so excited. “Just let me finish up here first,” she told him as she got back to her desk.

“Sure, sure. I’ll let the bearcat know about it.”

Charlie shook her head in gentle exasperation as she watched him leave the room gayly. Turning back to her letter, she read through it one more time and decided that it would just be best to finish it later after she got some much-needed fresh air. She folded it in half neatly and reached for her purse on the floor, getting out her little pocketbook to store the letter in. When she opened it, the first thing that greeted her sight was a little daisy, all dried up and flattened but nonetheless still very pretty to look at.

She picked it up gingerly and twirled it in her fingers, and what - or who - came to mind then was its giver, and the memory of his soft smile only brought one to Charlie’s own lips.

Chapter Text

‘Patience is a virtue’, and Alastor was nothing if not a patient man.

But he couldn’t help but feel slightly frustrated at the thought of how the chance to get a good one-on-one with little Miss Charlie Magne next door had not come to him. They’ve had glimpses of each other as often as neighbours should, with exchanges of ‘good morning’ or ‘hello’ or ‘good day’ or whatever other pleasantry nonsense one would say to their neighbour.

It was dull, and it made Alastor itch internally with agitation that did not taint his usual smiling facade. He did not want the thrill of the hunt to die out before it could truly begin.

Well, he had several instances, when they were sitting together on her front porch where she’d been looking to almost bust out the waterworks - and it had been quite the tingle for him to indirectly express such desires he held for her - and the little walk to downtown they had recently where she showed how daring she could be - which, admittedly, exhilarated him at seeing the glimpse of ferocity he didn’t know she had in her. But that hadn’t been much progress to get closer to her, since all they’d talk about was that laughable ‘rehabilitation hotel’ idea she had for hoods, which was probably why she was constantly out of the house and nowhere to be seen until late.

And the latest encounter at her doorstep, which had been an impulse on Alastor’s part. He had half the thought to not approach her that morning, considering it mostly unnecessary, but thinking of the man having touched her gave him an inkling of the want to make sure she was at least alright, even bringing a little daisy to liven things up.  That, and also because of how maliciously driven he was by the thought that somebody had already copped a feel of her before he could. He may not have shown it, but it bothered Alastor greatly recalling how glum she had looked, absolutely nothing like the lively and passionate dame that had been so bold to stand up to him and stand her ground on her beliefs for that hotel of hers, making him marvel at her fervour.

But now she had looked like she just simply wanted to cower away from the world. It had been disgusting him at seeing her remarkable dimpled grin that he had come to adore absent. And what had happened to the doll only urged him for the chase even more, before any other unexpected ‘circumstances’ could happen.

But Alastor was a patient man, and it had still been a tad too early for him to get a wiggle on.

Charlie Magne was no mere quick game he could just pick off the streets like all the others, he had ascertained that. There was something about her that he needed to experience for himself, something about her smile that he wanted to relish in before he could have the chance to have her in his mercy. But even if the sight of her stirred excitement in him, he chose not to follow her and force the situation - he held a strict ethical code against such an act which he found to be too disgusting for his liking.

No, he wanted - no, needed - her to be open to him, to be attracted to come to him, like a moth drawn to a flame, completely on her own accord and wholeheartedly. All he needed was that opportunity for a push in the right direction, and only then can the fun truly begin.

As the saying goes; the early bird catches the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

And sure enough, he does get his cheese.

It was another one of his off days when the bright Sun warmed up New Orleans comfortably for Alastor to want to take a leisurely walk down by the Mississippi River. In the busy town, he strolled tall with a light stride, tipping his fedora off to anyone who had recognised him on the streets and called out the radio host by name. There had been a few gals that were gutsy enough to come up to him and tempt him to join them for a drink, which he promptly refused politely, much to their utter disappointment (which he enjoyed discreetly).

And speaking of drinks, he had worked up quite a thirst to make patronage to a quaint little café along the street that served the most exquisite chicory coffee around, appreciating how tucked away this little joint was from the busy main walkways and how it was never too full that he’d be able to people-watch casually as he enjoyed his drink.

But that peace was broken when a loud scuffle caught his attention, making him pause in taking a sip of his steaming cup of joe while his eyes glazed over to the commotion, which came from across the street.

Well, he’ll be damned.

Alastor doesn’t believe in the existence of any high celestial power. If there were one, they clearly weren’t doing a good job of not turning the world into an ever-evolving state of chaos, especially in its inhabitants such as the likes of himself. But at this moment, he’d be willing to maybe believe that there could some otherworldly force at play here if they’ve given him such damn good luck to find the current subject of his ‘affections’ before his very eyes.

Miss Charlie Magne, whom he would have been absolutely elated to see if it weren’t for the fact that she seemed to be in a bit of a tight spot. She was with that little pachuca friend of hers and some other bird that he had never seen before, and all of them were in a very verbal exchange with a couple of fellows, one who seemed to have a broken nose. Vaggie and the other person seemed just about ready to paste if it wasn’t for Charlie who was holding them back.

There was no trace of a smile on her lips, and it seemed that those thugs were ready any second to lay a hand on them, her included.

Now that struck a fierce chord in him, and the thought of some lowlife touching and tainting the skin he would mark for himself released a sort of animalistic drive in him, akin to the one that pushed him for the kill on that fat bastard a few nights prior. Seeing the possibility of another touching her before he could made him ready to get up to them and tear out an entire arm right there and then if needed.

But one wouldn’t have been able to tell unless one looked carefully past the tight smile his lips were pressed into as he got up and promptly made his way to the scene. And it was a good thing he acted immediately, because the two rubes were about to close in if he hadn’t swiftly stepped in front of the trio to block them.

“Alastor?!” he heard Charlie cry out behind him.

“Well, well! Don’t you young gentlemen know that it’s impolite to treat a couple of ladies like that? Where are your manners?’

Take the air, bruno!” one of them spat in his face. “If ya know what’s good for ya!”

But instead of backing off or fighting back in return, Alastor simply laughed.

“Hahahaha, oh no, no. I really do believe that it wouldn’t be wise on your part.”

If looks could kill, then the glint in Alastor’s eyes was downright murderous. He only looked down at the two ruffians with the smile never faltering once, instead seeming to grow with a terrifying underlying maliciousness. And that had been enough to make the two pause, chills running down their spines. They didn’t know why, even if the smiling man was just talking, they were so overwhelmed with intimidation from the dangerous intent that pooled in his eyes and dripped from his grin.

“Now,” Alastor began in a low drawl. “How about you two dangle, if you know what’s good for you.”

And just like that, the rubes backed off, step by step, before turning and hightailing out of the scene. Alastor kept watching until they were out of his sights before he turned directly to Charlie.

“You alright, darling?” His grin was softening at the sight of her still stunned by what had happened.

“Oh my goodness, Alastor… I’m…”

The fellow that was with them (a very girlish-looking fellow, Alastor noticed), piped in, “HAHA! Thanks for the help, Big Six. You definitely had those pansies running for the hills.”

Only then did Charlie regain her composure, gently pushing aside Vaggie, who was holding her in worry but eyeing him warily, and came right up to him. “Alastor! Thank you so much for helping us! I don’t know what we’d do if you didn’t step in!”

With a mere nonchalant shrug, he chuckled modestly. “It’s the least I can do, Miss Charlie. Wouldn’t want them laying a hand on you.”

Yessiree, couldn’t let them lay a hand on you at all… he thought grimly. I already had one bastard to deal with, and if anyone’s going to have a touch of you, it’s me.

Charlie shook her head in disagreement. “Oh no, at least let me repay you. How about I treat you to dinner, as thanks?”

At that, Vaggie’s eyes widened in reluctance, the guy friend of theirs perked up excitedly, and Alastor blinked in surprise.

He did not expect that. Not at all. He thought that this was probably just some simple gesture of courtesy for helping out, not really expected to be taken up on. But the genuine look in her bright eyes said otherwise, and Alastor found that all the more amusing. Even more than the other broads who tried to do the same just now. Well, isn’t she full of surprises… he thought to herself, charmed by her sudden boldness to offer such an invitation but flattered nonetheless.

And like any sensible man, he wasn’t one to not snatch up opportunity when it came knocking on his door.

He took her hand in his, hearing her take a sharp intake of breath as he bowed slightly so that his eyes levelled with hers, taking absolute pride at seeing her blush once again. With a pleased smirk, he replied, “Well, I’d be a complete dumbbell if I said ‘no’. I’d absolutely love to, doll.”

But, of course, Bug-Eyed Betty had to get in a lather about this. Promptly after he accepted the invitation, Charlie was immediately pulled by the arm into a private discussion with her friend, whose face showed definite disapproval at the thought of having her be alone with him, and she was clearly trying to dissuade Charlie from doing so.

This little act of defiance caused the nerves in him to twitch. He had been a patient man in waiting for the next chance to be alone with Charlie, and he absolutely did not want her little friend to ruin that for him. An urge in him wanted to simply whisk her away before she could even think to change her mind with the other’s influence.

No, he won’t do that. That would make the implication that he seemed too needy, and he would never give anybody, especially not bluenose there, the satisfaction. He opted to just stand aside politely, hands tucked behind his back as he watched the exchange patiently.

But to his relief, any possibilities of Charlie changing her mind was immediately shot down when he heard her say reassuringly, “Oh, Vaggie, please don’t be silly... It’s just dinner, nothing more. It’s the least I can do for Alastor.”

His grin widened, but then Vaggie gave him a look, which he felt the need to comment.

“If it suits well with you, Miss Vaggie, I’ll make sure that Miss Charlie gets back to her front door tonight in one piece.”

As much as she was an annoyance to him now, Alastor still prided himself on being the gentleman he always made sure to be, and at least this also helped in getting Charlie to give her a friend a reassuring nod, further giving him the satisfaction that the odds are in his favour.

Before the pachuca could get one word out in retort, a hand gingerly slapped itself over her mouth, and the other friend that had been with them, whom Alastor hadn’t been giving any mind to, suddenly cut in with a wide suggestive grin. “Sounds jake, sheik! Wouldn’t want to hold you two any longer. Cheers!”

Whoever this fellow was, Alastor would have sure loved to give him a pat on the back and a good handshake for helping him out. But before he could consider, the stranger had immediately grabbed Vaggie by the shoulders and rushed off with her, any sound of protest coming from her fading off into the distance until they were out of sight. Charlie only watched the scene in confusion, before noticing a crooked elbow being offered to her by the smiling man.

“Now, my dear, shall we?”

Chapter Text

“I hope you can excuse Vaggie,” Charlie said apologetically. “The dear just worries about me a lot.”

“Quite understandable, doll. Especially after quite the scuffle back there. However did you manage to find yourself in such a jam?”

“Oh. goodness, not me. It was Angel Dust, our friend back there. He had run into trouble with those two when we first met him. They must have seen us today and I guess they still had a bone to pick with us since Vaggie punched one of them in the button the last time!”

Charlie giggled then, covering her mouth bashfully but not so much that Alastor couldn’t see the dimples of her smile. He watched the blonde who was holding on to his arm gingerly as they walked together along the Mississippi River, knowing how she had a bundle of nerves in her at being alone with him, but did not seem to mind it, which pleased him greatly.

“But really, thank you so much for helping us. It’s a miracle that you were around, or else it could have been really bad.”

“My pleasure, darling. As I said, I couldn’t let them even try to lay a hand on you.” Not if I’m going to be the one for that matter…

“What were you doing nearby anyway?” Charlie looked at him with her eyes narrowed, but she was smiling cheekily. “I don’t suppose you’ve been following me, have you?”

He knew that she was playing some gas on him, but if Alastor wasn’t such a guarded man, he would have stalled at the implication that he may have been caught in the act. But time and experience have shaped him to brush off anything so casually and calmly that it made him so insusceptible to a lot of things.

“Of course not, darling!” he laughed. “Just a mere coincidence, is all! Was lounging in the café nearby when all that ruckus started.”

“Ah, I see. Of course,” Charlie nodded and then turned her attention to the crowd around them. “My, it sure is busy right now. So what do you suppose we should have for dinner?

Alastor brought his hand to rub his chin in deep thought. “The question is; what’re you hankering for, doll? If I may suggest, I know this place in the French Quarter that serves up the most excellent jambalaya in New Orleans. Well, not as excellent as my dearest mother’s, but still enough to get your taste buds dancing like it’s Mardi Gras!”

Charlie looked at him in a slight bit of confusion. “Um… what is ‘jambalaya’?”

Alastor stopped in his tracks and looked at her in complete shock. “Miss Charlie! Don’t tell me you’ve never had the pleasure of tasting jambalaya?”

Sheepishly, she shook her head.

“Well, this just won’t do!” he exclaimed with his free arm out in comical exasperation. “You can’t say you truly lived in the Heart of the South that is New Orleans without trying jambalaya! Come now, darling! We must rectify that!”

His arm moved to release her hold on his elbow to snake around her waist, gripping it firmly as he led the way. He especially noticed how bright red her cheeks flushed then at the sudden ministration, and he pos-i-lute-ly savoured that sight.


Charlie discovered that jambalaya was absolutely divine.

It was nothing like what she had ever eaten before, paling in comparison to all the fancy dinners she had been used to back home. The rice dish was a loud red harmony of distinct flavours in the admixture of meat, seafood, and vegetables, with spices that really got her tongue tingling for more. She was almost ashamed at how indulged in the dish she had been until she noticed Alastor watching her in delight, making her blush once again at the embarrassing thought of how piggy-like she must have been stuffing her face like that.

Alastor had paid for the meal even though she had protested about how she was supposed to be the one to be treating him. “Getting a chance to spend some time with you is enough of a treat for me, doll,” he told her with a wink.

Why did he have to say it that way? Charlie thought in a midst of shock and confusion, once again blushing furiously. Was that just her being nervous or was there something about him to elicit such a response from her several times? But to be very honest, was it really so bad that she didn’t seem to mind? More so, even flattered and shy that he did?

And to make matters all the more exciting as the thought was, Alastor did not seem to want to go yet. He had been shocked at how she had been in the city for at least a month now but have still yet to see it in all its glory, and so he insisted that she was to see much that New Orleans had to offer.

From there, he took her to famed sites, like Jackson Square to watch street ragtime performances that both of them couldn’t help but tap their dogs to, and Café du Monde to get fresh hot pastries called beignets that were blanketed in thick coats of honey and powdered sugar it made Charlie sigh as though she had gone to sweet pastry heaven – Alastor had declined when she offered to let him have some, revealing how he wasn’t much into sweets. He even took her to ride the famous streetcars of New Orleans, allowing her to marvel at the sights they passed while he only watched with a big smile at how much of a tourist she looked at that moment. The whole time, Alastor took the lead through the busy streets, maneuvering swiftly so that they wouldn’t stay stuck in one place for too long, and Charlie could only hang on to his arm and hold on to her hat in exhilaration as they ankled from place to place, drinking in the colourful environment all around her.

This little outing even got her knowing more about Alastor, since she hasn’t been able to the previous times before. She learned that Alastor was Louisiana-born-and-bred, knowing no other home outside The South, but choosing to stay even when he’d been offered work in places as far as New York – “There isn’t anywhere else that you can find jambalaya or the best jazz other than New Orleans, after all!” His love for the radio started with his late mother, who had told him that his talkative nature made him a shoo-in as a radio host, and who he reminisced was always singing to tunes that played on the house radio while she cooked up his favourite French-Creolean dishes, recipes of which he still remembered and made even now, revealing how he too was a big foodie, despite his lack of fondness for sweets.

When he asked about her in return, she too told him her story. She told him about how she had lived in several different states before settling in The South not too long ago in nearby Baton Rouge because of Daddy Lucifer’s many business exploits that required the family to travel constantly. She recounted how distasteful she had been with the meager expectations of being a socialite, where ‘all you do is just stand there and look pretty and fashionable with a bunch of Ms. Grundys', and how her passion for social work began with her mother, who herself was involved and active in many charities and still a well-rounded social butterfly. She had been mostly home-schooled in her youth but had gone to university to get herself a degree in social services, possible only because Lucifer refused to have her go uneducated and he had the funds and means to give her the opportunity. Being in New Orleans marked her first time living independently.

“So you’ve never been on your own before?” Alastor asked with genuine curiosity.

“Not at all,” Charlie affirmed. “And have you been on your own for quite a while?”

Alastor nodded with a chuckle. “For about the past decade or so, yes.”

Their night around town ended with both of them standing alongside the Mississippi River, watching the brightly-lit riverboats go by on the dark waters, and feeling the breeze of the crisp night air. Music could be heard in the gentle breezes, becoming a soft background noise in the stillness of the night.

In that serene little moment, Charlie wondered when exactly had she taken the time to just go around exploring her new home ever since she had moved in, and she realised that it was practically never. The only times she had been out of the house was to run errands with Vaggie for home or the hotel or go to meetings with less-than-potential prospects for the hotel, with the last one having been a complete catastrophe.

In fact, the only thing she had ever been truly occupied with was just the hotel, which at this point seemed to be at a stalemate with no more progresses ever since Angel Dust moved in. The thought saddened her and brought a fear of whether the hotel would ever truly take off, or if it would just end up a failure like her father had expected. She wouldn’t know what to do if that were true, and she could only begin to question how she was going to recuperate from it.

But looking at New Orleans, seeing for the first time just how beautiful and magical and alive this city was, it somehow filled her with a sense of hope. It’s pretty strange at the thought of how she had chosen this place because of the staggering crime rates she had read about, but not of how lively it was that it seemed to be a world of its own in this big wide country. And seeing how happy everyone was, how their lives seemed to be filled with the simple joys of good food and music, she decided that no matter what happened, she would stick to what she had promised for herself and never give up hope for the Happy Hotel. If this was the life that criminals could work to achieve for themselves, then she will not stop in paving the way for them.

With a newfound hope, Charlie turned to the man beside her, surprised to find that he was already looking back with a soft smile.

Having long conversations and learning these little bits of Alastor, who up until now she only knew as simply just her neighbour and a radio host she listened to almost on the daily, warmed her to know that she could find a friend in him as well. She did owe it to him for helping her and her friends out earlier in the day, and it was thanks to him that she finally felt like she could breathe after having been so stressed with all the problems that had been plaguing her since her arrival in New Orleans. And not to mention all the little moments like his appearance at her doorstep the morning after the disastrous incident, which had seemed as though he somehow knew that she was in a dark place and reached for her if only to make her feel just the slightest bit better. Even after those strange conversations they’ve had before, he had been there to at least hear her out when he didn’t need to. He had only just been so kind and charming to her and she could not help but feel…

Oh.

Oh, dear.

Charlie could feel a sudden fluttering in her stomach, and she could feel her face going hot – God, she didn’t need to guess that the apples of her cheeks were probably blushing like mad right now. Unable to hold on to his gaze any longer, she nervously let out a giggle, covering half her face in an attempt to hide her growing blush. Alastor only tilted his head, brow quirked curiously.

“Alastor, is there anything interesting about me that just has you watching me this whole night?”

Alastor grinned with a soft chuckle, which looked to Charlie to be a shy response, making her turn away shyly too, unsure of how to handle these growing feelings she felt inside.

If only she knew what he was really thinking, about how, at this moment, he was pleased. More than pleased, in fact. Absolutely delighted that he knew that he nearly had her completely drawn in, how slowly she was letting herself be taken with her neighbour, and how close he was to relishing the moment to corner her and savour her in her entire little fragile form.

“Just everything about you, darling.”

Truly, it was.

Chapter Text

“Oh, come on, Ms Grundy. The babe’s fine. Live a little.”

That little comment earned a sideways glare from Vaggie, and Angel wondered if there was even anything in the world that could even remotely make her smile.

They were in a taxi on the way back to the hotel, much to his protests about how he was still bored and they should probably just keep ankling around town looking for some fun, but as expected, the wet blanket was against the idea, snapping back in annoyance, “If it hadn’t been for your suggestion to go out in the first place, we wouldn’t even run into those two bozos, and Charlie wouldn’t be alone with that… that… creepy hombre!”

“Hey, I wasn’t the one to give that sucker a kisser to the schnozzle,” Angel corrected in exasperation. “Besides, why’d you gotta cast a kitten about Charlie going on a date? What’s the deal with Smiles back there anyway?”

That made Vaggie pause in her little lather to eye him in surprise. “Wait, you seriously don’t know who that was? You’ve been around town longer than me.”

A confused shrug.

“Alastor Carlon? Supposedly the most popular radio host in all of New Orleans?”

“Eh, not big on the radio.”

An annoyed sigh, not wanting to go into unnecessary explaining. “He’s our neighbour when Charlie and I moved in, and there’s just something about him that’s all left to me. I’ve seen the way he looks at her.”

“And how does he look at her?” Angel asked curiously.

Vaggie thought back to all the times she and Charlie had the unfortunate chance of bumping into him around the neighbourhood. While Charlie was never the type to not stop to say ‘hello’ and have a few kindly greetings with him (Vaggie never once said a word to him, fueled by personal undesire to), it was only after they walked away from him that Vaggie would look over her shoulder and get a glimpse of the man having a narrowed look in his eyes and his smile showing no presence of kindness but of something far more sinister. 

Vaggie was almost hesitant to answer, knowing it would definitely make her sound over the edge. But as much as it was absolute crackers to say it, no better words can describe how she saw Alastor with that look at Charlie other than, “He looks like he wants to eat her.”

“Ooooo, how naughty.”

 A swift punch landed on Angel’s forearm, making him yell out loud and nearly caused the driver, who had been gazing boredly at the road and hadn’t been paying attention to the two in the back, jump up and almost swerve the automobile if he wasn’t quick enough to straighten it out.

“Not like that, you pervert!” Vaggie yelled, irritated at how lightly he was taking this.

“Then what? He’s going to actually eat her? Go jump in a lake, doll! Why’d you wanna be so worked up over Joe Brooks anyway? Sure, he’s quite the looker but I’d bet you he’s also a total flat tire. Seems too straight-laced to be nerts.”

“Look, there’s just something about that man, and I don’t trust him!”

Rubbing the sore spot to sooth it, Angel eyed her back just as annoyed. “To be fair, do you trust any man? Any men?”

Hearing that made him deserve another punch to a spot above the previous one, and he yelled again and made the driver jerk and swerve again, both cursing expletives out loud.

Giving up, Vaggie only turned to look out the window, thoughts filled with worry at the thought of Charlie now being alone with him.


True to his word, Alastor Carlon did bring her back home in one piece.

It had been late, as Vaggie was about to retire to bed when she heard soft noises sounding out from the front. She looked out her window and could make out the shapes of her best friend and their neighbour in the darkness of the night. They were having some sort of conversation in hushed tones, and he bowed slightly to give her hand a kiss before she turned to walk to the front door. He had just stood there, probably waiting until Charlie had gone inside, which sure enough she did when Vaggie heard the front door open and shut.

But she stayed where she was, watching the man just lingering there like some mustard plaster for a few more seconds. As much as she was sure he wasn’t, she could almost get this creepy feeling that he was looking right back at her, and it unnerved her enough to have her retreat more into the darkness of her own room to keep herself hidden. She just kept watching, not leaving her spot until their neighbour finally walked out of their property and back to his own house next door.

Vaggie sat at her bed, willing her currently racing heart to calm down. She could not understand what was it about that man that brought her nerves on edge. He does nothing but smile and talk in that radio host voice of his, and up until now he hasn’t actually been right at their faces or bothered them at all.

Ay dios mio… Maybe Angel’s right… she thought to herself grimly as she sunk into bed, waiting for sleep to wash over her. …Maybe I am just worked up over nothing…

The next morning over breakfast, Vaggie only listened attentively as a happy Charlie recounted about the sights she beheld last night. She was so excitable that she hardly even touched her breakfast whereas Vaggie was nearly half-way done with hers.

“Oh, Vaggie! We definitely need to have a night out into town so that you can see it for yourself! It was just so amazing! It’s nothing like back home. All the lights and the music. People just singing and dancing on the streets! And there’s these little things called beignets that were so good, it was better than any cake I’ve had in my life!”

Hearing her best friend being so excited like a little kid who just got candy made Vaggie laugh heartily. “Sounds exciting, hon! It’s nice to see you’ve enjoyed yourself.”

And yes, it was nice for Vaggie to see how much Charlie was enjoying herself. As of late, she knew how down she had been, what with the hotel seemingly going nowhere and the repeated rejections and humiliation she had to endure from dirtbag butter and egg men, and not to mention nearly being assaulted. She had been so strong to go through all of that on her own, and if anyone deserved a break from it all and just enjoy, it was none other than Charlie, who was right now squishing her cheeks so gleefully.

“Oh, I really don’t know how to thank Alastor for last night. He’d been so nice and welcoming. If he hadn’t shown me what New Orleans had to offer, I would have been so dumb to it!”

The sinking feeling hit Vaggie again, and she wasn’t sure how to respond to her. While it was nice to know Charlie had a good time, it still didn’t sit well with her that it had been with their strange neighbour next door. Again, she tried to tell herself that she was just worked up over nothing again.

Before Vaggie could go into a deep train of thought, there were suddenly interrupted by the loud knocking of the front door.

“Oh, I wonder who that is.” Charlie got up from her seat to the front door, opening it and to her surprise - and delight - was Alastor standing there. The usual smile spreading his lips, he bowed his head and raised his fedora in good greeting.

“Good morning, Charlie dear. I hoped you’ve slept like a baby.”

“Good morning, Alastor. I slept very well, thank you.” Tucking a lock of hair to distract her from a growing shyness she felt building up inside, she continued as casually as possible. “So what brings you here to my doorstep? Don’t suppose you’ve just popped in for a bit of breakfast?”

Laughing, he shook his head. “Would love to, but can’t. Have to get an ankle on to work soon, you see. Thought I’d just drop by just to say good morning to you on this lovely day.”

“Oh, of course. You are still a busy man, after all,” Charlie replied, and suddenly she was at a loss for words, unsure of how to continue the conversation.

“Anything on your mind, doll?” he inquired, and before she could stop herself, she immediately blurted out, “I know I probably said it a thousand times but again, thank you so much for last night. I really enjoyed it. I haven’t felt so energetic for a long time!”

“Then I don’t suppose you’d mind if I took you out again?”

Charlie immediately froze, wondering to herself if she heard that correctly. She looked back to him and saw that his smile had turned softer, and for a split second, Charlie wasn’t sure if he looked shy or her eyes were just playing tricks on her.

Adjusting his glasses, he continued casually, “The picture show’s just come out with some new releases, and tonight’s lookin’ to be a swell night to catch one, if you’d be so kind to join me?”

Charlie started panicking internally, not anticipating this turn of events. She almost wanted to giggle out loud in sheer embarrassment, but immediately willed herself to not look like a giddy fool in front of him. No, absolutely not! No looking like some ditzy belle! She needed to play this off as cool as she possibly could, and a little naughty feeling in her didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of saying ‘yes’ immediately, wanting to play around with him even for just a little bit.

With that thought in mind, she crossed her arms and leaned against the frame of her door, gazing deep into his eyes with a quirk of her brow as she cheekily asked, “Mr. Carlon, are you asking me out on a date?”

Charlie was amazed at herself for the act, mentally giving herself a pat on the back, and the pride grew when it looked that Alastor seemed to reciprocate this action, judging from how his soft smile turned into a playful smirk as he gazed back at her with obvious interest. And from there, the air between the both of them intensified when he took a small step and extended a hand to rest on the wall next to the door, leaning in closer to her that their faces were almost just barely a few inches apart. Charlie could feel his faint breath, and it made the butterflies in her stomach flutter crazily in excitement.

“Well, I don’t think it would be anything else, Miss Magne,” he replied suavely, his eyes keeping hers locked. “I wouldn’t mind calling it one if it’s you.”

Hearing that made Charlie’s insides feel more electrified, but she willed her calm façade to stay as best as she could, distracting herself by responding with a hum and bringing a finger to tap on her lips, making it so it looked like she was in deep consideration when actually it’s to give her a moment to not break under his intense gaze. Alastor only patiently remained quiet and waited for her response, but she saw the way he looked intently at her lips as she touched them, as though he was pleased with the sight, and it tingled her senses on end.

“On one condition,” she finally declared as she straightened up, holding up one finger in the air. “I get to choose what to watch.”

A confident grin made an appearance and he immediately straightened up, swiftly adjusting his glasses that were almost slipping off his nose when he leaned forward. Lifting a hand, he offered it to her, asking smoothly, “So, it’s a deal, then?”

With that, Charlie allowed herself to smile at the earnest of his question, and she couldn’t help but giggle bashfully as she promptly placed her hand in his, feeling his fingers squeeze hers gently.

“Deal,” she agreed, smiling so sweet when he brought her knuckles to his lips to plant a soft kiss.

From where she was in the living room, discretely listening in on the exchange, the sinking feeling in Vaggie’s gut only got worse.


Angel Dust looked up from the book he was trying to read to see a lone Vaggie entering the lounge.

“Just you?” Angel remarked curiously, waiting to see if the blonde would walk through the door seconds later, which she didn’t. “Where’s Charlie?”

Vaggie scoffed as she put her purse down and took off her coat and hat, and it wasn’t difficult to tell that she’s in a bad mood - again.

“She’s on a date,” she replied tersely.

“Oh!” That immediately got Angel’s attentions, shooting up from his recline on the sofa, book forgotten and fallen to the floor. “How exciting. Who’s the lucky egg?” he implored eagerly.

Plopping down on the couch beside him, she rubbed her temples and heaved a heavy sigh. “You know who.”

Vaggie need not say anything more as Angel’s eyes widened in glee when he knew exactly who she was talking about. “Smiles? Get outta town! She’s actually gone on a second date with him?!”

“Urgh, yes. He asked her out to the picture place tonight.”

 “Oooooh, the babe’s surely been real smitten if she jumped for a second one,” Angel laughed gleefully. “The fella must’ve been the absolute cat’s meow last night.”

Unfortunately, Vaggie could not share the same sentiment, instead her own irritation at the situation grew worse. “Oh, por el amor de Dios, why are you so thrilled about it?” she snapped with teeth almost bared.

Angel’s upbeat mood immediately deflated at her response, and he groaned out loud and gave a huge roll of the eyes. “What’s got you riled up this time? What, still convinced that Mr. Smiling-Radio-Host is going to eat her up?” he mocked. “Let loose a lil, why doncha? Being her best friend, I thought you’d be the first to be glad that she’s actually going out to have a lil’ fun after so long.”

And that’s supposed to be true, wasn’t it? Vaggie was supposed to be glad that Charlie genuinely was having fun right now, and that she seemed more relaxed than she’s ever been since they stepped foot in New Orleans. She should be absolutely thankful that Charlie’s finally looking a lot happier than she had in the past few weeks.

But it was the person that Charlie was having fun with, that’s the problem. Sure, Alastor’s probably been quite the cordial gentleman to her thus far, and he seemed to be doing quite a good job at making Charlie smile. And who was she to stop her best friend from choosing to go out with him? Even if she didn’t like it, she wouldn’t say anything to stop Charlie from what she wanted to do.

Still, the hunch that something completely off about the whole thing was deep-seated, the dread eating away in her gut couldn’t be helped at the thought that there was a more sinister reason behind it. All the looks he gave Charlie when she had her back turned, how he always seemed to pop up at the most coincidental times, and how he seemed so intent in getting to be around her. 

No man would ever be that nice without reason, but what?

Chapter Text

The bell above the door jingled, and the mousy receptionist looked up to see a blond man, and dressed from head to toe in white with a top hat and a cane in hand, walking in, eyeing the room.

“Good morning,” she greeted as she stood, realising that the man was of quite an average stature, not much taller than her. “How may I help you, sir?”

He hadn’t been paying her any attention since he’s walked in, but finally turned to her with a toothy grin when he got up to the receptionist's desk. “Yes, hello! I’d like to perhaps have a little meeting with your boss. Mr. Reginald Alfonse, I believe?”

Hearing the name of her lecherous boss made the receptionist frown in uncertainty. “Well… I’m not sure how to say this, sir, but I’m not really sure where he is.”

The blond man hummed. “Oh? He isn’t in today?”

The receptionist shook her head. “No, he isn’t. In fact, he hasn’t been in for a few days. He’s disappeared.”

Now that caught the man’s attentions, his eyes widening slightly in curiousity. “‘Disappeared’, you say?”

The receptionist nodded her head in affirmation. “His lady’s gone and filed a missing report to the police just a few days ago. He hasn’t been showing up at home as well. Haven’t got a clue where he lammed off to.”

“How very strange,” the man replied apathetically, taking one last look around the waiting room of the office. “Ah, well. Then I have no business here today. Thank you, missy. Good day.”

Before the receptionist could ask if he wanted to leave his name for a follow-up, the man turned and walked out swiftly.


“Are you sure you can manage all these?” Alastor asked politely as he gave her the grocery bag he had been helping to carry. “I wouldn’t mind helping you back home, dear.”

“No, you don’t have to do that,” Charlie protested as she now balanced two bags in her hands. “You’ve been quite helpful enough to want to follow me to do the shopping before work. I can manage, Al.”

Alastor only smiled. It was near close to ten in the morning, and he had gone through the trouble to follow her to the market to pick up some groceries despite her insistence that there was no need.

At this point, they were both seeing each other on an almost daily basis now. Ever since their date at the picture show – discovering to each other’s delight that they have a shared love for comedies – they’ve had a few more, just simple dinners in town and walks in parks, whenever their schedules would permit. With each moment spent with him, Charlie could not deny the fact that the feeling she knew she was starting to develop for the charming radio host was growing with strength, but she dared not put any question about it. Despite his eagerness to seemingly spend a lot of time by her side, he himself did not make any comment as to what he considered them as, so she didn’t want to outright say that he was ‘courting’ her - she thought it best to keep it to herself to not potentially make anything awkward. For now, she was simply content with his companionship.

“Then I suppose it’s time for me to make a move,” he remarked, looking at the watch on his wrist that showed that he needed to be in at the station soon. “I’ll see you around the neighbourhood?”

“Where else would we see each other?” Charlie smirked wittingly. “I hope you have a good day, Alastor.”

Unable to take her busy hands in for a usual kiss on the knuckles, he simply tipped his fedora to her and said a ‘good day’ before he turned in the direction of work. Charlie waited until he was out of sight before she made a move herself, eyeing the bags of foodstuffs in her hands excitedly. Throughout their dinners, Alastor’s been introducing her to more unique Louisiana dishes, like gumbo and étouffée, all so mouth-watering and delicious that she’d been more than excited to try her hand in the kitchen at making them. He’d been a big help in giving her some advice on cooking, showcasing extensive culinary knowledge which both surprised and impressed her.

A man that can cook. How else more surprising can he be? Charlie thought to herself with a smile on the walk home, feeling a skip in her step as she thought about what she should make first. She definitely can’t wait to fix up a meal that she and Vaggie would enjoy.

It only seemed like minutes later that Charlie turned around the corner onto the pathway to her house, her excitement for the kitchen only growing more within the close proximity, until she noticed an unfamiliar boiler parked alongside the street in front of her home.

Charlie was confused since they’ve never had visitors to the home aside from Alastor. As she approached her lawn, she noticed a man in a grey suit and a Homburg on her porch, talking to an uncertain Vaggie, who immediately noticed her when she was approaching the steps, as did the man.

“Charlotte Magne?” he asked her.

“Yes?” she affirmed her identity, looking between him and Vaggie in confusion.

“My name is Detective Emil Dalton. I was hoping that I could ask you a few questions regarding Mr. Reginald Alfonse?”


“Got a top story for ya, Al ol’ boy,” the head of the station announced to Alastor once he had reached his desk, being handed some papers with today’s broadcasts before he could have a chance to hang up his suit jacket and hat.

There was suddenly a huff, and Alastor and the station head turned to Tom, who had been in the room too but completely ignored by the two. “Why does he always get the top story?” Tom grumbled, eyeing Alastor in disdain.

“Because this man’s got the golden voice and silver tongue, Tom,” the boss stated as-matter-of-factly, snubbing the other radio host. “He’ll sure be bringin’ in the listeners for this one.”

Skimming through the first few sentences on the first page, Alastor hummed nonchalantly. “Another missing case? Getting a bit out of hand with these happenings, don’t you think?”

“Numbers just keeps piling up. Don’t think I ever recall a year when there hasn’t been at least a few.”

“So what makes this one so different?”

“This one’s kind of got a lead,” the boss answered, looking over Alastor’s shoulder at the papers. “Our insides got word that some girl filed a report to the cops days before the sap’s wife called him missing. Apparently he’d been tryna get frisky with her and she attacked him and wanted to hold him accountable for assault. Cops did nothing about it since there wasn’t any rape, so they’re suspecting she might have something to do with it. What a story, eh? You think the broad might have send him to the Big One?”

Alastor was only paying half a mind to what was being told to him, more focused on reading the material on the latest victim of the string of New Orleans missing cases. A certain Reginald Alfonse, who was quite the money man around town, having a few businesses under his name. The material written for his broadcast had, of course, been obviously spiced with hooey of an anonymous female victim of unwanted propositions who could have had a hand to play in his anomalous disappearance.

Although, the station head was right on his speculation, but had been very far off as it wasn’t the girl who had sent the poor bastard off to the Big One.

Now it’s just quite unfortunate that Charlie may have unwittingly got herself into quite a situation. 


Being told that there had been no leads up to the lecher’s disappearance other than the failed report she had made at the station just a couple of days after the dreadful incident, Charlie knew what this looked like - with her report being the only lead relating to the man’s disappearance, she wasn’t dumb enough to not guess that she was a considerable suspect.

Charlie sat at the dining table with the gumshoe sitting across from her and, forcing calm, she did her best to recount every single detail that happened, even admitting her moment of self-defense in throwing a paperweight on his feet and – with a look of shame - the kick to the jewels she committed right before she left the office.

Detective Dalton took notes of every little bit of information that came out of her mouth, only fuelling her anxiety of being careful to not accidentally make herself look suspicious due to her high-strung nerves. To make matters worse, he questioned her on every single thing she told him intently, sometimes repeating it a few times so that Charlie had to answer all over again. He’d told her it was so that he could be ascertained that he got all the right info, but she knew that it was a ploy to attempt her to somehow see if she would make a slip in her story.

“So, after leaving the station, you have never made any attempts to approach Mr. Alfonse in relation to the matter?”  he interrogated.

“Not at all.”

“And that the only other place you had been to since the incident was at that halfway house of yours on the outskirts?”

“If I may, I consider it a ‘rehabilitation hotel’, not a halfway house.”

Detective Dalton did not look too amused at his question not being answered, and Charlie immediately shut up and answered a meek ‘yes’.

Vaggie had been sitting quietly in the living room, looking on at the exchange with nervous tension. She felt vexed at seeing the detective really hammer down the questions on Charlie, who was doing her best to keep a collected face when she knew deep down that the doll was stressed with trepidation. Several times she felt like she wanted to cut in, to support Charlie’s claims if so to prove her innocence from whatever suspicion she was in. But she remained where she was, not wanting to risk getting Charlie into further trouble. All she could do was just sit on tenterhooks. 

A knock on the front door broke the overwrought air in the house, making Vaggie and Charlie jump at the interruption while the detective only turned to the sound curiously.

“Um… Sorry sir, but do you mind if I get that?” Vaggie finally spoke up, not realising how dry her throat was that it made her voice sound like a crack.

Detective Dalton looked at her for a moment, before he gestured an allowance. Vaggie immediately got up to get to the front door, while a few more knocks were sounded, and opened it.

Her eyes widened at the unexpected sight of the familiar blond man in white standing on the porch.

“Sir!”

“Afternoon, Vaggie! Nice to see you again,” Lucifer greeted amicably with a grin as he walked in uninvited – not that he needed an invitation at all. “Is Charlie in?”

Vaggie stepped aside and gave a slight bow to him as he walked past. “Err, yes. In the dining room, but she’s-”

Lucifer already made his way to the dining room to see Charlie sitting at the table with the detective. His daughter’s eyes widened at the sight of him. “Daddy?” she staggered, almost getting out of her seat until she was stopped by a raise of her father’s hand, his attention on the guest.

“Hello, sweet apple. And who might you be?”

Detective Dalton promptly raised from his seat and extended a hand, which Lucifer took in a sturdy handshake. “Detective Emil Dalton,” he greeted.

“A peeper, you say?” Lucifer raised a skeptical brow. “And what’s your business here in my daughter’s house?”

“Well, sir, I was only asking a few questions of your daughter, regarding a case,” the detective clarified.

Lucifer’s gaze slid over to Charlie, who knew that he knew, considering the fact that she had Razzle and Dazzle – who ever so often drove down from Baton Rouge to be in her service before returning to her parents’ estate by nightfall – deliver the letter that had detailed the unfortunate incident she had encountered. Lucifer would never visit without reason.

In just a split second, his attention returned to the visiting detective, and with a smile, he asked politely, “Well, will you be taking any longer, detective?”

Detective Dalton looked at Charlie, who gave a hesitant look in return, before deciding, “No, I don’t suppose so, sir. I’m about done here.”

“Well, then! I’ll walk you to the door,” Lucifer offered, a wave of the walking cane in his hand to the direction of the door. The detective collected his notebook and pen from the table and turned to Charlie to bid her his thanks for her time and patience before following Lucifer to the front, leaving Charlie to suddenly be wrapped in an urgent hug by a worried Vaggie and let out a big sigh of anxious relief.

“You’ll be returning, Detective?” Lucifer questioned when they were alone.

“’Fraid so, sir. We’ll have to see how the investigation goes, and I’ll need to investigate her further if we got any more leads.”

“Now, I don’t think I would allow that.”

Upon hearing that, Detective Dalton looked at the fancifully-dressed blond man with disbelief at what he had just been told. Lucifer, however, only looked back with an unperturbed grin.

“Beg your pardon?”

“You heard me, Detective,” Lucifer said indifferently. “I’m not going to allow that.”

Detective Dalton gave the shorter man a once-over, seeing if this was just some gas he was pulling on him. But it wasn’t, as the blond still looked right at him steadfastly. Not liking how ballsy he was, the detective immediately squared up in front of him, looking down at him all bolshie-like. “And who do you think you are to tell me that, sir?”

Hearing the defiance in his tone only made Lucifer chuckle, which only confused and infuriated the detective, wondering what was so God-damned funny that the bozo had the guts to laugh. Before he could say anything else, Lucifer’s small laughs only turned darker as he reached for his inner jacket pocket.

From it, he withdrew a single card - gold-plated and embellished with the image of a single full red apple.

Upon laying his eyes on the card, Detective Dalton’s confidence immediately flew out the damn window, and he felt his blood run cold as ice. He froze, suddenly at a complete loss for words, and he could have sworn that he felt his heart starting to skip several beats, hammering in a sudden wave of fear when realisation dawned on him on who this man was.

“I suppose you know,” Lucifer expressed with a grin all confident and shit-eating, clearly taking pride in the fear that enveloped the detective. The detective didn’t know what to do – he didn’t know whether to hightail out of this place or to fall to his knees and beg the man for his mercy. But he did neither, still too stupefied.

Without further ado, Lucifer simply kept the card back in his pocket and stepped aside to open the door for the detective, who continued to remain frozen in his spot. Lucifer stood by the open door, only looking at him expectantly, a light tapping of his foot to show minor impatience, until Detective Dalton finally came to his senses enough to shake out of his stupor and head straight for the door, half-tempted to break into a panicked run, which he could have if a hand didn’t suddenly grab his shoulder, immediately stopping him and heightening the fear that struck his core.

“Ah, wait, before I forget.”

Without hesitation, Lucifer reached down to pluck the notebook - with its precious pages containing discerning information of Charlie that he had no intention of letting out - from the detective’s clammy hands, which he let him, only watching with a meek side-eye as the blond wordlessly kept it in another inner pocket of his jacket. “Please do leave my daughter alone,” Lucifer exhorted simply with poised manner, but the looming threat behind his words was obvious and potent enough, to which the detective shakily nodded in compliance.

Satisfied, Lucifer bade the detective a simple farewell, flashing him another knowing grin before closing the door calmly.

Chapter Text

“Greetings and salutations, New Orleans! Alastor Carlon here to deliver the latest happenings around town. I hope you’re tuning in!

Well, folks, looks like we got a real mystery here on our hands as missing cases are rising up almost day by day! Joining the string of strange disappearances is local businessman Reginald Alfonse, whose frau had notified the authorities that it’s been close to a week since he’s returned home, and employees reported not to have seen him in the office. There isn’t even one single soul who has a clue on where he was last seen or heard from. Seems like he just up and vanished into thin air, ladies and gentlemen!

The police have not yet chanced upon any leads to Mr. Alfonse’s disappearance, but boy, do we have some bits for you! Our insider has managed to catch word that the victim has been quite the naughty boy lately! Police are now investigating a report submitted against the victim, which intended to hold Mr Alfonse responsible on account of attempted assault, but apparently had been directly rejected. It’s been speculated that this could hold some grounds that ties his disappearance to an anonymous female suspect.  Pity the poor girl! Good golly, would you imagine that? Could a frail possibly be our culprit here, driven by the rationale of injustice that she probably decided to force justice herself?

If any of you good folks may have information on the whereabouts of Mr. Reginald Alfonse, please kindly make your way to the police station and assist in whatever way possible. In the meanwhile, all of us here at the station implore you to be on the lookout when you’re out on the streets. You may never know if you might get dry-gulched anytime!

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s move on to entertainment!”

Charlie promptly turned off the radio, her stomach all in knots, when she listened to Alastor report the news on the missing Mr. Alfonse, seeming like a mocking happenstance to her. She felt shameful upon hearing the bit about the ‘anonymous female suspect’, knowing very well that it was referring to her, although she could at least feel relief that Alastor doesn’t know that.

She was alone in the living room with her father. Vaggie had been instructed by him to give them some privacy, so she busied herself elsewhere. Out of his top hat and jacket with his favourite walking cane resting against the chair, Lucifer reclined freely and casually smoked, having been engrossed with listening to the radio broadcast as well. When silence filled the room, he butted out his cigarette on a saucer plate kindly provided by Vaggie to use as a stand-in ashtray and gave his undivided attention to his daughter.

“What did I say about not taking shit from other hombres?” His words immediately sent Charlie on edge.

“I didn’t take anything from anybody,” she protested defensively. “All I did was find investors for the hotel. I didn’t think that he would try something on me.”

Lucifer’s eyebrows knitted in a derisive frown. “Of course, he’d try something on you, Charlotte. You’re a woman. Sly bastards like that one always on the prowl, especially for a young thing like yourself. You haven’t been in the real world long enough to know.”

She clenched her hands into fists on the fabric of her skirts, keeping her gaze down while he continued talking, preparing for the usual jive that was coming for her.

“And is the wherewithal I’ve put in for that place not enough?”

“It is for the time being, but it isn’t going to last if I want to run the hotel long-term,” Charlie answered blankly. “I need people who are interested to invest in the hotel on board to help keep it afloat.”

“Any luck then?”

Gritting her teeth, Charlie said nothing and only shook her head, eliciting an unsurprised hum from her father.

“Let me guess; they’re not interested because they think it’s complete horseshit, am I right?”

“Yes.”

“As expected.”

Charlie could feel her throat tightening and burning, unsure if it’s from an urge to break down crying or to cuss to no end – maybe a mix of the two, considering how she’s internally a mess of emotions at this point. But still remained quiet and looked down.

Lucifer sighed heavily and leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees, giving his daughter a closer look at his exasperation. “Darling, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. You can’t just go on a whim with every little idea that pops in your head. I did tell you this was just a bunch of bull.”

“I thought you were impressed by my proposal when you read it,” Charlie retorted, angered at the little jab at her past failures that she was so very sensitive of, and she knew that her father knew that and was doing this on purpose. “You even helped me get the property when you did. And you-”

Lucifer only raised a finger as he rose the fact, silencing her effectively. “I said that because your mother and I thought that it had the potential to go long-term. But clearly, with what you’ve just enlightened me on with your progress, it doesn’t even seem to be going anywhere at this rate. Hell, you got yourself in the soup looking for investors and now you got trouble with the elephant ears.” He paused to shake his head in disapproval, lambasting at her, “With everything that’s happened to you and all your little projects so far, I’d have thought that you at least learned when to quit when it’s simply bootless.”

This was not the first time Charlie had been receiving such a reprimanding from Lucifer, and it might probably not be the last time. And each and every time, she had always been able to hold her tongue to keep herself quiet and just bear through with the harshness of rejection and belittlement. At this point, it was almost ingrained in her to just take any insult that came her way.

But all of a sudden, a familiar voice immediately popped into her mind.

This world’s full of ‘em assholes and scumbags who’s just gonna step on you just ‘cause they think they can.

Keep your head up high and your ego higher. Keep doing that, and you’ll make it natural enough that ain’t nobody’s gonna be able to hurt you anymore.

Angel’s words of advice resonated through her, and suddenly she didn’t feel like keeping quiet. Not with all of the bullshit that she has gone through just to still put in so much time and effort to the hotel. This time, it felt like one insult too many, and she certainly didn’t need her father to be doing it to her once again. She had decided that enough was enough.

“Daddy, I respect you that you are probably ‘concerned’ about me, but it’s about time you stop barbering about things I don’t want to hear and hear me out instead. I need to make it clear to you that I’m not just some ditzy little dolly like you expect just because that is all you think I am, and just to spare you any bruising to your ego.”

“Charlotte,” Lucifer was about to retort, but Charlie cut him off swiftly, not wanting to give him the chance.

“No, you listen to me. I know what I was getting myself into when I decided to pursue this, and you know what, it doesn’t matter.  It doesn’t matter if ill-mannered, narrow-minded, shit-talking plugs are just going to snide about me and every single thing I do and call me a Dumb Dora and how I’m such a disgrace to the Magne family name. It doesn’t matter if all you are going to ever think me as is this naive little girl who wastes her time in stupid ‘passion projects’ that never end up working because it’s not what we ‘high-society’ folk bother about. What matters is that I don’t need all of you to believe in me because I know that I can do it. It doesn’t matter how long it’ll take me. Even if it’s forever, I’m going to get it down somehow. And I don’t need anyone, especially you, to keep bringing me down whenever they want.”

So engrossed in her verbal onslaught, Charlie didn’t realise until she was done that she was almost leaning off her chair, her hands on the armrests keeping her balanced. She said nothing more, only inhaling a lungful of breaths she settled herself back down, her face flushed at the thought of what she had just done.

This was definitely not the usual father-and-daughter squabbles where she would have just ended up letting him have his way, seeing as how he was the type that knew how to command authority and put others in their place.  She can’t recall if there ever was a time that she had ever put up a fight with her father this intensely, and Lucifer seemed to realise that too when all he did now was just look at her, his expression unreadable, and just keeping silent.

“I’m still going to do this,” she said with finality. “I’m not going to give up on this one.”

Lucifer’s vacant expression suddenly turned, but not one of anger or disapproval as Charlie had prepared herself for, but rather one of approval, his lips turning up into a smile as he chuckled affectionately, “Well, aren’t you showing your horns to go loggerheads with me.”

Charlie watched him warily in silence, wondering if this sudden affection was just a farce for a brutal riposte.

“Can’t say I’m not proud of this stubbornness of yours, sweet apple,” he continued. “Attagirl! You’re going to need a lot of that if you want to stick to that plan of yours.”

It wasn’t what Charlie wanted to hear, although she definitely did not expect that. But she knew Lucifer would never truly change his mind completely, and she supposed that this little bit of advice she received from her father was the most she should be content with for the meanwhile.


From the counter, Rosie looked up when she heard the bell above the door jingled, and she saw a short man dressed outlandishly in white from head-to-toe with a top hat and cane standing there, looking around the emporium with a peculiar look. She was confused as to why someone so fancily-dressed would be here at this time of night, but not as much as she was annoyed that someone would walk in when she was clearly not open for business.

“I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but I’m closed for the night, dear,” she called out sternly.

The stranger ignored her, continuing to look around the interior of the shop. He lazily walked to the counter, the rhythmic tap of his cane on the floor as he walked resounding in the silence that hung between them. Rosie only quirked a brow. “Can I help you?” she asked politely, her irritation only showing in the slightest.

It was only when he was right across her at the counter that he finally looked at her, and Rosie noticed immediately that, despite his average stature, he had an air about him that exuded confidence and authority. But that only made her all the more wary, realising that he wasn’t just some idiot who couldn’t read a ‘Closed’ sign and just waltz in with no reason.

“Quite a little shop you’ve got here,” the stranger commented casually.

“Did you come in here just to make remarks about my emporium?”

“Just interesting how well you’ve kept hidden with a bog-standard dump like this,” the man chuckled back, clearly in the mood for banter. But that statement alone made Rosie’s vexation grew, as did it alarm her.

“I’m sorry, but I’m not sure exactly what you mean,” she tried to pass off sounding as confused as she could fake it to be, although the man’s knowing grin only made the effort futile.

“Oh, but you do,” the man answered with awareness. “This little emporium of yours isn’t the one thing that’s bringing you the mazuma, ma’am.”

Now that sent Rosie’s nerves on edge, and her mind was racing to figure out if this man was intending to be a patron or if he was some call copper sniffing her out. She kept her eyes fixed on him as she leaned forward on the countertop to rest her arms there, but she shifted one of her hands to unobtrusively move to a little nook under the table, where a pistol, which had belonged to her dear deceased Franklin, was kept hidden away there – one should never go unprepared, after all.

“And who exactly are you to know that?” she asked, stone-cold serious and no longer in the mood to carry this farce on for long.

The man, realising that she had indirectly let the cat out of the bag, only let out a small laugh, which agitated Rosie more and her fingers wrapped quietly around the grip of the pistol, her index finger hovering carefully above the trigger in the case she needed to pull a quick clip.

Without another word, the man’s free hand moved to the insides of his jacket to pull something out from the pocket. And in a flick of a wrist, he produced a single gold card that had the imprint of single ruby red apple.

Rosie’s hand promptly released its hold on the pistol when her sights set upon the card and its imagery.

With a dark smirk and the narrowing of his spirited eyes, the man enlightened her of his identity.

“The one that's helping your little ‘side-business’ under wraps.”

Rosie’s nerves were immediately heightened to new extremes as she felt her heart increasing in pace. She recognised that symbol anywhere. Anyone who involved themselves in the seedy business of the underground of society would know that symbol anywhere. And she doesn’t think her dear heart was unable to take the weight of the situation she was currently in when she realised who exactly was standing in front of her.

“You’re… You’re the Big Apple…”

The Big Apple, a seemingly insipid name, but truly one of the most notorious gangsters in the country. Prohibition was his rise to power, having snatched the opportunity that the direful law provided to create a seamless clandestine operation in the distillation, procurement and sale of the best hooch one could find anywhere in this godforsaken country. He was famed to run it like a formidable ruler of his own domain, having legions of trouble boys to do his bidding, whether by careful transactions or sheer brute force. His influence and hold on power were spread across the states, creating a network where an abundance of illegal liquor flows – a clear evidence of his shrouded dominion that had been so carefully hush-hush that the law had not once ever come close to pinching him, although one could suspect that his supremacy had even gotten hold of the law itself if he could ensure his safety for so long.

But as much of a big name he was, nobody had ever actually seen the man for themselves, for it seemed he had a preference to work within the shadows of the underground. Looked like he himself didn’t want to be too heavily involved in the dirty work – why would he if he had so many who were able to do it for him? Even Rosie, who had decided to jump the gun in seeking his help when she first started her speakeasy years ago, had her dealings done through one of his middlemen.

Whoever the Big Apple was, Rosie could never ever guess that he could be someone that seemed to have a penchant for being so overly-dressed in stark white – with a damn top hat, for goodness sake! – and grinning at her realisation like he had just heard an amusing joke.

What a night this was going to be.

Chapter Text

Rosie wasn’t at her usual place at the counter when Alastor walked into the closed emporium and it hit him right off the bat that something was up. He called out her name, thinking that she may have disappeared to the backroom, and upon hearing no answer, simply shrugged and went ahead to knock on the bookshelf to grant himself access to the speakeasy.

He had decided to drop by the establishment to tip a few since work had been quite a drag today, but tonight it seemed that the air of the place was completely off. For starters, in lieu of the usual jazz and ragtime, the band was playing polka, which Alastor could only be baffled at this ‘interesting’ choice of musical entertainment that did not please his ears.

He looked around curiously, wondering what else seemed out of place aside from the music, and that’s when he saw the proprietress seated at one of the best tables, but Rosie wasn’t alone. There was a man that was peculiarly dressed in white, sticking out so obviously amidst the other patrons here. Alastor could only see the back of his blond head, clearly having no indication of his face, but he was sure that the stranger wasn’t someone from around here.

Keeping his eye on Rosie, Alastor made his way to his usual seat at the bar, where Husk was standing and watching the same scene as he was. The bartender was not drinking - even odder! -  and he was obviously quite ruffled about that, his hands kept busy aimlessly shuffling a deck of playing cards.

“Anything I should know?” Alastor asked Husk with interest at the strangeness of the night thus far.

Tilting his head towards where Rosie and the man were, Husk replied in a murmur, “That’s the Big Apple.”

“Really now?” Alastor perked up with further immense interest, eyes wide in wonder. “One of the notorious big-bads of the underworld of Prohibition?”

“That’s the one. Everybody’s on edge knowing he’s here. Rosie’s given us the earful on being on our best behaviour.” Narrowing his eyes into slits at Alastor, he warned harshly, “So I better not find any more zotzing in the restroom from you tonight. I won’t handle any of your shit if I can’t have a drink.”

Alastor laughed at the stress of his distressed friend. “Well, it’s a good thing I can! Some nice ol’ gin please, my exasperated boy!”

Husk could only growl under his breath as he poured a gin for Alastor, who paid no heed to him and instead continued to watch the important guest that Rosie was entertaining. He still couldn’t get a glimpse of the man’s face from where he was seated, only seeing him clapping merrily to the obnoxious polka that was playing.

“Any idea why he’s here?”

“No,” Husk answered, handing the tumbler to his waiting hand. “He just came into the store and scared Rosie a bit and got down here requesting for that god-awful music to be played.”

Alastor hummed as he took a sip. “How curious, don’t you suppose?”

Husk shrugged indifferently. “Who knows about gangsters. Best not to question whatever they do.”

And how,” Alastor raised his glass in agreement.

“By the way, I was listening to your broadcast today.”

“Really now? And how was it?”

“I’d suggest you lay low for the time being,” the bartender told him grimly, his expression grave to match.

The conversation was certainly out-of-the-blue for Alastor, who had the glass halfway to his lips when he paused to look at the bartender in surprise. “Oh? And here I was thinking you were going to comment on my performance. Pray tell, Husker, what’s suddenly brought this up?”

Husk scratched the back of his neck, unsure of how exactly to word the conversation he’s brought up out of random. In fact, he didn’t know why he bothered to. He supposed not busying himself with a drink was doing all sorts of wacky things on him.

“Now I don’t usually wanna be all up in your beeswax, but I gotta tell you it’s getting kind of out of hand here. It’s keeping everyone in town all keyed-up, and it’s just going to go down the shithole once the cops actually get their shit together and start to piece things and find out what exactly happened to all of ‘em.”

A shift in Alastor’s smile occurred then, turning into a strained close-lipped as he started to look a little offended at being somehow reprimanded by the tetchy bartender. “And who are you to be schooling me, my friend?” Alastor mockingly retorted. “Need I remind you that it’s also what’s keeping you paid very generously to continue with your little hobbies of booze and cards.”

“I ain’t schooling you. I’m telling you that you’re being too much of a show-off right now,” Husk countered in exasperation, his hands irritably dribbling the deck of cards from hand to hand at how stubborn he was. “Listen, it may have been easy for you to fool people with that ‘charming’ smile of yours to make them believe you’re just some egg that’s always in a good mood for some reason, but it’ll all come back to bite you in the ass one of these days if you ain’t too careful.”

The man suddenly broke into a laugh that broke the tense atmosphere of the conversation, although Husk was peed off at what exactly the crazed loon found to be so hilarious.

“My, my, Husker! I never thought you being sober made you care about me more!” Alastor teased, grinning in ridicule. “You ought to do it more often.”

Of course, Husk had expected such a response to completely brush aside what he said. But he was no pushover, and the point needed to be brought across.

“Look, just do us all a favour and don’t take any wooden nickels. It’ll save the rest of us some trouble of getting traced too.”

It was then Alastor actually remained quiet, only looking thoughtfully at the drink in his hands, and it looked as though he was actually contemplating about something. Husk stopped shuffling the cards in his hands to just look at him, waiting for his reaction. If there was something that he said that somehow managed to make the man stop and think about the consequences of his actions, he’d better get a lottery ticket.

But alas, Alastor simply shrugged his shoulders and took a large gulp of gin before placing the glass down with finality. “Hmm, ‘fraid I can’t make any promises that I won’t, ol’ boy,” he riposted, shaking his head. “You know how easily bored I get! It simply won’t do!”

Why in the fuck do I even bother? Husk internally sighed to himself. Of course, the smug bastard would say something like that. The man was stubborn after all, and he made it very clear that nothing could ever change his mind other than his own. Knowing when to throw in the towel, Husker decided to give up on any further attempts to continue the conversation.

“Well, if you’re planning to go down, just don’t drag any of us along with ya.”


Alastor walked briskly on the path to home and whistled a tune to himself into the silence of the night that came with a cool breeze and was dimly-lit by the street lamps. It was well past the witching hour now and there was not a soul in sight, all probably in their cosy homes and away from the dangers that the night would bring.

But Alastor wasn’t much too concerned about that, instead thinking back to the strange conversation he had with Husker back at the bar. While there might have been maybe a smidgen of concern in the gruff man for Alastor to be appreciative of, he thought that the bartender would have known better than to advise him on such a thing. Alastor played by no one’s rules except his own. Those closest to him would have known too well that he wasn’t one to be scared of playing with fire. In fact, it only urged him for the thrill of dancing with danger, to see how far he can go to push the limits, and how his influence could unsettle a whole city with his hidden actions.

It was a good thing he was quite gin-soaked to brush off the conversation without much thought, and still, he wasn’t zozzled enough that he could risk blacking out on the streets.

Nor was it enough to have his senses dulled to not be fully aware of his surroundings, especially when he suddenly heard approaching footsteps coming from right behind him.

“Hey!”

The shout promptly made Alastor stop his whistling and his tracks, and he turned his head to see the silhouette of a young man walking with purpose towards him. As he fast approached, Alastor recalled the face of one of the rubes that he had fended off from Charlie and her friends days before, and he could tell judging from the look on his mug exactly what intent he had in mind to close in on him.

“May I help you?” he turned around fully to address him, his stance tall and fearless because this man was simply a fool to not know exactly who he was planning to deal with in the dark shadows of the night.

“You better wipe that shit-eating grin off your face, Buddy Roe,” the lad spat churlishly. “We got some unfinished beef with ya.”

Alastor would have just continued with arrogantly staring down at the bastard in front of him, but something in his mind clicked when he realised what had just been said.

‘We’?

And that’s when it hit him.

Literally, it hit him.

He got dry-gulched.

A blow to the side of his head came from behind, and Alastor immediately fell forward at the unexpected impact as he comprehended the sensation of broken shards of glass raining down his face – he recalled for a split second when he had witnessed this similar scene, although it was ironic considering that back then, he had been the one to do the breaking instead of the other way round.

The ambush was enough to have him debilitated, forcing his hold on control over the situation to waver and allowing him to get himself trapped in a full nelson. A quick glance behind and he saw that his assailant was the other fellow from that day, telling from his crooked nose.

Well now, this was certainly a first for him. He had never been caught in this situation before – all the times anyone’s ever tried to jump on him, it had been direct to his face in the attempt of a quick glaum, and it was more than easy for him to deal with it since he’d been sober. He cursed himself internally for the little inebriation he had put himself in – he was not splifficated but it was enough to not make him careful to watch his behind. How very unfortunate!

More unfortunate so when a fist suddenly rammed into Alastor’s abdomen, forcing all his breath out of him and making him double over in shock. But he wasn’t allowed time to recover before the one behind him forcefully straightened him up into a stand again, leaving his front exposed for more kisses, with the next one coming soon after the first, and then another, and then another.

…Ah…how familiar… Alastor thought to himself in the flurry of hits. At that moment, his mind curiously wandered from the little predicament he was in and began to remember all his incidences of butchering, finding it somewhat sardonic how this time, he’d been forced into the position of his victims.

Another hit to the gut, and then it stopped as the bastard took a step back for a breather, allowing Alastor to slump in his restraint, coughing up spittle – and maybe blood? He wasn’t too sure – that dribbled ungracefully down his chin. He took in breaths in shudders, his body heaving through the now-onerous task, his head hanging down and causing his glasses to slip off his nose and fall to the hard ground.

The inability to defend. The disability to fight back. Forced to subject the body to whims of peril that befell upon it. Beaten down so senselessly before a way out could be thought out. Was this how it had been like for all his victims? Perhaps so. But in his eyes, he pondered if this was probably a cruel irony of hunter becoming the hunted, when predator had been forced in a twist of bad luck to be prey. How easy it had been for him to fall victim, and yet he only had himself to blame for not being too cautious, even if he hadn’t been in the tipsy state he was in. He could only imagine how all his casualties must have felt when they met their fate’s end by him.

And yet, how long has it been that he’d been put in this place? When was the last time he’d been at the mercy of someone else? He can’t really recall properly now, but that memory was there, hidden within the darkest recesses of his mind, threatening to rear its ugly head out.

“Not so scary now, tough guy,” he heard the boy barb boastfully, proceeding to step right on his glasses, and Alastor could only watch as the glass and wireframe crunched under his foot.

