The Hotel learned of the engagement the same way most would living in the same area when it happened.
Angel Dust screaming the place down and launching himself over the railing to shove his ring into everyone's faces before continuing out on his engagement high to phone anyone else he gave a damn about -all three of them.
Alastor sensibly walked downstairs, his calm demeanor being betrayed by his wide smile and faint color to his cheeks as he sat down at the bar and asked for rum.
Husk rolled his eyes, pouring him out a glass. "You're not slick, don't pretend to be," he muttered, shoving the glass over. He physically mulled over his words. "...Congrats."
"Thank you, Husk," Alastor replied earnestly as he sipped his drink, smiling fondly at his now-fiance scurrying around the Hotel talking animatedly into the phone. Husk snorted, pouring his own drink.
"All th' luck to you, Al," he said. "Yer gonna need it, y' lucky bastard."
"That I am, Husk," Alastor murmured, his irises glowing softly. "That I am." He smiled when Angel Dust came hurrying back in with a bright smile.
"MY SISTER IS COMING FOR DINNER TOMORROW!" he crowed, hopping in place excitedly. "Al, get th' good crystal out an' polished, we'll need it! Husky, fluff yer wings, she has a thing for guys with 'em -"
" -I need to start shoppin' for food, get a good outfit ready -"
"Angel!" Charlie cut in, waving her hands placatingly. "Angel, calm down, okay? You JUST got engaged, you don't need to run yourself ragged already. Just give me a list, I can go get it no problem! YOU just enjoy your moment, okay?" She headed over to grab a notepad to make a list, passing Alastor en route. "Go out for lunch to calm him down, last thing he needs is to get burnout before anything is even planned."
"On it," Alastor said, knocking back the rest of his rum and heading over to Angel. "Mon ange, let's stop by th' Radio Tower. I got a li'l more for ya there."
Angel blushed, rubbing his cheek. "Al, c'mon, you've done enough!" he insisted, only for Alastor to take one of his hands, using his other to summon his microphone.
"Nonsense," Alastor said, almost dragging Angel along. "If anything, I've barely done enough! And you need to peruse over your other homes as well."
"Wait, you made a HOME in that place!?"
Charlie shook her head with a smile, jotting down everything she knew Angel Dust ordered when he cooked and doubled it. "Wow," she breathed, sitting back. "Did you see the smile on his face?"
"Fuck that, did you see the size of that rock!?" Vaggie yelped. "Like holy shit!"
Husk snorted, shaking his head. "I'm honestly more surprised about th' fact that he actually proposed." He emptied out the rest of the rum in the bottle into his glass.
"Wait, he actually talked to you about it?" Charlie demanded, eyes glimmering.
"Might've made a mention here or there," Husk replied, sipping his drink. "Talked about doin' somethin' special for his beau." He wrinkled his nose. "Like some sap."
Charlie cooed, almost swooning on the bar top. "Sooooo romantic!" She draped herself over Vaggie's shoulders. "Vaggieeee, we need to go dress shopping soon!"
Vaggie smiled despite herself, petting her girlfriend's head. "Sure thing, hon," she said. "I'm pretty sure they'll make it red and pink themed." She paused. "Shit, I'll have to wear Angel's colors."
"Would you rather wear Al's?"
"Good point." Vaggie took the grocery list. "Shall we?"
"We shall." Charlie turned to Husk. "You wanna come along? We might need help with all of this."
Husk grumbled for a moment before shrugging. "Fuckit, I don't have anything better t' do." He went around the other end of the bar. "But I'm NOT wearin' pink at th' damn wedding."
"Don't be such a he-man," Vaggie muttered.
"Fuck you, pink clashes the hell outta my wings! If my wings were black, then fine -"
Charlie smiled, waving Niffty to come along too, knowing the small demon liked perusing her own cleaning supplies. Even if it was grocery shopping, she found that at last, there was something they could do to bond over the upcoming wedding.
Angel Dust never really tired of seeing the inside of Alastor's radio towers. Tower Beta -"Change the goddamn name, Al."- and the new Network Tower were one thing, but this was the OG Radio Tower. Alastor's first home.
It reminded Angel of Alastor's room back in the Hotel; older 20s fashions and very cozy and homey. Taxidermy trophies lined his walls, as well as an impressive gun and hatchet collection. Framed on the walls were newspaper clippings both Hell and Earth-collected, detailing the best of his carnage.
"I bagged a celebrity," he joked, looking over everything. "Radio host, overlord, infamous serial killer...wow."
Alastor grinned, shrugging off his coat and hanging it up. "I was actually TWO serial killers." He took a weighty axe off of the wall, swinging it like a baton. "Ever hear of th' Axeman of N'Orleans?"
"....BULLSHIT!" Angel shouted, grinning wide. "NO fuckin' way! You never mentioned that!"
"It's not somethin' I broadcast," Alastor said, putting the axe back on the wall. "I like th' air o' mystery for that one."
Angel laughed, sitting back in a chair. "WOW," he said, shaking his head. "You don't do anything half-assed, do ya?"
"I s'pose not," Alastor said, sitting back on a couch and snapping his fingers, starting a fire in the fireplace. "You wanna know why I stopped th' murders for awhile?"
Alastor smothered a laugh. "I got a job at th' local radio joint. I dropped my jazz threat t' go t' work."
Angel stared at him before bursting into laughter. "Oh goddamn it, Al!" he gasped, almost doubled over. "Just...WOW." He breathed, leaning back, beaming. "That is perfect and witty. YOU'RE perfect and witty." He settled down, leaning his head on his hand. "...what did I do to deserve you?"
Alastor sighed, mirroring Angel's pose. "I ask myself th' same thing, ange araignée. No one else in Hell or Earth ever did as much for me as you have. Literally an' figuratively."
"Right back at'cha, Al," Angel replied. "You opened up to a real relationship with me...offed my pimp, offered me freedom, kept me safe..." He looked down at his top left hand, seeing the red stone catch in the firelight. "...now...I'm actually gettin' married...I'm almost afraid t' pinch myself or else I'll wake up."
"Don't," Alastor said, his voice soft but firm as he stood and walked over to Angel, leaning over and bracing his hands on the arms of the chair. "Don' do that to y'self, sha. Not after everythin' we've been through. I asked ya for many reasons. To keep ya by my side. T' let others know yer mine. Because I love ya, an' I wanna keep you safe. Ain't no better reasons, is there?" He reached down, taking Angel's ring hand. "I'm an old-fashioned man, sha. If I wanna keep a good man at my side, I gotta put a ring on 'im."
Angel squeezed Alastor's hand, biting into his lip. "Al, you know you gotta be careful with how ya talk," he muttered, his irises glowing softly as his second set of hands hooked into Alastor's belt loops and pulled him closer. Alastor smiled, his own eyes glowing softly with a whisper of static.
"Dear, I know exactly what I'm sayin'," he replied, slipping a claw under his collar to lift out a small gold chain. "An' you an' I both know you can't touch th' key unless I say so."
Angel hissed, baring his pink-tipped fangs. "Hope you can remember yer safewords, cervo, because I'm gonna work for that key."
"Work all ya want, sha, you an' I both know I don' crack that easily."
The two locked eyes in the silent challenge before it wasn't all that silent anymore.
Angel's hellphone ringing woke the spider up with a groan. Why oh WHY didn't he put the damn thing on vibrate?
...oh right, he got off on that now. Goddamn oversensitive overlord body.
He rummaged around on the floor, finding it and pressing the answer button. "The fuck are you, the fuck you want?"
"Hello to you too, Angie!"
Angel sat up quickly enough that Alastor, who had been sleeping with his face smothered in Angel's chest, was knocked off of the couch and onto the floor. "Molly! Hi, sorry, I JUST woke up!" He shot an apologetic cringe to Alastor, who sat up off of the floor rubbing his head with a look of mild annoyance. Angel put a hand over the receiver and whispered, "Sorry!"
"I'll put coffee on," Alastor muttered, tugging his pants on before going to the kitchen next door.
"Oh, I interrupted something too, didn't I?"
"Liar. I can call back later -"
"Nah, don't bother, we're both awake." Angel stretched out on the couch and yawned. "So, to what do I owe my favorite sister callin' me up this early?"
"...Angel, it's noon."
Angel looked at his phone, seeing it was so. "Ah shit, and I ain't even started dinner for tonight," he grumbled, grabbing his dress off of the floor and sliding it on.
Molly sighed on the other end. "Not really why I called. Look, we can hash it over at dinner tonight, but I gotta tell ya this now, just to get it out of the way."
Angel tugged a strap over his arm over his shoulder. "Yeah, what about? Somethin' th' matter?"
"...might be." A heavy pause. "...it's Dad. He wants you...AND Alastor...over for dinner this weekend."
"It's fuckin' goddamn bullshit, is what it is!"
Charlie and Alastor stood a reasonable distance off to the side, as anyone sane would do with a pissed-off spider demon wielding two knives actively chopping away at ingredients. It was admittedly an impressive display of coordination, if not for the miasma of barely-contained rage coming off of the spider.
"I mean, I don't hear SHIT from him about NOTHIN', and now SUDDENLY he wants me over for dinner! Cazzate! Dio dannatamente cazzate!" He whipped around with a spoon. "One o' you's come taste this! Does it need more salt!?"
Alastor took the brave step over, taking a taste. "...Tabasco, maybe -" He shut himself up at the indignant hiss. " -but no, it tastes fine, dear."
Angel went back to stirring with one of the hands not occupied with chopping. "Put any o' yer fuckin' sauce on my cookin' an' you'll eat my fist next, Al," he said seriously. "But for FUCK'S sake, what is he even THINKIN'!?"
Charlie mustered up her bravery this time. "...maybe he just...wants to see how you're doing?" she ventured, almost flinching at the acid pink iris that glared at her from the corner of Angel's eye. "I mean...better than what my dad's doing, in any case..."
There was a beat of silence before Angel sighed, his shoulders dropping as he added some onion and garlic to a pan to saute. "...look, circumstances there are different, Charlie," he said. "We both might have jerk dads but mine took jerk to th' Olympic levels. Carried grudges all th' way down here to Hell, even. Th' only way I'd even know he wasn't dead is 'cause o' Molly. Figlio di puttana even knows my goddamn address an' don't bother writin'. At some point, I'd have even taken a letter bomb, just t' know he's thinkin' of me. So...you can understand why I'm just a LITTLE pissed off about it all now."
Charlie nibbled her lip, nodding. "...I guess so," she said. "...Molly said she'll talk more about it later, right? Let's not let it spoil dinner, though. And in the end, you can always say no. No one's going to make you go see him."
"...right." Angel tossed in some diced tomatoes to saute. "I need th' kitchen now."
Alastor nodded and steered Charlie out of the kitchen, his smile strained but earnest. "...thank you for not pushing him to go see his father," he told her. "That's...always been a touchy subject for him."
Charlie swallowed hard, rubbing her arm. "...mine too," she said. "...but as bad as it is for me, I know it's even worse for Angel. I'm not as bad at picking up context as everyone thinks, Al. Angel's really been hurt by his father...and overlord or not, this is something that cripples him."
"Best we can do is get through dinner," Alastor said. "That's all. At least his sister is a darling, so I've been told."
"It'll be nice to actually meet her," Charlie concurred. "Let's set up for dinner, then. Angel expects the best for his sister, we'll make it so!"
The food was put out on the large dining room table that Alastor reformed from several smaller tables in the cafe, Charlie putting out the good dishes and crystal and arranging the food while Angel Dust went upstairs to change. Once everything was set up, she shooed Alastor off to get himself ready while she stood vigilant over the food to keep it hot.
Alastor walked out of his room in what his mother would call his Sunday best just as there was a polite knock on the door. A blur rushed by him, and he took a moment to blink and wonder how in the world Angel could move that fast in heels before following downstairs.
Angel smoothed out his dress before opening the door, letting out a loud scree as he scooped up another fluff ball of pink and swung her around. "MOLLY!" he shouted, spinning joyfully.