It was then something in him snapped, and he felt white-hot fury suddenly spur through the racing blood in his veins. He realised then that no, these punks were not something for him to be afraid of, and they would never be. These were just a couple of idiots who foolishly thought that outnumbering him bagged them dominance. Did they really believe that some punches and a mocking statement were enough to have him shrivel in fear?

He absolutely loathed it. He despised the thought of even allowing them this much control over him, and good golly, was he going to have to take that back! They didn’t have the eloquence to be worthy of that, especially over him! These two idiots did not have the ‘skill’ he possessed! They didn’t have the balls to pull off what he could!

Alastor wouldn’t allow this. Not at all.

He wouldn’t allow this to happen to him again. Not again.

“Are you quite done?” he rasped in a sneer, narrowed eyes glaring challengingly at his attacker.

His smart answer didn’t sit well with the jobbie, who answered with a swift whack right across Alastor’s face. His head snapped to the side, almost potentially giving him whiplash he might suffer come morning, but no pain came to him in that stunned stillness, instead the rage that was boiling grew into a fire that was consuming him wholly from within.

Now, he definitely had enough. He’s let these yahoos have their fun, but they’ve clearly bit off more than they could chew.

In a split second, Alastor turned his head sharply back to the bastard, his eyes widening with a new surge of adrenaline that flared up from deep within his core. Through the numbness, he felt his lips stretch as far back to reveal teeth, his usual grin back in place where it belonged and would always stay.

“You better taste good,” Alastor growled under his breath.

Those strange choices of words were enough to have his assailant freeze in his act, looking at him in a sudden bout of disturbed confusion. If only he hadn’t stopped dead then, which had been more than enough time for Alastor to suddenly raise both his legs and plant the soles of his feet on the boy’s chest, using the momentum to give him a hard shove that sent him tumbling to the ground.

And without a moment’s hesitation, as his feet found firm footing back on the ground, Alastor dropped his head forward quickly to only roughly fling it back immediately, conking his cranium directly onto his holder’s nose with all the force he could muster. A loud sickening crunch was heard, followed by a howl of anguish, and he was immediately let go as the idiot holding him captive doubled back to get a hold on his already-broken nose, made worse now that it had lost all progress of recovery from his first good socking by Miss Vaggie.

Seeing his chance, Alastor made haste and pounced right onto the one that was about to get up, pushing him back onto the ground. This stunned the boy in confusion, which quickly turned to panic as he tried to shake Alastor off. But he was more than ready to intend no escape for the new victim under him and forcefully pinned him with the weight of his own body, firmly gripping down on his biceps so that his hands were just out of reach from grabbing him, and tightly straddling his legs with his thighs to immobilise him further and prevent the risk of him being kicked off.

GET THE FUCK OFF ME, FUCKIN’ CUNT!” the boy shouted at the top of his lungs.

His voice rang in Alastor’s ears and it disgusted him immensely at how vile the sound was, driven by a sudden desperate need to rid of it so that he didn’t have to hear its distastefulness any longer. And so, before the idiot could have another chance to shout once more, it broke out into a loud scream of pain when he suddenly felt sharp bare teeth bite deep down onto his neck.

That scream immediately turned into a bloodcurdling wail as Alastor forcefully ripped out his jugular in his bite.

Chapter Text

Thick warm blood sprayed across Alastor’s face, painting him red before he could have the chance to move out of the way. It gushed with such vigour that it rained onto the pavement and stained the concrete. A sick chortling sound replaced the man’s dying screams, followed by dark red pooling out from his mouth that flowed like a river.

Alastor could only look in mirth as the boy spazzed uncontrollably on the ground, choking on his own blood. The half-wit’s eyes, only mere minutes ago looked at him with such imprudent smugness, were so widely struck with fear and horror that one would think he might be looking directly at Death itself, with its physical embodiment grinning down on him so absolutely maddening.

The flowing of blood gradually came to a stop, and by then the fellow had it coating and seeping in deep to every crevice on his face that Alastor could no longer see his daunted eyes.  The gaping wound still glistened wetly in the fissure of torn flesh and muscle, a disturbing and grotesque sight that looked like a masterpiece to Alastor’s eyes.

“…Oh my fuckin’ God…”

When he heard that whimper, he suddenly snapped out of some trance-like daze he had been in and whipped around to find the other one staring with an unadulterated look of pure trepidation. He was still cradling his now twice-broken and bleeding nose, but that seemed to be out of the spectrum of focus as he got a load of the scene in front of him.

Before the poor boy could comprehend, Alastor charged at him to the ground, pinning him down with his weight as he did with the previous one. He straddled the boy at the stomach, giving him one good socking for no good reason other than payback for that little ambush he pulled. It left the poor sap a complete sputtering mess.

“…P…Ple…ase…” the boy whimpered, his voice cracking with sobs as tears streamed fast down his cheeks. A soft trickling sound was heard, and Alastor’s eyes widened in a mix of surprise and disgust to realise that the fool was damn pissing himself!

He was about to admonish the vile act, but the torn-out chunk of bloody flesh still in his teeth came to his realisation. Still warm and soft in his bite, the blood that spilled was coating his tongue with the sharp tang of taste akin to metal and salt, dripping messily down his trap and possibly dirtying his suit jacket. Alastor promptly spat it out, and it landed right by the boy’s head, making him cry even louder in terror.

“...Oh God...Let…Me…G-g-go…Ple…Please…S-Sorry…Please…”

“I’m afraid God can’t help you now,” Alastor muttered through his strained grin, and his mitts sought purchase of the fellow’s scrawny pipe, enveloping it in his grip and forcing a hard squeeze.

It was a much quieter kill than the other, the poor boy having been completely void of the ability to use his vocals as his airway was being cut off. His hands gripped at Alastor’s wrists, dirty nails digging into his skin as he pathetically tried to pry his hands off, and his legs were kicking furiously to shake himself free, but resistance was futile as Alastor only increased the strength of his hold, causing whatever air was left in the boy to be forced out in a gasp. And as the seconds ticked by, the lack of oxygen, coupled with the strong hit he took to the face and the cutting of circulation to his head, slowly took effect as the desperate scratching slowed, only limply gripping Alastor’s hands. It wasn’t clear in the dark, but Alastor could almost see a shade of blue filling his complexion, and his fearful eyes looked so gouged it could possibly pop right out the sockets.

Those eyes then slowly rolled upwards to the back of the head, just as his weakened grip finally fell lax and the entire body finally stopped moving in his struggle.

Alastor waited, seconds passing after a stillness came over the boy, and stayed straddled on the body and gradually loosened his hands, still hovering over the neck in case there could be a sudden jump, before withdrawing completely once he was sure that he was laying dormy and was as good as gone. Keeping his gaze locked on the lifeless eyes that were glassily looking back at him, he forced himself to come to a shaky stand.

Breathing hard, Alastor was suddenly very much aware of the state his body was currently in. The blows he took to his abdomen left it thrumming in pain – sure to leave an array of bruises, but he was certain enough that none of his ribs are broken since the hits hadn’t been strong enough to do that. The back of his head was throbbing from where he forced it back on his captor’s face, a goose egg sure to form.

One in his position would have crumbled to the ground in complete exhaustion and agony, but not him.

He supposed the surge of adrenaline had been reason to dull those unfavourable senses comfortably, so much so that he could enjoy this moment. The music of hopelessness and despair, it sang to his violent yearnings and emboldened his bloodlust. Snuffing both their pathetic little lives ignited ecstasy in his veins akin to a snowbird indulging in nose-candy. Remembering the last one’s whimpers for mercy, he couldn’t help but laugh in joy, feeling so empowered that he thwarted their puny attempts of puissance and showed them exactly what a real killer could do.

And as he laughed, he felt a dribble hit the corner of his lips, and he recalled that his face was practically drenched in blood from the little bite he took. He wasn’t exactly sure how much of a mess it was, but concern wasn’t in the cards right now, and he lapped up the dribble of blood without care, savouring the heady taste.

…Delicious… he sighed internally, senses heightened in his high. 

And it had been heightened enough for him to realise that there was the soft sound of clapping coming from behind him, and he snapped his head around to find a blond man in white standing right over the eviscerated body, looking right at him with a big chilling smile.

“Looks like you’ve got yourself in a bit of a situation, my friend,” the Big Apple noted, his smile widening into a scheming grin. “Allow me to help you.”


“Who the fuck is this?”

“Husker.”

“Alastor? What the hell are you callin’ for?”

Despite the pain in his chest, Alastor chuckled heartily, “You mentioned something about not handling any of my shit if you can’t have a drink. So, I just wanted to know if you had that drink yet?”

A silence followed and it stretched on for quite a while, and Alastor was almost unsure if the call had been cut off or if Husk wasn’t there. But before he prompted, the gruff voice came back, asking irately, “What the fuck did you do now?”

“Simple self-defense, my friend,” he answered, grimly thinking back to the predicament he had gotten himself out of. “Anyway, I can’t really get right into the details now. I need you and Niffty to hightail down to the alley ‘round the corner of Lafayette. There isn’t much time.”

“Wait. What the fuck is going on? Where exactly are you?”

“As much as I appreciate such rare care and concern, dear Husker, I’m afraid there’s no time for that,” Alastor replied sharply, impatience creeping into him and could be mildly heard in his strained voice. “Just get down there before the elbows do.”

Another pregnant silence, hanging with the uncertainty that Husk was probably in, and Alastor was about ready to command again until there was a terse, “Alright, alright. We’ll be there.”

With that affirmation, Alastor said no more and wordlessly put down the phone. He trusted that Husk and Niffty would see to it that the bodies be properly disposed before the crack of dawn, so long as they got to the hiding spot behind some trash cans and discarded crates before it was riddled with the police – with all the screaming during his little bustle, someone had surely heard and made an alerting call, and it was sure to be quite the job for them once they found the large stain of blood that had dried on the concrete pavement. It was a crummy job, but considering the time crunch and the unfit condition he was currently in, it was the best he could do. He would have considered having them brought to his house since it had been a while since he’s had a good ‘meal’, but decided that it was too much of an arduous task for him to handle.

Besides, he didn’t exactly need the risk of having the trouble man finding out where he lived.

And speaking of him, Alastor dragged himself to the waiting hayburner that was parked right beside the phone booth. He got in as delicately as he could, clutching his sides as he settled himself. As the car promptly drove off, a hand appeared with a folded piece of cloth.

“You’re filthy,” the Big Apple remarked with an insincere smile. “Don’t want you getting it all over the seats. The frau wouldn’t be too happy about that.”

Alastor said nothing as he took the cloth, wiping whatever traces of blood there were left on his face. Most of it had dried up by now and would need a proper scrubbing to get out, but so long as it wasn’t too obvious that he’d just bite someone’s neck off, it’ll be enough.

Silence hung in the backseat of the car as he busied himself with cleaning up, but he was all too aware of the eyes that were watching him studiously. The Big Apple sat beside him, legs crossed with his hands clasping his walking cane, top hat off and at his side on the seats. Glancing at him from the corner of his eye, Alastor wondered curiously to himself about how he was actually sitting next to one of the most powerful figures in the underworld of Prohibition.

He had claimed he had just been ‘passing by’, and chanced upon the struggle when he heard the ruckus. Alastor had made no attempt to hide his crime since it’d been in plain sight for the man to see. The egg looked more like some fancy showman than a ruthless gangster, but the aura he carried made clear that he was by no means someone to be easily trifled with, lest one was prepared to face unforeseen dire consequences. As much as Alastor was certain of his own prowess, he wasn’t one to stupidly act so rashly against someone far superior to him – the two buffoons that were lying dead on the ground were prime examples of what could happen if he tried. But admittingly, if it had come down to it, Alastor had been ready to attack if necessary, not giving any damns about what this man could do to him if it meant having to save his own skin.

But then all the man did was offer his assistance, and even a ride to allow him to not walk the streets looking fresh out of a murder. Although polite, there had been an underlying command that made it seem he would have no choice and it was meant to be heeded. And while Alastor had still been in circumspect, his curiosity peeked at this. He had always been one to throw caution to the wind and see where it got him, and it would be completely unbecoming of him to be looking all chicken-hearted, even if it’s to this Big Shot.

“Do you usually pick people off the streets?” Alastor broke the silence, finally turning to look at the man right in the eye with his usual grin plastered on his face.

The Big Apple, who’d been watching him throughout the silence, grinned back just as heartily. “Only the ones who’ve put on quite the show,” he replied. “How ever did you manage to pull off such a stunt?”

“Years of practice.”

“Such expertise! You’ve gone off the track on those fools with just your bare hands,” the blond man marvelled enthusiastically, looking like a kid in a candy store. “Don’t think I’ve ever come across such an animal like you.”

“And what do you intend to do with an ‘animal’ like me?” Alastor inquired. “Don’t ‘spose you’re planning to turn me into the law?”

That made him laugh, shaking his head in hilarity. “Now, that would be such a waste! Oh, no, no, no. I don’t want the law to be having their hands on such an interesting creature such as yourself!

“If that isn’t the case, what then?”

“Oh, no reason in particular!” he claimed, waving a hand insouciantly. “I just thought you needed assistance and I simply provided it.”

The intent that was obvious behind those words was made very clear to Alastor, and he narrowed his eyes as he huffed in amused skepticism. Setting aside the cloth and straightening out his vest, he remarked knowingly, “I’m not sure what kind of fool you take me for, but even I know things come with a price, especially with a character as ‘esteemed’ as yourself. So I’d suggest we don’t beat around the bush, shall we?”

The gangster didn’t reply immediately, only looking back at Alastor with an inquisitive stare, probably wondering to himself why he wasn’t afraid or even the least bit intimidated at what could be coming in store for him. But Alastor wasn’t one to be easily browbeaten.

Then a smile pulled at the Big Apple’s lips, and he hummed thoughtfully. “Hmm, perhaps. But all in due time, my friend! A good deal should never be rushed, after all! Besides, it’s late. Don’t want to keep the wife waiting up.”

A deal, he say?

“And what makes you so sure I’ll take up on it?”

The Big Apple’s grin cracked in excitement as he, without a doubt, sensed his sudden apprehension. “Oh, trust me. All desperate fools will take whatever they can get when Lady Luck’s not on their side.”

Who knows about gangsters. Best not to question whatever they do.

Husker’s words rang about in his head, and Alastor had nothing to say to that, more so now that it was obvious that this man was definitely scheming on how to make good use of him now that he knew his little secret. This irked him, as a deal wasn’t something he favoured. He was comfortable to be working mostly on his own accord, the satisfaction of being the one in control, something he knew he wouldn’t have if he had to be of service to someone, especially the Big Apple.  But he was smart to know when to hold his tongue, as he was sure that any form of defiance shown by him in his presence would strike him down immediately. Gangsters weren’t exactly an easy crowd to deal with, the more so if it was a damn mob boss.

But even then, there was still that linger of curiosity in him at this interesting turn of events, and – he’ll be damned – he actually wanted to know what will happen from here on out. He figured it would be somewhat entertaining to walk on thin ice with this, and if need be, quite the challenge for him to figure out how to make it work towards his favour.

All he could now was leave it to chance.

“You can let me off here,” Alastor said suddenly, noticing the familiar path that would lead to home. “I won’t trouble you to drive the distance.”

“Ah! A careful one, aren’t you? Don’t need to worry, my friend! I don’t do the whole ‘finding out where you live’ business unless I wanted your head!”

Alastor once more said nothing to that.

The Big Apple used his cane to poke at the driver’s seat and raised a hand indicating for the vehicle to be stopped, which it did. Alastor was startled to know how easily he was being let go, but Husker’s words reminded him to not question it, and he coolly got out, hiding his relief that he was finally out of that confined space.

“Appreciate the ride,” he said, grin flashing.

“Sorry, but I don’t think I caught your name.”

Normally, one wouldn’t be in the absolute right mind to give their name to a gangster, unless there wasn’t much of a choice. But not Alastor, since he’s considered that he’s about as exposed himself as much as he could and that this definitely wouldn’t be the last time he’ll probably come face to face with the man. Besides, he already discarded anonymity when he became a radio host, so even if he didn’t give his name, it wouldn’t have been difficult for him to be found out.

“Alastor Carlon!” he confidently answered, as if he had nothing to lose. “Pleasure to meet you.”

The gangster nodded in acknowledgment, but once more his lips split into a chilling grin, filled with malicious and cunning purpose.

“Until the next time, Mr. Carlon.”

With finality, Alastor closed the door and watched as the car drove off into the night, making sure that it was out of sight before he started on the trek home. He was quite ashamed of himself to admit that the last promise stunned him, and the fact that he’d been let go just like that made him feel an unease he wasn’t all too comfortable with. His nerves were tingling with alert, and he couldn’t help but glance over his shoulder ever so often. He’s had enough surprises for tonight, and he wasn’t in the mood to deal with another one, all too aware of the exhaustion that was creeping in. The coast seemed to be clear, but he couldn’t be relaxed just yet.

After a long while, his house came to view, and he sighed in relief. All he wanted to do was take a nice soak to rid himself of the blood and grime, and then get to patching up anything that needed tending to. Maybe a shot or two of corn to calm the nerves.

But as much as he had his mind set on no more surprises for the night, it seemed that the notion wasn’t agreeable with him.

“Alastor?!”

Chapter Text

When Lucifer left in the evening with a fatherly hug and a kiss to her cheek that did nothing to soothe her muddled mind, Charlie got right to work, cooping herself up in her study to look through all her notes and rewrite her proposal to take on an entirely new format. She supposed making it seem like a charity idea wasn’t the right way for her to play her cards, so she opted for a different direction and turned it into more of a business outlook. Vaggie had stuck around, bringing tea and discussing though all of the planned points with her. But eventually, she could not keep up with her pace and was slowly succumbing to sleep, retiring only after Charlie assured her that it was fine.

Come past midnight, and it was only then she was satisfied with her revisions. Craving a breather of fresh air after having been at it for so long, she sat out on the front steps of her porch. The cold crisp night air bit her skin, and she pulled her robe tighter against the chill, but its freshness relaxed her and she could feel the tension almost blowing away with the breeze. In the silence of the night, she could hear are the cicadas chirping their night-time song and watch the moon shine in all its beautiful glory.

But breaking the serenity of nocturnal nature was the sound of shuffling that came down the pavement.

Curious, she got up from her porch and took careful steps towards the source, being extra careful in case it was some stranger in the neighbourhood. But from the distance her sight could see, she could make out under the light of the streetlamp the familiar silhouette of Alastor. Confused, she wondered what the man was doing out so late.

But that question was gone from thought when she finally became aware of the state that he was in.

“Alastor?!”

He clearly hadn’t noticed her at first, his head suddenly snapping to her direction so fast that she thought he could have almost broken his neck. His eyes were wide and his glasses were missing, but that detail was overshadowed by the fact that his face was covered in streaks of dried blood, with splotches splattered across his suit. One arm was clutched at his side as he was hunched in obvious pain, and he looked like he was going to collapse anytime soon.

Charlie was at a complete loss for words, her hands covering her agape mouth as she could only stare at him in shock. And it seemed that Alastor was the same, staring back in surprise and confusion, but then it suddenly morphed into one of his signature smiling faces, and he became an almost entirely different person altogether.

“Miss Charlie! Whatever are you doing out here so late at night? Don’t you know it isn’t safe for a dame?”

He’s the one covered in blood and was in obvious pain, and he’s more concerned that she’s out here in the night? As much as she should be flattered, she thought it absolutely ridiculous!

“Oh my God, don’t give me that baloney now!” she rebuked as she hurried towards him. “What happened to you?! You’re covered in blood!”

Alastor looked down at his entire body as if he did not seem to realise that it was filthy with blood, and he gave a very sheepish ‘ha-ha’ as he brushed off invisible dust from his jacket. “Ah, got jumped by a couple of hoodlums after a night out and nearly got cooled,” he explained so casually, as though they were just simply talking about the weather. “Quite unfortunate! But nothing I couldn’t handle.”

Charlie clearly wasn’t having any of that. The man looked like he just got out of a bloody fistfight that he clearly didn’t win, and she was actually getting quite upset that he was just brushing it off as if it was nothing.

“Al, you need to get yourself to the hospital!” she insisted, shaking her head in exasperation. “Let me take you there!”

But strangely, the smiling man’s face broke just the slightest bit, and Charlie could see a flash of hesitation in his eyes. He raised a hand and shook it in refusal. “No need, darling! That’s just quite unnecessary for me.”

Why was he rejecting the idea? Clearly, he wasn’t in the best condition, and one in his state should be making his way to the hospital instead of back home. Charlie got really confused in a panic and wondered if he must be jingle-brained to not think that was the right thing for him to do now.

But then Alastor continued firmly, “It’s just a couple of bruises here and there. It’ll heal in no time!”

Sensing how adamant he was, Charlie did not persist, but still, she wasn’t set on letting this man be left all bloody and bruised. “Well, at least let me patch you up real quick,” she told him sternly. “You need proper tending to.”

Alastor looked about ready to refuse once more, but he stopped short when he saw the look on Charlie’s face that showed she meant business and she was probably going to heckle him if he dared say ‘no’ to her. He kept silent for a few minutes, seemingly weighing his options, but eventually he began to be amused at her request, and sighed in defeat.

“If you insist.”

In silence, they made the path up to her door, with Charlie slowing her pace to match his and her hands hovered and prepared to grab hold should he potentially collapse, which he didn’t. Once they were inside, it was straight to the living room and having him seated on the couch while she went to get the necessary equipment to treat him – a towel and first-aid kit from the bathroom, and a bowl of water from the kitchen. It wasn’t much to properly treat the injuries he might have, but it was still better than nothing.

When Charlie returned to the living room, she found him still seated on the edge of the couch, silently looking at the décor aimlessly.

“Alastor?” she called out softly from the door, which he turned to look at her. “Are you alright?”

His small smile grew into a grin as he shrugged. “Just thought it’s a bit of a laugh that first time I get invited in, it’s gotta be like this.”

She realised then that it was indeed the first time he’s actually been inside her house, and he was probably nervous and unsure of how to act considering the situation they found themselves to be in and that it was really very late at night. He probably felt quite out of place in the setting, and she started feeling so too.

“Ah, well. What to do?” Charlie said simply as she took a seat beside him on the couch and placed her equipment on the table in front of them.

“Didn’t take you for a doctor,” he remarked, eyeing the items curiously.

“I’ve learnt basic first-aid back in school,” she explained, taking the cloth and dipping it in the bowl of water. “Thought it might come in handy for when I find radio hosts walking back home late at night looking absolutely gashoused.”

Alastor chuckled lightly at her jest, and she allowed a small smile to grace her lips for a short second before turning serious again, instructing him to remove his suit jacket, which he did so obediently. One look at his dress shirt and vest and she saw that there wasn’t any heavy staining of blood, so she was assured that there weren’t any wounds there, much to her relief.

Wringing out the excess liquid from the cloth, she turned to find him distracted with looking at some framed photos on the wall nearby. He didn’t realise that she was reaching to turn him to face her until he felt her fingers on his cheek.

Without warning, Alastor suddenly flinched upon contact and whipped his head to stare at her in shock, pulling his head away and out of reach from her grasp, and it made her freeze in surprise.

He flinched?

His eyes had looked wide in apprehension, absolutely guarded until he was suddenly aware of his action, to which he immediately cleared his throat almost nervously. “Ah, my apologies, dear,” he said through a strained smile. “I’m not really much used to people touching me.”

Charlie thought that statement to be odd, considering that this wasn’t really the first time they’ve touched each other, what with their dates where her hand would be on his offered arm, and the day on her front porch where he had put his arm around her and brought her to his side. He had always been the one to initiate such ministrations and so far having shown no aversion to making casual contact, so it was a big surprise to learn that, strangely, he admitted to being so resistant to being touched himself.

It probably had something to do with him getting jumped on. He was probably still shaken about it, and she knew very well that such a thing could do that to a person. She could only feel a flush of embarrassment of having potentially upset him with what she had done.

“I’m sorry about that, Al. But I really need to clean you up right now. Would it be alright?”

The cautiousness in his eyes suddenly shifted to one of surprise. He looked at her as though he couldn’t quite grasp the thought that she had actually asked his permission, as if it was a new and foreign thing to him. And his smile, which had been strained, started to relax as he teased, “Well, ‘doctor’s orders’, I suppose. You can go ahead, doll.”

Hearing the sincerity in his tone lightened her heart a bit, enough for Charlie to roll her eyes at his little joke, and more so relieved that he has granted her permission. Bearing in mind to be extra careful, she proceeded to gently dab at his forehead. He didn’t flinch now and only stayed still, though she noticed his eyes were watching her carefully as she tended to him.

As she cleaned, Charlie began to notice something out of place. There had been quite a lot of blood on him, but she can’t seem to find any wound where it could have come from. His face was unmarred, and so was his head, and his shirt clearly showed that there wasn’t any injury there.

“How are you covered in blood?” she questioned before she could stop herself.

“Ah, well… There may have been a chiv involved.”

“Alastor!”

“Don’t be alarmed, dear! One of them got cut and I just happened to be in the way when his blood spilled! That’s the crop!”

It somehow didn’t make sense to Charlie, and it only left her feeling more confused at this current situation. What was it about Alastor right now that seemed so off? Despite the smile that was still there, it wasn’t alike his usual cheery disposition. He seemed pretty shaken up, and obviously trying to hide it behind a nonchalant façade.

But Charlie sighed, feeling it not her place to put the screws on. He already seemed quite tetchy, so she didn’t want to agitate him further.

Her hand travelled down his face, and he closed his eyes as she sponged over his lids and trailed the bridge of his nose and then to his lips. The whole time, Charlie’s gaze following where the cloth traced every contour on the light tan of smooth skin, and she slowed as she became lost in thought.

She didn’t know what was she thinking at that moment, but she suddenly felt drawn into his face. How chiselled his features were on his slim structure, how thin his lips were when it was rested, and without his glasses, his eyes seemed to be as wide and lively as ever. She knew that, without a doubt, Alastor was quite the looker, and she herself admitted that she thought him to be handsome, especially with the way he smiled and how animated his eyes always were when he could speak her ears off. But it was rare for her to catch him in a quiet moment, making her reminisce that one time she did on that night by the Mississippi River when he had been watching her with a thoughtful gaze. There was a certain mystique to him when the air around them was serene like this, and his aura – although unreadable at the moment – only tempted her in deeper.

This close, admiring in silence, had he always almost seemed so… beautiful?

But alas, Charlie’s state of reflection did not last long, as Alastor’s eyes opened then, piercing orbs looking right at hers and almost boring into her. She let out a soft yelp, hand pulling back from his face, and she felt a hot blush spread over her cheeks.

“Saw something you like?” he asked, but there was an obvious flirtatious undertone to his question.

“Um… sorry. Got a bit distracted there,” she murmured shyly, and Alastor said nothing as his smiling gaze remained. What was it about those eyes that spoke a lot and yet so little at the same time? It held her in but yet the intensity always drove her to look away meekly under the weight of it.

Shaking off the thought, she dropped the cloth into the bowl, the water turning dirty with red, and took the towel. He leaned forward to let her dry off all the wetness of his face, going about it as gently as she did before.

“Anywhere else?” she inquired to his bodily state.

“Just a couple of bruises on the stomach.”

“Let me get a slant.”

Alastor pulled back once more, this time raising his hands and shaking his head in refusal. “No need!” he told her in a rush. “I don’t think that’s quite appropriate when we’re alone.”

Hearing that immediately sent Charlie to be overwhelmed in total embarrassment, and she slapped a hand to her cheek in mortification. How could she have let that slip her mind? To think that she had insinuated for him to take off his shirt for her to see. How absolutely fluttering!

“Ah, you’re right. Well, I got you cleaned up as much as I could. I should probably get an ice bag for that nasty bruise on your head,” she said in a hurry and eager to leave this sudden tension. She quickly gathered her things and headed out to put them back, taking her time in preparing an ice bag with a few deep breaths to relax herself and bring her to a calmer state before she could potentially embarrass herself any further.

But any nerves went away quickly when she returned to the living room and noticed Alastor hunching over, his head hanging.

“Al?”

At the sound of her voice, he only hummed and looked up to her with a glassy daze. “Is everything okay?” she asked worriedly.

A slow nod and a sluggish shrug. “Just quite tired, dear,” he explained, starting to stifle a yawn. “Nothing a lil’ sleep can’t fix.”

He didn’t look ‘quite tired’; he looked absolutely exhausted. Dark shadows were creeping in around his eyes, and his posture was slumped that he was sure to pass out on the floor any second. That made Charlie’s worry only grow. Judging from the look of him, he was in no condition to walk, and he needed some rest as soon as possible. 

“Um… If you are really tired, I would insist you spend the night here.”

The sluggishness in his stance suddenly disappeared, and he seemed to perk up as his eyes widened. He looked absolutely confused and surprised, which only reignited the embarrassment she felt before. “On the couch, I mean!” she quickly added, but it did nothing to quell the sudden tension once more.

“Miss Charlie, are you really offering me a night here?” Alastor asked slowly, as though to make sure that he was hearing things right.

“Just on the couch! It’s fine!” she blurted out, absolutely flustered at this point and half-tempted to bite her tongue before she could say anything else without thinking. “At this rate, you’d probably drop before you even make it out my lawn!”

His head tilted in amusement at her ridiculous statement, and she wanted nothing more than to hide her face away in shame. Taking a huge defeated breath, she sighed, “I’m just… worried about you in this state. But if you wish to go back home, at least let me be sure to get you to your door.”

Alastor peered at her in silence, his eyes showing that he considering the offer with deep thought. Charlie only remained quiet, once more scolding herself internally for not putting thoughts to her words and for the cringe-worthy tension she had brought upon herself.

But then Alastor again gave her a gentle smile.

“Now I simply can’t have you walking alone back to your house in the dead of night. If it’s fine with you, I wouldn’t mind just sleeping on this here couch.”

With that being settled, Charlie set about to get him a spare pillow and blanket from her room, and told him to make himself comfortable. As she waited for him to get settled, she didn’t feel right to leave now, still worried about him in his hurt condition, but knew that she should allow him to rest to recover. 

“I’m in the first room on the left to the stairs. Just knock on my door if you need anything, okay?”

Alastor nodded in understanding, lying down on his side so that he could hold the ice bag to the back of his head with ease. Charlie could already see his lids drooping slowly, and she knew she shouldn’t bother him any longer.

“Goodnight, Alastor,” she said softly, lingering at the entryway, and it was just as she was turning off the lights that she heard him mumble softly, “Goodnight, Charlie.”

Back in her room, she got ready for bed with her mind busy with so many thoughts. She thought about her new revisions for the hotel plans and her need for a new plan of action to get its name out there and attract both potential investors and patrons. And, of course, she continued worrying about Alastor in his state, unable to shake off the fear and concern she felt for him and only hoping that he would be alright with a good night’s sleep. She would definitely need to check up on him properly come morning.

But just as she thought she had her mind in order and was finally ready to settle herself into bed and wait for sleep, she realised something.

He had just called her by her name. Not ‘dear’ or ‘darling’, or ‘Miss Charlie’ as she had been used to.

Just simple and plain ‘Charlie’.

She can only hope sleep would still come despite the sudden fluttering of her heart.


People often have this assumption that their home was a sanctuary, where one could be safe from the dangers that lurked in the outside.

Where you could simply lock your doors and keep your windows tightly shut to ensure that said dangers would never be allowed entrance inside and kept out where it should belong.

But that wouldn’t be the case anymore if one had decidedly invited that danger in, would it?

In the darkness of the hallway, Alastor found himself standing in front of the door that led to Charlie’s bedroom. He was still not in the best condition, but the thought simply didn’t cross his mind at that moment, filled with a sudden rush of excitement and anticipation that he was finally where he wanted to be, and oh so very close. His eyes stared at the door so intently that he could almost bore a hole through the wood from how hot his gaze felt. He could feel his breathing was steady but deep with the rushed thrumming of his heart that vibrated in his veins. And he wasn’t too sure but were his hands trembling in the itch to finally put them to good use on the darling in bed?

How trusting was she that not only had she let him in and tended to his injuries, but even offered him a night on her couch just because she was worried about him being by himself?

It was so adorable, as much as it was so absolutely naïve!

Charlie Magne basically made herself a lamb to the slaughter, serving herself to him on a silver platter, gifting his desires that he’d been harbouring for her for so long.

In a shuddering breath, he brought a hand to the doorknob.

Chapter Text

Charlie stirred, groaning in irritation from having to be torn out of slumber, still in sleepy confusion as to what was going on right now.

It was morning, with the first light of day shining brightly through her half-drawn windows. Sitting up on her bed, she yawned for a bit and rubbed the sands of sleep from her eyes until she finally came to a full conscience to be aware of the incessant knocking that was coming from her door, which had been what had woken her up.

Half-dragging herself out of bed, she sloppily put on her robe and headed to the door, but she wasn’t able to get it open fully before Vaggie immediately ran inside, pushing her back and looking absolutely terrified and frazzled.

“He’s here.”

“Huh? What?” Charlie asked in confusion, mind still heavily addled with sleep to know what was going on.

Gripping her shoulders tightly and bringing her face closer to hers, Vaggie whispered harshly, “Alastor Carlon! He’s on our couch!!”

Immediately, she shot awake when she heard his name, and the memory of late last night hit the forefront of her mind at full force. “Oh!” she exclaimed, quickly moving to head downstairs, with Vaggie following closely behind. When they reached the living room, she softened her movements, not wanting to make a single noise, and she peeped inside.

There was Alastor, deep asleep on the couch. He had taken his dress shirt and vest off at some point, left in only a white cotton undershirt for comfort, and part of the blanket was draped on his lower half, with the rest slipping off onto the floor. The ice bag he had been given was now in a bowl filled with water, having melted through the night.

Charlie tiptoed quietly to take the bowl away, and she also carefully covered part of his top half with the blanket. He shifted a bit at the slight movement, but simply let out a sigh and continued soundly sleeping.

She couldn’t help but smile at the sight, thinking how adorable he looked.

Explaining the events of last night in the kitchen had been quite a tedious task for the start of the day. Vaggie was absolutely steamed up to know that Charlie had brought him into the house so late in the night, and even more so when she was informed that he’d been bloodied and out of a fight as well. She scolded Charlie for not thinking about how dangerous it was to bring him in, talking about how he wasn’t really someone they could trust enough to let in the house and going through all the possible bad scenarios that could have occurred, with being killed in their sleep topping that list.

Charlie did not brush off Vaggie’s reasonings, understanding why she was really upset about it since she was still very untrusting of their neighbour, and she did feel guilty for stressing her out like this. She could do nothing more than to reassure her that nothing went on, that she only tried to help by tending to his injuries – though it’d been more giving him a wipe-down than anything else – and letting him stay the night when it was clear he was close to passing out.

It had taken Vaggie a while to calm down, to which she could only sigh.

After getting dressed and getting started on breakfast, Vaggie stuck close to her in the kitchen, not enthusiastic to venture out upon knowing the presence of the unexpected guest. They were just about finished setting up the breakfast table when a shuffling from the entryway was heard, and Vaggie stiffened in alert while Charlie perked in attention as Alastor walked in.

“Good morning, ladies,” he greeted with a tired smile.

To make himself a bit more decent, he had put on his unbuttoned dress shirt, which was still dirty with the traces of blood that immediately alleviated Vaggie’s high-strung nerves, building the urge to go into defense. Charlie noticed this immediately and held her friend’s arm in a show of comfort, but looked at Alastor with a smile as she greeted a ‘good morning’ back.

“We’ve just set breakfast,” she told him, gesturing to the table. “Please join us, Al.”

“So that’s what smelled delicious,” he noted as he eyed the spread with a cheery smile. “You’re too kind, dear. And don’t mind if I do!”

And so, the three of them took a seat at the table, with Charlie sitting in between the both of them to give Vaggie the space she wanted away from Alastor. He didn’t seem to notice this and was only looking at the array of dishes set on the table. Charlie went ahead to fill their cups with freshly-brewed tea from the teapot, and she suddenly noted his smile dropping just the slightest as he eyed his cup with a hesitant look.

“No coffee?”

“Ah… Sorry, no. We only have tea.”

“Ah,” he replied, quite unenthusiastic as he picked up his offered cup and gave the contents a stare before taking a sip, and his lips immediately pursed when it hit his tongue. “Not really a fan of noodle juice, you see.”

“Oh, sorry, I didn’t know,” she said sheepishly. “I could look for something else to make you?”

Before she could get out of her seat, he raised a hand at her offer and gave a comforting smile. “Quite alright, darling. Don’t trouble yourself. I’ll still get it down,” he assured her and took another sip of tea with less-obvious disdain.

Eating breakfast together, it was mainly a silent affair on Vaggie’s part while Charlie and Alastor did most of the talking, with the conversation mostly having been about Alastor’s insistence to head on to work soon as he should and Charlie completely rebutting the thought and demanding that he took the day off considering his condition, which he had surprisingly agreed to after getting that earful.

Vaggie could only watch the scene in her quietude, her mind racing with so many confusing thoughts.

Just how does Charlie seem so at ease with this? She had been so sure of herself to let him into their house in the night with the bloody mess that he was in. Her stomach lurched at the sight of those bloodstains, and she could only try to force herself to not let her mind wander to dark thoughts of what he could have done to have gotten those on him – the thought of him possibly bumping off someone lingering like a parasite in her head.

She supposed she should be glad that nothing had happened to both of them in their sleep while he had been around, but still, it was scary to think of the possibility.

“You know, with all this talk of that hotel of yours, I’ve never actually seen it for myself. How is it like now?”

Vaggie hadn’t been paying much attention to the conversation until she heard him mention the hotel, unsure when the topic had moved on to that. Immediately she stiffened, because knowing Charlie, she could expect the next words spoken.

“Would you like to see it, Al?”


“So! This is the ‘Happy Hotel’!”

Alastor stood in the middle of the foyer, hands on his hips as he took in the sight of the room. Vaggie lingered by the door while Charlie stood beside him and looked around as he did, though self-consciously at the fact that it was admittedly quite barely-furnished. What with the slow progress they’ve been having, it hadn’t been much on the forefront of Charlie’s mind to properly furnish the hotel as of yet, and she wished she had. It looked like an absolute dive right now.

“Hm… Not too shabby,” he remarked nonchalantly, though the undertone held just the slightest hint that he seemed unimpressed. “Could be cosier.”

A scoff sounded by Vaggie, but it went unnoticed when Charlie replied, “Yes, it could be… It’s still in need of a bit of sprucing up.”

The sound of steps coming down the stairs and Angel Dust appeared looking dishevelled and clearly just gotten out of bed. “Those butlers of yours here too?” he asked Charlie in a heavy yawn, stretching lazily. “I’m starv- OH!”

His words trailed off when he noticed Alastor, who looked at him all bug-eyed at his quite sloppy appearance. “Well, if it isn’t Smiles!” Angel exclaimed, immediately perking up with excitement and losing all traces of sleep.

“’Smiles’?” Alastor repeated in question, cocking his head curiously, and Charlie immediately panicked. “Oh, it’s nothing!” she waved it off immediately, not wanting to divulge information of their inside-joke of a nickname for the radio host. “Don’t think anything of it!”

The smirk on Alastor’s face made it seemed that he wanted to be in on the little joke, but thankfully for her, he didn’t press it any further, shrugging before he walked off to take a look around the nearby rooms.

He was in a better condition than he’d been yesterday, walking upright again and looking fresh after having a proper clean-up back at his house. It was still a bit off-putting for Charlie to see him without his cheaters, which would probably be a while until he could head to the optometrist to get a new pair. Being able to look directly into his eyes without any obstruction proved to be a task for her dear heart, and she wondered if she ever realised how truly intense his gaze was whenever he cast his sights on her, and could only chide herself at how meek she must seem to him for her to not be able to hold his look in return.

Deep in her thoughts, she didn’t notice Vaggie looking at her in worry, her entire demeanour clearly on guard at the foreign presence among them. But before she could make a move to go to her side, Alastor had already beaten her there first.

“So, where is your hotel staff?” Alastor asked Charlie, snapping her out of her little daydream.

“Ah… Well…” she flushed, and she clasped her hands together nervously as she gestured to the side, to which Alastor turned to look at Vaggie, who stood with her hands on her hips and eyed him back with a narrowed stare. 

“Oh, ho, ho…” he remarked in a deadpan tone. “You’re going to need more than that.”

Angel was seated on a nearby couch, watching the man boredly, but a cheeky smile appeared when Alastor approached him.

“And what can you do, my effeminate fellow?” Alastor asked with an enthusiastic grin.

With pure smugness, Angel replied, “I can suck your dick.”

The look of unmasked shock and disgust of the now-gobsmacked Alastor was absolutely comical.

“HA! No.”

Angel snickered at seeing Alastor so thrown off. “Your loss,” he teased as the man began to walk away with a shaken grin, his wide eyes twitching in revulsion.

Heading back to Charlie’s side, he re-composed himself and asked, “Charlie, dear? Could I perhaps speak to you in private?”

Charlie would have been distracted by the fact that he called her by just her name again if it hadn’t been for the solemnity of his tone. It’s quite rare that she’s ever seen Alastor be quite serious while he smiled.

“Oh, of course,” she said and pointed to a room. “We can talk in my office.”

Vaggie was about to protest as the both of them started making their way to her office, and was about one foot in to rush after them until she was stopped by a sudden grab on her arm. She whipped her head around to find Angel giving her a look of utmost disapproval.

“Hey!” she half-yelled and attempted to pull herself away from his grip, but instead yelped when he dragged her down to the couch beside him. “Qué diablos haces?”

Angel pointed a warning finger at her face. “Tagliare la merda,” he retaliated her Spanish with his smooth Italian, stunning her into silence. “Don’t be an insect and keep following them around the whole time. You ain’t some clingy puppy, babe.”

“I’m not!” she protested sharply.

“Then don’t act like it. Give ‘em some privacy, you prude!”

A string of colourful Spanish followed between the two, and Charlie was largely unaware of the small altercation that was going on outside her office. But Alastor had caught on a bit as he was closing the door, and he couldn’t resist snickering at Miss Vaggie’s little ing-bing. He definitely needed to give kudos to Mr Angel there for once again ensuring his privacy with Charlie.

“Sorry that I don’t have an extra chair to offer you,” Charlie apologised, embarrassed at how empty her office was. “As you can tell, the hotel isn’t really that done up yet.”

“That’s quite alright. I’ll just stand here,” he assured casually, coming to lean against her desk beside her chair, and gesturing for her to take a seat there. “Now, then. How about you tell me what’s been going with this place?”

That made Charlie quirk a brow in confusion. “Pardon me?”

“Come now. You’ve been at this for what? A couple of months already? And it still hasn’t been getting anywhere?” he deplored, gesturing to the room around them. “What seems to be the problem, doll?”

And just like that, an intent conversation ensued, with Charlie pouring everything out to Alastor about how it’s been a real struggle for the hotel lately, almost turning into a real tearjerker for her. She didn’t get into the full details of the wretched Mr. Alfonse, to not cause any unnecessary grief to herself from that stressful situation and what had followed it. She only barely scratched the surface on that incident, but she got more into detail about how it’s just been increasingly difficult for her to find sponsors or potential patrons. She even told him of how she spent the whole of last night to amend her proposal to take on a more business-like format instead of a charity one, knowing that the revision would probably be of more interest to the right money men, but she was still stuck in a rut on how to approach it.

“I’m in a real tight corner, Al,” Charlie sighed, cradling her head in her hands as she stared at the floor dejectedly. “I’m not sure what to do at this point.”

“Well, darling, if I may interject, going door-to-door with this plan of yours isn’t going to get you anywhere!” Alastor told her with brutal honesty. “You need to get word out to the numbers! Get them to listen to you all at once!”

Alastor did have a point, and he had phrased it far better than Lucifer had the previous day. At this rate, going to people one-by-one would probably take up a whole lot of time before she could possibly find even one who would be interested.

“And how do you suppose I do that?”

Alastor brought a finger to his chin, tapping it there as his eyes looked up in thought, and Charlie followed suit, looking elsewhere as she tried to figure out a solution in her head. But it was useless, and everything just came out blank. Not that she was expecting something to come up in a snap, but still it had her feeling much more of a crumb.

But while that may have been the case for her, it wasn’t for Alastor, who suddenly snapped his fingers as an imaginary lightbulb appeared over his head.

“Well, if I may suggest, the radio station has slots for some interviews on our broadcasts. If it’s keen for you.”

Charlie was pulled out of her self-pitying state and her head shot up to look at him, enkindled by what he had told her. “You’re suggesting that I go on the radio and advertise the hotel?” she queried, wanting to make sure she wasn’t guessing out of her ass.

“Well, why not?” he affirmed, the no-nonsense smile growing wider. “Everybody tunes in to the radio! The airwaves hit the masses! Sounds like a swell plan!”

It did sound like a swell plan, but she wasn’t even sure how she could get it done in the first place. “How ever could I get myself on the radio?”

Alastor chuckled at the genuinity of Charlie’s question, and he smirked proudly as he straightened his bowtie and he gestured to himself. “Darling, you happen to be talking to New Orleans’ favourite radio host! Don’t mean to brag but I’ve probably gotten tons of listeners tuning in that it could fill up the Yankee Stadium! I suppose I could cash in a few favours to liven things up, so I’d say that you’ve already got one foot in the door.”

As much as she should be eye-rolling at his peacock-ing, she was more distracted with that promise that had been given, which sounded absolutely too good to be true, and she still wasn’t sure whether to believe it. “Alastor… You would really do that for me?” she asked to be sure, again not wanting to put her hopes too high on him.

Alastor’s grin made a show and he nodded confidently. “Yes, indeedy! I see big things coming your way, and who else better to help you than I?”

And just then, his grin started to soften into a more thoughtful smile, and Charlie swore that he almost looked the slightest bit bashful, like he wasn’t used to being put into a situation where had to say what he said next.

“Besides, you could take it as a favour that I’d owe you for taking care of me last night. That should rate it.”

Charlie had already been on the edge of the seat as she listened attentively and clung on to every word he uttered, her insides bubbling up so much like a shaken bottle of champagne.

“So,” she heard Alastor say through her racing thoughts, “What do you think?”

Eventually, she said ‘screw it’ to calm poise and couldn’t resist it any longer, hopping onto her feet and squealing in delight as she leaned in towards him. He was clearly taken aback by her sudden closeness, leaning back slightly as he watched her with wide curious eyes.

“This is amazing!” she sing-songed with an excited twinkle in her eyes as she bounced on her feet. “Oh, Alastor! Thank you so much!”

Her heart was beating like a bangtail shoo-ing in for first place at the wonderful news. She would have chided herself for how childish she may seem right now, not exactly acting in the grace she’d always been so mindful of putting on when around his presence. But the thought didn’t really cross her mind, just being simply elated with the news that she was finally once again taking a step in what could possibly be the right direction.

And while she was jumping for joy to herself, Alastor could only watch the sparkling glee in her eyes and the way she was squishing her blushing cheeks in excitement. He was still as he looked at her with his smile, something twitching inside him from seeing the sickly sweetness of the sight before him. He wasn’t used to such exuberant displays of emotion, and it made him feel balled up and unsure of how to make of it.

Yet, he couldn’t deny the admiration he felt from watching the sight. Charlie Magne had one of the most wonderful smiles he’s ever seen, and he’d be damned if he didn’t take great pride in knowing he brought one to her lips.

Chapter Text

As promised, Alastor had talked to the head of the radio station and managed to secure her a slot for airtime on his talk show, of which he would be the one personally interviewing her. Upon receiving the good news, Charlie got right to work, drafting out a script for her upcoming interview. It wasn’t for another few days, but she wasted no time. She needed to make good use of the time limit she had for her slot, and she needed to make sure she managed to get her point across effectively.

Vaggie assisted in helping her go through her talking points, always giving her undivided attention to her during her mini rehearsals and giving her two-cents in on parts that needed improvement. Alastor had been a huge help as well, joining her over noodle juice and java at cafes to go through the process of the interview and giving her some tips and pointers.

She was in her study again, going through another revision and just looking for bits she should skim or parts to make another round of improvements on. She had probably been at it since breakfast, and she wasn’t really much aware of how much time had passed since then. She was alone in the house, as Vaggie had left right after breakfast to head to town to run some small errands, so there hasn’t been anything breaking out of her concentration.

That was until she heard the phone rang.

Snapping out of her little state, she immediately got out of the room to the incessant ringing.

“Hello?”

There was a familiar loving voice.

Charlie!” Lilith sounded on the other end. “My lovely sweet apple! How have you been?

Hearing her mother on the phone promptly brought a huge smile to Charlie’s face. While they still regularly exchanged letters delivered between them by Razzle and Dazzle, it had been a while since she conversed with Lilith over the phone, feeling ashamed as she had been a bit too preoccupied with matters once in a while to remember.

“Oh, hello Mommy! I didn’t expect you’d call!”

I’m no dingle dangler, but I’ve been missing my darling daughter a little more than usual. And I couldn’t wait any longer for you to pick up the blower and dial the rotary.”

The guilt over that set in. “I’m terribly sorry,” she apologised. “It’s just that things have been so very busy after the move. I got so distracted, or else I would have called sooner.”

It’s alright! I’m sure the project of yours is in need of a lot of your attention right now. And how is everything with the hotel? Is it all good?

With the topic brought up, Charlie stiffened. Just how often had she been having this sort of conversation about the hotel? Couldn’t she catch a break and not have any spoken interaction suddenly turn into the topic of the hotel?

“Ah… well, I’m sure you’ve heard about it from Daddy,” she replied hesitantly.

There was a short pause, followed by a concerned sigh. “Oh, yes. I’ve heard about what happened. But you know your father means well, right?

Charlie bit her lip, unsure of how to answer to that. He ‘means well’? If he did, then why did he think shooting her down the last time was the right way to go about showing that? As much as Lucifer had applauded her for her boldness to stand up to him and departed with a loving embrace, she still felt bitter about his doubts on her ability to bring the hotel to fruition, because in doing so, she could feel her doubts grow even more.

Charlie, dear?” Lilith called out, worried about the sudden silence.

“Yes?” Charlie replied, voice heavy. “Sorry… I was distracted for a bit.”

Lilith clicked her tongue in uncertainty, knowing the delicate situation that was at hand here. “I just hope you aren’t too angry at him about it.

“I’m not angry at him…” Charlie assured despondently, slowly being overwhelmed at the thought of her father. “It’s just… What if he’s right about me? What if I’m probably just taking things on a whim and it’s just going to fail as everything else did?”

Her throat began to feel tight, and she was almost forcing her words out through the slight pain there. “It’s been all blaah… I don’t know what to do if it doesn’t work,” she worried herself. “I don’t…”

Charlie,” Lilith said her name sharply, and Charlie immediately closed her head. It clearly wasn’t a scolding, but she was sure her mother wasn’t happy at hearing her let belittling herself.

She didn’t realise she was close on the verge of crying until she felt a single little teardrop stream down her cheek, and she wiped her eyes immediately as she took a deep breath to calm herself. “I’m sorry, Mommy… I’m really behind the eight ball here.”

Another deep breath for composure. “I guess I could really use some advice right now.”

There was silence, and Charlie waited for Lilith to find the words to say. In the quiet moment, her eyes wandered to various corners of the room, something to take her mind off the heaviness, and it wasn’t long after that Lilith’s voice came back on the line.

My love, your father may be really rough around the edges but he worries for you too. And as much as he probably doesn’t say the right things, he’s proud of you for sticking with what you want. You know how stubborn he can be, but you are clearly your father’s daughter! Bless my dear heart that I have to handle both of you!

Hearing the joking exasperation in her mother’s voice made Charlie giggle, and hearing her daughter cheer up even just the slightest brought a soothing lilt to Lilith’s voice. “I know it’s been really tough and people can just be so horrible. But if you have your heart set to it, a lot of hard work and keeping your head up always pays off.

Lilith had always been one to know what to say to instantly make Charlie feel better, and the one that had Charlie’s back despite not being around all the time. Having this moment was enough for her to feel comforted that at least one parent still supported her, so much so that she finally eased up, breathing easy.

“Thank you, Mommy,” Charlie told her gratefully. “I really needed that.”

The smile on Lilith could almost be heard as she cooed gently, “I hope your conscience is clear, my lovely sweet apple. And I hope whatever happens won’t stop you from coming to your father’s birthday. You know how much of a sad sap he’ll be if you didn’t.”

Charlie was at a loss for a split second until her mind immediately brought that realisation the forefront. “Oh, yes! It’s in a couple of weeks. Of course, I’ll be there.”

In truth, Charlie wasn’t one to like going to her parents’ parties. What with her being considered an outcast within their circle, she always ended up being left alone most of the time since no one was favourable of being around her. But the only exception to this was the fact that it was Lucifer’s birthday, and she’d be damned if she didn’t show up to her father’s own birthday.

Wonderful!” her mother exclaimed, very pleased with the news. “I also think it might be helpful in your cause. Some of my guests are from the charities and it will be a good time for you to network. Who knows? You might catch someone who’ll be interested.

Hearing that did well in alleviating Charlie’s mood. As much as she wasn’t looking forward to having to socialise with the snobs of her class, but to have a chance for networking to gain potential sponsors? Hot diggity dog!

“That sounds like the cat’s pajamas!” she exclaimed gleefully. “Hopefully I’ll get some good results.”

Lilith laughed in amusement at Charlie’s burst of enthusiasm. “Here’s to hoping, Charlie! And I’d expect you to be dressed in your Sunday best for the party!


Vaggie didn’t think she could ever trust a man.

They were naturally selfish creatures, fueled by their own desires and willing to forgo all important priorities just to fulfill whatever suited their fancy and never putting much thought into the consequences of their actions. They didn’t give a damn about who they would hurt.

She knew that for herself personally, from the way her father had left her mother so very easily for reasons unknown, probably because he no longer wanted the responsibility of taking care of his wife, his three daughters and his aging mother-in-law. This left Vaggie’s mother to fend for herself and all of them.

Most of Vaggie’s memories as a child was seeing her mother barely get a good night’s sleep from her job as an inn housekeeper, how she always had to count her pennies carefully as she struggled to make ends meet to ensure that there was enough food to feed them all, and how she cried constantly from the stress of having to shoulder the burden alone. 

From then on, Vaggie knew that no man was ever to be trusted, because all they did was hurt everyone around them.

Being the eldest, she had taken up work once she had been of age, doing odd jobs which paid decently and allowed her to help her mother. But luck was good to her when she chanced upon an offer to work for the Magnes as a personal maid for their only daughter. While it had required her to leave her family behind, it paid a pretty penny, enough that she was able to send a generous sum back home in California. It was an added blessing that Lucifer and Liltih Magne were generally kind employers, and Charlie Magne was such a kind soul. 

Over time, the bond between the girls grew that they no longer saw each other as mistress-servant but best friends and companions. Charlie was such a bright-eyed doll who had such a burning passion for helping the less fortunate. But apparently, someone of her character didn’t seem like the norm for her status, and Vaggie watched as all those rich, snobby half-wits laugh at her and belittle her for her ‘stupidity’.

But Charlie was an undaunted one, and somehow, she still found a reason to smile and try again, and her jubilance was almost infectious. She had this energy about her that always seemed to lighten to mood, and even when she was in the deepest of ruts. It was because of this that Vaggie knew immediately then that she wanted to protect Charlie, to make sure that nothing would happen to her, to always make sure that she was safe, and to support her dreams in whatever way she could.

But of course, dangers always seemed to come in the form of men, and now, no man had put Vaggie so much on edge as Alastor Carlon did.

She wanted to believe that it was probably just her deep-rooted distrust of men that made her assume the worst of him. She had wanted to assume that she was just overthinking it too much like Angel had said she was. But she found it odd how taken with Charlie he seemed, stemming from that very moment he had first shown up at their front door, and catching all the suspicious looks that he would give her when she wasn’t looking. She had been a little more on edge with Alastor ever since the night he was brought into the house all roughed-up and bloody. And as much as Vaggie understood that the meetings between him and Charlie as of late had been purely for business for the upcoming radio interview he had arranged for her, his constant presence around Charlie only served to make her all the more wary of him.

And right now, it came like some warning from up above, and at the most inopportune of all times.

Vaggie had dropped by the post office after getting groceries, and she saw that among the letters that were addressed to Charlie, there was a letter for her. She knew it was from her mother, and she opened it quickly to read that her abuela had been sick recently, and had been requesting for her to visit home because it had been a long time since she has seen her, and – knock on wood –  it might not be long before she goes.

And it was as she was reading the letter that she had to chance upon Alastor on the way home.

He was heading her way in the opposite direction, clearly going to work, and she had no place to detour to avoid him, leaving her with no choice but to keep walking. She would have been content with just playing dumb and walking past but he had seen her, and raising his hat and greeting her with a ‘Good morning, Miss Vaggie!’. It would have been passed off as a simple greeting between neighbours if she hadn’t noticed the way his lips curled into that creepy toothy grin of his and the way his eyes narrowed as though he was purposely trying to intimidate her, the look sending a chill down her spine as she forced herself to nod back in greeting and hurry past him.

And now the screaming-meemies were back at full force, and she suddenly realised the risk of her leaving even for a few days. She wanted to go see her family, but that would mean that Charlie would be left alone, and who knows what would happen when Alastor was around.

Back in the safety of their shared home, Vaggie read through the letter once more, and she was immediately conflicted by her decision but knew she had to talk this out immediately. She knocked on the door to the study, coming in when permission to enter was given.

Charlie looked up from her papers and immediately noted that something was wrong. “Is anything the matter? You seem distracted.”

That’s when Vaggie showed her the letter she had received from her mother. Charlie had been insistent for her, talking about how it would be good to see her family again after so long and she definitely needed to have a much-needed reunion with her grandmother, but Vaggie said nothing to the matter, and Charlie immediately knew that she didn’t seem too keen at the thought of leaving.

“What’s wrong? You don’t want to go?”

“I’ll be on the level; I’m not so sure about leaving you here.”

“Why not?” Charlie asked worriedly. “You don’t need to worry about me. I’ll be fine!”

Not wanting to beat around the bush, Vaggie replied firmly, “It’s not you that I’m worried about. It’s Alastor.”

Charlie stilled at hearing her say that, though she honestly wasn’t surprised.

“Charlie, forgive me if this isn’t something you’d like to hear, but I just do not trust that man,” Vaggie said solemnly.

But Charlie - ever optimistic Charlie - had, of course, tried to reassure her that it wasn’t the case.

“I understand that you don’t. But Vaggie, he’s not all that bad once you get to know him. He’s really nice and friendly and…”

“Are you saying that just because you like him?”

Charlie stilled once more. “What?”

Vaggie shook her head with a sigh. “Come now, Charlie… I’m not stupid. You wouldn’t be spending so much time with him unless you liked him, and I can tell that you really do. But just please listen to me. You can’t believe that creep. He isn’t just a happy face. There’s just something about him, and I don’t know what, but he’s a wrong number. And! He basically thinks the idea of the hotel is a joke, so don’t you find it even a bit off that he’s helping you so suddenly for some reason?”

And it was true because Alastor had been the same as everyone else when it came to the idea, thinking it to be absolutely ridiculous. He had been more than brutally honest about it. But then he suddenly seemed to have a change of heart and decided to help her with promoting the hotel with a promised radio interview? It only made Vaggie’s suspicions grew at how contradictory it all seemed, thinking how someone with a thought like him wouldn’t just up and decide otherwise.

The question had thrown Charlie off and she went silent for a bit, stewing over her answer. Vaggie waited patiently, but it bothered her to realise that Charlie almost seemed hesitant at answering.

And, of course, she would somewhat defend him.

“Yes, okay, I may have a little crush on him. But that isn’t the case,” she claimed with affirmation. “Look, I know he’s a pretty intimidating fella and honestly, he can kinda rub people off the wrong way sometimes. But the whole point of the hotel is to give people a chance and to have faith that things will be better. People can change, Vaggie. And if he could change his mind and help me out, who am I to not at least have a smidgen of hope?”

This time it was Vaggie who was uncertain to answer, unsure of how to feel about how serious she was on this. But as much as she would have liked to disagree or find some argument to the contrary, she could only look at Charlie all crestfallen.

Charlie had always been the type to see the good in people and think that everybody should have a chance, even if it was someone like Alastor Carlon. And a part of Vaggie told her that Charlie was Charlie, and she was good and kind and hopeful of everything, and who was she to deny her beliefs? But yet, that was that small inkling of thought that pondered how she could she just be so callow, and she could only wonder if her friend was so far gone with that pill that she was just looking at him through rose-tinted glasses and was now so oblivious to pipe anything that’s all wet about him.

Charlie didn’t seem disheartened at the situation, only giving Vaggie a small comforting smile as she assured gently, “Just trust me, Vaggie… I can take care of myself.”

Her statement was obviously not enough to convince Vaggie, who was still incredulous. But seeing the heartfelt doe eyes of her best friend tugged at her heartstrings.

“Well, I do miss my family, but if it means you will be here alone…”

Just then, Charlie’s eyes widened with a sudden realisation of something. “Funny you should mention that! I had a call from my mother earlier on. My father’s birthday is in a couple of weeks, and l definitely need to be there.”

Hearing that, Vaggie perked up considerably. “Oh! So, you’ll be staying with your parents for the time being?”

“I suppose so, yes.”

It then felt like a weight was lifted off her shoulders, and Vaggie finally relaxed knowing that Charlie will be away with her parents as she was. This meant that she wouldn’t be alone at home, which meant that there will be no way Alastor Carlon would have a chance of being alone with her while she wasn’t around.

Whoop-de-doo!

Hiding her joy, Vaggie only remarked with a tinge of disappointment, “I wish I could join you, but I don’t think there would be a point. I never got to be invited to your family’s parties.”

And that was true. Although Charlie saw Vaggie as her best friend and her parents were friendly towards her, she was still technically a servant in their hire, so she had never been allowed to attend all the events they’ve had. Charlie had never liked this separation of social classes, but Vaggie had been respectful of her parents’ wishes, having said that she already knew what she had coming for her when she took up employment with her family, but was more than thankful enough to be treated so kindly by them.

But that little bit of disappointment would not be enough to deter her from the relief she felt. “Hey, at least it’s great that we’re both visiting family,” Vaggie smiled, all cheered up.

Seeing her smile made Charlie did too as she nodded in agreement. “Although, just imagine how dreary it will be,” she bemoaned the thought. “All the bores and the snobs that I’ll have to handle on my own.”

Vaggie only laughed sympathetically as Charlie mock-swooned in despair, but it was nice enough that the mood between them was finally lightening up, and Vaggie was glad that things have settled as she had hoped and could feel at ease. She headed to her best friend and wrapped her in a warm hug, with the affection returned immediately.

“Just take care of yourself, alright?” she advised firmly. “I really don’t want anything happening to you while I’m gone.”

“Of course, Vaggie. Trust me.”

Knowing that Charlie was still busy with work, Vaggie finally felt satisfied enough to leave the room, promising to not disturb her until it was time for lunch. Charlie only smiled in return as she watched her close the door.

But once she was back in the privacy of her study, Charlie sighed in frustration, starting to feel conflicted. Now knowing that Vaggie’s going to be away, the thought of having to go by herself to a function where all the palookas and Ms Grundys were suddenly didn’t seem all that appealing. Sure, Vaggie wouldn’t have been able to attend in the first place, but at least knowing she would be around the manor would have eased her in the slightest.

But she couldn’t just not go to her father’s birthday. It would only serve to make tensions with him worse, and with the prospect of having a chance to converse with potential investors from her mother’s charities, she definitely did not want to miss out on the chance. But she hated attending these functions alone! And now, it seemed that she’s all set and ready to be a cancelled stamp once more since there definitely wouldn’t be someone willing to stick with her for the night…

Maybe she didn’t have to go alone.

Alastor would definitely make a nice companion.

But… maybe for Vaggie’s sake, she didn’t need to know that.

Chapter Text

Charlie sat alone at Alastor’s desk, going through her talking points for what could be the umpteenth time and quietly rehearsing to herself, once in a while glancing nervously at the intimidating radio transmitter and the microphone placed right in front of her.

Looking in to the room through a glass window, Alastor watched her quietly, busying himself with one gasper before airtime, giving her the privacy to collect and prepare herself quietly.

“You got another ten minutes, Al,” his boss notified when he appeared by his side, looking in to the room at the blonde sitting in complete concentration. “Run by me again, what she does?”

“A ‘rehabilitation hotel’ for criminals,” Alastor answered, taking another puff and exhaling it smoothly.

“And what does that do?”

“Basically, teach all sorts of redhots the goodness of being useful members of society and stop pulling capers to lead a better life.”

“Right,” the boss said slowly, clearly still not understanding the concept. “And since when were you one to care for such things?”

“Oh, I don’t,” Alastor chuckled casually, flicking his ash into a nearby ashtray and adjusting his new pair of glasses. “But the doll needed some help with promoting, and who am I to not help a little lady in need?”

The boss only looked at him a raised brow, not getting the man and his strange request to have the girl be brought in for an interview for such malarkey. But then again, his star radio host has always been a strange one, and that’s not counting the ever-persistent smile he always has plastered on his mug. Without another question, he simply sighed and walked off, leaving Alastor to butt out his cigarette on the ashtray and make a move back to the room.

Alastor knocked on the door before letting himself in, seeing Charlie now looking up from her papers to him with a hint of anxiety in her eyes.