"Angelo, please!" Molly laughed, kicking four legs childishly. "Yer gonna make me drop th' zeppoles!" She hopped to her feet, holding up a big box. "Made 'em myself!"
"Aww, Molls, you shouldn't have!" Angel beamed, taking the box only to have it grabbed back and Molly taking a step back.
"Lemme get a look atcha," she said, looking him from boots to hair with a whistle. "Wow. Just WOW. Don't you clean up nice?"
"It's th' hair," Angel said, flipping his hand through it. "Finally, I'm taller than you though."
Molly rolled her eyes. "You never lived that half-inch down," she muttered. "Then you had t' go an' make yerself an overlord just to prove a point. What, bein' taller than Ari wasn't enough?"
"Fuck no." Angel looked up, seeing Alastor watching the display from the foot of the stairs. "C'mon over, Al, Molly don't bite."
"Except when a man's gettin' fresh," she said, smiling as she perused over Alastor. "So. This is th' Radio Demon himself, who decided t' steal my baby brother's heart."
Alastor arched a brow. "Baby brother?"
"Yes sir, I'm older -"
"By fourteen minutes, jeeze," Angel huffed.
" -so that makes ME th' big sister." She grinned, an the definite resemblance to Angel was made clear. "And as his big sister, I hope you know yer in for a world o' pain, mister."
Angel snorted, throwing an arm around Alastor's shoulders. "Don't threaten my beau with a good time, Mol," he said.
"Just makin' talk, Angelo, don't mind me." Molly giggled, walking over and holding out her hand. "Molly, good t' finally meet ya."
Alastor took her hand, raising it up to his lips. "A pleasure," he replied. "Angel's had nothin' but good things t' say 'bout ya."
"Ooh, bagged yerself a Southern boy, didja?" Molly teased. "Well, so long as you've got manners."
Alastor smiled, giving the other a quick once-over to file away for later. Molly definitely had the same basic build and coloring that Angel Dust used to have, save for a much curvier figure. She had four legs and four arms to make the spider's eight, and six small eyes dotted the inside corners of her primaries as opposed to under like Angel's did. Her sense of style was similar enough to Angel's casual wear, save for much more frill and cuteness as opposed to sexy.
He also noticed that while her smaller secondary eyes were bright pink, her primaries were large, almost endless depths of a pink-tinged black that gave both an air of innocence and scrutiny.
It was her aura, however, that truly mystified him. She felt NOTHING like a demon at all.
Molly smiled at him, the look almost knowing before she turned to Angel with a wider beam. "Now then, is that yer cookin' I smell?" she chirped. "Better be!"
"You know it is, who else can cook in this godforsaken family?" he replied with only a hint of teasing as he led the way into the cafe.
"We all have our specialties," Molly huffed, setting the box of zeppoles to the side. "You can hardly bake worth a damn, and Arackniss makes THE best sauce, you know that."
"Debatable," Angel replied. "Taste mine an' see what's what." He smiled as Alastor pulled out two chairs, sitting down across from Molly as Alastor took a spot next to Angel. He began dishing out food to everyone, passing around dishes. "So, brass tacks." He bit into some bread, sitting back with a glass of wine. "Dad."
Alastor bit back a sigh, wondering if dinner was REALLY the time for such talk. Molly returning Angel's businesslike look let him know that apparently, it was.
"Yes, Dad. He wants t' see you."
"Why. An' how did he know about th' engagement? I've told only th' people in this Hotel, you, an' Cherri. You wouldn't just blab without talkin' to me first."
"You're right, I wouldn't." Molly took a bite of her cacciatore. "Arackniss would. You were kinda breathless an' excited, I didn't get th' chance to tell ya that Ari was visitin' me when you made th' call."
"Ugh, goddamn it," Angel muttered, sipping his wine. "Brown-nosing little snitch."
"What, he is. He tells Dad EVERYTHING like th' darling favorite Dad made him."
"Angie, Ari loves you, you know that. He wouldn't have told Dad if he knew you could handle yerself."
"Yeah, well, I ain't givin' him th' Brother of th' Year award anytime soon." Angel stabbed at his pasta with a bit more force than necessary.
Molly rolled her eyes. "Honestly, this pissing match between you two is past th' point of amusing. Yer both grown adults with grown lives. He's th' top assassin in Hell, an' yer an overlord. Havin' this argument over who Daddy loves more is over."
"Yeah, 'cause he won th' moment I told Dad I was queer."
"Yer wrong. It was over th' moment I was born."
Angel gave her a sour look, though is lips twitched. "Bitch. One day that ain't gonna work."
"But it does today." Molly took a sip of water, giving him a small smile. "Look. I talked to Daddy. He was real earnest when he said he wanted you an' Al over for dinner. And it can't be nothin' bad if he's invitin' TWO overlords into th' house. He ain't gonna start shit with you, an' he ESPECIALLY ain't gonna start shit with Alastor." She tipped her head in Alastor's direction.
Angel tapped the fingers of another hand on the table. "Y'think he's just tryin' to kiss ass BECAUSE I'm an overlord now?"
"Angelo. Use yer brain. When has Daddy EVER kissed someone's ass? He told Murder, Inc. to fuck off when they tried pullin' into our business. He has more pride than that, an' so do you." She shrugged a little. "...maybe he's just swallowin' that pride, just a little."
"...now. He's swallowing it NOW, when I'm an overlord, when I have territory -"
"He didn't say or do nothin' until th' engagement, Angelo." Molly pointed to the ring on Angel's finger. "THAT is why he's askin' for ya. I don't know much about details, but th' fact is, yer pullin' in someone new to th' family. That's ALWAYS been a big deal for us."
Angel gave her a slow-blinking look. "...so yer tellin' me that Hell froze over. That Dad wants to welcome me back in with open arms, an' welcome in my fiance too. With NO ulterior motives. Because of a goddamn wedding."
"I ain't ever said Hell had to make sense, Angie. But you can't put it all off on him, you ain't ever written home either."
"AND FOR GOOD REASON!" Angel slammed his fist on the table, not that it seemed to bother Molly, who looked like she expected an outburst. "I know you ain't forgotten why th' fuck I left that house, Molly! Screamin' matches every fuckin' day, shit gettin' worse after Ma died, th' day Dad found me wearin' one o' yer dresses!" He scowled, shoving a forkful of food into his mouth, hardly chewing before swallowing it. "Or did he fuckin' FORGET why my left eye was so fucked up it even showed up in my fuckin' afterlife!?"
Molly calmly dipped her bread in her sauce. "He didn't forget. He was th' one who pulled you outta th' hospital as soon as he saw what happened. He didn't authorize no lobotomy -"
"Excusez-moi, WHAT?!" Alastor snapped, looking at Angel.
" -an' he brought you home as soon as he was able."
Alastor held up his hands, his radio static crackling. "Back up a bit. WHY were you getting a lobotomy?"
"Read th' fuckin' room, Al, I was shoved into a mental hospital for six months when I was fifteen for comin' out as queer." Angel bitterly drained the rest of his wine glass. "Got hooked on PCP because o' th' pain, never went back. Somethin' else to THANK Dad for."
"Then 'thank' him yourself in person," Molly said, finishing up her plate. "Thank him, forgive him, tell him to fuck off, but do it in person." She folded her hands on the table quietly. "You can't use me an' Arackniss as your buffer forever, Angelo. You've got plenty to say to Dad, an' he has plenty to say to you too. You might as well say it an' clear it up entirely before movin' on." She stood up from her seat and walked around the table, curling four arms around her brother. "...I'm just sayin', Angie...I wouldn't have stayed with him all this time if he was still as horrible as he was after Ma died. All of us lost our way at some point after she passed. I'm just sorry you took th' brunt of everything."
Angel tightened his jaw, leaning into his twin's embrace. "...didn't mean t' yell at ya," he murmured.
"I know. We're a family of yellers, you know that." She gave his head a soft pet. "I'm just tryin' to do what I couldn't when I was alive. Get you all talkin' just once. With Dad makin' the first move, it's just a small step. Whether that step leads down a path or ends at a pit t' nowhere, all I'm askin' is just that you all at least find out which it is."
Angel was quiet before he heaved a sigh. "Fuck, fine," he muttered. "But I won't like it."
"I don't expect you to."
"An' Al's definitely coming?"
"He's th' groom-to-be, I should hope so."
"...no tricks? You'd tell me, right?"
"Angelo, even Arackniss wouldn't let Dad pull a move like that." She kissed his cheek before sitting back down at her seat. "Now finish eating, you're still too skinny."
"Not our fault we all got Ma's figure."
Alastor looked between the twins, somewhat amazed though not surprised at the jump between conversational pieces and moods. He was already used to Angel's own jumps by now, but having the knowledge that the entire family might be this way and at different points in time...
He had some mental preparation to do.
Molly practically forced Angel Dust to sit in while the coffee brewed to have with the zeppoles while she and Alastor cleared the dishes. Alastor pulled up the aid of his shadows to do the actual washing, taking some off of Molly's hands. "You're a guest, dear, you shouldn't trouble yerself."
"Oh, but then how would I get you alone?" Molly teased. Alastor rolled his eyes with a smile.
"I see th' family resemblance," he replied dryly, earning a laugh from Molly.
"You'll see more," she promised, brushing her hands over her skirt. "I did want to talk to you, though. I know you have questions you don't wanna trouble Angelo for. I don't mind answerin' a few crucial ones. So shoot."
Alastor mulled over it for a moment, knowing he had limited time before Angel would be expecting them back. "...your father..." he ventured with his radio tin on, trailing off a bit.
"Henroin, he goes by now."
"Yes. Does he truly wish for some form of...reconciliation?"
Molly sighed. "That's my hope," she said, crossing both sets of arms. "I don't think you understand how prideful they are. It's the best an' worst trait they share with one another. Nothin's harder for 'em than to swallow their pride an' move forward."
Alastor nodded, tenting his fingertips. "Do you have any questions?" he asked. "Angel doesn't really seem to be the type to fill anyone in on every little thing."
"You'd be right. Last I heard of him before th' engagement was a phone call tellin' me he had a beau. He didn't really give details, but I kinda figured after I saw pictures o' you two on #Twister. You betcha I texted him an eyeful." She sighed, her expression a little sad. "...it's another bad habit o' his...he doesn't keep updates as well. We didn't have this mess o' tech in th' '40s, so we only had word o' mouth an' letters...the odd phone call from time to time."
She sighed, massaging the small distance between her eye sets. "I'm just thankful he never left New York. Easier t' keep tabs on him. I'd catch up t' him, after a couple years between visits, an' he'd pick up like we had lunch just that weekend before. Time lost all meanin' to him. An' each time I saw him, he looked worse an' so much older than th' last."
Alastor mulled over that. "I see," he said. "I didn't even know he had family down here until we were several months into our relationship. It was a process, opening up for the both of us."
Molly gave a half-smile. "I'm glad someone good for him did," she said, then nudged his shoulder. "C'mon, let's go get coffee. You like zeppoles?"
"Can't say I've ever had them."
"Fried donuts with powdered sugar on 'em."
"Oh, beignets! Sounds divine!"
"Cervo testardo, zeppoles!"
Angel looked up, his lips twitching at hearing his twin and his fiance arguing over the proper word for fried donuts as he poured out three cups of coffee, adding sugar and cream to his, sugar only to Molly's, and nothing for Alastor's, carrying them to the table where the box was sitting and waiting to be opened.
"If yer both done arguing," he said, sitting down with his coffee and reaching into the box to take one out. "They're damn fried donuts. Now eat 'em."
Alastor huffed, biting into one of his in between sips of coffee as he watched Molly daintily eat hers and Angel lick the powdered sugar off first and foremost. "Yer both heathens. Y'get messy eatin' beignets, or ya don't eat 'em at all."
"Al, I've seen how you eat, and you have no room callin' anyone a heathen for your table manners," Angel retorted.
"You're both heathens," Molly said, smiling as Angel cracked up like he'd been told the funniest inside joke. Alastor arched a brow, looking between them.
"Am I missing something?"
"Oh hon," Molly laughed, sipping her coffee, "you can't tell me you didn't notice when you first saw me."
Alastor took a moment to think, recalling that he DID feel something off about her, paired with something he absently remembered Angel saying some time ago. Angel's smile went a little sad.
"Yeah, like I said, Molly don't really belong here." He sipped his coffee, leaning his head on a hand. "Not that it ain't all bad. She's real good for smotherin' auras."
"...I see." Alastor DID notice that he hadn't felt anything at all from Angel during his brewing temper and outburst. And he was actually FULL from dinner. "...oh." He looked up at Molly. "Well then...how...?"
"I'm th' only other one besides Ma that made it to Heaven," Molly said frankly, sipping her coffee again. "I told St. Peter I wanted t' go down."
Alastor stared at her, almost losing his grip on his own coffee cup. "You...CHOSE to be here."
"Is it so surprising?" Molly asked with a wry smile. "Pretty sure YOU chose t' be down here too."
"Yes, while I was ALIVE." Alastor sat back. "You were at Heaven's gate an' you ASKED t' be sent down t' Hell. Why?"
Molly looked at Angel, who had an air of guilt about him. "Angelo, I told you, it wasn't your fault." She squeezed his shoulder lightly. "I know how our family is. I wanted to be there for you, for once. I'd never be happy in Heaven if I knew you were alone down here."
"...don't make it sound so swell, Molly, it's been shit on you too." He squeezed his sister's hand. "Bein' down here when y' don't need t' be. Because o' me. You were always th' best of us, an' you deserved better."
Molly shrugged. "Maybe. But it's what I wanted, an' that's that." She flicked his head. "So suck it up, someone's gotta be yer Maid of Honor."
"You might hafta fight Cherri for it."
"Well then, she's gonna find out what a mafia girl can do."
Alastor smiled softly, watching the twins banter as he fished out another zeppole -beignet- to eat. At the very least, he thought, he could enjoy being in a family with her.
The rest of the Hotel staff was practically huddled together waiting for Angel, Alastor, and Molly to come out of the cafe, all three smiling and chatting on about minor wedding plans and arrangements.
" -an' I'm sayin' we can just make it a plain black-wear wedding," Angel said with a shrug. "Sure as shit ain't gonna wear white."
"That makes it all dreary!" Molly huffed. "You gotta wear somethin' bright an' eye-catching!"
"Molly, I AM bright an' eye-catching. It's kinda my thing. I need a neutral."
Alastor rolled his eyes. "I suppose red is out of the question?"
"You put red an' bright pink together, see how many people tear their eyes out." Angel spotted the others, smiling as he grabbed one of Molly's hands and pulled her over. "Guys, this is my twin Molly."
"So nice to finally meet all o' ya!" Molly chirped, hopping from person to person to shake hands. "Oh, you're just a fine crowd for my baby brother to be around! A sweet princess, her adorable sweetheart, this cute lil bug!" She turned to Husk. "Oh, and this fine gentleman. Love th' wings, hon."
Husk had nothing to say to that, though everyone did see his feathers fluff slightly.
"It's great to meet you too, Molly," Charlie said earnestly. "You'll have to drop by more often, we'd love to have you!"
"I definitely will. Someone's gotta keep th' diva organized."
"Hey, Al does plenty for me!"
"Someone who DOESN'T have their testicles in your pocket, Angie."
"Welcome to th' family, Al," Angel said with a grin, leaning his arm on Alastor's shoulder. "Prepare to be endlessly roasted by an annoyin' sibling."
"Can't no one help ya now, babe."
Chats and phone numbers were exchanged before Molly was walked to the door by her brother. "I'm makin' good on that promise to come by more," Molly said seriously. "Not just for th' wedding stuff, but because with Val gone, I have no reason to stay away." She hugged him tightly. "So please, call me more."
Angel smiled, hugging her back. "I will," he promised. "For real this time." He pulled back, smiling. "Thanks, Molly."
"Anytime, baby bro." She kissed his cheek and gave everyone a wave before heading out.
Angel watched her leave in a car that had a subtle web pattern on the tail end that signified it belonged to their father, being joined by Alastor after a few moments. "...Al, please kick me in th' ass if I don't call at least once a week."
"I promise, sha," Alastor replied, curling his arm around Angel's waist. "...I hope yer aware tha' Husk is flustered beyond all reason."
"Oh, I'm aware."
"In Hell for a reason, babe."
"Aren't brothers s'posed t' be protective of their sisters?"
"She's got Ari for that. I exist to help get her la -"
"Please do not finish tha' sentence, dear."
The rest of the week passed with little more than Angel Dust being a tightly-coiled ball of stress and Alastor running himself ragged to unravel that stress. So many trips to the Circle of Wrath to restock on racists to eat to replenish himself.
At least they had settled on what to wear, had a plan in case things went south, and even had a plan in case Hell froze over and things went great. Angel had his knives and guns stashed into the folds of his clothes, Alastor had a hearty meal beforehand to have his power reserves at his fingertips, and both had a big pep talk from Charlie before time came for them to leave.
The Ragnos were never a fancy bunch, Angel told Alastor, and in fact scoffed at the foppish styles a good number of other mafia took to wearing to broadcast their affluence. It made sense to Alastor, recalling that Angel let his natural flamboyancy do the talking, making the most out of the relatively simple outfits the man wore. Even now, besides the ring, Angel still wore no jewelry at all.
Taking that to heart, Alastor went somewhat casual with a black button-up shirt, black slacks, a red suit vest, and a blazer. Angel had a two-day constant debate over what to wear, jumping between going in his most feminine outfit he owned or not tipping the jenga tower and going in a suit. Alastor helped him compromise, going with a fitted blazer of his own and slacks to match, but he kept his heels and did nothing to temper accentuating his chest fur.
The car ride there was almost silent, with Alastor seeing Angel almost meditatively staring ahead to keep his aura under control. Fine and dandy, but Alastor didn't need him stressed out any further. Alastor took Angel's ring hand, squeezing it lightly.
"We only had t' take th' invitation t' dinner, sha," he said quietly. "Nothin' said 'bout stayin'. We might be goin' in his territory, but we have th' cards, a'ight?"
Angel nodded with a sigh, his shoulders relaxing somewhat as he squeezed Alastor's hand back. "Alright," he said. "..thanks, Al."
"It's what I do."
Alastor put on some soft jazz for them to listen to the rest of the way there, and after some time the car stopped in front of a relatively nondescript home on the edge of the city right on the edge of the Circle of Violence and bordering Pride territory. Before he could open the door himself, it was opened for him, and he stepped out to see demons concealed within coats on standby in silence.
Angel stepped out after him, straightening his own fur coat and nodding to the smaller demons before heading toward the house, his grip on Alastor's arm tightening. Alastor's senses were all over the place, smelling, listening, and looking out for any hint of a threat and subtly sending out a shadow watcher every time he stepped over a shadow to keep vigilant on any sign of danger.
The door was opened for them by a spider demon with light brown fur, who said nothing and stepped aside for them to enter with his head almost reverently lowered. Inside the house was very tidy but had so many dark corners with glittering eyes looking from them like surveillance cameras. A smaller spider demon or two stood by stairwells or doors, possibly as a means to keep anyone from going where they shouldn't.
A door in the back opened, and a spider demon literally half Alastor's size walked out, his fur almost pitch black with dark pink eyes bordering on red. Unlike most of the other spider demons but similar to Angel and Molly, Alastor saw this spider had two primaries, with the left eye holding two above and one below, and the right holding two below and one above to make the eight. He almost reminded Alastor of Vaggie on her worst days with his humorless expression, walking up to them on spindly legs and six arms clasped behind his back.
He came to a stop about two paces in front of them, looking Angel over. "...you couldn't wear a proper suit, could you?" he asked, his voice toneless and bordering on snarky. Instead of getting defensive as Alastor expected, Angel instead snorted.
"Haven't worn one o' those since Nonna's funeral," Angel replied with a snarky smirk of his own. "Still haven't grown any?"
"Pay me first."
"Degenerate. I hope you temper that bullshit with Dad." He rolled all eight eyes before sighing. "...good to see you again, Angelo."
"You too, Arackniss." Angel broke away from Alastor to kneel down to hug his brother, his excessive height giving him no boons for that. Arackniss gave his shoulder an awkward pat with one of his hands. "...enough of that. You still haven't introduced our guest. Rude."
"Says th' pipsqueak who tried to start a fight like you were twelve." Angel stood upright again, towering over his older brother before stepping back to Alastor. "This is Alastor. I'm sure you already knew that."
"I did. And it's an honor to have him in our home without him intending to devour us." It was spoken as such that Alastor knew the elder brother was actually serious. "Dad is waiting. Would you two like anything to drink?"
"I'll take a whiskey. Al?"
"Rum, if you have it, bourbon if you don't." Alastor put his radio tin back on, not intending on giving any leverage to anyone Angel wasn't comfortable with. Arackniss nodded and led the way through the door he came through, showing a large open hallway with several other paths leading off here or there, before walking over to a door that had yet another spider demon guarding it. Arakniss waved the demon away and stepped through.
It was a cozy dining room with a table seated for eight, two fresh drinks already set out on opposite sides of the table. At the head of the table was whom Alastor assumed to be Henroin.
The spider was only a shade lighter grey than Arakniss with the same reddish pink as the elder brother as well. All eight -two above and one below each primary- honed in on the two that walked in, almost glowing among the mass of tarantula-like fur around him.
"Angelo," the man spoke, his voice so bass that Alastor could almost feel it.
Angel's back straightened, tipping his chin up. "Henroin. Or have I earned th' right t' say 'Father', at least?"
The other spider mirrored Angel's posture before pushing back from his chair and standing upright. The first word that came to Alastor's mind was 'big'.
Henroin was big, almost rivaling Angel Dust in height alone, but he was also built massive, enough so that Alastor was sure that the shirt and blazer he wore weren't his usual wear. From the heaviness of his steps, it wasn't all just fur either. Unlike the other spider siblings Alastor knew of, Henroin only had his primary set of arms out, the others most likely tucked away; whether it was a preference or an attempt to look less threatening, the latter wasn't having much stock just from how big he was.
Still, Alastor felt no malice from the larger spider, despite how Angel stiffened next to him. Henroin kept a respectable distance from the two, crossing his arms in front of him. "You never had an issue callin' me whatever y'wanted, Angelo," Henroin said. "No need t' start now. I invited you for dinner. Not in for a fight."
Angel made a noncommittal sound, his secondary arms crossing his front. "Th' question still begs t' be asked though. Why." His eyes narrowed. "You've been down here for sixty an' change years. I've maybe seen ya enough times t' count on one hand, not includin' today. Not ONCE did ya invite me home." He splayed out his arms, giving himself a little twirl. "What, because I'm an overlord now, I'm worth somethin' to th' family? The fuck kinda cheap garbage is that?"
"Angel, dear..." Alastor murmured, feeling a harsh dip in Angel's aura. Angel scowled, pinching between his eyes as he took a deep breath.
"Fuckit, I need a minute..." he muttered, turning back to the door, stepping back out.
Alastor tightened his hand around his microphone, watching Angel leave before turning back to Henroin. The spider gave Alastor an appraising look before sitting himself back down. "Fortuitous enough, I was hopin' for a word alone," he said, gesturing to the already-made glass of rum. "I believe y' ordered rum?"
"I did, yes," Alastor said, "but I really should -"
Alastor almost found himself obeying on reflex, catching himself with a flicker of static before tightening his hold on his microphone again and walking over to the space to Henroin's left, sitting in front of the glass of rum. Henroin picked up his own glass -whiskey, Alastor smelled- and took a sip. "I got a few questions for ya, Radio Demon," Henroin said, "an' yer gonna answer 'em."
Alastor REALLY did not like how Henroin speaking almost made him feel like he had to listen and obey. A lesser demon might have relented outright. Alastor himself was no lesser demon, and he was not one to be pushed around in any manner of this sort.
However, he was also being subjected to a talk with his beau's father. Conflicting feelings all around.
He just gave Henroin a toothy smile and took up his glass of rum.
"Ask away, good sir."
"Wow, fifty-six seconds. A new record."