“Nervous, darling? Don’t be! Nobody’s gonna rank you. Well, except me, of course.”

“Oh, ha ha,” she mocked with a small roll of her eyes, a hint of a tilt on the corner of her lips. “They may not see me, but they can hear me if I screw it all up.”

“Hmm. Well, if let’s say you did, at least no one knows how you’d look like! At least that’s a plus!”

Charlie laughed, but it was obvious that it was half-hearted, not reaching her eyes which still held the heebie-jeebies. Of course, it didn’t convince Alastor, who tilted his head at her.

“Come now. What’s wrong?”

For a moment, Charlie thought to keep it to herself to possibly not jinx what she’d been preparing for. But her eyes trailed down, her lips pressed tightly as she began shaking her head softly.

“I… I can’t mess this up.”

It was all she said, but Alastor need not press on for more to know just how worried she was about the interview. It was probably her one-time chance to really put the hotel out there to the masses, and the tension that came with it was heavy. It was going to be all or nothing and she had to be more than sure not to ball up her chances even further, because if she did, she doubted that there would even be a hope of any recuperation should she fail.

Seeing her in that state did not please him in the slightest.

“Charlie.”

And there he goes, saying her name again. She doesn’t know if he’s ever realised it. It may have been an unconscious choice on his part. But he was sure to not know how that simple utterance of just her name from him was capable of setting off warmth in her that she could never anticipate. It was almost silly, considering it was just her name, but for some reason, he just had this effect on her when he said it.

“Dear, you’ve probably poured over that little script of yours every single second of the day for the past few days, and we’ve run this through enough to get you into the flow. I can very much assure you that you will be fine.”

Alastor may not be one to know how to soothe people – that much she knew – but she could tell that he really did mean by his statement-of-facts that he considered that she would surely do well. It may not have shaken off the nerves, but the encouragement did cheer her up noticeably.

“Thank you, Al,” she said, releasing a sigh before taking a deep breath and straightening up in her seat, her eyes no longer holding any smidgen of fear, making his own perk at this sudden change.

“Now, let’s get you ready, shall we?” he informed, glancing at his watch to realise that it’s a few minutes to the broadcast.

“Yes,” Charlie replied certainly, her lips pulled into a grin. “Let’s do this.”

The next few minutes passed in a blur, with Alastor helping to fix on the bulky ear muffs on her head, and instructing her to ‘just speak your pretty little voice into this here microphone, and I’ll work the rest of the magic’. Charlie felt odd with how it clamped to her ears and muffled out her hearing, but pushed that aside and assuring herself that it will only be a matter of time before she could take it off again.

Taking his seat across her, Alastor put on his own ear muffs and made himself all spiffy for an unseen audience, and he proceeded to look at his watch as a hand reached for a knob on the transmitter. Charlie watched quietly, heartbeat speeding up fast as it was suddenly hit with heebie-jeebies again knowing that her moment was in just a few more ticking seconds.

When his fingers began to slowly turn, Alastor flashed a quick look at her and gave her one more reassuring smile.

“Showtime.”


Greetings and salutations, New Orleans! Alastor Carlon here to get you in the know with all the latest around town! I hope you’re tuning in!

Upon hearing his voice come on the radio, Vaggie sat up in the armchair in a hurry, leaning her head towards the device.

She was at home, having been told that she wasn’t granted access to the radio station as invitation was only extended to the invited guest, to which she had suspected that this had been done on purpose by the radio host himself. With not much choice, she had to listen to the broadcast here and not be able to accompany Charlie, which irked her greatly.

Folks, you’re in for a real treat for this exclusive interview today! We have a very special guest here to talk about her latest passion project that’s sure to set crooks back down the path of righteousness to the graces of society, and it’s all done by having a little stay at the very first ‘rehabilitation hotel’ in the city!

Vaggie held her breath in both a mixture of excitement and worry, leaning in closer to the radio as though to hear better, gripping the armrest of her seat tighter than necessary.

Everyone, let’s give a warm welcome to Miss Charlotte Magne!


Charlie had always been curious as to what Alastor must really look like behind the speakers, and now that she knew, she was so amazed at how natural and effortless he was in presenting himself so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Clearly, he didn’t become the South’s most popular radio host for nothing.

But when his eyes flickered from his own microphone to her, it snapped her out of her little gawking to realise that it was finally her time. When he introduced his name, he gestured to her own microphone, and Charlie was almost rushing as she began talking.

“Hello there, everybody! Very nice to meet you!”

She paused, realising her little mistake in her last words. “I mean… I’m not really meeting you… But… Yes, it’s still nice to meet you!”

Her face starting burning up and there was the sudden urge to bang her head down on the table for messing up already within the first few seconds. But before she could consider that option, Alastor already picked up the conversation smoothly, as though she did not just say something dim-witted.

“Nice to meet you too, Miss Charlotte! My, you’re quite the chipper one, aren’t ya?”

“Only when I’m nervous, Alastor,” she replied absentmindedly, but then slapped a hand over her mouth when she remembered that she was having a radio interview instead of a personal conversation with him. Damn, how else more could she mess this up before she even started?

He once more brushed off her folly and continued effortlessly with a polite laugh. “Don’t need to be so! We’re all friendly here!”

He eyed her with knitted brows, showing concern at her performance, and Charlie gulped down the lump in her throat in embarrassment and anger at herself. Not even a minute in and she was already messing up? Completely unacceptable!

Get it together! Her thoughts screamed. Just get it together!

“Now then, why don't you tell the lovely folks out there about this ‘rehabilitation hotel’ you have in the works, Miss Charlotte?” Alastor prompted, his tone curious to incite a similar reaction in the audience. “I think I can speak for everyone when I say we’ve never had a thing here in New Orleans.”

Taking herself out of her inner ‘pep talk’, Charlie used all her might to keep voice steady as she replied, “Ah, yes. I saw New Orleans as a good place to start. The city’s been having some staggering crime rates, and there were sure to be boocoos of criminals, some - if not most - who even relapse back into crime.”

“But what’s someone like you having an interest with criminals? Most folks would tend to rather stay away from them.”

Ah, yes. That question. She’s answered it so many times that it’s almost second nature to her, and she felt a burst of confidence knowing that she could answer this with ease.

“Well, Alastor, I’ll tell you. That’s exactly why; people stay away from them knowing that they’ve served a bit. And that just isn’t fair. It breaks my heart to see them not being treated right just for being under glass, and no one is even given a chance! I can’t stand idly by and watch them be ostracised like that.”

“Is that right?” Alastor asked in his staged voice, though his expression remained neutral. “And how might you go about doing that?”

Again, answering this was a breeze considering she already knew what to say. “So, I’ve been thinking; isn’t there a more humane way to help them? Perhaps we can create an alternative way to change them through… rehabilitation? Well, I think ‘yes’! So, that’s what this project aims to achieve.”

Too taken with the moment, Charlie spread her arms out wide with flourish, as though she was speaking to a huge crowd although it was simply just Alastor who watched her with an amused smile.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m opening the first of its kind!” she announced proudly and jubilantly. “A hotel that rehabilitates criminals!”

One in her position would probably expect an applause, and she may have wanted to flatter herself by pretending that there was one, feeling a glow from it. But alas, it was still just a fantasy and there only came a pause in the air, before the clearing of a throat as Alastor proceeded with the interview casually.

“But why call it a ‘hotel’?” he quizzed in response. “Rather strange name to put it, don’t you think?”

“Oh.” That brought Charlie back down to Earth, snapping out of her little moment and collecting her composure before continuing. “Because I, for one, think that calling it a ‘rehabilitation centre’ or a ‘halfway house’ would only tarnish their prides more,” she stated knowingly. “And I wouldn’t want any more casting out to happen on their ends.”

Alastor considered her answer for a bit, but when he leaned in – as though to take a closer look of her – to speak into his microphone, he sounded so entirely unconvinced.

“But still, a hotel?”

The strong skepticism in his voice threw Charlie off into an uncertain, “Yes?”

Alastor only hummed out loud, and then silence.

And suddenly, a loud chuckle.

“Well, ain’t that a funny way to put it?” he exclaimed incredulously. “I can only imagine how it’ll pull off for some false advertising! You slay me! Am I right, folks?”

Such a statement was clearly meant to rile up an audience with a few good laughs, and not in a way that would benefit Charlie, considering how condescending his tone had been. She was taken aback by this sudden twist, and for some reason, it only served to remind her of how much he still probably though the idea to be complete horse feathers, and so did everybody else.

And just like that, nerves hit her again with a full force, her gut squirming and her shrinking under his look. She had been so sure of herself just now, but all it took was a near-mocking skeptic tone and all the confidence just ran and have her tongue go heavy in uncertainty.

 “You know?... Because hotels are for… people passing through… Temporarily…”

That sounded so damn weak. Oh God, how was she suddenly so terrified?

“I figured it would serve some purpose of… a place to work towards rehabilitation… Yay…?”


Charlie’s panic was painfully obvious.

Vaggie bit her nails nervously, half-fighting the urge to rush out the door and head to the station and just be there for her. She could only curse the radio host ten times over for not letting her accompany Charlie to this interview, for not at least providing support for Charlie to lean on, and for being such a smug and infuriating asshole for saying that to Charlie.

She wouldn’t really consider herself religious, but at that moment, she began to recite all sorts of prayers in the hopes of good luck, praying fervently to Santa Maria that nothing else could possibly go wrong.


Alastor has seen his fair share of bumbling interviewees throughout his tenure as a radio host, and usually it would do well in irritating him to no end at how much of his precious airtime they were wasting. But admittedly, a bumbling Charlie was quite amusing. He might even think it cute at how hard she’s trying.

She should’ve been aware that in this setting, he had to play a part as the interviewer and ask away all the probing questions, and she should have been ready for it even if he asked or said something she wouldn’t like. But clearly, she hadn’t been as she’d thought, and she stumbled quickly.

But in the midst of her bumbling, he noticed that she was starting to tremble, her lips quivering and she looked like she was about to start tearing. Oh, the poor bunny. As much as he held no care for such weakness shown, it did not sit right with him to let her suffer like that. It would probably have her not smiling for days again, and he knew very well that he did not wish to intend that.

From what he knew of Charlie, she sought comfort in a meaningful conversation and even some form of affection like a hug. Clearly, he wouldn’t do that, especially now that they were in the middle of a live interview and in his workplace.

But seeing no other option to stop the doll in her state, he did what he could try best.

Wordlessly, Alastor reached his hand out and placed it a mere few inches shy of hers on the table, but his fingers stretched out a slight bit more to graze against the tips of hers.

This made Charlie get out of her little slump to look to him, and he held her gaze while he continued on as though this little moment wasn’t happening. “Well, that certainly does sound like an interesting way to put it, Miss Charlotte,” he said, sounding a tad too cheerful in response to her lacklustre answer. “Now, I hear you’re still on the look-out for potential sponsors. How do you suppose you can convince the people of New Orleans that this would be beneficial for them?”

Charlie did not answer immediately, still at a loss of words since her train of thought had wandered the minute his fingers were on hers. He did not move his hand away, but he did press, “Miss Charlotte?”

That was when returned to attention to be aware that she was asked something. “Sorry, what was the question again?”

Alastor graciously repeated himself. “How do you intend to look for the right sponsors for the hotel of yours, and also show what good it could bring to the city of New Orleans?”

It was a question that required her to do some pondering for the answer, but her mind was admittedly elsewhere as she pondered about his hand. No doubt, it had taken her completely by surprise, since she had been sure that he was bothered by how much the interview was turning out to be a flop. Clearly, this meant otherwise, but it was so unlike him as well, especially in his touch. It felt different than the ones he’s initiated before, which had always been more formal and proper.

This felt personal, closer, and – dare she say it? – intimate.

So much so that she couldn’t stop herself.

Not wanting to risk a negative reaction due to his aversion to touch, Charlie lifted her fingers carefully, feeling the smoothness of skin against her nails. She looked to him to see him watching her with careful eyes, but she felt no resistance in him and did not feel him pull away. So, taking her chances, she moved her fingers so that they were between his, and with a hitch of her breath, she ever so gently began to twine her fingers with his, closing in the gaps until their hands were laced.

Surprisingly, he did not flinch from this and neither did he seem to be disturbed by it, as she would have presumed. The surprise culminated further when their fingers were finally wrapped around each other’s, and she started felt a slight squeeze of his hand when they were locked together. 

In the midst of anxiety, her heart raced even more at this unplanned physical contact between them. She had never held hands with Alastor before, and she couldn’t help but notice how well her hand seemed to fit with his. She felt his warmth on her touch, and he even stroked his thumb almost soothingly on the top of her hand, sending a warmth erupting from her core.

And for some reason, this little lovely gesture not only fluster her, but it had put her at ease. She could feel the lump in her throat go away suddenly, and her heart calmed its racing pace down until she could feel like she wasn’t going to probably lose her breath, which she regained it with a deep inhale.

“Well, Alastor. Clearly, sponsorship only stems out of one’s own interest. They’ll have to want to play a part in making a change. But everybody wants to be recognised for what good they can play in their part for the community, ya follow?.”

 “Yes, that is true,” he nodded in agreement.

That gave Charlie a push in the right direction to continue. “Any funds put into the hotel will be put into engaging counselling services that would specially cater to each and every patron and assist in their individual ‘rehabilitation’ progresses, and also to fund for activities that would assist in the growth of skillsets that would be useful for them once they venture out to look for work.”

A pause and a deep breath. “It’s safe to say that the sponsors’ gracious donations would ultimately help in lowering the crime rate of the city of New Orleans, and they’d be recognised for playing a part in such a huge development in the city.”

When she finally finished her sentences, she took another breath when she saw him giving her a smile of approval.

“Now isn’t that hotsy-totsy! You hear that, folks? You’ll be doing a great service in the name of New Orleans by being a sponsor! Won’t that be good repertoire?”

Hearing his positive response truly brightened up her spirits more and she smiled back so wide as she gave a gentle squeeze as a silent answer. This made Alastor’s eyes widened at this sudden action, and she thought perhaps she must have acted a bit too rashly. But he did not say anything and his hand remained in her hold as he continued speaking, unfaltered by their little private exchange.

“Now, Miss Charlotte,” he continued on smoothly. “I think the real question here is; what would you hope would impact the patrons after their stay at the ‘Happy Hotel’?”

It was once more a question she was sure about answering, and her growing ease and confidence were at a peak to respond with gusto.

“They are still people and they do deserve to be treated as such, and the hotel is a way for them to build a bridge of reformation to move on from their lives as hoods to hard-working and motivated members of our society. They’ll be able to live normal lives, work and earn their keep, and even be motivated to stay on the path as we help to monitor their progresses even after they’ve ‘checked out’.”

Her thumb began to gently stroke the top of his, feeling the callousness of his skin. which sent the warmth in her to grow ablaze, fuelling her vigour in her speech.

“Every single one of us has something good deep down inside,” she stated with confident affirmation. “I know that, and it’s time people know that too.”

To her statement, Alastor only nodded once. His smile was soft and smile as he watched her with unreadable eyes that were crowned with a knit of his brows. Charlie wasn’t sure if this expression of his meant that he wasn’t comfortable with their hand-holding, but still, she could not feel any resistance from him, allowing herself to embrace his little moment.

But then he gingerly pulled his hand out of her grasp and back to himself, and Charlie felt a twinge of disappointment at the loss of contact, and ger hand nearly followed his before she stopped herself. She kept still as she watched as he brought the hand up to look at the watch on his wrist while he reached out for the knob on the transmitter.

“I’m afraid that’s all the time we have with Miss Charlotte, everybody! Are there any final words you have for our lovely people there?”

It was almost over? Well, isn’t that a surprise! But she felt more relieved that the nerve-wrecking moment was over. She put down the yearn for his touch – still have to be professional, after all – and cleared her throat for her closing. Since it’s about done, might as well she put a little fun into it, she supposed.

“Well, simply put; I have a dream, and I’m here to tell about a wonderful fantastic new hotel. It's one of a kind, right here in New Orleans, catering to a specific clientele.”

Her little nonsensical sentence made Alastor huff a laugh of amusement, and she could only wonder if the audience on the other side of the radio were probably as amused as him.

“Well, you’ve heard it right here, folks! If you know anybody who’d love to catch a stay in the Happy Hotel, or you want to give a helping hand for an honourable cause, be sure to call in for more information! I’m sure potential patrons will look forward to a great stay at the Happy Hotel!”

Alastor nodded once to her that time was up, and Charlie exhaled a silent tense breath that the interview came to an acceptable conclusion, wanting nothing more than to pull off the bothersome thing on her head. She smiled small as she raised a thumbs-up, showing that she was all good.

“Now, how about we take a short break, shall we?” he announced to his audience. “Coming up next, we’re giving you the lay-down on the latest entertainment for you to enjoy!”

After a few seconds, he turned the knob to get them ‘off air’, and Charlie could not resist sighing out loud in relief.

Chapter Text

“Well, that went well,” Charlie exclaimed, the heavy tone of sarcasm duly noted in her voice. “I’m pretty sure that I did not just make a complete fool out of myself in all of New Orleans.”

“Don’t think too much, doll. You did much better than I had expected, I’ll say!”

Alastor stood behind her with arms folded behind his back, having accompanied her outside upon the end of their broadcast. Not facing him, Charlie blushed at this reassurance, partly because she knew that he was just saying that to make her feel better about her copacetic performance, but mostly because once again, she was remembering that little moment of hand-holding they shared in that room. Noticeably, Alastor did not make any more gestures nor did he brought it up, and so Charlie could only keep to herself and continuously be flustered about it internally.

“Thank you, Alastor,” she said simply, keeping her voice levelled. “I just hope that there might be some progress after this.”

Alastor jerked a nod with his grin big and wide. “I’m sure there will be, but as much as I’d like to ponder on the interview’s success, I’m afraid I can’t stay out for too long.” He raised his hand – the hand that had held hers, she realised with a blush – to look at the watch on his wrist. “Tom’s taking over part of the next segment, and I simply cannot let New Orleans be bored to death by that poor sap’s sorry excuse of a voice!”

“Now, Alastor, that’s rude!” Charlie scolded with a chuckle.

“But it’s the truth,” he answered uncaringly. “Anyway, I suppose you should hurry along home. I’m sure Miss Vaggie’s waiting anxiously to hear how it went.”

“Wait! I have something to ask you.”

Alastor was about to turn when the doll piped up, and he tilted his head curiously at her suddenness. “What is it, dear?” he inquired.

One thing he learned about Charlie was that she was a pretty easy picture to read at times, and he could tell from the way her eyes looked away in deep thought and how her lips kept pressing themselves tightly consistently that there was a hesitant uncertainty as she mulled over her question.

“Ah, well… You see. My father’s birthday will be happening on June 6th,” a shuffling of her feet and a fiddling of her fingers, “and Vaggie wouldn’t be around to accompany me back to Baton Rouge to attend.”

Alastor continued to watch her quietly and waited for her to continue, and Charlie was sure she could have broken under the weight of his look, making her look down to the ground when she finally said it.

“So… Well… I was hoping that… you would be agreeable to be my companion for the night?”

Finally getting that out of her, she let out a silent breath she didn’t realise she’d been holding and nervously regained her composure enough to look back up at him.

Admittedly, she had been expecting that he would say ‘yes’, probably because he had always been agreeable to anything she had suggested thus far, and usually, they would start to plan to talk about it for another day.

But right now, it appeared that it wasn’t so, noticing a flash of hesitation cross his face, and did his smile somewhat falter even for the tiniest bit?

That confused Charlie, as much as it made her worry just the slight bit that her invitation may have been a bit too rushed, now that she thought about it. As far as she knew, they were still ‘dating’, but it’s not as if they have confirmed a relationship with each other. And here she was, basically inviting him to meet her parents, and who would do such a thing when they weren’t even anything to begin with?

Before she could explain herself or even take back the invitation, Alastor finally replied with a simple, “I’ll think about it.”

And that was that. Nothing more was said on the topic, and Alastor finally bade goodbye with a wave of his hand before he turned to head back inside the station. No usual taking of her hand to give it a peck there, which only somehow made the situation worse. It had seemed almost as though he was trying to rush out of the awkwardness that now clung in the air.

Charlie stayed standing on the pavement, her eyes still rooted to where he had disappeared inside, speechless and unsure of how to feel.

 It was only a few seconds later that she suddenly started to smack herself on her cheeks repeatedly, rushing off back home as she berated herself for being so stupid and making things awkward.


This.

What was this?

What was he doing?

Nursing a tumbler of gin in one of his hands, Alastor silently sat at the bar and stared at his other hand in a look of pure confusion and disdain.

This hand. The hand that, for some who-knows-what reason, had reached for Charlie’s in a show of comfort, and had allowed her to take a step further by holding it in her own. He remembered the sensations clearly. How her dainty fingers had itched to feel his own, how she had approached his digits with scared anticipation, and the way she gently and carefully twined hers with his, gripping him like it was her own pillar of strength.

This was the very hand that only just a few nights ago had held the door leading to her bedroom, hell-bent on turning the doorknob and giving him entrance. It had been waiting in a raging excitement to get itself on her slender pale throat and take her gorgeous life in his grasp. It wanted to paint her smooth porcelain flesh into a canvas of red and black and blue and to bathe itself in her warm blood and feel its silky smoothness on his skin.

And it was this very hand that had let go of the doorknob before it could even make a twist.

Even after the few days that had passed since then, the thought kept buzzing around in his head like an irritable pest, making him question over and over again why he hadn’t just done and did it. Was it the sentiment that she had taken care of his messy state? Was it because she provided him with a pillow and a blanket that insufferably held the scent of her perfume? Was it something to do with the sudden thought of her lovely smile that had flashed in his mind?

And why did he actually had the impudence to actually have his thumb stroke her smooth pale skin when she dared to intertwine her fingers with his, giving her the comfort that she so needed then?

What the hell was this?

This was unlike him, and it was completely unacceptable.

This would not do well at all.

“Hey.”

It was like that familiar gruff voice was his saving grace out of these disgusting thoughts. Alastor snapped out of it immediately to find Husker looking at him with a frown.

“You got off your rocker for a moment there?”

Alastor chuckled, shaking his head as he brought his glass to his lips, taking a sip of the now-watered down gin. “Aren’t I always, Husker, ol’ sport?”

 “A lil' more than usual, I’ll say.”

This was the first time the bartender had seen the radio host since his sudden call that night, and he did have to admit that Alastor did seem more different. Hell, even his smile was different. Looking so strained and on edge, it was obvious that something was bothering him. But Husk knew all too well that the man wouldn’t even divulge any information to him, clearly for the sake of his tremendous ego, so there wasn’t a bother to press him on the matter.

Alastor hadn’t noticed the contemplating look the bartender was giving him, and neither did he notice that the speakeasy had been quiet until there was a sudden blare of music taking on a smooth whangdoodle. Now, that wouldn’t have been of any concern to him, usually tuning it to background noise, but there was something new to the music tonight that caught his attention immediately. 

It was a singing voice. One that he was all too familiar with.

Breaking out of his stupor, he turned his head immediately to the stage, and the first thing that caught his eye on stage was a woman, short and plump with her dress hugging prominent curves, a jewelled hairband with a feather adorning her head of sleek straight blonde hair with its short locks framing her chubby face.

The canary sang with a voice as smooth as butter and hit her notes as high as the ceiling, but while there was such a focus to her song, her eyes seemed to be wandering, searching for something in the crowd.

And it found it, on him.

Holding her gaze from the distance, he saw her lips pulling into a smile, like a cat that got the cream. 

“You didn’t tell me she’s back,” Alastor remarked to Husk.

The bartender only shrugged, not paying much mind to the exchange that what was going on. “Didn’t think much of it,” Husk replied nonchalantly. “Don’t suppose you’d be interested to see her again.”

Alastor said nothing more, only watching her blankly as she performed to the crowd that was swooning for the singer, and it was obvious that their attentions were not all that interesting to her, ignoring them in favour of watching him. Her gaze was intent with a poignant depth, a mixture of all sorts of heartfelt she was experiencing just from looking at him alone. 

Ah, well this indeed turned out to be quite the turn of events for Alastor, one he wasn’t sure what to make of.

When the music came to a perfect close, the audience cheered, and the canary gave a delicate bow before exiting the stage just as the musicians flowed into another song. But instead of disappearing off to wherever the acts went, she sauntered through the tables on the main floor, walking with a purpose in the stride of her short gams. Alastor kept watching her, knowing very well where she would be led to.

Finally, the dame arrived at the bar, standing before him with a hand on her hips, her lips curled into a sweet smile as she looked up at him with sultry eyes.  

“Hello, Alastor.”

Alastor’s own smile titled just the tiniest bit as he raised his glass to her.

“Mimzy.”


Imagine going to the bayous to dump some cut-up unwanted parts of a victim, only to accidentally chance upon the scene of a chubby little flapper hacking a cheating ex-boyfriend and his mistress into a bloody pulp?

It had been a shoddy job that left Alastor scoffing at the amateurism of it, compelling him to teach her how to properly dispose of the bodies, even helping her to expertly cut up their parts to make for easy chewing for the gators. He would say that as much as he wouldn’t want to get involved in the business of others, it was still a funny thought in his lifetime to chance upon someone like him, which what prompted him to.

It was only after getting to know Rosie and the speakeasy that he discovered that Mimzy was her star singer. It could probably be a Chinese angle of chance, but New Orleans was a tiny city after all, so it wouldn’t have been a surprise that they of the underground would eventually come to know one another. Needless to say, they did strike up a friendship since then, sharing a love for drinks and songs and cigarettes.

And, of course, some little instances of murder.

Mimzy with the green eyes ironically got easily green-eyed with any woman who she felt was or potentially could upstage her, and she saw it as her get-away-quick schemes of taking out potential competition. Alastor saw this ‘modus operandi’ of hers to be quite laughable purely because it seemed so petty of her, but then again, he killed for the thrill and to make a good meal out of it, so who was he to judge?

But she was adamant in leaving that part of her for the sake of her dreams of becoming a recognised singer. And true enough, the last he had seen of the aspiring star had been when her big break came when she caught the attention of a patron who just so happened to be a talent scout. He took her away on tours across states far from the grasps of Louisiana, gracing glamorous clubs with her melodious vocals and making the heads of many men turn at her chassis. Mimzy was well on her way to stardom, and it might probably be a matter of time until she winds up in Tin Pan Alley.

But after so long, she seemed to have found her way back to New Orleans, and what better way to celebrate a homecoming than at her favourite speakeasy surrounded by old friends?

Alastor and Mimzy caught up together at one of the best tables of the joint, filling their systems with good giggle-water and nicotine. She did most of the talking and recounted her travels while Alastor indulged her by listening attentively. It seemed she had quite the adventure while she had been away, all precious dimpled smiles as she spoke of little bits of gossip and had a good laugh here and there, and it almost seemed like the night seemed to pass by so quickly as the band played a tune that added a nice touch to the warm ambiance.

Oh, but what wonders liquor can do to immediately change that, and it was after a few drinks in that things started to take on a more… sentimental tone.

“I’ve missed New Orleans. Once you’ve been around, you realise that there isn’t any place like it.”

And how,” Alastor cheered with a nod of agreement and a raise of his glass. “But New Orleans isn’t moving. Unlike you, my dear. So why not just simply stay?”

“There’s nothing here for me to stay, Al,” she answered pointedly, taking a polite sip of her martini. “New Orleans is a tiny town and I want to make it big out there. There’s really nothing tying me down here.”

Alastor clicked his tongue skeptically at that. “Oh, come now. Surely that must be something! Pray tell, what could New Orleans have to could hold your heart’s desire?”

There was a shift in the air between them when Mimzy’s small smile tilted downwards, painting her whole expression into one of sadness as she gazed into her martini glass. And immediately, Alastor stiffened slightly at this sudden change, internally regretting asking that question, all because he knew all too well in what direction the conversation had turned to.

Mimzy took a quiet sip of her drink and pursed her lips, before she sighed and looked at him sadly, telling him, “You know it would have been something if you had accepted my proposal.”

Throughout knowing her, Alastor always regarded Mimzy as a good friend, treating her with kindness and chivalry that a man would to a lady friend. But it was very clear to anyone who knew them that while he may be taken with her singing and her own capability to put a man down, it was obvious that Alastor did not feel anything for Mimzy, especially not any strong form of affection that could be akin to ‘love’. Nothing had gone on between them; no instances of romance or even one dalliance.

Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be for Mimzy. She saw him as her saviour, a light at the end of her dark tunnel, somebody who understood her better than anyone else could. Being the hopeless romantic that she was, she ended up falling for him, and very hard in fact. So hard that she had continuously clung on to the hope that he would miraculously realise that they were ‘meant to be together’.

But that hope was shattered when it all went downhill the day she had accepted the offer from the talent scout. Her hesitation to leave without Alastor had led to an almost heated conversation between the two, which ultimately culminated in Mimzy actually proposing to him, going on a whole ramble about eloping and running away where people won’t know who he was, and they could be free to be themselves with no risk of anyone on their heels.

But Alastor, as blunt as he was, shot her down with no remorse, making it clear that while she was a dear friend, he simply did not love her, and doubted that he could feel anything for her at all, so there was no way in hell did he want to get insured with her. And being brutally honest as he was known to be, he went on the up and up by saying how he wasn't going to leave behind his job, his livelihood, or his ‘hobbies’ for her, just because she wasn’t even worth it.

That had her leaving town with a heavy heart, and he never heard of anything from her ever since, other than the occasional letters that her dearest best friend Niffty would have read out to him. But aside from that, he knew nothing of what the doll had been up to during her time away.

But clearly, she still continued to carry a torch for him.  

“Now, now, darling. I’ve made it very clear how I felt,” Alastor replied stiffly.

Another quiet sigh, this time heavier. “Yes, I know. You don’t have to remind me,” Mimzy said, in a voice coming close to tears. “It’s just… Oh Alastor, you know damn well what I feel for you… What would it take to win that heart of yours?...”

“You’re drunk, dear.”

“I’m sober enough to remember your answer...”

No immediate reply came from Alastor, who remained quiet at how resolute Mimzy was in finding out the answer. But while others could feel pity for her at her lovelorn state, he did not.

In fact, he only found it very laughable.

He had never been one to be concerned about the matters of the heart. He’s seen first-hand how ‘love’ turned people into fools and it disgusted him, so by no means was he eager to put himself in such a state. Honestly, he didn’t even think there was even any single bout of romance in him to feel such a way for anyone else. Maybe it was something he unconsciously ingrained into his mind, or probably there was just something in his being that wasn’t built for that. Whatever it was, he did not mind it and neither did he care for it.

And besides, Mimzy wasn’t one he could find himself fancying too much. The skirt simply made herself duck soup for him, willing to take any forms of chances that came her way to impress him, like singing a song that he liked or even taking a life in a way that could quip his interest. While the effort was ‘cute’ and appreciated, Alastor found that rather dull and boring at seeing how incessant she would be to throw herself at his feet. Have some dignity for oneself, for goodness’ sake. 

Even when she had left, he particularly didn’t really care so much. It didn’t even make him feel even a pinch of sorrow. Now though, he had been willing to forget their little ‘situation’ to be a warm friendly face welcoming her back into town, thinking that they could move on from the past and look bright ahead. But clearly that wasn’t the case, and resolute to his decision, he still felt nothing from her despite how she clearly had held him close to her heart.

Alastor could only imagine how it would be if he should ever come across the interest to potentially make her one of his next victims; there probably wouldn’t be a need to lure her in since she was so foolishly enamoured with him that she would have followed willingly and make the game a quick win. 

And that was that. There was just simply no excitement that came with her. There was no bite. There was no thrill of the chase. It wasn’t what he would be looking for. It wasn’t like…

It wasn’t like Charlie.

Alastor suddenly became lost in thought, confused at why his mind had drifted to her.

Charlie Magne had been quite the chase for him thus far, and he’d been quite patient to draw it out as long as he could as he kept up with the charade of being someone who’s interested in her to get her to harbour a crush on him. It was supposed to be a normal moth-to-the-flame tactic, but there was just something else about this chase that somehow has him drawn too, and he realised that she seemed to be stringing him along as he did her.

He wasn’t really sure what it was. It was probably her happy-go-lucky demeanour or her infectious smile that she always manages to muster, or the fact that the dame wasn’t a weak sister like she looked and had the gall the retaliate him should she feel her point wasn’t coming across. A lot of his victims – and Mimzy included – had been the type to be so feather-brained to be swayed easily by his charms, but not Charlie. While the crush was obvious in her shy looks and sudden blushes, she wasn’t some fool in love to want to please him in matters that she felt didn’t please herself.

No, no. Miss Charlie Magne knew what she wanted for herself and wasn’t afraid to bite back. He had seen it since their first conversation on her front porch, and the day she stood up to him on the pavement when they were walking to town together.

But along with that boldness was the sweetness that clearly made up her psyche. That night in her living room, she had been so adamant of taking care of him when he was as stubborn as a mule to not want to go to the hospital. How she had been so careful with him, had respected his space when she asked for permission to touch him and worried herself about not letting him be alone for the night.

That union of boldness and sweetness that she had in her suddenly made him think back to the incident this afternoon, gazing silently at his hand as the strange new sinking feeling hit his gut. She had been daring to have their hands together when all he gave was a simple brush of his fingers, but she hadn’t done it in a way that was on her own rash accord. She had been slow and gentle, watching him carefully to be aware of his reactions. He did admit that he had been uncomfortable with her touching, but seeing how she was cautious in doing so, it somehow was a bit endearing to the man, and he felt it only fair that he indulged her.

But considering the sinking feeling in his gut, he knew it was a risk of him getting soft on her, and he simply cannot have that. He’ll have to be more aware on not giving Charlie too many chances. She was turning out to be more dangerous than he could ever give her credit for.

Yet, chances aside, Charlie Magne was like an enigma he can’t quite seem to comprehend just yet, and there was definitely something alluring in his latest escapade. Thus, it brought him to the same inane question that had been lingering around the recesses of his mind; what was it about Charlie exactly that had him so captivated?

Well, whatever it was, he sure didn’t mind sticking around with it for a while more. She’d probably be a more worthy prize for his end once he’s gotten what he wanted.

Not a word had been spoken between the two since Mimzy last spoke, and she took the silence as hesitation on Alastor’s part to answer. Knowing him well enough that he wouldn’t say anything he didn’t feel the need to, Mimzy thought to just cut her losses there and then and let the matter go unrest – it was the easier option, rather than to have herself hurt by whatever he would think to reply.

Finishing up her martini, she took a deep breath to keep her voice composed. “I think I’ve had enough for tonight,” she announced, sounding like she hadn’t just nearly become a crumb. “Would you be a gentleman and walk me home? I think I got my noodle too corked.”

“Perhaps, you can get Husker for that, dear.”

Mimzy was almost out of her seat and ready to leave with him when she heard him say that, and that made her froze and look up at him with a confused, “Huh?”

Alastor too got out of his seat, not looking at her as he said, “My apologies, Mimzy. But I do believe that it would not be appropriate on my part.”

Mimzy was almost uncertain if she had heard that right because of how many drinks she’s had for the night, but seeing Alastor putting back on his suit jacket and fedora without even giving her a look sent an aching feeling to her gut. “And why not, Al?” she questioned almost desperately, wondering if the turn of their conversation had something to do with it.

Straightening out his attire, Alastor’s lips were pressed into a thin smile as he sighed in what could be akin to frustration. His mind was laden with heavy thoughts and liquor, and it was not a good mix. He almost didn’t want to say anything, considering how the answer almost left his tongue feeling heavy.

But ain’t it the truth?

“I’m seeing someone now.”

Chapter Text

When Vaggie finally left for California for the next couple of weeks, Charlie had just about accepted the fact that she was going to have to go back to Baton Rouge to stay with her parents, and the mere thought of the upcoming party and the socialising ate at her with dread.

But lo and behold, Alastor buzzed on the day that she had left, telling her that he had a think about it and yes, he would love to be her companion to the party.

It was honestly a surprise for her, considering how awkward the interaction was that day when she had asked, and she still worried herself that she might have scared him off that day. But hearing his answer with that smile that she liked made her more than relieved at the thought that the air was cleared, and the fact that she wouldn’t need to go home back to Baton Rouge and having to deal with all those bores by herself. 

Not that getting to go with Alastor as a date wasn’t really what got her excited the most.

She wanted to thank him in some way for accepting her invitation, and cooking a nice dish seemed appropriate, considering the foodie that he was. Beignets had been her first option – sweet foods for a sweet gesture – but she was quick to remember that her neighbour did not really hold a fondness for sweets. Luckily, one of the cookbooks she had purchased had a recipe for savoury potato beignets, something she felt might suit his fancy. And she’d been meaning to try her hand in the kitchen for a while now, so why not?

To her delight, the beignets turned out perfect, and she couldn’t resist popping one into her mouth and just sighing at the deliciousness of the potato. Arranging them nicely on a platter and covering it for warmth with a cheesecloth, she made her way to Alastor’s doorstep, knocking on the door once, twice, three times, before waiting, bouncing on her feet as she looked at the platter in her hands all excited.

The look went up when the door opened, but then it fell flat when she realised that she was looking at nothing instead of Alastor.

“Hi, there!”

The voice made her jump from its shrillness. It was a girlish voice, and it sounded from right below where she was looking. Looking down, she saw an unfamiliar face standing there with a big grin.

“Oh, hello!” Charlie greeted, smiling back. “I don’t think I know who you are?”

She’s never seen this girl in the neighbourhood before. She was young and very short, almost looking like a kid although Charlie was sure that she was probably a teenager. Bright red hair poked out from under her cloche hat, and she smiled with her eyes so wide it almost seemed crazed. But curious as she may be about this new girl, she was more concerned about the fact that she was in Alastor’s house.

“I’m Niffty!” the girl introduced herself enthusiastically. “Nice to meet you!”

Despite her concern, Charlie still kept her smile on. “Likewise! I’m Charlie!” she introduced back, giving a wave. “Sorry to bother, but is-”

“Oh, were you looking for Mister Al? He’s out to run some errands, but he should be back soon!”

Well, isn’t that a shame.

“Are you a friend of his?” Charlie asked politely, still wondering who the heck she was and what was she doing in Alastor’s house.

The girl – Niffty, she said her name was – tapped her chin thoughtfully. “Hmm! Well, I consider him a friend, but he’s more my boss than anything else, to be honest!”

“Your boss?”

She nodded. “Uh-huh! I clean up all his messes once in a while! And let me tell ya, he sure can leave the place looking like a sty! Anyway! I’ve never seen you before! You new here?”

“Oh, yes! I live in the house next door.”

The little doll’s eyes widened in excitement, and her grin stretched. “Oh, you’re Mister Al’s new neighbour?”

“Well, not really. I’ve been here for a couple of months now.”

But Niffty prattled on with a bounce. “Ain’t that the cat’s pyjamas! The previous one was just a boring old hag! Probably good riddance to her! At least you’re pretty! Ohhhhh, Mister Al’s sure to like you!”

Charlie couldn’t stop the blush that she could feel suddenly heat her cheeks up when she heard the last bit. But before she could get too far into a blush, there suddenly appeared a man inside the house walking behind Niffty. One with salt-and-pepper hair and a gruff demeanour, judging from the way he looked at her when he paused in his step.

Niffty turned to see him and immediately exclaimed, “Oh, Husk! This is Charlie! Mister Al’s next-door neighbour!”

Charlie raised a hand and waved, greeting a smiling ‘hello’, but he – Husk – only hummed and gave a tilt of his head in greeting, staying where he was and watching her. The hard look in his eyes made him seem really guarded, though wearier if anything else. And judging from the strong smell of liquor that wafted around him, Charlie could tell the man sure was a boozehound.

“’Soooo what’chu got there?”

Charlie looked away from Husk to find Niffty eyeing the platter in her hands. “Oh, just some potato beignets I’ve made for him,” she explained. “It’s a ‘thank you’ gift for Alastor.”

“Now, ain’t that sweet!” Niffty squealed in girlish delight. “I don’t there’s ever been anyone that dared to do something like this for him! Wowie, you must really like him, huh? I can tell from the way your face be lookin’ like a ripe cherry! Do you think Mister Al will like it? I think so!”

Niffty said all of that so fast that Charlie was barely able to catch up, and she was almost at a loss at what to reply to this stranger, and no doubt she was blushing once more at the brashness of it. Well, this girl was quite direct now, wasn’t she?

“My, my! I don’t remember calling for a party on my doorstep!”

All three of them turned in the direction of the voice to see Alastor standing at the foot of his porch steps, grinning as he eyed the scene with curious wide eyes. He clearly was back from running errands, having a garment bag draped over a forearm, while his other was carrying a bag of groceries.

“Good afternoon, Alastor!” Charlie greeted, her grin returning as she turned to him, no longer involved in Niffty’s chatter. “It’s good that I’ve caught you!”

“Good afternoon, Charlie! I see you’ve had the pleasure of meeting Husk and Niffty, my two dearest friends!”

Alastor stepped up the porch until he was right beside Charlie, moving his grocery bag to his other arm to have one wrapped around her frame, holding her close to him that she was pretty sure how warm she was starting to feel at this gesture, stilling immediately at this unexpected contact. But he didn't seem to be aware of that as he gestured her to his guests.

"And absolutely wonderful that you both got to meet my lovely neighbour, Miss Charlie Magne!”

Niffty's ear-splitting grin stayed, but Husk’s expression suddenly turned from bored and uncaring to one of shock and bewilderment as his brows raised and his eyes widened noticeably as he looked between Alastor and Charlie, making her a little confused at this weird response.

“So, what brings you here to the other side?” Alastor asked, letting go to face her properly. “This is a first you’ve ever come to my doorstep. Usually, it’s the other way ‘round!”

She was suddenly reminded of the purpose of her visit, and she excitedly held up the dish to him. “I’ve made you some potato beignets!” she told him cheerily, smiling wider at his surprise.

“Oh!” Alastor exclaimed, eyeing the platter that was up to his face. “Why, darling, you shouldn’t have! My, the trouble you must’ve gone through to make these for silly old me!”

“Oh, think nothing of it. It’s just a thank you for accepting my invitation. Though, I would hope you won’t have any second thoughts about it…”

He chuckled as he shook his head adamantly. “Of course not! Lookie here, I’ve even gotten one of my best suits mended back to top-notch quality!” He gestured to the garment bag draped on his forearm. “Wouldn’t wanna be looking nothing but the best for such an occasion!”

Hearing that brightened Charlie up noticeably and all sorts of doubts she had about him reconsidering disappear. 

“Niffty, do be a dear and have this put away?” he asked the young girl kindly, leaning down to hand his garment bag and grocery bag to her, which she nodded obediently and rushed off back inside. Husk followed right after her, giving one more look to the two before he did, making Charlie feel a little odder about it.

But she didn’t pay much attention to it when the platter was suddenly taken from her hands, and Alastor was grinning kindly. “This will sure go well with dinner tonight! I hope you’ve made a batch for yourself too?”

“Ah, well, not really. I have an appointment at the boutique down by the river to have a dress made at five. So, I’ll probably be having dinner out instead.”

Alastor raised his hand to look at the watch on the wrist, giving a low whistle. “Well, I’d say you better breeze off now, darling. You might be running a little late!”

He showed his watch to her and she just about gasped out loud, in disbelief that time had flown by so quickly while she had been busy. She almost ran off his porch, but not before giving an exasperated beaming smile and waving away as she headed back to her house. Alastor stayed where he was with the platter of potato beignets, watching with a chuckle until she was inside the house, before heading straight for the kitchen where Husk and Niffty were.

The girl was busy sorting through his bag of groceries and putting them away in the right places, having done so many times before and always keeping it neat and organised like how he and she liked. Husk, in the meanwhile, was smoking at the small table in the centre of the room, in somewhat tensed silence.

“I take it that it’s all cleaned up?” Alastor inquired.

Niffty nodded enthusiastically. “Yup! No bloodstains whatsoever! But the stairs are starting to creak though! You oughta get that fixed before it breaks under your feet!”

“Duly noted, dear.” Alastor placed the platter on the countertop before taking a seat next to Husk. “Butt me,” he asked, and the bartender pulled a stick out of his deck and handed it to him. Alastor relaxed in his seat as he lit his cigarette, taking a peaceful drag and pretending as though he hadn’t noticed Husk watching him with a suspicious glare, his mind filled with concern at the realisation that had just hit him with the recent encounter with Alastor’s neighbour.

“So, that’s her?”

“Hmm?”

“The girl you chilled off that fat fuck for.”

Alastor paused in blowing out smoke as his eyes darted to the side at Husk, and he slowly exhaled the rest in a chuckle. “Hmm, what gave it away?”

The fact that he didn’t deny it confirmed Husk’s suspicions. He wouldn’t have done it if it were otherwise.

“Her last name’s Magne. I remember that’s the name he said last night,” Husk recalled the events of that night at the speakeasy.

“Mm-hm.” Again, Alastor wasn’t denying it.

“’Charlie Magne’?” Niffty, in the middle of sorting through his icebox, suddenly spoke up in realisation. “Ain’t she the barlow you had on your radio show a couple of days back? Something about being a ‘reformer’ for criminals in some fancy-schmancy hotel?”

“That is correct, yes.”

Hearing that made Husk glared daggers at Alastor even more, seething, “What in the fuck do you think you’re doing?”

But he, as usual, brushed it off in the most infuriating – at least to Husk – light-hearted manner. “My, my, Husker! So, you do have a caring side!” Alastor exclaimed with a pat to his shoulder. “Seems like not having a snoot full every few seconds can really do wonders for you!”

Husk ignored the line and brushed his hand off.  “Jesus Christ, how long you’ve been having this girl sticking around you? And you haven’t even done anything to her? What, you’re even ‘dating’ her now?”

Now that made Alastor laugh, as though the very mention of it made him so bashful. “Well, I don’t see how that’s any of your beeswax, but for the past couple of months or so, yes!”

Niffty gasped aloud at hearing that. “So, what Mimzy said was true? I can’t believe it!" With a wagging finger and a frown that didn't really make her look even the slightest bit threatening, she admonished, "Mister Al, you broke her heart!”

The mention of her name made Alastor roll his eyes at the sudden repetition of the thought. “Mimzy’s broken it herself when she can’t decide to just bury the hatchet and move on, Niffty dear. Besides, I’ve been finding myself quite taken with my little neighbour so far. She’s clearly a good game, that’s for sure!

None of the two piped up in agreement. Instead, it was only met with a firm, “You do know the shit you’re getting yourself into, right?”

Husk was now so chockful of irritation that it finally made Alastor look at him with narrowed eyes. “I’m sorry? I don’t think I quite know your onions, Husker.”

Husk was really not holding back on how much he thought this to be not so good. “You’re going to a party with her. And not just any party. A family party. Everybody’s gonna see you two together, thinking you’re some prick wanting to get with her. But once you’ve got her and did whatever you wanted with her, who’s the first person the peepers gonna look for once she vanishes from the trace of the Earth?”

Butting out his cigarette on an ashtray, he raised a finger – still dirtied with the blood and grime from cleaning up the ‘mess’ earlier on – and pointed it right at Alastor’s face. 

“That’s right, your creepy mug."

Alastor remained quiet as he watched him, so Husk continued on. "And when shit goes down, it ain't going to be just you. It's going to be all of us. Ever thought of that?”

Sometimes, when Husk was just the right type of sober, he was someone who could actually make a lot of sense on the risks and probabilities of a situation, although mostly for the benefit of saving his own ass instead of actually looking out for another.

And yes, of course he had thought about it. Alastor wasn’t the type to do things without first weighing the scales on what his options were. Remembering that Charlie came from a family of money and was part of high society, her disappearance was sure to have her face be the next one plastered on the newspapers and her name broadcasted on the radio waves. And of course, with the appearance of himself with her, a new strange face that she’s associated with, no doubt would he be one of the first to be questioned by the law on her.

However, Alastor prided himself on a lot of things, and being smart and thinking way ahead of himself was one of them. He knew that this would need some planning for the end-game, and he had a few tricks up his sleeve that could ensure that.

And maybe, just maybe, the Big Apple could come in handy in covering his tracks. All he needed was to strike an attractive counter-deal with the honcho that would benefit himself, but that’ll count for another lot of meticulous planning.

All in due time.

“No need to worry about me, my friends. I’ll have it all under control."

Butting out his cigarette, he looked to the two with a wide grin that didn't really seem to match with his slitted eyes.

"Just do me a favour and don’t stand in my way while I enjoy this little game, hmm?”

And there it was, the appearance of the sinister grin and the voice coated with dark intent. It would be a lost cause trying to convince him otherwise – his mind had definitely grown a berry patch for the girl, and an absolute rotten one at that. Niffty only looked on in uncertainty, whereas Husk grumbled a low string of cusses and bemoaning the thought of being dragged into another load of hot bullshit. But both said nothing at Alastor’s firm decisions.

When they’ve felt that they probably had outstayed their welcome, both quietly beat it, leaving Alastor by himself in the kitchen. The conversation had taken a backseat on his mind as he readied himself to get dinner prepared, wondering if Niffty had already stored the ‘meat’ inside the icebox for him.

But just as he was about to go check, his eyes caught sight of the platter on the countertop.

He paused for a moment, staring at it blankly.

And then he grabbed a fork, and lifted the cheesecloth to find a stack of golden-brown potato beignets that were still fresh and warm. Poking one of the tots, he popped it into his mouth and chewed thoughtfully.

It was delicious.

Oh, darling Charlie.


While Charlie wasn’t one to mind wearing something off the rack or something she had already owned, Lilith would be rolling in her grave at the thought, and her mother sent her quite a hefty sum to have an urban set made by the best seamstress in New Orleans. She needed an outfit that would be glitzy for the occasion. Knowing her father, no doubt would the party be extravagant; Lucifer Magne always had a knack for flair, to the point of being absolutely flamboyant.

And she didn’t think there was anyone more suitable to have the opinion on dressing from someone as so flamboyant as Angel Dust.

Since Vaggie wasn’t around, she thought it nice to bring Angel along as company. He’d been more than happy to follow if it meant getting to spend more time out of the hotel, and he had been quite pleasant thus far, save for the current razzing.

“Awww, isn’t that cute? You making him food and all!”

“Oh, hush, Angel. It was nothing.”

“Uh-huh. With the way your face is burning up, I don’t think it was nothing.”

If the seamstress – a strict-faced but otherwise lovely wizened woman – wasn’t busy having her stand still to take her measurements, Charlie was sure to have gone to him and give him a good smack on the arm. But for now, she could only huff in minor annoyance, only making her friend chuckle in amusement.

“Aw, come on, babe! I’m just messin’ with ya! I think it’s sweet.”

Charlie said nothing. She was flustered enough as it is. When the seamstress was done measuring her, she changed the subject by head to a large roll of fabric. “Oh! What about this one?” She held a stretch of bright yellow chiffon out to show him. “Really goes well with my hair, don’t you think!”

Angel’s nose scrunched at the colour, his lips pursing in disgust. “You looking to go for an afternoon tea party? Try something a little flashier!”

He seemed to be taking this quite eagerly, judging from the way he looked around the boutique, admiring all the different types of colours and materials and design display. Charlie took notice of the look of wonder and excitement – and was the reminiscence, she saw? – that was clear on his face.

“Do you like going dress-shopping, Angel?”

Angel nodded as he held a test piece to her frame. “Molly loved it, and Arackniss was too much of a pussy to wanna be seen in a boutique so I’m always the one she brings. That, and the job sometimes gets me dressing up. So, I know a thing or two.”

“Really now? Any advice you’d be so kind as to impart on me then?” she asked while holding up green fabric to show him.

“Sure, I can! And one piece of advice I can give you now is ‘stop tryna’ look so innocent’!” He said the last bit with such an exasperated slap to his forehead. “Come on, Charlie! Try something a lil’ flashier! Don’t you wanna at least try to impress Alastor?”

Charlie immediately swatted his arm and put a finger to her lips as she shushed him harshly. “Not so loud, will you!” she scolded. “Alastor’s really famous around here, and we’re not even together or anything yet! I don’t want to give off the wrong idea!”

But her scolding had an opposite effect on Angel, who whistled cheekily, giving her a particular look with raised brows. “Oh, but you wished you were, don’t you?”

She turned away from him sharply in what was a further annoyance, but she couldn’t help blushing with a smile threatening to tilt her lips as she looked away, tucking a lock of her hair behind her ear as an act of fluster. Seeing this, Angel’s expression softened noticeably.

“You must really like him, huh?”

“Oh, am I that obvious?” she asked with a roll of her eyes.

“Like an open book, babe!” he said, ruffling her hair to which she puffed her cheeks out. “It’s cute really! Ain’t the joy of first love such a look?”

Charlie straightened up with a particular look and shook her head firmly. “Not really,” she clarified. “He isn’t really a first.”

That got Angel looking curious. “Oh, you’ve had someone before?”

She nodded with affirmation. “It was a family friend. We’ve been together for about a year?”

“And what happened with him?”

“He moved away to Britain for university. But we ended way before that, just ‘cause I felt like he didn’t really understand or supported me in the way I wanted.”

Angel hummed at her statement. “Lemme guess; he thought your whole charity disposition is a big joke too?”

The sigh she released confirmed that fact. “A harsh way to put it, but yes,” she said. “Just like all the others. Thinks it’s a load of bushwa for me to want to waste time for people below the class. Just another pompous fool, and I didn’t really like having that in a partner.”

Angel scratched the back of his head at the last bit she said. “Well, from what I heard from Vaggie, isn’t Alastor the same?” he inquired.

That stopped Charlie in her tracks, whipping around back to him with a frown. “Vaggie’s been talking to you about Alastor?”

Angel scoffed loudly and rolled his eyes. “’Talk’? She complains about him every single chance she gets. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say she completely hates his guts.”

“Just what exactly does Vaggie tell you?”

“Oh, lotta things,” he said roamed through all the fabrics that were on display. “Says he isn’t to be trusted and all because he’s hinky as fuck, and she thinks that he’s planning to ruin you in some way because he’s some heel. And! That he looks like he wants to eat you.”

Charlie turned red as a tomato, making Angel laugh out loud at her reaction.

“Oh, not like that! Although, that was my initial thought too,” he snickered. “But no, she feels that he literally wants to eat you.”

Says you!” Charlie exclaimed indignantly, crossing her arms in disagreement.  “She thinks Alastor is some sort of… cannibal?”

“Eh, who knows what kind of iffy thinkings Miss Guastafeste has for Mr. Radio Host.”

Charlie kept quiet as she stewed over the ridiculous statement that had just heard, but she could feel something inside her starting to sink. Now, the guilt that she was keeping this a secret from Vaggie was started to gnaw at her, her best friend’s distrust in Alastor coming to the forefront of her mind as she remembered their conversation about it in her study.

“Hey, Angel?”

“Hmm?”

“Don’t tell Vaggie about this, please?”

Angel had been distracted with scrutinising a length of velvet he picked up in his hands, but what she said made him turn his attention back to her, looking to see the fear and uncertainty and guilt that was clear on her face, and something in his head clicked then.

“You didn’t tell her about this?”

Nervously, Charlie shook her head. “I told her that I would be staying over with my parents,”

“And why’d you lie to her?” he questioned further with a cock of his head and a hand on his hips.

Charlie scratched the back of her head anxiously, bearing with the sinking feeling in her gut as she admitted. “Exactly because of this. Look, I get why she’s feeling that way about him. She has her reasons. But really, I don’t think Alastor’s that bad. Sure, he can be a bit of an ass, but he has been really kind and sweet to me.”

And suddenly, she was thinking back to that little moment at the radio station, and she gazed at her hand with a thoughtful smile. Even with her uncertainty of where their ‘relationship’ might be heading to, she still couldn’t help fancying the thought that her handsome neighbour might like her back in some way. She knew, as much as she felt bad about keeping this a secret from Vaggie, she was still adamant in her choice that there was absolutely nothing to worry about.

“I really do like him, Angel. Really. But I just didn’t want to worry Vaggie. I know I can take care of myself for this.”

Angel saw the way she had said that so heartfelt, and for a moment, he admired the sort of innocence she had in her. It was really sweet to think that she trusted him enough to tell him this and bring him along to pick out a new outfit, endearing even. Besides, he knew that he still owed her for giving him free lodging, and if the little thing that he can do in return was to help her keep this secret, then by all means. 

“Don’t worry, babe,” he assured her with a pat on her head. “My lips are sealed.”

Hearing his earnesty, Charlie gave him a grateful smile, and a comfortable silence fell on them until something outside the boutique's window caught her eyes. 

It was a man nailing a poster to the telephone pole next to the street. Nothing out of the ordinary, but she saw the emboldened title on top of the poster and there were two pictures right below it. She didn't know why, but something about that poster seemed really off, and she made her way closer to the window to have a clearer look. She stared long and hard at it, not really able to see clearly until the man moved away to the next telephone pole. Now in clear sights, she squinted at the poster from the distance a little more carefully.

And she froze.

She felt her heart sink to the ground.

Angel was surprised when Charlie suddenly walked out of the boutique with the rushed clicking of her heels outside. He followed after her, finding her standing completely still in front of the telephone pole, staring at it long and hard at the poster that had just been put up. It seemed that the longer she looked at it, the paler she got. The way her brows furrowed in worry and her lips starting trembling in the slightest piqued Angel's curiosity enough to come over and look over her head at the poster.

It was a missing poster, and underneath the word printed in big bold letters were clear pictures of the two idiots that were all too familiar with. The ones that he had the unfortunate luck to have encountered twice, that had tried to hackle them a second time had it not been for the thankful intervention from Charlie's radio host.

“Damn. Now, ain’t that a coincidence?”

Charlie said nothing to that, the sinking feeling in her only getting worse at the thought that this was too much of a coincidence.

Chapter Text

“Two boys, this time. It’s just getting scarier and scarier, ain’t it?” the head of the radio station remarked as he scanned through today’s paper, reading the front article of the latest case of missing persons.

“Seems to be,” Tom remarked as he too read the same article from his own newspaper.

The article gave the run-down on how it had been more than a week since they’d been last seen, even reporting how it probably linked to a mass splattering of blood that’d been found one night on a pavement at Lafayette around the time of their vanishing. Of course, the dear families of these two young lads had put images of their faces up for the lost, spreading word around New Orleans and nearby in the hopes of having them found.

Alastor only quietly stared at the pictures printed out on the front page, solemnly thinking how it all wouldn’t have been the case to begin with if these two good-for-nothing souls hadn’t decided to jump him that very night.

“Well! Seems like I better get going!” He placed the newspaper on his desk before getting up and getting ready to leave since the working day was over for him. He’d rather head back home for a nice meal and a book than be sitting here reading news that wasn’t all that surprising to him.

“Oh, Al! Before I forget.”

The boss rummaged through the papers strewn all over his table before finding a couple of letters that were among the mess. “You got some mail here.”

“More fan letters, I assume?”

“Oughta be, considering you’re the only one ‘round here that gets it.”

Tom made an obvious scowl, which Alastor made a point to grin at him before bidding goodbye to the both of them. Making his way out, he busied himself with opening one of the letters to have a read on his ankle home. He expected the typical sort that he would usually receive from fans, phrases and sentences that would hold a declaration of adoration for him. He already had a stack of those tucked into a drawer of his desk. So, probably after giving a shout-out to the sender with his thanks and well-wishes, it was going straight into the collection and never to be seen again.

But scanning the parchment in his hand, he found to his surprise that it was not a fan letter like he had expected, and his brow raised higher and higher at the surprising content of it.

He opened the next one, and by George, it held the same type of content as the first.

My, my! Charlie’s sure gonna love this!


It was all a coincidence.

Yes, that was all it was.

A coincidence.

It only just so happened that those two men had vanished without a trace, just like how that Mr. Alfonse had. It was just chance that all three of them had disappeared so suddenly after she had an encounter with them.

So, Charlie told that to herself, over and over again.

This has nothing to do with me. I’m innocent. I didn’t even see them ever again.

It had been a few days after she had last seen that missing poster, and following up with a little bit of her own research, she discovered in today’s newspaper that those two were the latest in the string of missing cases that’s been happening around New Orleans. And a little more delving and she found out that none of them had turned up with any new leads, like Mr. Alfonse’s case. It seemed that every single one of them had vanished without a trace.

Try as she may push away the irking feeling in her gut, her mind was noisy against the intrusive dread.

Nothing to do with me.

A loud knocking on the door was what tore her out of her silent dilemma, and she snapped back to reality, the newspaper she had been trying to read again forgotten on her lap. She stilled for a moment, staring at the headline that was facing up at her.

YOUNG MEN LATEST IN MISSING CASES! SOMETHING SINISTER AT HAND IN NEW ORLEANS?

Nothing to do with me.

Absolutely nothing.

“Oh, Charlie!” A sing-song voice called out to her so suddenly.

Alastor?

Finally properly snapping out of the moment, she hurriedly got up to head to the door to answer, and she felt herself immediately smile when she saw Alastor there, a wonderful smile already in place to greet her sights.

But before she could greet him properly, he cut in immediately with a loud and cheerful, “Congratulations, darling!”

“Huh?”

Without another word, Alastor handed her a couple of letters that he had with him, both already unsealed. This only heightened her confusion more so, but when she saw the expectant look on his face, she proceeded to take a letter out and read it.

The first few seconds hung a silence between them, but then Alastor’s smile started growing at seeing her eyes starting to widen to the size of saucers as she read through the letter, her pupils looking through the words written with increased speed. The reaction only grew as she started reading through the second letter, her fingers covering her agape mouth in her state of surprise.

When she finally finished reading, she looked up at him in wide disbelief. “Alastor… Is this for real?”

The twinkle of wonder in her eyes that this must seem like a far-fetched dream was so adorable that Alastor couldn’t help but laugh in happiness for her.

“It seems so! Looks like you already have your first few patrons coming in line!”

The letters had been from two different people – one a mother with a son recently released from a three-spot, and another an older ex-convict who had been in and out and had no place to go and nowhere to turn to. They’d both listened in to her interview on the radio, and both were willing to take up a stay there in hopes of receiving some help.

This seemed a lot to take in – not one, but TWO people had written back! That was definitely more than she had expected!

A few seconds passed in silence as Charlie continued staring with wide eyes. Alastor’s smile stayed, though slowly he was beginning to wonder if she was alright.

And he was answered when she unexpectedly let out a loud girlish shriek of delight.

“THIS IS AMAZING!”

She was bouncing up and down on the spot like a happy bunny, holding the letters close to her heart as though they were a precious gift, and it somehow reminded Alastor of just a week ago when she had done the same when he offered her a slot on the radio. And like that time, he beamed internally at the thought that he had been able to put that precious smile on her lovely face. Felt prideful, even.

Just as sudden as she started jumping in joy, she suddenly stopped and looked absolutely frazzled.

“Good golly! There’s so much to do!” she exclaimed. “I’ll have to do up the whole hotel!”

Alastor only listened in amusement as Charlie went on and on of all the new things that she needed to do while she subconsciously rushed inside to put on her coat and hat and grab her purse, still talking to herself when she came back out and locked the door behind her.

“Give the walls a new coat of colour and probably get some new bedsheets! Maybe a few decorations here and there…”

She seemed to have been too into her list of things to do to notice that he was still there until she got to the foot of the porch steps and stopped, finally ceasing to speak as she turned to look at him with a light smack to her cheek.

“Oh, di mi, I’m sorry to have rushed out like that! Would you like to accompany me, Al?”

There was a pause in the air, and the unreadable smile that he had on made it difficult for her to determine if he was possibly hesitating her invitation. She waited, watching as he came down after her, and her smile came back to her lips when he held out a hand to her.

“Would love to, doll.”


It seemed like it’s been a while since they’d gone out together like this, although this was less of a date and more of errand-running.

In the short expense of time before the sun had set, Charlie had managed to head off to contractors, furniture stores and carpenters to arrange for some work to be done to the hotel. Alastor had been a huge help, especially in smooth-talking the owner of the furniture store to offer a hefty discount for everything that Charlie wanted to purchase.

Over dinner, which Charlie had strongly insisted that she paid for as a treat for the good news and for Alastor coming along with her, she had decided that she would plan a grand re-opening of the hotel a few months ahead. She was still in need of funding and employing for the hotel, so that would give her an ample amount of time to make sure that everything was all set and ready to go once constructions and refurbishing were done. Now all that’s left to do was to go back on the grind to find said potential investors and get interviews for guidance counsellors and general hotel staff.

“Oh, this is so exciting!” she bubbled to herself as they took a walk after finishing dinner, their arms linked although both her hands were squishing her cheeks in glee. “I can only hope they’ll love it at the hotel! All the activities I’ll have lined up for them!”

“Now, now, darling! While it is the absolute cat’s pajamas, it’s only a couple of people now. Three, if you count your friend Angel. Don’t need to rush through everything as of yet.”

Despite Alastor’s point, Charlie did not seem deterred. “Yes, I should probably be more realistic, but I can’t help it! Imagine it, Al! This is just the start! And soon, more and more people would be coming to the hotel to want to be reformed. Crime rates will drop in no time! People will be able to live better lives!”

Alastor only nodded in answer, his eyes kept on her lips which stayed in the grin she had on since she had first received the news. Charlie sure did look mighty pretty with that smile, and seeing her delighted like so was a sight he needed to behold.

During the lull in their conversation, they suddenly heard the echoes of music coming close. The sound of street musicians filled the air, playing different rhythms that divulged into one melody in the ambience. The closer they walked, they realised that there was a small fair going on in Jackson Square.