"Fuck you, Ari."
Arackniss shrugged, fishing out a cigarette and lighting it. He took a long drag and exhaled. "...so how've you been?" he asked.
"Like you care."
"I've always cared, Angel." Angel looked down at his brother's use of his preferred moniker. "I ain't ever been th' best brother to you, but I've always been yer brother. Molly wasn't the only one lookin' out for ya all that time, y'know? Whenever I tracked ya down, I managed t' get a few of th' ones who roughed ya up." He took another drag of the cigarette. "You were still my baby brother. You were still family. You still ARE."
Angel scowled, crossing both sets of arms. "...why didn't ya say anything then?" he demanded softly. "Why didn't ya talk to me? Invite me for a drink, spare a goddamn cigarette?"
"Why didn't ya ask?" Arackniss tapped off some ash. "You left, you weren't kicked out, y'know."
"Coulda fuckin' fooled me."
"Apparently we did, you fuckin' drama queen." Arackniss rolled his eyes. "Yeah, shit was bad at home for a long time. It sucked. Worse for you because you were queer." He crossed his arms. "Just one more thing Dad didn't prepare for, and he overreacted. You left th' house an' didn't come back." He polished off his cigarette and sighed. "...we didn't know you were waitin' for an invitation back to yer own home."
Angel glowered at nothing, rubbing his arm. "...it hadn't felt like a home since Ma died. Even less since Dad shoved me into th' wacky house. Why th' fuck would I wanna stay where I wasn't wanted?"
"I wanted ya there. Molly did too. An' Dad...he wasn't th' same after you left."
"What, he finally happy th' bent link in th' family chain got rusted off?"
"No, you stupido stronzo, he lost another piece of his family. His SON." He flicked the cigarette butt into an outside bin. "Dad might not have liked ya very much, but you're family. An' we love you."
Angel clenched his eyes shut. "...don't do that, Ari, just don't..."
"You've been due for this, Angel. You wanted an invitation back home, you've got it. Take it with all th' salt you want, but that's what it is. We've been sittin' on this for awhile."
"Yeah? For how long?"
Arackniss grimaced. "Well when me an' Dad an' Molly got shot t' shit an' back by th' DeMarco Fratellanza, comin' down here an' seein' my baby brother th' star of th' Circle of Lust wasn't exactly FUN, but we thought you were taken care of. But then I started seein' ya be watched like a dog by Valentino's goons. Molly saw bruises an' learned what that was really all about. She told ya that our home was open, I know she did. But y'still said no."
He leaned back against the wall. "But then we saw that shitshow about th' Happy Hotel or whatever. Redemption? Seriously." He snorted. "But with you at th' Hotel under th' protection of th' goddamn Radio Demon, we felt better. Even MORE when we heard o' Valentino gettin' offed. Then Molly showed us pictures o' you an' him together. It was like you were free but gettin' so much farther away. Dad wanted to bring you back out for a talk then. A meetin'. Before you got too far away for us to' see you again."
Angel mulled over it for a moment. "...before this happened?" he asked, gesturing to himself.
"...because he got fuckin' nostalgic like his baby boy was gonna leave home forever an' never come back. Because that ship fuckin' sailed, Ari."
Arackniss glared at him. "It never left th' fuckin' port, Angel. You just never came home." He stared out over the blank land over to the city on the horizon. "...you never came home. An' then when we heard what happened....you NEVER...came home." He lifted his six hands, gesturing. "...now we're in Hell. But y'know what? We already lived it. THIS is nothin'."
The two went quiet for a long moment.
"...But then it turned t' Hell again when you an' the goddamn deer made that broadcast -"
"And THERE it is."
Henroin seemed to weigh his questions over for a moment as Alastor nursed his glass of rum.
"...is he safe?"
Alastor arched a brow, lowering the glass. "Pardon?"
"Angelo. Is he safe?" Henroin's pupiless eyes were still able to convey some semblance of emotion. "I have eyes an' ears all over th' Pentagram. Vox had a LOT of hands in a LOT of pots, an' most aren't happy with a new overlord comin' in an' ruinin' it all."
Alastor made a thoughtful sound, taking another sip before putting the glass down and folding his hands under his chin. "He's more than capable of defending himself," he said frankly. "As he's told me AND demonstrated several times. But naturally, he will always have my support and protection." His smile broadened. "Valentino was being a brute, I dealt with him. Vox abducted him and attempted to replace his memories with memories of Valentino instead, and...well...I certainly do apologize for the awkward aftermath of that."
Henroin's look was less than thrilled, though he let the apology slide. "And this engagement," he said, clawed fingers flexing into his glass. "Is that another power play of support and protection?"
"Oh, I wouldn't call it a power play," Alastor said. "I proposed the same reason anyone else would. I love Angel. I'm IN love with Angel. Yes, I do wish to protect him, sometimes shelter him at times. But he's more than capable of being an overlord in his own right. I merely now wish to be his partner in all of that."
Henroin gave a nod. "I see. This was one o' th' things y' wanted to shelter him from, sì?"
"Oui." Alastor's smile went stiff. "He had less than...savory things to say about you. Or his upbringing after his mother's passing."
"Unsurprising." Henroin sat back in his seat. "I have explanation though no excuse. My wife falls ill and passes. I am left alone with three grieving children, an' grieving myself. I barely knew how t' raise a girl, had no experience with how t' handle seein' my second son wearin' dresses an' makeup, an' I take advice from th' wrong person t' send him away t' be fixed."
Alastor's aura flickered with static. "His lobotomy," he filled in.
"I didn't authorize none o' that business," Henroin growled. "I brought him home an' put a bullet between th' quack's eyes. Thought he was a vegetable for weeks until he pulled outta it, only for him t' dive nose-first into phencyclidine." He scowled at his glass. "He starts havin' these fits, threatenin' t' shoot his brains out if he didn't get his drugs. Wasn't no way t' tell back then that th' lobotomy gave him permanent brain damage, givin' him pain that PCP hooked onto."
He paused to drain his glass.
"Then he starts stayin' out, an' I had t' hear from Arackniss that my son is prostituting himself. Seventeen goddamn years old, on th' streets. I try to tighten th' hold, keep a closer eye on him, only for him t' pull away further an' further until he just...didn't come home." He was silent for a moment before he snapped his fingers, a dog-sized spider scurrying over and grabbing the bottle of whiskey to pour the boss out another before returning to the shadows.
"He's good at hidin'. It was hard enough for us t' keep tabs on 'im when he was livin' there, but after he left, we were lucky t' hear from him once a year." He took a sip of his whiskey before setting the glass down, his eyes going haunted. "...October fifteenth, nineteen-forty-seven. I get a call from a friend in th' police station, sayin' they have Angelo. I go down with Arackniss...an' they take me next door to th' morgue. I had t' see my son. Dead. Bruised t' shit. Emaciated. Track marks in his arms. Scars all over 'im. White as a fuckin' sheet. No comin' back from seein' that. My wife died warm an' loved at home, my son died frozen in a crack house an' had his body shoved out into an alley to be found." He looked back up at Alastor. "A parent shouldn't hafta bury his child."
Alastor made a thoughtful sound before picking his glass back up and draining it. "So what gave you the push to contact him now? After all of that? And why didn't you offer him any help before?"
Henroin looked off to the side. "He never asked for help. Alive or dead, he never asked."
"...you were waiting for him to ask. Instead of extending the offer out yourself."
"...you don't know much about mafia, do ya?"
"Apparently not. I grew up in rural Louisiana, where help was offered whether you wanted it or not from family and neighbor alike. Worked in my favor for dinner, but I digress. Even now, all I know is Angel didn't want to be a part of this life and that's why he left. From his experiences, I can somewhat see why."
"Maybe. But that don't mean he didn't really have a place here. You've seen him fight. You've seen him kill. You've seen his knowledge how how a business like this works. If all he wanted t' do was sit back an' run numbers, that's what I'd let him do. It wasn't th' lifestyle he ran from. It was his life." Henroin folded his hands on the table in front of him. "Molly told me how th' Hotel treats him. He's got good men and women in his corner. And he could have picked a worse...fiance."
"I'll take that as an endorsement," Alastor said, his grin widening. "But that still begs the question of what is going to happen NOW."
Henroin nodded. "Now?" he said. "I want to talk to my son."
"You know, you left your buck alone with Dad," Arackniss said. "Bad form."
Angel winced; he HAD calmed down some, but jerk move on his part leaving Alastor back there. It was comforting that there was nothing on fire or engulfed with screaming voodoo shadows, so there was that. "Yeah, yeah," he muttered, pushing off from the wall. "...you know, you can always come to th' Hotel an' visit too."
"You offering out for a visit?"
"Yes, you minuscule jackass, I am." He gave his brother a nudge. "...I still kinda have vague memories o' goin' out on a hit together."
Arackniss rolled his eyes, though his expression softened. "I just have memories of you enticing th' hits with yer ass so I had a clear headshot."
"See? Perfect team."
"You KNOW no brother should see his younger sibling flash someone, right?"
"Yer such a prude." He paused. "You an' Al will get along great, I know it!"
"Yes, I really want to get along with th' crazy Radio Demon that defiled my baby brother for all th' Pentagram to hear."
"That was an accident!"
"All th' same, you shameless tramp."
"Check th' ring, pal," Angel huffed, holding his hand out. "I'm an honest man now." He turned back to the house, sighing. "...alright then..." He headed back inside, the door opening before he could reach for it. Alastor stepped out, looking no worse for wear and just happy to see Angel.
"Angel dear," he said, looking him over with concern. "Are you alright? I was just coming to fetch you."
Angel nodded. "I'm fine, Al," he said, giving him a shaky smile. "...just...I dunno."
Alastor took Angel's hand, squeezing it. "I understand," he said seriously. "I spoke at length with him. It's some worth listening to, but nothing worth forgiving him for." He leaned up, kissing Angel's cheek. "I'll leave you to it. Signal if you need me." A shadow behind him quivered before sliding off. Angel nodded and sighed, stepping away from Alastor and walking into the room and shutting the door behind him.
"...so. A talk."
Henroin nodded, remaining seated. "A talk," he replied. Angel nodded and sat on the opposite end of the table. Heroin snapped his fingers, the spider scuttling over to Angel with a fresh drink. "...I spoke with him. A decent-enough man. He'd have done well here."
"Yeah, well..." Angel ran his clawtip over the rim of his glass. "He's not one of th' most feared serial killers down here for nothin'. Or up middle." He gestured vaguely upward. "Impressive body count with impressive methods. Even more impressive is how he leaves little evidence if he don't want none seen." Silence except for the soft scrape of his claw over the glass. "But you didn't wanna just talk about what a catch I landed for marriage, didja."
"So what then? If it's an apology, save it. All I wanna know is WHY. Why Ma could accept me as I was but you couldn't. Why you sent me to th' damn loony bin. Why you never once tried t' look for me after I left, or after you came down here. Why NOW, of all times. Just...WHY."
Henroin folded his hands on the table. "In order. You didn't just lose a mother, I lost a wife. Th' love o' my life. Mother o' my children. I didn't know how t' raise any o' you on my own. Arackniss was old enough an' mature enough t' pick up his own slack, but you an' Molly were twelve years old an' scared an' confused. You both drew away in yer own little twin world an' only Arackniss could get any word outta either of ya. It was like that for years, an' then you suddenly began dressin' in yer sister's clothes, puttin' on makeup, wearin' jewelry. I thought ya snapped."
"Goddamn it, Pops," Angel muttered, rubbing his temple. "You coulda ASKED me. I'da told ya -!"
"Coulda woulda shoulda," Henroin said. "I have plenty o' those, an' I've had close t' ninety years t' regret it all. From th' moment I found you damn near brain dead in that psyche hospital, I've had regrets. Havin' that lobotomy changed you for th' worst. Throwin' fits that screamed th' roof down, scarin' the daylights outta yer sister an' makin' yer brother so nervous he was afraid he'd have t' shoot you to protect himself. Then you get hooked on peace pills an' you leave. You never came back."
"YOU never offered!"
"Because you NEVER ASKED. You think I woulda turned you away if ya needed help? If ya needed a roof over yer head, a job, some extra cash? From th' time you an' Molly were infants, I drove th' point that you are FAMILY into you." He shook his head, hands clenching into fists on the table. "...so maybe that lobotomy was what skewered it out."
"Yeah, th' lobotomy was what fucked my entirely life up," Angel scoffed. "You did worst than that, don't pretend otherwise!" He teared up, his own fists shaking on the table. "...you remember th' Trevolis? Marcus Trevoli? His fuckin' skank daughter who wouldn't leave me alone? How you practically fuckin' pimped me out to her just so her father would seal in some deal he wasn't too keen on because he thought I was a fuckin' queer!?" He bit his lip hard, almost drawing blood. "Just t' prove a FUCKIN' point, Pops! I lost my goddamn virginity to that slag an' I hated every fuckin' minute of it!" He pressed his face into his hand, his shoulders shaking hard. "So I'm SO SORRY if Marcus goddamn Trevoli was right about your queer son! At least you got some business from it!"
Neither said anything for the longest time until Henroin spoke again.
"He was right," he said. "I did have a queer son. Which is what I told him before I shot out his kneecaps at your funeral." His claws pressed into the table lightly. "I got th' call an' claimed you at th' morgue. I put a few guns under a few chins to make goddamn sure you were buried next to yer mother. Trevoli talked shit at your funeral an' I kneecapped him right on your grave. A Ragno is a Ragno even in death, and he was not gonna sully yer name so long as you were a Ragno."
He leaned back in his chair. "As far as down here, we came twelve or so years after you. Saw you doin' well for yerself, a big name in th' Lust Circuit. We figured that was what ya wanted t' be. After Molly came down, bless her soul, she went lookin' for ya, t' tell ya we were here too. But ya never came." His eyes darkened. "...after Molly told us her doubts about your happiness, Arackniss went lookin' too. I sent out who I could, but with Vox in power an' havin' a share hold in our business, we had t' be careful. We couldn't take you away from Val, but we could make things more difficult for him.
"An' then we see you at th' Hotel. Havin' a relationship with th' Radio Demon himself. Val dies, Alastor gets more power an' territory. Vox dies, YOU get power an' territory. Yer happy now...aren't ya?"
Angel rubbed his face hard, his lips twitching into a smile. "...unbelievably," was all he could say.
"And yer gettin' married."
Henroin nodded, going quiet for a moment before reaching up to his tie, sliding down a small metal band held under the knot, and stood up to walk around the table to Angel, holding out his hand. Angel looked down, eyes widening. "What the fuck."
A golden ring with eight tiny uncut rubies inlaid in the stamp-like face, the most valuable piece of Ragno history dating back over two hundred years now. Angel had seen this piece of jewelry enough times to commit it to memory and knew that it was the real deal, either coming to Hell with his father or some crazy expensive magic having been needed to bring it down. Worn by the head of the Ragno family.
"...what is this."
"If you want it," Henroin said slowly, "it's yours. A portion of our business belonged to Vox to begin with, an' with his demise, it's yours now. Above and beyond all of that, the prerequisite for passing along headship is to the eldest heir, or the heir married or soon to be married. Arackniss has told me time an' again that he is more than satisfied bein' a caporegime, more suited to th' field than anything, an' Molly...she is Molly."
He looked at Angel, his expression serious. "This isn't bein' given outta guilt or even as a way t' make up for everythin' I did. But th' fact of th' matter is, you are a Ragno. You were born a Ragno, you lived and died a Ragno, an' you are a Ragno still. This is interest on everything ya shoulda had in life. An' it falls to no better hands than yours. Th' business, th' members, th' name. It's all yours."
Angel's hands shook as he looked at the ring and then back to his father. "...final rule," he said, swallowing hard. "...it's passed on only when th' last head dies."
Henroin nodded. "I know." He reached into his jacket and took out a gun, laying it on the table. Angel could feel the soft stinging aura of holy bullets inside of it. "I've done my share. I've made peace with yer brother an' sister. Spoke to th' rest of th' family. Even had words with your mother, whether she heard me or not remains t' be seen. But everything is set in order."
Angel clenched his eyes shut. "...you're droppin' so much fuckin' shit on me...y'know that right?"
"I fuckin' hate you."
"I can't forgive you for everything you've done."
Angel blinked away the tears in his eyes, picking up his glass of whiskey. "...you're such a bastard, y'know that?"
"You know, I'm really on th' fence about you."
Alastor gave Arackniss a humored smile. "I get that a lot," he replied.
"On th' one hand, you're a ruthless bloodthirsty murder machine. I can respect an' even admire that. Big fan of yer work."
"On th' other, you fucked my baby brother on a broadcast over Hell an' now you have th' audacity to look me in th' eye like I won't gouge one out an' put it in my martini."
Alastor's grin widened. "Oh, I like you," he said. "We'll get along splendidly, attempting to assassinate the other on occasion. Won't that be fun?"
"Absolutely." Arackniss fished out his pack of cigarettes, holding out the pack. "Here."
"Oh, I don't -"
"Bullshit, you smell like Southern Porters. These ain't too far from 'em." He kept the pack held out until Alastor took one, flicking open his lighter to light both of them up. "What, Angel has that ONE vice he don't imbibe in?"
Alastor took a slow drag of his, letting the smoke sift through his teeth. "No, I just don't make a strong habit of it," he said. "The Hotel is more constrained with vices of addiction, and I do try not to worry my business partner so. And besides." He took another drag. "I usually only smoke after sex."
Arackniss gave him a withering look that Alastor returned with an almost cheeky smile. "Only half-kidding my good fellow. I just picked the habit back up recently is all. Late nights in a radio station leaves you with little to do between sets."
"Uh huh." Arackniss looked out over the distant city line. "...I don't suppose you really NEED th' whole big brother spiel about how you hurt him, you'll suffer a thousand deaths, yadda-yadda. Angel can take care o' himself." He exhaled smoke, his eyes almost glowing. "But regardless, he's not gonna be alone if that happens. Or even if it doesn't. There are spiders everywhere. For better or worse."
Alastor arched a brow. "Noted." He moved to polish off his cigarette when he suddenly went stiff with the feeling of SOMETHING happening.
A split second later, the sound of a gunshot rang out from the house.
Arackniss calmly finished his cigarette and ground it out. "About damn time," he said, heading inside. Alastor did the same, frowning somewhat when he found that he couldn't see through his shadows in the house. He could barely push through to get to the dining room quicker with the multitude of spider demons of every shape and size coming out of the woodwork, congregating at the door. Arackniss easily walked through them with Alastor in tow, and after a moment, the door opened, the dog-sized spider making low clicking sounds that Arackniss could apparently decipher.
"Come on," he said to Alastor before making another clicking sound to spiders behind him, a handful of the larger ones passing through with them into the room.
Angel stood silently in front of the table, a gun set down by his right hand. On the table was Henroin, his head shot through with a definite stench of holy gunfire in the air. Arackniss and Alastor stepped forward, the former looking more expectant. There was a beat of silence in which no one even dared to breathe before Angel turned around and held up his right hand.
Adorned on his skinny finger was a golden ring with eight tiny rubies.
Alastor heard a murmur of hushed reverent clicks from the spiders around him as Angel stepped closer, holding his right hand out. Arackniss stepped up first, taking his brother's hand and leaning down to kiss the ring on Angel's finger before stepping around him to stand at the place to the head of the table's right. The five other spiders that came in with them each took a turn and moving to stand at a spot around the table before Angel took his spot at the head, gesturing for Alastor to join him at his left.
Angel looked over everyone at the table before addressing them. "I've accepted the headship of the Ragno family," he said, clearly enunciating himself. "I swear myself to this family's health, its longevity, and its reach across the Pentagram, holding onto the credo our ancestors held; Occhi Ovunque."
"Occhi Ovunque," the other spiders spoke solemnly. Angel looked over them all before turning to Alastor.
"My first order is appointing my fiance, my soon-to-be-husband, as my consigliere. The Radio Demon, Alastor."
Alastor had several pairs of eight-matched eyes on him, sizing him up with all seriousness to contest this decision. A quick hiss from Angel had eyes shying away.
"My elder brother, Arackniss, I appoint as my second-in-command. He will fill in any and all control in any absence I have." There was no contest to this.
Arackniss actually looked proud at his younger brother, a rare hint of a smile on his face. Alastor was much more generous with his smile, reaching out to take Angel's hand and squeeze it lightly. Angel squeezed it back before making his finishing statement.
"I am Boss Angelo Martin Alessandro Ragno. Overlord Angel Dust. The Spider Mafioso." He smiled, fangs glinting. "And I've been made aware of our traditions here...but among th' new Boss, th' underboss, th' consigliere, an' you five caporegime, I know we are exclusive to this particular honor."
Alastor arched a brow. "Honor, dear?" he inquired before noticing the other spiders in the room eyeing Henroin's corpse ravenously.
"You were right before, Al," Angel said with a wider grin. "Spiders ARE carnivorous...an' in families like this, cannibalistic. An' we WERE invited t' dinner."
Alastor's eyes widened with glee, his own smile glistening as his heart SANG with the promise and placement he felt at a family's dinner table.
"Oh, my dear," he practically purred, irises going dial-shaped. "I do believe I will enjoy being a part of your family."
The stay at the Ragno household was extended for the full weekend, with Alastor barely having time to send Charlie a message about it after 'dinner' before he was almost overwhelmed by Angel Dust's aura enveloping him with a near-asphyxiating combination of gluttony and lust.
As delicious as Henroin's corpse had been, it tasted even better on Angel's tongue as the new head of the spider family pulled him in by the tie for a kiss. Propriety be damned in a household full of family he'd just met for the first time, the hunger in his own stomach had scarcely been quelled in sharing his meal with the rest of the elites of Angel's family, and Angel's aura was pushing his hunger a little further south.
"I don't give a damn if ya wanna watch," Angel said, turning form Alastor's kiss for a brief moment, "but this incubus needs t' eat too."
"Fuckin' hell," Arackniss grumbled, pushing the other five toward the door. "Don't break th' table."
"No promises." Angel turned his attention back to Alastor, almost tearing his tie off. "Shoulda worn a fuckin' dress..."
"Allow me, sha," Alastor said, reaching up and taking the fur coat from around Angel's shoulders and laying it out behind the chair over the head of the table before effortlessly picking Angel up by the waist and sitting him on the table. His fingers made quick work with Angel's tie and blazer before he knelt down on one knee, pulling up one of Angel's boots on his thigh to unbutton it.
Angel flexed his claws into the table. "Al, you know I don't like -"
"They're beautiful," Alastor said, peering up from under his bangs at Angel. "Every inch o' ya, mon amour." He tugged that boot off, repeating the process with the other. "Mon ange." He gave Angel a grin. "Mon patron."
Angel hissed, his eyes glowing. "Goddamn it, Al, you fuckin' tease...!" he growled, only seeing Alastor's grin widen, the deer's eyes aglow.
"I tease, yes," Alastor murmured, reaching up to unbuckle Angel's belt. "But I ain't under no delusion as t' who's th' boss here. I'm yer second fiddle in th' family, no shame in admittin' tha'."
Angel ran a hand through Alastor's hair, clawtips scritching the base of the antlers. "...yer boss, huh?" he said, his six small eyes taking on a pinkish sheen. "Givin' me that much credit, Al?"
"All th' credit y' deserve."
"Flatterer. Gonna pay homage to yer boss then, Smiles?"
"Filthy. I blame you f' this." Alastor undid Angel's slacks, pulling them open as he leaned up for a kiss, his hand curling Angel's cock to stroke it with soft scrapes of his claws. Angel barely had time to properly enjoy either Alastor's lips or hand before Alastor knelt back down to the floor and pushed Angel's thigh's apart.
"Hey, Al," Angel said, his voice more constrained, "you really don't hafta do thaOHFUCK -" He threw his head back when Alastor gave him a firm squeeze, claws digging in lightly.