“Ah, looks like one of those random town fairs have popped up again,” Alastor explained with a knowing look. “It happens ever so often here in New Orleans.”

While this was a scene already somewhat familiar to Alastor, it was a first for Charlie around these parts, and the eagerness that’s been filling her up since the evening was now bubbling like a bottle of champagne just waiting to pop. He saw the excitement that painted her, almost looking like a kid that’s about to head into the candy store. It was a very cute look, and it made him want to indulge her like so.

“How about we take a look? Unwind after a busy evening. Shall we?”

The only answer he needed was Charlie’s jubilant smile, and so off they went, strolling through the fair, stopping ever so often to watch a small performance or look at the booths selling an assortment of knick-knacks and trinkets. This little outing seemed to have only brought her happiness and excitement to new highs, and Alastor couldn’t really recall a time that she had ever looked as such since they’ve first known each other. It was so new to him, and it was so exciting.

“Oh! Take a look at that, Al!”

To where she pointed, tucked away in a corner of the fair, was a small makeshift tent, decorated with nothing except for a sign outside that read MAMA IDA’S FORTUNES.

“Fortune-telling?” Alastor said incredulously with a raise of his brow. “Didn’t take you for the type to believe in all that, Charlie.”

“Oh no, I don’t,” she clarified with a shake of her head. “But the whole point of it is to just have fun, right? Just have a kick of having your ‘future’ told?”

With her hand on his arm, she led him towards the tent with a carefree grin. “Besides, I’m feeling lucky tonight! Come on!”

Alastor only followed obediently on this little whim of hers. Approaching the tent, he parted the curtains aside to let Charlie go in, first seeing the ominous glow of candlelight. “Hello?” she called out.

Inside the tent sat an old Cajun woman behind a clothed table, who was reading a book when she looked up to see the both of them coming in. “Enchanté!” she greeted warmly in her heavy accent, standing as she welcomed them with outstretched arms. “Mama Ida, at your service. You lovely folk here for a fortune tonight?”

Charlie nodded her head eagerly. “Yes, please!”

“Well, cher, come see and make yourself comfy.” The fortune-teller gestured to the chair across the table. Charlie took a seat there while Alastor stood right behind her quietly, and Mama Ida tucked her book under the table before placing her hands palms up on the table.

“Give me your hand, sugar.”

She leaned forward and placed a hand into the woman’s leathery ones, and the fortune teller closed her eyes as her thumbs began to trace the surface of Charlie’s palm. She stayed quiet and only watched as anticipation started filling the air. Even Alastor started leaning in, observing the scene warily.

“You’ve just received good news, have you not?”

That first thing spoken already had Charlie perking up excitedly. “Oh, yes! How did you know?”

“Your aura is light with luck and good tidings,” Mama Ida explained, a finger tracing a line on her palm. “The pieces are coming together and the wheel is soon to be set in motion. You will finally reap what you sow.”

“Really?!”

Weh. Fortune will come to you in due time. Your efforts will pay off and what you seek will be found.”

The light-hearted tone in her ‘prediction’ served to better Charlie’s already good mood, and she was certainly pleased to hear such wonderful things being told to her that really lifted her morale even more. She had been about ready to start bouncing in her seat all giddy with happiness, wondering what more she had in store.

But then, the fortune teller raised a finger up, making her cease immediately.

“I must give you a word of caution, though,” she began solemnly with a tone full of warning. “A meddling of the heart and the mind will bring you distress more than what you have ever faced. Turn you into a real de’pouille if you aren’t too careful.”

Alastor huffed silently with a roll of his eyes, thinking how of course what the old woman had said before seemed too good to be true. But Charlie, on the other hand, seemed a bit at a loss of what she was hearing, uncertain of what to feel at this unexpected turn.

Distress more than what she’d ever faced? Now that did not sound good at all.

“So what do I do?” she asked the fortune teller. “Is there any way to stop it?”

Mama Ida hummed in contemplation as if seeking the answer from some unseen force around them. “Choose your path wisely, for there will determine your fate from the here on out.”

Before Charlie could ask any more, Mama Ida had now opened her eyes, smiling warmly at her as she released her hand. Charlie sat there in silence as she looked at her palm in wonder, in awe at what she had been told from simply a touch, but still feeling the inkling of nerves at the thought of the ‘distress’ that was coming for her.

“Don’t be afraid, darling,” Mama Ida spoke to her in her heavily-accented voice with a tone akin to motherly concern. “Just trust in your instincts and you will find a way.”

Charlie said nothing, only nodding quietly.

The woman then turned to Alastor, who was watching Charlie with mild concern. “Will you like your fortune told too, podna?”

Realising that she was speaking to him, he waved a hand dismissively. “Oh, no need. I’m just here accompanying the little lady, is all.”

Hearing that, Charlie stopped in her little moment of reflection to voice her disagreement. “Come on, Al!” Her voice had returned to normalcy, feelings of nervous doubt pushed aside as she focused on him. “It won’t hurt for you to try!”

Charlie was already out of the chair and gesturing for him to take a seat before he could even get a word in. The doll sure was an insistent one, and he only sighed with a defeated smile as he found himself facing the fortune teller, who already had her hand out. He hesitated, and Charlie remembered at that moment about his notions against touch, making her feel a bit dumb and ashamed that she hadn’t remembered.

“Hey, it’s okay,” she said to him with a comforting smile.

“No need to be honte, good sir,” Mama Ida encouraged, hands still open and ready to take his. “A feel is all I need.”

That seemed to have struck a chord in Alastor, and Charlie wasn’t too sure but he looked almost embarrassed and bordering on insulted that they were giving him such a look. “Oh, don’t worry about me, darling!” he assured Charlie, and to prove his point, he put his hand on the outstretched ones without further hesitation.

Turning it over to have his palms up, Mama Ida closed her eyes once more as her thumbs began to feel over his skin like she did with Charlie. Alastor stilled under her touch but otherwise made no disagreement as he watched her. Behind him, the doll gripped the chair as she loomed over watching in quiet anticipation.

“I can tell you are a very successful man,” the fortune-teller began. “Hardworking and good at what you do.”

Alastor chuckled heartily at that statement. “Heh, why sure, I’ll say,” he preened with pride. “You certainly must have heard me on the radio!”

Mama Ida did not answer him, her eyes still kept shut in concentration as her thumbs continued to stroke his palms, feeling every line as though to decipher something from it. While Alastor only eyed her hand cautiously, Charlie was watching the fortune teller intently, waiting in a bit of excitement as to what she would predict next.

But all of a sudden, she noticed how Mama Ida’s expression started to change. Her shut eyes were now squeezing tighter, just as her brows knitted into a frown. There was a sharp inhale of breath, and in the dim light of the candles, she could see her eyes moving around frantically underneath her lids, as though triggered by what she saw in the darkness.

Kagou…”

Coupled with that look, that foreign word that was uttered didn’t seem so good. The anticipation in the air started to turn heavier into tension, and Alastor and Charlie could only look in a stressed silence, watching her, wondering what was going on.

 “Now this here’s some real bad juju in your essence, boy.”

As if on cue, both their eyes widened.

“I beg your pardon?” Alastor asked with a weirded-out cock of his brow. “’Bad ‘juju’?”

 Mama Ida’s eyes stayed shut, another shuddering breath taken as she continued. “I see the shadows lurking all around you. They be drawn to you like a moth to flame.”

“What in the world are you saying?” Alastor could not help himself but comment, his eyes narrowing in disdain.

The woman exhaled another breath urgently, as if it was suddenly difficult to breathe. “Each day their ahnvee grows and grows, and they feed you as you feed them,” Mama Ida told him grimly, finger tracing a line on his palm in her search for more answers, shaking her head at what she’s feeling. “Continue on this path, your envie will become your downfall.”

Despite the sudden turn of suspense, Alastor only started laughing incredulously. “Well, that’s practically nonsense!”

He sounded very unconvinced, but listen carefully and one could hear the bite in his voice that indicated he wasn’t happy with what he’s hearing, making Charlie almost thrown off by this minute display of agitation.

Break it up,” he prodded on loudly, almost as if to challenge her. “You don’t really see anything, do you?”

At that question, Mama Ida suddenly stilled, and even her fingers were not moving on Alastor’s. That made him turn mum immediately, and both of them watched her with bated breaths. The building up of suspense and unease was practically coating the air around them now, and Charlie swore that she could almost feel the beating of her heart resonating within the silence of the tent.

The moment came to a crescendo with a release of yet another shuddering breath, as Mama Ida said a simple sentence.

It was a really direct sentence.

It was also a really grave one too.

“I see your very being, coated in red.”

Something about that sentence made Alastor immediately withdrew his hand out of her grasp and suddenly get up, the chair dragging noisily as he did. The sudden break in the atmosphere made both Charlie and Mama Ida jump, both their eyes darting to him, who simply pulled his wallet out of his jacket pocket and threw down a couple of notes onto the table.

Surprisingly, his demeanour was calmer now as compared to just a few seconds ago, his smile present as ever as if nothing happened. But Charlie knew him well enough to know that this wasn’t the case.

“Well, thank you for your time, Miss.” Alastor tipped his head to Mama Ida before looking at Charlie, eyes showing that he wanted to leave, dusting out promptly.

The whole time, Charlie had stood in stunned silence, her attention too wrapped around what was said about Alastor’s fortune. But as she watched him leave the tent, she quickly took out a couple more notes from her purse and handed it to Mama Ida.

“Thank you for your time!” Charlie said in a rush of embarrassment as she hurried out of the tent, finding Alastor waiting outside. That strained smile was still there, a clash against his eyes that seemed to be clouded with thought. It was clearly forced and strained, as though to placed there to refrain himself from acting any other way.

“Alastor?”

His eyes turned to her, and the smile softened just the slightest bit.

“Well, I’m starting to feel a little pooped now. How ‘bout we head back home?”

So, they started making their way out of Jackson Square, away from the fair and away from the fortune teller’s tent. It was a quiet walk, and Alastor kept to himself with his hands in his pockets. Charlie only followed alongside him, watching from the side of his eyes.

He looked bothered, a look that seemed quite foreign to his usually smiling demeanour, and it didn’t sit well with her.

“Alastor?”

“Hmm?”

“Are you alright?”

“Of course, darling! Everything’s Jake! Why would you ask?”

“Ah, well, ‘cause you seemed a lil’ shaken up from the fortune-telling…”

At that, he laughed out loud, taking a hand out of his pocket to wave the air in denial. “Nonsense! What’s a bit of mumbo-jumbo from some grifter lookin’ to make a quick buck out of a chisel?” he guffawed.

“But, how could you tell that it was all nonsense?”

“Simple really!” he exclaimed, a hand waving to gesture to her. “Look at you, all bright-eyed in wonder and looking so elated. So it’s obvious that you were happy about something. A clear indication for her to make a guess that you got ‘good news’ for her to prattle on, with a sprinkling of the common warnings of not taking any wooden nickels with it. Pure common sense!”

When he put it that way, it did make a lot of sense. Fanciful weaving of words, it did seem like something one would say to a jovial individual, and the last bit only a word of advice that anybody would give anyone.

But still, logical as it may sound, it didn’t answer one thing.

“Then what’s about yours?”

For a short moment, Alastor stilled at her question, eyes blank as though he too was trying to come up with some answer. Seeing him being so silent only added more to the fear and nerves that had taken root inside that tent, giving her goosebumps at the fresh reminder of it.

But his normal façade returned as smooth as though he had not just been silent, replying smartly. “Well, it would have called her out as an obvious phony if she only gave us good fortunes, right? Being told what we want to hear simply wasn’t so realistic! Probably she’s just looking to cause a bit of a scare for us to more believing in ‘mystical all-seeing powers’.”

Alastor laughed at the thought mockingly, as if the speculation was the funniest thing he’s ever heard. On the other hand, though, Charlie did not laugh.

She knew she must have looked quite foolish at that moment. She herself had said that she did not believe in fortunes, but as much as she wanted to believe that it was all a bunch of hooey, and coincidence or just good deduction or not, Mama Ida had been spot on with foretelling what had been going on in Charlie’s life from just the touch of her hand alone.

And if she had been that accurate, what could be made of from what she had read from Alastor’s hand?

Seeing her in that state of deep thought made Alastor suddenly stop walking, turning to her with an exasperated sigh. Without warning, he lifted a finger and brought the tip of it gently to her nose, and she jumped at the unexpected contact. Charlie was almost cross-eyed as she looked between his digit and his eyes, which were closer now as he leaned in with a grin that seemed smug.

“You best be careful not to make yourself a chump for that sort of scam!”

That was all he said with a boisterous laugh, and just as suddenly as he did, he pulled away and brought her hand to his elbow again as they resumed walking.

Charlie only side-eyed him hesitantly, feeling an unresolved tension hanging in the air between them, but she held her tongue and said nothing more, unwilling to broach the subject any longer for his sake.

Alastor was about back to his usual self again once they’ve reached their neighbourhood. Reaching her doorstep, she had about forced herself to set it aside in her mind in favour of thinking about the progress that they’ve made today. That made her feel better immediately, and her mood began to lift at remembering those letters.

“Thank you so much for today, Alastor.”

Alastor bowed his head. “It’s always my pleasure, Charlie. I’m just glad that I was able to be of help today.”

A finger came forward to tuck a lock of her hair behind her ear, and no doubt he would have felt the warmth of her cheek from his touch. “I’ll see you on Sunday?” he asked.

That reminder of their plans for this coming Sunday made Charlie chirp, “Oh, yes! This Sunday. Yes, I’ll see you then.”

With a nod, Alastor took her hand to give her a peck on the knuckles. “Rest well, darling,” he told her sweetly before releasing her and waving goodbye, making his way to his own house.

Charlie stayed where she was, wanting to make sure he got to his door before she went inside. But as she stood there watching, the thoughts that she had been forcing to the back of her mind started to creep out to the front, the unresolvedness starting to bite at her gut. Words started forming heavy on her tongue, weighing on her to speak.

 “Hey, Alastor?”

Hearing her call out his name, Alastor paused in his step and turned to her. “Yes, Charlie?”

“It might sound silly, but I don’t think there’s anything bad about you at all.”

Without waiting for his reply, she waved to him one more time before finally entering her house. Out of her sight, she didn’t see how Alastor stayed rooted where he was, his mind a flurry of thoughts that’s been bothering him since the reading.

He knew there was no way in Hell that the fortune teller would have been able to have known, but what had been the case that she was able to spew words that hit close to him in that sense? Even with how cryptic it had sounded, it had been far too close of a call to be said in front of Charlie.

But clearly, it struck her in a different way, and his words echoed through his mind in the silence of the night.

Oh, Charlie. Aren’t you just the sweetest little thing?

If only she knew better.

Chapter Text

June sixth at six o’clock.

Such a rather ominous date and timing, taking the numbers into consideration. It seemed almost foreboding at the thought of what was to come.

Alastor stood in front of his mirror, gandering with his outfit of choice. It was one of his best suits, one that he had for a while and hadn’t been having a reason to wear it out, but still a hip to the jive in current fashion standards. Charlie had told him to dress to his swankiest, and he wasn’t one not to dress to impress.

Yet, it was such a weird thought, how he was here prettying himself up to go meet Charlie’s parents. Sure, it wasn’t a formal meeting, as a suitor would to the parents of the woman he intended to court, and it was just a simple party that she needed company. But yet, here he was, straightening out his bowtie and smoothing down the lapels of his suit to make sure he was prim and proper, making sure to look his best.

This does seem to be getting out of hand.

At the thought, Husker’s disapproving warning came to thought like an intrusive and irritating earworm. Truly, just what has he gotten himself into? How far deep did he fall that he’s still having Charlie around to actually be accepting this sort of invitation from here?

Your envie would be your downfall.

Damn that blasted fortune teller! It’s been a couple of days since, but it’s enough in having been put on edge at the words that struck him deep to his core and ignited an agitation he had been so thoughtless in exposing even for just that one moment. He grimaced internally at the thought of it, chastising himself for being so worked up over a stupid fortune.

Shaking himself out of unfavourable thoughts, Alastor simply took a deep breath and stretched his grin. Any bit of hesitation left was ignored at how it was too late to reconsider now.

He was all ready and should be heading over next door to pick up the lovely dame.


Yes, today was the day.

June sixth, her beloved father’s birthday.

Charlie had spent the last hour getting ready, now removing the last of her curlers, watching the blonde tendril bounce out in a perfect spiral. Her makeup was done and she was all dressed, and it wouldn’t be long until it was finally time to leave to go to Baton Rouge.

Her father’s birthday parties usually did not stir up some excitement in her, but it was different now with Alastor coming along. She could only force herself to take her time in getting all dolled up so as to not be too overtly eager to see him. But her patience paid off when there was a knock on her door just as she went downstairs, and she had to take a moment to breathe and maintain her composure as she opened the door. 

And there he was, all tall and spiffy-looking, donning a red pinstripe tuxedo with the tail going halfway down the back of his thigh, over a red shirt that had a design that looked like a black cross and decorated with a bowtie, and a pair of burgundy dress pants.

She was at a loss for words, stunned from the eccentricity of his full red ensemble while her eyes drank in the image of him looking so dapperly and absolutely dashing in his whole get-up. God, she didn’t think that his hair slicked back would do wonders in accentuating his good looks.

Alastor was a show-stopper and an eye-catcher, and he was absolutely gorgeous.

“Is that a monocle?”

Really now. Was that the ONLY thing she could say?!

Alastor laughed out loud heartily. “My dear! I’ve put in all this effort to look my best, and all you took notice of was my monocle? You wound me!” He put his hands over his heart and mimicked an expression hurt.

“Oh! I mean, you look wonderful too!” Charlie sputtered out, giggling in embarrassment. “A real Brooksy, I’ll say! My, aren’t you a looker in that suit.”

"Well, I'm afraid I pale in comparison to how gorgeous you look."

His eyes trailed to her outfit, a maroon silk piece that hung on her frame with what curves she had accentuated by a matching sash around her waist. And considering that it was a special occasion, she was putting the definition of ‘flair’ to work with a pair of silk gloves and a jewelled headband that hugged her blonde curls.

Damn, was Charlie was a mighty fine tomato in Alastor’s eyes.

“We match somewhat.”

“It wasn’t intentional.” She said it with such a shyness it almost seemed as though she caught in something.

But Alastor would not let it drop, instead finding this to be very pleasing to him as he leaned in to give her a charming grin, eyes still appreciatively admiring her outfit. “Well, I must say that this is quite flattering nonetheless. It’s almost as though you were meant to compliment me.”

"Stop it." Charlie could only hope that the rouge that she had powdered onto her cheeks would hide the sudden heat she felt there.

Distraction thankfully came in a car horn sounding, and both turned to see a flivver heading up to the front of her house. Razzle and Dazzle waved from inside the car.

"Ah, they're here."

"Well, we shouldn't be delaying any longer. Shall we?"


Alastor knew that Charlie came from money, but judging from the glamorous mansion they were approaching, he hadn’t expected that she was lousy with it.

It looked worth about ten to twenty or even more years’ worth of his paycheck, something fit for a dignitary even. Just what exactly could be done in that large expanse of space? There would be too much that even he might not be sure what to do with it should he own one!

The car came to a stop in the driveway, and Razzle and Dazzle came out to hold the doors open for both of them. Alastor admired the image of the building in all its glory, while Charlie only felt the tinge of nerves hitting her at the moment.

"Well, this is home," she remarked, coming to his side and looking wherever he was looking.

"An impressive one! Nothing compared to our humble little abodes."

"Eh, New Orleans feels more homely."

“Well, on a personal bias, I am inclined to agree.”

Alastor offered his elbow for her to take, and together they followed the butlers into the house, where he continued to admire all the expensive furniture that decorated the place. Charlie, who was all too familiar with these hallways and corridors, was more distracted by the distant sound of a live band playing outside.

“Oh, they’re holding it in the backyard,” she remarked.

Befitting the grandeur of the mansion, the backyard was about the size of a small meadow, barricaded by forest and lit up by various lanterns surrounding a makeshift dance floor right in the middle. It was just past sunset, but there was already a multitude of guests dressed to the nines in their newest glad rags, standing around and mingling with drinks in hand, and some dancing to the band that was playing a jovial beat that lifted the energy of the party.

“Well, this certainly what I wasn’t expecting of a birthday party,” Alastor marvelled all around them, taking in the scene with awe, clearly not the small party he had initially envisioned. “And there’s even liquor here! Excellent!”

Seeing the bars that were set up and serving said liquor, Charlie put a finger to her lips cheekily. “Daddy gets them bootlegged, but don’t tell anyone!’

“My lips are sealed, darling,” he chuckled, mimicking her and putting his fingers to his lips. “Are parties at the Magnes always a blow as this?”

“Oh, sometimes bigger! You should’ve seen New Year’s of twenty-four. Daddy really went overboard with the fireworks on that one!”

Clearly, Charlie wasn’t a stranger to the grand parties her parents held, but as they joined the crowd, she only hung onto Alastor’s arm as her eyes searching far and wide for any sign of a familiar face. She came up with none, knowing that these were probably all her parents’ friends and associates. Not unexpected, but the masses of strangers did make her feel just a slight bit nervous.

“Charlie! My darling sweet apple!”

Hearing that loud but sweet voice made Charlie turn in a flash to see her mother fast approaching her, and she smiled in delight and unlinked herself from Alastor as she too rushed to her, wrapping her in a big warm hug when they’ve met halfway.

“Hello, Mommy!” she greeted aloud, hugging back tightly. They stayed like that for a while, and Charlie felt comforted by the warmth of her mother as it washed away the nerves prior and immediately replaced with ease.

Lilith pulled back to cup her cheeks in her hands. “I’m so glad you could make it, sweetheart. Pardon your silly mother, but it feels like forever since I’ve last seen you. I was wondering when ever will you show up!”

“Oh, Mommy, I’ve missed you,” Charlie smiled, holding her mother’s hands. “And I’m here now!”

Lilith smiled brightly, but then her eyes darted to Alastor, who stood behind a respectful distance away in an attentive posture, hands crossed behind his back and all, with a polite smile.

“Oh! Darling, you never told me you were bringing company! And a handsome one at that!” The look in Lilith’s eyes held cheeky suggestion, making Charlie blush. Lilith was known for being forward to everything, especially things concerning a smidgen of her ‘love life’.

Ignoring the embarrassment, Charlie gestured Alastor to her. “Mommy, may I introduce you to my dear friend and companion for tonight, Alastor Carlon.” She made an emphasis on the term ‘friend’ to Lilith, who raised an unconvinced brow though her suggestive smile stayed.

This – thankfully – escaped Alastor’s notice. At his introduction, he stepped forward and gave a slight bow as he offered a hand to Lilith. “Pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Magne!” he greeted kindly. “I do hope I’m not being a crasher here.”

“Charmed,” Lilith replied with a welcoming smile, putting a hand in his and allowing him to press a quick peck to her knuckles. “And no worries, Mr. Carlon. Any friend of Charlie’s is welcomed here!”

“Call me Alastor, I insist! We’re all friends here, I’ll say!”

Lilith hummed in agreement. “I just hope you’ve been quite good company for my dear Charlie,” her tone taking on one of motherly concern as she eyed him.

Shooting a glance at Charlie with a warm smile as he adjusted his monocle almost modestly, he replied, “Well, I do hope so! It’s been an honour for her to grant me with kindness as her lovely mother does.”

“Flattery will get you nowhere, Alastor!” Lilith teased, and a laugh was shared between the two. Nice to know that the two of them are getting along quite well, though at the expense of Charlie, who could only roll her eyes in mild embarrassment as she sought to change the topic.

“Where’s Daddy?” she asked her mother, looking around the vicinity. “I haven’t seen him yet. Is he around here?”

“Oh, your father’s off entertaining some of his associates, but I’ll find you once I’ve caught him.” Putting a hand on both Charlie and Alastor, she gestured to the party happening all around them. “In the meantime, go and have fun, you two! Charlie, darling, do be kind as to show your guest around.”

With a quick smooch to her cheek, Lilith waved before she disappeared into the crowd, leaving Charlie and Alastor to their own devices. Looking at the party going on in full swing, Charlie was suddenly starting to feel a bit out of place, her mother’s departure taking away the ease.

“Well, we shouldn’t be standing around like cancelled stamps!” Alastor exclaimed, taking hold of her arm once more. “What say we grab ourselves a drink, doll?”

At his suggestion, Charlie nodded for the sake of something to do. And so, they started making their way through the mass. But no soon after, she began to notice something off. It had been mild at first, a sudden comment here and there, but slowly it started to grow in the chatter, and she can clearly make out what was being said around her.

"Di mi… isn't that Alastor Carlon?"

"Alastor Carlon?"

"Oh my gosh, are you for real?"

"It is him!"

"Golly, he's much more handsome than I thought!"

"The Alastor Carlon!"

"Bless my stars that I decided to come here!"

Charlie supposed she wasn’t to be surprised. Alastor was still probably the most famous radio host in Lousiana, his popularity spreading far and wide throughout the South and probably even beyond. It wouldn’t be such a shocker to know that he’s amassed himself some admirers state-wide – herself included, but he didn’t need to know that! – and it definitely looked like they’ve chanced upon a few tonight.

 “It seems that you’ve got yourself some fans around here,” she casually remarked with a nonchalant smile.

“Ah, yes. It may seem so,” he duly noted as he caught the eyes of some who were openly gawking at him, and it seemed that noticing them was a mistake at this point, because immediately ladies of all ages were starting to crowd around the two in a bid to have a closer look of him. Charlie had to step aside so that she wouldn’t be flanked by the sudden loud requests for autographs and a conversation.

“Mr. Carlon! I’d love to have your autograph!”

“I tune in almost every day to listen to you, Alastor!”

“I’ve written a few letters in! Did you read them?”

Eyes wide at the sudden crowd, Alastor raised his hands in an effort to quell them, his voice kind but somewhat flustered. “Ladies, ladies! Please! I’m flattered but I’m here with a date!”

It was in an instant that several of the women flashed their eyes to her, and Charlie was suddenly overwhelmed with the heated looks that she was receiving. Clearly, they weren’t all that happy that there was somebody occupying the attentions of the man, not knowing or not caring that she was the daughter of the birthday man himself, and the last thing that Charlie wanted was to cause a stir about herself that wasn’t needed.

“Oh, don’t worry about me! Go ahead!”

Alastor looked at her with an uncertain quirk of his brow. “Darling, are you sure?” he asked her in concern. “It’ll be quite rude of me as your companion to leave you on your own.”

Charlie shook her head reassuringly. “No worries about me, Al. It’ll be even ruder of you to your fans if you don’t at least spar them some of your time.”

With a comforting smile, Alastor gave a nod to her before turning to his adoring fangirls and gracing them with his attentions, making them completely forget about her and go into a frenzy as they started pulling out napkins and whatever else they could have his signature on. Charlie took this moment of distraction to slip away from the scene, venturing further into the party.

Now that Alastor wasn’t by her side, she seemed even more lost than ever, not finding one decent person she could possibly strike up a conversation with to pass the time. She sighed in almost defeat. This certainly wasn’t how she’d imagined she would enjoy her own father’s birthday.

A butler passed through with a platter of hors d'oeuvres, and in her boredom, she made quick to snatch a single stuffed mushroom and popping it into her mouth to pass the time with a good snack.

“Well, well, well. Look who’s here.”

Charlie froze mid-chew, and suddenly the mushroom didn’t taste so good as her gut filled with disdain.

As much as it’s been a few years since they last saw each other, she could recognise that horrid voice anywhere, and internally groaned as she turned to look at the girl who was looking right back with an ugly sneer.

“Hello, Helsa.”

There was a time long ago where Charlie had considered Helsa Von Eldrich a best friend. Growing up together gave on that implication. Playmates as little girls and debutantes later on, more often than not they’d be mingling together with the other daughters of their mothers’ circle that would meet over brunch and tea. But alas, as she grew to be one of the most prominent socialites in the Jazz Age, Helsa turned out to be everything Charlie refused to be – spoilt, selfish and arrogant who likened anyone below her class as simply dirt.

Charlie wouldn’t have paid any care for it at all until she’s started being the centre of her ridicule for her differing ideals, and it all came to a definite halt when Charlie ‘accidentally’ poured a drink all over her in the middle of a soiree and ruining one of her more expensive furs.

“My, dear Charlie!” Helsa greeted aloud with arms stretched in welcome, with a grin too sickly sweet. “I thought birthday clowns were outdated until I saw you showed up!”

The insult was not unexpected, and Charlie only quirked a brow coolly. “Oh? Almost as outdated as that old mink scarf around your neck? I’m surprised it hasn’t even rotted off like your personality.”

A flash of irritation that appeared in her snake eyes wasn’t missed. “Now, now. No need to be so crabby! Can’t an old friend say ‘hello’? I mean, it has been a while since I last saw you!”

“If it isn’t obvious, I’m not really keen on even laying my sights on you.”

“What a coincidence! Neither am I!” she bartered back, her sneer growing as she came closer until she was almost up to Charlie’s face. “Considering you’re quite the eyesore around here.”

Now, this was just getting too taxing for Charlie, who dropped the civility, simply forcing her lips back into a malicious grin as she replied, “Funny, I’d say the same considering how your most memorable look was akin to a drowned rat.”

Something in Helsa finally snapped at the mention of that one incident, and Charlie didn't think that it was possible for a face to get uglier until she saw how her lips pulled back to show teeth, her nostrils almost flaring as she was seething.

“Now, listen here, you little b-“

“Helsa. Behave yourself.”

The heated glares exchanged between the two were growing in animosity until that voice sounded out, and dread punched Charlie hard in the gut.

Both girls turned to see a tall figure dressed completely head-to-toe in green approaching them, a walking cane in hand that just seemed just as over the top as the top hat he had on was. Although he had come first greeting his sister, his eyes were fixed on Charlie, giving her an up-down.

“Mother’s looking for you,” he informed Helsa with a look that told her to get going.

The socialite grimaced, but obeyed, shooting one more glare quickly at Charlie and ignoring her brother’s tutting of disapproval as she left to find her mother.

Now Charlie was wishing so much to be anywhere else but here.

“Charlotte.”

He always had a preference to call her by her full name instead of her nickname, being a man of formalities. And she supposed formalities were to be called for as she took a deep breath to regain her composure, forcing a weak smile to her new companion.

“Seviathan.”

Seviathan Von Eldrich, heir to the Von Eldrich fortunes and her ex-boyfriend, bowed his head with a polite smile. “You’re looking as lovely as always,” he kindly complimented.

“Thank you,” Charlie replied civilly, albeit stiffly. “I thought you’d still be in Britain.”

“On term break now,” he answered, noting now that there was the faint trace of a British accent in his voice.  “How have you been?”

“Good, and you?”

“Good, as well.”

The conversation was exactly how she had remembered him; stifling, as well as dry.

“I do apologise for my sister’s behaviour,” Seviathan started again, looking to where he could see Helsa in the distance. “It seems those classes on etiquette had sure been a waste.”

Charlie said nothing, still looking away because admittedly, it really felt that cumbersome to have her ex-boyfriend in her presence. For certain there were no feelings lingered behind for him – that ship has definitely sailed – but it was still very uncomfortable for her to be in the presence of her former flame. I mean, of course, it would be; Charlie was sure that he didn’t quite appreciate how she had bruised his ego when she had left him so suddenly whilst in the midst of courting her seriously.

Seviathan must have mistaken her silence for aversion, and he sighed and shook his head. “Come now, Charlotte. It’s been a couple of years since we last saw each other. Let’s set aside any hostility between us, shall we?”

Tucking his cane underneath his arm, he held out a gloved hand to her, an inviting smile on his lips as he asked, “Might I interest you with a drink and a chance for us to catch up?”

Now that was definitely the last thing she’d ever want right now, and her mind was made up to reject him on the spot, to leave the scene and be on her merry way to enjoy the rest of the party. In a bit of distraction, she could only turn away from him to look for something – anything! – to give her an excuse to leave.

"Darling, there you are!"

That voice was like a saviour to her, and she did little to hide her relief as she ignored Seviathan's question and turned to see Alastor rushing to her with that comforting smile. She could tell that he must've been searching for her, from how relieved and frazzled he had looked.

"Alastor!” she greeted him warmly as he came to her side. “You finally managed to run from your adoring fans?"

Alastor laughed exasperatedly, “Yes! A very rambunctious bunch, I must say! It’s only a miracle I survived while their goofs were glaring daggers at me!”

They shared a laugh, and Charlie felt much better at the comfort that Alastor brought with him. But quick was she to notice his eyes flickering to Seviathan, who had straightened up and had his hands behind his back as he eyed the both of them quite intently.

Now, this was definitely awkward for her, having her ex-boyfriend and her current man-of-interest facing each other while she stood between them. But for the sake of not making it more than it was, she kept her cool, gesturing Alastor to Seviathan.

“Seviathan, I’d like you to meet my dear friend, Alastor Carlon.” Then to Alastor, she merely waved towards Seviathan. “Alastor, this is Seviathan Von Eldrich. The son of my father’s friend.”

“Well, a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Von Eldrich!” With one of his famous friendly smiles, Alastor stuck his hand out for a shake, but Seviathan only looked at it in a sceptical manner, until he noticed the raised brow of Alastor’s and the disapproving look of Charlie’s, making him take his hand and give it a firm shake.

“Pleasure’s mine,” he replied with a flat tone. “Apologies, I don’t seem to recall your face around these parts.

“Well, that’s because I’m not a familiar here.” Alastor wrapped an arm around Charlie smoothly, tilting his head to her. “Darling Charlie invited me as her one and only companion.”

Seviathan's sights flashed to where his hand touched her arm and how Charlie only looked down to the floor in a weak attempt to hide how her cheeks burned through her rouge. But Alastor kept all eyes on him as his smile turned the slightest bit smug.

“I see,” Seviathan noted, looking away and pretending like he hadn’t just been almost glowering. “And what exactly do you do, Mr. Carlon? Cotton? Sugar? The stocks?”

“Neither,” Alastor clarified with a shake of his head. “I work with the radio.”

Hearing that, Seviathan loftily raised an eyebrow. “The radio?” he repeated with a haughty smirk.

It was obvious that Alastor didn’t take a liking to that tone, but controlled was he as he kept his smile on and continued to converse, “Not really as impressive as being a sugar baron or a cotton king, but it’s honest good work! And I don’t play with the stocks. No sir, dangerous game that is! Won’t know when that thing’s gonna crash and burn when we least expect!”

Seviathan didn’t seem all too impressed. “How… interesting.” Clearly it wasn’t, judging by how bored and unimpressed he voiced himself. “Though, I can’t quite say that I know of you.”

Narrowing his eyes just the slightest, Alastor smartly replied, “Well, looks to me you’ve been living under a rock because they do, Mr. Von Eldrich.”

Nothing more was said between the two men, who only engaged in a stare-down that only brought Charlie’s nerves even more on end as she looked between the two. Usually, a girl would be flattered if she had been caught between two men, but definitely not her! This was such a situation she definitely did not want to be in!

But any possibility of the two of them having a go at each other was put down when Seviathan cleared his throat and straightened his shoulders.

“Well, Charlotte, it seems I shouldn’t be taking up any more of your time.”

Giving another obvious side-eye too Alastor, he simply tipped his hat and bowed his head to her with a polite smile, and with a swift turn, he walked away from the two. They stayed where they were until he was finally out of earshot, and Alastor finally released his hold on her with a flat chuckle.

“’Charlotte’?”

Hearing how Alastor mockingly mimicked the way Seviathan said her name, she rolled her eyes in irritation as she started to walk away. “Oh, don’t mind him. Goodness, as if he couldn’t be any more insufferable.”

That tone of voice caught Alastor’s attention immediately, and his eyes perking up with a spark of curiosity. “Now is that you being tetchy, I hear? Why’s that? You and the bo have history together?”

Charlie immediately felt her gut do a little twist when faced with that question, and her mouth went dry with hesitation to answer. Alastor definitely noticed this, but pressed on. “Oh, come now, darling! You can tell me if you did!”

Alastor was ever the persistent one, and Charlie could only sigh in defeat as she said it all in a rush to get it out once and for all.

“Well, we’ve dated. Together for a bit, even. Thought it was going to get serious but then I realised he’s just another gimlet I don’t need around me.”

Charlie definitely did not want to divulge much information about her past relationship with Seviathan, especially to Alastor, who she noticed was starting to look at her blankly, showing some indication that he was listening to something that was not all too pleasing to his ears.

But he dropped the topic. Clearing his throat, he gestured to a bar quite a distance away. “Well, I should probably get us those drinks. What’s your poison?”

“Oh, um… A Bee’s Knees, please.”

“Stay right here, darling. I’ll be right back.”

Before she could insist to follow, Alastor was already heading off in the direction of the bar, leaving Charlie once again on her own. She stood to the side, probably looking like a cancelled stamp but she couldn’t bring herself to mingle after the unfortunate encounter with the Von Eldrich siblings left a bitter taste on her tongue. That, and while she appreciated that he did not press on the topic any further, she pressed her hands to her flushed cheeks as she could only she worry that she probably made Alastor a little too uncomfortable with revealing that titbit of her past.

“Oh, Charlie!”

Broken out of unwanted thoughts, Charlie turned to the call of her name to find her mother walking over with a smile, dragging someone else in tow.

Meanwhile, from his vantage point at the bar, Alastor watched Seviathan Von Eldrich among a group of giggling young girls, clearly charming their knickers off with whatever they found attractive in that smarmy face.  

He sneered at the sight, feeling a twinge of disgust that such a creature could even have had the pleasure of being with Charlie. Clearly a pompous bore with no excitable qualities, that one was! Charlie certainly had some questionable taste in seeing him as a partner in the past. It only seemed like a good thing on his end that she’s at least up-ed her standards with himself.

“Here you go, mac.” The bartender caught his attention when he placed two drinks on the countertop – his favoured gin-and-tonic and Charlie’s requested Bee’s Knees. Thanking the man, Alastor only threw one more dirty look to the unsuspecting Seviathan before deciding it wasn’t worth his time to do something about that ugly mug now.

The party was really turning up and he was trying his best to be mindful of the drinks so that not even a drop spilled. Thankfully, Charlie wasn’t too far away, and it looked like her mother had found her once again. Keeping a careful eye on the refreshments in hand, he beelined his way back to her, where she smiled at him once more when he returned to her side.

“Oh, you’re back!” he heard her say, and finally safe and still, he looked up to once more greet Charlie’s lovely mother and engage in a polite conversation with the two ladies.

And that’s when Alastor realised then that there was somebody else with them.

And he froze.

“Alastor, I’d like to introduce you to my father….”

This was impossible.

A cruel twist of fate.

There was no way this could be so.

Alastor wasn’t sure what was going on now, but what he did know was that in the short amount of time since he looked at him, his heart started racing and his tongue went dry, as did a familiar but unsavouring tinge of anxiety hit his guts, causing his nerves to start going off the edge, making him feel like the smile he had on was starting to crack.

Oh, how he must have looked like a deer caught in the headlights.

No. He probably looked more like the night they’d first met when all bloodied and crazed from the high of two kills on that corner in Lafayette.

“…Lucifer Magne.”

Standing before him, short and blonde and dressed from head-to-toe in white in a showman-like fashion, was the Big Apple.

Chapter Text

Life has a funny way of throwing a curveball sometimes.

“Have we met before?”

Unfortunately for Alastor, it had to be thrown right at his face.

“No, I don’t believe we have.”

But life was funny like that, wasn’t it?

“Strange,” the man – Lucifer – remarked with a tilt of his head, eyes studying him curiously. “You’re an awful lot familiar. Swear I would have remembered you anywhere.”

The mocking glint in the man’s eyes, watching the way he was bluffing, it all made Alastor’s nerves go on a frenzy while he remained still and stone-faced. The man was bluffing – Alastor was made and he knew it. He knew the stakes that were at hand here for him, considering the circumstances.

“You might have heard of him, Daddy,” Charlie quipped with a smile. “Alastor’s a radio host. A very good one too!”

But under all sorts of circumstances, did it have to be the one where he turned out to be the father of his goddamn neighbour?!

“Oh! I thought you sounded familiar!” Lilith suddenly exclaimed with a clap of her hands. “You’re the one who interviewed our darling for her hotel! Thank you for helping her out with that, by the way!”

While Lilith was somewhat gushing, her husband only quirked an eyebrow in curiosity, although the look in his eyes gave away the indication that it was something he already knew. “A radio host? My, how interesting,” he said in a tone that seemed marvelled although it was clearly not, turning more questioning as he inquired, “Is there anything else that you do, Mr. Carlon?”

Hearing the question that, without a doubt, held a double meaning behind it, Alastor finally broke out of his stupor and cleared his throat, not realising until then how dry his mouth was. “Nope, nothing else at all,” he answered the lie as calmly as he could, ignoring the scratchy feeling of the dryness of his mouth. “I’m quite a boring egg outside of work, I’ll say.”

The Big Apple only hummed, which might seem out of being unimpressed if not for the fact that Alastor knew better to realise that’s the bunk and he was truly unconvinced. And why wouldn’t he be? The man had seen for himself what he did outside of work. There was no point lying to him, and it was disconcerting to be standing in front of him feeling so bare despite being decked out in his best suit.

Looking away from the eyes of the Big Apple, he turned to Charlie and handed her drink, taking a sip of his gin-and-tonic to quench the cottony feeling of his tongue, although the burn from the alcohol made him wince slightly.

Over her drink, Charlie eyed him in concern. “Alastor? Are you alright?”

Hearing her concern made his grin widened instantly as if it was reflex. “Oh, yes!” he lied through his teeth, “Just that this here’s some real strong hooch.”

A laugh was forced out of him to cover up that close slip-up of his demeanour, but one quick look at her and suddenly he found it difficult to look at Charlie in the eyes, throwing him off immensely. How the tables have turned considering usually he was the one making her look away. Unnerved once more, Alastor moved his gaze away from her, and this definitely did not escape her notice.

But then Lilith leaned in to look at him with worry. “Oh, goodness. Are you feeling alright? You seem a little flushed.”

Alastor was about to give a quick response of assurance if it wasn’t for the look on Lucifer’s face that cut him short. The blond man was eyeing him carefully, watching his expressions and his movements, the corner of lips tilted up in a smirk as if he was waiting for a slip-up from him.

“Why yes, you do seem quite flushed, my friend. I wouldn’t think a simple gin-and-tonic would have such a bite on you.”

If Alastor hadn’t known any better, he would have thought that he was just poking fun at what seemed like his incapability to hold down his liquor. But he did know better, enough to quickly catch on to the last bit of the sentence that sent his nerves on end for the umpteenth time.  

Against the sinking feeling of his gut, he forced himself to stretch his grin further as he waved a hand in dimissory. “No, I’m fine,” he exclaimed a tad bit louder than he would like. “And this sure is a hooker! Been a while since I’ve had a good drink!”

The liquor did taste good, probably the most top-notch quality that bootlegged could offer. But the taste was soured by this moment, how it was all a farce on Alastor’s part, as much as it may have been for Lucifer, the both of them eyeing each other intently.

And this definitely was noticed by Charlie, who watched them quietly, sensing the building of tension in the air that came from the both of them.

But that tension was broken immediately by Lilith, who seemed to not have noticed the exchange as she was busy looking elsewhere. “Darling, I see that Stolas has just arrived. Goodness, he seemed to have brought that little toy of his instead of his wife! How scandalous.”

For that moment, Lucifer moved his attention away from Alastor, smiling kindly to his frau. “Now, my love, we shouldn’t stick our noses into his business. Let him have his fun. Shall we say our ‘hello’?”

Seeing that this was the end of their little meeting, he moved to his daughter, giving her a kiss on the cheek as he patted her head affectionately, and Charlie preened at this loving fatherly affection. A sight that would have made Alastor glad to see her so happy if it wasn’t for the fact that it was almost unbearable to look at the both of them together now.

And then a hand came to his shoulder in a friendly pat, immediately irking him from being touched but unable to do anything about it. From the corner of his eye, the Big Apple was looking at him with his lips pulled back into that familiar chilling grin, hidden from his wife’s and daughter’s view and given specially to him.

“Relax, my friend,” Lucifer said cheerily, an undertone clearly noted, “Enjoy the party, yes?”

Alastor could only watch as he linked his arm to Lilith’s and walked away. Despite the noise and activity that was going on around him, he felt like he had hit a standstill in time, his mind racing down a trail of spiralling thoughts, unsure of what to think or feel at this moment, amazed yet disturbed that he didn’t know.

”Alastor?”

Charlie’s voice calling his name in concern broke him out of the almost train wreck of his mind as he turned to look at her with unreadable eyes that did not give way to the turmoil inside him.

“I hope you don’t mind Daddy…” she said reassuringly, looking quite fretful.  “He’s a little intimidating, is all.”

A ‘little’ was clearly such an extreme understatement.


Later in the night, everyone in attendance sang the jolly tune of ‘Happy Birthday’ to Lucifer, who stood with his wife and daughter at his sides behind an attractive three-tiered pineapple upside-down cake that was decorated with maraschino cherries and apricots.  The Magne family were all bright smiles as Lilith and Charlie kissed his cheeks as he made the first cut to loud jovial cheering.

When the job of cutting up the cake and handing it out was passed to the butlers, the Magnes mingled with their guests, receiving wishes and cheers to good health from well-meaning friends and associates. Charlie only stood aside with a polite smile plastered on her face as her parents conversed, keeping the façade up as photographs were taken and handshakes and hugs were exchanged.

Once it was clear that her presence was no longer needed, she excused herself away from the crowd and headed straight to one of the makeshift bars, finding Alastor sitting alone at one of the stools, nibbling one as he only watched the festivities all around him.

His eyes found hers as she approached, and his smile only tilted up just the slightest. But it wasn’t enough to make her feel better, and Alastor noticed that straight away as she hopped onto the stool beside him.

“Having fun, darling?” he asked politely.

“Yes… But I can’t seem to say the same for you, though…”

“What do you mean?”

”Well, if you haven’t noticed, you’re sitting bored at the bar.”

It was not simply just that which bothered her. It seemed that ever since their little meeting with his parents, he was starting to get distant from her. Conversations would be short and contact would be kept to a minimum or none at all, and even standing by her side, Alastor wouldn’t be holding her gaze for long, as if looking at her was causing him a lot of distress. Of course, she was struck with worry. He’s been quite forlorn ever since she’s introduced him to her father, and although he’s repeatedly assured her that he was fine, she could tell that it wasn’t the case.

Ignore it as she might, it did upset her, but polite as she was to him, she could not dare to press on it, doing so being too forlorn to notice the way he watched her.

Alastor tried to look at her reassuringly in the eyes. He really did. But doing so and suddenly he felt realisation smack him in the face at how much similar she had looked to her father. The same blonde hair, the pale skin, the eyes. How had it not noticed all of it the night he had met the Big Apple and was taken in to be nursed by the doll soon after? No doubt, he felt almost like a fool to realise that one clear warning sign since earlier on. How befuddled must his mind have been to not notice?

The poor doll. She must be worried sick that she must have done something wrong. He would have reassured her, but at this point, he didn’t really feel at ease to even look at her considering that all he saw in her was the face of the Big Apple.

“Oh, sweet apple!”

Both of them turned to see her mother waving to her as she walked in perfect strides to them. Immediately, Alastor looked his best to seem unstrung as he could, giving a polite smile to the lady who took Charlie’s hand in hers excitedly.

“There’s someone I’d like you to meet!” Lilith exclaimed to her daughter eagerly. “I think it’ll be a good talk for your hotel!”

Charlie’s eyes widened at the sound of that, and a smile – ah, there was that precious smile once more – lit up her expression. But then she turned to look at him, and immediately the smile faded, almost uncertain to leave him to himself again.

This time though, Alastor forced himself to look her right in the eye and give her a small smile. “Oh, go ahead, dear,” he insisted. “I’ll be fine here.”

Charlie looked like she was about to question him to be sure, but a tug from Lilith and she was instantly pulled off from the barstool and led into the crowd, only able to throw him a look over her shoulder at him before she drifted from his sight.

Alastor only stared at where she was last seen as he took another sip of his drink, sighing as he could only ponder to himself in his lonesome on how complicated things with the doll have gone so quickly.

But he probably should have expected that it wasn’t a good idea to be on his own.

“Mr. Carlon?”

Hearing his name, Alastor turned to find a lone butler standing attentively behind him.

“The master of the house has requested your presence in his private study. If you’d be so kind?”


“Charlie, this is Sir Pentious.”

The man that her mother had brought her to seemed quite peculiar with a head of long jet-black hair that fell half-way down his back, but he did look like quite the gentleman dressed in a black pinstriped suit.

With an exaggerated bow, he took her hand in his as he greeted, “A pleasure to meet your acquaintance, my lady! Sir Pentious, at your service!”

Clearly British, considering the accent and the terms and mannerisms. “Very nice to meet you,” Charlie replied kindly, returning the gesture with a slight curtsy.

Putting a hand on both of them, Lilith looked between the two with a warm smile. “Now that I’ve got you two acquainted, I should be off. The party simply cannot run without its hostess. Sir Pentious, if you’d be so kind as to accompany my daughter?”

“It would be my honour, madame.”

Sir Pentious offered an arm to Charlie which she took out of his courtesy, and she waved to Lilith who excused herself and walked away.

“You’re clearly not from around here,” Charlie began the conversation kindly, “so what brings you to America?”

“Well, you see, I am actually in company of a student of mine here. He has graciously agreed to bring me along with him to America. It is a first for me here! And I must say, quite different from the King’s country!”

“I see. And what is that you do?”

Sir Pentious’ tone was clearly quite loud and theatrical for a normal conversation, so peculiar as his hair and dressing, as he answered, “I am truly an engineer by trade! An inventor, if you will!”

“An inventor! How exciting. Do tell me more!”

He laughed cheerily, almost eagerly, making a show of clearing his throat as he exclaimed, “Well, prepare yourself, my dear! I shall begin to tell my tale of how I, Sir Pentious…”


 “Come in.”

The familiar voice that called out behind the mahogany doors caused Alastor to hold a bated breath, standing still in anticipation as the butler opened the doors for him.

He wasn’t sure what to have expected when he entered the study, but a crowd was definitely not one of them. Sitting on couches near the fireplace were a trio – two men and one woman, all eccentrically dressed – whose eyes were all on him as he took his first few steps into the room. But his attention wasn’t on them for long when he finally saw the man in white sitting at the impressive desk at the head of the room.

“Ah, Mr. Carlon!” Lucifer greeted with a big grin. “Welcome!”

As he busied with fixing himself a drink from a minibar, The Big Apple gestured to the guests in his rooms. “My associates,” he introduced them to him, “Mr. Vox, Mr. Valentino and Miss Velvet.”

The man in furs raised a glass in greeting as the woman waved vivaciously. But the one in a black suit with blue accents rose from his seat and extended his hand out with a smile. “Nice to meet ya, pal! Vox is the name.”

Smiling politely, Alastor took the hand in a masculine grip and gave it a firm shake. “Alastor Carlon.”

“Carlon? You’re that popular gee on the radio, aren’t ya!” the woman named Velvet, looking at him dazzled eyes and Cheshire smile, noted animatedly. “Wow, you really are a fine fella! Tell me, you taken?”

Alastor was thrown off by her sudden flirtations as she batted her lashes at him, but he decided not to answer considering the way Lucifer eyed him. Best not to make any mention of his date while in the presence of her father.

The other man, Valentino, guffawed out loud. “Velvet, please. He ain’t the first one you’ve been settin’ your sights on for tonight! But if you lookin’ to have an orgy, let me know so I’ll make a peep show for good greens.”

Velvet looked horrified at the outrage of her modesty that she smacked her hand on Valentino’s chest. Alastor could only watch in quiet confusion at such weird associates that The Big Apple had, before a snort by Vox drew his attention back to him.

“The radio, huh?” Vox haughtily quipped, all bored. “Can’t say I’m too impressed with the radio nowadays, to be honest. Oh, no. All you do is sit around and listen in to some droning. It ain’t so darb! No excitement there!”

Spreading his arms in a flourish with a smile, ge exclaimed excitedly, “But the talkies! That’s where it’s at! I’m looking to make it so anyone could watch the pictures from their homes. 

Alastor didn’t take too kindly the insult to his trade. He already had one green-clad buffoon jabbing at the goodness of the radio, he didn’t need another lug doing it too.

“A far-fetched idea, I’ll say,” he replied sceptically. “I’m not sure how exactly you aim to get those big screens into the homes of many when the radio’s more than enough for everyone. Also, I don’t seem to quite get what you mean by ‘droning’, but maybe it shows an incapable extent of an attention span to not be able to keep up with what can entertain the thousands through voice alone?”

Velvet’s gobsmacked expression and Valentino’s stilled stance showed how taken aback they were by his sharpness of delivering a backhanded insult, but none more than Vox, whose eyes were starting to flicker with irritation and mild rage.

“Well, you’re a cocky one, aren’t ya?” he sneered, taking a step closer to be upfront and personal with Alastor. “Bet it won’t be the case if I could get that shit-eating grin to the floor.”

It was like a switch in character for this man, the politeness from a few seconds ago now replaced with an almost maniacal grin on his face that showed his true colour. In the bravado of roughhousing, it did impress Alastor in the slightest. Truly, a smile was a show of power in his books, but that didn’t mean he’d let himself be intimidated by a pea-brained chump that probably thought with his balls instead of his brain. And so, he simply grinning back with teeth bared in sharp glory, indirectly telling him to go climb up his thumb.

“That’s enough, Vox,” Lucifer spoke up firmly, having been watching the exchanges in silence over his drink. “Is that how you’d treat guests? Why, I’m quite ashamed.”

The command from the Big Apple immediately made Vox shut his trap, obeying like a dog to its master’s orders. Now that elicited a quiet chuckle from Alastor, thinking how he must be the type to be all hat and no cattle, taking pride in seeing how his lips pulled into a sneer of disdain at his amusement.

But Lucifer seemed not to be in the mood for an unnecessary heated exchange. “I’d like to have a word with Mr. Carlon, so if the three of you wouldn’t mind.”

He merely waved and gave them the door, and the three took it as their cue to leave. Velvet and Valentino left without another word, but Vox lingered for a while longer, giving Alastor a hard eye which was only returned with the same grin, and he looked like he was about to spit in his face before he turned with the swish of a tailcoat to follow the rest out.

But with the clicking of the door closed shut, Alastor finally realised the bigger issue at hand here.


Sir Pentious really was quite the talker.

He droned on and on all sorts of previous inventions – most which seemed to have ended up failing miserably – that Charlie was barely able to keep up with the boredom that was setting in. She could only begin to wonder why exactly had Lilith decided to set her up with him because she thought it would be ‘good talk for the hotel’.

But for the sake of being polite, she only listened attentively, ever so often nodding in agreement or humming in faux amazement.

Sir Pentious put the back of his hand as though swooning in despair. “But if you may have heard, the economy of Great Britain has been quite lacklustre recently. It’s difficult to get a company up and running amidst the sharp declines of heavy industry and coal. There is no denying that America is the land of opportunities right now, and so with a heavy heart I had to depart my dearest Britain and seek my fortune here.”

“Ah, I see,” Charlie replied, still trying to keep up the enthusiastic pretence. “And what do you have in mind for your first venture here?”

She doesn’t know where exactly he found all this gusto to keep talking, but his tone became exuberant once more as he proudly declared, “Well, I have recently come up with the best gadget to assist in the packaging of eggs!”

Now, that definitely caught Charlie off-guard. “Eggs?” she repeated in confusion. For all that talk of impressive inventions and gizmos, he wanted his first business enterprise to involve eggs?

“I can see that confusion, and allow me to shed some light on the situation,” Sir Pentious said with a confident grin, and he suddenly went into a whole other speech about how the current packaging of eggs only allows for a dozen, and eggs are an important part of everyday nutrition that a dozen simply won’t last, making it a hassle for one to have to purchase several boxes.

“Thus, my latest gadget will give the solution of crafting cardboard to be a holder of, not one, but two dozen eggs!”

Charlie could not really believe the fact that she was sitting here listening to a conversation about eggs, her boredom and confusion hidden by another fake exclamation of, “Why, that sounds quite remarkable! I can only hope that it’s going well for you!”

But all that gusto suddenly went away when he started to look a bit forlorn, clearly thinking of what must be plaguing his brilliant plan.

“Alas, unfortunately, it isn’t so, my dear. You see, we aren’t in the time of age where machines are able to operate on their own sentiency, and thus I would still require manpower to handle the equipment and machinery.”

“And that is a problem… because?”

Sir Pentious gestured to all around them, to no one in particular but to talk in general. “It seems that not many people are interested to work in an egg-packaging factory,” he explained, “and those that do – quote too high a salary! I am only just starting up, so it is not within my capacity to afford employees who need to pay too high of an expense. Oh, no. I need people who would be willing to work for cheap.”  

Taking this all in, Charlie asked in careful confusion, “So, you’re looking for… cheap labour?”

Sir Pentious seemed aghast. “My dear, don’t say it like that! More like I am looking for the most efficient work for the least cost! You’d understand, yes?”

No, she clearly did not understand the eccentric of this man’s strange business plan, wondering how foolish was he to think that such an arrangement could be morally correct for a business owner.

But, foolish or not, Charlie damn well knew an opportunity when she saw one.


“Have a seat, Mr. Carlon,” Lucifer gestured to the seat opposite his and his desk, and Alastor accepted the invitation willingly.

An intricate silver cigarette casing was taken out from his jacket’s inner pocket, popped open and held out to Alastor, who took one with a nod of thanks. A stick to his own lips and Lucifer took a lighter to graciously alight both their cigarettes.

Alastor took a second to himself to enjoy a much-needed puff as Lucifer circled around the desk back to his armchair. “Are you feeling better?” he asked politely, making himself comfy in his seat.

Exhaling another puff that seemed like a relief to his lungs, Alastor replied, “What gave you the implication that I wasn’t?”

“The look on your mug when you saw mine.”

And just like that, it seemed the smoke did no use to ease him any longer, watching as Lucifer’s face split into a wide grin, laughing softly with a shake of his head. And yet, this was not all that shocking to him, taking a silent breath to himself as he willed his tense body to move, leaning forward to flick the ashes of his cigarette on a nearby ashtray.

“So, we’re dropping the pretence now, I assume?” Alastor questioned blankly, putting the cigarette back to his lips.

 “You’re not really someone easy to forget, Mr. Carlon,” Lucifer noted casually with the flicker of his own cigarette ash onto the ashtray. “Or should I just call you ‘Alastor’, now that we’re very familiar with each other?”

“Call me anything you want. Either one’s my name anyway.”

Lucifer only hummed in agreement, and quickly after, a silence ensued. Both men did not talk, just sitting across each other, focus on only their own gaspers within the silence of the study. But while Lucifer was reclining on his chair looking elsewhere, Alastor’s eyes were fixed on him – watching, waiting, anticipating, even though he had no clue what to expect at all.

And that bothered him to no end.

“Come now, no need to be so tense,” Lucifer suddenly broke the silence in a reassured tone. “Did you enjoy the cake, Alastor?”

A strange turn of a conversation, but one Alastor kept up with as she politely shook his head. “Didn’t take a slice, sorry. I’m not a fan of sweets.”

Lucifer looked almost disappointed to hear that. “Oh? What a shame. It’s a lovely cake. Pineapple upside-down. Very fashionable. My wife picked it out.” Taking a drag before exhaling smoke in a puff, he continued almost mellow-like. “Ah, my Lilith. Such a catch, isn’t she? How I do love her so dearly.”

Alastor only nodded along, keeping a polite smile on his face. Any egg would know better than to show much enthusiasm when a man was talking about his wife, so he kept the niceties to a minimum in this strange atmosphere, still simply watching and waiting.

“Do you know who else I love dearly, Alastor?”

And just like that, Alastor immediately feltt his smile dropping just the slightest.

“My daughter.”

Lucifer took a last drag, smoothly blowing smoke out in a smooth stream before butting it out on the ashtray, and that’s when his eyes turned to look at him, narrowed into dangerous slits that seemed reminiscent of a snake ready to pounce.

“Which is why I want to know how exactly did she manage to wind up with you.”

If looks could kill, then Lucifer was intent to do so, withdrawing from under his desk a revolver.


“So, um… Mr. Pentious-”

Sir Pentious, dearie!” He said it in such a way that it seemed as though Charlie had offended him greatly. “I was not knighted by the King himself to be simply called ‘Mister’!”

“Oh, sorry, Sir Pentious,” she backtracked, internally rolling her eyes at the pompous exclamation, but keeping a polite smile as she continued. “Perhaps I could offer a solution to your dilemma of seeking employees for your factories?”

The look of insult immediately shifted to one of genuine curiosity. “Hmm… Go on…”

Seeing his interest, Charlie immediately perked up, straightening her posture with a deep breath as she prepared herself for the pitching that she was quite used to by now.

“Well, you see, I run a rehabilitation hotel for former criminals…”


The silence in the room could have been quiet enough to hear the way Alastor’s heart dropped right to the floor as he stared at the bean-shooter aimed right at his head.

Even after he felt the last bits of his cigarette turning to ash and falling to the floor, he was too frozen to even move to discard it on the ashtray. In his standstill, his eyes remained on Lucifer, whose glare only seemed more menacing against his grin.

“Well?”

“We’re neighbours.”

It was the truth, so what else could he have said other than that? But judging from the way his eyes widened in slight surprise, the answer clearly wasn’t what Lucifer was expecting. Then again, maybe it’s how he answered so blankly that threw him off. Alastor couldn’t be too sure at which.

“Apologies if it isn’t as exciting as you might think I had more dire intentions,” he apologised for no reason in particular, “but it is as simple as that.”

The revolver unwavering, Lucifer rested his head on his free hand, looking thoughtful. “That’s not really much of an answer.”

“She’s the one who invited me.”

“And there she was, looking so shy and bashful when she wanted me to meet you,” Lucifer said with a hard edge to his voice, as if the words that left his mouth left a disgusting taste on his tongue at the thought of it. “So, is this some sort of sick plan of yours then?”

Without a doubt, Alastor was taken aback by the blatant accusation that was directed at him. “To be completely fair, I had no idea that she was your daughter,” he explained. “I think you yourself could understand that from our very inopportune meeting earlier on.”

Lucifer laughed as if the memory of that meeting was humorous to him, and Alastor couldn’t help but feel the slightest bit peeved that he seemed to be laughing at him. He didn’t appreciate really being taken for a joke, even with a revolver pointed at right between his eyes.

“Well, now you do, so what then?”

“What makes you think I’d want to do anything to Charlie?” he countered back, almost challengingly as though to make a point for himself.

Lucifer may have definitely seen the agitation on his face, looking more bemused as he leaned forward, the revolver inching closer to Alastor’s head, but the radio host he remained calm, not even flinching in the slightest as he continued to observe.

“No need to play coy with me, friend. I’ve seen the stunt you’re able to pull. The way your eyes dilate with the thrill of the kill. Almost seems like you think of it as some fun game!”

Alastor couldn’t help but huff in amusement, his face not denying the truth in the man’s presumptions, which only prompted him to continue with, “So, is that what you’re intending to play with Charlie?”

The room fell into a hushed silence again, as Lucifer waited for his answer and Alastor staring blankly at him.

One would not have felt the spark of irritation that was growing within the man in the red suit. The way Lucifer prompted curiously, pressing him to spill, it admittedly agitated Alastor. He didn’t like having to be given the third this way, especially with the revolver pointed right at his face, as though mocking him into submission. An inkling in him saw this as a sort of cowardice, that he’d have to whip out a heat just to have some show of power to intimidate him in the slightest. How absolutely obnoxious, he’ll say!

And so, vain and cocky in true fashion, Alastor couldn’t help but bite back even in the slightest, confident and without resistance, doing so with a sharp grin.

“If I wanted her dead, she would’ve been long gone before you even met me.”

Now, that definitely seemed like the wrong thing to say.

Alastor watched as the look on Lucifer’s face shifted, turning darker as his eyes narrowed, his grin starting to become a tad bit more tighter, clearly having a chord struck in him, the murderous intent burning more as the seconds passed by quickly.

Well, quite understandable really, considering he just up and dared indirectly said he wanted to have the curse on Charlie.

Yet, the words that followed the expression had no match at all.

 “You know, Alastor, you remind me of a deer.”

His darkening aura started to lighten up as he regained his composure, and the sudden change in the conversation only confused Alastor once more. He was probably getting whiplash from the constant turn of events that he had endured for the just the past hour or so, too stupefied to say anything now. No response came, only silence in waiting for the continuation.

“You don’t seem like so, but such a bravado that exists within you. So poised and elegant, like a buck with impressive antlers – an assertion of power and dominance. How you bring yourself so confidently that it seemed like you rule above all, that nothing could bring you down.”

A loud click suddenly resonated in the room, coming from the hammer of the revolver that’s been pushed down and ready for ignition.

And just like that, Alastor was startled, eyes widening as it darted to the tip of the barrel that was still aimed steadfastly in the middle of his forehead, focus only on that instead of the crazed grin on the Big Apple. It probably wasn’t loud, but he could hear the hammering of his heart resonate loudly in his hearing, almost blocking out the next seething words that followed.

“But put a gun right on them and it’s just an act, revealing nothing more than prey.”

And so, the trigger was pulled.

There was suddenly no sound.

Chapter Text

Charlie didn’t understand the sudden drop in her gut, as if something was amiss, looking away to nowhere in particular as if to find the answer.

“Miss Charlotte? Did you hear what I say?”