"I know I don' have t' do anythin' I don't wanna do," Alastor growled, his irises going vaguely dial-shaped as he grinned up at Angel. "But I think you've earned y'self a treat, oui?" He gave Angel a firm lick, showing more teeth in his grin. "Pardonne-moi if I'm no' tha' good at it."
Angel hissed through his teeth, eyes glowing as he watched Alastor drag his tongue over him experimentally. "Al, if yer doin' this you could bite it off for all th' fucks I give," he groaned, digging his claws into one of Alastor's antlers, tugging at it. Alastor growled in reply, the edge of his tooth breaking the skin just enough to draw blood. That bit of extra incentive had him nip and lick harder before tucking his teeth back and sucking over the tip.
In literally any other circumstance in the past, Alastor felt that he would have to be completely under mind control in order to do this for anyone, even his fiance. But it was an interesting experience, even without Angel’s incubus aura almost coating him like liquid lust, even outside of Angel becoming the head of an entire family with eyes all over the Pentagram.
It was mostly the permission to bite if he so wanted that really made this tolerable, although the taste of blood was a close contender. He focused on Angel’s expression, seeing the incubus staring back down at him almost salivating and WANTING.
It was honestly a bit of a thrill to have an incubus by the genitals and in control, however minimal that control was. Alastor knew damn well that if Angel wanted to, he could have Alastor play host to the entire damn Ragno family. How fortunate for him that Angel was as possessive of him as he was of Angel, and the mutual respect they had for one another.
Even if that mutual respect at the moment was reciprocated oral sex.
He latched his teeth around Angel lightly, sucking on him harder before he felt Angel’s hand tug at his antler.
“Alastor, il mio amore , yer amazin’ an’ incredible, but if ya don’t get up here an’ fuck me right now I’m gonna lose my fuckin’ mind!”
Alastor grinned, nipping down just a little before letting go and lifting his head, still stroking Angel slowly. “Oh, and what a tragedy that would be!” he laughed with his radio tin back on. “The great Boss Angelo Martin Alessandro Ragno, Overlord Angel Dust, Spider Mafioso come undone by a little bit of oral sex -” A hand snatching him up by the collar and jerking him up for a kiss cut him off with a squeal of microphone feedback.
“Al.” Angel’s eyes were almost glowing pink. “Fuck me.”
Alastor’s double-edged push into obedience was almost alarming; both from the incubus side and having absolute dominion over those in this Ragno household.
But oh, what a RUSH it was to pin such a sublime creature to the bloody table and make him SCREAM.
At some point, Angel wasn’t sure exactly when, he and Alastor found themselves in a bedroom to finish off what they started in the dining room, and even later than that, he woke up in a mess of sheets to the sound of soft-static snoring next to him. Angel blinked his eyes open, seeing Alastor still dozing and snuggling into the pillow.
Angel smiled; Alastor either snuggled or he slept like a corpse, no in-between. He let the deer be, turning onto his back to lift his right hand and look at it.
Head Boss of the Ragno family. The whole damn family and all connections in within it. Everyone in this house and affiliated with his family were under his control.
Thrilling. A LOT of extra responsibility, but thrilling. It was still a huge boon, a step in the direction he was trying to keep in stride with Alastor, who was over a decade his senior here and almost triple the powerhouse.
Angel was under no delusions at what a rarity he was having been manifested in Hell with a power like his. A power that Valentino purposely kept from him. A power that he still had no solid control over. He had an added territorial responsibility on top of that, and now he was the new head of his family. A family he hadn’t really been a part of since he was seventeen years old.
And yet through all of that, it felt so effortless. He was an incubus, a true child of lust. With that gift came power in and of itself. And with putting a bullet through his father’s head, eating his remains, and putting the ring on his finger, it was like he already knew exactly what to do and how to do it through an inherited memory of his father, his grandfather, his ancestors before them. He had been chosen, and he answered the call.
And now the Ragnos answered to him.
Every last one of them.
The one place in Hell where he was the active superior over Alastor.
It was taken with a grain of salt either way. Of course he would have dominion over spiders, the same way Alastor had dominion over the radio waves. They had their specialties and shared everything else, as it should be.
Angel slipped out of bed and went to shower in the in-suite, taking time to look over his new home’s amenities. Simple, the way his family rather enjoyed things. Luxuries were treats, something to not get used to in case they lost themselves. Angel always took that to heart, in both life and afterlife. ‘Do for yourself, and you’ll never have to depend on someone else to survive’, was a constant reminder his family had while he was growing up. The Great Depression did them no real favors, and hit both business and home hard. The Ragnos didn’t fall to destitution as many others had by far, but their simplistic and self-reliant lifestyle had paid off in spades for them. When the Depression ended, they only came out better for it.
The only splurge was on the merchandise. Sell the good shit, keep the best customers. Save the money for better merch, bail bond, and funeral costs. The family would never suffer as long as the rules were followed.
At least Angel could respect his father for how close he kept the family code. It was only changing times and their rivals’ partnership with the police that lead to the downfall of the main branch of the family, but there were still Ragnos alive on the off-branches. One day in the distant future, he’d be replaced, as all others did before. Considering he hadn’t seen his grandfather or great-grandfather down here, he could only assume that Henroin had offed them once he came down.
Had they gone quietly, Angel wondered as he dried himself off. Had they handed Henroin the gun to end their lives? By all accounts, they couldn’t have reigned long down here if that were the case, and Henroin had even shorter of a reign.
Angel looked at the ring on his finger, thought about the other powers and responsibilities he now had. He wouldn’t be leaving headship of this family for a very long time, not when he had marriage in the future and a new media empire to help build.
No, he planned on staying in power for a very long time.
Angel finished up and walked back out to the bedroom in time for Alastor to wake up. “Bathroom’s all yours, Al,” he said, stretching. “Then we go face th’ family.”
“How wonderful t’ look in th’ eye everyone who paid witness to our two-day binge,” Alastor said with an amused smile. Angel rolled his eyes, sitting down to do something with his hair.
“Try to look a little less proud, Al, not like they didn’t already know you owned my ass from yer broadcast.”
“Crass. I believe I’m rubbin’ off on ya.”
“You are, and I’m so proud of that dirty pun.”
“.... Dieu vous maudisse .”
Angel laughed, brushing his hair straight before sitting back to peruse the room, absently hearing Alastor singing along to some radio ditty in the shower as he poked around some shelves, his fingers brushing over what looked like a photo album. He pulled it off the shelf, flipping it open and seeing a few newspaper and magazine cutouts that looked random but Angel definitely recognized as some behind-the-scenes work done by his family.
A weird reminder, since he didn’t think anyone in his family besides Molly was this sentimental. Henroin didn’t keep much in the way of trophies in the house in case of police raids, but this was Hell so who was going to come knocking at the door? Angel smiled as he flipped through them, even seeing a few photos here and there of his cousins and even his brother, the latter of whom always looked pissed off; Arackniss always hated having his picture taken and candids were a surefire way to make sure something of yours was set on fire.
He saw a few more modern ones; an old polaroid selfie Molly managed to take with one arm around Arackniss’s shoulders while the elder looked less than thrilled. Most of them definitely held a more personal touch, leading Angel to think maybe Molly was the photographer. That was out the window when he saw a few more photographs further in, this one of Molly holding up one of Angel’s own magazine spreads with a slightly more tasteful cover and copying the pose.
Okay, that made him laugh. Used to be he was the one copying her style, he thought fondly, looking through that page and finding just a bit more of himself in there.
The precious rare photos he remembered Molly taking in the rare visits they had together were to be expected, but then he saw candid photos of himself when he was out and about the city. Newspaper and magazine clippings of his terrorizing exploits outside of work.
His brow furrowed when he saw a picture he was SURE no one could have seen; just after that whole fiasco with Sir Pentious, after Charlie’s limo had pulled onto the scene. The picture was of Charlie dragging him back to the limo while he was still firing his submachine gun into the air while Pentious was making his getaway. The photo was almost like a Renaissance painting with Charlie tugging one of his arms with both hands, Vaggie was hanging out of the car shouting, and Angel himself was laughing joyously.
Who the fuck could have been there to take that?
To take a good number of the pictures of his other exploits that got him kicked out of clubs, blacklisted from bars, put that little vein of rage in Valentino’s forehead at the publicity?
Angel ran a clawtip over the photo, getting a secondhand thought of branched-out cousins in the magazine industry. Spiders able to camouflage themselves. This picture never made it onto any blog he knew of, so it had to have just been taken just because.
Like the others.
His family being there without him knowing.
And someone caring enough to put it all in a carefully-crafted scrapbook.
Angel rubbed his thumb over the page before turning it, the rest of the album empty save for one last black and white photo carefully laminated and attached, showing the last photo that was taken before his mother died.
He stared, having barely remembered what they all looked like when they were human; his beautiful fair mother dressed as pretty as she could despite her thinned, ill features, her arms around her three children as Henroin stood behind her, hands on her shoulders as the pillar of support he’d been from the moment she became ill.
Molly was beaming a mile wide, her corkscrew curls bouncy as was her preferred style for the year. Arackniss looked less than thrilled, but he managed a pleasant look for his mother’s sake. Angel saw himself smiling almost contently in the picture, his features happy an innocent.
So ignorant to the fact that in less than six months, it would all change.
Angel closed the album hard, four hands shaking as he held it to him. How different would things be, he couldn’t help but think, if his mother hadn’t become ill?
It was so much to think about, but he didn’t WANT to think about it. He had everything he wanted now, but the ache of what he lost was fresh still.
A soft scent of blood and musk paired with arms curling around his shoulders, flicking his eyes to the side to see Alastor resting his chin on his shoulder. “...somethin’ th’ matter, sha?” Alastor asked quietly. Angel swallowed hard, reaching up to rub his finger under his eyes.
“...jus’ found an old memory album,” Angel said. “...it just...brought back a lot.” He held the album in his hands, running his fingers over the cover. “...just thinkin’ about how...different things would be. In life...here. If I’d been an active part o’ this family from th’ beginning…” He let out a shuddery breath. “...scares me, to be honest.”
Alastor nodded a little. “Yer no’ th’ only one t’ think tha’,” he replied. “What if I’d not found my Loa? What if I’d died in tha’ flu epidemic, came here wit’out my power? If I’d kept a partnership wit’ Vox?” His arms tightened around Angel’s shoulders. “...if I hadn’t said yes t’ ya?”
Angel closed his eyes. “...shit, Pops was right…” he muttered. “Coulda-woulda-shoulda. That don’t matter, does it?” He turned his head, kissing Alastor’s cheek. “It happened. An’ we’re better for it, yeah?”
“I like t’ think so,” Alastor replied. “No real complaints so far.”
“Only because yer used t’ me now. Let’s face it, months ago you’d hate t’ be hangin’ out naked like this.”
“Yes, we’ve covered th’ fact that yer a terrible influence,” Alastor replied, standing back and snapping his fingers, his wrinkled discarded clothes around the bed reforming perfectly clean and pressed on his body and the black jacket turning red.
Angel sighed. “Wish some o’ THAT influence could rub off on me,” he muttered. “Convenient dressing in an instant.”
“Practice makes perfect, dear. It’s how I learned t’ make ‘em fit. On me…” Alastor snapped his fingers again, and Angel found himself in a black strapless ankle-length dress that had two tasteful side slits up to his knee, his ankle boots, and his fur coat around his shoulders. “...and you.”
Angel smiled, smoothing his hands over it. “Yer a peach, Al,” he said, kissing Alastor’s cheek. “...did you make this from my suit?”
“It’s easier t’ remake clothes than t’ conjure ‘em,” Alastor replied, brushing his hair straight with a few swipes of his hand and summoning his microphone into his hand. “Ready?”
“Sure am,” Angel said, curling his hands around Alastor’s arm, the two of them heading downstairs.
The way was almost empty, the house having been full for the possibility of a new boss, it seemed, and only when Angel and Alastor went into the dining room did they really see anyone.
Molly and Arackniss were sitting at the table -which had been scoured clean at some point- eating breakfast that had a definite look that Molly was the one to cook, the two spiders looking up when Angel and Alastor walked in. Molly jumped up, hurrying over to Angel with an expression that screamed confirmation of what she had been told. Angel held up his right hand in reply. “...yeah,” was all he said.