Then she broke out of her sudden distraction and turned back to Sir Pentious, who was looking at her expectantly. “Sorry, I was a bit fuddled for a moment… Would you care to repeat?”

“Well, I have decided to take up on your offer to view this… ‘rehabilitation hotel’ of yours!”

Their discussion had led to a deal made by Charlie to send ex-convicts to train under Sir Pentious as part of the programme for them to pick up proper work skillsets that could enable them in the workforce, in exchange for sponsorship of the hotel. She had been waiting on him for an answer, half-expecting for a rejection though, but then the sinking of her gut was immediately forgotten as it began to bubble in excitement, her eyes widening and mouth gaping open in shock. “Really?? You would??”

She couldn’t stop herself from the excitement that grew immensely but backtracked into composure upon seeing the way Sir Pentious looked taken aback from her sudden outburst. Clearing her throat, she started off more calmly, “I mean… You would be interested to? Why, that sounds wonderful to have someone as esteemed as yourself to consider!”

The praise she threw in for sugar-coating was well-received by Sir Pentious, who puffed up his chest in pride. “Why, I would say it is an interesting concept by such a bright young thing such as yourself! And it would be good work on my part to help with the community while also shaping perfect che– I mean affordable employees for my new factory!”

While helping him in his strange new business endeavour was not of her importance, it was thrilling to finally have somebody interested in potentially becoming a sponsor for the hotel! It may not be set in stone yet, but things just seem to be falling into place more and more!

Oh, she couldn’t wait to tell Alastor the good news!


There was no shot fired.

Alastor could only look at the tip of the barrel in a confusion that it stayed as clean as a whistle when it was first drawn. It began to shake though, but only because Lucifer began to chuckle wholeheartedly, eyes crinkling in amusement at what had transpired.

“Yet, I must admit, your bravery is quite admirable!” he remarked in excitement, throwing the gun onto the table with a noisy rattle. “Many squirm and wince and beg for my mercy before my finger even goes to the trigger. And yet, here you are, defiant, undaunted – the true sign of a man hardened by death to not be afraid in the eyes of it!”

The Big Apple remained chuckling, but Alastor paid no heed to him as he now stared at the empty revolver, eyes wide with bewilderment at seeing the accursed thing – now knowing it was not so dangerous – just lying there, thinking of how a mere few seconds ago it had caused him to feel a plethora of objectional emotions, making his heart race and his breath bated and his heart hammering.

Now, his emotions were a bit unclear, but there were a few he could point out.

Astonishment, confusion, relief, and…

Fury.

The only thing that was running through his mind now was how quick would it be to jump over the desk and grab that empty revolver to bludgeon it into that smug and despicable face so many times that the impressive carpet under the desk would be dyed a fresh red. 

“Oh, come now. Why the long face? You’re supposed to be quite the smiling man, right?”

Lucifer had asked that with a politeness that seemed ill-fitting after the stunt that he just pulled, and his eyes were watching him with a challenging glint as if he had read his mind of the murderous thoughts that raced through him and was daring him to even try.

Alastor, as calmly as he could, kept the seething to zilch as he forced a smile. “Thought playing the act of giving some burn power was the right way to scare me about dating your daughter?”

“You had to admit, it worked!” Lucifer exclaimed with a cheerful slap to his knee, and Alastor remained silent, amazed at his own restraint to not bring those murderous thoughts to reality right now. “But no. Charlie’s not much of the concern right now. It’s more your loss than mine if she finds out what you really are.”

Now, that was another surprise Alastor did not anticipate. For all that bravado of threatening him, now he sounded like he didn’t give much damn to his daughter. “I thought you said you loved her dearly,” he pointed out.

Taking another cigarette out to light, Lucifer clarified, “Oh, I do. But she’s a big girl who knows how to handle herself.” A pause to puff out smoke. “Besides! You clearly care for her, considering I could be right to assume that you had something to do with the disappearance of a certain Mr. Reginald Alfonse.”

That bothersome name again. Alastor’s lips pursed in disgust at the flash of memory of that bloody night in the speakeasy restroom. “And how would you know?”

“I am more than well aware of who patrons Rosie’s,” Lucifer explained. “It wasn’t difficult to put the pieces together.

So that’s what he must have been talking about with Rosie on that very fateful night. While he trusted her enough to not breathe a word of him and his ‘activities’, he wasn’t sure if it was a different case if she had been in the presence of the gangster who owned her establishment.

“If I did, so what?” Alastor pressed, on edge on where this was leading to.

“Then I supposed I should thank you for helping my daughter,” Lucifer acknowledged with a flick of his cigarette. “Wanted to see to it myself that he be taken care of, but at least I’m rest assured that someone has taken care of that on mine and Charlie’s behalf.”

Now he sounded so full of gratitude? What more can go on here? Too much for Alastor’s liking, that’s for sure! In fact, he’s about getting tired of this game that he was playing. Irritated, even!

What’s the grift?” Alastor demanded to know, his smile turning a tad bit strain. “You pull all these tricks and make big talk, but what’s your goal? And what’s it got to do with me?”

Lucifer continued to idly smoke as he thought over his next words. “You’re an interesting man, Alastor. Fearless, ruthless, backasswards. I haven’t seen many like you.”

Just then, his hand slipped into his jacket pocket, pulling out a card that was plated in gold and decorated with nothing else but a single crimson red apple in the middle, putting it flat on the table to be open for display to Alastor.

“Which is why I would like to make the offer for you to join me.”

So, Alastor had been right on his suspicions from the very first night they had met.

You want me to be one of your trouble boys?” he remarked with furrowed brows. “Don’t you already have boocoos of them? Like those three funny birds from just now?”

A nonchalant shrug. “Well, yes, spanning across the country, but like I said; none as interesting as you.”

Lucifer used the cigarette in hand, pointing the burnt end of it to gesture to Alastor’s entire form. “None with the ability to perform with such brutal yet effortless equilibrium,” he drawled in amazement. “It’s almost like art, the way you take a life. A bare-down on man’s most carnal instincts.”

Such flattery paved way for vanity, one Alastor was full of himself with, almost feeling to pique himself in pride. But that was clouded by the fact that still stood that the Big Apple would want to make use of him, not really helped by how he was feeling quite objectified by how he was eyeing him like sort of treasure to be had.

And still, Alastor held on to the accord from the very first night that it wasn’t something he favoured, that it was almost sickening to think that he would be of service to someone when he valued his own loyalty to himself. That, and he was much too prideful of himself to even consider kowtowing to some smug bastard like him.

And with that rejection of the thought came a laugh as Alastor shook his head gently in stupefaction, with Lucifer only looking with a curious quirk of his brow.

“Unfortunately, I’ll have to decline, my good sir. You see, I already have a job.”

As swift as the rejection had been, Lucifer immediately looked struck dumb, his smile disappearing in a flash, eyes searching Alastor’s face to see if he was probably joking, which he wasn’t.

“Well, this certainly wasn’t what I’d been expecting at all,” he remarked.

Alastor couldn’t resist the haughty smirk that pulled the corner of his lips. “You don’t know me well enough to expect anything,” he stated confidently.

But Lucifer was just as ready to respond in a similar fashion, showing teeth once again in a smart grin “Oh, but I do,” he claimed as matter-of-factly, “just not the more interesting matters.”

“Oh?” A raise of the eyebrow at the curious statement. “So, you’ve been looking into me?”

Lucifer only shrugged in return, as if it was not to be unexpected. And in a way, it truly wasn’t. “Trivial matters, so far,” he explained, before continuing, “Not much of an education – not finishing high school because of the war. Yet well-versed enough to impress the radio station to put you on the waves, and now you're the star radio host of New Orleans at the ripe age of twenty-four, after only about four years in the tenure.”

One wouldn’t have been able to tell the load of shock that was going through the radio host if it weren’t for the best poker face that he could muster. But if one looked carefully, one could see the way his brows were started to knit in concern, how his jaw was slowly starting to clench, and how his smile was threatening to fade as he continued to listen.

“Though, a little bit of digging and it seems quite the coincidence that the strings of New Orleans’ missing cases have been gradually on the rise since you became an orphan at fifteen.” Lucifer gave a thoughtful hum, tapping his chin in deep thought. “The link there is a pretty curious one! I wonder what had been the case?”

A strong twinge of discomfort hit him in the gut as the memory of a past intended to be forgotten was suddenly starting to dig its way out of the darkest recesses of his mind back to the forefront.

How far had the Big Apple gone to know all those little intimate details about him? No one knew that much about himself – not anyone from work, or the speakeasy, or even Charlie herself! He was a man of privacy, unwilling to divulge bits of his life that were of no concern to anyone but himself. But now, here was this mob boss, in an attempt to dig deep into him, gone off for a little bit of ‘research’ to read him like an open history book.

Yet still, he kept his poker face on and his discomfort hidden, as the Big Apple went on.

“Considering you’ve mentioned to me that you’ve had ‘years’ of practice, I must say you are quite the clever one, aren’t you? Managing to evade getting nailed for eight years, probably amassing yourself a very impressive number of bumps, clearly more than enough to shake New Orleans to its core in fear of the mysterious cases that’s been haunting the town.”

Lucifer straightened up in his seat, leaning forward to rest his arms on the table, eyes right at him, studying him. “You cover your tracks well, Alastor. But I’ll say confidence can only get you so far. What if you find yourself in a rut? What then?”

And there he was, acting like an uppish lordly wisenheimer that, in the shortest amount of time he’s known him, got him deep under Alastor’s skin to fuel the rage and fury that came from the absolute insult of being played around like that.

Alastor was by no means a pushover who’d be willing to let anyone walk or talk over him like so, and the man had better be glad that he at least had the decency to still hold an inkling of respect to his status as both a notorious underworld boss and Charlie’s father to not put him in his place like he would many others.

But unable to act on the itch to smite, he could only do what was a second-best option; to smile, and answer back as cocksure as he possibly could, “As you said yourself - I must be quite the clever one!”

And the grin only grew wider as he added, all smart-assed, “And I do intend to keep it that way, so I’d respectfully ask that you don’t gum every play I make.”

Alastor thought – half-expected even – for the smile to be wiped off his face again at his non-compliance, and he could only wait in anticipation at what could ensue. What could happen, he did not know, but there was no way in hell he was going to let himself be taken by surprise yet again.

However, after, Lucifer merely pondered on what he had just said, eyes deep in thought, before he hummed nonchalantly and shrugged his shoulders.

“Ah, well. It would do no good for me to push my chances here.”

Alastor was definitely expecting the unexpected, but he wasn’t prepared for the coolness in the Big Apple’s response.

“There’s no fun in doing it by force,” Lucifer mulled over the fact, playing with the now put-out butt between his fingers. “Oh no, it would be much more interesting for you to come to me on your own accord.”

Clearly this want stemmed from a play of ego, one that Alastor thought that two could play at the game. “I think I’ve made it very clear that I’m not interested to be your hatchet man.”

Alastor was sure that what he said was not a joke, but yet it made Lucifer chuckle as though it was the most ridiculous thing. The same notion, Alastor only kept quiet, watching him and waiting for him to calm himself to hear the reasoning behind it.

“Do you remember what I told you that night?”

No response, and Lucifer chimed in instantly, refreshing his memory, “All desperate fools will take whatever they can get when Lady Luck’s not on their side.”

The omniety behind that statement was unmistakably, but there was no question of it as Lucifer continued on as casually, “Besides, I’m not one to burn bridges too early. So, just so you know, the offer still stands.”

To add depth to that promise, his fingers went back to the card that was still on the table, sliding it across towards Alastor, who only stared at it blankly - pointedly ignoring the empty revolver nearby it - as Lucifer smiled a smile that would be polite if it weren’t for the sinister undertone behind it.

“For whenever you would need help.”

Alastor would doubt it, considering he nearly made the mistake that he could call on him to take care of Charlie, his own daughter. That was too much of a close call for his own liking, one he would be sure not to repeat.

But against his better judgement, his hand came forward and placed itself on the card, and at that moment, he hesitated, thinking of all the implications that came with taking it. The possibilities hung heavy in the air, and Alastor was almost uncertain at what could happen from here on out.

And yet, curiosity started to itch at him, wondering how far could he push his luck with this particular situation he had found himself in. Without a doubt, there was no way in hell he would want anything hanging over his head, but the urge to play the game, to walk on such thin ice, drove that maddening temptation to play the game, to take his chances, to turn it in his favour.

So, he took the card, keeping it in his jacket pocket and patting it as a show of keeping it safe. This pleased Lucifer somewhat, smiling as he gestured to the door.

“Do enjoy the rest of the party, and at least have some of the cake. They are delicious, I tell you.”

Alastor ignored the last part, just more than happy to take his leave, standing up and straightening his suit before making his way to the door, making sure his strides were paced to not look like he was in a rush.

But just as he crossed the threshold, he was suddenly stopped in his tracks when Lucifer asked, “And I hope I’ll be rest assured that Charlie makes it home safely tonight?”

The mention of her name caused realisation that it's been quite some time since he had been gone. And now that there was no feeling of discontent - irritation maybe, but not discontent - of her unexpected father, he didn't feel all that uncomfortable to return to her presence, finding it more pleasing than to spend another second in this room.

But, Big Apple or not, this was still her father, and he was her date, and he’d be damned if he didn’t at least remember his manners.

With a nod and a smile, Alastor replied, “You have my word, sir.”

There was still doubt clear in Lucifer, an uncertainty to trust the word of this dangerous man, but he’ll know what to do if his request wasn’t met, in return jerking a nod.

“Good boy.”


Charlie couldn’t find Alastor anywhere.

He wasn’t at the bar when she got back, and neither was he near the dance floor or the live band. For a split second, she fretted that he might have left, but a quick check with Razzle and Dazzle confirmed that he wasn’t seen to have departed, and so she continued searching high and low for a passing of the red of his suit or his handsome face adorned by a single monocle. But he just wasn’t anywhere to be found.

Where is he? She thought to herself in a worry, now simply standing in a somewhat secluded corner with a drink in hand, trying to quell her nerves as she watched the performance that was currently going on.

Lilith was up on stage with the band, singing along to a smooth jazz tune. Her mother had been a singer in the past, with a voice like a siren calling the attention of many on her to be enchanted. Charlie had heard that it was how her father had fallen for her, and she, in turn, grew to love her mother’s singing, from the night-time lullabies she had listened to as a child to the solos during such parties like these, so listening to her now at least lightened the mood, with the help of a bit of liquor.

“Aww, what’s the matter, dear? You’re looking like such a poor little wallflower!”

Well, now how that voice immediately soured her mood even more, turning to see Helsa looking at her with a sneer of contempt.

“I’d take being a wallflower over talking to you anytime,” Charlie answered with a frown.

“Oh, a little snappy there, aren’t you? Careful, darling! It sure isn’t a pretty look on you!”

She wasn’t sure if it was because she couldn’t find Alastor or having to listen to Sir Pentious droning or the alcohol, but Charlie was for certain not in the mood to deal with this. “Look, what is it exactly that you want?” she questioned irately. “I’m not particularly keen on listening to your chinning tonight.”

Seeing that she was getting under Charlie’s skin only made Helsa’s nasty grin grow wider, giggling irritatingly, “My, my! Aren’t you being a shrew? How cute to see the little kitten showing her claws!”

Again, Charlie wasn’t particularly feeling the mood to hold back and deal with this sort of talk, and it’s probably with the liquid courage that she said, “More like I’ve grown horns to go loggerheads to deal with nudniks like you.”

That seemed to jolt Helsa like electric, for suddenly the puffed-up look of hers was gone with a flash as her eyes began to look sharp with the first buildings of nettling.

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me,” Charlie replied easily, unresisting to a smirk. “Or was that too direct for you?”

Affronted at her directness, Helsa clenched her teeth, which were grinding so hard it could actually make an irritable noise that worsened her screechy voice. “Let me explain something to you, ‘Princess’. Not sure if you’re aware but you’re pretty much a joke around these parts. The only reason you’re still treated nice is just ‘cause you’re a Magne.”

She was now standing so close that her pan was all up in Charlie’s as she seethed cruelly, “But don’t forget you’re nothing more than a flat tire with those dim-witted ideas of yours.”

If at any given moment, that certainly would have hurt Charlie, who was admittedly still quite sensitive about being treated like an embarrassment for her ideals, something that she hadn’t particularly wanted to face on this very night where she was forced to be among those who laughed at her.

But really, at this moment, just tell her something she didn’t already know.

So, with one final sip of her drink, she would only give a narrow of her eyes and another confident smirk as she simply said, “I think I’ll take a chance, sweetie.”

Helsa was definitely not ready to back down, already taking another breath to continue her tirade, but then a hand on her shoulder immediately stopped her, and she turned to see Seviathan looking down with the most disapproving glare.

“That’s quite enough out of you, Helsa,” he reprimanded.

“What’s it to you?” she snapped, shaking off his hand all unhappy at being scolded. “It isn’t your business.”

“It is my business if you’re going all around acting like a hooligan. Really, your behaviour is absolutely atrocious.”

The anger in her face only grew tenfold, lips pulled back to bare teeth. “You really want to know what’s ‘atrocious’, dear brother? That you’d still want to play nice to someone like her.”

The ‘her’ was said with a point of a finger to Charlie, who only stood away in silent frustration.

Seviathan didn’t take lightly to his sister’s outburst. “What’s between me and Charlotte is none of your concern, Helsa.” He stepped around so that he was standing in front of Charlie, as if to protect her, and demanded with simple affirmation, “Now, if you wouldn’t mind as to leave?”

Helsa looked like she was about to bite back once more, unwilling to drop the topic, but upon seeing the way her brother’s eyes narrowed dangerously at her in warning, she didn’t, only making a loud ‘tch’ of disgust as she turned and walked away with a huff, leaving the both of them alone once more tonight, much to her chagrin.

Seviathan turned to her, sighing shamefully, “Once again, I’ll have to apologise for my sister, Charlotte. You know her and her tempers.”

“Oh, forget about it,” Charlie grumbled, looking away as she placed her empty glass on a passing waiter’s tray. “It’s always something with you Von Eldrich siblings, isn’t it?”

Vexation fuelled her to want to leave the scene immediately, which she had been prompt in taking a step away until his hand shot out to grab hers, gentle though firm.

“Excuse me?” she exclaimed, frustration only growing at this unwanted touch.

“I was hoping to request a dance?”

“Um… No,” Charlie was quick to reply, gut wrenching at the request. “I was looking for Alastor.”

But Seviathan did not seem deterred. “Oh, come on. I don’t see him around and it wouldn’t do to leave a lady without a companion. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind.”

Charlie truly wasn’t all that convinced, ready to pull away more forcefully until he leaned in to say cautiously, “Besides, I’m afraid that we’ve already caused quite a scene…”

She wasn’t aware that she was being watched until a quick glance and she saw some eyes were on her, whispering amongst themselves about what they had witnessed. In an instant, she was burning in embarrassment, damning her luck to be putting her in such an unwanted situation, feeling herself shrink under the weight of the gazes.

“Just one dance, Charlotte. Please.”

Her eyes darted to her mother on stage, who definitely saw the exchange and was watching her with an expectant look as she continued. With her eyes, she was telling her to be mindful of him, probably stemming from the fact that the Von Eldriches were still family friends, and thus were to be treated with respect, as according to Lilith when she had first broken up with Seviathan.

For the sake of her parents, she would obey that one condition, and thus sighing in defeat, Charlie half-heartedly placed a hand in his, ignoring his smile as he led her to the dance floor.

They have danced before, too many times that it has almost become muscle memory with the way they held each other so naturally. But this didn’t invoke a sense of nostalgia within Charlie. If anything, she felt so unease, wondering why in hell would she accept to dance with him, looking anywhere else but him and casually trying to ignore the way he was looking at her.

“So, I’ve heard through the grapevine that you’re actually working on that hotel of yours.”

Well, now she couldn’t ignore him.

“How did you know about that?” Charlie asked, genuinely curious.

“You’ve set up a meeting with my teacher as a potential investor.”

She recalled from her conversation with Sir Pentious that he had mentioned he had arrived in America in companionship with a student of his. But just how bad must her luck be to turn out that said student was none other than Seviathan?

“And what exactly did you hear?” she inquired, trying not to look like she was much too concerned about it.

His answer came with a nonchalant shrug. “Oh, what anyone else had said last time.”

Charlie need not press to know what he meant by the last bit, being unpleasantly reminded again of Helsa’s bitchy remarks. But Seviathan did not divulge on that, instead asking, “I would assume it’s going well?”

At that, she smiled her widest, eyes self-satisfied as she replied, “Why, yes. In fact, I actually have my first patron, and I’m expecting a couple more in the coming months.”

Seeing the way Seviathan's eyes widened in surprise brought a bit of pride to Charlie, glad that she had something to prove herself and the hotel for what it’s worth. Immediately, she felt a swell in her that told her that yes, it was probably going well, and she believed in that.

“My, I certainly didn’t expect that.”

The flatness in his response stalled the swell that was building. “Oh?” she said with a raise of her brow.  “Then what did you expect, Seviathan? Another failure in my books?”

“Can’t say I didn’t think that at least.”

In place of the pride that grew was ire once more, which wasn’t helped as Seviathan continued on, “I mean, you’ll have to admit, your… attempts haven’t been all that successful. Anyone within the circle knows about that. I would assume you would have been a bit more mindful.”

The Von Eldrich siblings were two sides of the same coin; while Seviathan may conduct himself in more courteous eloquence than his sister, he was undoubtedly the same sort of highfalutin scumbag that Charlie disliked.

To hear him just rub it in her face like that, it was just infuriating her to no end.

“Did I say something wrong?”

“Other than deliver a backhanded insult, no.”

The sarcasm was clear in her voice for Seviathan to start looking somewhat sheepish. “Well, if it makes you feel any better, I do wish you all the best with that.”

The well-wishing would have been much appreciated, but alas Charlie knew that it wasn’t really dripping with sincerity that came with a standoffish man such as himself, and she’s decidedly had enough of wasting her time with any more jive.

But before she could do anything, a single finger tapped on Seviathan's shoulder, and both turned – much to Charlie’s immense relief and happiness – to see Alastor, grin already in place as he looked at Seviathan with a pair of narrowed eyes.  

“I haven’t yet had the pleasure of dancing with my lovely companion for tonight. So, Mr. Von Eldrich, if you won’t mind!”

Before a word of protest could be said, Charlie’s hands were already free of him as she allowed herself to be pulled away with Alastor to the further regions of the dance floor, not paying any heed to Seviathan's insulted look or any words coming out of his mouth as the music drowned him out.

Meanwhile, Alastor was internally fighting back the urge to cause some form of mild harm to the boy, his mood souring at the thought that he didn’t just have to deal with bushwa with the doll’s father only to find her weasel of an ex-boyfriend having the pleasure to dance with her. As if he didn’t feel incensed enough for one night!

Once they were sure away from said weasel, it was with a swiftness that Alastor took Charlie by the waist and hand, leading her into a slow dance befitting to the music. In the silence, Charlie could only watch the way he looked at her, realising that he was now actually properly looking at her, his eyes not moving away or hesitant as it had been earlier on, a smile given.

She was happy, but at the same time confused at what had prompted a sudden change in him again.

“Where were you?”

He seemed to have expected that question, for he answered smoothly, “Went to take a smoke. Just giving myself a little breather from this shindig going around here.”

“I see…” she replied, giving a little smile. “Well, I’m glad you’re feeling better.”

Of course, she must have been worried about him, as he had suspected.  He almost felt bad. Strange, considering how Charlie had turned out to be a more complicated game than he could ever anticipate, it was supposedly still quite uncertain for him towards her. But he tried hard not to focus on that at the moment. The doll wasn’t smiling, and he was partially to blame, so he should make up for it.

But all he could offer now was a reassuring smile, telling her comfortingly, “Don’t worry, my dear. I’m alright.”

Before Charlie could even give a response, there was suddenly a loud change to the music, having transitioned from the smooth jazz that her mother was singing to a more upbeat tune that suddenly, all around them, the other dancers started shifting as their moves became the famous Charleston.

And it was like a switch had been flipped within Alastor. Upon hearing the lively jazz number, his eyes widened in excitement, his grin stretching further as he exclaimed aloud, “Now THIS is what I can dance to!”

Soon, he followed suit of the other dancers, letting her go so that he was free to kick his legs and swing his arms with such vigour that Charlie could only look in awe, amazed by the sudden change of his energy, and also taken aback at seeing him dancing, a completely new side to him that she was experiencing.

She couldn’t watch for long though, because almost immediately, Alastor reached out and took her hand in his, bright eyes encouraging her to join in. The infectious smile was what made her sold, and she threw inhibitions to the air as she followed his lead and danced.

In time with the beat of the music, their limbs and legs swung in synchronisation, with Charlie's skirts flying and the tailcoat of Alastor's suit flapping ceremoniously in the wind. He twisted and turned and twirled her, and with each move, Charlie felt all the unease from the past hour start to melt away. In that moment, gone were the thoughts of that awkward meeting with her parents and the horrible encounters with Seviathan and Helsa, as a high filled her that was fuelled by the bright smile on her handsome partner's face, no doubt that this was probably the happiest she felt the entire night.

The same was for Alastor, who found the music and dancing a relief from the unnecessary stress that he had to endure. It's been a while since he had a good dance, and Charlie was a swell partner who knew how to use her gams, her jubilant energy rubbing off on him so much that he felt taken once more but how lively the doll was, so much more comforting for him to be able to face her like this again.

When the music came to an extravagant close with the dancers striking final poses, a loud round of applause was given to the band, the entire dance floor laughing and cheering with the high. Alastor and Charlie were none too different, all smiles and laughs. The exuberance of energy made them into hot messes, but no damn was given as both had no thought but the sheer jubilance that came with the dance of the Charleston. To hell with looking prim and proper when it was just all so fun!

But in their breathless state, both subconsciously leaned into each other, as if to support each other from the mild exhaustion that was starting to set in. It escaped their notice at first, too busy catching their breaths, but it was only a few seconds later that Charlie realised what was going on, immediately looking up to see that Alastor had realised it as well and was already looking at her.

They have never been this close before, their sides touching so much that they could feel the heat radiating off each other. This sort of physical contact was almost too close too suddenly.

In her shyness, Charlie turned away, fighting the smile that was starting to appear, and this did not escape Alastor’s notice, whose smile turned up in amusement.

But then, someone caught her eyes, and immediately her embarrassment took a more dire turn.

“Oh, my… Daddy’s watching.”

Immediately hearing that, Alastor turned in the direction that she was looking at to find that her father was indeed watching them with a blank stare from the distance he stood. But his eyes were clearly not on her, but on him, and Alastor could read almost a hundred mental messages flashing through those slits.

But this look did not scare him. Oh, no. If anything, it only amused him. Show it to Big Apple that he wasn’t afraid even after what had gone down in his study. He almost wanted to guffaw out loud!

And as he held the gaze of the Big Apple defiantly, he was starting to feel an itch growing inside him. Without a doubt, an itch to get a little bit cocky with the situation.

Maybe think of it as payback, if one would.

“Hey, Charlie?”

Hearing her name, Charlie looked up to see him eyeing her with a particularly mischievous smile.

“… Yes, Alastor?...”

His smile turned into a big grin with what he said next.

“Let’s misbehave.”

Chapter Text

Lucifer and Lilith were clearly saddened to hear that Charlie was departing for the night, filled with parental concern when she stated that she was exhausted and probably had drunk a tad bit too much, so would like to turn in for the night.

Alastor stood by her side, bidding his farewells and giving assurance that he would see to it that she made it home safe and sound – that said with a look to Lucifer, who said nothing.

And so, with a hug and a kiss exchanged with both her parents and a final wish of ‘Happy Birthday’ to her father, the both of them waved goodbye and departed from the manor.

“A lovely young man, isn’t he, darling?” Lilith asked her husband with a smile.

Lucifer could only purse his lips in doubt, and Lilith chuckled with a roll of her eyes. “Oh, darling. It’s so cute how you’re being overprotective over our little girl.”

If only his wife knew the reason for being so.

But for now, he would keep mum. He wasn’t all too pleased with the arrogance that her daughter’s companion had portrayed, but Lucifer had decided to wait it out, genuinely interested to see how this interesting scenario would play.


“When you said ‘misbehave’, I didn’t really think you meant this.”

“Surprised, Charlie dear?”

Of course, she was. Alastor’s strange but tempting words had brought the promise of thrills that pushed to misbehaviour on her part to lie to her parents so that they could blow the dreadful party for the whims of real fun.

But she couldn’t really see what was fun about going to some emporium in the middle of the night.

“Don’t look too disappointed just yet!” he reassured, leading her to the door. “I’m taking you to New Orleans’ best-kept secret.”

When the bell jingled, Rosie looked up and immediately a smile came to her upon seeing her favourite patron. But that smile quickly faded when she realised that he wasn’t alone, that there was a petite little blonde following behind him so closely.

“Alastor,” she said his name with the surprise kept to a minimum, skirting around the counter to him as he was all composed smiles and greeting cheerfully. “Rosie, dear! Lovely evening, isn’t it?”

As per the norm, he took her hand for a soft peck to her knuckles, but Rosie’s attention was only fixed on the blonde he had brought with him, who he immediately turned to when he straightened up.

“Rosie, I’d like to introduce you to Charlie!”

At her introduction, Charlie stepped forward shyly, bowing her head in greeting. “Hello, ma’am. Very nice to meet you!”

My, the girl sounded as sweet as a buttercup! Rosie couldn’t help but think of her as quite the adorable little thing, “Very nice to meet you as well, dearie,” she replied just as kindly.

But niceties aside, still it did not quell how balled up it was Alastor had actually brought a girl with him. He’s never done something like that before, and it was just so odd!

“I hope tonight’s not that packed, dear,” he said smoothly, making his way to the bookshelf. Charlie lingered behind, not sure of what to make of this, looking around the store at the curious knick-knacks arranged all around.

Giving a cautious side-eye to the unexpected guest, Rosie asked Alastor in a hushed whisper, “Alastor, how can I be sure…”

Alastor had been prepared for the question, understanding the sensitivity of bringing an unknown face to her joint. She had strict rules about it that he knew he had to abide, and honestly, it was an impulse on his part to bring Charlie to one of the establishments that her father secretly owned.

But he supposed it could count for another strike of payback. Since the Big Apple’s probably got eyes everywhere, why not make a show of just how much he gave a damn about him by bringing his daughter to one of his owned establishments?

Besides, he felt the need to dip the bill in a less-stressful setting.

“Don’t worry, dear. She won’t say a word.”

That may be his statement, but Rosie would need to hear it from the girl herself, and thus turned to Charlie, asking politely, “Can you keep a secret, dearie?”

Charlie was confused at the sudden question, but seeing Alastor nodding in reassurance, she answered, “Yes?”

It didn’t really sound all that convincing, but she looked so sweet and naïve that Rosie thought that she was probably as harmless as a dove. And with Alastor’s grin just full of certainty, she supposed she should just take what she could get.

Giving one more glance to the girl, she made to push away a few books, clearing a particular space to knock on the bare wood. When the bookshelf slowly swung open, there was a loud surprised gasp from Charlie, her eyes widening at the unexpected display. Rosie thought this to be adorable, likening her look to a child that was amazed at a magic trick, and gestured for her to go ahead inside.

It was Alastor that brought her out of her little stupor, taking her by the hand through the threshold of the secret door and down the steps, and Rosie made quick to lock the doors of the emporium before following in their trail, intrigued at this curious happenstance.

As he led her steps, she beheld the sight all around her. She knew that such things existed, but never in her wildest dreams would Charlie ever expect to find herself in an actual speakeasy. And it was such a different world away from the quaint and cosy emporium above, looking like The Ritz in remarkable and dazzling splendour, quite alive with a band that was performing a lively ragtime number and many guests indulging in tipping a few.

Mirroring the words that she had said to him earlier in the evening, Alastor told her with a wink and finger to his lips, “Don’t tell anyone that the liquor here’s bootlegged!”

Charlie caught on and giggled, imitating his earlier response with a finger to her lips.

Weaving through the crowd together, she found herself being led to a bar, where there was an impressive collection of various liquors up on display on the shelves. But that wasn’t her focus for long when she realised a familiar face at the bar.

“Oh! You’re-”

Husk had been in the middle scofflawing from a bottle when he heard her voice, and he nearly sputtered on his drink when he saw her. “Um.. Hi?” he greeted awkwardly, consumed by confusion about what the hell was she doing here until he saw Alastor’s insolent smile, and immediately came a dreadful drop in his gut.

“You work here?” Charlie asked with bright-eyed curiosity.

“Um…”

The uncertainty was interrupted with a loud cheery voice greeting, “Mister Al!” All four turned in the direction of another familiar face joining the scene, and Niffty was about her skipping her way towards them when she suddenly realised their unexpected guest.

 “Oh! Hiya, Charlie!”

“Nifty!” Charlie smiled upon recognising the tiny redhead. “You’re here too?”

“Yup! And so is Husk! Welcome to Rosie’s!”

She was suddenly swept up into a conversation by the excitable chatterbox, and it was with ease that Alastor felt to see her starting to get comfortable with his friends here in the speakeasy. Perhaps it really wasn’t such a bad idea to have brought her to Rosie’s.

“Alastor.”

Ah, well. Probably spoke too soon… he thought with slight dismay, turning around to see Mimzy standing right behind him.

“Mimzy, dear,” he greeted with a usual friendliness. “You’re looking lovely tonight.”

And yes, she did look quite lovely all togged to the bricks befitting for an attractive flapper like herself. Unfortunately, the loveliness wasn’t extended to her button, looking like a green-eyed monster as she was staring at Charlie with eyes so fiery that it could probably burn a hole in her back.

Mimzy pointedly ignored his greeting, gesturing with a tip of her chin in Charlie’s direction. “Who’s that?” she asked, voice as hard as steel, which quite irritated Alastor at this indirect display of rudeness.

Without hesitation, he reached out to Charlie, who turned away from her conversation with the two to see her. “Charlie, I’d like you to meet Mimzy,” he introduced, his expression masked with his ever-present smile. “Mimzy, Charlie.”

Polite as ever, Charlie greeted sweetly with a smile, “It’s really nice to meet you!”

But Mimzy did not look as sweet in return, her eyes doing a once-over on Charlie, and she simply gave an upward tilt of her head, nose high up in the air with a sort of attitude as she replied, “So, you’re the girl that Alastor’s seeing?”

Both Alastor and Charlie visibly stilled at the sudden remark, a blush spreading on her cheeks and an irritation flooding his eyes. But Mimzy did not falter from their reactions, her stare still locked on Charlie, waiting on an answer.

“Um… Yes?” Charlie answered with a squeak, feeling like she had been pushed to a corner, which was not helped by the fact that all of Alastor's friends were looking at her.

"My, how surprising," Mimzy replied, unimpressed. “I would never have expected.”

The tension and awkwardness in the air was so palpable that it was making everybody uncomfortable, especially when a quick glance to Alastor's face let everyone know that he was about ready to jump in and cut off any venomous snark that might come out of her mouth. He may be standing still and calm now, but with Mimy’s known stubbornness of pushing at people’s buttons, it would probably only be a matter of time before he would snap.

So with a calm grace, Rosie cleared her throat and exclaimed, “Mimzy, darling, you’re needed back on the stage!”

Mimzy wanted to outright refuse. No way did she want to have Alastor be alone with this girl. It was simply infuriating to her. However, it was probably not as infuriating as the way Alastor stared down at her with an unhidden disapproval, the hard look in his eyes almost demanding that she complied, unnerving her enough that eventually she swallowed the angry lump in her throat down and headed back to the stage, where the band was just starting up a new song.

Glad to have the unnecessary tension away, Alastor was all bright smiles again as he exclaimed to Charlie, “Well! Now that we’ve got you quite settled, what’s say we have another drink? What would you like, doll?"

Charlie was flustered from the moment as she said, "Um… A Boulevardier, please."

Alastor gestured for her to take a seat on a barstool, but was immediately interrupted by a disapproving tutting. “Now, Alastor! A bar stool is simply not appropriate for your guest!” Rosie reprimanded with a shake of her head. “Please, have one of the finest tables in the house. I insist!”

She gestured for Niffty to lead the way, and the flapper obediently took Charlie’s hand to bring her to a table, leaving Alastor behind to settle the drinks.

But once left alone, he was immediately confronted with an irate, “Are you shitting me?”

“Language, Husker! Manners!”

But Husk paid no mind to the proprietress’ scolding, looking like he was about to lose it with the way he was staring at Alastor in wild bewilderment, amusing the man who faux innocently pondered, “Hmm… No, I don’t think so!”

“What the fuck did I tell you about this? Now you’re bringing her here too?”

Husk was just not having any of his bullshit at the moment, but Alastor only rolled his eyes with a dismissive wave of his hand. “Oh, Husker, be a lalapazaza! What’s the harm of bringing my lovely date here for a night out?”

With a point of his finger that nearly jabbed into his chest, causing the narrowing of Alastor’s eyes, Husk barked, “The ‘harm’ is you peacocking yourself off around her, and with whatever the fuck sort of sick plan you got in that conk of yours, you might be dragging ALL OF US down the shitter. ”

“Crass language aside, I’ll have to agree with Husk…” Rosie interjected, worried. “Alastor, this is quite unlike you. Do you really think that you won’t have any trouble with that girl?”

Oh, if only they knew how they were unknowingly speaking the truth. Alastor was almost tempted to tell them what he had learnt earlier in the evening. Now that would definitely knock them off their socks! He could only imagine that Rosie might be giving him a proper nagging and Husk might want to wring his neck.

But alas, no doubt he wouldn’t pay any heed to them. It was in his own resolve that he had set himself for the game way before even knowing Charlie’s parentage, and it would not do to throw in the towel. It’ll be an act of cowardice on his part, and the thought of the Big Apple’s smug grin just hit him with that twinge of disgust. This was his business, his choice to take up on the challenge, and he would damn well see to it that he pulled through.

So he replied to the conundrum with a confident, “Ish kabibble, my friends! Rest your pretty heads that I’ll have this all under control!”

Only a hard stink eye was given by the bartender, which Alastor reciprocated with his usual smile.

Rosie sighed, having had enough of any more silly childish behaviour from her associates. “Alright, that’s quite enough from you boys. Alastor, go ahead and join your friend. I’ll have Niffty bring your drinks over.”

She shooed him away, and he obliged and took his leave, heading over to the table that he and Charlie had been given, quite a good spot from the stage. She was just sitting quietly, watching Mimzy belting out notes, turning only when he took a seat beside her.

“So, you’ve been talking to them about me?”

“Mimzy ought to keep her mouth shut,” Alastor chuckled, the annoyance that was held back unnoticed by Charlie, who was more focused on her question.

“So… what did you tell them?”

His answer was easy and swift. “That I’m seeing and spending time with a particularly lovely dame.”

It wasn’t much of an answer, but it was enough to get Charlie all blushing at the thought that he considered her ‘lovely’. She tried to hide the redness of her cheeks as best as she could just as Niffty brought over their drinks, setting it down before leaving swiftly.

“Problem, doll?”

“No. It’s just... I wouldn't think you would talk about me."

“And why wouldn’t I?” he asked inquisitively.

“Because you’re so private and all. There’s a lot of things I still don’t really know about you.” With a wave of her hand, she gestured to their surroundings. “Like this place! I never would have thought you would be one to come to a joint like this.”

“Well, darling, in all irony, it’s tough to speak easy about a speakeasy. This is a source of income for my friends, and I wouldn’t risk their way of putting bread on the table.”

Charlie nodded once in understanding. “That’s really nice of you… And it’s nice that you would trust me enough to take me here. I’m pretty sure your friends aren’t all ducky of me being here, but I’d promise I won’t say anything.”

Oh, but that’s not really what they’re so concerned about. “Of course! For sure, I can trust you.”

He probably wasn’t aware of how that statement made her feel warm inside, feeling so nice to be trusted, and her smile grew as he picked up his Gin Rickey and held it in the air for a toast. “So, darling, to trust?”

Picking up her Boulevardier, she gently tapped it to his. “To trust.”

Time passed by with the joys of music and drinks as they conversed wholeheartedly, enjoying each other’s presence as they had many times before. It was probably the first time in this seemingly long night that Alastor felt truly relaxed, having shaken off all the tension that came with the party they had so thankfully bloused, and feeling in tune to where he could at least grasp control of a situation on his own terms.

It was simple, but to have the daughter of the Big Apple here with him, unknowingly enjoying herself in one of her father’s establishments where he probably had eyes to see the both of them, he would take it something like a rude finger gesture to the man.

But after a while passed, a whangdoodle had just ended, and Mimzy gave a confident bow to the applauding audience before strutting off the stage, basking in the adoring attentions given to her. And it was in that prideful stride that she made her way to their table, breaking their little peace.

“Mind if I?” she asked, gesturing to the empty seat beside Charlie’s.

Her sudden presence was much to Alastor’s chagrin, but before he could say anything, Charlie beat him to the chase. “Oh, of course! Please join us!”

And so Mimzy took a seat, just as waiter came with a serving tray of a martini and a cigarette in a bakelite holder. As she took a fag, she was very much aware of how Alastor was pointedly ignoring her now, looking elsewhere but her, which only added to the dismay she’d been feeling from just now.

But Charlie was unaware of the one-sided exchange. “You were absolutely wonderful!” she exclaimed gleefully. “Your performance was top-notch!”

Mimzy wasn’t all too interested to talk to her, but she supposed she should at least have some manners. “Well, it won't be becoming of me as a singer if it wasn't," she replied, all bored. “Al here could vouch for me. He knows my style by heart.”

Alastor made no comment, not involving himself in the conversation as he continued sipping on his drink.

“Oh, you two must’ve been friends for a long time."

"Yes, we are. We drink from the same bottle. Share a lot of common interests too.”

He flashed a look at her, wondering at what implication was she going with that statement, but Mimzy only gazed back blankly, just wanting to see his eyes on her.

But he was quick to turn away at Charlie’s curious eyes. “Ahem, yes. You could say we did.”

“My, he must’ve seen you in all your best,” Charlie gushed so innocently. “I can only imagine having such a wonderful voice as yours.”

Mimzy hummed in agreement, feeling pride at the complementation of her voice, before turning the topic around and asking, “Do you sing, Charlie?”

Charlie gave a small smile and a shrug. “Um… I’ve had lessons, but I’m not as good.”

Mimzy would have just given a nonchalant reply and quickly brush it off without interest, but Alastor held a different reaction, his eyes widening with a surprise that was interlaced with excitement, and his smile stretched as he exclaimed, “Really now? How interesting! Let’s hear it then!”

Immediately, Mimzy nearly choked on her cigarette smoke and Charlie was struck dumb.

“Wha-?”

Alastor pressed on with much enthusiasm. "Come on, doll! You have a talent you never even told me about? Now that’s criminal! You must indulge me!”

Before Charlie could even think of a reply, Mimzy cut in with a firm, “Now, Al. You shouldn’t just be pushing somebody to sing!” She gestured with her cigarette holder to Charlie. “Look at her. She’s quite terrified, the poor bunny.”

Try as she may, Alastor was no fool, and he could see past the curvy canary’s act of concern to the jealousy that was boiling deep inside her. Now her doings were starting to get on his nerves, disliking how she wanted to be a complete bluenose and ruin his fun for the sake of her own vanity.

 “Now, now, Mimzy. You don’t think that Charlie would try to steal your spotlight, do you?”

His smile was a challenging one, as he had intended to strike into her, and it worked, just like he had thought when he finally saw her eyes falter, almost looking like she was going to break at how he was purposefully jabbing into her with that jibe.

But she was forgotten dismissively when he turned back to Charlie, his expression changed once more, becoming softer, gentler, and so earnest as he asked, “How about it, doll? Just one song? For me?”

Charlie was immediately at a loss. She was not afraid of going up on a stage and performing – she had done a fair share of recitals in her youth to overcome stage fright. But she was more uncertain of how she would look to Alastor, if she could potentially make herself look like a fool if he thought she wasn’t as good as he thought she might be.

But seeing the way he smiled with that twinkle of excitement, it tugged at her.

“Alright…”

Before she could consider changing her mind, Charlie was already out of her seat and making her way to the stage, nerves promptly bubbling inside her that she pushed down immediately.

When she was out of earshot, it was then Mimzy allowed her composure to break just the slightest, snapping with an outraged glare, “Just what the hell are you trying to prove?”

Alastor was too preoccupied with the anticipation of Charlie performing that he did not react to her lather, once more taking another calm sip of his drink. “Not everything revolves around you.”

But Mimzy was hearing none of it. “You think this is some sort of sick game of trying to show me up with some broad?” she seethed through gritting teeth, halfway out of her seat to push her face up against his. “She’s as good as dead with you anyway, so what’s the deal?”

She had already done work in getting on his nerves since just now, but now his patience was wearing extremely paper-thin at that statement, spoken a little too loud and obnoxious for his liking, which prompted him to reply, “The ‘deal’ is that you are quite ruining my fun here, Mimzy.”

And it truly was for his own fun. Think of it; a mousy little doll set by herself on a stage where a thousand judging eyes could make or break her. It reminded him somewhat of when he had put her in a spot during her radio interview, finding it fun to throw in some sort of hurdle at her. Sure, he could have not risked her modesty should she potentially disappoint, but he wanted to give a little push to see what she would do. From what he had experienced, she’d find a way to make the best out of it.

Only this time, he wasn’t going to be near her to give his hand to hold, and he was genuinely curious at how this might turn out. Besides, he’s never seen her sing before, thus all the more interesting.

And he wasn’t going to let a grungy canary ruin that for him.

“So, I’d appreciate it if you do sit down and dry up.”

The sharp narrowing of his glare was enough to stun Mimzy into silence once more, her ferocity diminishing quickly as a pang of fear struck her heart and dread filled her, and Alastor was satisfied with his intimidation as he watched her bite back all the barbs that were heavy on her tongue to obey his demand and sit back down quietly.

He softened immediately as Charlie had gone closer to the stage and looked at him over her shoulder. He saw the hint of hesitation in her eyes, and in reassurance he raised his glass to her with a nod and a warm smile.

And it was in that smile that only up-ed the nervous anticipation inside Charlie more as she finally reached the band, who had been about to start when she brought up her request for a song; one that her mother sang to her father constantly in her youth, one she knew the lyrics too well, and one she thought it perfect for the man she was singing for.

The musicians were intrigued by the request and invited her to the standing microphone in the centre.

The crowd too were intrigued by the appearance of an unfamiliar pretty doll in place of the resident singer, all eyes in attention on her. But she did not see them, only Alastor, who was still waiting, watching her in expectancy, an eagerness there that, for some reason, drove the bout of courage to swallow down her hesitation and puff up her chest.

And with the first strums of the banjo and a deep breath, she began.

 

I've seen the world

Done it all

Had my cake now

Diamonds

Brilliant

And Bel-Air now

 

My, how she could sing!

Needless to say, Alastor was impressed, and even somewhat disappointed that he had not discovered earlier that she had such a sweetness to her vocals.

This is going to be very entertaining indeed… he thought, gluing his eyes to the stage as he relaxed against his seat, drink in hand and ready to enjoy the show.

 

Hot summer nights

Mid-July

When you and I were forever wild

The crazy days

The city lights

When you would play with me like a child

 

Boy, was she a real baby vamp at the moment, having effortlessly gotten all attention on her, gripping everyone in the room with her sweet voice and pretty face that was as pure as the driven snow.

Which was why a sharp pang of jealousy beginning to eat into Mimzy’s heart.

As if it wasn’t enough that the girl – that bitch – was undeniably attractive, now she had a voice to boot?

Just… How dare she?!

This was her territory! Her domain! How dare she took over without any shame? How dare she thought she could flatter herself with everyone being so charmed by her? How dare she indulged herself in a song?

And how dare she chose that song of all songs for Alastor?!

  

Will you still love me when I'm no longer young and beautiful?

Will you still love me when I got nothing but my aching soul?

I know you will

I know you will

I know that you will

Will you still love me when I'm no longer beautiful?

 

Juxtaposed against the jazz, it was such a song of melancholia, the tale of a lovelorn soul questioning if their lover might still love them even if their youth and beauty was lost with a pained soul, but reaffirming that they know they will.

Such a peculiar song for someone as cheery as sunshine as Charlie was, but it was in that contrary that made Alastor realise that something was up, that there was some something about those lyrics, and he was compelled to know.

 

I've seen the world

Lit it up as my stage now

Channelling angels in

The new age now

 

He wasn’t sure if it was the liquor giving him an edge, but at that moment, there was suddenly a funny feeling that was starting to grow inside him.

Has he ever seen Charlie in such a manner?

Lively, yes.

Charming, yes.

But absolutely and utterly captivating?

 

Hot summer days

Rock and roll

The way you'd play for me at your show

And all the ways I got to know

Your pretty face and electric soul

 

The way she sang that stanza to him with her eyes fixed to his and with such a passion coating her sweet voice; it was as though she was singing praises to him, making Alastor’s compulsion grow strong with a tilt of his head and the widening of his grin.

This definitely sounded almost like a confession, and if he had been a shy fella, he would have blushed at the thought. But instead, he was quite charmed, thinking how such a feat of courage this was on Charlie’s part to do it through song.

It was so unconventional, but Alastor was an unconventional man, and this made him rest his elbows on the table and lean forward to listen closely to what more she had to say.

 

Will you still love me when I'm no longer young and beautiful?

Will you still love me when I got nothing but my aching soul?

I know you will

I know you will

I know that you will

Will you still love me when I'm no longer beautiful?

 

As the solo of the clarinet and trombone filled the air, Charlie began to sway and tap her feet to the mellow melody, dancing gently in tune to the beat of the music, which only entranced Alastor more at seeing her so at peace, so lovely and so wholesome.

But seeing the way he watched her all mesmerised, Mimzy could feel the uncomfortable tugging of her heartstrings, an ache she was so painstakingly familiar with threatening to release the floodgates of sad yearning that she held for the man.

She could not bear it, the way he looked at that girl in a manner that he would never look to her with. Unable to confront the discomfort from watching him, she got up from her seat and left in a rush.

She did not need to look back to know that Alastor didn’t even notice that she left.

 

Dear God

When I get to Heaven

Please let me bring my man

When he comes

Tell me that you'll let him in

Father tell me if you can

 

The way she was almost begging for some higher power to give him the promise of paradise, it warmed him yet tickled him in amusement.

Heaven was such a laughable destination for him. No, he was not suited for Heaven. Not when at the moment, those devious thoughts came rushing back to his mind, the thought of Charlie wanting, almost needing, for him to be with her, unknowing of what he desired to do to her once he had her completely in his grasp, doing what would constitute as another reason for him to never be allowed entrance to Heaven.

But he wouldn’t have minded. To have Charlie, that would probably be it. That would be his paradise, where he could bask in the glory and magnificence of having her so impuissant to him that she would voluntarily put herself at the mercy of his whims.

That alone would be his Heaven.

 

Oh!

That grace!

Oh!

That body!

Oh!

That face!

Makes me wanna party

He's my sun

He makes me shine like diamonds

 

It was all so much, how she was singing to this man. This amazing man. This man that could lift her up with just that smile of his alone.

Charlie felt a sensation in her chest that felt like it had gone ablaze with the way he watched her. There was an emotion there that, up until now, she had thought him to be so nescient of. It was almost foreign to see him in such a way, and it left her mesmerised that she was allowed to see such a look that he might not have shown anyone else.

Up on that stage, alone and singing her heart, she had never felt so vulnerable from seeing that look in his eyes. Never felt so confronted with feelings that she knew rested within her heart but was now threatening to break free and overwhelm her.

 

Will you still love me when I'm no longer young and beautiful?

Will you still love me when I got nothing but my aching soul?

 

What sort of question was that?

How could she even think to doubt that he would see her as anything but such?

How could that be, when at that moment, she was such a jewel. Truly one of a kind, that charming little belle. How she could even surprise him at every turn, delighting him in ways he thought impossible of anyone to do. It was almost unreal, how taken he was by her simply by this beautiful song that she serenaded to him.

Her voice, her face, her entire form.

It called to him.

It beckoned him.

It drew him in.

It was quite precarious how Alastor seemed to be teetering off the edge, but at the moment, resistance was completely futile with how Charlie was almost begging for him, as if she needed an answer out of him to a question that was both clear and uncertain at the same time. To that, all he wanted to do now was to throw caution to the wind, to let himself fall, to answer her yearning.

Oh, sweet Charlie… Just what are you trying to say?

 

I know you will

I know you will

I know that you will

 

And he would.

Without a doubt, he would.

He would because when he’d been beaten and bruised and fresh out of murder, she took him in with no qualms to care for him. He would because when he recoiled at her touch, she respected him so much to be wary of herself. He would because when he nearly forced his way into her room, she was there the next morning and served him breakfast even if it was with god-awful tea. He would because she took the time to make him her very first batch of delicious potato beignets.

And even if at her life’s end, even if painted in red and her pale skin was cold as the snow it was akin to, he still would. He would because she smiled at everything he did for her, because she blushed when their eyes meet, because she reached for his hand when his fingers touched hers, because she sent his blood rushing with just simply being her.

Because she was Charlie and she was sweet and kind and gentle and she shone with such a dazzling brilliance that she was the most loveliest thing he had ever laid his eyes on.

 

Will you still love me when I'm no longer beautiful?

 

The haze of liquor and the seduction of her song may have addled his mind, but it did not seem like so when he thought to himself that he knew there was no need to doubt because she would always be so young and so beautiful, and perhaps with that affirmation, the answer to the question was, without a doubt…

 

Will you still love me when I'm no longer beautiful?

 

Yes…

And with the final blaring of music, it came to a sudden and smooth close, and soon came a loud round of applause for the deserving doll, even receiving a standing ovation by many.

Flushed, Charlie gave a sweet shy smile to the crowd and curtsied. A kind gentleman from the band gave her his hand and helped her off the stage, and she navigated her way through the crowd with that smile still fixed, ever so often bowing her head and giving her thanks, but very soon did her eyes finally went to Alastor’s, whose eyes were still on her, his hands moving in a slow clap.

“Goodness…” she sighed as she fixed her on her seat, patting her cheeks to calm the flush there. “That was… something.”

Alastor said nothing, watching in a daze as she picked up her drink to quench her thirst, taking long sips of her Boulevardier until her glass was almost empty. Exhaling a relieved sigh, she turned to him with a twinkle in her eyes, asking shyly, “How did you think?”

But Charlie received no answer, unbeknownst that there was a drop of her drink left clinging to her bottom lip, which affixed his eyes there.

There was something about that red drop of liquid against her pouty flesh. How it glistened stark against the paleness of her face. How it looked like a single drop of blood that the seeing it hang off her lips made it all the more tantalising to him.

“Alastor?”

It seemed like a haze that his fingers reached out to her, fingers grasping her chin with his thumb out with the intention to clean that drop. But as the pad came to rest against her soft lip, he realised that this wasn’t enough.

This touch alone simply wasn’t enough.

Alastor leaned in closer and closer, and he could hear the shuddering of a nervous breath as the heat that radiated off her face. And for a short moment, he watched her, anticipating her reaction, seeing if there was hesitance and if she would possibly pull back, and he was unsure of how to save himself from it.

But there was no resistance.

And so, he leaned forward, and with a tenderness he didn’t know he was capable of, pressed his lips to hers.

It was like time stood still for them at the moment. The noise faded and the images blurred as they became attuned to the powerful furore that overwhelmed them, like a jolt of electric had shot through the both of them that had their thoughts going haywire, their bodies heating up and their hearts racing too fast that it could probably be skipping several beats, causing them to be breathless under the kiss.

As their lips shaped against each other, there came the subconscious need to be closer, and Charlie forgot about her restrictions to touch him as her hands came to his shoulders, to anchor herself before she could drown in the sensation of this moment. Likewise, Alastor held no aversion to it, his own coming to cup her face, to hold her in place so he could drink in more of her.

Her lips felt exactly how he always imagined her to feel – soft, silky, and warm with the rush coursing of blood underneath those rosebuds. The taste of her – so uniquely her – was exquisite against the notes of the Boulevardier, an intoxication that pulled him in further to deepen the kiss, losing himself right then and there, letting go of resistance and allowing himself to be ensnared.

Too in their little moment that they were wholly unaware of a few eyes watching them. Many were smart to turn their gaze away from the openly intimate display, but not his friends. From where they stood, their eyes were on them all awestruck. Niffty was giggling girlishly, and Rosie’s mouth was gaped in her shock. Even Husk, still pissed about the earlier event but was now absolutely bamboozled, gave a low whistle.

What a sight! Who would have thought that Alastor – the Alastor Carlon; the loner, the unforgiving and cold-blooded killer - could actually be dizzy with a dame?

But breaking his distraction from the strange imagery was a loud sniffling coming from the edge of the bar, and Husk’s eyes glazed over to see Mimzy making chortling sounds as she fought the sniffles that broke through her. Her face was a burning red, glistening with tears streaming down from eyes that were hot with fury. Her hands were balled into fists and clenched so hard that her sharp nails could probably break her skin.

Oh, boy… Husk thought to himself in dismay at the mess that could possibly follow.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, after all.

Alas, all these activities escaped Alastor and Charlie’s notice, and it was a long while until they finally pulled away, their eyes immediately meeting, both hazy with penchant, as their breaths slowed to a steady rhythm.

The seconds ticked by before slowly, they pulled away to have space to arrange themselves, Alastor smoothing back his hair and Charlie tucking a lock behind her ear. Neither said anything about what had just befell upon them, looking elsewhere except each other as reality returned them to composure, a tension lingering between them as the heat they had experienced began to cool, though certainly still there.

Eventually, even the silence got a bit too much, and it was Alastor who broke it with a clearing of his throat.

“I think that’s enough excitement for tonight... Let’s get home, shall we?”


No words were exchanged on the walk back home, the silence hanging between them in tune with the quiet of the night. But the same could not be said about noisy raging mess that was Charlie’s thoughts at the moment.

Everything was too electrified at the moment. His arm crooked around hers, his suit jacket that he had draped on her shoulders to keep her warm against the cold, the scent of his cologne, the warmth that was radiating off him…

It was almost all too much for Charlie, filling her with a headiness that only added to all the liquor she had drunk tonight, her mind nothing but the way he held her hand as they danced the Charleston, the way he watched her so captivated as she sang, and the way his lips pressed to hers in such a burning tingle that she could still feel now.

The whole time she had to fight the urge to bring it up, noticing the way Alastor had been relatively silent since they had left the speakeasy. A little bout of anxiety made her afraid that he may have regretted what they had done, but was that really the case if now his arm seemed to be holding on tight to her as well?

It seemed all too soon when they finally turned into the corner leading to their neighbourhood, and sooner still when she slowly climbed up the steps of her front porch, Alastor waiting at the foot of it.

It was with what composure she had left that she turned to face him, and finally looking at his face that was too written with emotions that made him almost unreadable, it was then her heart started to sink.

“Thank you… For tonight…”

Her voice was nothing but a soft murmur, but her throat was tight as she swallowed down everything that was starting to bubble up inside her.

The soft and gentle smile he gave her did not help with matters. “Once again, the pleasure was all mine, darling,” he replied with a bow of his head. “And thank you, for the lovely time.”

Well, it hadn’t been all that lovely for him, but the memory of the wretched party was no longer at the forefront of his mind, having been placated with the amazing end at the speakeasy. Charlie had been too involved with her own thoughts to realise the same happening to Alastor, who could only think throughout of her being so lovely and graceful and good.

But alas, all good things would have to come to an end soon.

And so, came their usual parting of goodbyes, his fingers reaching to take her dainty ones, holding it gently in his like it was a freshly-picked flower, bringing it to the soft pucker of his lips as he planted a gentle kiss. But against the gentleness of that touch was the silent hammering of Charlie’s heart seeming to grow louder and stronger, the pulsation so obvious that she was certain that he could feel its rhythm against her skin.

That’s when he looked up back at her, and that’s when she saw it.

And that’s when probably, the good things didn’t have to end so soon.

The intent, how it darkened his eyes, how it called her in for the promise of something more dangerous, more alluring, more tempting. And with that look alone, she was entranced, filled with an unmistakable desire, driven to not see him leave just yet, to feel him as close as she had in the speakeasy, to delve in to the urge that would lead her to the unknown.

Just like that, everything was undone.

Lost in his eyes, her hand slipped out of his, joined by the other to bring up to his face, hovering in hesitance, held back but weak against restraint.

She almost wanted…

No…

She needed…

“Alastor… Can I… Can I touch you?..”

Silence followed, and in the midst of yearning thoughts, she thought to herself that this was a big mistake, that she was taking it too far and was disrespecting him, and that she should stop herself right now before she could potentially make anything worse.

But all doubts immediately vanished when Alastor gently took her wrists, pulling it closer until they were where they wanted to be, cupping his handsome face in her palms oh so gently.

“…Yes.”

Chapter Text

It was all a rush.

A rush of breaths as their lips found each other again.

A rush of limbs as they misshapenly made their way into her house in their embrace.

A rush of touch as their hands gripped to hold each other so close.

Charlie’s back closed the door with loud carelessness as Alastor pushed her up against it, his body pressed hard against hers that she began to fell flush against him, being held up by her arms wrapped around his neck and his around her dainty waist, both giving no allowance for even an inch of space between them.

Lips locked, they savoured the taste of each other, allowing themselves to submit to the intoxication. Charlie tasted as sweet as the first time, but now the taste of liquor had dissipated and on his tongue was just her, and he would never think that it could elicit highs he would have never thought possible.

Alastor kissed her softly at first, and it was as sweet as the first, gentle to the touch and exhilarating that both were quickly rendered breathless. But with the slow building of intense passion that was growing more heated between them both, his insistent mouth was tempted for more, and more he sought as his tongue began to poke at the seams of her lips as if to politely ask for permission.

Charlie gasped aloud, her eyes flying open in her shock, and in response Alastor’s eyes parted just the slightest to look at her with earnest reassurance. Seeing his heavy-lidded gaze calmed her immediately, though still shy at the foreignness of his tongue, but another gentle prodding and it sent a warmth shooting straight to her core, sending her already-weak legs trembling, evoking a plethora of sensations that erupted with ecstasy that her tongue twined with his.

She didn’t know if she was drunk off all the drinks she’s had for tonight or from this very moment with him, but she was feeling bold, and being bold made her do a little nip to his bottom lip. Alastor moaned into her mouth, and hearing that guttural sound reverberate through him sent a shiver down her spine, and each passing second just seemed to be growing with an irresistible need.

They wanted more.

But clearly the door was not a good place to start.

In a rush, Alastor bent down and his hands went to the back of her thighs to effortlessly hitch her up to his waist, and Charlie erupted into giggles as her legs wrapped around his slim hips, smiling so beautifully that he was taken once more to capture her lips again, and her giggles faded back into breathless sighs as he indulged her, never once breaking from each other as he began to make his way up the stairs carrying her like a babe, not noticing that his suit jacket had fallen off her shoulders and onto the floor.

Before Charlie could collect her thoughts to tell him which room to go, he had already found his way. That’s right, she did tell him which was her door on the night she had nursed him, and it only paved the way all the more easily as they headed inside. He kicked the door closed as if to give them their privacy, which seemed like a silly gesture since they were alone in her house, but it was within this solitude that the potency of need became more palpable, thickening the air with the desires of their wants and needs, so dangerous and yet so thrilling that it electrified Charlie’s senses to no end.

After a few steps forward, he tumbled on top of Charlie on her bed that was so soft and plush, the sheets cool to her heated skin, but immediately crumpled under the weight of their bodies pressed together.

Her hands weaved into Alastor’s brown hair, mussing up the slick-back that he had styled it in as she gripped his tresses, and she must have tugged a tad bit too hard because he made a sound that was immediately followed by a naughty chuckle. His own wasn’t too well-behaved, one still on her thigh and feeling the soft and smooth milky flesh, fingers pressing ever so gently yet setting her skin ablaze with just his fingertips, heating her so much that she was close to combusting.

For just a split second, Charlie was stricken by a bout of consciousness. What were they doing? They only had their first kiss barely an hour ago, and now here they were on her bed, embarking on the one of most scandalous deeds known to man which was they joys of the flesh. She almost felt like a chippy at how quick she had decided to give in.

But as quick as her conscience acting up, so did her thoughts of ‘to hell with it’. She was by no means a pure angel, and Alastor was just a sinful delight that she had no qualms to misbehave with him, especially with him. It was probably what she had coming – all those weeks of simple touches and intriguing looks that had come together to this point.

Releasing the grip on his hair, Charlie’s hands began to wander down the nape of his neck – her touch there sending pleasurable shivers throughout his body – and onto his back, letting her palms explore and roam the expanse of his size before it trailed over his broad shoulders and down to his pectorals. Alastor was amused at how she was coping a feel of him, and he would definitely oblige and do the same.

But then she pushed him.

It was a quick few seconds, and he suddenly found himself flipped onto his back, landing on the soft plush bed. Charlie felt a bit of a thrill at the bold and daring move she had committed, feeling brave as she started to climb on top of him.

But to Alastor, that sudden gesture broke the lull of the moment for a bit. He had not foreseen such an act and thus did not prepare for it, and the fact that he had been taken off-guard at the moment suddenly caused something in him to snap.

Before he could collect his thoughts, Charlie was now on top of him, positioning herself so that she was sitting on his torso with her legs straddled at his sides, effectively pinning down with a small smile as she quickly removed her silk gloves. But while she was not heavy enough to keep him pinned, the sensation of her weight pressing him down made him feel that he was being restrained, and it sent a twinge of minor panic to fuel the beginnings of the coursing of adrenaline; his heart started hammering against his chest, his breathing was becoming shallow, and his racing thoughts were internally yelling all sorts of warnings.