Molly swallowed hard and nodded, tears coming to her eyes. “...I figured,” she said with a shaky smile, leading the two to the table. “...sorry I wasn’t there for it.”
“No you aren’t,” Angel said, giving her an understanding smile. “You wouldn’t have stood for it.”
“Ugh,” Molly muttered, spearing through some of her eggs. “It’s a stupid tradition.”
“Molly,” Arackniss admonished gently.
“Well it IS.” She ate a few bites. “...did you at least...talk?”
Angel nodded softly. “Yeah,” he said. “A little. Didn’t forgive him though. Too little too late for that, an’ he knew it. He was a better meal than he was a father t’ me.”
Molly sighed, giving a tight nod. “I get that,” she said. “...I...just didn’t know what exactly what to make of it when he brought it up to me and Ari. We’d always assumed it would last a bit longer before Arackniss took over -”
“Wasn’t gonna happen,” Arackniss muttered. “I LIKE my job. Told him a thousand times.”
“That reminds me for whatever reason,” Alastor piped up after swallowing a bite of his sausage, “what IS your job anyway? You made mention of an assassin?”
Arackniss nodded. “Yeah, I’m an assassin,” he replied. “Tier Zero, fifteen-thousand-six-hundred and forty-seven confirmed kills since I got here, fifteen more on my list as of now. Why, you got someone you want me t’ off?”
“Maybe a few,” Alastor replied with a smile. “Have any particular methods?”
“Mostly sniping,” Arackniss answered as though discussing the weather. “We get a good deal on holy weapons after Exterminations, and piece ‘em down into bullets for personal use.”
Molly rolled her eyes. “Sound a little less excited, Ari, you’re pulsating with positivity.”
Arackniss gave her a blank look. “...I’m ecstatic. Can’t you tell.” He finished his food. “It’s work, it ain’t supposed t’ be all that fun.”
“Oh come now, enjoying your work makes your unlife worth living!” Alastor chirped. “Isn’t there SOMETHING you like about it?”
“Only seeing th’ light of a Hellborn soul leave their eyes as they feel th’ mortal coil of Erasure befall ‘em like every other sinner down here, their final breath one o’ disbelief an’ desperation as they leave behind nothin’ but an empty shell of a corpse to be food for th’ lowest of scum t’ feast on.”
There was a short beat of silence around the table with Molly putting her hand to her face, Alastor staring with brief blinking, and Angel grinning. “Boy, am I glad you met me first, Al. You look almost lovestruck.”
Arackniss grimaced. “...spare me,” he said. “Not interested.”
“Neither was Al before there was me.”
“...I’m not even going to BEGIN to go into what is wrong with that, Angel.”
“Still no girlfriend, huh? You sure you’re not -”
“Fuck. Off.” Arackniss flicked a pepper at Angel’s face.
“Love ya too, bro.” Angel finished his meal before sitting back. “Alright then. Anyone up for business talk?”
“Never a better time, i miei fratelli !”
Alastor beamed, holding up his cup. “Coffee, please!”
The ride back to the Hotel was much more lighthearted than when they left it, albeit with a few caveats of silence and secrecy.
Alastor was made to understand his role within the Ragno household; as the spouse of the boss, he had a choice whether or not to associate himself with the actual work they did. As the consigliere , however, he had a duty to his boss to keep him informed and advised at all times.
And it didn’t matter what name they had in general after marriage, but in the Ragno family, Alastor was to take on that name. He was marrying into the family, and any connections he had in his own were null now.
Not that he had any that he knew of. If he had any family down here, they were either unaware of who he actually was, or they had been Exterminated by now, and only a handful of people knew his surname.
He would have no issue becoming a Ragno, even officially.
“So,” he said, folding his hands in his lap, “how are we going to spin your visit to Charlie?”
Angel leaned back, glancing at the ring on his right hand. “Half-truth,” he said. “The visit went well enough. There was a lot to go over and talk about. If she asks more about my father, I can spin something of his demise.” He gave Alastor borderline kitten-eyes. “Would you mind bein’ the scapegoat for that one?”
Alastor gave a dramatic sigh. “Oh, if I MUST tell her that I defended your honor in a moment of emotional weakness by devouring my father-in-law, then I will. Another half-truth!” He smiled at Angel bursting into laughter, turning off his radio tin. “But have ya given any thought ‘bout th’ near future?”
Angel made a thoughtful sound. “Depends,” he said. “How soon?”
“Soon ‘nough,” Alastor replied. “Wedding?”
“Y’know, I MIGHT wear white just t’ be THAT bitch.”
“Better you tha’ me, sha,” Alastor said. “Anythin’ white clashes wit’ me.”
“As my heart.”
“Yer so fulla shit, Al.”
“An’ YOU still hafta pick yer maid o’ honor.”
“Hey guys!” Charlie chirped, waving as Angel and Alastor walked into the lobby. “How’d it go?”
Angel shrugged off his coat that Alastor took to hang up. “Better than I expected,” he said honestly. “Got t’ see th’ family again, they actually like me, so that’s a plus.”
Charlie smiled. “That’s good,” she said, relieved. “Any plans for more visits later?”
“Oh, plenty,” Angel said. “Gotta invite th’ ones not busy to th’ wedding, after all!”
Charlie nodded, then nibbled her lip. “...hey, Angel?” she asked, shuffling her foot awkwardly for a moment. “I know it’s not the fanciest place to have a wedding, especially for two overlords, but...would you consider the Hotel as your venue? It’s okay if you don’t!” she added quickly. “I’m sure you and Al have nicer places in mind -”
“You kiddin’ me?” Angel laughed, walking over and ruffling her hair into a poofy mess. “Me an’ Al were actually wonderin’ how to ask ya if we could!” He grinned, looking around. “...I mean, it’s where we met. Where we had our first date. First kiss. Th’ actual official relationship. Where he proposed. An’ where better to have my wedding than at home, huh?” He glanced back over at Charlie, who had her hands over her mouth, tears in her eyes, and had an air about her as wanting to burst into song. “...don’t cry.”
“‘m not crying.”
“Yer literally cryin’. Right now.”
“...don’t suppose yer ordained?”
Husk snorted, hearing Charlie wailing with joy in the other room as he pushed over a rum to Alastor. “So. How were they for real?”
Alastor smiled, sipping his drink. “A lovely family,” he said with full honesty that actually made Husk’s ears twitch. “We had a wonderful dinner, one of the best I’ve had in a good minute.” His smile went a bit teasing at the suspicious look Husk gave him. “I met his brother, a delightful fellow with a wit and humor to match your own!”
“I swear to whatever fucky god you pray to, if you’re tryin’ to set me up with another goddamn spider -”
“Oh heavens no, Arackniss is completely disinterested in romance!”
“...first name basis with them already, huh?” Husk poured out his own glass. “...they really good family?”
Alastor nodded, looking into his glass. “Yes,” he said. “A family that welcomed me as one of their own.” He took another sip. “...it’s been a long time since I’ve felt a part of one.”
“Lucky you,” Husk said, sounding neither elated nor bitter about it.
“Oh don’t you fret, Husker my pal!” Alastor said, leaning his head on his hand. “You know wherever I go, you’re being dragged along with!”
“Oh now lucky ME.”
“Don’t be sour, Husk.” Alastor drained his drink before putting the glass aside. “...I did want to ask you though. Would you care to be my best man?”
Husk looked up from his glass, ears pricked. “...you shittin’ me?”
“Nope.” Alastor’s smile tempered into one that looked much more genuine. “You may be contracted under me, Husk, but I do truly consider you my friend. My best friend. There’s no one else I would trust with any of my secrets or my life than you.”
Husk’s ears flattened a little, not making eye contact. “...I fuckin’ blame Angel for ruinin’ ya,” he muttered, gathering up Alastor’s glass to wash it, turning his back to his boss.
“...are you crying?”
Charlie hummed happily as she looked through her phone at the picture of dress ideas Angel was sending her, excited for a dress shopping day that was coming up. The engagement wasn’t going to be a long one, and at this point all that was needed were the dresses. Niffty could get the Hotel decorated in less than two hours at her dedication, and as far as guests went, it was to be a smaller wedding with the Hotel staff, and couple of Angel’s friends and family.
Alastor wasn’t bothered by his short guest list, citing that he was more than happy with the close confidants he had, and in any case, he was sharing family with Angel now too. THAT put Charlie in another crying spell for awhile.
Now she just had to mentally prepare herself for a dress shopping day with Angel, Vaggie, Niffty, Molly, and Cherri. She almost pitied the Pride Circuit for whatever was going to befall them. Almost.
She sighed dreamily after looking at another dress idea, then put her phone down to shut down her computer only to have it buzz with an incoming call seconds later. She picked it up, tucking it against her shoulder. “Hello, this is Charlie!”
Charlie almost dropped her phone when she heard her father’s voice on the other end, jerking upright in her chair to hold her phone tightly. “Dad!” she said. “Dad, hi!” She tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. “What’s uh...how are you?”
“Well enough for now, I suppose,” Lucifer replied. “I was calling to invite you home for dinner tomorrow night.”
Charlie blinked, pulling her phone away to look at it in a mix of confusion and suspicion. “...oh?”
“A pretty heavy ‘oh’, honey. Something amiss?”
“You could say that. Last time I supposedly heard from you, it was a phone hack from Vox.”
“Fair enough,” Lucifer said with a soft laugh. “If you’re worried, I can come pick you up myself. But I would very much like to see you tomorrow evening.”
Charlie leaned back in her chair. “Can I bring Vaggie?”
“No. This is a dinner just for us. We have things we need to discuss.”
She swallowed hard, almost feeling the fiery implications through the phone. “...what’s this about, Dad?”
“It’s about dinner. Tomorrow evening.” It was obvious that her father was carefully choosing his words. “Please come, Charlotte.”
Charlie closed her eyes, letting out a slow breath. “...alright,” she said quietly. “I’ll be there.”
“I’ll send a ride. I’ll see you then, sweetie.”
“...see you then. Bye, Dad.”
She heard the line click out, listening to silence for a few seconds before closing out of the call window and putting her phone down. This was strange. Too strange. The phone wasn’t hacked, but he was talking like the call was being tapped. Vox was dead and out of the picture, so…
Her father was talking in case ALASTOR was listening in.
She let out a shaky sigh, putting her face in her hands as she had a strong debate within herself of whether or not to give Alastor a heads-up. Loyalty to her father versus loyalty to her friend and business partner.
Sometimes, she hated being the princess. She really, really did.
This one's just a short one, more of an epilogue to the installment. It sets the tone for the finishing installments to come.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Charlie stepped out of the limo her father sent for her, chewing her lip nervously. Her nerves were already wracked with having to fib to everyone else as to where she was going for the evening, especially considering her father didn't want Alastor to know.
She sighed, walking along the lit pathway and up to the door, not even having to raise her hand to knock before it was opened for her. "...I think I'm actually expected this time?" she half-joked to the reptilian butler, who only nodded in acknowledgement and showed her through the halls into the dining room.
The obscenely large dinner table only had the tail end set up, and her father was already seated. He looked up when she walked in, giving her a smile that was both genuine but a little forced. "Hello Charlotte dear," he said, standing and holding his hand out to her. She took it and reveled somewhat in the warm hug her father gave her. "How is my little apple seed doing?"
"...okay enough," she said. "A little confused though."
"I suppose that's understandable," Lucifer said, snapping his fingers to have a maid walk up with an empty basket. "Put your things aside, Charlotte, I'd like to catch up with no distractions."
Charlie's brow furrowed a little, but she conceded and handed over her handbag which she realized contained her phone. The maid inclined her head and took the basket out of the room as Lucifer pulled out a chair for Charlie to sit. "...Dad. What's this about?" she asked seriously. "Because I've been sitting on so many things being kept from me despite them having to DO with me." Her hands flexed on the table. "I might not be the daughter you really wanted, but I think I am entitled to know if something is coming between my Hotel and my family."