This was all so familiar, and it brought his guts twisting in disgust and anguish.

This was a fight or flight.

In that bout of adrenaline, Alastor suddenly shot up into a sitting position, the momentum of his movements so harsh and abrupt that it could have definitely thrown Charlie off-balance and send her tumbling off of him, which wouldn’t have been so possible with how his hands had quickly gripped her arms., and it was uncertain on what was the intent of it.

Alastor couldn’t come up with a clear answer, his mind becoming muddled with flashes of memories that had been buried deep, but had found its way out.

The hard and dirty wooden floors beneath him…

No.

A flurry of hard merciless hits…

This won’t do.

The gripping of a knife…

This won’t happen to him again.

“… Alastor?...”

Within the shock of the moment, Charlie’s immediate reflex was to bring her hands up to stop him with a press to his chest, putting enough force to not have his head potentially collide to hers. Within seconds, they were face-to-face, and her brows were knitted in concern as she looked into his wide unnerved eyes, realising that he looked somewhat daunted despite the smile, which only made him look more haunting. There was no response to her murmur of breath, and his eyes were still discomposed as it stared hard at hers, looking stunned like a deer caught in headlights.

This frightened her, and Charlie didn’t know what else to do except to cup his face as gently as she could. But as her fingertips came to his cheeks, it only instigated a sudden jolt through his body, making her freeze.

How was this familiar?

Oh, yes. That night when she brought him into her house for the first time, when she had touched him without forewarning and he had flinched away.

Had she probably gone too far? She had thrown all carefulness aside thus far, so had she maxed out the extent that Alastor would have been willing to go? It made her nervous. As much as the heavy need inside was amplified by the man underneath, by no means would she want to do it if he did not want to. She would rather his consent than anything else.

“…Alastor… Are you okay?”

The sound of her voice broke him out of his trepidation, and immediately he broke out of the mess of disgusting horrible thoughts to finally look at Charlie properly, seeing her fretful eyes searching into his, and he realised what was happening.

He wasn’t being trapped.

This wasn’t what it was.

It was Charlie.

She’s harmless.

She wouldn’t do anything.

“Yes…” His voice finally returned to him to answer her question. “Yes, I am…”

But the doll was unconvinced, and it was obvious in the way she kept staring at him. Now this sent Alastor in a whole other discomfort, doing his best to look her right in the eyes to show her that he was alright, not as if he just got himself in a mild panic attack over nothing.

Charlie gulped, and her hands began inching away from him. “If this… If this is too much… We don’t have to-”

She was hesitant now, not only because of his strange reaction, but because conscience suddenly took a firm hold and suddenly it felt too fast for anything.

They had their first kiss just an hour ago! And now here they were on her bed, with her touching him when she knew damn well that he didn’t like to be touched? What was she thinking? This was all a mistake! It didn’t help the fact that he was most probably jingle-brained because of all the alcohol – she wasn’t sure how much exactly he had to drink tonight, but it didn’t matter because he did drink – and it was in a spifflicated state that he might not be thinking right. And how dare she do such things to him when she herself probably wasn’t thinking right?

Embarrassment was flooding in, slowly becoming a bit unbearable to her liking, and now all she felt that she wanted to do was just get off him and off the bed and just move away from this little situation. Apologies were becoming heavy on her tongue, ready to shoot out in a long rapid string once he calmed down, and she could only agonise within herself on how exactly she could fix this now.

But seeing her look so brooding, for some reason it immediately struck a chord in Alastor. Like he had thought, she was an open book – there was hesitance now with what had just occurred. She wasn’t looking at him in the eye, though he could see that she was worried about him.

And it was at that he began to feel the littlest bit of offense. He felt insulted that she seemed to be quite pitiful to him. It was like a stabbing to his ego, and it almost made him feel furious that she was treating him like a poor confused little thing, probably thinking that he couldn’t handle this moment.

No, he would not let her think that he was being weak; not when she had stimulated him up so much to this point.

“No.”

The firmness of his answer threw Charlie off, and she only watched his face in the darkness to see if he was sure. But he was already holding the sides of her face, pulling her closer as he muttered, “No. You brought me this far, darling. Give me this.”

It was as if her touch was a sort of drug to him, for at the feel of her soft skin, Alastor began to relax, enough that as soon as his lips pressed to hers again, he sighed in pleasure – and relief? – at the taste of her once more.

At first, Charlie did not reciprocate, still somewhat shaken by the unexpected reaction that she stayed still as she thought to herself in worry if Alastor was alright. But he seemed eager to quickly forget about that little moment, and his lips and tongue began to urge hers, and soon she could feel delight that had been growing between them reigniting with a new flare. It was almost in shameful embarrassment that now she was so weak to him in all senses, parting her lips just the slightest so that he could have a taste of her once more.

Not breaking from the moment, her hands returned to touch him as she gently removed the monocle and put it aside somewhere, and it then smoothed down his neck to his bowtie, and with a quick tug, it came loose, immediately forgotten as it too got dropped aside. Her attention turned to the buttons of his shirt, where she smoothly began to release each one, and when his shirt came undone, she did not implore him to remove it. Instead, her hands placed itself back on his chest, relishing in the direct warmth that had been cloaking her since the speakeasy.

But as her palms grazed over his torso, she began to notice a peculiar feeling on his flesh, and she couldn’t help but to break from the kiss to have a quick look down, to discover what exactly was she feeling.

Scars?

She couldn’t see it well in the darkness, but from touch alone she could tell that it littered his entire torso. Ragged obtrusions against the smoothness of his skin, some criss-crossing and others lone and diagonal. They felt glossy and rubbery, healed and aged with time and imprinted forever onto his being.

But just how were there so many?

… Alastor… What happened to you?...

But she wasn’t able to ponder on it for long, because Alastor’s hands had found its way back to her thighs, fingers squeezing her flesh gently as the skirts of her dress were bunching up in his grip, and then roaming up to cope a feel of the smooth curve of her waist.

Any curiosity that had rose up just as quickly died down as immediately her focus melted into a puddle again, and if Charlie thought she had been burning before, now she was truly ignited with a wildfire inside her, elicited from just his touch alone.

With his hold on her and her distraction, Alastor flipped her over so that she was below him again, and having her under him gave him that sense of dominance once more, much to his liking. His hands continued to mosey up her thigh so much so that her dress was hiked up to reveal a black lace skirt slip, translucent enough that it gave him a peek of what it was meant to cover. It was like a little tease, but he didn’t want a little when he wanted more – so much more. And he strived for that as he pushed her dress up to just above her breasts, revealing a matching black brassiere of lace that did little to hide the prominent peaks of her mounds.

His lips pressed on her collarbone, and from there he began peppering sweet gentle kisses that left a burning trail down to her chest, to the valley between her breasts and down to her stomach. Her senses peaked when she felt a hint of tongue on her skin, distracting her enough that she hadn’t been completely aware that he was pulling down her slip with one hand and her brassier and dress with the other.

Alastor was definitely experienced. With his hands and lips so smooth and deft, there was no way these were the movements of a man who had never taken someone in bed before. And for a split second, Charlie felt a bit disappointed that she was probably not the first to take pleasure in this euphoria, but then again, she supposed it was fair, and probably good for her part that she wouldn’t have to feel ashamed of her own state of incelibacy.

But despite that, it was only a wonder that she felt like such a shy maiden when she was finally stripped bare to his eyes, turning her face away and being thankful for the darkness of the room so that he couldn’t see her blush.

She could not see how his eyes were now voracious with lust at the sight of her naked body. He didn’t think that she could be any more beautiful, but how wrong he was. Her waif chassis was as smooth as porcelain, her snowy skin tinged pink from arousal seemed to glow with the sheen streaks of moonlight that did little to illuminate the room.

Alastor’s eyes travelled the length of her, drinking in the image, savouring in the sight of what he thought to be so divine and yet so unholy to his eyes, and he wondered if there was ever a body he had seen that would have stirred him so much.

At least, one that hadn’t been cut down by him.

Although, as the nature of those thoughts were starting to creep in, it began to dawn on him that… this was it.

This was his moment.

She was here, lying in front of him all waiting and wanting, so vulnerable and exposed, and it was like she was serving herself to him. It was all too perfect to resist imagining it, especially now that the urges were intensified by the fact that she was here within his grasp and he could have her within seconds.

His hands reached down for her slim neck, and as he gently covered it as if to caress her there, he discovered that it could fit so perfectly in his palm, and sure enough, his fingers started to tremble with the growing of excited anticipation, aching to give her neck the squeeze he was aching for, to indulge himself in the wonders of turning the gentle pink within the pale canvas of her skin into harsh strokes of red, to mar her unblemished flesh with rigorous cuts of various shapes and sizes, his mouth almost starting to water to taste her warm flesh on his tongue…

“…Alastor…” Charlie murmured, her voice mewling in desperation. “…Please…”

And just like that, he stopped.

Alastor always prided himself on control, and there wasn’t anything much that could cause him to break it, but at the sound of her voice calling his name, so desperate and heavy with want, and just so captivatingly seductive, he felt blood immediately rush to his core, and he was about to lose his mind in the frenzy at his new realisation that this wasn’t the hunger that he was accustomed to.

This was that kind of hunger.

He needed her alive to satisfy this hunger.

***

He could feel his trousers were starting to feel tight, so constrained that it was almost asking to be released and find its release, and he was more than ready to oblige as his hands reached down. But it seemed that Charlie knew of his want as well, for her dainty hands beat him to it, already beginning to unbuckle his belt in a hurried rush. Alastor only watched patiently as she did, but his patience was wearing thin by the time his belt came loose, and he must have been too overwhelmed by impatience to care about how fast he had pushed his boxers and trousers down so quickly that it was almost shameful how he almost sprang out without warning.

But there wasn’t any room for shame with the way Charlie looked at it with wide eyes, and it seemed that for a split second, she was almost scared, but that vulnerability only did wonders to his tainted mind, finding it all the more irresistible of the doll to be looking like a mighty fine prey, trapped with nowhere to run, completely at his mercy.

It just turned him on even more.

Shrugging out of his shirt and kicking his bottom-wear off, Alastor crawled up the length of her, the sensation of bare skin pressed against each other bringing a new type of ecstasy to them as the need grew stronger. He kissed her again, feeding off on her desire, as his hands crawled down her, before finding what he was looking for, sighing in pleasure at the feeling of wetness on his fingers. Charlie felt a shiver run through her as he brushed her folds, and she tried so hard to bite back the moan that escaped her, which only galvanised Alastor more.

 “Quite the naughty thing, aren’t you?” he teased with a dark chuckle.

Under normal circumstances, Charlie would have liked to tease back in return. But now, she felt so scandalised, at the mercy of him and the feel of his hot body and the ministrations of his finger on her wet lips.

It only got worse when Alastor pushed his digit into her, so tantalisingly slow, and it made her toes curl and her hands gripping the sheets as he began to pump his finger inside her, drawing out more pleasured whimpers that only aroused him more with the feeling of her wet velvety walls.

But it wasn’t fair that he was making her feel all of this and she did not have a part to play, and with that thought in mind, she willed her strength to reach her hand down to his raised manhood, finding with a brush of her hand that his tip was wet with a bead. Charlie smiled weakly at seeing his mouth gaping open with his jaw trembling as she began to stroke him as slow as he worked her, and from touch alone she marvelled at the hardness of his smooth turgid flesh that seemed to throb with as blood filled him there.

The copious eroticism of their hands playing with each other was something to behold for the two new lovers, and the kisses shared between them just added that sprinkle of something sweet. By no means had they expected they would be caught in this happenstance where all barriers have been broken and receiving more than just a bit of arm holding and wisps of touches, but within that bubble of privacy in her room where lust and intimacy took hold, there seemed to be no choice but to surrender wholeheartedly.

That was enough.

No more teasing.

The need was too strong.

With a low growl, Alastor withdrew his finger out of her, and Charlie was about close to crying for her release, almost on the verge of begging him until she was stopped when he suddenly pushed her hand away from manhood and replaced it with his own as he now held the tip to her entrance.

For that brief moment, they only looked at each other, staring into each other’s eyes, a mixture of wonder and nervous suspense at what was to come. There was almost a hesitance there, the uncertainty of what would follow once they would embark on this path of no return.

“Al...”

Charlie’s voice was quiet, but the way it shook spoke volumes. She was frightened, this lovely thing of beauty, and it somehow touched Alastor’s heart that despite that, she still had the strength to look at him in the eye, to show that she was certain.

“Shh, darling…” he murmured soft and sweet to her. “I’ll be gentle.”

With that promise, he finally pushed himself in.

The quiet of the room that had so far been only filled with their breathy sighs and quiet moans was broken like a dam had burst, Charlie gasping out loud in a midst of pain and pleasure, and Alastor inhaling sharply through grit teeth.

She was tight.

So gloriously tight.

Alastor was almost seeing stars at the feeling of her warmth enveloping his member so thoroughly, numbing every single inch of him except there, making it so her heat was the only thing he could feel. And it did not help that she was already pulsating, her kitty over-reacting to the sudden intrusion within her body, and sending repeated spikes of pleasure coursing through him each time he felt a pulse radiating around his girth.

He could only bring himself to hiss in pleasure as he started to move, pulling out all the way until only the tip remained in her, but even with that much of him inside her did not stop her body from quivering from the fullness she was experiencing, her walls slick and her nether lips fluttering. She was trembling so much, like her hands in the way it gripped his hair.

In his daze he let out a strangled moan, his body starting to tremble in the slightest as he thrust himself back in, eliciting another loud moan from the darling underneath him, and just hearing her mewling possessed him to start thrusting in earnest, wanting to hear more of those delicious sounds escaping her lips like it was the most beautiful music he has ever heard.

With every roll of his hips, Charlie was quickly starting to lose her breath, feeling like she was choking from the sheer intensity that was Alastor. Her legs weakly wrapped around his slender waist once more, giving a new angle for him to hit within her walls, and her hands scrambled to hold more of him, coming to his back and digging deep, not realising the jagged streaks of flesh that decorated his skin, not in the right sense of mind to pay much attention to it anyways.

It was almost maddening, how the furore of sex with Charlie had rendered him a senseless being that was stripped down to the purest animalistic instinct. There was no space for control within his own self as he yielded and basked in the euphoria that she had put him in. She was like a drug that he was getting off on, becoming too far gone, too late for him to turn back and gain control.

And yet he would gladly lose it. He would gladly give her every inch of him if it meant having this from her – if it meant filling her up and having her take every inch of him.

Through blurry vision, she gazed up at her new lover who looked back at her with lust-laden eyes, and Charlie didn’t know if it was just her mind addled by too many sensations that had been overwhelming her within the span of the past hour, but she thought to herself that he was probably the most magnificent thing that she had ever set her sights upon, taking in all of the piercing of his gaze and the sharpness of his features and the pleasure-ridden smile and it was all becoming too much. It was terrifying but she dared not do anything else as she felt her insides coiling up so tightly, her sex surging as suddenly it got hotter and hotter…

And suddenly she’s there, at the highest state of bliss that was out-of-this-world and beyond her wildest imaginations. Her self-gratification crashed down on her like tidal waves as her ecstasy ruptured through her, her presence of mind collapsing over and over again. She could only imagine how she must sound to him now, mewling like a harlot as her back arched and her body starting to writhe in the sheets as she rode out her release on him.

 “…Al...as…tor…”

His name broke into little whimpers in her throat, and at the sensation of sudden tightening, his composure was lost to release and he was quickly following suit, and it took every bit of sanity he had left in him to act quickly and pull out in time for him to spill ungracefully onto her stomach. His length pumped out streaks of white that painted the canvas of her body, and it was to his own satisfaction to think of how his essence would seep into her skin, making her now as his.

***

It was done.

They had done it.

It was absolutely magnificent.

Completely spent, Alastor succumbed to fatigue from the rigorous act to fall to his side, ridden weak and unable to hold himself up, but having just that little bit of strength to take Charlie in his arms and hold her to his chest, their breathing laden with exhaustion as both fell into a steady synchronised rhythm.

The haze of lust and pleasure permeated the air around them so heavily that all they breathed in were the sweet scent of each other’s essences. As they mellowed out, it took them a few seconds in their daze to realise that they had arrived in euphoria, higher than they could have ever anticipated; so high that it was almost terrifying of how far they’ve gone to reach such hedonism.

It was just too much to bear in this moment, but it was perfect, exciting, and yet terrifying that once the high waned and they would find their way back to reality, things were definitely never going to be the way it was.

Chapter Text

Lucifer was never one to not enjoy a party. Lilith had certainly done an excellent job planning out this birthday shindig, and it was without a doubt a success in terms of glamour and extravagance – he strived for that with his ability to afford. But he wouldn’t deny that he was glad that it was finally over in the late of the night, when the drinks have been drunk and songs have been danced to, and the guests have been out on the roof and have now left.

Well, not all of them though, considering he still had some… ‘business’ to run through.

“I take it that the can house has been making good business,” he remarked as he leisurely counted the bills from a given manila envelope. “Not too shabby. You covered all of the interest.”

“That’s right, boss,” Valentino grinned with pride. “Couldn’t have done it without my prized boy.”

“That ‘Angel Dust’, am I correct? Must be a real crowd-pleaser.”

“Sure is.”

Usually, Lucifer wouldn’t be the one directly handling the transactions of businesses he owned, and was rare for his top three associates to get together; New Orleans was under Val’s eye, Velvet oversaw next-door Jackson in Mississippi, and Vox was a little further all the way in San Francisco in California. But since tonight had allowed them to gather, might as well kill two birds with one stone.

But that didn’t mean Lucifer was keen on prolonging the reunion and beat his gums with them. He had a long night, and there was no better way he wanted to end his birthday on a good note than a good lay-in with his lovely Lilith, who was no doubt waiting for him in bed for his last ‘present’.

Needless to say, he was glad that things seemed to be wrapping up now, and it was with a slight impatience that he told them, “Well if there’s nothing else to bring up, I’d say we’re about done for tonight.”

Lucifer simply waved them to the door and busied himself with getting out a cigarette to have a last smoke before retiring for the night. But as he busied himself with lighting his stick, there was a look exchanged between his three associates that brought forward a question that’s been hanging over them throughout the night.

“Excuse me for askin’, boss, but about that guy…”

Lucifer didn’t have to ask who ‘that guy’ meant. “What about him?”

The indifference in his tone must have thrown Valentino off, and uncertainty came to his features as he scratched the back of his hand. “Well… you do know who he is, don’t ya?”

Before Lucifer could even answer, Velvet had chipped in then, as though to enlighten on the conversation. “Alastor Carlon! Famous radio host of New Orleans!” she chirped with excitable jollity, almost bouncing in her seat. “And probably the most dashing fella in all of the South!”

No further attention was paid to Velvet’s fawning, and Valentino continued his side of the conversation. “Uh… Yeah. Point is that he isn’t really any regular cat, you see. Reputation and all, nearly everyone in N’awlins knows who he is.”

A scoff was heard from behind him, and Vox lazily shook the ice in his empty tumbler with a grimace. “Well, I never heard of him. Don’t think he’s such a big hoo-ha, that radio fucker.”

“That’s probably ‘cause you’re too busy getting a silly ‘picture show box’ going in ‘Frisco to be able to enjoy get good radio in the South!” Velvet teased with a childish glee, which only made Vox sneer in displeasure.

“Wanna run shit out your yap like that bastard?” he half-growled.

Sticking out her tongue, she taunted back with an unfazed smile, “At least the shit that comes out his yap sounds like smooth gold!”

“Ay, close your heads, why don’cha?” Val shouted in annoyance. “I’m talkin’ here!”

It wasn’t the loud command from Valentino but the silent glare of irritation from Lucifer that shut the both of them up, when silence returned to the room, Val continued where the conversation had left off.  “So… Yeah, boss. What’s this about bringing on Alastor Carlon?”

Over his smoking, Lucifer pondered, but not so intently as he had already made his decision. He supposed he could tell them, but Lucifer knew the matter to be too fragile to reveal to anyone. After the night’s discovery – an unpleasant ‘birthday surprise’, if he would consider it that – he realised no doubt the situation had become much more complicated upon knowing that his dear daughter unwittingly gotten herself involved with the wrong person. Considering that he had witnessed his impressive ‘skills’ for himself, the smiling man’s relationship with Charlie was definitely a cause of concern for him, and as much as he was keen to see how this would turn out, he would have to tread carefully.

For now, Lucifer would be keeping this situation strictly between himself and Alastor Carlon. They’ll know in due time, but just not now.

Besides, it wouldn’t be much of a hassle on his end. Lucifer wasn’t the type to disclose the reasons behind his actions much, and that’s what kept all his underlings on their toes; the inability to expect his next move, to know what he was plotting. How in his unpredictability, there lay a dangerous intention.

One that he hid exceptionally well behind a toothy grin.

“I have my reasons, of course.”

And he would leave it at that, with the finality in his tone ceasing any further questions.

Knowing that their presence was no longer needed, the three of them wrapped up their final bits of business with the big boss before they started to make their move. Velvet continued to tease Vox who only responded with silent glares, and Val was started to get aggravated at their slight bickering. They left Lucifer to smoke in earnest knowing he would call on them again if he was in need of their services.

But for now…

“Hey, Val?”

Valentino had been the last to leave and promptly turned around back to his boss.

Lucifer exhaled a stream of smoke, before strictly instructing, “Keep me posted if anything ‘interesting’ happens around town.”


There was a softness that he couldn’t quite put his finger on. He’d been so used to waking up on his hard bed – good for an upright posture! – that this seemed foreign to him. But it felt welcoming and soothing, quite tempting for him to push his face further into the pillow, breathing in the scent of lovely sweet perfume.

Perfume?

Immediately his eyes flew open, and Alastor took one quick look around his unfamiliar surroundings, realising quickly that that wasn’t his ceilings or his walls or his curtains. That this wasn’t his room.

And that this was certainly not his bed.

But before he could rile himself up in the confusion, he was immediately stopped short when he realised that he was not alone, and the sight of the back of a head of blonde curls and a smooth pale naked back had stunned him into stillness.

All heaviness of sleep immediately disappeared as Alastor’s attentions came to, and he started to remember just where he was. Also, he realised just as quickly that he was absolutely stark naked, and there was no doubt that Charlie was too.

Not taking his eyes off of her, Alastor sat up slowly, but even that careful movement brought about a mild pounding from the inside of his head that was a good mix of vertigo and the effects of a hangover. He had definitely been half-screwed at best with how much he had put down throughout the night, and the pounding was only going to get worse if he moved, and so he simply sat there in silence.

And in the collection of his messy thoughts, his eyes started to roam over every bit of Charlie that wasn’t covered by sheets. Her messy locks of sunshine, the slender curve of her shoulder, the way her back rose and fell gentle with each quiet inhale of sleeping breaths.  

In that languor, it all started to fill Alastor’s mind; every single emotion and sensation that he had experienced at its peak. It was a lot to take in for a minute, and he continued to sit in the silence, feeling a bit at a loss now.

By no means had he intended for last night to be led on that far, but it had, and if it hadn’t been the most serendipitous thing that he had done, he wasn’t sure what could. Alastor couldn’t quite explain it, but there was just something about Charlie that brought it to a whole new level, and it wasn’t just because of that emotionally-charged serenade. It extended to much more than that - the way her soft lips could steal his breath away, how her touch sent his skin prickling in pleasure, how the scent of her skin had permeated into his skin and filled his senses with a headiness that had his mind being lost in euphoria.

At the remembrance of the moment, he reminisced how nothing had fuelled his core with a pang of burning desire than the sight of how sweet Charlie had looked stripped completely bare, lying on a spread of messy sheets, pretty doe eyes looking at him so lustful and inviting and vulnerable…

And despite the exhilaration that she gave him last night, that one reminder in his thought while he gazed at her now only made him remember one thing.

There was no other high that he could ever indulge in than one from a kill.

Desire struck at that moment, but a different sort of desire. That familiar hunger at the priming of a pop waiting to be committed by his hands. And this time, the moment just seemed all too perfect. Alastor simply could not believe just how easy Charlie had made it all for him. She had let him into her house. She had let him into her room. She had let him into her bed! And here she was, lying comfortably beside him, completely unaware and unsuspecting of just how unguarded she was that it almost seemed that she was giving him permission to do just whatever the hell he wanted!

A rush overwhelmed Alastor then; a rush of adrenaline and craving that was so unlike what he had experienced last night, yet still sending his heart pumping with want.

Without hesitation, he brought a hand to brush past curls to rest on the back of her neck, and he savoured in the feel of soft and smooth skin as he fitted his palm on her neck. It was so slender that he knew it wouldn’t take him too much force to snap it just like that.

But no, snapping was just too quick. No, this kill would be much too precious and needed to be savoured very gently. He needed to draw out that sort of excitement for himself to be able to properly experience the exhilaration of merciless brutality. He wanted to slowly squeeze the life out of her, to have her awaken in a flurry of fear and panic, to lose her last chance of survival to incapability that can only be faulted by her own decision to let him in.

He needed just a few seconds.

But a few seconds was enough time for Charlie to shift in her sleep.

At the sound of a sudden inhale of breath, Alastor froze with his hand still on her neck, and he could only watch as her head turned on her pillows, her blonde curls moving to show a glimpse of her still slumbering face.

Right there, there was something about her face that had his eyes locked. Even with his hand on her neck, she did not stir, continuing to breathe quietly, eyes remaining closed in undisturbed slumber.

And Alastor could only watch her as his mind began to fill with various thoughts.

Of how she looked so innocent and angel-like.

How she looked so peaceful.

How she was so beautiful…

How she was so lovely…

…Fuck.

This…

What was he doing?

…No

What the hell did he just do?

He had the chance yesterday.

He had her eyes on him, with her lying down bare and presented on soft white sheets, looking so insatiably delicious.

He had his hand on her slim neck, caressing the sensitive flesh and feeling the warmth of her jugular.

But why did he take her body instead of her life?

Why did he allow himself to succumb to her as if he was so damn weak?

And why the fuck did he not have the heart to even think of laying a hand on her again?!

There was an immediate sickening lurch to Alastor’s stomach, and his hand trembled as he took it away from her neck. Her slumbering face showed no signs of waking up still, but the more he looked at her, the more his mind started reeling in bouts of confusion, panic and anger, and putting it together with the now pounding hangover headache, this was just too much for him to fathom.

He needed to leave right now.

It took every bit of control in Alastor to quietly slip out of her bed and stand on legs that still felt wobbly from all the hookers he had and their ‘conjugal activity’ in the night. He pointedly ignored the pounding headache and just focused on getting his boxers off the floor and on him to make himself decent. His trousers were a trickier one with the belt, and he had to force patience onto himself to put it on while casting a few looks to Charlie to make sure she was not awoken.

As the seconds ticked by, the unsavoury thoughts in his mind grew. The tension in the room was now getting too high for his taste, and he knew that he needed to get out of there at this very moment. Once he had his socks and shoes on, he grabbed his shirt and decided that he shouldn’t waste time putting it on here. He took a look around to make sure he wasn’t missing anything else, but if he did, it did not cross his mind as he was now too busy with making his way immediately to the door.

But just as he managed to crack it open without so much of a creak, the rustling of sheets sounded.

It was just a damn sound, but how did it have so much influence on him now to make him stop there, hesitating, and unable to find it in himself to not take one more look at the sleeping beauty in bed.

Except for that slight movement of the sheets, she still had not stirred once since he had gotten up, still breathing quietly in her slumber, all peaceful and content.

And for that moment, he seemed to be stunned once more, unable to take his eyes off her, taking in her pretty face and messy blonde locks and the curve of her smooth pale shoulders and back, and thinking of how she was such a vision that it somehow made his heart skip a bit.

And his gut wrenched once again with the reminder that he should have been staring at her, not in a beautiful mess of white sheets, but coated haphazardly in wet red.

With that in mind to break him out of his stupor, Alastor tore his eyes away from the scene, forcing himself to not take even one more look as he exited the room, closing the door quietly in his wake.

Buttoning up his shirt, his steps were rushed but muted as he made his way down the stairs, and upon seeing the door his gut twisted again as the memory of pressing her up against the door flood his thoughts, and yet he felt relieved that the way out was right there.

But as he got to the foot of the stairs, he tripped.

Goodness gracious, just how addled was he that he’s even tripping in his step?!

He had to bite his lip to stop the growl of anger that was threatening to break through him as his head snapped to the accursed thing on the floor, which turned out to be his suit jacket. Seeing it there, he remembered that it had been on her shoulders before they ascended into her room. He picked it up, and the scent of her perfume that had been permeated into the fabric wafted to his nose, filling him with the need to curse at that sickeningly intoxicating scent.

But then something loose came free of his jacket and landed at his feet. The glimmer of shine was what caught his attention, but he certainly wished that it hadn’t when he laid his eyes on that golden card with the lone crimson red apple.

If Alastor’s gut hasn’t been sinking enough, it had to drop rock-bottom at the realisation that he did probably the most damning thing he could do with the current situation he had found himself in last night.

He had just had sex with the Big Apple’s one and only daughter.

It was still early enough that most of the neighbourhood wasn’t up and about at this time, which allowed him a safe passage to walk away from her front porch back to his house without the wandering eyes of clotheslines to make guesses at what scandalous things he had done in the house of the pretty blonde, but he wasn’t taking any chances and rushed in his steps to make it to his front door, and he couldn’t have been any quicker to get inside.

Within the refuge of his house, Alastor began to feel a sort of calmness setting in from being in a familiar safe space. Standing in the hallway, he forced himself to breathe slow and steady, trying not to think too much that he had just fucked the daughter of his most biggest adversary at the moment. And as he did, he was starting to feel more aware of how hot his body was, almost like it was running a fever. He wasn’t sure if it was the culmination of emotions that were running high at the moment, or just the thought that he had committed the biggest form of payback to the bastard for pointing a gun at his face.

But to the latter, it dawned on realisation that he was filthy.

Yes, he was downright filthy.

The first action decided, Alastor climbed up the stairs and headed to his bathroom. He shed his clothes so quickly that he wouldn’t be surprised if he could have might possibly ripped them, and foregoing his usual habit of putting them away right into the laundry basket, he uncaringly dumped it onto the floor of his bathroom, not paying mind to it and deciding to handle that once he’s washed himself up.

Cold water sprayed onto him and sent a chill right to his bones, but Alastor welcomed the feel of it spraying away the heat he felt throughout himself. With his eyes closed, he focused on nothing but the pitter-pattering of water drops on his entire form, plastering his hair to his head and washing away the grime and stickiness that had coated his body in the night.

But it had probably not been a good idea for him to have his eyes closed, because the imagery that’s been haunting him from her house started to appear again on his closed lids. Echoes so graphic and clear as fresh as the memory was. Images of Charlie’s lovely face in ecstasy, the flush of her pale skin from the coursing of blood through her, the sweetness of her lips when he captured her rosebuds for a taste, her warmth enveloping him and drowning him in pleasure…

Disgust once more afflicted Alastor with much powerful rigour, and when his eyes flew open, it was with an unmistakeable shock to discover that he had actually gone hard.

He didn’t know what came over him then, but so disturbed by both disgust and dread was he that in a bid to not see those images for even just a moment, an impulse caused him to suddenly slam a tightly-clenched fist onto the tiled wall. The pain that came from the impact felt so unpleasant, and he knew that his hand was starting to throb, and yet it felt so deserving in the moment, to remind him of that unforgivable mistake that he had committed to himself.

And it was within that painful awareness that Alastor realised he didn’t know what to do now.


Half-within the rousing from sleep, Charlie slowly blinked her eyes open as she stretched her arms out, groaning tiredly as her body slowly started waking up. But upon feeling the space beside her, her eyes opened wide, and she rose her head from the pillow upon realising that it was empty.

“…Alastor?...”

There was no answer. Sitting up, Charlie looked around the room to realise that she was the only one in it. A quick look to the floor and she realised that his clothes were missing, and that determined her what she had already begun to suspect.

“…Oh…”

A disappointment started to set in on her. With a sigh, she sat up and ran her fingers through her messy hair, waiting for some seconds for her mind and body to adjust to waking up and for her thoughts to come into order, but she was distracted when memories of last night started to appear.

Goodness… Last night truly had been a whirlwind. How did something as simple as attending her father’s birthday party lead to her singing her heart out at a speakeasy, and somehow it brought her kissing him and bringing him to her bed? She did not think that she would have been able to get all the way with her crush.

But clearly, she shouldn’t be too exuberant now, seeing as how it seemed that he had bloused on her.

The dreadful thought of that made Charlie’s throat feel tight with a lurching of her stomach. She supposed some water would help to push it down, and so she turned to her bedside table to find the usual glass of water that she would prepare for herself.

It was only then that she realised she hadn’t last night, but all thought of that was forgotten when she saw what was there in its place.

Alastor’s monocle.

With gentle hands, she took it and cradled in her palm, her finger feeling the smooth glass. It was such a weird thing, this monocle. It made her laugh a bit at how she thought it looked quite funny on him, yet she still had thought him to look so very dashing last night.

She supposed she will have to return it to him soon, but maybe not now.

For now, Charlie simply wanted to regain back her composure from everything that had happened, trying to push away the despondency at how this certainly hadn’t ended the way she thought it would.


The phone was ringing.

Usually, it was the duty of the butlers to answer the phone, but seeing as how nearly all of them were still busy cleaning up after the tremendous party last night and Lilith was the one closest to it as it rang, there was no harm done if she did.

It rang a few more times as the mistress of the house sauntered over to it. It was quite a bothersome sound for this time of hour; who exactly would be calling this early in the morning?

“Hello? Magne residence.”

There had been a pause on the other end, and suddenly came a rushed, “Um… Hello, Madam. It’s Vagatha.

Lilith’s eyes lit up at the familiar voice. “Oh, Vaggie!” she greeted kindly. “I haven’t heard from you in a while! How have you been?”

I’m well, thank you for asking.” The girl sounded shy yet respectful to her employer, as she always was. “And I hope you are well too?

“Just peachy!” Lilith replied cheerily. “A little tired, though. The party we’ve had last night was such an affair! It’s amazing that I’m still able to be up at this time!”

I’m glad to hear that the party was fun, ma’am.

“Oh, it definitely was! So, what brings you calling in? Anything important?”

No, not really! I just wanted to ask to talk to Charlie.

Lilith’s pep came to an immediate pause to reflect her confusion at the question. “Charlie? Why would she be here?” she pondered out loud. “Isn’t she at home?”

But it seemed that she wasn’t the only one confused. “I’m sorry?” Vaggie replied with uncertainty.

“Isn’t Charlie at home?" Lilith repeated. “She headed back last night. Didn’t you see her?”

Um… I’m not in New Orleans at the moment,” Vaggie informed her mistress. “I’m in California visiting family.

Now that was certainly surprising for Lilith to hear. “Oh, I see! Charlie didn’t mention anything about that.”

Then again, there wasn’t a reason to, in the first place. Vaggie was Charlie’s maid, so whatever she did was out of Lilith’s knowledge. But still, it was quite a confusing matter that the girl would call the family home to ask about her mistress that should have been at home.

Even more confusing that it seemed that she didn’t know what was going on.

Ma’am, you said Charlie went home last night?” Vaggie questioned.

“Yes, she did.”

Oh, that’s strange… She didn’t tell me she would be leaving Baton Rouge early.”

Hearing that last bit only made Lilith’s confusion grow. “What do you mean?”

There was a long pause following Lilith’s answer, and it was a few seconds later that Vaggie answered, “She told me she’s staying in Baton Rouge while I’m gone.

Charlie was supposed to be staying in Baton Rouge? Her daughter had definitely did not make any mention of such a plan before last night.

Now, this was definitely getting strange.

“No, Charlie didn’t come back to stay here,” Lilith clarified. “She didn’t tell me that she was. She came just for the party and left afterwards.”

Then followed a much longer pause, and Lilith only waited patiently for an answer from the maid. But in the silence that hung between them through the call, she wasn’t aware of what must be running through the girl’s mind all the way in California, but for some reason, it didn’t feel to be anything good.

And her presumption seemed to be correct because when Vaggie spoke again, she sounded almost like she was forcing the question out with much difficulty.

… Ma’am… Who was she with to the party?

Lilith’s reply came swift and easy.

“Her friend, Alastor.”

She couldn’t put her finger on it, but for some reason, Lilith could feel such a heavy tension that came with yet another pregnant silence followed by her answer. Now, this was just getting quite worrying, and the oddity centering around the topic of Charlie only added more to the suspense that Lilith’s tone took a more serious turn as she asked, “Vaggie? Is there something that I should know?”

The silence continued, and Lilith had to prompt the girl’s name again to make sure that she was still there. No response came, but she could feel just the shuddering of a strained inhale of breath on the other end.

Alas, Vaggie’s voice soon returned to the receiver, but it was easily noted that she sounded weary than when they had first spoken. “Nothing, ma’am. It’s nothing important.” Her answer sounded false, not easily believable with the tone of her voice, and it only just sounded even more so when she suddenly said quickly, “I’m really sorry, but I need to go. Have a nice day, ma’am.

The sudden jump in the conversation made Lilith’s eyes widen in surprise. “Oh, of course,” she said gently.  “Have a nice day too, Vaggie.”

It was Vaggie who hung up first, like she was in a panic, and Lilith only put down the phone with her mind still trying to wrap her head around the bizarre conversation, so many questions still lingering that were left without an answer.

She hadn’t noticed that her husband had been standing quietly nearby and eavesdropping on the conversation. “Vaggie?”

Lilith nodded with furrowed brows. “She told me the most strangest thing, darling. Apparently, she thought Charlie was going to stay with us for the week?”

“Oh?” Lucifer looked just as confused as his wife. “Did she say anything about that before she came home?”

“No,” Lilith affirmed with a definite shake of her head. “She didn’t tell me anything. But it looks like that’s what she told Vaggie?”

Things seemed to be getting somewhat suspicious, and the Magnes couldn’t help but wonder why, making Lucifer cock a brow curiously, and prompting Lilith to wonder out loud, “Are we missing something here?”

Lucifer did not reply immediately, his eyes too starting to look confused at this piece of information. But he was quick to brush it off with a shrug of his shoulders. “Seems like we are, darling. I haven’t a clue at all.”

And yes, he didn’t have a clue, which only unnerved him as he wondered if there was something more going on between his precious daughter and the dubious smiling man that she had chosen to associate herself with.

Oh, darling sweet apple… Just what are you doing with Alastor Carlon?

Chapter Text

It’s been days since she’s last seen Alastor.

And at this point, Charlie was pretty sure that he was avoiding her.

The first couple of days after that night, she had gone to his house and knocked on the door, waiting for him to answer and then expecting that she would see his bright smiling face, and it might all be better again.  

But it hadn’t been the case.

When the seconds would turn into minutes, there still wouldn’t be a reply, and with a heavy heart, she would leave, not wanting to look like some mustard plaster lingering on his porch. And she was shameful to think about how she had been doing this quite a number of times, somehow managing to convince herself that she probably came at a time when he wasn’t home or he was probably taking a nap to not hear her knocks on the door.

But after the third day, then came the realisation that sunk in that Alastor might be intentionally not coming to the door.

And today marked the sixth day in a row, and after another failed attempt that very morning, Charlie was now sitting alone at the dining table, disquiet in her silence as the thoughts filled her head and make her feel all helpless in a profusion of anxiety, causing her to just absentmindedly finger the monocle that was in her hand.

That had been the purpose of her visits to his house, or at least, what she used as a valid excuse to do so. He had left it behind, and it was only right that she returned it to him, and each time he did not answer the door, the next time she would convince herself to try again. However, it only frustrated her even more that Alastor didn’t even seem to realise that it was gone and hadn’t come over to ask for it back – she tried hard to not think again that he was probably doing it on purpose.

It was even more difficult since she had to have a single reminder in her hand that she couldn’t get rid of as of yet.

It was only with the chiming of the clock that finally broke her out of her daze, showing to her that it was near one in the afternoon, and reminding her that she needed to hurry to the train station.

Vaggie was coming home today.

With a refusal to spend another minute moping around, she pushed away all those bothersome thoughts to the far corners of her mind as she busied herself with getting ready to go, leaving the house with a somewhat clear conscience and absent of any thought of what she could have possibly left behind.


“So… He just took it on the heel and toe?”

Charlie sighed for what must be the umpteenth time today as she nodded her head.

She hadn’t been sure if it was a good idea to tell Angel Dust about it, but it’s been bothering her so terribly that her chest was starting to feel tight the longer she kept it in, and she needed to express it to someone who knew, which was just him. Besides, it was the first thing he had asked her about when she had picked him up from the hotel, and he already kind of guessed from the look on her face that she had a lot to let out.

So, all the way from the hotel to the bench they were now sitting on outside the New Orleans Union Station, he listened. Angel had been a good listener, at least, keeping mostly quiet as she rambled on, filtering through all the messy thoughts in her mind to recollect the events of that night. She had been mindful to leave out the part about the speakeasy, remembering the promise that she had made to Alastor to not tell on him or his friends. So, she skipped over that part entirely and just went ahead to the part that had Angel on edge the whole time. He had squealed excitedly at the fact that they had slept together, something that he had considered the result of a ‘successful date’, but then he realised a little too late that he probably should have kept his mouth shut about it when she revealed to him what had happened afterwards.

“He left, and since then, I haven’t seen him once.”

That clearly wasn’t the sort of ending to a date that Angel had hoped for, telling from the way he was cocking his head curiously yet with hesitance from his slip-up.

“But, you two live next-door. How can you not have seen him?”

And that statement of the fact only made Charlie feel heavy-hearted once more. “I just… don’t.” The answer sounded really sad, and it was. “I’ve gone to his house many times, but it just seems like he isn’t home. Or if he is, he’s just not answering me.”

Charlie exhaled breath in an effort to not potentially break into tears again at the thought. Leaning forward to rest her elbows on her knees, she just blankly looked ahead at the crowd around the New Orleans Union Station, bemoaning to herself, “The only form of ‘contact’ I’ve had with him since was just hearing him on the radio. And the thing is, he sounded… normal?”

There were times when she had tried to force herself to do otherwise, but that disturbing desperation of sorts had Charlie tuning in almost every day just to hear Alastor on his talk show. Well, it had at least given her the reassurance that he was alive and well and hadn’t actually lammed off from New Orleans, but it still probably was not the best of ideas – aside from constantly showing up to his door, that is. Like she had expected, it only made her feel worse at hearing him sound as cheery and lively as he always did, almost as if like he was going on with his days with no qualms or concerns about anything. Without a doubt, it hurt her, because there he seemed to be hitting on all eight, and then there was her.

It just wasn’t fair.

Angel started to gently pat her back in reassurance. “Hey, you can’t put a lot of confidence on that. He’s a radio host. He has to keep an act up for the audience, ya know? For entertainment and all.”

Angel did have a point, though a certain bit he had said was the only thing that had caught her attention.

“But do you think it could be that?”

“Could be what?”

“An act?”

Damn… The doll’s taking it that bad… Angel thought in pitiful concern. Unfortunately, he wasn’t sure what would be the right thing to tell her to make her feel better. He wasn’t good at these things, even with his expansive knowledge of romance, or any semblance of it. He couldn’t recall Molly ever taking break-ups this bad, but then again, his twin sister was the figlia of the mafia, raised to have nerves of steel that it would take more than a sleaze to put her in a rut. But Charlie wasn’t and was definitely a milquetoast when it came to these, so it was putting him at a loss.

“Sheesh, I dunno, toots,” he said uncertainly, scratching the back of his head. “Men are flaky like that. You never know why they do the things they do.”

Clearly not what Charlie had been hoping to hear, and she didn’t know how to respond to that bleak answer, which led to an almost unsettling silence between the two, filled only by the sounds of trains that were in the air.

It’ll only be a matter of time before the train bringing their friend would arrive, and Charlie was counting down the minutes until Vaggie would finally come back home. There was an eagerness in her to have her best friend back, since the house had been particularly lonely without her company around, and she wanted more than nothing now to welcome her presence back to break the forlorn silence.

But of course, her mind didn’t seem likely to want to give her a break anytime soon, and like all other thoughts that have been plaguing her since, Charlie thought back to that one night when she wasn’t alone, but clearly that wouldn’t have counted.

And what Angel said only justified quandary.

“So, how am I ever going to find out, Angel?”

“Well, worse comes to worst, I’d say you’d have to corner him.”

Okay, that was definitely something that she was not willing to do. “Absolutely not!” she protested, shaking her head adamantly. “That would only make things worse! I don’t want to tighten the screws on him. What if he only ignores me more?”

To that, Angel merely shrugged, giving her a stumped look as he told her, “Then looks like you got no choice but to wait it out and see if he comes to you.”

He was saying it as if she hadn’t already been doing that, and that seemed just as unhelpful as the first. Okay, so maybe she had been in the wrong to think that Angel could think of some good advice that could work for her because now it only did nothing to enlighten her from the slump.

And Angel seemed to be aware of what she was thinking, because he added on, “Listen, babe, in all my experiences, I’ll be as solid as a rock to tell you that it ain’t worth it to worry yourself over some boob who’s treating you like some hangover montage.”

As if there hadn’t been enough horrible ideas that have been disturbing Charlie for the last few days, that one immediately took the cake, the thought of it stinging so badly that it sent a very painful ache to her heart as dread started to fill her.

“But… this is Alastor.” Her voice was weak with disbelief. “I don’t think he’s the type.”

Angel pursed his lips with the cock of a sceptical brow. “If he isn’t, then why would he leave?”

As if that wasn’t already a question that’s been disconcerting her since that night – the night that she couldn’t stop herself from reminiscing, but was now coming to slowly regret.

Her mind had been filled with thoughts of what exactly had gone wrong, and getting even more into the specifics to figure out where she was at fault. The number one plausible explanation it could have been possible been was that she might have took it too far with him. He didn’t like being touched, and obviously, they had done much more than simply touching. It didn’t help the fact than they had both admittedly been quite inebriated, and while they did not seem to have gone over the edge with the rams to not be aware of what was happening, she probably should have listened to the reasonings of her conscience from that night to know any better.

But then again, there had been so many things from that night that had been haunting her. Seeing the look of panic on Alastor’s face in the dimness of the room, that was an image that’s been sticking out like a sore thumb in the flurry of thoughts. For certain, that was quite something to see him react in such a manner, much like that incident at the fortune teller’s.

It had almost like it had been… afraid?

But if he was; of what, then? What could have suddenly triggered him to panic? Was it because of the touching? Or was it something else?

And on top of that, what of the scars that had marked his entire torso? She may have not been able to see them clearly, but she remembered how pronounced they felt. How had they gotten there? Just why were there so many? What could someone as polished and genteel as Alastor have done to attain those unsightly marks that mar his body? 

It was all too frustrating, how the questions kept piling on and on and doing nothing but unsettle her already distressed psyche. It all got too much, making her mind start to wander too far, but no doubt, what weighed the heaviest was the thought of what could have been going through his head that made him give himself the gate in such a rush, and decide to seemingly disappear from her.

Just… Just why?

Why did he just leave like that?

Why did he just leave her after what had happened between them?

Why did he do all of that and made her feel something for him, only to just up and leave her like that?

There was no way this could just be some ploy to lead her on just to do something to her…

… Could it?

With how all these questions just kept on adding and yet there was nothing that was adding up, it overwhelmed Charlie immensely and started a prickling in her eyes that signified the coming of tears. Leaned forward to hang her head further, her fingers came up to weave into her hair in some bid to get a grip on herself, but her lips were starting to quiver and her fingers were absentmindedly gripping her hair so hard that she could potentially tear them off, the turmoil from within starting to take over.

The silence from Angel halted immediately as he suddenly got on edge watching her, promptly reached out to grab her shoulders and pulling her to sit back upright.

“Okay, okay. Relax,” he urged her with a brace. “ 'Keep your head up high and your ego higher.’ That’s what I told you, remember?”

Charlie’s better judgement broke through the jumble that was her mind to tell her that now was just not the right place and the right time to get herself all riled up again, and Angel’s words of comfort seemed to do just the trick to help ease back into composure. Yes, he was right. ‘Keep your head up high and your ego higher’. That was what he told her, and she focused on those words like it was some sort of mantra to block out any of the bothersome thoughts.

Angel’s voice turned more comforting as he assured, “Let’s just give him the benefit of the doubt, alright? Just wait it out a while longer, and see what happens. If he shows, that’s settled. And if he doesn’t, then…”

Before Angel could think of the nicest way to put it, Charlie already finished his sentence with a despondent, “I’ll… figure out what to do then.”

As half-hearted as it sounded, it was the best sort of closure she could give herself, and it would have to do for now.

And howl!” he comforted with a pat back on her back. “Now, less downer topics aside, can I just say how completely bamboozled I am that you actually went ahead pitching woo with him without protection?!”

The change in Charlie was almost comical, with the way her head whipped to him with eyes all abash and wide with both brows shot up. “Angel?!” she cried out horrified, a blush starting to rise from the neck up. How could he think that it was a good idea to talk about this in public?!

But Angel being Angel, he didn’t seem to give a damn and just carried on, unable to hold back the laugh at the look on her face, a grin full of cheek as he remarked, “I mean, I don’t take ya for a bluenose, but I’d thought that you’d be a bit more careful!”

As much as she was outraged, he did bring up a fair point. And yes; that was another thing.

Charlie should have been more careful. Even if Alastor had not spilt inside of her, it had been such a terrifying thought that something could have happened by mistake, and given the current situation, getting knocked up would make things much more dire than it is. She had fretted for the first couple of days after that night, worried if something might have gone wrong, and almost giving herself a heart attack about what she was going to do if there ended up being an accident.

So, to say that she was glad to start bleeding after the fourth day was such an understatement. That had been a huge relief on her end, and at least Fate had been kind to give her that, at least.

“I’ve gotten my period.”

“Well, thank God for that!” Angel made such a big show of wiping imaginary sweat from his brow as he exhaled a huge sigh, before nudging Charlie teasingly with his elbow. “But hey, just make sure you at least got some protection on you before you do any more barneymugging with Smiles, alright?”

Charlie rolled her eyes in her embarrassment, a motion that did not match her still-bothered thoughts.

… If there ever is a next time…

“Was he good?”

Oh, goodness…

“…Very…”

Angel cackled aloud with a slap to his knee, making Charlie look away from him with a face burning red. It seemed to go just at the right time, as she began to notice a lot of people were starting to stream out from the station, indicating the arrival of a train to New Orleans.

Before she could wonder if it was the one they were waiting for, then come from among the masses a familiar face looking lost in the crowd, hands wringing the handle of her suitcase as her eyes searched through the multitudes.

Seeing Vaggie seemed to do the trick in somewhat doing away the wearisome thoughts in her head, and there was just that little bubbling of excitement and happiness in her gut at seeing her best friend again. It felt appeasing to know that her presence would quell some of this heavy tension that had lingered in the house, and allowing Charlie to not be so alone with just her thoughts to keep her company.

But speaking of which, she quickly remembered an important something.

“Angel?”

Her expression had spoken enough, and without skipping a beat, Angel returned a subtle knowing look. Even if she hadn’t reminded him about the promise that she had asked for at the dress shop, he would have remembered all the same to not say anything. He may be a crook, but he was never one to break a promise, especially with someone he owed a favour to, like Charlie. And besides, it looked like she would really need some co-operation with how down in the dumps she’d been.

“Yeah, I know.”

With that silent acknowledgement between them, Charlie turned her head back in the direction to Vaggie, and it was almost instantly that their eyes met. And right there, it was like a switch was flicked in her brain. Gone away was the heaviness that clouded Charlie, and up came a conveying of glee as her lips spread into a smile and her eyes were wide and bright as she started to wave excitedly.

“Vaggie!”

Charlie was already off from the bench and rushing towards Vaggie, and in the blink of an eye, she was already wrapping the girl in a huge bear hug.

But in that instant, Charlie already felt that something was off, and she tell just from the way that Vaggie’s arms didn’t immediately raise to return the gesture, like she would usually have done. Instead, she remained still in her hold, and Charlie couldn’t be too sure, but had her body gone somewhat tense so suddenly?

Although, it seemed that she been too quick to question, as it was then that Vaggie hugged her back softly, her voice soft as she muttered, “Hey there, hon. Missed me?”

She sounded tired, and a concern prompted Charlie to pull back to take a good look at her face, finding that Vaggie looked absolutely weary, as if she hadn’t been getting some good night’s sleep.

“Vaggie… Are you okay?”

Vaggie pursed her lips for a moment, and a hesitancy flashed in her eyes before she shut them closed and nodded her head. “Mm-hm. I’m just really tired from the trip.”

Ah, that made sense. Pretty reasonable, considering that California from New Orleans was indeed a long way off, and that’s not counting all the transit that was sure to have been tiresome. She must be so exhausted, the poor doll.

Charlie took Vaggie back into a hug, just as tight as the first, and pressed her face into her long dark hair. “I’m glad you’re well,” she breathed, finding herself falling back into ease at the familiar feeling of her best friend. “I’ve missed you so much.”

The girls remained hugging each other just as Angel finally caught up to them. “Hey there, bearcat,” he greeted Vaggie aloud. “How’s California?”

“It was fine,” Vaggie muttered. “Nothing much.”

“Nothing much? Damn, were you as boring there as you are here?”

Usually, an insult or a curse in Spanish from Vaggie was to be expected as a response to one of Angel’s mean remarks, but that hadn’t been the case now when she simply grumbled and gave him a glare, remaining completely silent, which seemed to surprise Angel into being quiet because he didn’t know how else to continue on.

She must really be exhausted… Charlie thought to herself worriedly as she released her from her hug. “Hey, I’m pretty sure you must be starving from your trip? Would you like to grab some lunch first before heading home?”

There wasn’t any resistance from Vaggie on the idea, although her reply had been just a plain ‘Alright’.


Charlie and Angel weren’t blind to the fact that something was up with Vaggie.

She had been quiet, and any response to their questions was quite brief and uninterested like she didn’t have it in her to hold a conversation with them. When prompted about it, all she replied was the same answer of being tired from the journey home, and then falling back into silence once more.

Yet, it uneased Charlie, having not envisioned that their reunion would be as deadpanned as it was. Even Angel was starting to feel like an awkward third wheel and was starting to question why he’d agree to tag along, knowing how could be quite the killjoy. But still, they stuck it out and tried to converse with her as normal, as best as they could try.

It probably hadn’t been a good idea to suggest having lunch first when Vaggie was still exhausted, seeing as how she barely had even touched her food, and it was only a relief that they were now on the way back to Charlie’s in the hack. The silence continued in the vehicle but this time neither Charlie nor Angel forced any words out, leaving Vaggie alone to quietly to gaze out the window.

Charlie forced herself to not let her eyes wander to the house next door when they’ve finally arrived at her place. It was also the first time Angel had been over to their neighbourhood, and she had noticed the way his eyes took a side glance to Alastor’s, but she did not acknowledge, both for her own sake and for the sake of Vaggie’s, who she continued to fuss over.

“You should go on up to your room and get some rest, babe. I’ll help you with your bag!”

Vaggie smiled a small smile – one of the few that she’s graced them since returning. “Thanks, hon… I’ll grab a glass of water first before I head up.”

Vaggie was already heading to the kitchen before Charlie could say anything, leaving her in the foyer with Angel and her suitcase. Well, she would let her to it then, and she’d make do on her promise with her bag. But Angel started to tut just as her hand touched the handle, shaking his head as his hand placed itself on the handle too.

“Don’t worry about this, doll. I’ll take care of it.” His insistence was followed with a quick glance to the direction that Vaggie had gone into, making sure that she was out of sight to not see him whisper, “You go ahead and ask about what’s gotten her taco in a twist.”

“Angel,” Charlie scolded sharply under her breath.

He waved her off dismissively as he grabbed Vaggie’s suitcase from her hand. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, which room?”

Well, looks like no point reprimanding him on his behaviour for now. “Second door on the right,” she sighed with a shake of her head, getting only a thumbs-up from him before he ascended the stairs, leaving her in the silence of the foyer to busy herself with removing her coat and her hat.

Things were going pretty smooth so far, and with Vaggie around, the house didn’t feel so empty and unwholesome now, which at least finally gave Charlie the peace of mind within her home…

“Charlie.”

There was something about the way she said her name that put her in a standstill. The way it had sounded so dire and sharp, it sent a chill ran down her spine, sending her mind to start going into a sort of alert, reacting immediately in a frenzy that had put her on edge, and she was glad that she was standing away where her face could not be seen, giving her that few seconds of discretion to force some calm to herself.

“Yes, Vaggie?”

Still looking away, Charlie heard footsteps echo through the hallway, sounding like it had come right from the dining room before it came to a stop right behind her.

She realised then why she was internally acting up, although realising already too late when she turned around to face Vaggie.

In her best friend’s hand was Alastor’s monocle.

“What is this?” Vaggie questioned, although something in her voice gave an indication that she already knew.

Charlie’s throat was starting to feel tight, unable to smoothly voice out the many reasons that were piling up on her tongue for her to say in a farce. The only thing that she could think of was of how stupid she had been to completely forget about Alastor’s monocle on the dining table, and how in a flash, her attempts to keep this long secret from Vaggie was out of the bag.

“… I…”

Charle was probably – no, definitely – not doing a good job at hiding herself now, too dumbfounded by fear and unable to anticipate what was to come next, unable to do anything else except to dart her eyes between Vaggie’s face and the monocle.

And it was then that her friend’s expression started to change, becoming the most expressive that she had been since they saw each other, the blankness in her façade from being silent and awaiting an explanation starting to disappear upon hearing Charlie’s measly little croak.

“… Really?...” she muttered, dejected and saddened – a clear sign of the feeling of betrayal. “…You’re still going to try and lie to me?...”

Charlie could feel herself starting to crack, her façade slipping off her so quickly that there was no point to continue putting up an act now. Still, she said nothing, unable to find her voice and now feeling the palpitations on her racing heart in her suddenly dry and aching throat, struggling to maintain her breathing through her panic, feeling akin to a child who got caught by their parent for doing something they weren’t supposed to do, or a criminal that’s been cornered with no place left to run from their capers.

As her silence in the tension continued, Vaggie’s agitation alleviated breaking the quiet apprehension that hung between them.

Holding up the monocle with violently shaking fingers, the broken expression of her face shifted as her brows knitted into a pronounced frown, her lips pulling back to show teeth gritted in what looked like a snarl, and her eyes being filled with a sort of anger that was tinged with sadness, snapping with her voice heavy and breaking as she cried out what Charlie did not want to hear.

You think I wouldn’t find out about what you did with Alastor?!

Chapter Text

“I called your parents’ house, to check up on how you’re doing. And what did I find out?”

For a split second, Charlie felt a twinge of anger towards herself for being so careless as to not think of the possibility that Vaggie would have called her parents' house, thinking how it would have saved her from such a mess. 

But then her better conscience became more apparent; how dare she still thought like that when the consequences of her actions had now led to this terrible situation? Vaggie's fury was so palpable in the air that Charlie was almost choking on it. If her anger was fire, she would have definitely set the whole house ablaze, and there was no way for Charlie to be able to pacify it, try as she may.

“Vaggie, please… I can explain…”

Vaggie cut her off with a stroke, interrupting with her voice further broken as she forced out her next words. 

“'Explain' what, Charlie? That you completely lied to me? That you went behind my back?”

At that moment, the pulled corners of Vaggie's lips started trembling, and it was then the floodgates finally broke and the first tears fell fast and heavy down the flushed-red copper of her cheeks. In her frustration, she wiped it away furiously with the back of her hand, choking back on a cry that was threatening to escape out from her, the pain and sadness of the moment fully overwhelming her senses.

Seeing her best friend in such a state instigated the prickling in her own eyes, and Charlie felt so undeserving to do so, knowing that she was in no right to cry when it was truly her fault for making Vaggie so upset. But she couldn’t stop the tears that had already started pooling and streaming fast down her cheeks, and she was starting to shake as her heart raced and felt like it was breaking from the immense fear and pressure that she could do no else to quell it except to hold herself to try to calm down. 

It was all to no avail, and she could only wish desperately for Vaggie to stop. However, her friend was far from finishing her tirade of fury.

“And to top it all off? You lied to me for Alastor Carlon!”

The way she had said his name was coated in venom, spitting it as if the taste of it on her tongue was so unbearably disgusting and doing it at the loudest tone of her rage that it could be heard all the way from the second floor, sending Angel hurrying down the stairs in a rush to the scene to find the Latina all red hot, Charlie clutching herself and both girls completely in a mess of tears.

“Woah, hey!” he yelled out, coming to stand between them and holding his long arms out to keep them at a distance. “ Break it up, will ya! It’s not as if she went and did a crime!”

… Oh, no… Charlie should have been quick to tell Angel to keep his mouth shut because that little slip-up clearly now had the situation getting worse when Vaggie’s eyes looked to Angel with newfound bewilderment.  

“You got him in on it too?” Vaggie exclaimed in horrified disbelief, staring accusingly at Charlie as she pointed at Angel. 

The continued silence from Charlie gave her the answer, and she threw her arms up in intensified frustration. "I can't believe you! You went all the way just to lie to me?!”

“Well, she wouldn’t need to cheese it if you don't act up like you are now,” Angel told her pointedly, becoming defensive as he gestured to Charlie behind him. “Look, she didn’t mean to, alright? So, what if she wanted to go to a party with Smiles? There isn't anything wrong with that!"

His reasoning didn't sit well with Vaggie at all, uttering a curse at him in spite. "Shut up, you sleaze!" she lashed out. "And to think I would tell you anything! I shouldn't have expected any less from someone like you!"

Vaggie's superfluous behaviour to the situation caused Angel to snap in annoyance, biting back cynically,  “Are you still fucking holding on to all that bullshit that he’s going to ‘eat her’ or whatever?! You completely lost your marbles! Get back on your rocker, why don’t you!”

¡Quédate fuera de esto! ” Vaggie shouted, her fists clenched and trembling at her sides and looking like it was ready to be thrown for a swift hit, inciting Angel to square up as well to shout back, “ Cazzo smetti di urlare!

“Enough! Both of you!”

Charlie’s sudden loud cry cut off the both of them, but as demanding as she sounded, her demeanour was akin to that of a kicked puppy, looking absolutely distressed in her fear and trepidation.

With feeble hands, she took hold of Angel’s arm and pulled him away. “Angel… Please just step outside…” she instructed him, almost like she was begging him to leave the scene. 

Angel eyed Charlie with a hesitance that showed how he felt quite unwilling to leave the doll on her own, but she was stubborn and certain when she opened the door, somehow finding it in herself to give him the smallest broken but reassuring smile she could offer. So as much as he wouldn’t want to, he obeyed, and stepped out without another look at Vaggie, closing the door and leaving the two friends to settle things between themselves.

With a shuddering breath, Charlie forced herself to turn away from the door and look back to Vaggie through the blur of her tears. Her best friend was silent, but from all the emotions that were flashing in her eyes, it was obvious that she wasn't internally.


On his own, Angel breathed out an exasperated sigh. 

Jesus, how things really went to shit in there. He could only wonder how Charlie was going to get herself out of the bearcat ’s tongue-lashing. He wouldn’t be surprised if he heard the sound of breaking furniture to follow, but he doubted the angry girl would be that relentless.

Seeing as how it was pointless to get himself involved, as per the doll’s wishes, he would have liked to hightail himself from the place, since he was to have no business with the dilemma that was going on. But his better conscience told him to stay for Charlie’s sake and decided that he should probably stick around a little longer just in case things inside might actually get messy and there was really a need for him to intervene.

For now, Angel helped himself to a sit on the steps of the front porch, glad to at least have his lucky deck on himself to have a smoke to pass the time waiting out the trouble.


"...Vaggie…"

Vaggie held up a hand, effectively silencing Charlie so that she herself could speak first.

"Tell me this Charlie…" she began, her tone dour and solemn. "If I hadn't called your parents' house and found out about it, would you have still kept me in the dark?"

"Was this why you were so different since just now?" Charlie replied in a soft voice. 

Vaggie shut her eyes tight like she was trying to will every little bit of patience she had left to not lash out once more, which seemed to take a great deal out of her by how she had tightened her downturned lips and nodded gravely.

"I didn't want to say anything because I wanted to see if you would confess on your own terms… I wanted to see if I even meant anything for you to tell me the truth…"

When she opened her eyes, they were softer now, but filled with a sorrow that was immense. Anger was underlying in the grief she was experiencing, rendering her voice weak as she muttered bitterly, "I can't believe you, Charlie...

A stronger pang of guilt hit Charlie right in the heart, and at the moment she felt that she was the most terrible person in the world for doing this to Vaggie. So many words of apologies were starting to race in her mind, but through the painful tightness of her throat, she could only utter weakly, "... I'm sorry…"

"'Sorry'?" Vaggie said incredulously, her pronounced frown showing pure doubt. "You're 'sorry'? You lied straight to my face. You had every intention to do it. I asked you for one thing and you just went ahead and did it anyway."

"I know… And it was wrong…" Charlie implored, her tone begging to be believed. "It was wrong and I'm so sorry…"

But her apology went unaccepted, and every emotion that was piling up within Vaggie was only growing with more vigour, her patience about to snap again as anger started to overwhelm her once more.

"You promised me, Charlie! You promised me that you wouldn’t do anything with him while I was gone! I confided in you! I downright pleaded with you to understand! And you just went ahead and did it!"