Lucifer gave her a calculating look that lasted far too long to be considered passive before he sat himself down too, folding his hands in front of him. "...you're right," he finally said. "And this is something that can and WILL come between your work and family. Because you are going to have to choose between the two."
Charlie sat up straight in her chair. "...excuse me?" she demanded weakly.
"I miscalculated earlier, when I told you to contain the problem," Lucifer continued. "It was presumptuous of me to not expect the worst from happening -"
"Oh goddamn it Dad!" Charlie snapped, smacking the table with her hands. "Why is it nothing but riddles with you and damn overlords!? Why can't anyone just give me a proper answer for once!? Just TELL me, WHAT is going on!? WHY do I have to choose?! I know I'm supposed to 'learn a lesson' or whatever it is you and Mom have been trying to get me to do for the past decade or so but how can I even make an informed decision if I'm given NO details!?"
Lucifer gave her a calm, level stare before sitting back in his chair. "No sugarcoating then," he said, mostly to himself before his expression went bitter. "Alastor associated himself with your Hotel for the sole purpose of getting to me through you."
Charlie's jaw dropped. "...what?"
"Tell me, what would be more 'entertaining' to a creature like that than to trick the Princess of Hell into a soul-binding deal that when time came to collect, he would have devoured your heart and gained power from it?" Lucifer's eyes glowed angrily. "Easy. Since you declined any deals, that did not come to pass. But what were your words specifically in your order to him, Charlotte?"
Charlie swallowed hard, thinking back. "'As Princess of Hell, and heir to the throne...I hereby order you to help with this hotel, for...'" She paused. "'...for as long as you desire'."
"Exactly. And whether you want him to leave or not, your order only ended up a boon for HIS favor. He could run that place into the ground and as long as there was a foundation remaining, as long as you kept your ideals for that redemption hotel, he can stay. He can play with you as long as he wants and you CAN'T banish him. And why would he want to leave, when he can keep playing with you?"
"...that's not true," Charlie said thickly, clenching her fists. "I know he's bad and he can be completely cruel and sadistic, but something's changed -"
"Of course something changed," Lucifer snapped. "Because his first plan failed, he worked on a second, one that I wasn't concerned with considering your close relationship with the little sinner girl, but he was planning on seducing you instead."
Charlie felt a reflexive flare of fire in her gut, glowering at her father. "That is not true."
"It is. Naturally, it didn't work out, especially when he began a relationship with that whore -"
"I'm going to stop you right now," Charlie said firmly, her eyes turning red. "You can tell me whatever it is you think you know about Alastor, but if you're going to be talking about ANY of my friends, I at least want you to show them basic decency. Angel's been through more than enough to have EARNED his status!" She crossed her arms, her glower intensifying. "And at this point...what you're saying about Alastor...I don't care!"
Lucifer gave her a sharp look. "You don't CARE?"
"No. Alastor told me from the start that he didn't believe in my goals for the Hotel. That it was nonsense, that he was in it for his own entertainment. He hasn't lied to me about anything important, and I am willing to bet my claim to the throne that if I asked him straight out, he would tell me the truth. But none of that MATTERS anymore!" She slammed a fist on the table. "YOU haven't been a part of the Hotel at all since its conception, but Angel Dust HAS. YOU haven't been a sponsor for it, but Alastor HAS. Those two have been there, living there, long enough for me to see a CHANGE in them. They might not have any ideals or plans for redemption in mind, but they found something that makes them better people, and STILL they both endorse and encourage me and my Hotel!"
She ran a hand through her hair, pulling at it lightly in frustration. "You think Alastor has plans for your throne? Right now, all he's planning is what color tie to wear at his wedding! A wedding I'm officiating! A wedding with someone he's found love with! At OUR Hotel! And Alastor might be ruthless and opportunistic but he wouldn't throw away a good thing!"
"Charlotte, if you would get your head out of the rainbows for FIVE MINUTES and look around, you would remember that YOU. ARE. IN. HELL!" Lucifer's aura flared, shadows of wings splaying dangerously at his sides. "Finding love does not take away that he is a serial-killing cannibal who has slaughtered THOUSANDS of denizens and Hellborn alike in the near-ninety years he's been dead! Getting married does not erase his ambition for the ultimate entertainment for no one but himself!
"And on the other side of things, do you even know the atrocities these two committed even BEFORE they were sent here? They came here for a REASON. Their souls are stained red with blood of the innocent and guilty alike, slaughters they committed with smiles on their faces and no guilty conscience. You heard as well as I did the GLEE they had in devouring Vox's body and soul, and that debauchery that came after was an honest echo of the beasts they truly are inside. Mortal souls that attain that level of unholy depravity should tell you plenty about the humans they used to be! There is NO redemption for souls like that!"
"I KNOW THAT!"
Charlie felt her horns unsheathe as she shot to her feet, tears springing at her eyes. "I KNOW that, Dad! Angel and Alastor BOTH told me they don't plan on redemption anymore, in any way! Angel ESPECIALLY even apologized to me for being a failure for it! Alastor even made me see that there are people here beyond redemption entirely, as if it wasn't obvious with what Vox was trying to do!"
She stood back from the table, shaking her head. "Whatever it is you're trying to make me do to get me to give up and come home, I won't have it. I know what kind of people Angel and Alastor are. They might not be good people, but they're good to ME. Isn't that enough for you, someone who only puts stock in allies no matter what they've done to Hell's denizens?"
Lucifer's jaw tightened, his pupils slitting. "You are not LISTENING to me, Charlotte," he hissed.
"If I'm here just for you to make me choose a side, you're making it VERY easy for me."
The two stared at one another in heated silence before Lucifer took a breath and let it out, pulling his aura back in. "...Alastor and his...and Angel Dust are a threat to this family," he said, picking his words carefully. "A marriage will only turn that threat into something even worse."
"You have no proof," Charlie said darkly. "I HAVE been listening, but all you've given me are secondhand accounts or things I already know." She ran a hand over her face, feeling a dampness on her cheeks. "Shit...and here I thought I could actually have a real conversation and dinner with you. Is it REALLY that bad of a thing I'm trying to do that it would come down to you trying to tear two friends of mine away from me just because YOU'RE afraid of what they can do? Of what YOUR friends are afraid they can do?"
Her aura flared out, snapping her fingers sharply, her handbag reappearing in front of her in a ball of fire. "Well I hope you're proud of your baby girl, Dad, I'm HAPPY with my allies because they're ACTUALLY my friends instead of bootlickers like YOURS." She stalked for the door, hearing her father stand up behind her.
"Charlotte, I am only saying this out of the preservation of the Magne line, you included. If you walk out that door, then you will not be welcome back."
Charlie stood still for the longest time before she slung her handbag over her shoulder. "...goodbye then," she said, not looking back as she walked out of the house, down the path that snuffed itself out in her wake, and past the car that brought her there.
Her heartbeat pounded in her ears for what seemed like hours as she cried herself out on her long walk, reaching the border of Pentagram City. She kept her focus forward, refusing to let her father's words sink into her mind and put doubt there. She had too much doubt in her life leading up to now, and she swore with all her might that she would hold onto the truths that mattered. She barely even noticed a car pulling up next to her until she heard her name being spoken.
"Huh?" she said, looking up and seeing a spider demon staring at her from the open backseat window. He had eight red eyes and a no-nonsense face, all businesslike. "...hello?"
"You need a ride back to th' Hotel," he stated, it not even being a question. "Even for th' princess it's dangerous in th' Wrath Circuit. We can take ya back."
Charlie drew back ever-so-slightly. "Uhm...I don't -"
"Ah, right. Angelo probably didn't even bother to mention me. Name's Arackniss -"
"Oh, Angel's brother," she sighed, giving him a smile. "You don't have to, really..."
Arackniss just opened the door, holding it out. "Bad form if we didn't," he said. "And th' Hotel is hours away on foot. Angel would probably skin me alive if I didn't take ya."
Charlie sighed, nodding and climbing in, the car moving on as soon as the door was closed. She wiped any residual dampness from her face with her sleeve. "Thank you," she said honestly. Arackniss nodded, his red eyes glowing in the dimness of the car.
"Not a problem," he replied. "You were lucky to be on our route."
"...route for what?"
Arackniss's left set of eyes narrowed as though giving her a half-smirk without actually moving his mouth. "You really wanna know all that?"
"...point. Sorry if it was rude to ask."
"Oh, we got no problem tellin' people what's what. I was bein' vague for yer sake. Angel's made mention of your..." He searched for a word. "...sensitivity to all that."
Charlie nodded, seeing more familiar sights of the city pass quickly in the car. "Still. Thank you for stopping." Arackniss nodded back, the two lapsing into silence for the rest of the half-hour drive to the Hotel. Charlie opened the door and stepped out. "You wanna come in? I'm sure Angel would love to see you."
"Ugh, spare me, I know what he's up to in there right now," Arackniss muttered. "Just tell him I said hi, it'll be enough."
"Alright. Bye then, have a safe night!" Charlie shut the door and headed into the Hotel, feeling a little lighter than she had been before.
Almost immediately, she caught sight of the lobby alive in a flurry of activity with Niffty rushing between different wedding decor ideas while Husk and Alastor argued between wines to drink at the reception party and Angel Dust holding up two color swatches for Cherri and Vaggie to decide between for their dresses.
She smiled, the rest of the weight lifted from her shoulders as she took in the smiles, the laughter, the genuine camaraderie.
'You were wrong, Dad,' she thought as she tossed her handbag on a table to go put her two cents into the fray. 'So, so wrong.'
Of THAT she was definitely certain.
"He's sent someone out to watch her already."
"Shit. Any way t' off it?"
"Angelo, please. Don't insult me." Arackniss crawled to the ceiling of his car for a more comfortable view out of his barely-cracked window, the silenced tip of his rifle not even visible as he kept a practiced steady hold on the trigger as the car drove off back toward the Ragno compound. A quick look through the scope at two kilometers away and a pull of the trigger had the shadowy batlike creature sniped right out of the air, the holy bullet making the death quick and an added solvent turning it to mere dust in moments. "Aaaand done. That'll be five-thousand bucks."
"Yeah, I've only got one an' he's on massage duty tonight."
"I hate you."
"Love ya too, big bro. Meet tomorrow for tux fitting?"
"Sure thing." Arackniss crawled down to his seat, packing his sniper rifle away in the case that the princess hadn't even noticed in the car when he picked her up and dropped her off just an hour ago. "I'll have my a-team on stakeout for more in th' meantime."
"You got the groomsmen all set up too?"
"Done an' done." Arackniss lit up a cigar. "Got th' Ushers assembled too."
"God, how did I ever get by without you?" The wistful tone actually made Arackniss crack a smile.
"Had a shitty life, I'd imagine. Time t' make up for it, Boss. Occhi Ovunque.
"Occhi Ovunque, fratello."
Angel smiled at his phone as he hung up, giving Alastor a smile. "So...about that massage, dolcezza?"
"And my book was gettin' so interesting before y' volunteered me fer such a service jus' t' spite yer brother," Alastor replied, closing his book anyway and walking over to the bed, leaning down to kiss Angel's head. "Everythin' set up?"
"Ready an' waitin'." Angel reached up, curling his arms around Alastor's shoulders. "Ain't nothin' gonna spoil our special day."
"I should hope not. You've been so behaved so far, I would hate t' see what a 'groomzilla' y'd be should anythin' happen."
"First off, I ain't gonna be no 'groomzilla'. Second, fuck Cherri for teachin' ya that word."
Alastor laughed. "It's an amusin' thought anyway," he said. "You decided on a dress?"
"Oh yeah. You won't be able t' resist me. Hope you can choke yer way through th' vows after seein' me in it."
"I'm sure I'll manage," Alastor replied mockingly. "Now, you gon' let yer smart mouth keep runnin', or are ya gonna tell me where y'keep yer oil?"
"You love it."
"You betcha, Smiles."
Just a post-script saying I have two more installments for this series! Once again, thank you all for
Next one up: Wedding planning, wedding decor, wedding bliss! A day when nothing can go wrong.
That is, for the newlyweds, at least.