"I'm sorry…"

Vaggie paid no attention to Charlie's third attempt at an inadequate apology, continuing to rant out her vexation. “What if something happened to you while I was gone, Charlie? You don't even know if he can really be trusted! He could have done anything to you! And to think that you even brought him into the house!"

Just then, it seemed that at that moment, the words that had been said were suddenly registered to Vaggie's thoughts, and a certain realisation suddenly dawned on her. Stopping short in her speech, she looked to Charlie with a different kind of fear and disbelief in her eyes.

"...Ay, Dios mío..."

The uneasiness in the air started to peak in tension, and Charlie could almost feel her heart palpitating right at the back of her throat as her gut began sinking with dread.

"Did you sleep with him?..."


Angel admired how lovely the neighbourhood was.

Picturesque with houses that promised cozy and comfort, it seemed so very enticing, but having grown up in the noisy suburbs of New York City with an equally noisy Italian setting, and having a fair share of bunking in with sleazes and even being homeless at times from the night-time street-walking, he wasn't familiar with the concept of cozy and comfort.

Charlie and Vaggie sure were lucky to be able to afford something like this for their own. Angel wondered to himself if he could ever find what they had. Hell, the hotel wasn't exactly the epitome of cozy and comfy, and it wasn't a place that he could really call his own, but with his circumstances, it was the best he could get and it was free so he'd have to deal with it. At least it beat spending nights with the tempestuous Valentino, or the squalid milieu of the bordello squatting.

Yet, Angel couldn't help but ponder on the thought of how nice it might be to be living in a place like this if he wasn't on the nut. Molly would have loved it, and he could be living peacefully with his sister. It seemed so serene, bringing the promise of no drama or dangers in his quietude.

Well, except for the one that was going on inside the house right now.

That thought broke Angel out of his languid daydreaming and brought him back to reality to turn his head and listen for any more shouting. But as he did, a flash of movement from the house next-door unexpectedly caught his attention.

And wouldn't you know it; here came the catalyst of all this mess.


There was desperation that painted Vaggie's facade - desperation for what she was suspecting to not be true.

"Charlie… Did you sleep with Alastor Carlon?"

The repeat of that dreadful question only fueled the internal urge that overwhelmed Charlie; to deny Vaggie's statement, to pretend that there was no particular reason as to why Alastor's monocle was in her house, to just come up with any fib that could keep up a pretence simply for the sake of not having to admit to what she did not have the heart to reveal.

But with how much had gone down, what was the point now to keep lying?

"Yes... I did."

The weight of her confession felt heavy in the silence that followed, and Charlie wanted nothing more than to run and hide in any dark corner that she could find, to curl into herself and not show her face, just so that she wouldn't have to bear with what was to come now.

Vaggie was uncharacteristically silent, the words of the truth still sinking into her, but it was clearly adamant to her that it was the straw that broke her back, and Charlie could only start to brace herself for another diatribe.

But that didn't come. 

Instead, she just stood there, suppressed by resentment and distress, that suddenly led to a quick and nervous rash movement which seemed to be an instinctive reaction to every negative feeling that was overwhelming her.

Raising the monocle up high, she harshly swung her arm down, letting it go from her grasp towards the floor in her rough throw.

Charlie gasped aloud, immensely shocked by her actions. It was only a good thing that there was a thick carpet where they stood, which softened the impact when the accessory hit the ground, preventing it from breaking into pieces.

Charlie knelt immediately to where it had landed near her feet, picking it up to keep it safe within her hold. As she did, Vaggie suddenly moved quickly to rush past her towards the stairs, head hanging low with her long dark hair hiding her expression that was now woebegone. Panicked, Charlie reached out for her, calling her name in urgent desperation, but her call went unheeded as Vaggie quailed away from her touch and ran up the stairs, her cries starting to bubble out of her, very audible until the violent slamming of her door cut it out from Charlie's hearing.

And so came the end of their disastrous reunion, leaving Charlie to remain kneeling on the floor and crumbling, putting her face into her hands to muffle out her guilty cries.


"Hey!"

Hearing the call coming from the opposite direction, the neighbour's head whipped around with eyes that were somehow already wide with unease, although it suddenly relaxed when he realised in surprise who was talking to him.

"Oh, it's you."

Angel was now leaning forward casually on the fence, giving a lazy salute to Alastor with the hand that held his half-finished cigarette. 

"Yeah, it's me."

Alastor was clearly back from somewhere, and judging from the exhaustion that was evident from the light shadows under his eyes, it seemed that he must have had a long night elsewhere. How so very curious.

But even with the fatigue, he still mustered up a smile in polite greeting.

"Angel Dust, am I correct?" Alastor asked, getting a nod of affirmation. "Is that even your real name?"

"I wouldn't get the greens rollin' if the tricks ' gotta moan 'Anthony' in bed, handsome," Angel remarked with a cheeky wink.

Alastor had known at least enough about him to remember that he was a rent boy, and while the nance 's profession did not bother him in the slightest, the forwardness of his behaviour did enough to send an uncomfortable chill down his spine, much like the first time they had properly met in the hotel, when he had offered to - ahem - 'do him a service'.

Uncouth first impressions aside, Alastor remained as polite as he could be, staying where he stood and keeping his close-lipped smile on to bring up the far more pressing question.

"So, what brings you here to this side of New Orleans?"

In response, Angel stuck a thumb out to point at the house behind him. "Followed the babe to pick up the other babe. Standing out here 'cause they're in there having some major discussion that I can't butt into."

Now, was it just Angel, or did Alastor start looking a little nervous?

His smile remained, but minute changes started to appear on his features - his brow knitted into a mild frown, his sights darted to the house behind Angel with guarded eyes, and his lips pressed just the slightest bit.

"So, Charlie's home right now?" Alastor asked in a vacant voice.

"That's right."

The hesitation in Alastor grew the longer he stared at the house. When he cleared his throat to break the silence, his conduct was now more restrained to say, "Well, then. Send her my greetings, if you will. Now, if you won't mind, my friend, I'll be taking my leave."

Alastor's departing sentence came with a quick turn of his feet, his back already to Angel as he returned on the path to his front door. His dismissive stance - quite abrupt and a slight bit rude - would have called for the end of the conversation and letting him go on his merry way.

But Angel watched in puzzlement at the man's peculiarity. Why did he seem so anxious to know that Charlie was nearby? And why was he suddenly in such a hurry to get to his house? Angel could only feel inclined to find out, feeling a bit of a need to poke his beezer into what might be going on.

"Why not tell her yourself? Or are you actually avoiding her?"

Now that definitely did the trick in stopping Alastor in his tracks as abrupt as he had been to leave, making him look back at the other with an inquisitive stare.

"Beg your pardon?"

"You heard me."

At this, Alastor turned back to him, giving his undivided attention as he tilted his head in curiosity. "Now, what gave you that idea?" he asked nonchalantly.

Angel blew out a smooth stream of smoke before answering smartly, "Not 'what', 'who'. And yes, it's the doll."

It was clear by the emotions that flickered in his eyes that there was a hesitation to broach the subject of Charlie, which piked Angel's curiosity further. Knowing very well that he was feeling nervous in a way, it prompted Angel to press on.

"Before you ask; yeah, she's feeling pretty fucked about it, and I don't mean that literally."

Alastor may have remained reticent to the statement Angel brought up, but his eyes had narrowed in the slightest with disapproval at the foul language that had been used.

"My friend, I'd advise you to mind the crass language of your tongue,” Alastor 'scolded' lightheartedly. "It's unfitting to talk about her that way."

His reaction only served to amuse Angel.  “Aww, getting really defensive for your little girlfriend, eh?" he jested in witty amusement.

“She isn’t my ‘girlfriend’." 

“Well, you couldn’t have made it more obvious than doing a hit-and-run on her.” 

Now he got him right in the bag, judging from the way Alastor's eyes narrowed just the slightest more as he turned stonier at his quick and sharp clarification. It certainly gave him away somewhat, making Angel all the more sure to suspect that the man had simply treated Charlie like a wife for the night

“Just what are you trying to get at?” Alastor questioned, his voice collected although there was a tinge of irritation in his tone.

“What I’m trying to get at is why’d you gotta do that to her," Angel replied, now unsmiling as he pressed on the topic. "Gotta admit that I didn’t take you to be the type to dangle a frail like that.”

Studying his face, Angel knew that his words had struck a nerve in Alastor, who was probably not taking well to be told off in such a way, especially from someone like him.

"Mr Dust, I hope you won't mind if I tell you right now that whatever is going on between Charlie and I is strictly none of your business."

Things were getting more and more curious right now with the way he seemed to almost demand him to stop, but Angel had not been deterred. It would take more than a mild play of intimidation to wheedle him, and he also had to admit that it was kind of fun to see him so riled up over it.

Besides, he wasn't going to relent to the demand without putting in a say.

"I ain't saying it is, Smiles,” Angel replied with a casual shrug, before adding on, “But I’m speakin’ for Charlie."

Silence fell between the two men, and they only stared at each other. However, at that moment, Alastor's body language changed entirely in an instant. From relaxed and languid, his form became stiff and rigid, like he was caught doing something that he wasn't supposed to do. But it was not driven by fear. No, it was something else. Something that Angel couldn't quite put his finger on. Anger maybe? Definitely irritation. And also something like… anxiety? 

That's strange.

The mystery only brought some sort of tension about him, giving off a suspenseful air that was supplemented by the tightness of his voice when he spoke, his stance kept firm when he asserted himself once more.

"As I would reiterate again; none of your business."

The repetition of those resolute words came with an underlying tone of stern warning, accompanied by the sudden austere look in Alastor's eyes that seemed mismatched to the very toothy grin that he gave, the tone of finality in his voice coming with a stress on his want for the other to back off. Anyone in Angel's position would think it very strange that he would still keep a smile on despite the annoyance and displeasure that he was feeling, so very different from how off-hand he had been when they had first spoke

Seeing Alastor so Janus-faced was enough to have Angel falter just the slightest, eyeing him warily as if he was now some sort of agitated animal that was ready to pounce and attack. It was only then that Angel decided that he had overstepped enough boundaries, raising his hands with palms opened front to show that he was cutting the talk. 

"Alright then," Angel flummoxed. "Up to you."

Alastor seemed satisfied, although his inhibition was still evident. But he said no more as he took this moment to be the end of their conversation, giving a simple nod in farewell before turning his back to the other once more to walk off.

After giving a flick of his nearly-finished cigarette to clear it of leftover tobacco, Angel backed away from the fence and turned to head to the steps of the front porch, only giving a glance over his shoulder to watch Alastor already at his door, opening it with a sort of impatience and closing it shut in a rush once he had made his way inside.

And it seemed to be timed just perfectly, as at that moment, the front door opened and Charlie stepped out of the house, looking weary with eyes burning red and lashes a mess of smeared mascara from the tears that had also stained her cheeks. 

Angel halted when he laid his eyes on her. "Jesus Christ," Angel muttered, all concerned. "You alright, doll?"

Stupid question really, because she looked like she just had a good long cry - so, in no way did she look alright at all. Damn, he probably should put his foot in his mouth and stuff it.

Charlie gave no answer to him, still sniffling as her hands were busy with a handkerchief to wipe away the mess on her face. With wavering steps, she remained in perturbed silence as she came to sit on the steps of the porch, bringing her knees up to her chest and hugging them tightly as she continued to wipe away tears that were still streaming down her cheeks. 

Not knowing what else to do, Angel awkwardly sat beside her, not saying anything and letting her be, only keeping a pitiful look at her. He would have thought to give her a hug or something, but it seemed too uncomfortable for anything else other than to give her space. So they remained that way for a while, allowing her however much time and space she would need to recompose herself. 

When Charlie finally forced herself to speak, her voice was all scratchy and quivering as she croaked, "I don't know if Vaggie would ever forgive me…"

She suddenly pressed the palm of her hands hard against her eyes, as though to physically hold back more tears, bemoaning, "I'm so stupid, Angel… I knew it was a bad idea, but why did I still go ahead and do it?... "

Now it was just getting discomfiting for Angel to watch her beat herself up about the situation.

"Don't think about it so much. So she's a little iffy that you went to a party with some bird she doesn't like. What's the big deal? She'll get over it."

He put a hand on her shoulder in a show of comfort, giving her a gentle squeeze as he went on.

"I ain't gonna really be a saint when I tell you that everybody gets lied to. For whatever reason, everybody's gonna end up being lied to, one way or another. And Vaggie isn't any special. So, like I said: she'll get over it."

Even though she was still too engrossed in her own mess of thoughts to give a response to what he had just said, Charlie had half-heartedly paid mind to the advice and reassurance that Angel had imparted. However, although she knew he had meant well and held a ring of truth, it did not sit right with her. 

She lied and that was wrong. Lying was wrong, no matter whatever the reason was. Nothing good came from it except for pain and sadness and betrayal and any other negative connotation that it could associate itself with, and along the way bringing damage to trust.

… To trust...

When that random thought popped up in her melancholia, Charlie suddenly turned her head to the side to look at Alastor's house, watching it in its silence that only further reminded her of the 'disappearance' of its owner.

Seeing her in that state, Angel decided to keep mum to himself about his encounter with her neighbour, thinking it best if he didn't add on to her already distressed state-of-mind of the aloofness that Angel had seen Alastor portray, knowing that it won’t do her any good to be in a rue for letting herself get taken by a man who probably wasn't really a gentleman as he would make himself out to be.

"... First Alastor… Now Vaggie…" Charlie murmured to herself.

Angel continued to remain silent, knowing no else on what to do to help Charlie out of her blues. They stayed that way for a while more, with Angel quietly watching their quiet surroundings while giving glances at Charlie who was still in the midst of crying leftover tears. 

But when the seconds turned to minutes, the sky above was darkening into burnt orange, signalling the coming of night.

"Uh… babe?" Angel broke the silence with quiet hesitation. "As much as I'd like to sit here with you, I really need to get hustlin' soon. The night's about to fall."

As Charlie ceased in her lamentation, the sallowness of her face deepened just the slightest bit, and it was obvious that she didn't want to be left alone in this state. That made Angel feel really bad, but he couldn't. He needed to get to making some greens tonight or else Val's going to be giving him more than an earful.

Also, with all this drama that he had unintentionally got himself into, he'd be in a need for a lil' 'pick-me-up' to shake off the excitement.

Charlie could tell his hesitation, and as good-hearted as she was, she didn't try to press him for anything. With a half-hearted pull of her lips that did not reach her eyes, she said, "Oh, of course. Just be careful and take care, alright?"

"Always am, toots. But what about you?" Angel cast a hesitant glance to the house. "What about her?" he asked carefully.

At the mention of Vaggie, Charlie could only look behind at the door with a heavy look, wondering what was to happen now within the house with the remnants of the feud still lingering in its atmosphere. She honestly did not want to go back inside just yet, unwilling to face the consequences of her actions. 

But what choice did she have left? There was not much else that could be done, except to let time and patience take the reins to allow the dust to settle.

"I just need to give her time," she replied, voice hurting and spiritless. "I'll go to her when she's ready to talk to me again."

With that said, Angel finally took off, giving a wave to her as he made his way down the pavement leading out of the neighbourhood. Charlie went as far as the sidewalk and stood by on her lawn, waving back until her friend had turned around the corner and disappeared.

Being alone right now then brought a whole new sense of heartache, and in another mistake she knew she probably shouldn't have done, she allowed herself to look at the house next door, gazing intently at it as though waiting for the familiar face of Alastor's to appear. 

But like all other times, the house remained still and silent.

… So much for toasting to trust… 

Charlie wanted to scoff at the harrowing thought that whatever was going on with Alastor was probably a tit for tat for her actions to Vaggie, but truly she was becoming more crestfallen by the minute. In a bout of self-reproach, she could only continue to hurt as she reminded herself once more that everything that was happening to her now was all her fault, and it was her karma and payback to deal with.

A new prickle of tears started stinging her eyes, and if there was something she did not want to do now, it was to break down crying so out in the open. She was on the horns of dilemma to return to the apprehension that still lingered fresh, but without much of a choice of what to do now, she forced herself to turn away from the neighbouring house and make her way back inside into her own. 

The whole time, Charlie was wholly unaware of the eyes that were hiding behind the drapes of his bedroom window and watching from within the darkness, an inner turmoil starting to brew within his core.

Chapter Text

Alastor was very well-aware of how uncouth he was behaving with this sudden withdrawal from her presence, and he was also very well-aware of how it would make Charlie feel, even before her ethel friend had stopped him for an attempt of a lecture. Seeing her all teary-eyed and dispirited out on her front lawn that day only confirmed what he had expected, and even made him wonder just how much she was hurting because of this.

However, he could not bring himself to face her.

Not after that night.

The events of that night had been perplexing Alastor that it seemed to be always intruding his thoughts and forcing him to recollect all that had gone down. He could not stop thinking about how he had been rendered unable to withstand his constraints and allowed himself to be released to compulsion, how he had let himself succumb to her touch and her sound and just everything about her.

Just the thought of her alone was enough to send his mind at sixes and sevens, riling him up with confusion each and every time the thought of her popped up and sent him into a spiral of emotions that he didn’t quite know how to handle. It baffled him, as much as it infuriated him, and so he did what he thought best and that was to avoid her.

It was for the sake of his own sanity. Out of sight, out of mind - that's what would be said. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as easy as he would hope for.

The darling had been a relentless one, coming day by day to knock on his door and call for his name, and wait for even a minute or more for his answer. She had sounded like she really wanted to talk to him and see him, no doubt to have some clarity on what had happened between them. The first few times, however, Alastor largely ignored her, staying as far away from the door as he could, keeping to himself in any one of his rooms with his form forced still to not move.

A cursed thing, her voice was. Like a siren's call - it sang to his blood and entranced him so deeply, yet it was so very deadly in the way it pulled him into the temptation to heed it and lead him to certain doom. So much so that on the third day she stood on his porch, he relented and brought himself to stand in front of the door, silent and still, waiting and listening to the tinkling of her voice calling for his name. He could only allow himself just that much liberty to stay there and listen to the sweetness of her sound, indulging himself in that little bit of her, although he remained resolute in not answering, pulled back by the uncertainty that would engulf him should he lay eyes on her again, fuelled by that damning disgust within himself for having been so easily affected by her.

He had nearly broken through on the fifth day, his hand had been as close as to put itself on the doorknob, held by every shred of restraint he could muster to not twist it open.

When Charlie didn’t come, her voice remained with him, ringing within the deep consciousness of his mind, and he had tried so hard to block it out the only way he could, occupying himself as much as he could. He had requested for mainly day shifts at work so that he wasn’t around the neighbourhood when she would be, and he made sure that the time spent at home – if he was fortunate enough to not have her coming to his doorstep – would be kept to a minimum before disappearing late into the night for some ‘hunting’.

Alastor had been a little more active in his ‘recreations’ than usual, but he had a lot of steam to blow off and take it out on any unfortunate soul that came across his path. To have them trapped in his unforeseen incursions was quite the relief with the way their screams flowed like music to his ears, a symphony of pain and anguish in its shrill notes that reeked of fear and desperation, and with their forms that were shrivelled and ridden with terror came the promise of a filled stomach with delicious meat and blood.

Within the confines of his dark basement, Alastor was reposed in tranquillity after working with the spoil that was now lying at his feet, newly dead with the blood still seeping out through a small drain in the centre of the room.

A fan that had been brave to go up to him when he was having his lunch break in a café nearby the station, and had been more than delighted when he treated her for a walk around town before inviting her to his humble home for some drinks. The bim had thought she was in for a real treat until he caught her by surprise before she could get too cosy in his sitting room, debilitated as she got dragged downstairs to the basement to meet her untimely demise of being decorated with chivs all around her tiny body and drawing her last breath with a clean slice against her jugular.

The Dumb Dora. Having to die so early because of her own naiveté. Didn’t she learn not to get too comfy with strangers?

Alastor knelt by the body and picked up a slim arm. With a skilful hand, he jabbed the sharp point of the knife into the wrist, taking his time to drag it down the forearm, the tool gliding smoothly as it separated meat from bone, drawing however much blood had been left in her system.

The process took quite a bit of time but he did not mind, finding it good to focus all of his concentration into deciding which parts could used for what dish. The fleshier parts like the breasts and the thighs could make a good steak, the leaner parts like the arms and the legs to be cut into chunks and boiled into soups and stews, the organs would make good casings for sausages or any delectable form of offal.

The rest would probably end up to be taken care by any of the elementals codes he had with his associates. Probably ‘Water’, considering that he’d need to make a clean sneak, and it would be selfish to not share some good meat with the hungry alligators that lurk in the bayous.

Alastor laid out the cut-up pieces of flesh on a clean tray he had nearby, and when the body was nothing but leftovers, he chucked her aside to a corner to cover her remains with a long sheet he had there, leaving her to rot until his associates would come by and take her away to be disposed of properly.

Another job well done was what he thought as he drew the length of cloth from the feet-up, taking another look at the desecrated body with appreciation, admiring how her cold, dead eyes were still wide open, frozen in sheer utter horror and looking as if she was still staring at him like she was staring at Death itself.

His mind started wandering off then, recklessly shaping the thought of how such a look might be on Charlie.

How things would have been different if, in that brief moment when he hadn’t succumbed to the hesitation on that night or the morning after, it could have been her in such a position. Lying at his feet, stopped dead, deboned of her flesh that would have been so soft and warm and scented so deliciously that just a mere memory was enough to make his mouth water, how her eyes might look so broken of the trust that she had given him.

Yet, the very imagination of it sent a lurch to his stomach that made him feel so wrong.

Just like that, it unsettled him once more.

What have you done to me, Charlie Magne?


From the moment he took the first step into the emporium, Alastor was already giving off a very heavy air that was burdened with irksome thoughts, and seeing that made Rosie mindful to keep quiet, not knowing how else to approach him than to give him a simple kind greeting and the go-ahead to let himself into the speakeasy.

The jazz was loud and toe-tapping as it always was, accompanied by the familiar voice of Mimzy gracing the melody. The canary had been in the middle of belting out a high note when she caught sight of Alastor, instigating a flicker of emotion that flashed quickly and disappeared before it could catch the attention of the audience. But Alastor paid no mind to her or the music, too nonchalant that he even gave just a simple greeting to the ever-jubilant Niffty, who seemed none the wiser to the difference in his attitude.

When he made his way to his usual spot at the bar, it seemed that Husker was already in somewhat of a jingle, though his demeanour was still gruff as always when Alastor perched himself on his usual seat, greeted only by a side-eye in his direction.

"Evening, Husker. A neat whiskey, please."

Even half-cocked, Husk raised a brow curiously at his order. Usually the man would be ordering something with a mixer if it's just a languid drink session, but just straight-up whiskey?

"What's with you?"

Alastor tilted his head at the question. "Whatever do you mean?"

Starting to fill up a tumbler to its recommended amount of whiskey, Husk remarked casually, "In all my years of being behind a bar, there's only a couple of reasons a man would order a neat – money or girls."

Alastor was relatively quiet as he took the tumbler, save for a simple, "Hmm."

His reply didn’t seem out-of-the-ordinary to Husk at first, but when it did not follow with a smart, somewhat cocky, statement, he felt that something was off, and looked to Alastor staring at the contents of his glass in what seemed to be a sort of contemplation.

And that alone had been enough to send Husk into incredulity.

“Hold on, hold on. Are you telling me that you’re getting all riled up… over a girl?”

Alastor looked at him unfazed. “What makes you think it’s not about money?”

Of course, it couldn’t be about money. Alastor had always been smart with his finances, seeing as how he was able to afford both a comfortable life for himself, patron the speakeasy, and also pay Husk and Niffty for their ‘assistance’, with only the occasional splurge of a new book or a bottle of alcohol of choice. So it wasn’t that difficult for Husk to guess that it was the latter.

“Are you being serious?” the bartender asked, still quite not believing what he was guessing.

“No, absolutely not,” Alastor replied sarcastically.

There was a hesitation to confirm what he suspected, but Husk felt like he had to.

“Charlie?”

A dark look flashed across Alastor’s eyes at the mention of that name, and it was peculiar that he chose not to respond, simply bringing the glass to his lips in silence and taking a swig, wincing at the potency of the straight whiskey. But those actions alone gave Husk all the answer that he needed.

Taking a step back and take a good look at Alastor, his fingers started running through his hair in astonishment.

“Fuck… You did it? You went and chilled her off, didn’t you?”

Panic was starting to rise in Husk, preparing to throw a slew of curses at Alastor for not listening and getting excessively involved with his blonde neighbour. A small part of him was telling him to try to remain calm and just treating it like another job to be done, but the better part of him was more concerned about the repercussions, flooding with the thought of all his predictions probably coming true and that shit was about to go down as he had expected.

“I did not.”

Alastor’s answer came in a sigh of irritation, along with the way he put his glass down on the bar-top with a little more force than necessary, almost as if agitated, and the response had Husk cutting short from getting his tongue ready to fire many bedamning things to him, shifting him to confusion.

“Wait, what?”

Alastor’s lips tightened in displeasure of having to repeat himself, which he did with an irked, “I didn’t do anything to her.”

Now Husk was just confused, as much as he dumbfounded by what he was hearing. If that were the case, then what was going on with him?

If he didn’t kill her, then did that mean…

Alastor was actually in a stump because of a girl?

“Well, fuck. This is bad. Not even bad. This is worse. This is going all sorts of wrong.”

Alastor continued to drink and pointedly ignored the way Husk was staring at him warily.  Just by his facial and body language, it was obvious for Husk to tell that the man’s ‘brilliant plan’ of wanting to play ‘Hunter and Hunted’ somehow hadn’t gone the way he had expected. Being soused must have clouded his focus to get his hackles raised, more distracted by what he was reading from Alastor’s face.

Despite smiling as he usually did, he looked morose as hell, like he was bothered by something by Charlie. And Husk knew such a look anywhere – a look of a man that seemed to have gotten out of some flat shoes, or something akin to it.

And for some reason, the thought honestly made him laugh, which he did.

“I just cannot believe it,” Husk said in between snickers, starting to relax. “Alastor Carlon, hard-hearted serial killer and fucked-up cannibal, is caught in a doozy by a pretty blonde thing? This is so wrong.”

Husk knew he shouldn’t be laughing and should instead be beating some sense into Alastor, but it just seemed all too hilarious for him to not think of how ridiculous that sounded. If Alastor was actually doing something stupid, then there’s no way he wasn’t going to take the chance to laugh in his face, paying no mind that it was only instigating the murderous glint in the radio host’s eyes.

“Remind me again why I have yet to drown you in your own blood?” Alastor questioned darkly through the gritting of teeth in his grin, not appreciating being treated like some sort of fool.

Husk had already been so mellowed out by Alastor’s antics over the years to not be the slightest bit daunted, and he simply pointed a finger right at him and replied smugly, “Because you still need someone around to clean up after your messes, and you sure as hell can’t count on Niffty for all the heavy-lifting. Plus, you two can’t drive."

Husk should consider himself lucky that Alastor found him amusing enough to still keep him around and let him get away with all that smart talk, withstanding every bit of patience he had in him to keep his hands to himself and drink while the bartender was having his laughs and pulling out another tumbler to help himself to the whiskey, wanting giggle juice to tide over the interesting conversation that he wished to strike up with the man.

When the laughter died down considerably, he asked curiously, “Now, don’t keep me in the dark. What’d little Miss Magne do to have you all ruffled up like some rejected schoolboy?”

"My, old sport, you're really trying to dig up something from me, aren't you?"

Husk ignored that statement, shooting back his drink as he continued, “Boy, you had everybody here pretty riled up when you went ahead and locked lips with the doll. Got me wondering if I probably took a Mickey Finn by accident and started hallucinating or something.”

Why, yes. Such an action did seem to be something very out-of-character of him, and Alastor could only pinpoint the blame to all the liquor he had that night, along with the way Charlie had sang to him. It was quite dismaying, to remember it where it had happened, and it did not help the agitation that was still lingering within.

Meanwhile, Husk was continuing the conversation without much thought. “First, you’re out smooching her in the middle of the joint. And then, what? Going all the way?”

Oh, Alastor was starting to look pretty irritated now, and under more sober circumstances, Husk would do well to mind his own damn business and not poke and prod what was unnecessary to know. But jazzed circumstances had him lose his inhibitions and poke and prod as much as he could get a hoot out of seeing Alastor at a loss, his laugh only continuing at the sight.

But as Alastor always was, he took the conversation in stride, holding his nose up high as he took another gulp of his neat whiskey.

“Well, if you are just so curious to know, I did go ‘all the way’ with Miss Magne.”

As much as he had been the one to bring up that question, that answer caused Husk to sputter on his drink. “Woah, you sly dog. You actually went and did it?” A hum from Alastor to mean his affirmation, inciting a low impressed whistle from Husk. “I didn’t think you actually had it in you.”

Suddenly, Alastor was looking almost insulted. “What do you mean?” he questioned. “Are you trying to imply that I’m not capable?”

At the snap, Husk raised his hands up like a plea of innocence. “I’m not tryna bruise your ego here. I’m just saying that you don’t look like the type.”

Even if there had been sincerity in his tone, Alastor still didn’t pleased to let that one go so easily, and with a straightening of posture, he answered brazenly, “Well, I’d be obligated to answer you that I have.”

Alastor has had a few trysts in the past. Being a radio host came with the quirk of having many pretty dames dropping to his feet sometimes, and sometimes were few when he felt taken enough to make whoopee with any girl who was just about pretty and feisty enough to stir a bit of something in him. How it would start would mainly have been out of curiosity, and possibly the need to spill came with being a man – a ridiculous thought, to be honest.

However, with the few times he’s tried, he had discovered that sex wasn’t something that truly interested him at all. To him, it wasn’t something that some of his co-workers – lecherous Tom Trench was a good example – had glorified it to be. In fact, he'd go as far as to admit that he found it a tad bit disgusting even, and quite irksome for him to use somebody’s body and just chuck it aside like it meant nothing. Well, it might not be the case of some of his bed partners who may have been hoping for more, but it was for him. He simply felt no connection that extended beyond the physical, and thus had no intention to still have them around, so to say he’s broken a few hearts could be quite the understatement, seeing as all of his ‘experiences’ would not last more than a couple of nights by his side.

It just didn’t give him that sense of satisfaction. Nothing blood-pumping or high-inducing, and never something that could stir him up until the end. It had been so bothersome that he came to see it as an unnecessary distraction, so for the past few years, he had been largely celibate, and he would probably think of himself as quite queer for not finding a strong interest in such lewd desires.

But by no means was Husk interested to know in the details of what he does with what’s in his pants, as much as he had no initial intention to have Alastor straight-up tell him that he’s experienced for the sole purpose of defending his own ego. Just the mere thought of it was enough to make Husk shudder in pure discomfort, moving on from the topic sounded like a much better idea.

“Uh… okay. And then what happened?”

There was a pause from Alastor, and he looked like he was thinking hard on his answer, which quirked Husk’s curiosity at what might have gone down. He waited patiently as Alastor stayed silent for a few more seconds, before taking another sip of his drink and answering.

“I left.”

Honestly, Husk had been expecting more of an answer, so to hear that short and simple sentence somewhat threw him off-guard.

“You left?”

A nod. “I left her house.”

“Okay… But did you two do anything after that?” Husk prodded uncertainly.

“No.”

“Not even talk?”

“I have no urge to talk to her.”

Husk blinked in surprise at Alastor’s cold responses. Now, this was just taking a turn in unexpected ways, and he could only stare at him all wide-eyed. He waited a few seconds for him to possibly continue, which he didn’t.

"Jesus, so you just up and ghosted her?" he muttered in disbelief. “That’s harsh.”

Frowning, Alastor gestured his glass at him sceptically. "If I recall; weren't you the one who said that I was damning all of you by even being with her?” he noted.

That had Husk scratching the back of his head, looking for the right words to answer. “Well, yeah, I guess. But I’d have expected you to do ‘something else’ while you had the chance.”

Alastor paused, and the scepticism and mild vexation that had been in his face started to fade as he looked back at him thoughtfully.

“I mean, you could have up and done it, right?” Husk continued in his explanation. “That was your whole plan in the first place, and it sounds to me that you had that chance.”

Husk knew he was making a good point there. Knowing Alastor to be quite the opportunist when it came to a kill, it made perfect sense. But to his surprise, he didn’t say anything to that, only looking back down at his tumbler at what’s left of the whiskey in it, looking almost pensive in deep thought.

Which had Husk asking curiously, “So… why didn’t you?”

Alastor would admit that, for a few times, he had used the pretence of a night together to lure some unfortunate girls in for an easy trapping, and he wasn’t that surprised to find it easy to pull them in, what with him being so made. However, he’d never go as far as to actually do anything with them. It was strange, but he didn't like the concept of killing someone he had copulated with, let alone consume them when he had a part of him in them. He didn’t like that thought one bit.

But then, Charlie happened.

And it suddenly got himself thinking; if that’s what he had been abiding to for so long, then why was it different with Charlie?

With Charlie, it was… strange. He didn’t know where to place his finger on it, but there was just something about her that riled him up like no other girl had. Just the way she was like a juxtaposition in her own form – so sweet and soft and gentle, and yet containing a fire that couldn’t seem to be tamed by anyone but her own volition. A fire that ignited a sort of flame inside him that had been largely dormant, but now was lit to extremes that he would have never thought possible for somebody like him.

The mere thought of her stirred so many things in him in so many unexplainable ways. No doubt, there was still the urge to follow through with his original plan, to string along this far, to make her believe in him so much that she would offer herself for the taking. Except, upon remembering the way her soft and pliant body had felt in his arms, how her lips had tasted sweet and delicious, and how mellifluous she sounded when she spoke and sang and breathed and mewled… There was a tug that pulled him into wanting more of her.

But aside from the confusion, there was another major problem that he simply could not forget.

Charlie was the Big Apple’s daughter.

Thinking back to that morning, Alastor thought of how it just seemed like a damning coincidence that the card had to fall out of his jacket pocket when he was in his rush to leave, acting like some sort of sick reminder of how he’d done fucked himself up for bedding the daughter of the man that now had his sights for him.

That card had now been safely stashed away at the back of his night-table drawer, but if that gun to the face wasn’t enough reason to rethink his next move, he wasn’t sure what was.

This was unacceptable.

How could he have allowed things to become more complicated than it was supposed to be?

For what? Some clown that tricked him with a gun to get a kick out of it in a pathetic power show of leverage? Thinking he could hang some sort of threat over his head to have him conform and be some sort of lackey to him?

What complete and utter bullshit.

And then, there was his daughter.

That loathsome girl who had beguiled him.

Alastor suddenly harked back to the way she had pushed him down onto her bed, unintentionally provoking a sense of panic that had him showing weakness for just that moment. Even in the midst of darkness, she had definitely seen how his eyes gazed into hers like she was something waiting to attack, and she had felt how he gripped her with his entire body tense and ready to hold her off if he needed to. But he should have seen reason that there was not even any reason to think that she would attack or that he would need to hold her off. It was just an unfortunate case of muscle memory reacting to something that hasn’t happened in so long. How absolutely demeaning that he had reacted in such a way that made it seem like she had intimidated him.

What was he to be scared of?

Her father? He’s dealt with enough palookas to know how to play the game of intimidation, and if that short-statured bastard thought that waving a gun all ballsy was enough to have him scared, then he’s got another thing coming, one way or another.

Of her? What could she do? Nothing, that’s what! She's so petite. So frail. So absolutely weak. She wouldn't have been able to fight if he tried to take what he’s wanted since he first laid eyes on her. What can she do about it? The naïve little thing, who would think him so low as to be scared of having her hold him the way she did?

His lack of control couldn’t possibly be just his to blame. She had done something to him to bewitch him so much that he ended up so fucking weak, and as much as he couldn’t understand what that may be, it was her doing, and it was her fault.

It was all Charlie’s fault.

“Al?”

When Husk called him out of his rumination, there was a change to his eyes that came out of the blue. Gone was that look of blurred hesitation, replaced with that familiar sharpness that signified deadly intent – a look that Husk had always associated him with.

And with that look, Alastor had become ascertained about one thing.

There was no way in Hell he was going to let Charlie Magne get away with this alive.

"Now, what makes you think I’m still not going to do it, Husker?” Alastor replied with certain cool-headedness. “I’m simply biding my time with her.”

Hearing that and seeing how that smile on his face somehow widen to become the most devious that it had been the entire night, it was enough to convince Husk that, despite these ‘unforeseen circumstances’, the murdering glint that was always present in the man’s eyes overshadowed any form of doubt that would come his way.

Husk felt kind of stupid now to think that something as trivial as that Magne girl could have possibly changed anything in Alastor to have him second-guessing his motives.

The man was too far off the deep end, after all.

Chapter Text

Dawn was about to break, which meant that it was closing time.

Once the last hoary-eyed patron had been chased out, the staff got to straighten the place up. Niffty occupied herself with cleaning up the tables and the floors until everything was spick and span with not an inch of filth left, while Husk was locking up the liquor cupboards and trying to sneak some last glugs from the watchful Rosie, who was busy counting the mazuma they’ve made for tonight. On the side, Mimzy sat by herself, enjoying a smoke and a glass of sherry before turning in for the night.

The air was relatively quiet between the four as they did their own business, but there was a sort of uneasiness in Rosie, mainly stemming from the concern of her favourite’s behaviour tonight.

“Has anyone noticed something off with Alastor?” she mentioned quizzically. “The poor boy. He looked so bothered tonight. Must be having a lot of things on his mind.”

"Ah, well. Dames really can do an awful lot to a man."

Husk realised all too late that the answer had slipped past his lips, still somewhat crocked to be more mindful of his tongue, and he could only curse under his breath when he realises that all eyes of the three ladies were right on him in question.

"What do you mean?" Mimzy asked sharply, an underlying tone of discontentedness at the statement.

Husk tried to brush the question off. “It’s nothing. It ain’t any of your businesses."

But Rosie was not going to let it go so easily. "Well, Alastor is as much as my friend as he is to you. Now come on, Husker. Tell us.”

“Yeah, Husk!” Niffty urged, excitable for a little bit of gossip. “Spill!”

Husk could only groan at the situation he’s gotten himself into, but nonetheless, he gave in. "Look. He's just having some issues with that little girly friend of his, okay?" he answered impatiently. “That’s it.”

The mention of Alastor’s ‘little girly friend’ sent Rosie’s eyes widening in bewilderment. "Wait… you mean he hasn't-"

“Yeah, he hasn’t,” Husk answered her before she could even finish her question. “And don't ask me why. All he said was that he’s biding his time with her."

“He’s still going to go through with killing her?” Niffty gasped in surprise. “Now ain’t that a shame! I thought he’d gotten dizzy with her and would probably change his mind. I mean, he kissed her!”

Both Husk and Rosie shot Niffty a glare that effectively silenced her, and with good reason, considering how Mimzy was nearby and had definitely heard that. But the songstress said nothing, instead turning her face away from the rest of them as if to hide her face, and keeping relatively quiet.

Rosie broke the quietude, if only to quell Mimzy’s tense silence. “That just seems quite ridiculous,” she expresses, not sharing in Niffty’s speculation. “I doubt Alastor could actually… 'feel' for someone."

Husk, however, still had his speculations from his earlier conversation with him. But remembering the cold sick look Alastor had at the end, even he had to agree. "Even if he did, I doubt that it’s going to change anything,” he said nonchalantly. “This is Alastor we’re talking about. You'd never know what the bastard has under his sleeves. For all we know, he’s just faking it just to lure her in."

That did sound very plausible. Everyone in the room knew Alastor to be quite erratic in the way he ‘worked’, and his motives, however questionable, always ended up with a dead body. He was a creature of habit, and a bit of a sadist at that, knowing how he enjoys prolonging his ministrations to an unfortunate victim. So ingrained with such oddities was he that it was practically set in stone.

So, if he was truly taking his time with the girl and feigning a relationship, they can’t particularly say that it’s very peculiar of him.

 "Hmm, that's a shame,” Rosie remarked with a shrug. “The girl's such a sweet darling. It's like harming an innocent animal."

"Again, this is Alastor,” Husk replied mundanely. “When's he ever cared for that? All he's concerned about is getting some meat in his stomach and moving onto the next unfortunate bird. In fact, he just told us he’d be needing some clean-up later on.”

Niffty seemed enthusiastic at the mention of another clean-up job, all ready to get her hands down for some good scrubbing. But she was still quite chirpy from the talk about Alastor, giggling playfully, "But hey! It would be funny, right? To think that Alastor might possibly fall in love. And you know what they say! Love can really change a person if it's true in the heart!"

At times, Niffty was just so gullible, and that had Rosie shaking her head in dismay. "You really give too much hope for a lost cause like Alastor, my girl," the proprietress sighed.

With the conclusion of the discussion regarding their friend, they each went back to finishing up their work so they could all turn in soon, the topic pushed to the back of their minds with the fading of concern.

However, it looked like it wasn’t the case for everyone, as it was with a chance look that Husk noticed the unpleasant frown that etched Mimzy, pulling her face into something as sour and as infuriated as it had been that fateful night.

At times, Niffty really ought to be more mindful to know when would be the right place and time to shut her mouth.

But it wasn’t Husk’s business with whatever petty grievances Mimzy would have, and thus, he made no mention of it. He knew better than to incur the wrath of a jealous woman.


Things haven’t actually gotten better ever since Vaggie got back.

The tension that had arisen during their unexpected and explosive fight lingered like a plague within the house, and neither girls were willing to approach each other amidst the apprehension. Charlie knew very well that she should have, but she just couldn’t bring herself to speak without fear of something turning out wrong all over again.

If only the house wasn’t so small, then keeping away from each other wouldn’t be like such a hurdle as it was now. Her best friend was like a ghost now, moving around the house quietly as if to keep herself hidden. Charlie had suspected that she even started rising earlier in the morning to get her errands and chores done quickly before keeping herself to her room as much as she could. But try as they may stay away from each other’s paths, at times they would end up being in the same room by accident.

Those were the moments that would hurt Charlie like a jab in the heart, because Vaggie would pointedly not acknowledge her presence, just doing whatever business she had in that room before leaving quickly. But still, Charlie wouldn’t try to stop her, trying for herself to not say anything.

This wasn’t the first sort of tiff they’ve ever had in their friendship, and usually, a little space would be enough to allow the hot-tempered girl to calm down before returning back to her kindly self. But with how terrible this conflict had been by far, Charlie wasn’t sure if time would be enough to properly make up to her.

Nonetheless, Charlie respected Vaggie’s decision and tried as she may keep herself preoccupied so that she wouldn’t have to endure the heavy thoughts that have been hurting her internally. At least there was still the hotel, where she has been spending as much time away from home in.

All the itinerary that she had ordered a couple of weeks before were starting to come in, and construction was even starting to take place to get the hotel as straightened up as possible. Angel hadn’t been too appreciative of the ruckus, but he was having a swell time in putting up the flirtations with some of the bindle punks. Charlie couldn’t be too sure if he had actually been successful in getting some down to make whoopee, but she most certainly did not want to know, putting all her attention into getting the hotel back into tip-top shape.

And it seemed to be coming along just fine, especially when she received a telegram from Sir Pentious – honestly, she can’t believe that she’s forgotten all about him, but there had been more drastic things happening since then – who had informed her that he will be making his way down to New Orleans in a few days to take a look at the hotel and have further discussions regarding their future partnership.

That was such excitable news and a good prospect for progress. If only she could tell Vaggie about it, considering that she was her only confirmed staff for now, but it was probably too soon and won’t be a good reminder for her to know how she had come to meet Sir Pentious.

But as for now, she can’t let herself be ruled by her emotions and needed to focus on her work. So, first thing’s first, she needed to get herself prim and proper for the meeting.

It had been a while since she had treated herself to a haircut, and she noticed that her tresses were starting to get longer than the fashionable bob she liked. It’s about time she went for a trim and a perm, to at least treat herself to some quality personal time to soothe her from the distress that she’s been having lately.

She made an appointment with the most popular hair salon in New Orleans, which was already busy with clients getting their hair done. A polite young hairstylist directed her to an empty seat, setting aside her purse and hat on a table beside her and offering her a magazine before she had her wrapped in a sheet and got to work on Charlie’s hair.

Fixed to the chair, Charlie sat quietly with her copy of Elite Styles, admiring the illustrations of the many beautiful outfits, and taking note of what was coming into trend in the coming months, while making small talk with the hairstylist, which eventually faded and filled with sounds of hairdryers and chit-chatting between the other clients.

The minutes passed by and before she knew it, she’s been there for a little more than an hour. It was nice to fall into the lull of leisure time, and she felt herself relax without paying much mind to what was going on around her. She only looked up once in a while to approve of a snip and glance at the perming irons that were hanging up in her hair.

For a while, her mind went blank with unimportant nothingness…

“Well, look who it is.”

The voice was vaguely familiar, and that had Charlie breaking out from her little blankness and looking up from her magazine to see a short and curvy lady beside her.

“Oh!” Her lips lifted into a polite smile in greeting. “Hello there, Mimzy!”

The singer from the speakeasy looked as gorgeous as the first time Charlie had seen her – face beautiful all made up with her eyes shining like emeralds framed by thick lashes, her tight dress flaunting voluptuous curves and a bosom that could put hers to shame, her chassis shaped like a perfect hourglass that it sent many envious stares her way. 

“Charlie,” she greeted politely in a musical voice, a small smile as she settled into the seat next to hers. “My, what a coincidence. Fancy seeing you here.”

“Fancy seeing you here too!” Charlie replied cheerily as she set down her magazine in her lap. “Do you come here often?”

“Any chance I get when I’m back in New Orleans. This is one of the best salons in town.”

“Oh, yes. I’ve heard,” Charlie acknowledged, noting the proud smile on the hairstylist stationed for Mimzy. “It’s my first time here, but I’ll definitely take your word for it.”

Mimzy’s assigned hairstylist came to wrap her in the sheet, and Charlie couldn’t help but admire how she moved and spoke with a grace that seemed befitting to her looks. It was those like Mimzy that made her feel like such a little girl, though she was sure that she couldn’t have possibly been more than a few years older than her.

It did make her curious though, how such a woman could be friends with…

“So, you’re looking pretty for Alastor?”

Charlie had done very well to have pushed the thought of him out of her mind the entire day, but perhaps a little too well to not anticipate how it would have hurt her with a strong impact all over again when it resurfaced in her thoughts. Her smile dropped a bit, and she felt a tiny bit of hesitation at the question, dread filling her with the reluctance to talk about him.

But alas, it would be that she did not have a choice, not when it was one of his friends that had brought it up, and she couldn’t possibly be rude.

“Oh, no. I’m just here for a little touch-up on my hair. Nothing special.”

“Ah.”

Mimzy said nothing more to the statement, and what followed was a silence that was almost awkward on Charlie’s part, purely because his name had been mentioned. She didn’t know how to thread from there, and neither did she wish to continue on the topic of him, so she simply left it like that and looked back down at the opened page on her magazine quietly, although now her nerves were on end and she couldn’t relax as she did prior to this.

Unbeknownst to Charlie, Mimzy continued to subtly stare at her from the corner of her eyes as she had her hair twisted around the many perming irons that were hanging above her. In her quiet observation, she took in her looks, noting just how lovely and cherubic she looked, all softness with her sweet disposition. She could certainly see how pretty in her doll-likeness that she was to catch the attention of many, even Alastor himself.

Just that thought caused a stir in Mimzy that was almost tempted to grab the pair of scissors nearby to jam it right into her eyes or her forehead or anywhere on her face that could cause any sort of harmful disfigurement to the blasted wench. Even doing nothing, her entire being just seemed to infuriate Mimzy at the thought that this was the woman that had captured the attention of the man that she had been vying for years, reminded of that fact once more at the memory of the disgusting sight of him locking lips with her.

But in ladylike poise, she remained calm, telling herself over and over again that she was not about that life anymore, that she was not going to do it because doing it would potentially be a nail in the coffin for her career. Also, there were too many people in here – too many witnesses – so she could only use that as her reasoning to not act up.

However, there wasn’t any reason to not scope out her competition for a bit.

“If you don’t mind me asking, how did you two come about?”

The dread that Charlie was trying hard to suppress renewed immediately, sending an uncomfortable wave through her core, making her heart clench and her gut tight. And yet again, she kept up a front for the sake of courtesy, pushing her discomfort down to allow the conversation.  

“We’re neighbours,” she explained. “He came to my doorstep and introduced himself on the first day I moved in. So, it just happened from there.”

My, how times changed since then… Charlie thought to herself in dismay, but otherwise continued to keep mum of her situation, keeping the conversation going and returning the question to Mimzy. “And how did you two meet?”

Charlie thought that she had said that with an indifference that would leave the other none the wiser. However, she wasn’t so slick like she would have thought herself to be. The smile she kept on was now pursed a bit too tight in slight awkwardness, her eyes cloudy with unsettlement, and her voice thin in keeping a calm rhythm. From her own acute sense of awareness and wise with many experiences over time, Mimzy knew to tell that the unease was, without a doubt, concerning the man in question.

Though, like Charlie, she kept a pretence up, keeping her gaze casual as she replied, “We met by chance, and found out that we had mutuals. We shared something major in common, and we’ve been good friends ever since.”

A nod of acknowledgement along with a small smile. “I see. I don’t know much about Alastor’s friends. If I’d known better, I would have thought him a loner. He is such a private person, after all.”

Again, she had unknowingly let herself slip, with the lilt to her voice then resounding a ruefulness that went with the wistfulness in her eyes as she said that.

It sparked a little curiosity in within the curvier woman, along with a little fire of mischief.

“How well do you know Alastor, Charlie?” Mimzy asked.

Charlie couldn’t say that the question was welcomed since it only agitated her nerves further. But the genuinity of the question did get her into a deep think, pondering on how well she knew the man, thinking back to all their little get-to-knows and remembering only bits and pieces of himself like the fact that he was a foodie and that he was a true-blue New Orleanian. She had never been one to pry on anything unless he himself brought it up in a conversation, and what she knew about him were probably basic facts that were typical to know a friend, or a companion.

But then she got to thinking back on the events of the damning night – his behaviour, his minor panic attack and his scars all came flashing to the forefront of her mind  – and admittedly, with all these recent major occurrences, even she would have to acknowledge that she truly didn’t know him well enough as a person to have expected such a treatment for him.

“Well, enough to know him sufficiently,” she replied, half-hearted, “but probably not as much as you would.”

Charlie had meant her answer as a casual response, an acknowledgement that her knowledge of Alastor might not be comparable to that of an old friend of his.

So, she was surprised to see Mimzy smirking in response.

“Of course, you wouldn’t,” Mimzy said confidently. “I knew him well enough to almost be engaged to him.”

If there was a moment that could stake a claim in being absolutely startling, it would be this one. That utterance even had their hairstylists who had been eavesdropping reeling, giving side-glances to each other at how absolutely out-of-turn this conversation was becoming. But their nosiness went ignored as Charlie couldn’t tear her gaze away from Mimzy, so taken aback that her mouth gaped open slightly as she stared at her with wide, unnerved eyes.

“…What?..”

“Yes.”

Seeing the way she looked so startled filled Mimzy with childish glee, like she had managed to one-up her in a way. At the same time, the look in her own eyes begun to shift, looking so striking and sharp that it looked like her gaze could cut steel, and with the severity came a sort of resentment that was undeniably directed to Charlie, making her swallow down an uncomfortable lump that had formed in her throat.

“He never mentioned anything about nearly being engaged before.” Charlie’s voice was small, almost meek, like someone that was in disbelief over some bad news that had been delivered. Her civil composition was starting to crack as anxiety started to rise, how it only intensified the dread that had been residing in her for the past couple of weeks. She wasn’t sure how to comprehend that new shocking information, disturbed to discover that Alastor had a sort of history with the woman in front of her.

That docility did nothing for Mimzy to sympathise, and she huffed indignantly. “There’s no reason for him to. Knowing him, I doubt he even had any intention to keep you around for long.”

The way she had said that, so haughty and prideful, struck Charlie in a different way.

Yes, she was still feeling unease at what she had just learned, but the implication of Mimzy’s demeaning words spurred a sort of irritation from the attempted jab at her pride. She’d been around enough women the likes of Mimzy to recognise what she was trying to get at. Her time with Helsa Von Eldrich and other high-society snoots had taught her that her patience and tolerance for sorts would always be minimal, and courtesy be damned.

Angel’s words started resonating through her again – to keep her head held high and her ego higher. And that was what she intended to do, though she was sure as hell not going to let her get away with chinning like that so easily.

“Are you jealous?”

Absent now was the jumpiness in Charlie as the forwardness of her question was said with a narrowed gaze and squared shoulders, having Mimzy tilting her head curiously at this sudden change.

“Now, what gave you that idea?”

Charlie, however, only replied with a complacent smirk, “I mean, if you’re actually flaunting off a failed engagement to me like some sort of achievement, it says a lot, doesn’t it?”

Their hairstylists behind them, who were trying so hard to not make it obvious that they were still listening in, eyed Charlie’s smirtling reflection in the mirror with quiet astonishment, and they decided to stop fiddling with the contraptions in the ladies’ hairs and make themselves busy someplace else, because the ‘heat’ was getting too much for them.

In the friction that lingered in the air between them, Mimzy remained quiet as she eyed her hard, almost incredulous that she seemed to actually dare be bold with her, and it was then that Charlie started to not feel so small, fuelled by a need to not let the pill have an inkling of a thought that she was weak in any sense. If anything, it gave her that bit of satisfaction to see how she was slowly forming into a sort of green-eyed monster with what had been thrown at her.

Mimzy clearly wasn’t going to let her get away with this little bravado so easily, and she angled her body slightly towards her, looking ridiculous with the perming irons in her hair as she put on a stance of a more open confrontation.

“You really think somebody like you would top over me for Alastor?” she questioned patronisingly. “Don’t make me laugh, sweetie.”

It was honestly ridiculous for Charlie to grasp the fact that she was actually going to get involved in a beef with somebody she didn’t know well over a man, and in a salon of all places. She would have thought herself to be a better person than that, to know how to better pick her fights.

But Mimzy had started it, and Charlie wasn’t one to be a weak sister.

“If I wanted to laugh, I’d do it at your feeble attempt of putting me down.”

If she hadn’t given such a damn to the fact that she was out in the open with so many people around her, or for the sake of her own reputation as a reformed individual, Mimzy would not have hesitated to jump on the little bitch. Screw the scissors; she would’ve just gone with clawing her smug mug bloody, and her fingers practically shook at the urge to get itself dirty.

“Confident, huh?” she spat, tone now filled with venom. “Well, we’ll see if you still want to be all cocky about it once he’s through with you like all the other janes.”

At that said, Charlie’s expression flickered.

“What?”

Mimzy saw how she shrank, and that brought an ugly curl to her lips as she grinned, looking like a cat that got the cream in finding what she could use to regain back an upper-hand. She leaned forward, eyes as menacing as her tone when she asked, “Tell me this, doll. Do you even know what he does with girls like you?”

“What exactly do you mean by that?” Charlie asked, her patience waning as her voice tethered on nervous apprehension. “What are you trying to get at?”

“Darling, surely you know that Alastor’s got quite the reputation around town?” Mimzy gave an insincere look and tone of concern at Charlie’s uncertainty. “I mean, what with him being the most popular radio host and all, it isn’t any surprise that he’s a real lounge lizard, don’t you know? He’s like a boozehound taking shots; one after another. Once he’s done with a girl, he’s quick to move on.”

Of course, Charlie would never guess that what Mimzy had meant by it was what Alastor really did to all those unfortunate bitches who thought that he’d even been interested to strike up something with them, unknowing that they were just to simply satisfy his minacious appetite. And now, she felt that maybe she should just speed up the process and do the job for him, to also satisfy the growing bloodlust in her at the patsy’s impudence.

But Alastor was a possessive man when it came to his targets; she knew that very well about him. So, she kept her urges at bay, knowing not to take what he had his sights on, much to her absolute chagrin, and would simply have to settle with planting that seed of doubt.

“Look, honey, you ought not to kid yourself. It’s really sweet, for you to think that he would ever pay much attention to a little belle like yourself like you’re the real McCoy, but I’d say you better cut your losses if you think he’d ever keep you around for long.”

That declaration came with a tone of finality, and it had Charlie reeling in admixture of shock, dread and hurt to was intensifying the more her mind was wrapping itself around that new piece of information. The front she was trying to keep was collapsing, and it was undeniable that the whole situation now felt like she was having salt rubbed on an unhealed wound.

“I don’t believe you,” she stated, adamant to not believe the jive that was coming out of Mimzy’s mouth. But it was thin and unconvincing, like a plea to something futile.

Mimzy, in all her smugness, only brought her fingers to her stained lips as if to demurely hide her chuckle.

“Oh, sweetheart. I’m afraid you might’ve not known him well enough to know how he’s really like.”

It was at those words that the cracks in Charlie’s heart finally made it shatter.

To hear that being said to her so matter-of-factly, now that stung. It felt like a slap to the face, knocking her with common sense that she had been pushing into denial for so long. It only reminded her of the first time she heard that being said to her, by Angel when they were at the train station, remembering how he had told her to not “worry yourself over some boob who’s treating you like some hangover montage”.

And yet still, just to appease herself, she had held on to the belief to give Alastor the benefit of a doubt, to wait for him to come to her to explain himself, and to anticipate the moment that they would come together again and clear things up and continue on with whatever they had between them.

Clearly, that was all for nothing.

And now, it irked Charlie. It irked her so much to realise that she had let herself be fooled. It made her feel so stupid and so naïve, to think that she could have gone this long to believe that he might have a logical reason for doing what he did, to still have faith in a man that she finally realised she knew absolutely nothing about and had played with her feelings this entire time.

This whole time, Alastor had probably played with her, thinking of her as nothing more than a game.

And that was enough.

She’s decided she’s had enough.

And with Mimzy adding fuel to the fire, Charlie knew she had heard enough. Too much, even.

It seemed like a blessing in disguise that the hairstylist who had returned to unwrap her hair from the perming irons seemed eager to get her task over and done with so as to remove herself from the tense situation as quickly as possible. The moment was rushed when she asked if Charlie was satisfied with the results, to which she only impatiently nodded and wanted nothing more than to have the sheet finally taken off her, and it couldn’t have happened any faster.

With all the patience she had left to muster, she turned to Mimzy with a hot glare. “Look, Miss Mimzy, I don’t know what you’re trying to play at with me, but I’d say you absolutely wasted your time trying to give me an earful. It doesn’t matter anything to me, anyway.”

“Oh?” Mimzy asked with a quirk of a brow. “Are you sure about that?”

There was a bite to her words, like she was challenging her to make another rebuttal. But Charlie refused to do so, having enough of this conversation, and enough of the pain that the topic of him brought to her.

“Yes, because Alastor and I are done.”

For the first time since she sat next to Charlie, Mimzy’s expression softened into one of surprise and confusion, and she definitely looked keen to find out what was the story behind that statement. But no way was Charlie going to reveal the issues that she was facing with him, for fear of losing face considering she was one of Alastor’s friends, and also to not bruise her own ego in revealing a weakness.

She simply set aside her magazine, and picked up her things. “Lovely talk,” Charlie said in a tone dripping with sarcasm. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll take my leave.”

Charlie did not spare another glance in Mimzy’s direction as she walked off to the counter, and soon out of the salon.

Even with the surprising revelation at the end that had caught her off-guard, Mimzy was filled with a sort of gratification at how uppity Charlie’s turned, and her wicked heart was thumping with a sort of pride, gloating internally at her ability to get the doll hurting without the jab of scissors.

Chapter Text

“This keeps up and the whole city might have to just stay inside.”

That begrudging statement came with the slap of a newspaper on Tom’s table, putting up front the bolded headline of the day.

NEW ORLEANS AT UNREST AS MISSING CASES CONTINUE TO RISE

As the boss blew smoke rings, Tom picked up the newspaper and gestured to the headline. “How is it possible that there isn’t even one lead? Not even a single hair?” he exclaimed in astonishment. “If you ask me, the cops are really slacking off.”

“Or the captor knows how to clean up after himself well.”

That sudden proclamation came with looks to Alastor, who was preoccupied with shifting through notes for his broadcast the next day, a half-smoked cigarette dangling in his fingers before going to his lips for a puff. He didn’t seem interested in the conversation that was going on, but his answer definitely caught their attention.

“How would you know?” Tom questioned.

Alastor removed the cigarette from his lips to show a knowing smile. “My friend, to understand the circumstance, you’d need to put yourself in the shoes of the miscreant,” he explained deliberately. “If the coppers can’t find a single piece of evidence, it’s because he wants to make sure that they don’t. A clean sneak, and a good one to continuously elude the hammer and saws.”

A pause to take another puff of his gasper, before finishing off his statement with a twinkle in his eyes.

“And of course, the best way to make a person missing forever is to completely get rid of them.”

With that being said to a couple of weirded-out looks, Tom wondered, “So, you’re saying it’s all murder?”

The mention of that word had Alastor feeling a bit tickled, but he hid that sensation with a simple shrug. “Sounds like it. What with those two young boys and the crime scene down at Lafayette not too long ago, kind of sounds like it lines up together, don’t you think?”

“Jesus Christ, it’s going to be like ‘The Axeman’ all over again!” remarked the boss with a wave of his cigar. “Before you know it, we might even have to play jazz through the streets to appease the wretched soul.”

Once more looking at the newspaper headline, Tom scratched the back of his head nervously. “Well, if it is some sort of murderer on the loose, I really don’t want to find myself facing him.”

Alastor suddenly chuckled to himself, shaking his head in amusement, not paying mind to how Tom was looking at him confused, like he had somehow told some sort of funny joke. Creeped out, he grumbled something to himself under his breath, but by then Alastor was back to ignoring everything else and focusing on his work, reading through the type-outs of tomorrow’s broadcasts that highlighted the new rise of missing cases, really taking note on how staggering the numbers were now as compared to the past few weeks.

My, had he really not been paying attention when he went on that spree? He must have been very negligent to not pay attention to how much he was indulging himself. He’d probably really have to take Husker’s advice into consideration and slow down for the time being to not arouse further suspicion.

Alastor’s pondering was cut short when he noticed from the corner of his eyes that his boss was approaching him.

“Ah, Al, before I forget…”

He pulled out a few letters from his inner jacket pocket, placing them on the corner of Alastor’s desk. His eyes snapped to the thin stack, already knowing of what they were.

“More letters for that ‘rehabilitation hotel’. You ought to tell your friend to give them an address so that it’ll head to the right place. Don’t wanna keep ferrying letters.”

Alastor was quiet as he stared at the letters, looking at them with a sort of contemplation. Nonetheless, he took the letters in his hand and tapped it on the edge of his desk to get them in order.

“Will do,” he replied, with a smile that wouldn’t leave anyone knowing his doubts.


Even with his decision made to continue, Alastor had still waited patiently for the right time to make his move.

He didn’t think it smooth to appear before Charlie without a good reason beforehand and had been thinking over how to approach her after all these weeks. At times, instances almost had him wanting to go up to her house as he usually did to give the same sort of greeting, just to get things over and done with so that he wouldn’t have to waste any more time.

But still, the hesitation remained, and it was becoming more evident now when he was approaching her house. It was lit, indicating that someone was home. Whether it be her or her roommate or both, he didn’t seem too overly enthusiastic about seeing anyone from that house. He even thought that probably he should just drop the letters off in front of her door, maybe even slide under it into her foyer for good measure.

As much as he was firm with his decision, it would be a lie to say that he did not still have some reservations, and the time that had passed since that night at the speakeasy to this moment had riddled him with various questions.

Was he truly ready to face her again now?

Was he prepared to stand right in front of her, with her chassis in his direct sight and the centre of his attention?

Was he sure that he wouldn’t feel that bothersome sensation that’s been haunting him for the past couple weeks, tempting him to fall for her siren’s call?

Unfortunately, he did not know the answer for himself.

However, deep down, he knew he shouldn’t delay it any longer, because if not now, then when?

His footsteps were quiet as he made his way up the steps of her front porch, and it was when he finally faced the familiar front door that he realised that this was it, and there was no turning back on what he had decided for himself, and he wasn’t going to allow reluctance to stop him any more.

With a quiet breath, he brought his hand to give the door a few good raps.

It was met with silence at first, but then Alastor heard movement from inside, the quiet pattering of light steps as it hurried to answer the door. Then came the fussing with the locks of the door, and he found himself holding his breath as the lock was finally released, the hinges of the door starting to move as it opened.

And lo and behold, there stood Charlie.

Her doe eyes immediately widened when it met his, a flurry of emotions passing through those bright orbs with fervour, her lips parted in her silent surprise but no words coming out.

His reaction was a whole lot more subtle compared to hers, with his heart starting to thrum as he took in the sight of her that he had self-deprived himself of for the past few weeks. The longer he stared, the faster it beat, racing like how his mind was now flashing thoughts of their night together.

It was maddening how just the sight of her could spike him with sensations that were akin to both a thrill and a panic, and against his determination, it was starting to confuse him, and hit him smack in the face with doubt, uncertain of whether he had been right to think that he could bear to stand right here in front of her and not succumb to the urge to reach out and grab her and finish her off as he should have done.

It was only a miracle that Alastor did not break under pressure, willing himself to straighten his back and pull his smile to the widest, ever polite in offering her his greetings.

“Hel-”

The door slammed shut in his face.

And then it opened again, with Charlie looking at him in sheer disbelief.

“-lo.”

And it shut again.

Alastor did not move, frozen with his mouth hanging open with the finishing of that sentence, reeled in shock by what had just happened.

Did Charlie actually slam the door in his face?

My, how angry she must have been.

However, even with that sort of dismissal, he was aware that she hadn’t actually moved away from the foyer, because he noticed the light thud against the door that sounded like a forehead pressing against the wood.

He knew she was still there, waiting.

How the tables have turned, considering that just a week ago, this was the scenario that Alastor had found himself in whenever she would show up at his doorstep, calling for his name and asking him if he was home and if he could answer, while he would be on the other side listening to her in agonising silence and waiting patiently for him to go away.

But he would not do what Charlie did, pride telling him to not lose the composure he would need for this encounter. Instead, he opted to wait patiently, giving it a few more seconds until he would feel the need to knock the door again to get her attention.

And waiting definitely paid off, for about less than a minute later, the door opened once more, this time kept open by Charlie.

“You got a lot of nerve showing up here.”

Yes, for certain, she was definitely very upset. If it wasn’t obvious in her words, it was clear in the glare that she had fixed on him with tightly-pressed lips and her voice that was low with hard contempt.

Any man in the right mind would think to come up with various reasons to scram if they saw a lady upset with their actions. But not Alastor, no. He knew that this was probably what he had coming, and he didn’t want to waste mustering up all that courage for it to fall flat on his end.

Alastor cleared his throat, before asking politely, “May I speak now?”

Hesitation flashed across Charlie’s face. She looked down as if she was pondering on what was the right way to say ‘no’, and her hand trembled as if ready to throw it close once again in supposed refusal. But alas, she released her hold and only brought her arms to be folded against her chest, giving him a distasteful look.

“You may.”

Her tone was calmer, but the apprehension about her was still clear. He could at least count his blessings that she was making an attempt to be civil to him, rude first greeting aside, but he was unsure on how to progress with the conversation without possibly triggering her.

He settled for asking, “How have you been, Charlie?”

 “Really?” Charlie said as she raised a brow sceptically, the corner of her lips down and pulling her face into a slight grimace. “Disappear on me for the past few weeks and you thought you could come here stringing niceties as if nothing ever happened.”

Golly, she certainly had a bite to her now, but unlike the feistiness that would usually stem from a bout of confidence or excitement, this was underlying with embitterment. Again, he couldn’t say he hadn’t expected it, and he had no choice but to face the consequences of his actions and try to settle it as best as he could.

“I understand that you may have been upset...”

“'May have been’?” Charlie cut him off, sounding all incredulous. “My, that is such an understatement.”

Right off the bat, trying to lead up to the topic was not working very well, and Charlie’s bad mood wasn’t making things easy for Alastor, who didn’t see a point to beat around the bush or deal with jabs like that. But still, he kept his cool, knowing what was at stake here if he didn’t maintain a basis of civility, so he had no choice but to give her face.

Alastor could only sigh, deciding to cut to the chase. With a lowered voice that he could muster as gently and apologetic as he could, he began.

“Charlie, whatever it is that happened, I will acknowledge that it was a very inapt move on my part and that I had probably caused you some distress on my absence. It’s not very appropriate of me as a gentleman to simply leave you hanging without a word.”

He paused, seeing if she was going to interject something once more, but Charlie remained quiet, simply watching him and waiting for him to continue, which he did.

“For that, I apologise, and I do hope that we may be able to move forward from this.”

Alastor would have to admit that it felt like a relief to have all that off his chest. It had been weighing on him for the past few days, having contemplated hard on what he wanted to say to Charlie. He hadn’t been caught in such a situation before, but he knew through common knowledge of women to be very sensitive, and he was careful to string his apology the best way that he could, until he was sure that his sentences could be deemed acceptable to placate her.

“Is that really all you have to say?”

So clearly, he may have been a bit too sure of himself on that note, because her response completely ran down his expectations.

Alastor froze, staring with wide eyes and raised eyebrows at Charlie, who was really looking as if she could have veins throbbing in her neck from how hard she was glaring at him with a face that was beginning to look flushed pink in anger.

“You think you can just stroll right up to my front door after three weeks of ghosting me, just say you’re wrong and you ‘probably’ hurt me and just be all woebegone on how much you weren’t acting like a gentleman, and expect me to accept your apology and just simply agree to ‘move forward from this’?”

Alastor’s lips parted to reply, but he could not, as Charlie continued in her tirade.

“You’re just going to be blind to the fact that you just vamoosed from my bed and seemingly from my whole life, and you aren’t even going to acknowledge all of the times I came up to your door, knocking and calling out your name because I was worried that I might have done something wrong to you, and you got me waiting for your answer like some desperate sap?”

Alastor could only watch in astonished silence as she sounded off at him, voice growing higher though not to the point where she was almost shouting at his face. Charlie was clearly showing a lot of restrain in doing so, so much that the floodgates were looking to be almost bursting when he noticed the way her eyes were becoming wetter. He was starting to get quite concerned, both for her and the growing unsettlement in him, but he was wholly unprepared to deal with such a thing, never having been one to be comfortable with crying. He was uncertain about what else to do except to remain silent.

When she felt the first tear stream down her face, Charlie groaned and turned her head away, whatever remained of her ego from the past few weeks forcing her to not show weakness to him. She wiped away the droplet quickly and found it stained with flecks of coal and Vaseline. She wiped both eyes just in case there were streaks of mascara, breathing exasperatedly, “Just great. Such good timing.”

In her distraction, Alastor took this pause as a breather for him to come up with something to say in response, and it was then that he finally took notice of how she looked. Her hair was shorter with a new perm, and she was all made-up she was in her cosmetics and her attire, looking too presentable than what could be appropriate for a stay-in at home.

“Off somewhere?” he asked suddenly out of curiosity.

Charlie sniffled, still not facing him as she wiped at her cheeks and lower lashes as gently as she could. “I have a meeting over dinner,” she answered in a mutter, voice tight from trying to hold down the crying.

A ‘dinner meeting’?

Somehow, that did not sit well with him. It started a twinge in his gut that made him feel something that he was not familiar with, pushing him to question, “Are you seeing somebody?”

Charlie frowned. “For a meeting,” she reiterated. “What does it matter to you?”

Why does it matter to him? He wasn’t completely sure why, but it probably had something to do with the sudden fury boiling up inside him at the thought that she was all done up for somebody that wasn’t him, and there was an urge to know who the supposed lucky bastard was, and just how dare Charlie be looking pretty for him.

Alastor’s smile went tight, though his overall expression was starting to sour as he forced himself to say, “My, are you really moving on so quickly?”

For a moment, Charlie wasn’t sure if she had heard him right, but seeing how grave his eyes were as he looked down at her, her heart was starting to race as her blood surged hot with a new wave of anger, feeling absolutely outraged at what he had just said.

“My, Mr. Carlon. You’re one to talk,” Charlie sneered in a manner that was unbefitting for a lady, but screw manners if this was how he was going to act. “I’d never expected you to be a cake-eater, but I wouldn’t have imagined you to be a hypocrite as well!”

When she spat that derogatory term at him, it broke him out of his anger in that split second to be taken aback and riddled in confusion. “What are you talking about?” he asked.

“You know what I’m talking about,” Charlie replied brusquely.

The definitiveness of her statement only faltered him further into puzzlement. “Unfortunately, I can’t say I do,” he replied calmly, because truly, he had no clue what she was going on about.

He looked confused, but something in Charlie was telling her that it was all a farce, that he was just playing dumb. It couldn’t be ascertained, but in the frazzled state of mind she was in, she chose to follow with that niggling thought, which only infuriated her, as well as making whatever patience she could muster to fall short.

“Oh, please. Stop lying to me, will you? Mimzy told me enough!”

The mention of that name startled Alastor, his brows drawing together with lines forming between them as he stared at Charlie with a confused gaze. “Mimzy?” he said, bewildered. “What does Mimzy have anything to do with this?”

“I don’t know, Alastor. Maybe you should check with your almost-fiancée about this supposed inclination to take girls like a ‘boozehound takes shots’.”

That alone was enough for Alastor to deduce that, somehow or rather, Charlie had come across Mimzy, and the singer had definitely provided a fib on part of her jealousy towards the doll to rile her up in such a way, and fuelled this animosity from her towards him.

But honestly, how taken aback he was at what he was accused of. A cake-eater? How ridiculous! He may have been a lot of things, but a womaniser was definitely not one of them!

“Now, my dear, that’s just nonsense!” Alastor opined defiantly. “You’d honestly take Mimzy’s word for mine?”

The way he looked at her absolutely baffled and stupefied was almost gut-wrenching to Charlie as her mind unwillingly thought back to the unfriendly encounter in the salon just a couple days ago and all the unpleasantries she had to hear for herself. As much as she had proclaimed that she did not believe it, she still ended up finding herself on edge because it was simply hurtful, intensified by the anxiety that had been plaguing Charlie for all those weeks. And unfortunately, Alastor’s lacklustre apology hadn’t been doing good in quelling any of those thoughts.

“At this point, I don’t know whose word to take! But what I do know is that one way or another, you’re a liar!”

The anger that was slowly burning him up from inside would have shot out in a quick retaliation if a sudden movement hadn’t caught his eye. With a glance at the shadow that was lingering at the top of the stairs, his indignation grew at the damned pachuca who was listening in where it was not her business, though no soon after he caught sight of her silhouette, she backed away from her hiding spot to become relatively unseen, though he was pretty sure she could still hear their exchange.

Charlie did not realise the new presence. Emotions were running really high at the moment, with her heart starting to thrum so hard and her breathing was becoming so shallow that she was afraid that she might possibly pass out from her little panic. But out of spite, and despite the need to just run and hide away somewhere in her sorrow, she would not allow herself to succumb to crying again, defiant to this by keeping her heated gaze focused on Alastor.

“You’ve already gotten what you want with me. Charmed me and strung me along, played your games and such,” she said in a trembling voice that was choking back tears. “But I’m not blind to it anymore, and I hope you’ve had your fun.”

Charlie spat those words out with as much venom as she could muster in her anger, and this was not received well by Alastor, whose eyes flickered back to her with strong agitation at the way this conversation was going, thinking it to be slanderous to his person, and not appreciating how indecorous Charlie was behaving towards him. Thus far, it was almost accusation after accusation being thrown at him, and it was only so much that he could tolerate before deciding that he had enough of all these nonsensical barbs from her.

“Charlie, I would advise you to not put words into my mouth,” Alastor told her with a tone that was level-headed yet firm. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Charlie, on the other hand, retorted, “If I don’t know what I’m talking about, then you tell me; what is the truth then?”

The question came with an underlying yearning – to have her questions answered, to have her suspicions be proven false, and to have Alastor actually say it to her in a way that was sincere and genuine for her to believe. Because even in this stormy state of mind she felt trapped in, all she wanted was to believe.

However, Alastor only smirked rather insincerely, and shook his head.

“You don’t deserve the truth.”

To say that whatever she had gone through – all that she had heard and encountered for the past few weeks – had been heart-breaking, would be nothing compared to hearing Alastor say it for himself.

… You don’t deserve the truth …  

As the words rang through her mind, Charlie was stunned into silence, and try as she may, she couldn’t stop the tears that were already falling from her eyes. She felt so ashamed to cry, scolding herself in her irate frustration for crying over a man that was saying such a thing to her like it was nothing.

But she couldn’t help it. She was furious at him, wondering why he couldn’t have he had to play her dirty like that, making her waste all that time and effort to grow feelings for him. It was all so wasted, how she spent those last few weeks agonising what was already clear-cut from since it’s been brought up from both Angel and Mimzy. And how wasted it was that she hadn’t had realised that sooner, because now she was left in her shame to crumble at hearing Alastor saying it for himself.

As she was stuck in her stupor, Alastor was eyeing her hard with his emotions masked under an aloof stare. The smile that remained on his lips was small, not making his eyes crinkle as she was so used to seeing, looking more reserved than usual. Yet there was still something in the way he smiled that irritated her.

She knew him well enough to know that he had good control over his emotions – even times when he seemed charged, his composure was as solid as stone. But to have him just look at her with not a bit of concern in his eyes, it was just too much. It was like he was mocking her and how she was behaving.

How could he still be smiling when he had just seen her burst into tears and getting so verklempt over what he had put her through? How could he seem so cold and unsympathetic to what he had done to her? How could he just stand there and watch her breaking from inside as her heart shattering right before his very eyes?

… No more …

… No …

…No more…

“You’re right. I probably don’t,” Charlie said in defeat, shoulders slumped and weary from the dejection. “And since you think so, I want to end it here.”

Alastor’s eyes widened just the slightest bit, looking almost taken aback at the implication that she had just delivered with that declaration. Still, he only remained quiet, not saying anything, not showing anything that could be an indication of what he was feeling.

Happy?

Relived?

Upset?

Angered?

Charlie didn’t know, even if she stared at him forever to dissect, but honestly, she couldn’t bring herself to care about what he was feeling, not when she was in shambles.

“With that said, is there anything else you’re here for?” she asked quietly, her voice small as it held down the cries that were threatening to burst from her throat, yet her mean streak was stubborn to keep her looking with a mean stare.

Alastor’s eyes remained locked on her glare as he pulled out the thin stack of letters from his jacket pocket and held it out to her. “Letters for the hotel,” he informed straightforwardly, voice infuriatingly steady and normal. “The boss asked if you could provide an address to have it all forwarded to you in the future.”

Charlie took the letters from his hand immediately, making sure to not allow any touch between their fingers, because such a thing would not do good for her in such a state.

“I’ll write to him personally and work out everything from there,” she replied in a rush, desperately wanting to be out of this conversation and have him out of her face. “Now if there is nothing else, I hope you have a good evening, Mr. Carlon.”

Only then did Charlie allow herself to break in emotion just the slightest bit, the rushed bidding of farewell accompanied with the door slammed for the third time in his face, the gust of wind from the quick and harsh action hitting him and stunning him like a bolt from the blue.

Alastor remained standing there, silent as he stared at the space that Charlie had stood, now looking at nothing else but the white varnish of her door, astonished at what had just occurred.

Just then, the door flew open again, much to his consternation when Charlie stuck a hand out to push it into his chest.

“And you can take this back as well.”

The sudden contact had his heart jolting, mildly triggered at being touched. Upon reflex, Alastor’s hands barely managed to catch what she had pushed to him before the door was slammed shut once more, and this time with a finality that came with the sound of locks being put back into place.

Alastor could only stare dumbfounded at the white of the wood for a few seconds before looking down at the object in his hand.

It was his monocle.

He honestly hadn’t realised that she still had it, realising only then that he must have left it there by accident when he had left her house the last time. His thumb traced the wire ring surrounding the circular glass in perplexed contemplation, his mind still in the process of comprehending what had happened.

He hadn’t known what to expect to happen when they met again, but this had definitely taken a turn that he had not foreseen, and much to his chagrin.

To anyone else, he would not have the patience for such absurd behaviour, thinking it to be weak and pathetic to emote as such, and honestly, it was quite disappointing to witness it coming from Charlie. Even if she may have reasonably had a right to be upset, he did not like the way she had treated and spoke to him, so brash and uncouth that it definitely rubbed him the wrong way.

And on top of that, it was like she was putting the cherry on top by having the gall to do that while being all dolled-up for some ‘dinner meeting’.

With a new flare that had erupted from that thought, he would have liked as much to find out where she was heading to and see who exactly she was having her ‘dinner appointment’ with. But even bruised as he was right now, he still had his own moral standards to upkeep, and there was no way he was going to stoop so low as to follow her like some sort of lovelorn stalker, especially now when she’s decided to end things between them.

If she wanted to be stubborn in her own beliefs of him, then so be it.

He’d find other ways to take what he wanted.

Yes… Even with this unfortunate ‘mishap’, Alastor was resolute in attaining his goals to still get his hands on Charlie Magne, and he would not rest until his fingers were on her like how it was now wrapped around the monocle, trembling as it squeezed – any harder and he might even break glass! –  thinking how now, with such frivolities set aside, there would be no more unnecessary distractions to what he wished to achieve.

Still! It was just so irritating that things have definitely become far more complicated than he would have anticipated, and all because a certain somebody felt the need to open her trap and become so meddlesome.

Succumbing to the agitation of his thoughts, Alastor finally tore away from where he stood to make his way down the porch steps, turning in the direction of his home. However, he did not make it up the path of his front porch, instead continuing to walk, passing by his house and going down the route that he had come from, his anger following him in his path and looming over him like an overhanging thundercloud.

He definitely needed to have a little talk with Mimzy.

Chapter Text

The Sun had set, and Rosie’s Emporium had closed for the night and had made way to start operations for the underground establishment. But Niffty was still out at the storefront, doing a final sweep in making sure all the antiques were spotless before heading down to her night duties.

As she was in the middle of furiously polishing a set of sterling silverware and making sure they shone, she suddenly heard the bell chime. The distraction was much unappreciated, annoying the girl that she was being bothered at some stupid customer who apparently couldn’t read the ‘Closed’ sign.

“Sorry!” she exclaimed in a loud squeaky voice. “But we’re clo-”

The visitor paid no mind to Niffty, and it was only after he wordlessly walked past her to the particular bookshelf that she jumped.

“Mister Al!” she exclaimed. “What are you doing here?”

It wasn’t really a norm for Alastor to be here this early. He would usually come around the later parts of the night, when the speakeasy was already in full swing with its selected patrons, so the visit was definitely a surprise. Even more curious was the fact that he seemed to be in an urgent hurry, already pushing aside the books on that one particular shelf and knocking rapidly on the wood for entrance.

“Oh, just here to visit our dear Mimzy is all, little darling!”

He wasn’t facing her when he spoke, and Niffty would have thought nothing of it until she saw the look of his side-profile, noticing the way he looked somewhat out-of-sorts, and there was something about that look that was just giving her the heebie-jeebies, and made her gut sink at the mention of her best friend. But before she could ask what was wrong, the door had been opened, and Alastor was already making his way down the steps.

Husk, somewhat half-asleep and nursing a hair of the dog to soothe his hangover from the previous night, was just sitting behind the bar and paying no mind to the very few patrons around when he suddenly noticed Alastor walking brusquely through the joint. Like Niffty, his appearance caught him off-guard, wondering why the hell he was doing here so early, and why he was making his way to the backrooms where the performers were.

Alastor had never often found himself in these parts of the speakeasy since he relatively had no business there, but he navigated his way easily, remembering which room in particular was the singer’s dressing table. Luckily for him, the band members were currently up on stage already playing some tunes, which left the back area relatively empty and its silence shrouded by noise.

Finding the particular door, he gave it a few sharp knocks, which were promptly answered with an invitation to come inside, and there were Rosie and Mimzy in the middle of having some drinks and gossip.

Alastor’s arrival would have been met with a friendly greeting from Rosie if she hadn’t quickly realised that there was something odd about him. He, on the other hand, seemed nonchalant as he gave a quick wave to her before saying, “Rosie, darling, I don’t wish to be rude and cut your little chit-chat short, but if you would be so kind as to excuse us, I’d like to have a talk with Mimzy.”

Rosie did not answer immediately, quietly taking in the look on his face – how, despite smiling as always, the corner of his lips were taut as it was stretched in a grin that was looking very peculiar, and his eyes were as sharp as daggers and hard as stone with dark intent. Even more curious how focused he was on Mimzy, who seemed to have realised this as well but was casually looking away to light up a cigarette.

When Alastor’s gaze flicked to the whisper sister with an expectant look, she heeded the request and made a move to leave the room, glancing once more at the both of them to see that they were now locked in a stare-down. Neither one said a thing when she closed the door behind her.

Rosie would have thought nothing of a thing, not liking to poke her nose where it wasn’t her business if not necessary, but from the air about Alastor, there was one thing that was clear.

Something was about to go down, and it wasn’t going to be good.

In a hurry, she rushed off to find Husker.


“I’m really grateful that you’re able to find some time to meet me,” Charlie said kindly with a small smile. “I hope you aren’t too tired from your trip.”

A dismissive wave of the hand and Sir Pentious gestured to himself with gusto. “No worries, my dear! I may be reaching a third of my life but I’m still feeling to be quite at my prime!”

The meeting with Sir Pentious was impromptu when he made the call that afternoon telling her that he’d arrived in New Orleans and invited her for dinner, which she accepted in a bid to make a good impression on him. She could only hope that the rushed job to redo her make-up was enough to cover the pain in her eyes from having a good cry after her unfortunate encounter with Alastor earlier on.

Her mind couldn’t stop replaying every single thing that had happened, from when he first showed up – internally groaning at the way she had shut the door twice on him due to her shock and disbelief – to when she locked her doors for the final time after shoving his monocle back to him. The unlucky circumstance had almost made her want to cancel on Sir Pentious just because she felt so disheartened after what had happened, though now she was internally glad for the distraction because she didn’t think she could bear staying in her bedroom alone with her thoughts just yet.

After placing their orders with the waiter – Charlie felt proud of herself for her proficient knowledge on delicious New Orleanian cuisine to recommend – they talked a bit about his journey, which he took in a comfortable convertible accompanied by an escort, kindly provided by his hosts, the Von Eldriches.

“Seviathan sends his regards,” Sir Pentious informed her. “He hopes that you are well.”

Charlie masked the internal grimace that came to the name with a forced smile. “I am, thank you. And I hope he is, as well.”

The change in the topic came with a passing band that was ambling nearby, playing their instruments into a merry ragtime tune as loud and as proud as they could to the streets. Many attentions were caught by the moving troupe, as did Charlie’s and Sir Pentious’, and people stopped and gathered around to admire and enjoy the music.

“My, I must say! This city truly is full of life!” Sir Pentious exclaimed excitedly. “It’s rare to find happenstances to occur in Britain, but that’s probably because it rains too much and shines too little to allow for such.”

Charlie laughed at the jibe and nodded. “Yes, indeed! New Orleans truly is beautiful. When I first stepped foot here, I would never have expected such vibrancy. Truly, the Heart of the South.”

Sir Pentious hummed, though there was a pondering tone to it. “Well, that may be. But it may seem that there are some things to this town that would make up its peculiarity.”

His thoughtfulness had Charlie tilting her head in curiosity. “Oh? And what do you mean by that, Sir Pentious?” she inquired.

“Why, I’ve heard about an insurgence of missing cases happening here.”


“Alastor,” Mimzy greeted airily, “What brings you to me, darling?”

Alastor’s smile widened just the tiniest bit. “Can’t I see a friend, dear Mimzy?” he replied coolly, voice as animated as ever.

But Mimzy did not buy it for a second. Streaming out smoke smoothly through puckered lips, she pointed out, “You never made an attempt to see here since I’ve been back until now. So, cut to the chase and tell me.”

Mimzy’s always been a straightforward gal, which Alastor could appreciate in the slightest, considering he needn’t beat around the bush to get right into it.

“I’ve had a little word with Charlie today.”

“Oh, exciting.” The sarcasm in her voice was not to be missed with the way she uttered it bored with a roll of her eyes. “And how is Lil’ Miss Sunshine?”

Her nonchalant tone ticked him off just a bit. “Well, not very good actually, thank you for asking!” Alastor replied with his wide smile, his tone giving away that he was nowhere close to gracious. “Seems that there’s been a misunderstanding concerning some things that she’s heard from you.”

Mimzy did not even make an attempt to deny it, giving herself away willingly. “Oh shoot, did she tell on me?” she asked with a face of mock worry. “Boo hoo, I must be in such big trouble now.”

Her pretence, however, did nothing to amuse Alastor even in the slightest. “I don’t see how exactly you can still take this as a joke, my dear.”

“What? It’s not as if I told her what exactly you do with them,” she retorted defensively, taking another puff.

“Oh, no! That I know you won’t do! You’re smart enough to know that. But!” Alastor uttered suddenly, raising a finger as though to make a point as his voice raised in pitch, “What I thought you’d be smarter about, though, is not sticking your nose into my business!”

Anybody who knew Alastor well enough could tell past that permanent smile that, at this moment, he was absolutely boiling. Being a relatively calm individual, for him to get to that state made him one to never be trifled with, lest someone wanted to get potentially hurt in his fit of pique. Mimzy, however, could care less and seemed to want to grasp the nettle, ruffled by this confrontation, especially if it was about the little bitch.

“Are you really going to go into a tizzy just because your ‘girlfriend’ is mad at you?

The temperature in the room seemed to rise at the indirect mention of Charlie, and his balled fists were starting to turn white at his knuckles as a fire of indignation burned in his eyes.

“I’m getting into a ‘tizzy’ because thanks to you, that ‘girlfriend’ has just ended things with me. You’ve driven my game away; do you understand that? Just how the hell am I going to get her back when all those months of wheedling into her life goes down the drain just like that?”

Green eyes narrowed into slits of irritation, red lips thinning in displeasure at being scolded. Mimzy butted out her cigarette roughly against the ashtray, before waving a manicured hand to his figure exasperatedly.

“So, what’s the big deal? And what’s this whole charade of keeping her around, huh? You could take her like all the other dames, get her into someplace quiet and knife’ em down like you always do. It isn’t like she’s the first.”

Alastor did not appreciate the way she was chastising him, feeling antagonised at being questioned for his motives. But Mimzy did not take it back, because however ridiculous it was, there was no denying that she raised a valid point.

Even with the heat between them, Alastor only looked at her with a stare as cold as ice, seething with aggravation. Yet, he seemed aloof as always, no doubt going to brush it off like should be of no one’s concern but his own.

However, to Mimzy’s surprise, she noticed something unusual then.

She couldn’t tell at first, wondering if she was right to think that he was looking to be thoughtful, as if there was something about what she said that struck him; a look that gave away the notion that there was something he did not wish to reveal. Her irritation transition into a curiosity at that supposition, but all it took was a good long scrutinising at him to realise that there was something in his eyes that she never thought she would ever see him ever portray.

Hesitation.

And that’s when it hit her.

“I can’t believe it…”

This sudden change stoked Alastor’s confusion. “What?” he asked.

“You’re in love with her, aren’t you?”

The mention of that word struck him like lightning and had him stunned, staring at Mimzy in astonishment as if her statement was absolutely ridiculous, not paying much attention to the way his own heart started to palpitate rapidly as if reacting to that sentence.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” he muttered in irritation, though his voice was tight as if it was protesting against his words.

Mimzy ignored that statement. In the shock that hit her like a brick to the face, she took a step back and placed a hand over her agape mouth, staring at Alastor all bewildered. She could feel her breathing turning shallow, and how she wished she wasn’t in such a tight dress right now because she felt that she might pass out. But as she was still trying to wrap her head around the thought of her realisation, she could feel the beginnings of a sort of maddening grief, both at the wretched girl, and at Alastor, the latter of whom the sight of him now seemed to be completely disgusting her.

Yet, her pride and vanity forced her to become stubborn, and venom was starting to coat her tongue and morphed her shock into a menacing sneer.

“I’ll have to say Alastor, I’ve always known you to be quite the madcap with nerves of steel. And here I was with that little bit of sensibility left to believe that act you pulled with kissing her was just some sort of trap. By golly, I didn’t think it’ll take something as pathetic as a little dolly like her and a song to make you weak in the knees.”

It wasn’t hard to tell that it struck a chord in Alastor, and bound to make his already-boiling fury start to become red-hot. Mimzy should have known then to stop, to not take her chances, but her mind wasn’t in the right space for logical reasoning, more focused on her own rage.

But she had ought to think twice to know well that Alastor wasn’t one to let himself be talked down in such a manner. Oh, no. He wouldn’t intend to falter to her words and let her get away with such insolent chinning, taking it in with a composed disposition as he smirked haughtily.

Two could play at that game.

“And yet, how she’s managed to achieve so much in that one moment than you ever could from doing the same thing for years.”

Seeing Mimzy frown with her sneer deepening was a familiar sight, though not one appreciated much by Alastor.

“Jealousy truly is unflattering on you, Mimzy.”

“You’re pathetic,” Mimzy spat, and Alastor’s control truly was commendable despite how close to snapping he was at the audacity she had to still try to bite at him. Yet, he continued his veneer of impassiveness, putting in a little more spite than she would in her little act of casting a kitten.

“Oh, am I? As compared to you, who wears her heart on her sleeves for all to see? Who’s trifled enough by just anybody she feels inferior to? My, you truly are the most predictable little thing, aren’t you? Literally no surprise about you at all. No excitement. All for the same petty reasons. It’s absolutely plain vanilla to me.

It was at this point that he started advancing on her. With each step Alastor took forward, Mimzy took one backwards, and before long he was standing right in front of her, his intimidating height towering over her short chubby frame and making her start to feel small, especially when he continued his razz with fervour.

“But Charlie. Why, she’s nothing like that. Not at all. In fact, I dare say that’s a blessing!”

“Bullshit!”

Alastor chortled loud and obnoxious. “I thought so too, honestly! I didn’t think much of her until I saw it for myself. I thought she would have been like ‘all the other dames’, but imagine my surprise when I see she’s got a mean streak that’s knocked me off my socks! Who would have thought that a ‘little dolly’ such as herself could do that much to impress me? Can you believe it?”

Those words were said with an intention to hurt her, and it did. However, she couldn’t be too sure if it was her own mind reeling to add insult to injury or if she actually saw it for herself, but did it look like his smile seemed genuine when he said that?

“Shut up!” Mimzy snarled with teeth bare. “Shut up, you piece of shit!”

Her curses fell on deaf ears, and Alastor only watched her getting riled up and madder than a sack full of rattlesnakes, but even looking at her, his eyes were cloudy and almost musing, unknowing to both Mimzy and his clear conscience that he was slowly starting to immerse with the thoughts of Charlie that started to fill his mind.

“What she does to me…”

“Stop.”

“You don’t know how the sight of her drives me wild with need.”

“You son of a bitch! Stop it!”

“Like there’s something about her that’s calling me to want her.”

“I SAID; STOP IT!”

“You don’t know the sort of ecstasy she gives me when she’s all warm and tight around my-”

The ending to Alastor’s sentence was not met, cut off short in a snap of sudden rage with a harsh tight slap across his face.

Mimzy’s green eyes were almost glowing with emerald fires as she glared daggers at Alastor, her breathing shallow as she seethed over his words, her nostrils flaring as she emitted hot air. Her still-raised hand was trembling, both from the surge of angry adrenaline that took over her and the pain that came at the hard contact between her palm and his soft cheek.

She realised too late that she probably shouldn’t have done that, her heart starting to hammer in panic and her eyes going wide with dismay when she suddenly had her back slammed against a wall by a hand wrapped tight against her throat.


The thought of Reginald Alfonse and those two boys had been so buried within Charlie’s psyche until it became nothing but a distant memory up until now. How the topic could induce such a spur of anxiety in Charlie, making her think back in dread to the close call that she had with Detective Emile Dalton.

Though considering that he had never shown up ever since that day, it could be taken as assurance that she had been cleared of any sort of suspicion to the case of Mr. Alfonse. And that was how it should be because she knew that she had absolutely nothing to do with any of the missing cases that occurred. Still, she couldn’t help but put up a brave front to hide that uncertainty.

“It is scary, yes. But I’m sure that the local police are working hard to get to the bottom of this.” Her tight-lipped smile did its best to hide away her nerves, her voice sounding as reassuring as it possibly could. “I’m sure such cases will be solved in no time, and the victims will be found safe and sound in the end.”

Sir Pentious did not see her nerves through her façade, but he waved a hand dismissively. “Ah, well. Let’s just hope the law here is quite reliable. Though, I hope you’ve taken it into consideration for the hotel. We wouldn’t want any future patrons to potentially add to the numbers.”

Ah, yes. That would be a cause of concern, considering it was clearly unknown if the cases would ever let up. But still, she maintained her positivity to claim, “I can assure you that once we’ve had the hotel up and running properly, we will definitely provide the best security to ensure that.”

There must be something about the way she said it that made him smile. “I do admire your confidence, Miss Magne,” he commended, raising his glass to her. “That aside; I do wish to propose a toast to our new partnership.”

More than relieved to have the topic set aside, Charlie more than happily picked up her own glass and cheered in returned, taking silent gulps to push down the nervous lump in her throat.


Mimzy’s head started to spin as she gasped for air, but the struggle intensified as Alastor’s fingers tightened around her throat, effectively cutting off her breathing. She struggled with all her might against her firm grip, but her heavy weight was nothing to the strength that Alastor had in that one arm alone, holding her up until she’s just on the tip of her toes.

With her in his hold, he forced her to look directly at him, to take in the sights of his eyes now dire and wild with his bloodthirsty instincts unleashed, his grin now nefarious with teeth bared threateningly, and the chortle of laughter that escaped him only made the façade all the more terrifying.

“My, my, Mimzy! That’s pretty ballsy of you!” he guffawed maddeningly. “I didn’t think you would actually have the guts!”

Mimzy could hear her own heart palpitating wildly, fuelling her panic that galvanised her to attempt escape. With whatever strength she could muster, she grabbed his wrist and tried to pull his hand off of her as small ragged breaths were escaping her throat, each one a failed attempt in trying to scream for help.

This only seemed to entertain Alastor, he shook his head pitifully at her with that same wicked grin.

“Now, as much as I would want nothing to hear your screams, it’s a bit sad that it seems all your lovely voice’s good for is singing songs and spewing bullshit!”

Without taking his eyes off her, his free hand reached out to the vanity nearby, pushing the objects around to blindly search for something useful. It came to touch on cold metal, and his fingers gripped it and quickly brandished the pair of scissors up to her face, delighted as he took in the sight of the fear intensifying in her, making her thrash and buck wildly but to no avail, as his hold was too strong and she couldn’t shake him off no matter how hard she tried.

So, let’s say we get rid of that useless thing, hmm?!

His pump picked up its pace in a rush of adrenaline as he pressed the blade of the scissors against the sliver of fat below her jaw, and with a clear focus that he could find in the haze of his madness, he slowly drew it against her flesh, a rush of ecstasy hitting him as her blood started to trickle out down and falling in droplets on her large bubs.

The scream was building up in Mimzy’s throat as pain started flooding her senses, and panic sent her acting up in a desperate bid to escape his clutches. One hand continued to claw desperately at his skin and dig it hard enough to leave marks, while the other was trying to swat the scissors away, which only drove Alastor to press the blade harder.

All of this was useless. The lack of oxygen was dulling her senses, weakening her and yet heightening her anguish as he mercilessly took his time with slicing her open, because he didn’t think she deserved a quick death. On top of that, nothing could snap Alastor out of this induced bloodlust now, and he was sure as Hell not set to stop until he had made the kill.

Throughout their exchange, they were wholly unaware of the three who had been eavesdropping outside the door and had barged their way into the room to see him getting gashouse on her.

H-HEY!

ALASTOR, STOP IT!

MIMZY!

A pair of thick arms immediately went around Alastor’s torso to hold him in a lock and forcefully pull him away, and the suddenness of the movement knocked the wind out of him and made him snap out of his hysterical state of mind. His grip slackened enough for Mimzy to be released, falling into a heap on the floor, gasping for air in the first few seconds before screaming out weakly for help, her cries sounding akin to that of a tortured animal holding on to its last shreds of life.

It took Alastor a few seconds to make sense of what was going on, realising only then that Husk was keeping him in his grip, while Niffty had rushed to Mimzy’s side and Rosie stood in front of him and held her slender arms out, acting as a barrier that kept the distance between them. Mimzy was clutching onto Niffty, crying her heart out and shivering in fear, wounded with a little less than a harlem sunset but otherwise still alive and breathing.

When he finally got his head around the situation, he was aware of how tight Husk was holding him. Being touched incited an agitated growl, and Alastor roughly shook himself out of his arms, making the bartender backtrack in surprise, staying where he was by the death stare that Alastor gave him. Sure, he’s seen for himself how the man could be as he lost himself to the thrill of the kill a few times, but not anything like this. Here, spite and malice twisted his features, and the crooked smile on his lips only added to looking raving and demented.

Alastor breathed hard, and with each breath he took, he was beginning to regain his bearings, turning away from Husk to look at Rosie, then to Niffty, and then to Mimzy. The singer was still curled up like a little fetus, cowering in terror as her best friend held to her pipes a piece of cloth that was slowly staining with blood. Nearby her, the scissors lay on the floor, its blade coated with a wet crimson.

They thought he seemed balled up, as they were to find him actually attacking Mimzy and having the intent to blow her down. However, there was not a shred of pity in Alastor’s heart to give a damn to the blasted woman. If anything, he was only further frustrated at the sight that he did not finish her off because of the protesting figures around him.

“Well, Mimzy, you best count your lucky stars I’m feeling the slightest bit merciful to let you off!” he cried out exuberantly. “Not many unfortunate souls can say they’ve struck me and gotten away with it!”

“Alastor, that’s enough!” Rosie shrieked, silenced immediately by the vicious look he flashed to her.

Mimzy only whimpered timorously as she curled into herself even more, and despite how small she was, Niffty did her best to shield her, eyes looking pleadingly at Alastor.

“Mister Al… Don’t…” she begged in a small voice

Seeing that look on her face so terrified and so unlike her usual cheery nature actually stopped him in his tracks, and made him take a step back to look at all three of them. It was only then he realised the trepidation that was clear on their expressions. Admittedly, he was quite taken aback to see that for, what might be the first time, they were actually looking quite terrified of him. Never before had he ever seen them portray such a strong, unfavourable reception towards his actions, and it seemed so out-of-place that it almost made him question himself.

But taking one more look at Mimzy, seeing how she was cowering and crying and so broken down and bleeding to look nothing like the arrogant and vainglorious woman she always made herself out to be, still there was no pity. He was so ridden with disgust at the sight of her, and from there and then, he didn’t give a single fuck about how the others felt about him harming their dearest friend.

“Though, if you think as smart as you talk, I sincerely hope that this time, you’d shut your head about it.”

The final warning came with a snarl that was only responded by silence from everyone else in the room, and he expected that to be enough for Mimzy to pipe that. Ignoring her tormented wails, Alastor simply brushed down the front of his jacket and gave a final minacious look to Rosie, Husk and Niffty, not saying a word to them before turning on his heel and exiting the room with a slam of the door.


Dinner went on without the topic being raised again, much to Charlie’s relief, and she had found the focus she needed to discuss plans for the hotels. She was actually thankful that she’s received the letters from earlier on, giving her a strong backing in promoting the concept to her future sponsor.

Their meeting had been pretty fruitful, and Sir Pentious definitely did seem impressed from the amount of people who had written in, though she couldn’t help but feel an inkling that he may have found it hard to believe at first. But with a little convincing on her side and some words to add to an appeal on his end of the deal, he seemed thoroughly convinced to continue. It may have been a pinch to her that he was definitely doing this to get some benefit for that future egg carton factory of his, but beggars can’t be choosers, and she supposed that he should be sufficient enough while she could find other sponsors who would be more focused on the cause.

It wasn’t long after dinner that they’ve finally reached the conclusion to their discussion. “Well, my dear, I do say it’s about time we both start to retire for the night, don’t you think?” Sir Pentious remarked as he looked at a pocket watch he had on him. “Dinner was wonderful but I ought to get some rest.”

“Oh, of course! I shouldn’t hold you back any longer,” Charlie replied kindly. “I will see you the next time, then. How’s this Tuesday at 2 o’clock sound?”

“Sounds splendid. Gives me a whole day before that to take a tour around this city for myself.” It was then followed by an amusing joke of, “I do hope I don’t run into any kidnappers, though!

Charlie laughed, though it was weak and ridden with nerves at the thought, but she did much to not let it slip as she pulled out her trusty pocket diary from her purse to jot down the meeting date. But when she opened the book, it fell open to a page, and for a moment, Charlie’s heart sank as the nerves reignited for an entirely different reason.

In between those pages was the pressed daisy.

For a moment, she stopped to simply gaze at the dried and flat flower, ridden in dismay that just like that, she had to be so inaptly reminded of her unfortunate encounter with Alastor earlier on. Even more in dismay was the fact that now that the distraction was over, she had to return to her lonesome and thus to her thoughts, with no doubt that her mind was going to start flooding with thoughts of the man at the very moment it can.

But with a resolute sigh, she picked up the daisy, allowing herself just a bit to feel it’s dried and fragile petals in her fingertips, before letting it drop to the floor, forcing it out of mind as hard as she could.


Alastor was still blind with rage as he stormed through the Blind Pig and made his way to the stairs, fighting the urge to get back in that room and finish off what he started. But for the sake of his friends, and out of respect to Niffty, he went against his instincts and kept on walking, his control forcing him to ignore the devil on his shoulders that was trying to tempt him otherwise.

Though, by no means he was going to let this pent-up energy go to waste. To Hell with the thought he had this afternoon of being more careful like Husk had told him to. He’d be more than happy to go bing and paint this whole city red if it meant getting himself to calm down.

So beside himself was he to be wholly unaware of a pair of eyes watching him in disbelief.

Oh? Isn’t that…

“Hey, Val.”

Valentino’s attentions were pulled away from the retreating radio host to his star boy, who had returned to their table empty-handed.

“The bartender isn’t there,” Angel Dust replied, his face straight and voice monotonous, though his nerves were evident in the way he crossed his arms. “I tried calling for somebody but nobody showed, so we don’t have the drinks yet.”

Any other day and Val would have made a snide remark at this incompetence, even straight-up smacked him if he was in a bad mood – those were the worst days, when Angel would wish he hadn’t been forced to accompany Valentino and stay by his side.

But luckily for him, his pimp seemed to be in a good mood, giving him a smile as he reassured, “Just go back to the bar and wait for a little while more, Angel Cakes. Somebody’s ought to show up soon.”

Angel was internally relieved, both from not having received any form of verbal and physical harm and at being given a chance to be away from Val for a little while more. But he was careful to not let the relief show just yet. He wasn’t going to celebrate that small win too early, so he kept his poker face on as he nodded and headed back to the bar.

Val, on the other hand, did not pay much mind to Angel, instead returning his gaze to find that Alastor Carlon had just exited the door, and immediately he was filled with curiosity that wondered what was the famed local radio host doing at a property of the Big Apple.

He’s sure that the boss will be quite intrigued to hear about this.

Chapter Text

“…Vaggie?...”

In the midst of folding the laundry, Vaggie’s absent-mindedness was suddenly broken by the soft-knocking the door. Her breathing hitched in response to the sound of Charlie’s voice that was gentle but afraid.  

She stilled, and the sheets that she was in the middle of folding started to slip from her hands. Remaining silent, she did not say a word in reply and only took quiet breaths, listening intently to the quietude that befell on the other side of the door. Knowing Charlie, she was probably still there lingering, and sure enough, after a passing few seconds, the soft knocking came again.

“Are you busy?...” Her voice was even softer now, but the concernment was clearer in the way it wavered slightly. “…Can I come in?...”

Uneasiness was starting to set in, and Vaggie could almost hear the hard beating of her heart against her chest start to echo throughout her room, at the same time feeling the knot that seemed to be sitting in her gut for a long time starting to tense up for the umpteenth time.  

“…I really want to talk to you… Please…”

The bit of anger that was still embedded in her was saying to ignore Charlie as she had done thus far, causing her to experience the dread of what more could be said to hurt her as much – or even worse – than the day she had returned to New Orleans. Bitterness bit her at the recollection, the knot in her gut tightening once more and aggravated her uneasiness.

“…Vaggie…”

At Charlie’s calling of her name, it suddenly felt like all those burdening weeks of tension finally came crashing down on her, breaking her down at the restraint that she had put up within her for this long. Because before she could consider changing her mind, Vaggie had already made a move away from her bed to the door, and with as much carefulness as she could muster to her impatient hands, finally unlocked it to look Charlie in the eye after so long.

They talked for the longest time since their disastrous reunion. It began with them standing and facing each other at a respectable distance, with Charlie carefully going over her words and voicing it in the calmest and safest manner possible. But when the minutes turned into a little more than an hour, they were now sitting cross-legged next to each other on Vaggie’s bed, the closest they’ve been as Charlie poured out everything that has been going on to her relatively silent friend. A lot of things had happened to Charlie; things Vaggie wasn’t aware because of her self-isolation from her. There were mentions of names that she wasn’t familiar with – Mimzy? – and a breakdown of everything that had happened ever since the night at Baton Rouge.

She did her best to remain calm and listen, but admittedly, it still did sting to hear her talk about that accursed man because she was still bitter about having been lied to in such a way. That spiteful voice in her head that seemed to be the manifestation of the anger that lingered kept whispering for her to keep at being stubborn and ignore her pleas, and to not give chances after what had been done.

“I’m just… so sorry, Vaggie…” Charlie cried, her head lowered in shame as she wiped her tears with the back of her hand. “I can’t take back what I did, and it’s all just a stupid mistake, and I’m so sorry…”

That voice inside her didn’t win in the end, and there was no denying that the softness in Vaggie’s heart wanted otherwise to be out of the cheerlessness that she had been suffering, overpowering her with the want of nothing more than to hear her out and let her in once more, especially now seeing that Charlie was once more crying and apologising to her in heart-breaking sincerity.

A hand gently touched her shoulder, making her look up to her friend, who was eyeing her thoughtfully.

“Okay…”

She never said she had forgiven her, but she supposed that at this moment, it would be easier for Charlie to take what she could get, but it was definitely enough, for now, to see Vaggie giving her that soft smile once more.


Angel knew he probably shouldn’t have tipped so much the previous night.

But what more could he do when Valentino insisted on that binge except to obey? Besides, it had been drinks on him at that ritzy juice joint, and Angel wasn’t one to turn down a free offer. He couldn’t remember much of last night except going on a toot with his pimp. Oh! He did flirt with the ruggedly handsome bartender who had seemed to be in a bad mood and had told him right off to ‘Go fuck yourself’. It’s a shame he didn’t manage to get into the bimbo’s pants, but at least he got a laugh out of his flustered reaction when he had replied with a smart ‘Only if you watch me’.

That aside, now the pounding headache and the nausea were his own consequences to bear, and he ought to catch a few more winks so he wouldn’t look so green about the gills when he had to be out for the night. Unfortunately, his stomach was protesting for some food, having been cleared of content from all the vomiting he had done after the bender, so there was no way he could get back to sleep peacefully until he had that settled.

With a groan, Angel got out of his room and trudged down to the lobby with heavy laziness, hoping that Charlie was around to help him out with this stupid hangover. She might definitely nag about not drinking responsible or whatever other nonsense, but the least she could do with that was to hopefully have some food for him. All that the kitchen had were apples, and he swore if he had to snack on another one piece of fruit, he was going to have a serious talk with her about getting actual food ready for all the ‘wayward souls’ she was soon going to have here.

He was going down the stairs when he heard the front doors opening, and he was all prepared to ask the important question regarding food, but imagine his surprise when he saw who it was that came in.

“Oh! Hey there.”

 “Hi,” Vaggie replied as closed the doors.  

It had been quite a long time since Angel had seen her around the hotel, and he was even beginning to stop wondering if she would ever show, rightfully assuming that she was still mad and sore about what happened that day. But contrary to belief, her greeting was simple, not holding any malice or resentment that he had been anticipating, instead sounding blank and nonchalant. It was unexpected, though Angel couldn’t help but feel relieved that he wouldn’t have to deal with her temperament with his own predicament.

As she hung up her hat and light coat, Vaggie became distracted by the new décor of the hotel, gazing around and taking in how done-up the place was compared to when she had last seen it. Meanwhile, Angel stood at the foot of the stairs awkwardly, feeling quite uneasy considering how their last interaction had them both screaming at each other in native tongues, so he rightfully did not know what to say and kept to be careful to maintain his distance.

It was only when her eyes roamed to him that she then realised his nervous disposition and the paleness of his face. “Are you alright?” she asked with a quirked brow. “You look sick.”

Her amiable question had Angel merely shrugging. “I was lit up like The Commonwealth the whole of last night and am now regretting my decisions.”

His chuckle at the end only made Vaggie roll her eyes and shake her head. “I thought so. Here, maybe this would help.”

Angel realised then that Vaggie had a basket with her, no doubt holding some much-needed breakfast; or lunch since he wasn’t really sure what time it was. Heading right to the kitchen, he felt inclined to at least help set the dining table while she prepared the food – some nice po’boys and mason jars of fruit cocktails, Cream of Wheat and milk. It certainly beat apples, that’s for sure!

It wasn’t long before Angel was almost wolfing down the food, feeling his stomach slowly become at ease and lose the queasiness. Beside him, Vaggie ate quietly, and the companionable silence between them was void of any lingering tension. She seemed to be in a better mood than he would have thought. Sure, she was as dull as always, but that was more welcoming than having her sullen like before. As he eyed her quietly while munching away to his heart’s content, he could tell that it seemed that she and the doll had finally settled their differences somewhat to get her like this.

Speaking of which.

“Where’s Charlie?”

“She headed to the market. Something about getting flowers to decorate the place for a sponsor visit tomorrow.”

Vaggie had been informed about Sir Pentious this morning and had honestly been very happy to hear that the hotel finally got its first sponsor. And upon seeing the new look of the place just a moment ago was enough to knock her socks on how much things had been progressed since she’s been gone. She did feel quite heavy-hearted at not having been there to witness these advancements for herself, but to see Charlie ecstatic about it was at least rewarding enough.

“Oh, yeah. Heard about that one.”

A hum from Vaggie, and then things got quiet once more as they continued to eat. But while it wasn’t a difficult silence, Angel was starting to feel just a little bit awkward. He didn’t do well with not talking for long, and thus felt like he should probably beat his gums, but nothing else came to mind except to ask about the elephant in the room.

“So… You and Charlie sorted things out?”

Judging from the nonchalant reaction, he hadn’t asked anything sensitive, and if it was, Vaggie’s expression did not change and remained blank as she simply dug out another spoonful of Cream of Wheat. “Kind of, yeah,” she answered. “We talked it out, and it’s settled for now.”

A nod of acknowledgement and Angel was relieved to hear that there’s been a step in the right direction to clear the air. “Well, I’m glad for that. You were really mad that time, it was pretty intense.”

“You think?” There was a now slight sarcastic bite to Vaggie’s tone as she frowned mildly, looking at Angel with an unamused side-eye.

Well, now it looked like he finally managed to break the doll out of her composure, much to his regret. Angel probably should mentally slap his sloppy self for not sitting on his words for a bit before saying it out straight and hairy like that, but it would probably be pretty tactless to retract what he said. Since he’s started it, he wasn’t one to leave a point hanging, and so he continued with as much nonchalance as he fiddled with what’s left of his po’boy.

“I get that you’re angry, but that was just something else.”

“I don’t see how me being lied to isn’t something to be absolutely livid about. Don’t think I’m completely over it, mind you. Just because Charlie and I are talking again, doesn’t mean I would instantly forgive and forget.”

Vaggie removed her spoon from her porridge, pointing it right at him with a deep frown now fixed on her face. “The same goes for you, since you were in on it as well.”

Angel would agree that Vaggie did have all the right to be upset, and he would let her be upset for however much she wished. But what he didn’t agree with was what else Vaggie had been upset about. He probably should have just stayed in bed and slept off his hungover instead of having to deal with this, but since the subject’s already been broached, might as well just go with it. Besides, he felt the need to put his two cents on it for Charlie’s sake.

“Jesus, toots. I know the lying is all wrong, but come on. The girl wanted to go on a date, and she would have been honest with you if you weren’t so controlling.”

He probably shouldn’t have said that. Really, just damn his loose tongue in his half-sloshed state.

“‘Controlling’?” Vaggie exclaimed fumingly, and Angel only raised a single brow in response, irritating her. “Say whatever you want, but this is Alastor Carlon we’re talking about!”

Hell-bent as ever Vaggie seemed to be in her claim that was off the deep end as always, and Angel wasn’t really in the mood to argue about that hooey all over again, only allowing a sigh of resignation in response.

“Charlie’s a big girl who knows how to handle herself. And you gotta cut her some slack, especially since she and him-”

“Can we not talk about that?”

There was a shrillness that came with the objection to that particular topic, adding depth to the anger that seemed almost out of place, and inciting Angel’s confusion at the off-ness of it.

“Heh. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought that you…”

It was in the midst of that sentence that Vaggie sighed heavily instead of snapping as she usually would, but with that sigh came a thoughtful gaze down at her Cream of Wheat, the melancholia that painted her face showed that she was pondering over something serious. Her lips started to purse together as her fingers gripped her spoon just a little bit tighter. The unusual reaction had Angel stopping his tongue, watching her dubiously at the peculiarity of it.

In the silence that stretched while his eyes remained on her, Vaggie finally glanced at him, and gone were the fires that were lit at the mention of the man she loathed, now showing eyes that were cloudy with a downhearted spirit that was conflicted with hesitation.

From that look alone, Angel knew.

“Oh… Shit.”


It felt like a burden off her shoulders when Vaggie volunteered to head on to the hotel first while Charlie headed to town to settle some errands. The fact that she didn’t question or insisted to loom gave her the indication that her best friend was at least doing her part to allow her some trust, something that Charlie more than appreciated.

She didn’t take too long at the florist to just place some orders to be delivered to the hotel on Tuesday morning. A few displays bouquets would be more than enough to brighten the hotel up for Sir Pentious’ visit, and will especially compliment how spiffy the place was looking right now. She hoped Vaggie would be delighted with the new look, excited to hear her thoughts about it when she’d be at the hotel later to finish up some paperwork and write out the responses to the new interested soon-to-be patrons.

The thought of so many improvements happening so fast was enough to knock Charlie off her socks and make her giddy with glee. She ought to celebrate with her friends, and what better way to do so than to indulge in some nice treats? Luckily for her, there was still some time to kill and Café Du Monde was just around the corner, enticing her with the promise of lovely beignets.

It wasn’t busy at this time, so it shouldn’t take her long to get a bag full of the sweet pastries before grabbing a cab to the hotel, and as she approached the entrance, she swore she could almost detect that delectable aroma of beignets wafting about her nose. But it was a good thing she wasn’t too distracted to be careful of the door to the café that swung right open before she could reach for it, just barely able to move to make way for a tiny redhead that she recognised all too well.

…Oh, for goodness sake… Seriously?...

Right there, she was starting to feel the slightest bit tetchy at having come across one of Alastor’s friends again. Could she really not catch a break from that man? Each time she thought she had managed to get her mind to be void of him, it seemed that fate wished to be cruel to her and throw every chance of a reminder in her path whenever it could.

Still, it wouldn’t do well on her part to not maintain her civility, and she was sure that Niffty wouldn’t be as abhorrent as Mimzy had been. So as much as she put her guard up in case things go awry, she gave a gentle smile to the girl.

“Hello, Niffty,” she greeted with polite conduct.

However, it seemed that Charlie made the right choice to not be so overtly friendly, but it was definitely not proven in the way she would have expected when all Niffty replied after eyeing her in shock was a curt, “Go to Hell.”

For a few seconds, Charlie did not know how to react, clearly knocked for six and just staring at Niffty in stupefaction. While the blonde was staring down at her with widened eyes, Niffty fought that sight back with a look of obvious disgust, complete with hands on her hips and a deep-knitted frown.

She should have known better to simply trust her gut instinct right from the start that engaging in conversation with a friend of Alastor’s would do her no good, but with the rotten look on Niffty’s button chipping at her nerves, she would have liked to be the bigger person – no pun intended – and not pay mind to the remark, but she couldn’t let herself be treated in such a manner again.

“Excuse me?” Charlie made the fact that she was offended very clear in her tone.

Niffty was quick to snap in retort, “Oh, drop it with the nice act. It’ll take more than that after what you did to Mimzy!”

No doubt that either Mimzy or Alastor had told Niffty something regarding the encounter, which could be the only plausible explanation for her gratuitous behaviour. But the audacity that she was being blamed for it! Whatever hooey that the girl wanted to take heed from that either of those two, she was definitely not going to stand by it and let her jump down her throat like that.

“I didn’t do anything to Mimzy,” Charlie argued back defensively.  “She’s the one that decided to get up in my face and stick her nose where it wasn’t her business.”

It seemed that Niffty wasn’t caring much for her explanation. “Whatever!” she flared. “Thanks to you, she ran off!”

There was suddenly an abrupt pause, to which the anger in Charlie began to dwindle slightly, overtaken by confusion.

“What?”

“She ran away from New Orleans!” Niffty repeated herself with a growing temper. “Because she and Mister Al got into a big fight when he went up against her about it, and lemme tell ya, I’ve never seen them get into a tiff that bad until you came along!”

Whatever had been waiting on Charlie’s tongue to be shot out in response quickly disappeared when Niffty blurted all that out, and needless to say, she was stunned into astonishment, bug-eyed and all.

Alastor actually fought with Mimzy about her? Well, that was something to hear. While she had no idea on what basis, Charlie had to admit that she wouldn’t have expected to hear such a thing about him reacting strongly when he found out about it from her, especially with how cold he had been during that exchange.

But as puzzling as it sounded, she couldn’t say that she thought the gesture to be any flattering to her, considering that she was being put to blame for nothing.

“I had nothing to do with any of that,” she answered indignantly. “And I’ll tell you what I told her; Alastor and I are done, and I’ve made sure of it. I don’t want to be involved in any way with him anymore.”

Stubborn in her tirade, Niffty didn’t seem entirely convinced. “Listen doll, you might think it’s over, but I’m not sure what to tell you now that Mister Al’s seems to be about to lose it, so I hope you’re happy!”

‘Ran away?'

‘Lose it’?

Just what exactly was this conversation?

“What the hell are you doing?”

Husk suddenly made an appearance as he exited from the cafe and promptly came to stand in between, taller than both despite his slouch, and putting some space to ensure a safe distance to keep them from potentially clawing each other. His question had been directed to Niffty, but he was already giving Charlie a wary eye. She didn’t greet him, only looking at both of them with tense confusion, and neither did he.

Husk was now tiredly looking at Niffty with disapproval. “What’d we say about keeping your mouth shut?” he scolded her, unaware of how his words piqued Charlie’s curiosity, and making her all the more confused and topped off with suspicion.

Niffty, on the other hand, only pouted and crossed her arms like a flippant child, and kept eyeing Charlie with disgust. “Husk, let’s go,” she all but demanded. “Looking at her is gonna make me stark raving mad.”

Without another word to the blonde, the short girl turned on her heels and huffed down the pavement, leaving Charlie looking perplexed at her back while Husk breathed a heavy stressed sigh, exasperated at having been left to deal with the situation.

He was still somewhat under the weather from another hangover, and it didn’t help that this morning hadn’t started well when Niffty had dragged him out to find Mimzy, who had bolted from the speakeasy after what had happened and lammed off onto the first train out of New Orleans before anyone could stop her. He’s had enough to deal with since last night, and he thought that bringing a distressed Niffty out to have a good breakfast would be enough to quell his nerves and his goddamned hangover. So, it goes without being said that he wasn’t really keen on going on with what Niffty had started in her unnecessary outpouring, especially now that he’s having to face the very catalyst of this whole fiasco.

“Err, sorry about that,” he apologised with an overstrung look to her. “She gets really overreactive at times.”

His apology came out sounding rushed and awkward, said more to ease the tension than being actually genuinely sorry for what had happened. Thus, it ended up falling flat at the way Charlie only reacted with a glance with furrowed brows, and seeing that made everything become fiddly too quickly and too much for his liking, prompting his want to leave.

 “Erm… I’ll be going now.”

“Hold it!”

Husk barely even took a step away when Charlie’s demand had him stopping in his motions, forced into attention once more to the befuddled gal who was still very much in a dither from Niffty’s outburst.

“What’s going on?” she asked straightforwardly and void of any sort of friendliness, especially when she continued with, “What did Alastor do to Mimzy?”

The grimace on Husk’s face gave away that whatever it was hadn’t been a pretty affair. Charlie could tell that he seemed to try be trying to hide it as he looked down, awkwardly rubbing the back of his neck as he remained silent and clearly pondering of what to tell her. But she was too riled up to care about whether this was uncomfortable for him, and she’d stand here all the way if it meant getting an answer, resolute in wanting to hear it.

Her stance did prompt an answer, which came in a gruff sigh. “It really isn’t my business to tell, and neither is it yours to know.

It came out sounding more out of uncertainty than straight-up rudeness, but still it wasn’t an answer that she would like to accept. “Well, considering that Niffty’s just flying off the handle at me for God knows what reason, it’ll be nice to at least get some context,” she snapped, and her assertive request came with the crossing of her arms and the squaring of her shoulders.

Charlie eyed him hard expectantly, lips tilted down as she was bold with making her displeasure known, and something about that look made Husk honestly surprised to witness this sort of behaviour that he wouldn’t have expected from her relatively sweet demeanour.

Hell hath no fury for a woman scorned, indeed… he thought to himself in a moment of bamboozlement, and if the mood had been the slightest bit lighter, he would have liked to laugh on the inside at the thought that this was the particular dame that’s got Alastor all discombobulated as he was, and how it was clear that he was in a real doozy for walking out on her the way he did.

But the solemnity of the situation brought the remembrance of the man and the disastrous events of last night did enough to remind him of Alastor’s intentions with her, as well as its possible consequences.

“Listen, I don’t want to do the dirty on anyone, but the least I can say is that you best steer clear of Alastor.”

Gone was the hesitance and in its place was a sudden serious-mindedness which amplified the weight of Husk’s words that were grave and bearing some sort of warning, and the change somehow hit Charlie the wrong way, not putting her mind to ease at the sense of direness that it brought.

Still, she questioned, “Why?”

“The man’s in a mood, and he isn’t really such a nice guy when he’s all worked up like that,” Husk explained straightforwardly. “That’s all I’ll tell ya.”

“Well, that doesn’t help things at all!” Charlie exclaimed exasperatedly.

Silent, Husk only gazed at her thoughtfully, taken aback by her tetchiness yet at the same time amazed by how she remained stubborn. But as much as he wouldn’t want to get involved, he knew it wouldn’t do her good to get any more involved than she already was. The girl was overall an inconvenience to their livelihoods, after all, and unlike Alastor, he wasn’t willing to take the risk of letting this drag out longer than it should.

“Just take it from me that it’ll do you good to just stay away,” he told her unsmilingly as he finally turned his body away from her. “Now if you don’t mind, I’ll get ankling.”

Husk was nice enough to at least give a slow wave before heading to meet Niffty, who had been waiting at the end of the pavement and watching intently with her frown and crossed arms. Some words were exchanged for a bit, and it was soon enough that they were making their way somewhere, but not without another look in Charlie’s direction – Niffty shooting one more glare and Husk side-eyeing solemnly.

To herself once more, Charlie remained still, too distracted by the thoughts that were stirred up from this conversation that she did not ask for. She shouldn’t have bothered, to be very honest, and she should just simply take a deep breath to try to force the thoughts out as she had always been doing, and just get on with her day without a single care.

But something in her did not sit right to think that the questions of Alastor were just starting to pile up all over again.


The two pit bull terriers ambled around his feet, once in a while pawing up his leg and giving such adorable faces with their tongues hanging out and tails wagging. Lucifer offered one of them a scratch on the head and the mutt took that in gratitude with a bit of happy panting, invoking a genuine smile from the usually-menacing figure.

“You really sure you don’t want to keep ‘em, boss?” Vox asked with a gesture of his cigarette. “I mean, they lookin’ to really like you.”

Vox had been sticking around Baton Rouge for the past few weeks since the night of the party at the Magne manor, taking a short vacation to enjoy the simplicities of The South before he got back to the grind of things back in San Francisco. His visit to the manor tonight was to be his last before he departed, and it concerned the pups in question.

“It’s a shame, but I can’t,” Lucifer replied regretfully. “The missus had been having terrible sneezing fits and rashes ever since they’ve shown up. Wouldn’t want her to possibly blow up like a blimp because of allergies.”

The dogs whimpered pitifully, saddened at the thought of being sent away. “Ah, well. A pity,” Vox remarked as he listened to their soft whines. “They’re really cute ones. Wouldn’t mind taking them for myself, even if they were supposed to be your belated birthday gifts.”

Lucifer didn’t seem to mind at all. “By all means,” he offered graciously. “I’m sure they’ll find a good master in you.”

Vox nodded in acknowledgement, the tilt of his lips showing that he was thrilled to call the two beautiful creatures his own now. But as the dogs were still playing around Lucifer’s feet, the moment was cut short when a knock on the door sounded.

At the permission given by Lucifer, a butler promptly walked in, holding a small piece of parchment that he presented when he reached his side. “Telegram, sir,” he informed as he held it out with a bow.

“Thank you,” Lucifer said, taking the telegram before waving the butler off in dismissal, to which he left as silently as he came in. Once he was out, the room was filled with the sound of the puppies once more, and Vox began to coo them to him, which they obeyed without hesitation.

Meanwhile, Lucifer’s eyes scanned through the printed text on the parchment, and soon, the small smile that had been on his lips suddenly grew with raised brows of curiosity. This change was not missed by Vox, who began to get inquisitive.

“What’s the news?” he asked.

“From Valentino,” Lucifer replied, “with some very interesting information.”

Interesting information indeed! And it was exactly the sort that Lucifer had been hoping for. In fact, he was almost starting to wonder about what’s been going on with the smiling man lately, so to get information that Alastor Carlon’s been stirring up some trouble at Rosie’s truly did reignite his interest once more.

Unfortunately, it was disappointing when he realised that he might not be able to have the time to head down to New Orleans soon for a visit, considering he was bound to head upstate with Lilith to attend a function of one of the many societies that his wife was involved in. Really too bad as he would surely like to pay Mr. Carlon a visit, but he couldn’t possibly back out on his promise to her.

So, he supposed that someone should go in his stead in the meanwhile.

“Hey, Vox.”

“Yeah, boss?”

“How would you fancy a little trip to New Orleans?”